Madrid : First days in the capital city

January 1, 1970

by Gwladys-rabe

Few words about me and my arrival in Madrid

Moving to another country was an opportunity for me to discover a new culture, new people and amazing places. Indeed, even if Spain and France are neighboring countries, they still have different habits and culture. So that’s why I’ve chosen to write a blog about my new experience. To talk about my trips all around this marvelous country and especially to share with you advice and good things to know about living in Madrid. If you should have any question about it, I’ll be pleased to answer you.

First, let me begin with a brief introduction of the context. Why did I come to Madrid? As I am a Business School Student, I had to go abroad for one semester as an Erasmus exchange student. Thus, my first choice was accepted and I came to Madrid for 6 months on January, 9th. Before coming to Spain, I already had searched on the Internet for a place to rent for this amount of time but nothing was concrete. I just wanted a small flat for us (I was lucky to come and share this experience with my boyfriend), very functional and near the city center. Madrid is divided in several neighborhoods (Sol, Chueca, La Latina, Lavapiès, etc…) but I had already heard about one specific “lively” street in which I really wanted to go that was called “Malasaña”.

Let me introduce this street briefly. From the heart of La Movida Madrileña [a countercultural movement that happened during the Spanish transition after Franco’s death in 1975] to the trendiest district in town, Malasaña has seen major changes in the last few decades. Nowadays, it is probably one the most famous and vibrant neighborhood of Madrid, being the center for the “hipster” phenomena.

Several friends recommended me to try to find a place there and I rapidly understood why. When I first came to Madrid I was immediately captivated by the original atmosphere created by the second-hand shops alongside the traditional bars and restaurants that you can find in Malasaña. Over there you can find designers boutiques as well as vegan shops in the middle of colorful streets with plenty of graffiti on the walls of buildings.

There I was, just arrived in Spain from France, with my boyfriend, for one exchange semester at a university in the capital city. What typically happens when you arrive in a big city is arriving by metro from the airport, having trouble climbing the stairs with your large amount of luggage.

Tribunal station, in front of the beautiful facade of the Museum dedicated to the history of Madrid.

Let’s go to the point…HERE I AM!

After approximately a half an hour journey from the airport, we came out from underground, arriving by “Tribunal” station. To reach the town center of Madrid (and especially Malasaña) from the airport, we had to buy a special ticket that is about 5 euros  and take two lines which was pretty cool comparing to the price of a taxi that wouldn’t have been profitable for two (the trip from the airport to the center of Madrid always has a fixed cost of 30€ ). We had rented a flat for 5 days in the heart of second-hand shops neighborhood. What surprised me when we finally reached the flat was the laundry which was air drying in the middle of the building, ahaha…That is the typical funny things you can remind about arriving to Spain.

Then we had to find a flat for our next 6 months in Madrid. But, what a bad surprise we had when we realized we had not a WiFi connection in the flat!!! Fortunately, Madrid is filled with bars and restaurants where you can find WiFi easily. Starbuck’s, MacDonald’s or many other restaurant chains helped us a lot in our flat-hunting.

If I were to give any advice to a newcomer in Madrid looking for a flat, this would be installing Whatsapp or managing to find a Spanish SIM card rapidly in order to be reached by phone by the people who release ads on Vibbo or Idealista. You can find cheap SIM cards and many good tips for newcomers if you go to “Help Madrid” in Gran Via, 22. Once I had it, I was relieved as it was easier to communicate with spanish people and plan visits. Moreover, one other essential thing you have to do when you arrive is to go to a place selling transportation monthly card. The “abono joven” (for young people up to 25 years old) is very cheap as it only costs 20€ (+5€ when you first buy the card). I went to Calle Fuencarral, 80, it was simple and very fast. Unfortunately, we arrived on a saturday afternoon, and both places were closed, hahaha.

BUT…..We quickly found a good place to stay : a little and cosy apartment in the heart of Malasaña. Small, but functional, and located in the best neighborhood for students : on the first visit we had a crush for this place. Plus, although we were living in the most lively street of Malasaña, the flat was very quiet and the view from our small balcony was beautiful. I totally fell in love with the beautiful buildings of Madrid.

Our view from the flat :-)

Our view from the flat 🙂

Once the contract was signed, we chose to explore some parts of the city. But before leaving on any expedition, nothing beated a good “chocolate con churros” at one of the nearest cafes to celebrate the beginning of our adventures in Madrid.

Buen provecho!

Buen provecho!

So after having a good sample of the local dishes, we chose to discover some good places to visit. Let the Spanish adventure begin with a typical Madrid visit! With my tourist guide Madrid Pocket, Lonely Planet I could be able to find quickly inescapable places to go. Depending on the neighborhood where you are and the things that you want to do and visit (squares, restaurants, nightlife, sports, museums), Lonely Planet is a really efficient guide and it seduced me with its pocket format. Plus, if you go on its website, it also gives you advice about many essential things that are good to know when you arrive in a new city. If you are interested, here you can click and find out the “survival guide” (money, weather, health concerns, etc).

So, the essential things to be reminded when you arrive in Madrid are:

  1. Having bought the Lonely Planet guide (it includes a map that is very useful to identify the different neighborhoods of Madrid apart from being useful for visits);
  2. Buying a transportation card;
  3. Purchasing a Spanish SIM card;
  4. And eventually having looked for ads on Vibbo or Idealista (or even AirBnb, it also works for a 6-month rental!).

Please read the next articles to learn more about typical places to visit in Madrid and good pub and restaurants to go 😉


By Gwladys-rabe

Hello everybody, my name is Gwladys and I am currently living in Madrid as an exchange student. I love Madrid, I love spanish people and discovering wonderful parts of Spain is one of my favourite hobbies during this semester. That's why I will share with you as many tips as I can about living the best experience ever in SPAIN! Can't wait to show you new articles! xx


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