Madrid is weirder than Barcelona. It will never be as popular or outright cool, but in my glorified opinion, Madrid is the best city in Spain for unusual adventures. The city doesn’t offer itself up to you, like Barcelona. Travel guides always seem to be scrambling for something to offer and if you ask people what to do there, you’ll usually be told to try the famous San Gines churros or bocadillo de calamares. Both delicious options, but fairly run-of-the-mill. If you’re looking for something a little more unique, here are my favorite spots in Madrid.
Monasterio Del Corpus Christi
Off of a nondescript plaza, there is a large, wooden door with a number 8 above it. If you ring the buzzer and ask the correct question, the door will open and you will find yourself in a quiet, empty hallway. The question?
“Tienes galletas?” or “Do you have cookies?”
This unassuming door belongs to a monastery, where cloistered nuns bake and sell cookies to patrons that are willing to go on a quest to find them.
After walking down the hall, you come to a turntable with a menu beside it. There is no one to be seen. Trepidatiously, an order for almond biscuits or orange cookies is given and a voice from behind the wall says “si”. Soon the cookies come around in a white box and you place your money down. You will never see the nuns, but you do get to delight in their labors and now you have one great story to tell.
Plaza del Conde de Miranda, 3, 28005 Madrid, Spain
Comunidad Harekrisna Bhaktivedanta
I don’t belong to any religion, but after finding myself at a Hare Krishna eatery, I considered joining their sect. The restaurant/place of worship offers a vegetarian buffet with fresh bread, curry, rice dishes, salads, and a small dessert. The menu changes daily and it’s an amazing amount of food for under ten euros.
Spain is a meat loving country and it was nice to find a place that served only vegetarian options. The atmosphere is an experience as well, as people sit on pillows to eat their food and eat communally with other guests. If you come early, you also might get to hear the Hare Krishna chanting and singing. Dinner and a show!
Calle del Espíritu Santo, 19, 28004 Madrid, Spain
At first glance, Ojala looks like your typical trendy restaurant, but when you go downstairs, you find yourself at the beach. The floor is covered with white sand and there’s colorful lights draped over a small bar, giving a tiki feeling to the room. There are also low tables with cushions to sit at, as you dig your toes into the sand.
The food isn’t the most inexpensive around, but you’re paying for the atmosphere, plus some tasty tacos and sandwiches. The cocktails are worth your money as well.
Calle de San Andrés, 1, 28004 Madrid, Spain
Malasaña Street Art
Malasaña is my favorite neighborhood in Madrid. It’s full of throwback bookstores and record shops, hipster bars and restaurants, and for all the Instagram lovers out there: the best street art. It has become so popular that tours have been arranged around it, but I think it’s best to wander on your own and discover what you can find around each corner.
I’m obsessed with a piece in a square that is up the street from the Hare Krishna restaurant. The artwork is insanely colorful and depicts a monster-ish creature with a head made of eyeballs and wearing yellow sunglasses. On the next panel is a large alien-like creation that is covered in bugs. It’s weird, confusing, and yet, beautiful.
Why not take a train…to nowhere?
The Passenger is a bar that is designed to look like a train car from the golden days of rail. It’s gorgeous and sleek, with dark wood features, low lighting, and screens on the walls that create windows with passing scenery.
Classic rock plays while people lounge and sip on Pisco Sours and craft beers. This is the perfect place to relax after a long day of exploring or if you want a place where you can hear yourself talk.
Calle Pez 16, 28004 Madrid, Spain
This may only be the tip of the iceberg for all the weirdness that Madrid has to offer, so if I missed anything essential, do let me know!