More than eight years ago, a 15-minute conversation in a Madrid bar changed Erin Ridley’s life forever. The San Francisco, California, native took a chance on love and the gamble paid off. Now she’s living in the Spanish capital with her Madrileño husband and their toddling baby boy.
Always ready to embrace a new adventure, Erin started a blog, La Tortuga Viajera (The Traveling Turtle), to keep track of her discoveries in and around her new hometown. Madrid “feels like the Spanish best friend you never had—one that welcomes you with open arms, tasty tapas and drinks, and good times,” she says. “Really, it’s hard not to feel like you belong here.”
Here are a few of Erin’s favorite things about the city she’s proud to call home.
Follow Erin on Instagram @tortugaviajera.
Madrid Is My City
When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them is to grab a drink and some tapas at an outdoor terraza, like those found in Plaza de Santa Ana.
Fall is the best time to visit my city because there are fewer tourists, city slickers have returned from their summer vacations, and the weather is just the right mix of warm and refreshing.
Locals know to skip Mercado de San Miguel and check out Mercado de San Antón or Mercado de la Paz instead.
Antigua Casa Crespo, which sells traditional Spanish alpargatas (espadrilles), is the place to buy authentic, local souvenirs.
In the past, notable people like actress Penélope Cruz, soccer legend David Beckham, and author Ernest Hemingway have called my city home.
My city’s best museum is Museo Nacional del Prado because its galleries display some of Europe’s finest paintings.
If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s that the Madrid Metro is one of the most efficient public transportation systems in the world.
The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is at one of Madrid’s ubiquitous terraces, just people watching and drinking a caña, a small glass of beer.
My city really knows how to celebrate a fútbol win because Madrileños are fiercely passionate about their home teams, and throw an exceptionally good party.
You can tell if someone is from my city if they are really proud of being a Spaniard.
My city is known for playing second fiddle to Barcelona, but it’s really the epicenter of all things Spanish, and therefore often preferred by Spain-loving travelers.
The best outdoor market in my city is El Rastro, claro!
To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read Madrid Diferente.
When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I get a menú del día—a weekday lunch menu found at most restaurants that typically includes three courses and often wine—all without breaking the bank.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
The dish that represents my city best is cocido madrileño, and fresh-from-the-tap vermouth (sipped on while indulging in a noontime snack) is my city’s signature drink. Sample them at La Bola and Bodega de la Ardosa, respectively.
Regularly walking out your front door in the morning to see people just making their way home from the night before could only happen in my city.
In the spring you should take part in May’s week-long San Isidro Festival, which includes concerts, a carnival, and traditional Madrileño costumes.
In the fall you should go for a walk in Retiro Park to see the autumn leaves at their finest.
In the winter you should check out the holiday lights that drape the city’s biggest streets and squares, then warm your fingers and belly with some churros dipped in hot chocolate.
If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss playing “spot the bear”—searching for one of the most common symbols of Madrid hidden in unexpected places around the city.
The best book about my city is Winter in Madrid because it transports readers to the city as it was in the wake of the Spanish Civil War, one of the nation’s most trying and defining times.