Madrid (or How to Make a Group of Friends in 24 hours)
adrileños love to talk. About anything, anywhere. And they’re always really loud. Any excuse will do to start a conversation, whether it’s the result of a Champions League football match, the opening of yet another swanky bar, or simply how busy the Metro is at rush hour. Loquaciousness is in their DNA. Or perhaps not, because in Madrid we are all automatically Madrileños, whether we’re third-generation—the so-called gatos—or new arrivals just starting to discover the joys of Sunday tapas in La Latina. The only certainty is that Madrid is one of the 10 most sociable cities in the world. It takes only 24 hours—if that—to find out why.
Madrid is all about being out and about, come rain, snow or shine. Christmas happens in and around the Plaza Mayor, fighting off the cold with fluffy reindeer ears and crunchy fried squid sandwiches. In spring and summer, the festivities move to the parks and open spaces, like those surrounding the pavilions of the Matadero Madrid. The sprawling complex is a cultural and social icon that features multidisciplinary exhibitions, performance areas and an experimental theatre, as well as a vast esplanade that serves as a venue for large-scale events. You’ll also find the Madrid Producers market, the Design Market, and festivals and concerts that take weekend visitors by surprise. It’s a shining example of the city’s open and welcoming spirit.
The outdoor terrace of La Cantina, next to the Cineteca, is the place to go for wholesome food and conversations about film following a cultural foray into the Matadero. The large tables are an invitation to socialize, and Madrileños won’t hesitate to ask their neighbour about the mouth-watering dish the waiter just brought them. Don’t be shy and do what any gato would do: offer them a bite. Believe us, you’re only a couple of drinks away from sharing a laugh in the next bar with a new-found friend.
Shared tables, an emerging trend in hip restaurants the world over, is something the Spanish have been doing for years. In neighbourhoods like Malasaña and La Latina, the good old counter top unites people from all walks of life, sharing olives, patatas bravas and a few glasses of vermouth while putting the world to rights. Sala de Despiece, on Calle Ponzano (Chamberí), brings a new twist to the concept in a traditional market setting with white-robed waiters and a display cabinet containing knives, gloves and other utensils for preparing fresh produce. Diners share a counter almost 10 metres long and choose from a list of daily specials, each handwritten with details of preparation, origin, weight and price. This is the place to share tapas and experiences with future adventure buddies.
In Lavapiés, the Vallehermoso and San Fernando markets are reviving the meeting-place spirit with much cooler versions of the traditional market. Here, fusion cuisine and craft beer stalls sit comfortably alongside the courgettes and tomatoes. And on Saturday mornings in the Cebada Market, the tables are improvised from fruit boxes, and you can enjoy octopus or tuna tartare prepared right there and then by the resident fishmongers.
Another great place for making friends in Madrid is in the queue for a night club. Medias Puri, one of the city’s worst-kept secrets since it opened in 2017, attracts hundreds of people every weekend. But before getting down on one of the three dance floors, you’ll have to wait in line. And while keeping an eye out for the inevitable queue-jumper, it’s easy to strike up a conversation with an ever-friendly madrileño. The truth is, we’re all just dying to get in and especially into the toilets!).
The wait will have been worth it when you and your new friends enter and see the spectacular live show in the main room, covertly hidden behind a façade of mainstream haberdashery. Together, you can call it a night—or start the next day—with chocolate and churros at Chocolatería San Ginés. We Madrileños—because by this point we’re all of us Madrileños—enjoy life to the full. So, what time tomorrow?