All posts by Alun John

Currency Exchange and banks

I can’t understand why tourists allow themselves to get fleeced at currency exchange booths in Madrid. I suppose we’ve all gone on holiday and been to these places. There is an alternative, however, and it’s called a bank! There are no shortages of banks in Madrid (you’ll see the popular ones all over the city) and practically all the main banks will be able to exchange currency for you – probably saving you a good 15-20% or more than if you went to a currency exchange booth. Here is a list of popular banks: Santander Central Hispano, BBVA, Caja Madrid and Banesto.

La Mexicana – coffee at its best

Walking down c/ Preciados from Plaza Callao to Puerta del Sol, the wonderful smell of coffee hits you about a third of the way down. It comes from a shop called La Mexicana, which offers a small but superb collection of Columbian coffee. Coffee is a major part of Madrid life – café sólo, café con leche, café cortado, café con hielo, to name but a few – and this is one way of taking it with you. If you want a list of other La Mexicana shops around Madrid, go to their website.

“Cabaret”, the Broadway hit, arrives in Madrid


A second major musical is coming to Madrid this Autumn. The musical “Cabaret”, directed by Sam Mendes, comes to the Nuevo Teatro Alcalá de Madrid on October 15th. Sam Mendes, of American Beauty fame, along with Chicago director Rob Marshall, have brought the show to Madrid having achieved major success with it on Broadway. The theatre has undergone a dramatic change in order to turn it into the Kit Kat Klub, replete with black tables, red lamps and even a couple of bars, from where the public can be served!! It sounds like it will be the show of the Autumn, possibly beating “We Will Rock You”. However, what will happend when “Cats” arrives in December?!

Tickets: from the theatre box – c/ Jorge Juan, 62 – Metro: Príncipe de Vergara – Tel: 91 426 47 79 or from El Corte Inglés – Tel: 902 26 27 26. Prices range from 15 to 65 Euros (unfortunately the El Corte Inglés web site is in Spanish but you could buy from one of their many stores in Madrid).

Related Links
‘Cats’ – The Musical comes to Madrid
“We Will Rock You” comes to Madrid

Plaza Santa Ana

Plaza Santa Ana is a great place to start an evening’s entertainment in Madrid. The Madrileños will often start arriving to this area around 11pm on Friday’s and Saturday’s. Plaza Santa Ana is a very pleasant square just off Puerta del Sol and situated in an older barrio of Madrid; indeed the house where Miguel de Cervantes (writer of Don Quixote) lived is a couple of streets away in calle Cervantes. The square is home to the oldest theatre in Madrid, Teatro Español, which was built in 1745 and puts on classical Spanish productions. At night the square becomes one of the most important hot spots for night time entertainment.

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Casa Labra – a bar with history

Casa Labra is a small bar hidden away in a street behind the Puerta del Sol, in Calle Tetuán. It is famous for being the bar where the Spanish socialist party (PSOE), who came to power in 1977, was founded on the 2nd May, 1879. A typical old-style Spanish bar, with heavy wood-panelling and only standing room in the bar, you can order bacalao (small pieces of cod in batter) from a separate bar and if there’s no room at the bar, simply take your beer and cod onto the pavement!

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Mad About Madrid is a free guide to all things related to Madrid, from parks, walks and sports to music and travel information. If you feel that you have got some benefit out of this guide, you may want to make a donation (in the left-hand panel) through PayPal. In any case, please feel free to download and print articles and let friends know about this site. Cheers, Alun

Retiro Park – Madrid’s main park


Metro: 2

Nothing beats Sunday afternoon in Retiro Park. Situated behind the Prado museum, it is the most popular and widely visited park in Madrid. On a Sunday afternoon you will see Madrileños walking with their families in the park and being entertained by the multitude of street entertainers. Retiro is also a central meeting point for all sorts of people, from the roller skating youngsters and older men playing ‘petanca’ (boules) to football players and joggers of all ages.

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Madrid weather forecasts

The weather in Madrid does have its peaks and troughs. At present, it is starting to dip after a fairly oppressive summer, the temperature regulary hitting over 40ºC. Madrid in Autumn is just great, neither hot nor cold, and going into winter there is always a chance of snow, especially in the mountains and ski resorts north of Madrid. I would certainly recommend a trip to the Royal Palace in Aranjuez which is beautiful with its gardens covered in leaves. Trawling around the web I came across some useful websites for Madrid weather:

El Mundo newspaper gives you today’s weather and forecasts. In the coming months you’ll be able to see what the snow forecast is for Navecerrada on this web site, too. This is another forecast from CNN and a neat one from Yahoo.