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The Fun and Splendor of Living in Madrid

by Shannon Steinberg on Jun 7, 2024

Madrid lies in the heart of Spain, both literally and figuratively. While most of Spain’s population is spread out along the coast, Madrid dominates the center of the country. It’s an economic, cultural, and political hub that’s managed to preserve its simple, relaxed lifestyle even as it's grown into one of the premier cities in Europe. Living in Madrid lets you experience the best of Spanish culture ‒ its art, food, nightlife, even its rivers and mountains. Small wonder then that the city not only welcomes people from all over Spain, but all over the world. For anyone interested in living abroad and exploring Western Europe, here’s why Madrid ought to be at the top of your list.

Booming Economy

As the capital of Spain, Madrid is home to the majority of the country’s governmental, administrative, and regulatory institutions. Despite this, the public sector plays only a small role in the local economy. Madrid is a global center for technology, industry, and finance. Its GDP growth is nearly double the rest of Spain and it receives half of the country's foreign investment. Sixty-five percent of Spain's multinationals are headquartered here, along with two-thirds of its domestic corporations.

With over 500,000 businesses operating in and around the city, opportunities for workers have exploded in recent years. Though the job market’s open to anyone who speaks the language, foreigners are most common in the IT, communications, and healthcare sectors, especially if they’re fluent in Spanish. Sales, marketing, and operational experts often find work in one of the international corporations operating in the area. There is even a special visa for remote workers, open to college graduates or professionals with at least three years experience in their field, which allows them to live in Spain while working for companies overseas.

Serene & Tranquil Lifestyle

Despite its thriving business sector, Madrid maintains a strict work-life balance. Employees take long lunches, rarely work overtime, and prioritize time with their friends and family. Residents believe experiences should be savored, so life moves at a leisurely pace, with as little stress as possible. Though it’s an adjustment for some Americans, they’re often amazed at how calm and relaxed they feel after living in Madrid for a few weeks as they gradually absorb the city's easygoing outlook.

Outstanding Culture

Madrid was the capital of one of the first global empires, with a rich history stretching all the way back to the days of ancient Rome. Generations of artists and architects have transformed it from an isolated, military citadel into one of the most creative, beautiful, and inspiring cities in the world. Residents have access to an incredible number of cultural attractions, including:

  • Museo del Prado. The Spanish national art museum, whose galleries serve as a gateway into the genius and imagination of the painters who dominated the Renaissance, Baroque, and Romantic periods.
  • Matadero. A massive complex where writers, craftsmen, performers, and visionaries create and collaborate on new forms of theater, design, literature, architecture, digital culture, and visual art.
  • Reina Sofia. Housed in a converted hospital from the 16th century, this museum promotes contemporary culture with exhibits and collections that feature leading voices from the national and international art scene.
  • Teatro Real. Spain’s leading opera house, whose colorful and popular productions have captivated audiences for over 170 years.
  • Prague del Buen Retiro. Once the private retreat of the Spanish Royal Family, this beautifully landscaped park is one of the most visited destinations in Madrid. Residents can paddle boats around man-made lakes, walk through the extensive rose gardens, tour art galleries, marvel at the sculptures along the Statue Walk, and wander among rare flora and fauna at the Crystal Palace.
  • Royal Palace. A grand monument showcasing the power and wealth of the Spanish monarchy. Its staggering architecture, elegant design, and magnificent treasures astound visitors with their beauty and scale.

Adventurous Nightlife

Madrid runs on a different schedule than most of Europe and America. Work starts at 8:30, but doesn’t wrap up until seven or eight, with a three hour lunch break around midday. Dinner is eaten around ten and the fun starts around midnight. Most partygoers spend their evenings dancing and drinking in Huertas, Malasaña, Chueca, and the Calle Miguel Ángel ‒ where you’ll find the liveliest bars, clubs, and restaurants in the city.

The Gran Via is famous for its shops, theaters, and rooftop bars, the perfect place to enjoy wine, cocktails, and late night snacks. The pace of life means some residents stay out until six or seven in the morning, when the clubs finally close, only to wake up and do it all over again the next day.

Delicious Cuisine

One of the best parts of living in Madrid is the food. Madrid is a Spanish city with an international flair, so no matter what you’re craving ‒ French, Italian, Mexican, Brazilian, Chinese, Japanese ‒ you can find it here, even smoked ribs and hamburgers! But while Madrid’s foreign chefs are highly accomplished, its Spanish chefs are even more renowned. Any night out is sure to include a least a few local delicacies, such as:

  • Tortilla de Patatas. A potato omelet made by simmering eggs, onions, and thinly sliced potatoes in olive oil. Perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
  • Patatas Bravas. Fried potatoes served with mayonnaise aioli and spicy "brava" sauce. A popular dish at tapas bars.
  • Croquetas. A deep-fried roll made from mashed potatoes or bechamel sauce (flour, milk & butter) and stuffed with ham. One of the country’s most popular appetizers.
  • Jamón. Spaniards love ham (jamón). Cured and air dried, it comes in two varieties. Jamón serrano is made from white Spanish pigs and is the most common, while jamón ibérico is made from black pigs and is more expensive.
  • Gambas al Ajillo. Shrimp and garlic, boiled at high heat in olive oil and served bubbling hot. Traditionally cooked in a clay pot, which enhances the flavor.
  • Chorizo. Spiced pork sausage, served with rice, salad, stew, or wrapped in puff pastry to create simple but mouthwatering dishes.

In addition to its food, Spain also produces some of the best wine in the world, which is served with almost every meal. Spanish vineyards have been cultivated for centuries, producing unique varietals that are heavier, fruitier, and more floral than wines from France and Italy.

Warm & Friendly Population

Though Madrid is thoroughly Spanish, it’s also home to a large international community. Around fifteen percent of residents were born outside the country, which helps newcomers connect with people who share their background. But it’s uncommon for new arrivals to spend all their time with other expats. Spaniards are open and welcoming, especially the ones living in Madrid, who encounter the most foreigners. Like Americans, they’re loud, boisterous, and love meeting new people.

Outdoor Leisure

Madrid occupies a unique position in the Iberian Peninsula. Every other major city in Spain is located along the coast. Outside of a few farms, vineyards, and villages, most of the country around Madrid is sparsely populated. Wilderness areas abound, with rivers, canyons, and mountains for you to climb and explore.

Residents can scale the granite domes in the Sierra de Guadarrama or hike through its eleven ecosystems. They can swim and kayak the Júcar River, which runs through the Canyons of Cuenca, or rappel down its waterfalls and limestone cliffs. For a real challenge, clamber over the rope bridges, metal steps, and steel ladders of the Priego via Ferrata and enjoy the staggering views from the top.

Moving to Madrid

Allied has been helping families and individuals move around the world for over 95 years. We handle every detail. Besides coordinating logistics, we also inventory household goods, packing your belongings, and help you navigate customs ‒ ensuring your move is as smooth and stress-free as possible. Contact us today for a free quote and to start planning the first steps of your overseas adventure!

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