Madrid can be overwhelming when you visit it for the first, and mostly if you move here! You will need some time to adapt to the rythm of the city but we have few tips that will help you out.
1. Get your metro card!
When you come to Madrid as a tourist/student or even to work, you should be able to travel around! This is very important if you don’t have a license or any other way to get around.
In Madrid you can get a metro card at the address Calle Fuencarral 80 (closest metro stations: Tribunal, Bilbao or Alonso Martínez). They are open from Monday till Friday from 9.30 am to 2 pm and from 5 pm to 8.30 pm, and Saturday from 9.30 am to 2 pm.
2. Lunch time!
The time to eat is something you have to get used to while you’re in Madrid. In Spain they don’t really have breakfast, breakfast mainly consists out of something very small (a toast and a coffee, for example).
The biggest meal they have is lunch. Lunch hour is between 2 and 4 pm and this is when the rush hour in restaurants starts. Then, it comes dinner. Something very different is that in Spain most of the restaurants close from 5 pm till 8.30 pm and when the clock strikes 9 pm it starts getting crowded again.
If you´re not used to these timing then you better stock up on the food you can have at home or you’ll find yourself hungry a lot of times with no place to actually have a proper meal. Nevertheless, you can always have “merienda” at a cafe (an afternoon snack that Spaniards have somewhere between 5pm and 7pm).
3. La sobremesa
The way people in Madrid (and Spain in general) eat their meals in a restaurant or anywhere else is very different than what you might be used to. In Madrid they have a no-hurry attitude. The service staff is unlikely to be eager to have you out of their restaurant so you can take as much time as you want and talk for no matter how long you want. That’s called sobremesa. This is why you will notice that the bill is never given to you without you asking it for yourself.
So if you´re at a restaurant waiting for a table to be free, you may have to wait for a long time!
4. Language barrier
When you go to a different country with a total different language there will surely be a language barrier which is hard to pass. This is also the same in Spain. Of course there will be a lot of people that will try to help you, but there will be times when you will have a hard time understanding or getting understood. The best thing to do is to learn some basic Spanish or maybe join a language school (like Inhispania).
5. Walk around
Madrid is a very big and beautiful city. When you come here you can join a lot of tours or trips, but the thing that shows you the most about Madrid is walking (and there are some cheap, and even free, tours around some neighborhoods downtown). Walking around in the small streets of Madrid shows you a lot about the city. You find new bars and cafes or parks and monuments and the only thing you need is you and your two feet to take you.
One of the things I enjoy most is just walking around and having my own adventure finding out more about Madrid by letting myself go and take it as it comes.
Welcome to Madrid and have fun!