The VICE Guide to Madrid 2014

Fuck Barcelona.

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Jun 30 2014, 3:25am

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(Photo by Silvia Varela)

Look, our town is great. Like, really great. Like, better than fucking Barcelona, mostly because – despite our fantastic personalities and plentiful drugs – we're still relatively light on tourists, although when they do turn up we can always spot them because they’re the only ones bold enough to wander around Madrid wearing Barcelona shirts. Don’t do that. Do these things, instead.

Jump to sections by using the index below:

WHERE TO PARTY
WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH DRUGS?
POLITICS, PROTESTS AND JUST HOW RACIST IS EVERYONE HERE?
   The Right's Political Grip| When Madrid Gets Angry | Immigration
WHERE TO EAT
WHAT DO LOCALS EAT?
WHERE TO DRINK
WHERE TO STAY
LGBT MADRID
WHERE TO HANG OUT WHEN YOU'RE SOBER
HOW TO AVOID GETTING RIPPED OFF AND BEATEN UP
HOW NOT TO BE A SHITTY TOURIST
PEOPLE AND PLACES TO AVOID
TIPPING AND HANDY PHRASES
A YOUTUBE PLAYLIST OF QUESTIONABLE LOCAL MUSIC
VICE CITY MAP

(Photo by Jonay P. Matos)

WHERE TO PARTY

Madrid really is a very late city. Nobody in Madrid goes to sleep before 3AM on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and the vast majority of us don’t go home before 6AM. The best places to hang out are afterhours bars, but these are illegal, so I’m not writing the addresses of my favourites here. Don’t worry though, you’ll find them; if you’re around the bars at closing time follow the crowd because everyone heads their together, bonded by the camaraderie of being out in the street in the early hours.

One of the great things about Madrid is there really is a party to cater to every taste. For the indie underground, there's Nuevo Amanecer; Lemoncat serves the electronica crowd and there are punk and garage events courtesy of Holy Cuervo. Each of these groups throw their own parties and when the afterhours bars close the party goes on in someone's house until the last body gives up. That’s the Madrid way. If you’re on the hunt for an old-fashioned outdoor techno rave, hunt down the Abismal collective.

I know I keep going on about it, but no one sleeps here. Not in a New York way, in an actual way. You have old ladies in Madrid that stay up later than any young New Yorker, and more people walking at midnight in Gran Vía than in Times Square at rush hour. Across Madrid, drink servings are generous and drugs are à la carte; there are those who can stay up all night with the aid of energy cans alone and others who burn half their salary just to have something to lick off their fingertips every few seconds.

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(Photo by Iago Fernández)

WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH DRUGS?

Drugs are everywhere in Madrid. This isn’t the place to come for a detox.

Cocaine isn’t quite as popular as it used to be, mostly because of the rise of newer and stranger trips. Recently, locals have been experimenting with GHB in their drinks, wolfing down mescaline jellybeans and experimenting with DMT, 2C-D and 2C-E. In the last year, even ayahuasca seems to be growing in popularity.

As in most places, marijuana remains the most common illegal drug consumed, along with pills (sometimes known as grenades), MDMA, ketamine and speed, which has a long history in the Basque region and remains strangely popular.

Those who are busted might get away with a fine if they only have enough on them for their own use. Anyone with enough to make them look like a dealer will probably end up in front of a judge. The police treat users more harshly if they're caught taking drugs in public view, or if they're breaking rule number #1 in the drug-taking manual and being a bait dickhead.

Fines range from €300 to €30,000. Anyone who’s stupid enough to drive while they're off their face deserves to lose their licence and all the prison time and fines that are coming to them.

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(Photo by Jairo Vargas Martin)

POLITICS, PROTESTS AND JUST HOW RACIST IS EVERYONE HERE?

THE RIGHT'S GRIP ON LOCAL POLITICS

Every country has its right-wing nutjobs, and while you won’t see too many of them in the street we do have a few national socialist groups here in Madrid. One of these is Alianza Nacional, an organisation that calls itself a neo-Nazi party and talks a lot of shit about race. AN think they have a “lus sanguinis” (blood right) to rule, want to split European countries from the rest of the world based on race and would really, really like to close the border to immigrants, outlaw gay marriage and join up with Portugal because that's what the old Catholic kings would want. All the usual crap.

The other hardline political group in Madrid is the anti-abortionists. They’re ultra-religious and sometimes clearly members of Opus Dei. They’re also terrifyingly powerful, and a bill to ban all abortions except in the case of rape or harm to the mother is currently in the process of being passed, despite protests from women’s rights groups. They’re dicks and deserve to be reminded of this.

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(Photo by Jairo Vargas)

POLITICS, PROTESTS AND JUST HOW RACIST IS EVERYONE HERE?

WHEN MADRID GETS ANGRY

Your political leaning will dictate where you head to protest: Plaza de Colón if you’re right wing and Puerta de Sol if you’re left wing. Right-wing protesters tend to have a Catholic belief system and be strongly nationalist about Spain. Unlike regional patriots in areas like Cataluña, the Basque Country or Galicia, they don’t have local cultures or languages to protect so instead they defend their tapas, cañas and Real Madrid. They’re popularly known as “fachas”, in reference to the fascism they yearn for. It might sound like a joke but some of them still feel nostalgic about the reign of Franco, and many of them aren’t even old enough to remember it.

For their part, left-wingers are known as “red” and also pejoratively called “chuchoflautas”, which translates as something similar to “gutter punks”. The Puerta de Sol area became world famous during the 15M protests, when they took control of the square in a manoeuvre that was subsequently adopted by Occupy Wall Street. They are the political descendants of the “progres”, who fought against the fascist dictatorship in the 1970s for the transition to democracy. Nowadays, they're represented by the new political party, Podemos, which was formed this year and won five seats at the recent European elections. They are led by Pablo Iglesias Turrión, a young political expert who looks the leftist part with his ponytail and goatee.

The People’s Party is currently in power in Spain and is aligned to the right. It’s subject to the Catholic Church’s authority, which makes you wonder why it’s necessary for right-wing protesters to bring traffic to a standstill with their marches against abortion. Conversely, in the face of widespread austerity measures the left-wing protests feel vital and necessary – although outside of Podemos’ five European seats, political change is happening almost imperceptibly slowly.

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(Photo by Jonay P. Matos)

POLITICS, PROTESTS AND JUST HOW RACIST IS EVERYONE HERE?

IMMIGRATION

The ruling People’s Party (PP) was roundly mocked at the last elections when it turned out they had an Ecuadorian working for them at a polling station. This is because PP are well known for repeatedly proposing measures aimed at encouraging immigrants to return to their countries of origin. They restrict immigrants’ access to healthcare, limit their rights compared to those born in Spain and build border fences to give them as unpleasant a welcome as possible.

Despite this, people from all over the world continue to coexist happily in Madrid. We have high numbers of immigrants from Romania, Morocco, Ecuador and Colombia, and increasing numbers also coming from China and Ukraine.

Although people from Madrid are naturally good hosts and have a history of welcoming outsiders, there remains a racist minority, so don’t be too surprised to hear a taxi driver complaining about people coming over here and taking his job despite the fact that, as a nation, we’re quick to go abroad looking for other people’s.

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(Photo by Manu Raivio)

WHERE TO EAT

La Austriaca
Great fast food so speedy it’s kind of suspicious. They do banging sandwiches, cakes and pastries and the lunch menu gives you a starter, main course, dessert and coffee for an eminently reasonable €10. The only drawback is that it’s closed on Sunday – RELIGION, YO!  
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Any Restaurant Called “Casa something”
This might sound like a cop out, but I just can’t narrow it down. Some of the best restaurants in Madrid are called "Casa something": Casa Mingo, Casa Julio, Casa Federica, Casa Granada, Casa Ricardo, Casa Alberto, Casa Fidel… the list goes on. Consider this your chance to do some exploring.

Alabaster
Visit Alabaster. Visit it. It’s the best place in the city to try the cuisine from Galicia, in northwest Spain, and I would staple a snake to a cat and chase it through the woods if it meant I could eat their hake again. Fortunately, this isn’t necessary. I just need €24.
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Pajamá
A great traditional Spanish restaurant, although there’s a slightly incongruous ambience as it used to be a German-Swiss place and they’ve left the décor untouched. The owner is a grandfatherly figure who’s hung photos of arbitrary celebrities everywhere and who deems the eating of oxtail to be very important.
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Melo's
Melos, in the Lavapies neighbourhood, is famous for its zapatillas. These are full loaves of bread filled with whatever your heart desires. I know that sounds ridiculous, like something Robert Baratheon or Elvis would eat and that no real person could ever finish, and you’d be right. The local favourite filling is pork and tetilla, a type of cheese from the northwest whose name translates as “small breast” because of its boob-like shape.
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(Photo by Felipe Hernández)

WHAT DO LOCALS EAT?

Squid Sandwich
Madrid’s signature dishes tend to be really simple. This is a perfect example: just some fried calamari slapped inside some bread. It’s also dirt-cheap; you certainly shouldn’t pay more than €3.50 for one and you’ll find it in almost any bar in town at any time of the day. It’s basically English cooking but with really, really good ingredients.

Callos
Do you have guts? Callos has guts. Callos are guts. They make up a steaming hot, calorie-packed dish made from chunks of cow’s stomach or stewed ram, usually served in a warm clay pot with some chorizo. Throw in some cocido madrilène, a chickpea-based stew, and you have the most typically Madrid meal you could hope to find.

Bravas
Take some potatoes, dice and fry them and then bathe them in spicy brava tomato sauce and pile them high. The other staple city classic is pincho potato omelettes. You’ll see both of these everywhere around Madrid, and sometimes they’ll even be served up free when you order a drink. They’re bar nuts but less likely to contain particles of other customers’ turds.

Churros
Madrid never sleeps, so maybe that’s why our staple breakfast dish has been designed for the tastes of someone who’s been out all night, rather than someone who’s just woken up. Tentacle-shaped doughnuts known as churros, or the more well endowed porras, are the tastiest and greasiest morning option. They’re usually served with chocolate sauce for dipping, but we’ve also been known to dunk them in coffee or beer, depending on how long we’ve been awake for and whether or not we’re trying to keep going.

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(Photo by Sergio Albert Avilés)

WHERE TO DRINK

Tempo II
An old brothel with some sofas and a computer hooked up to some speakers where you can choose YouTube videos – so basically like whichever of your friends' flats you habitually go back to at the end of a heavy Friday night, then. Unlike your friends, who are a little useless, they’ll also serve you tortilla tapas and pastries until the early morning.
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Destellos
Calle Galileo, 90
Everything about this place is both depressing and ostentatious. Instead of decent tapas, you get cups filled with Lacasitos, the Spanish equivalent to Smarties. There’s an annoying horse-riding theme running through the décor and the music, the bartenders and the slot machine all conspire to ruin your night and generally the whole place stinks. And this is why a sense of hipsterish ironic detachment shouldn’t get as much abuse as it does, because you'll love it.

Iberia
This is primarily a bar for taxi drivers, just 200 metres from the party neighbourhood of Malasaña. If you're the sort of person who can’t hack an all-nighter, we recommend grabbing a tactical nap and then going round at 7AM to meet up with the hardcore crowd who are still going from the night before.
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Candi
This is the epitome of what locals call a "Grandpa's bar". There’s generous tapas and the eponymous Mr Candi is behind the bar, but it’s been taken over by people who were born after Pearl Harbour now so you should expect to hear Rihanna and Cam'ron on the stereo and lots of chitchat about Snapchat or ghetto goth or whatever.
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Chamizo
Here is the home of “Yayos”. It might sound like the sort of thing Rick Ross should be shotting in the back seat of a Maybach parked in a swimming pool, but in this old tavern it’s the name of a drink that translates as “Grandpas” (we love our granddads). It's a kind of vermouth and it tastes like a fucking high five in your face. Two words of warning: there's always a big queue to get a drink and the doorway will be clogged up with smokers, so be patient or at least bring some cigarettes.
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(Photo by Manu Raivio)

WHERE TO STAY

Located in the popular Barrio de Las Letras, Hostal Armesto (from €35 per room per night) is relatively cheap as well as being clean and in a great location to stumble home from one of Las Letras' many decent bars and clubs. It’s called Las Letras because it was the city’s literary district, where the first edition of Don Quixote was published. Obviously you’ve never read it, because it’s insanely long, so just walk around banging on about windmills and you’ll look great.

Praktik Metropol (from €45 per room per night) is in an historic building that’s been renovated with all the trappings of a cosmopolitan Instagram lifestyle. They even have their own bakery, and host a "Room Art Fair" once a year if you’re too lazy to leave your hotel in search of a cultural fix. While the rooms are great, the real selling point are the balconies to the Gran Via. The views of Madrid are worth the price alone, not to mention the chance to watch the stream of sad Spanish men visiting the women practising the world’s oldest profession on the street below.

In the same sort of price range, the Room Mate chain of boutique hotels is very popular and has a few different locations in the city (from €55 per room per night). Here in Madrid we love a sportsman, and the chain is owned by a Spanish horse-riding champion named Quique Sarasola. As sporting spin-offs go, it’s a lot better than Gary Neville’s restaurant.

Puerta de América has impeccable hipster credentials, what with having been Amy Winehouse’s Madrid crash-pad of choice and starring role in Jim Jarmusch’s The Limits of Control. It also has the price tag to match (from €150 per room per night) but it’s well worth it if you’re secretly loaded.

If you like your hotels so absurdly decadent that they literally have an “ebony room full of Egyptian antiques, including a granite statute of Pharaoh Ramses” then you’ll want to stay at Urban (from €175 per room per night) but you’re also part of the 1% so you should know that we all hate you.

The hotel of choice for stadium bands visiting Spain is the even pricier ME (from €205 per room per night). If you’re more into boning a King of Leon than a Yung Lean, then the bar on the roof is the place to loiter while pretending you’re there for the spectacular panoramic views of the city. It won’t be cheap though, unless one of those hairy twats is buying.

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(Photo by Iván Parlorio)

LGBT MADRID

Madrid is a gay-friendly city in general, and a good place to hit Grindr, but if you head to the Chueca district in particular you’ll find lots of great gay bars and clubs. There’s an annual Pride parade in July that is celebrated as if it were a national holiday.

Having said that, there are still certain sections of society – notably politics and football – where it’s very difficult for homosexuals to come out. Just based on numbers, we assume at least some of the Real Madrid squad is gay, for example, but none of them have yet been spotted coming out of one of the city’s many gay saunas.

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(Photo by Sergio Albert Avilés)

WHERE TO HANG OUT WHEN YOU'RE SOBER

The Funicular
It connects with the Templo de Debod park and the Casa de Campo. The views are incredible and in ten minutes you're up out of the grime of Madrid and in the middle of leafy places that God built for us to have picnics in.

The Wax Museum
Few of the figures in the museum look like the people they’re supposed to – which obviously makes it amazing.  
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The Racetrack
Getting pissed and betting on horses with a perfect view of Madrid's skyline is a pretty good way to spend a Thursday night or a Sunday morning. The jockeys even give guided tours, which is nice of them.
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Toni2
A piano bar at the heart of the Chueca neighbourhood starring three virtuoso pianists banging out pop songs and Spanish folk for you to sing along with (so I guess you might have to brush up on your traditional Spanish music). The average age is around 50 and the dress code is elegant, but think of it as Spain’s answer to karaoke and you’ll have a blast.
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Prada
An old brothel that’s been converted into a pool bar with décor so monstrously ugly that it’s gone all the way round to being pretty again. As for the clientele, half of them look like they haven’t seen daylight since the days when you could still pay for sex here, while the other half are Madrid’s young, good-looking crowd. They’re as gross, and as fabulous, as each other.
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Amusement Park
Spending a morning riding roller-coasters is a bit like spending a morning getting high, and probably cheaper too. If you’re going to end up throwing up all over your shoes, it might as well be because of the waltzers rather than MDMA.
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Vallecas
This is Madrid's own Harlem, or maybe "Hamsterdam" from The Wire’s vision of Baltimore would be a better analogy. The area is populated by drug addicts, radical lefties known as bucaneros and rappers who earn their living driving trucks. No Bubbles, though.

Churches in the Downtown Area
I don’t care if God is dead, his houses around Grial Plaza (San Ildefonso) or Luna Square are still wicked.

Municipal Swimming Pools
There's no beach in Madrid but we do have municipal swimming pools where you can splash about and flirt at the same time. The Lago one is the most popular and Cristiano Ronaldo went there once (make your own diving joke).

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(Photo by Felipe Hernández)

HOW TO AVOID GETTING RIPPED OFF AND BEATEN UP

Madrid is generally a safe city. In fact, it's almost like a village. Unless you decide to get involved with a street gang, like Latin Kings or start dealing drugs you will probably stay out of harm’s way. The most you’ll generally have to worry about is pickpocketing, which can happen on the subway or on busy streets and bars. In particular, be wary of groups approaching you and asking for your signature in support of a worthy cause, when the only cause they’re concerned with is lifting your phone and selling it to a man who desperately needs to call some people in some other continents.

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(Photo by Kike Carvajal)

HOW NOT TO BE A SHITTY TOURIST

We don’t get huge numbers of tourists in Madrid, but for some reason those we do get head straight to the Irish-theme pubs and then dance to horrible music in the Huertas neighbourhood. Cunts, basically. You send your artists, models, bands and ravers to Barcelona and we get your cunts. Why is that? Screw you. I don’t mean that, come and hang out, this place is great!

Oh, and maybe it’s become a cliché but seriously: Why are you wearing socks and sandals?

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(Photo by Davit Ruiz)

PEOPLE AND PLACES TO AVOID

Tunos
One of the city’s strangest crowds. These guys are a university tribe whose members wear medieval capes and play ancient instruments in order to hit on women. They’re grouchy, sexist cockroaches who go through the streets singing serenades to any woman they see on a balcony. Awful.

Writers
When men from Madrid hit a certain age they decide that instead of having a child or doing something vaguely useful, like planting a tree, they’re going to write a book. They try, they fail, they start pitching stuff to us, we publish it, you slag it off in the comments, they return to their original passion of being an author and the whole cycle starts again.

Gutter Punks
Giving a bad name to both punks and hippies, these crusty madrileños juggle on the streets and then ask you for money in exchange. WHICH IS A SHITTY TRADE.

Gran Vía
Some people call it "the madrileño Broadway" but the theatre shows and musicals offered in this big avenue are universally shitty shitty shit shit. It’s also some kind of unofficial meeting spot for every pickpocket in the city.

Madrid Zoo
Some zoos seem like happy, interesting places where animals are looked after and we learn more about them, and in turn, ourselves. This is not one of those places. This is animal GTMO. A grim parade of sad beasts who wish they had the capacity for suicide. It’s enough to make you want to fling your shit at the monkeys in solidarity.

Barrio de Salamanca  
This is known as the area of the city with the highest proportion of people with hereditary titles – or pricks, as they're known in Britain. As you’d expect in an area with so much assembled nobility, the shops and restaurants are ludicrous. Stay well clear unless you’re at least a Baronet.

El Rastro
Che Guevara T-shirts, incense holders and counterfeit Adidas – It’s all here every Sunday! Just as it is at every crap market across Europe.

The Circus
In Madrid we still have old-school circuses that are home to sad-eyed clowns and even sadder-eyed animals. Many generations of Spanish kids have been traumatised by attending one of these tented horror shows. Elephants never forget because they all have PTSD.

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(Photo by Kike Carvajal)

TIPPING AND HANDY PHRASES

Tipping
In Madrid, there are no strict rules about tipping. In fact, waiters and taxi drivers, usually won't expect you to tip them anything. They tend to have fixed salaries and their pay packets aren't filled out by tips, as in other countries. So don't worry, you can basically be as big a cheapskate as your conscience allows you to be.

Handy Phrases
Hello – Hola
Goodbye – Adiós / Hasta luego
Please – Por favor
Thank you – Gracias
I would like to have a beer / coffee / wine / whisky – Querría una cerveza / un café / un vino / un whisky
I want to kiss you – Quiero besarte
I want to buy some MDMA – Quiero comprar algo de M

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A YOUTUBE PLAYLIST OF QUESTIONABLE LOCAL MUSIC

Here’s a playlist of Spanish music, some of which is about Madrid. It includes Spain’s answer to Bad Manners and a rapper called MC Randy. But don't let that put you off: if you watch until the end, you get rewarded with a rock band wearing colonial era roughs.

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VICE CITY MAP

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I hope I've convinced you to come to Madrid instead of that other town.

– VICE Spain (Madrid branch)

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