Madrid is a hot destination in all senses of the word. A bustling, vibrant city of colors and aromas, it can also be one of Europe’s warmest summer destinations- even without a heat wave, temperatures are usually in the 90’s. Though the heat might not be ideal, we have some expert insider tips on how to stay cool like the locals do and make the most of your summer holiday in magical Madrid.
5. Set your clock like a Spaniard
It doesn’t get dark until almost 10pm in the summertime in Spain, and the Spanish are famous throughout Europe for having some of the latest dinner times in the continent. There’s a good reason for this- timing your day later to match up with Madrid locals means that you’ll be lunching and having a cool siesta at the hottest point of the day in the afternoon, and dine in the fresh evening air when the sun goes down. Madrid is famous for its nightlife, and it’s almost complete lack of humidity means that it gets much more manageable at dusk. Though it can be a pretty dramatic change from the standard North American dining hours, synching up with your inner Spaniard means that you don’t have to worry how to spend the most sweltering hours of the afternoon.
4. Explore some of Spain’s best cool foods
Even when we aren’t in Spain, gazpacho is a dish that we crave in the summer. Though this chilled tomato soup has its roots in the Andalusia region, it has become common all throughout the country, and can be found at many restaurants in the capital. Also look out for it’s “cousin”, salmorejo, and other regional varieties like cucumber and pear gazpacho with ground almond. Even if your travels don’t take you all around Spain, you can sample its most famous (and refreshing) summer staple while in Madrid. Washed down with an ice cold cerveza, and you have found the perfect way to cool off Spanish style.
3. Meander through a museum
Madrid has some of the world’s most impressive (and air conditioned) museums. The Prado is a stop you can’t miss- famous for works by Spaniards like Velázquez and El Greco, it also hosts a myriad of other European masters like Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Botticelli and Tintoretto. Particularly notable are the famous “black paintings” of Francisco Goya.
A short stroll from el Prado you’ll also find the CaixaForum. Located in an old power plant, it’s been redesigned in a unique and contemporary style- the building itself is worth a visit, but it hosts interesting art exhibitions that rotate through the year. The current exhibit has been getting rave reviews and for a good reason, it’s a unique look into the relationship Pablo Picasso and his first wife Olga Khokhlova (it runs until late September).
2. Get out of town
A short ride from the center of the city lie two charming mountain towns that locals flock to for their cool summer temperatures. Due to the altitude of these towns, they can have temperatures sometimes up to 20 degrees cooler than in Madrid center!
Navacerrada and Cercedilla, two of the best located municipalities in the Sierra de Madrid are great day trips that get you out of the city heat. Still technically located in Madrid, these towns are so different it will feel like you’ve changed your vacation destination.
Navacerrada is a winter time ski resort town, and in the summer hosts several concerts and summer theaters. The restaurants and tapas bars remain open in the summer, ensuring that the town (packed to the brim in the winter) is also bustling in the summer, as locals escape the city and come up to hike, bike and breathe in the fresh green air.
Cercedilla, in the heart of the National Park of the Sierra de Guadarrama, has a large amount of hiking trails, with options for almost every level of difficulty and length. The Calzada Romana, a Roman footpath built about 2,000 years ago is easily found from the train station and by following the yellow arrows marking the path, you c an get a taste of el Camino de Santiago. It’s also worth seeing the natural pools located in the Valley of the Fuenfría, called Berceas, which are a unique and fun opportunity to take a swim in this peaceful mountain area.
1. Party like a local
Though the summer has many locals on vacation to the seaside, it’s the time of year when the city takes to the street to celebrate. Some of Madrid’s most famous fiestas are in the summer months, and consider it your prize for surviving the heat! A huge part of the culture of Madrid is tied to these two weeks of religious festivals, which combines church related events and processions and one of Madridians favorite pastimes- having fun. These "verbenas" or open-air festivals can be found all year, but three of the most famous fall back to back in adjacent neighborhoods during August. It starts with the San Cayetano festival in the Rastro/Embajadores area, followed by San Lorenzo in Lavapiés, and ends with the biggest and most famous, La Paloma in La Latina. Streets lined with lanterns, live music and dancing, tapas “crawls” with designed routes, children’s activities and (of course) a religious procession make these festivals not just a lot of fun, but a valuable and special cultural experience that visitors are more than welcome to join in on. After all, you made it through the summer heat in Madrid, think of it as your reward!