Madrid, Spain’s capital city packed with history and culture…
I have recently moved to Spain myself (to Valencia) and I am really enjoying life here. I therefore was very excited to do this interview with Perri, who is living in Madrid, to find out how she feels about life in Spain and to learn more about Madrid.
In the Ask an Expat series I interview people living all over the world but outside of their home country. I try to help paint an honest picture of the ups and downs of life abroad, share tips for anyone thinking about moving abroad and information about what to see and do in the city, town or country the expat now calls home.
Expat life in Madrid, Spain
Name: Perri Johnson
Home town: Greenhithe in Kent, UK
“I was lucky enough to spend my 20’s traveling, backpacking and visiting different countries. I had so many awesome adventures on my travels that one trip just lead to the next, I never wanted it to end. Living and working overseas really opened my eyes to the wider world and taught me a lot about myself. When I turned 30 I felt drawn back to England and the expectation of finally settling down. However, the “grown-up” day-to-day routine just wasn’t for me.
I feel (a little bit) too old to backpack and travel full-time now and came to the decision that moving to Spain might be the perfect thing for me. Spain is a country where I feel I can get settled but still gives me so many beautiful, vibrant and exciting things to explore.”
Why did you move to Madrid?
“A work opportunity came up for my boyfriend to re-locate to Madrid. I had never been to Madrid before and felt really excited by the opportunity. We both wanted to move to Spain and the timing seemed perfect, so we agreed to just go for it. And so far living in Madrid has been great!”
What do you like about Madrid?
“I have honestly been wowed by what Madrid has to offer. Much more than just the more obvious advantages of the glorious Spanish weather and delicious food.
Centro Madrid has some awesome barrios (neighborhoods), each one differing quite distinctly from the next. This provides a great mix of cultural diversity as you walk around the city.”
What do you dislike about Madrid?
“I wish Madrid had a beach!! It can get very hot in the summer, 40°c+, and being able to go to the beach for a quick dip in the sea to cool down would be perfect. There are some fabulous outdoor public swimming pools in Madrid though, so I just have to make do by the pool.”
What is your favorite thing to do in Madrid?
“My favorite thing to do in Madrid is to walk or cycle through Casa de Campo park. It’s a beautiful, natural green area that covers 1,750 hectares and is easily accessible by bus or metro. I like to either stop by the lake side restaurants for lunch or pack a picnic and a book and relax on the grass.
Surprisingly Casa de Campo also contains a zoo & aquarium, a theme park, and a cable car!”
What is your favorite place to hang out (restaurant, bar, etc) in Madrid?
“My favorite area to hang out is La Latina (map), the oldest part of the city. There are so many awesome tapas bars and restaurants here.
I guess the one we go to the most is Cava Baja 17 on Calle Cava Baja. It has a traditional bar tapas menu if you want just a quick bite and a drink bar-side. It also has a pretty big area of tables to sit down for a full lunch or dinner. Space is pretty difficult to come by in Madrid bars and restaurants so I love taking family and friends who are visiting here as they can cater for larger groups and take reservations. The seafood they serve is delicious!
I also love wandering around Malasaña barrio (map). This area has a more trendy vibe and I can spend hours looking at the street art, stopping in the vintage stores and quirky little cafes. Malasaña is where you’re most likely to find the latest Madrid food craze or that cool photo you saw on Instagram!”
What is the expat community like in Madrid?
“There isn’t a huge expat community in Madrid in comparison to other parts of Spain.
I’ve found there’s a good number of European and American students living in Madrid to learn Spanish, but they don’t tend to stay long. The business district is also attracting internationals with start-up backgrounds.
Facebook has some great groups for those looking for advice from fellow expats living in Madrid, such as English speaking people in Madrid and Expats in Madrid. And you can find facebook pages that advertise festivals or events happening in the city like Welcome to Madrid and Madrid Happy People. There are also events organized for like-minded people to socialize through Meetup.com.”
Any tips for moving to / living in Madrid?
“Walk everywhere in the Centro area. The metro system is great but pretty unnecessary for exploring the city center, why go 1 or 2 stops underground when you can walk overground and see the sights.
Adjust to a slower pace of life. Even though Madrid is a vibrant city, little things like queuing for groceries or collecting a delivery at the post office will take some time. Be aware that you will not likely get a good authentic lunch out before 2pm or dinner before 9pm.
Take advantage of the green spaces in Madrid. Retiro Park, Casa de Campo, Campo del Moro are all natural havens. Explore! there are so many great cafes behind shaded doorways, secret restaurants down narrow streets and hidden bars on rooftops.”
If you are from the USA and thinking about moving to Spain, also read: What I Wish I Knew About Moving to Spain From the US
Any resources you found useful during the process of moving to and/or building a new life in Madrid?
The property finding website Spotahome was key for our move from London to Madrid because it meant we could get an apartment rental lined up before arriving.
I took an introductory Spanish course at INhispania as soon as we arrived which was great. With a little knowledge of the language up my sleeve, we found it much easier to sort out things like bank accounts.”
Is there something you just have to see or do when you are in Madrid?
“You haven’t experienced the “real” Madrid until you elbow your way into a traditional tapas bar and order a cerveza, standing squeezed in amongst the piled high pinchos (small snacks). Or sit in an open plaza with a cold tinto de verano (red wine with soda/sprite) in hand watching the world go by.
Madrid life is all about having a good work-life balance and locals will spend as much time as possible enjoying this. Get involved and join them!”
She spent her free time backpacking in Australia, India, South East Asia and Central America. Her travel adventures left her wanting more than the day-to-day life in England. She fell in love with Spain and decided to take a chance on a new life there.
Seeking the Spanish Sun is her travel blog all about her exploration of Spain in search of the perfect place, to rest her itchy feet and finally call home. She shares what she sees along the way and travel tips and advice for anyone visiting Spain.
Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain. It is a city of elegant avenues, plazas and buildings, and expansive, manicured parks. But Madrid is best known for its great cultural and artistic heritage with world-class art galleries and museums. A good example of this is the El Prado museum. On top of that Madrid also boasts some of the liveliest nightlife in the world.
Nearly all of the most famous tourist areas are located in the center of the city including Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, Palacio Real, and Plaza de Colón.
So if you are a history buff, an art and food lover or if you are looking for some great nightlife, Madrid might be your perfect choice for a city break!
Are you interested in moving to Spain?
Also check out these expat interviews:
- Interview with an expat about moving to and living in Barcelona
- An expat interview about living in Valencia
- Interview with an expat about moving to and living in Granada
- An expat interview about living in Moraira, on Spain’s Costa Blanca
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