Being single can be a blessing, or a curse, depending on what you’re looking for. Over the years, I’ve found it mostly liberating and occasionally frustrating, like the day you’re nixed from the Valentine’s couples-only discount at the Collisseum, because you’re a lonely party of one. Suddenly you envision an enormous arrow over your head with blinking red lights screaming “Single!”, while herds of street cats stream into the plaza, knowing full well that your “cat lady status” is about to hit a new high!
These moments aside, I’ve reveled in the independence and freedom that my single status has awarded, and love the spontaneous opportunities that come along with it! It’s allowed me to travel the globe, meet heaps of interesting people, eat bizarre and exotic foods and live unforgettable experiences. Not that I couldn’t do these things with a partner, but when you’re single, there’s no one to compromise with. It’s all about you!
Hence, if you’re looking for a single person paradise, welcome to Madrid. Madrid’s not only the preeminent party town, filled with lively entertainment and an international hub of people, but also a city dotted with quiet refuges to escape the city’s frenetic energy. (photo by Luis Hernandez)
Here are my top 10 reasons to be single in Madrid:
It takes a lot to strong-arm me into a club these days; but back when stilettos were an extension of my ankles, Madrid’s nightlife was my haven. From dusk to dawn, you can whirl and dance your way through the vast number of clubs ranging in size, price, and style. It’s a question of tribe in my mind. Name your tribe and you’re guaranteed to find a club that meets your needs. If you enjoy heavy-duty nightlife, head to Joy Eslava or Opium. For smaller dance floors, make a beeline for Fortuny or El Callejon de Serrano.
Tip: Unless you’re interested in a “personal massage”, use the term discoteca not club when in Spain. You’ll thank us for it later.
Being single is expensive; but in Madrid, you can eat and drink for the price of a beer. Why? Because beer in Spain is cheaper than water! So it’s easy to ask for a caña, or four, alongside heaping plates of delectable tapas. These wee finger foods, alongside tall refreshing Estrella (or microbrew if you’re really lucky), are perfectly suited for the broken-hearted among us. Drown in your beer my friends, because you can afford it! Check out: La Venencia, Sanlúcar or De Pura Cepa.
Tip: Not surprisingly, tapas are successively better with each drink you order. Not only because your perception has dwindled to nothing, but because bar owners tend to reward those who stick around longer. Consequently, you may want to narrow your tapas crawl if your lowly strip of dry cured ham has suddenly evolved into a buttery leg of Jamon Iberico! (Photo by James Blick)
This probably deserves to be moved up to spot number one, but lest you think I’m shallow and fixated on finding someone, I’ll keep it buried right here. Madrid is not only one of the best-dressed cities in Spain, but it’s also among the friendliest. Critics might suggest that this friendly sheen is superficial, but my experience has shown that what you see is what you get. Flash a smile, make some small talk, join an impromptu jam session and doors will open. It’s a healthy reminder of just how many fish in the sea there really are. I’ve made friends, received insider tips on bars and restaurants, and had tours of the city handed to me for no more than just a question and a sweet smile.
Tip: Ask a question. If you’re standing at a bar and want to know what one of the tapas are, don’t ask the waiter. Ask the person next to you. You’ll probably get a lot more than just menu hints.
Just because you’re single doesn’t mean you can’t splurge on a diva dress every now and again to feel sexy. Call it preventative therapy from staying inside and watching reruns of “The Game of Thrones”. So grab your purse and head to Calle Serrano. It’s far from the maddening crowds and cramped stores of Sol and stacked with name brands from around the world. Plus, you’re a stone’s throw from great bars to enjoy a drink while debating on full-on diva or slightly coquettish attire. (Photo by Otto Nassar)
Tip: Head to the quiet labyrinth streets in Malasaña and Chueca for unique items at a fraction of the price.
Rooftops are by far one of the best ways to spend a sunset filled evening among friends, by yourself or possibly chatting up a guy who most likely is batting for the other team (err…not that I’m speaking from experience). Among the beige terra-cotta roofs lies a valley of undiscovered bars worthy of exploring. Check out: Circulo de Bellas Artes, The Hat, Calle Imperia and Gau & Cafe Calle Tribulete.
Tip: Please put down the selfie-stick! The words, “That girl who’s been taking pictures of herself – all night – is really interesting!” have never been spoken.
Most people don’t realize it, but Madrid is one of the greenest cities in Spain. Its network of parks and tree-lined avenues make it a great city for running, one of the best ways to discover a new city, meet fellow joggers and revel in quality “me time”. There are a lot of amazing spaces to run in the city, but my vote would be for Retiro Park, a seemingly endless stretch of trees smack-dab in the city centre; the enormous Parc de Oriente, located in the west side of the city; and the new beautiful belt of green along the river, aptly named Madrid Rio.
Tip: Head to the Palacio de Cristal in Retiro Park for a culture break. Often there are unusual temporary art exhibitions set up inside, like the giant slide I once came across, open to public use. Its most recent installation is a colorful tent designed by Federico Guzman made entirely of traditional Saharawi women dresses and filled with objects common to these nomadic structures, like cushions, prayer rugs, poufs and tea sets.
Big cities like Madrid surely have their charms, but beyond these iconic hubs, a world of incredible experiences await within the little the medieval villages of Segovia, Toledo, Avila, Chinchon, Cuenca and El Escorial. These villages are ripe for exploration, boasting of fairytale castles where you can sip on Cava and imagine Antonio Banderas saving you on his trusted steed from marauding hordes! Or head to a rustic plaza with outdoor terrace overflowing with suckling pig, Jamon Iberico and..yip, you guessed it, more wine! For skiers among you, the Pyrenees are a stone’s throw away from Madrid and contain a wide range of ski resorts for those needing some fresh mountain air…or a cozy fireplace.
Tip: Trains are your best friend in Spain. You can reach the far reaches of the country in less than hour with the AVE.
It’s Friday night, your refrigerator looks like a barren desert, and you have zero plans to speak of. Should you put on your sweatpants, break out the Chicken Wings and pray that Real Madrid is playing Barca? NO! Spain is known for its parties in the streets, and Madrid is no exception. Whether it’s a small barrio party or one of the bigger festivals that make their appearance throughout the year, you’ll find yourself easily swept up in the adventure of it all. If you happen to be there for one of the major fiestas like Dos de Mayo (2 May), San Isidro (15 May), or La Paloma (15 August), dive right in and enjoy! Even smaller barrio (neighborhood) parties are fabulous places to meet new people. Your only objective is to engage. (Photo by Tomás Fano)
Tip: Bring the least amount of personal belongings to the street. Leave passports, wallets, etc in a safebox (or home), and keep only the absolute necessarily bank cards and cash in your front pocket. If you’re toting a camera, wrap that strap a thousand times around your forearm and hand, keeping it low to the ground. Rule of thumb: if you can’t see it or feel it on you, it’s easy pickings for shifty bandits.
So can’t draw a stick figure complete with a head attached. Join the club! But that doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate someone else’s talent, while potentially being inspired to finally paint your bathroom. I’m an enormous fan of the Golden Triangle of museums in Madrid, consisting of: the Prado, the Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Reina Sofia. In a few short blocks, I can enjoy everything from Botticelli to Velazquez and Goya to Renoir. If you’re into the less traveled path, I suggest the La Caixa art centre, which has made its home in a converted factory complete with a garden wall or the Matadero, an architecturally stunning contemporary arts center housed in an old slaughterhouse.
Tip: Check out the free and reduced prices for the Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza museums.
Whether my stay is short term or long term, the best way to get involved is by avoiding the well-worn tourist track and diving into the social scene. Again, it’s all about tribes, especially for women travellers (I speak from experience as one!). With the enormous amount of tours, workshops and classes available to you, it’s simply a question of finding those people – or things – that resonate. From Spanish classes to cultural tours, your single status will award you ample opportunities to explore! And if nothing else, the native Madrileño leading your group will probably end up to be an invaluable resource for your stay. (photo by Jean-David & Anne-Laurel)
Tip: I’ve found that using Meetup, an online social networking site, and EatWith, where you can dine in someone’s home, are a great way to find classes on the cheap.
Whether you’re single, or swinging with a cast of millions, Madrid is overflowing with options to entertain. That said, if you’re needing a little support getting your itinerary set up, let us help! We’re not only sympathetic to traveling solo, but our office is full of single folks who would love nothing more than to help you feel at home.