Five Nice Hotels in Ciudad Real

 

Ciudad Real Capital was my home for eight and a half months. It is a city-turned small town. Ciudad Real isn’t exactly aesthetically appealing and there’s not a lot to do, but it allows for cheap relaxing living and vacation. It is also in the heart of Spain, in the region of Castile La-Mancha, which means you can easily travel to different major cities by bus or train. The Renfe high-speed trains are about five minutes from the center city and the transportation system is extremely efficient. If planned well in advance, it’s possible to visit different cities by train in one day.

Where to stay in Ciudad Real?

The city has a small range of hostels and hotels. It can be hard finding people who speak English in Ciudad Real. Though, if visiting a country where the native language is different from yours, I’d suggest learning at least the basics before the trip! Anyway, people in Spanish little towns like Ciudad Real tend to be friendly, especially once you exchange a few words with them.

These are some of the top five hotels in Ciudad Real. They’re all located within walking distance from the center, where the “fun” is. (The city’s outskirts are desolate and quiet—or quieter). I never stayed at any of them, but I did visit the restaurant and bar at Hotel Alfonso X, the lobby at Hotel Santa Cecilia, and I used to walk (and ride) by the rest of these almost every day. As far as I could see, they looked really nice!

1. Hotel Silken Alfonso X

Probably the most centrally located hotel in Ciudad Real, it’s at Carlos Vázquez 8, Ciudad Real 13001, Spain. “The beautiful nineteenth century building that houses the Hotel Alfonso X has kept its original façade, integrating it completely into the historic center city, next to the Plaza Mayor and the City Hall.”

The hotel interior has been refurbished with contemporary furniture. It offers free Wi-Fi, a private parking lot, smoking floor, handicap-accessible rooms, and exclusive junior suites with terrace.

The restaurant is on the second floor of the hotel and it offers a daily and a traditional menu with typical dishes of La-Mancha. (I can confirm that the food and service are really good.)

Popular and fine Spanish shopping stores are within steps from the hotel.

2. Hotel Doña Carlota

Located at Ronda de Toledo 21, Ciudad Real 13003, Spain

It is practically next to the University of Castile La-Mancha, Ciudad Real Campus, and close to the train station. The Plaza Mayor, restaurants and bars, and shopping stores are within a 15-minute walking distance.

Hotel Doña Carlota is a luxury hotel in the inside.  It’s one of the largest in Ciudad Real: 161 rooms, of which 16 are fully furnished apartments with all the essential amenities included.

It is also easily accessible by bus, taxi, or by foot and it’s close to the shopping stores.

3. Hotel Santa Cecilia

Located at Calle del Tinte 3, 13001 Ciudad Real, Spain, next to Plaza del Pilar. The Hotel was renovated in May 2011. It has 70 elegant and modern rooms.

The hotel has a restaurant, “Guijas de la Mancha,” which offers La Mancha’s typical cuisine. The hotel also features several halls for conventions and conferences, banquets, weddings, a typical Manchego patio with natural light, an outdoor swimming pool and private parking.

4. NH Ciudad Real

Located at Avenida Alarcos 25, Ciudad Real 13001, Spain

From the well-known chain NH Hotels, the NH Ciudad Real is near all main attractions in center city. It is within a few steps from the big park Parque de Gasset and about 500 meters from the beautiful, almost-too-modern-for-this-small-town public library of Ciudad Real.

NH Ciudad Real is a big and basic modern hotel, with just the right amenities for a comfortable stay. It’s perfect for business stays.

5. Hotel Cumbria

Located on Carretera de Toledo, 26 13005 Ciudad Real, Spain

Cumbria is very new and it’s not just a hotel, but it also hosts businesses and recreational activities for the community. It’s a “unique contemporary building” in Ciudad Real. It is about 20-minute walk to the center (five minute-drive), but it’s located in one of the main access roads to the center of Ciudad Real which makes it easily accessible. This hotel offers all amenities necessary for a comfortable stay.

There is a big pool, a tennis court, a gym and full spa. The pool and gym aren’t completely private; residents of Ciudad Real who hold a membership can swim and exercise here.

On the outside, the building looks huge and round. (I thought it was a mini-stadium at first.) It features large rooms fitted to host any kind of event and a playroom with a playground for any kids in the house.

In terms of location, even though two or three hotels are more centrally located than others, anywhere you choose to stay in Ciudad Real (capital) is relatively near to everything.

 

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Top Five Favorite Spanish Expressions

To be perfectly honest, my very favorite Spanish expressions are kinda “offensive” to society; therefore, I will refrain from posting them on here. I should have named this post my top five favorite PG-rated Spanish expressions. Either way, here they are.

“Que tonto eres”

It literally translates to “What a fool you are” or “Fool, you” or “Silly.” But in Spain, they normally use it to mean fool. It’s just a universal Spanish language expression, but certain things kind of sound better or/and funnier to me when pronounced by a different group of people. Those two different groups for me are Spaniards and Argentinians. I love their accents! One, Argentinian, sounds sweeter; the other, Spanish, sounds more aggressive, more straightforward.

One of the teachers with whom I worked in Spain totally over-used this expression—she called the boys tontos about a dozen times each week. I know what you’re thinking; rude, wrong. But that’s who they are. I thought it was so funny that I made the expression a running joke with my brother and his Spanish girlfriend. Nobody was insulted.

“Tío macho”

This particular colloquial expression is interesting because the masculine form of the Spanish word for uncle is tío. However, in Spain only, the slang “tío” is the equivalent of the American slang dude. The female variant is tía (aunt). Now, the word macho means nothing but male (though it could also mean tough guy, depending on the context). Tío is already masculine, so there wouldn’t be a need for the word macho to accompany it. I don’t know the exact reason, but I’m guessing that the two combined words, “tío macho,” are meant to show emphasis on anger or excitement.

Some Spaniards also use Tío and macho alone interchangeably. These slangs can typically be heard in conversations between two dudes—I guess because “tía macha” wouldn’t work as well. :-D. I heard this expression mostly from upset guys. For example, if their soccer team was losing, they’d scream “¡Jo…tío macho!” It’s a funny thing how slangs make their way in our everyday language.

“Me da igual”

Literally, igual means the same or similar. But a person may say “Me da igual” to mean that they don’t care, they can care less.  Spanish people use this expression in their everyday conversations.

It’s interesting because growing up I remember this expression having some sort of negative connotation. It’s silly that I thought of it that way. Maybe it resulted from the fact that I couldn’t say it to my elders, like my mom, because they’d think I was defying them. Or it just suggests different things in different cultures. So I didn’t use it as much when I was young. In Spain, however, I was reminded of its actual meaning—it’s no big deal—so I brought it back. Sometimes I combine it with the next expression.

Maja (majo)!

“Me da igual, maja.” It works! 🙂

The word maja apparently has its history and origins in Madrid and it has to do with the way people dressed and acted in early XIX century (which also helped me figure out why the printing on my mom’s face-powder, called Maja, from back in the days had a woman dressed in a Spanish dress holding a Spanish fan). But the maja definition to which I refer now is the one that in English translates to nice, pleasant, and kind.

When I lived in Northern Spain, in Valladolid, its usage was very common. When thanking someone, they’d respond with a “¡Nada, maja!” When greeting someone, “¡Hola, maja!” Or “¡Hasta luego, maja!” They also used it in sentences like, “Que chica tan maja” (what a nice girl). But, in southern Spain, it seems that it’s not as common.  I also like any word with the letter J because Spaniards pronounce their J’s very interestingly. They put a lot of emphasis on it, almost sounding as if they were about to cough, and I just find the sound of it so curious.

“Vas a flipar”

This expression is very new in Spain. My six grade students used it way too much. In fact, it’s more of a youngsters’ vocabulary. If someone says to you “vas a flipar,” it means that you’re going to be very shocked, amused, disgusted, or whatever adjective of emotion you can think of with a touch of exaggeration. It’s the same as “you’re going to flip out” in English. It might actually be a form of Spanglish that has crossed over to Spain as more and more American television series are being aired there.

I think idioms make the boring language rules more bearable.

Do you have any favorite Spanish expression you’d like to share?

My Top Five Favorite Activities to do in Any Spanish City

Ir de tapas (Go out for tapas)

Español: Tapas de gambas

It is called el tapeo and it’s one of the funnest things to do in Spain (if you truly want to experience the Spanish lifestyle). Tapas are basically small bites served with each drink you buy. Whether the tapas are free or fairly-priced, depends on the bar or restaurant entirely. But most bars offer a free tapa with every drink.  It’s not a sit-down meal; it’s a very informal way of getting your belly full for free. 😉

Try the region’s typical dish

Español: Albóndigas en salsa con guisantes

The food in Spain is delicious for the most part (see My Top Five Favorite Spanish Dishes) and, if you travel through as many Spanish cities as I did, at least try the typical dish of each region you visit. Don’t hesitate to ask the servers for suggestions, which they will always recommend you try something “de la tierra” (from the region) anyway. I don’t consider myself to be a true food-adventurer, but hey, when in Rome…

Watch a soccer game at a bar

Watching the Eurocup final

The experience is unique. I don’t know of any other culture that is crazier than Spaniards when it comes to soccer. OK, maybe Central Americans? Hm…maybe not. But really, the energy is insane and they transmit it to everyone around them. I’m not a Sports fan, but watching a game (especially a Barcelona vs. Madrid match) with a bunch of soccer enthusiasts make anyone get into it—quick! Next thing you know you’re biting your nails, cheering for whatever team appeal to you in the moment. It’s crazy. Experience it.

Dar un paseo (go out for a walk)

Every evening after taking the siesta, Spaniards go out for a walk with their family, friends, or dog. It is rare to see anyone walking alone. Like many of our traditions, I don’t know how the paseo originated (other than the actual act of walking to exercise), but I know for them it’s about a moment of relaxation, maybe a breath of fresh air, spending time with loved ones, keeping family values. Everyone comes out; people sit at park benches, at a bar terrace or they may just go around the block. It’s different from the kind of going for a walk that we’re used to here in the U.S. People don’t look rushed, just relaxed.

See Major Cathedrals of Spain

English: Mezquita of Cordoba Español: Mezquita...

Maybe not for too long as this activity may get old for some (it temporarily did for me), but Spanish cathedrals are a must-see. They have great historical, religious and architectural value. They’re simply incredible. (See how pretty the Segovia Cathedral is.) The styles of the cathedrals in Spain are usually Gothic, Romanesque and Baroque and I was always blown away by their beauty and grandeur.

Feel free to share your favorite things to do in Spain!

My Top Five Favorite Spanish Dishes

Spain’s cuisine (or cuisines) is influenced by contributions made by the various regions that make up the country. Spaniards are very traditional people and everyone really loves promoting—and I mean LOVES promoting— the typical foods from their pueblos (hometown). It’s easy to find certain foods typical of, say, Madrid in another region, and vice versa, because people keep passing on their traditions. The only difference—if any—is that they might add a different “touch” to that certain dish possibly to blend in with the food from that region (kind of like Tex-Mex).

I had the opportunity to try several typical dishes from different regions. Some, I was already familiar with and they had become a favorite long ago. Others (which did not make my top five but are still really good), such as Málaga’s Pecaítos fritos (fried fish), Burgo’s Cordero asado (roast lamb) and Ciudad Real’s Potaje (a type of stew), I tried them for the first time and really liked them.

But for my top five favorite, this is what I’ve picked.

Cocido (Madrileño)
Español: Cocido madrileño

Typically from Madrid, cocido is a traditional stew which main ingredients are chickpeas, vegetables and a lot of meat. The variety of vegetables includes potatoes, carrots, garlic and onion; and the meats are usually pork belly, bacon, smoked chorizo, morcilla (blood sausage), chicken, beef marrow bone—or other bones and meats people may prefer to add. Mmmmm

(Mixed) Paella
Paëlla, olé !

I don’t think Paella needs any introduction; it’s one of Spain’s most famous foods—and it is for a reason! It is so popular that people from around the word consider it a national dish of Spain; however, in Spain, they recognize it as an original dish of the region of Valencia.

Paella is a moist rice dish, which ingredients vary depending on whether it is a Seafood or Meat Paella. Me? I prefer my paella mixta (mixed); it is a combination of seafood, chicken (or any other meats of preference) and vegetables.

Cochinillo (Asado)
Español: Cochinillo asado

Cochinillo, or roast suckling pig, is a typical dish from the region of Castilla y León, especially Segovia. It is made so that it is crispy on top and tender and juicy inside. It is seasoned overnight for the most part, roasted whole and served as is. I think that’s the part that scares a lot of people.

I grew up on this kind of food. It was mostly saved for special occasions, like Christmas. Maybe that’s the only reason I like it so much. Seeing a pig’s head on your table, staring at you and all, it’s not appealing. I agree. But it is soooo good…it’d be a crime not to try it (if you’re as carnivorous as I am). Besides, you don’t necessarily have to eat cochinillo whole; you can just order pieces, like a leg, rib or shoulder.

Preparing and making cochinillo is not that easy. It requires special skills to make a darn-good, finger-licking cochinillo. And not all restaurants know how to make it either. For a better tastier experience, I suggest finding a restaurant that has top-notch ratings/reviews.

(Watery mouth right now)

Fabada
English: Picture of Fabada.

A typical dish of Asturias. Fabada is a very earthy, very heavy and filling hot bean stew. Believe me on the fillingpart.  You won’t need an appetizer or a side dish with a Fabada. You’re set for the day! Though it is typically from the region of Asturias, they serve Fabada at many different restaurants throughout Spain.

I don’t know if other people would agree on this, but Castilla La-Mancha’s potaje is like a smaller version of Fabada.

So what’s in a Fabada? It is made with large white beans, pork shoulder or belly, chorizo, morcilla, ham or bacon and seasoning. I tried Fabada in Oviedo—with a piece of bread and a sidra (cider) on the side!

By the way, can you tell I like stews? 😛

Rabo de toro
Rabo de Ternera Estofado con chocolate

They say the Rabo de toro(Oxtail) dish originated in Andalucía, especially originated in Córdoba, and people started cooking the tail of a freshly-killed bull in the bullfight. (I really wish I didn’t know an animal was killed in the making of my food, but it’s the circle of life.)

Rabo de toro is not exactly a stew, but it’s cooked like one and it can be served in a bowl with some broth or on a regular plate with just enough sauce to keep it moist. It’s delicious!

I would post the recipes for these dishes, but it’d feel unnatural coming from me as I can’t cook at all! 🙂

Enjoy.

My Top Five Favorite Cities in Spain

Picking out just five Spanish cities from the big list was not easy. In order to come up with my top favorite five, I had to ask myself: what if I only had two weeks to visit five Spanish cities, which ones would I pick? Which ones are a must see? Considering that I have already visited these cities, doesn’t exactly make it any easier either. But here it goes.

Sevilla: Naturally, I have a lot to say about this city as it is my favorite of them all. I fell in love with Sevilla!Seville is very diverse—thousands of tourists visit, study, work, and move to the city every year. Almost all the study abroad programs I’ve checked out offer Seville as a hot spot.

Plaza de España Sevilla

It’s no surprise so many people are interested in this Andalusian city, as its people are as warm as its weather. Temperatures reach the 100+ degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, but the weather remains perfect throughout the rest of the year. (It was one of my favorite things about Seville.) You can always take an hour drive ride or a Renfe train to the beach area, in Huelva.

Because it’s warm, there are always people out on the streets. The neighborhoods of La Macarena and Maria La Blanca are some of my favorites. The vibe feels incredible. There is lots of bars and restaurants to choose from.

If feeling like exploring beyond your horizons, there are bullfights throughout the year and flamenco shows at many different spots. Tip: sometimes the free ones are the better ones. But if interested in a good flamenco show, try to go to Casa de La Memoria.

The prices for meals and drinks in Sevilla were some of the cheapest I had seen in Spain.

I’m sure there are things to do with kids; I never explored it. The same shops they have in Madrid are also in Sevilla, and some other independent ones. There’s also a lot of gift shops with a lot of beautiful interesting little things. I talk about Seville here, here, and Seville food here.

Madrid: One thing about Madrid is that this city is always alive. This was a favorite characteristic as it was so hard to find open businesses during siesta time—from 2pm through 5:30pm. While the rest of Spain takes the siesta, Madrid stays open for business. Shopping stores in the heart of the city, like Puerta del Sol, rarely close.

Madrid is the capital of Spain, so naturally they have almost anything you need. People from everywhere visit Madrid, crowding the streets and train stations so much that it requires continuous surveillance. The presence of cops and security guards at the parks and shopping stores was totally normal.

Madrid has one of the best gastronomy there is. There’s a wide range selection of restaurants and bars and they’re on every corner. Not only do they have fine Spanish restaurants, but also cuisines from different countries and regions, such as Basque, Galician, Asian, Dominican, Peruvian, Cuban, etc.

I enjoyed the parks. The most popular, Parque del Retiro. Right in the center of Madrid. The park is huge! You can go for a walk, exercise, meet up with friends, or simply relax under a tree. It’s an incredibly beautiful park. (There’s another park I visited that was absolutely amazing, but which name escapes me right now. I’ll post it as soon as it comes back!)

Salamanca: Salamanca is a small city, but it is beautiful. It is a must-see. Salamanca is part of Castile and Leon. One of the places that blew me away was its Plaza Mayor (Main Square). The architecture and model are beautiful.

View from the Bell Tower

The city is a university city; it hosts hundreds of students each year. So the atmosphere is relatively young. It is recognized as a Spanish region where many go to learn Spanish as it is said that Castilian is the better Spanish. (Not sure about this statement.)

Salamanca has a lot of historical buildings and monuments, such as University of Salamanca, the Cathedral and the Old Roman Bridge, which you can visit all in one day. If you have an appreciation for art and Baroque architecture, this is the place to go. You feel like you’re walking through a medieval town.  The nightlife is not bad for a small city and the tapas and wine are really good. There’s more about Salamanca here.

Granda: I wasn’t sure whether to choose Bilbao or Granada for my fourth best, but I chose Granada because I just love everything about the region of Andalusia. Plus, Granada is so rich in culture and history, you have got to see it. It is easily accessible from any point in Spain via train or bus.

"La Alhambra" (The Red) of Granada, ...

Starting right off with the greatest monument in Granada:  the Alhambra. I can’t believe it was built by humans. It’s an incredible fortress, a humongous castle built centuries ago. The Alhambra was home to many Arabs rulers and it’s now a major tourist attraction of the city. Inside the Alhambra, you’ll find many palaces and gardens with ponds.  In addition to the Alhambra, there are also museums, churches and parks you can visit in Granada.

The Arab influence is obvious everywhere you look. A lot of Moroccans migrated to Granada and, honestly, it seemed to me that big part of the city is run by them. There are tons of Moroccan shops, tea houses and shops and restaurants. I tried the tea and the Moroccan food and everything was delicious.

Like everywhere in Spain, there are lots of restaurants and bars and a bunch of little streets packed with tourists and locals out for a good time.

Granada’s climate is mild; very hot in the summer, warm in the spring, but it cools off as the night falls. The winter is cold—the city is inside mountains. There’s more about Granada here.

Barcelona: I love energetic cities and diversity, so I love Barcelona. It’s not cliché—there’s a reason almost everyone wants to go to Barcelona. It really is an amazing city.

Barcelona is the capital of the region of Catalonia, which borders with France. Catalonia has its own language, but everybody understands and, as far as I know, can speak Castellano (Spanish). You’ll have to look deep into their history in order to understand this.

One of the most popular spots is Las Ramblas, which is just a long pedestrian mall that connects Plaça Catalunya and the seaport (not sure why it is so popular being what it is). At Las Ramblas, there are always a lot of pickpockets watching you, waiting for the best time to make their moves. I always tell everyone to be especially careful around there.

The nightlife in Barcelona is ahhmazing! Really fun bars and nightclubs. Incredible vibe. There’s a very popular market by Las Ramblas, Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, which carries anincredible selection of meats, seafood, fruits, and vegetables. For the seafood lovers, there are seafood restaurants with a big seafood selection menu around the market.

Other points of attraction are Camp Nou (Barcelona’s soccer team stadium), Park Güell (Antonio Gaudi’s park and architecture), the Sagrada Familia cathedral (which architecture is also by Gaudi). You can go eat tapas at any Pintxo bars (small-sized plates), visit the neighborhood of La Barceloneta, the Gothic Quarter, museums, and so much more.

Barcelona can be expensive for accommodations, but for young people there are a number of youth hostels and pensions. And for the not-so-young, there are also hostels and hotels that can be affordable if booked with time in advance. It is a very modern, touristy and very expensive city, that’s for sure, but it’s worth visiting. I talk about Barcelona here.

My Top Five Favorite Places to Shop in Spain

There’s one thing that most Spanish clothing stores have in common, and that is— relatively—low prices and good quality. I had no problem finding cheap deals when I was living in Spain. Certainly, the best time to shop is during Rebajas (Sales). Let me tell you a little bit about the rebajas.

It is one of the most anticipated shopping seasons (if we can call it that) by shopaholics—and I imagine retail stores look forward to the sales they generate, as well. Legally Rebajas are supposed to run twice a year: winter and summer. Some rebajas start early, around January, while others start around February. I think it depends on the region, city and store.

During rebajas, you can save up to 70% on brand new items. I literally got a new wardrobe just from the rebajas. Everything is so unbelievably cheap. I felt like I would be sinning if I didn’t buy something. And then something turned into some things…and more things. (Yeah, I paid the consequences later.) In other words, rebajas are like “black Friday” in the US—with the exception that they run for months. It is a great opportunity to save big bucks, especially when you’re living or traveling abroad on a budget.

Now that you’ve learned about rebajas, let me tell you what stores are awesome for shopping inexpensively in Spain.

Sfera: this is definitely a gem. Sfera sells fashion for women, children, and men. I’m not familiar with what goes on in the children’s department, but the women’s and men’s departments are very fashionable. Like most mainstream shops, they change their collection every season, so you’ll be looking at the “latest trends” every time.

Sfera is already VERY affordable, so in times of rebajas they might as well give out free stuff. I went to Sfera in Madrid for a last time before returning home. I was looking for just a pair of stylish earrings. By the time I was “done” shopping, I was holding a small bag with about six of them. They had incredible deals for amazing quality. Only in Spain…I miss it so much!

To find the nearest Sfera within your zone, you don’t even have to Google it; just go to the town’s plaza mayor or a major center of attraction and it’ll probably be right there. 🙂

H&M:  Fashion clothing for women, men and children. Not a lot of people like or can find what they’re looking for at H&M, especially men because their sizes can be a little tricky. But, for me…I love me some h&m. My liking for it goes way back when I stumbled upon one huge H&M in New York City. It was love at first sight. I wish I could tell you that I actually do my usual shopping at Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, etc. But, come on, who would I be fooling here? Ha ha! No.

I’ve liked H&M since day one because of their quality, price and style. My clothes that I have bought there have never ripped apart in the washer, unlike some clothes from higher-end brands. Their shoes aren’t the greatest looking shoes, but even they can last longer than overpriced designer shoes I’ve gotten somewhere else before.

I visited several H&M’s in Spain, as well as one in Switzerland. The prices, for the most part, are the same everywhere (although they seem to be hiking every year).

In Switzerland, things were a little overpriced. But then again, everything is overpriced in Switzerland.

They have an H&M almost everywhere in Spain—even in the tiny city of Ciudad Real, Castilla La-Mancha, where I once lived.

Zara: This store needs no introduction. But just in case, it is a fashion clothing and accessories store for women, men and children. Apparently, it is part of the same fashion group that runs Massimo Dutti (a really good store, actually, which is not on my Weekly List today only because they almost never had fashionable clothing for younger women, and I’m still holding a grudge over that).

I like Zara’s style, it’s very chic. I was just a little disappointed with their prices. The first time I lived in Spain, Zara fell under the same category as Sfera is now in terms of low prices. Now, not so much. But compared to most US retailers of the same caliber, it still has really good prices.

A Zara store can also be found all throughout Spain, there might be several retailers within a major city.

Shana: Shana is a simple clean and cute low-priced trendy clothing store and accessories. I’d probably compare it to the US chain store Charlotte Russe, with the exception that Shana’s quality is better. It is very, very, very low-price.

The first time, I ran across one of their stores by mistake. Then, I fell in love with their cute paper bags (and their prices!) and I just kept coming back to Shana. I guess I like the ease. There’s not an extreme selection to choose from—they sort of carry the same simple basic, but trendy, stuff—and their stores are not too big. So when you want something quick, Shana is there. It was what I call a “back-up” store. I loved it.

Stradivarius: I used to call this store the “Music Note Store” because I never remembered its name! Ha ha. I just knew their logo looked like a music note—which I later learned was actually a violin. Ironically, it was the reason I didn’t check it out sooner; I thought it was a music store.

Stradivarius is a women’s fashion and accessories store based in Spain. It has expanded over the years and now has several stores across Europe.  The style and feel of Stradivarius is almost the same as Zara’s, but with a younger look. They have really good-quality clothing, shoes and accessories for competitive prices.

There’s a Stradivarius store almost anywhere there’s a shopping center in Spain.

Let the shopping begin!

My top 5 favorite bars in Madrid

My new ‘Weekly Five’

As a way to keep this blog active, I am going to give you these “weeklies”. I am finding a lot of creative ways to keep things rolling, something I should’ve done a long time ago! I know—not much creativity on the name there. But it was the first thing that popped on my head.

The Weekly Five is anything from my top favorite travel destinations, spots within a city, shops, bars, restaurants, brands, and a range of related stuff that people are always searching for.

Here is my first group of Fives (in Spain, of course).

My Top Five Picks for Cocktail Bars in Madrid

I know that the US deploys an army of young people to Europe at the start of every school year—and we all know how much they like the bar-scene—so I came up with a few lists.

Cocktails

Cocktails are really not a specialty of the Spanish. They like their wine, whiskey and beer. So, it can be really hard coming across a good mixed drink even in a big touristic city like Madrid. This doesn’t mean that good cocktail bars—or good bartenders—don’t exist in Madrid.

Here’s a list of bars and restaurants you can’t miss.

Hotel Melia (ME) Madrid

Plaza Santa Ana

If you like chic environments, lounge-style martini bars, you have to go to this bar. Not the cheapest, I’ll tell you that, but it is the price you pay for a good cocktail in Madrid. The drinks are gooood though. The bartenders seem to know what they’re doing. The bar is dimly lit, which (if you know bars and restaurants in Spain) you know how bright everything almost always is. There’s no need for so much light!
One of the (easiest) cocktails that I had the hardest time finding a good mixer for was Margarita. But at ME, they surprisingly make them good enough to calm your thirst until you can have it your way somewhere in the States or in Mexico. Their Manhattans were not so bad either.

The hotel is right on Plaza Santa Ana.  At the same hotel, there’s a rooftop terrace & bar where you can go up from the ground floor in an elevator. There are some guys guiding the entrance, also checking the dress-code, etc., and they think they’re pretty special. But, don’t worry; once you pass that point, it’s actually nice up there. I found the open terrace a bit underwhelming. Not blown away. But you might like the view looking down on the crowded scene on Plaza Santa Ana. You don’t have to be a hotel guest to enjoy their bars.
This place is very centric, surrounded by a few subway stops, but the one I find to be the closest is Sol, line 1 of metro de Madrid.

Hotel Urban Bar

Lounge Hotel Urban

This is another luxury hotel with a full cocktail bar. It’s not too far from main attractions. It’s within walking distance from Puerta del Sol actually. The bar area is smaller than that at ME hotel, but the decor is different, more modern, urban. (The restrooms are out of this world! Very well-kept.) The cocktails are fantastic. They have a pretty good selection of cocktails. The atmosphere is perfect to start the night. Have in mind that these areas tend to attract a lot of “pijos” (snobby people) of Madrid, so I guess it falls under the category of upscale, which requires at least no flip-flops.

Urban 5GL also has a penthouse, and I hear it’s very nice. Try it for me and let me know how it is!

The nearest subway is line 1 and 2 of Metro de Madrid.

Lamiak

La Latina on Christmas

This bar is in the neighborhood of La Latina, a place I frequented a lot. Walking up and down calle Cava Baja, you can’t miss this place.  I remember going to this place with my boyfriend and looking at their cocktail menu with glee. For the most part, bars in Madrid don’t have a drink menu and I like to look at the options. The bartender basically said she could make us any drink we wanted if it was not on the menu. I believe my boyfriend asked for the—sometimes never heard of—Martinez cocktail. She mixed it well. Lamiak also has great tapas and delicious desserts.

Weekends are a lot of fun at La Latina because of the contagious energy around you, but bars tend to be overcrowded. We found that visiting places weekday evenings was a better experience. Unless you’re single…and want to mingle.
The nearest subway is line 5 of Metro de Madrid.

Sí Señor

Frozen Margaritas

I wouldn’t recommend the restaurant at Sí Señor (though it’s not THAT bad), but the bar and the Margaritas they make, I do. This is a Mexican restaurant with actual mejicanos working behind the counter, so drinks made with tequila were above average here. I tried their classic and frozen margaritas; both pretty good. The restaurant is on Paseo de La Castellana, right by the Real Madrid Santiago Bernabéu stadium. The place is also ideal to watch the game any day.

The nearest subway is line 10 of Metro de Madrid.

D’Mystic

DSCF4496-Un arco iris en Chueca-Madrid

Just a cool, cozy bar in the gay district of Chueca. I only went there once with a group of friends and I really liked their drinks. There was potential for more visits had I not returned to the States. Their bar menu includes anything from Mojitos to Cosmopolitans.  Their prices are not bad either. I remember there being a cute hidden corner with sort of like a bench and ottomans. I hopped on there and it was very comfortable! The bar area has large windows looking out the street, so you get a view while enjoying a good time with friends—or by yourself. The service is good and friendly. Worth checking out.

The nearest subway is line 5 of Metro de Madrid.

Questions, comments, suggestions, hit the ‘reply’!