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Madrid - terrific food and diversity

Madrid is a food city with 18.000 restaurants to choose from. Here you get insider tips for tapas, gourmet and all the best from Spain's menu.
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Madrid - terrific food and diversity is written by Ole Pedersen.

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Fresh fish and Michelin - culinary holiday in Madrid

Madrid is not the first choice for very many Danes when it comes to travel Spain. Most people come to the country to holiday by the beach and water, and that does not speak in Madrid's favor - there are about 250 km to the nearest beach.

The city also does not have the world famous attractions, which Rome, Paris or London have. Still, Madrid is a great tourist destination. And those who choose to visit the Spanish capital quickly discover that Madrid has a lot to offer. Especially the many tapas bars and restaurants, of which there are 18.000, makes the city worth a visit.

In terms of food, Madrid is a culinary crossroads. The city has restaurants from every region and region Spain. And although the city is located over 250 kilometers from the nearest coast, Madrid is one of the best places in Spain to eat fresh fish. It may sound strange, but the explanation is that almost all freshly caught fish come a trip past Madrid, from where they are sold on to markets in the rest of Spain.

Therefore, fresh catches arrive every morning and the selection is so huge that Madrid's fish market is the second largest in the world. Only surpassed by Tokyo Tsukiji Market. Unfortunately, the large fish market is not open to visitors.

The Spaniards occupy the second place on the list of the most fish-eating peoples in the world. A ranking you especially notice when you visit one of the city's supermarkets, which all have a fishmonger who is dedicated to filleting and cleaning seafood for customers.

On the whole, the Madrilenians are incredibly into food. And in addition to the thousands of local bars and eateries located throughout the city, Madrid can also boast of being home to a single three-star Michelin restaurant and a full five with two stars. Here's really something for connoisseurs.

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Spain Madrid TravelA warm city in more ways than one 

The Madrilenians are warm people and imbued with hospitality, and despite limited English skills, the bus driver will still want to greet you when you get on the bus, and greengrocers often put a few extra tomatoes and potatoes in the bag as a kind of thank you for the deal.

In the morning, when all the bars and cafeterias are crammed, there is always someone who just takes a step to the side, so you too can have a small seat at the bar. And you do not have to come to the same place many times before the waiter can remember what you usually order.

Madrid is Europe's highest capital with its location on the Spanish plateau in the middle of Spain. But even though the city is 700 meters above sea level, the summers are long and extremely hot. Already from May until October, the temperature can reach around 40 degrees on the hottest days.

In August 2003, temperatures of as much as 47 degrees were even measured. One might think that 40 degrees is uncomfortable. But on the contrary; the heat feels like going in the heat flow from a hair dryer. The crisp heat in the middle of Spain is almost over desert-like, and it evaporates all moisture faster than you think.

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Lavapiés: The diverse district of Madrid

Madrid is a city with daily trials and people in difficulty, but it has gotten better. The city has become more accessible, much less dirty, more globalized and more orderly than before. But fortunately it has not lost its vitality and the wonderfully crazy that has always characterized the city. Madrid is still the stop of surprises for better or worse. This is especially evident in the Lavapiés district.

In the 1980s, the neighborhood was so run-down that it was a real slum, and with the city's high unemployment, the neighborhood quickly became home to crime, drug addicts and slum stormers. In the 1990s, the neighborhood underwent an urban renewal, and many of the old residents disappeared. Today, immigrants make up 60 percent of the neighborhood's residents.

Lavapiés, however, is still remarkably untrendy, and the atmosphere is a bit village-like, even though the neighborhood is in the middle of the big city. Senegalese conga processions and Indian food are commonplace in the peaceful and diverse district, where Ramadan and the Chinese New Year are also celebrated. Lavapiés has been the city's Jewish quarter, which also makes its mark on the area. It is, to say the least, a diverse and exciting district.

The famous Pías de San Fernando church on Plaza Agustín Lara - or the remains of it - is worth a visit. In 1729, the pastor Tomás Plana de San José began teaching the poor and street children writing and arithmetic. He set up a school in the church that became known throughout Europe, with room for over 2000 students.

During the Spanish Civil War, the church was almost completely destroyed, but today the ancient ruins have been restored and the site is now used as a library for UNED University. On the roof terrace of the university building, you will also find a very good and popular restaurant called Gau & Café, which has a nice view of the neighborhood.

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Market atmosphere and Madrid's Christiania

Next to the UNED University you will find the indoor market, El Mercado San Fernando, which is an organic and alternative gourmet market. Here you can get everything: Different types of hand-baked bread, organic fruit and vegetables and even books where you pay per. kilo. You can also eat at sympathetic bars with regional and ethnic specialties, and here are beer brands from all parts of the world - also Denmark. In the middle of the market there are tables and chairs so you can have a picnic with the things you just bought.

Just around the corner is the large old 1700th century tobacco factory, La Tabacalera. It has now been transformed into a social experiment a la Christiania in København. Here are volunteers who make exhibitions, teach immigrants, tour tourists, dance, play, skate and much more - a good picture of the cultural dynamics of Lavapiés. The district is a colorful and variegated mix of ethnicities, cultures and strong sensory impressions - not least the smell of exotic homemade food.

Madrid has an attraction that is hard to explain. Without having the big tourist attractions - as one Eiffel Tower, Colosseum or Acropolis - then the city has a life and atmosphere like quite a few cities of that size.

Holidays in Madrid are something you have to experience and enjoy before you can really understand how amazing a place it is.

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What to see in Madrid? Sights and attractions

  • Prado Museum
  • Retiro Parks (Parque de Retiro)
  • Santiago Bernabeu Stadium
  • The Royal Palace (Palacio Real)
  • Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum (Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum)
  • The indoor market El Mercado San Fernando
  • Kirken Pías de San Fernando

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About the travel writer

Ole Pedersen

Ole lives in Madrid for 15 years. He has traveled in more than 146 countries, both privately but also with his work as a freelance cameraman. At the moment, however, he spends more time experiencing the world than working. Ole also often plays tourist in his own city of Madrid as well as in the rest of Spain. He likes to share all the experiences via his many photos on instagram or facebook, as well as quite a few times in the form of travel articles.

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