What customs do I need to know about in Madrid?

Answers from Our Experts (1)

Ryan Craggs

Madrid, like any Spanish city, follows its own set of unique everyday customs and practices that are worth knowing about.
For starters, our Forbes Travel Guide editors note that, contrary to popular belief, an afternoon siesta in Madrid isn’t really a nap, but rather a long lunch taken between 2 and 3 p.m. Many shops and businesses close during this leisurely meal that often lasts for up to two hours, but El Corte Inglés, the city’s famous department store, is one shopping center that does remain open.
While Madrid is a cosmopolitan city and many signs will be in English, it’ll be helpful to try to learn some basic, functional Spanish words and phrases before your arrive. Madrileños are friendly people on the whole who’ll do their best to help you out, but English isn’t spoken at a particularly advanced level in many northern European countries. Keep in mind, too, that those restaurants and bars with marquees in predominantly English are likely to be tourist traps worth avoiding.
Be mindful of your wallet or purse. Madrid is a safe city that’s generally free of violent crime, but pickpockets are common, especially on the Metro and in areas heavily frequented by tourists. Try to be as inconspicuous as possible; in other words, think twice about walking around with an expensive camera dangling from your neck. That said, you shouldn’t have any trouble during your stay as long as you take basic precautions.
Finally, oenophiles will in all likelihood find themselves tempted by the impressive variety of Spanish wines available at cafés, bars and restaurants throughout Madrid. By all means indulge, but public drunkenness is considered a faux pas, so no matter how good the wine may be, it’s probably best consumed in moderation.

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