What is it that makes millions of tourists want to travel to Madrid ever year? Is it the cuisine? For sure. The architecture? That too. But I believe it’s the intricate ironies that make this an intriguing spot for holiday-makers and volunteer travelers alike. See below to see what I mean.
1. This city knows how to take it easy and party hard
Madrid is home to some of the most chilled people you’ll ever meet, but ironically, this is the city that never sleeps and these people know how to party. It doesn’t matter what day of the week it is (yes, even Sunday), early nights are not the norm and coffee is encouraged. The easy going nature of the locals teamed with their passion for good times makes Madrid a pleasant city to explore both by day and by night.
2. Madrid is home to the biggest palace in Europe but no one lives there
Decked out with over 3,000 furnished rooms, the Royal Palace of Madrid is just casually the largest royal palace in Europe. So what does one do with 3,000 rooms? Not much apparently. The palace simply serves as the venue for state ceremonies. The good news for curious visitors is that the palace is open to the public on most days, so you can explore the interior design that housed the kings of Spain from mid-1700s to 1900s.
3. There’s no sign of a coastline but it’s still legit to sunbathe in your swimsuit
What Madrid lacks in coastline, it makes up for in epic inner-city parks and locals aren’t afraid to embrace the summer park scene, complete with bikini and beach towels. Personal faves include Parque del Oeste, which is home to the Temple of Debod (an ancient Egyptian temple which was dismantled and rebuilt in Madrid), and the famous Buen Retiro Park where you can even hire a boat to explore. Score!
4. Locals don’t do solo but Madrid is super friendly for solo travelers
Social butterflies by nature, the Spaniards embody a super social existence. You’ll be hard pressed to find a solo-shopper, lone-moviegoer or unaccompanied-gym-junkie in Madrid, and the locals will be the first to admit it. While the locals would feel lost in this city without any partners in crime, solo foreigners will instantly feel at ease. Speaking from a experience, it’s the social atmosphere and the fact that no matter what time day of the week, or what time of the day it is, you’ll find chatty clusters of locals scattered across the city, making solo street-roamers feel in good company.
5. There’s a slick public transport system but you’ll be drawn to the footpath
Madrid has its public transport system sorted, but the footpath beats the train tracks every time. There is no better way to explore the city than by foot and thanks to Google Maps, you can feel confident that you will have a personal tour guide to get you from A to B.
6. Everyone eats bread for breakfast but there’s a café that just serves cereal
Be it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacking in between, bread is life in Madrid. Go to a café for breakfast and you’ll be stunned to find a menu item that doesn’t include bread, which makes a café like Cereal Hunters stand out like a sore thumb. This serves (and only serves) over 100 different varieties of cereal. Cerealsly.
7. It’s not a cheap city but you can volunteer on the cheap
If you’re traveling on a budget, Madrid may not be the first wallet-friendly destination that comes to mind. The good news is that if you’re looking for a meaningful travel experience and the chance to contribute your skills to support a community project in Madrid, volunteering with IVHQ is an affordable way to immerse yourself in the Spanish culture, while giving back to the local community.
If you are ready to pack your bags and experience these contrasts in real life then you can find out more about volunteering with IVHQ in Spain here.