Like any international hot-spot you travel to, there’s little quirks, tiny tricks, and secret know-how that comes with walking the streets, drinking at the bars, and wandering the museums—and Madrid is no exception.
The first time I traveled to this enchanting Spanish city, with a pack on my back and a map in my hand, I was mesmerized by the uniqueness of the way the Madrileño live their lives. I don’t know if it was because I was on vacation or it was just the way of life, but Madrid was vibrant, affable, worldly, and personable, and it didn’t take long to realize that I would fall in love with it’s authenticity.
So whether you’re planning a trip now or have been back a thousand times, there are at least 7 things that leave a constant reminder that life was just a little bit better in Madrid, and I dare you to come back without at least one of these travel “souvenirs.”
- Your sleep cycle still hasn’t recovered
In college, my nap was the best part of the day. I woke up, went to class, and then came back home for a little snooze fest before getting back up and taking charge of the rest of my day.
In Madrid, I got reintroduced to my love of naps thanks to their afternoon siestas—and it helped me make more of my time in the city. Thanks to the Spanish schedule, which has a normal breakfast, a later lunch and a much later dinner, travellers get to enjoy all the points of the day, like the amazing streetlife at night.
Only problem is, the return trip home means giving up their little mid-day rest in favor of our Westernized idea of time. Trust me, it isn’t easy.
- Bullfighting is your idea of a real man’s sport
Superbowl Sunday is going to be a major letdown after you’ve seen a matador in the ring—forget helmets, mouth guards and butt pads, real men (and women) wear boleros and white stockings.
While there is a lot of controversy surrounding the popular sport, if you’re in town during the season, it really would be a shame to miss a chance to experience one of Spain’s most treasured traditions and one of Hemingway’s favorite pastimes.
- You have an Epic Farmer’s Tan
Before I invested in a travel hat and sleeveless t-shirts, I decided to walk the streets of Madrid discovering the best of the city in the summer in my crewneck and then I had a permanent reminder of this folly every time I looked in the mirror for weeks.
After going a few of sleepless nights with burning red skin, I finally stopped in La Favorita for a new sombrero. Not only was I now looking out for my scalp, but I also got a better souvenir than a shot glass. And (bonus!) I think I looked pretty dapper while doing it.
- You’re suffering from Sangria-Withdrawal (Yes, you’re not the only one)
Water? What’s that? In Madrid your drink of choice was always this sweet fruit and wine cocktail no matter what day of the week or time of day it was. Maybe you had a glass with brunch, a couple with lunch, and then a pitcher with dinner, but who cares? You were just brushing up on your sangria expertise.
The good news is Pinterest is a hot spot for at-home sangria recipes, and even though it won’t replace the original, it’s a lot better than going dry.
- That cheap Movistar sim card is still floating around your wallet
Of all the small trinkets and souvenirs I picked up on my travels through Madrid, there are some I’m particularly attached to. My Spanish wine skin still sits on top of my kitchen cupboard, and my decorative Spanish clock (Don’t laugh at me, my mom loves that stuff!) stares at me as I eat breakfast every morning.
And even with my bizarre attachment to these, there’s still one I carry with me everywhere – my Movistar sim card. Maybe it’s my crazy belief that one day I’ll randomly land back in Spain and desperately need that card to contact Juan (or Jorge or Phillipe). Maybe it’s just that that little card was the start of so many adventures.
It took me a while to work out getting around the whole ‘global roaming / unlock’ thing (turns out it’s actually pretty simple), but when I did, that little prepaid chip became the source of so many adventures.
If you’ve spent any time in Madrid and now the adventures that the locals can take you on, you’ll no doubt have as close an attachment to that little piece of technology as I do.
- You have REALLY high standards
After traveling in Madrid, with the the world’s oldest restaurant, some of the best architecture in the world, and enough street festivals (that you wonder how anyone ever has time to work), you’re going to expect a lot from the next cities you visit.
Everywhere, from now on, you’ll expect the colors to be brighter, the street musicians to be louder, the people to be friendlier—and I’m not saying they won’t be. But after visiting Madrid, your standards are just going to be really, really high.
- Even the spiciest dishes still taste bland
After days and days living on fresh gazpacho, spicy paella, cold horchata, and tapas, it’s going to take some time getting used to the food back home—even if you’ve got great food back home.
Ruby red tomatoes, bright, juicy berries, and lots of Mediterranean-style al fresco dishes will come to mind every time you hear the word “dinner” and it will take a while to get the taste of Madrid out of your mouth.
Want to know the cure? Booking a return flight and diving right back into their irresistible culinary culture. Take it from Anthony Bourdain—and the master traveler’s own guide to the best eats in Madrid—for the tastiest ways to beat the back-home culture shock.
While this is no exhaustive list of things that you’ll miss about Madrid–it’s certainly the start I got with the beautiful city. The good news is I’m open to figuring out the next 7 things, so it looks like I’m ready for the next round!
Have your own battle scars? Share your story in the comments.