RickyAndersen: Born and raised in Madrid here. Ask me anything!
I'm going to Madrid next week.
Anything I should know beforehand?
Such as the weather, the food, places where locals shop in Madrid, etc.
Any advice is welcome.
Weather is being warmer than usual. For the next days temperatures will range from 9 °C in the night to 25 °C in the afternoon, so pack accordingly. We don't Fahrenheit. It won't probably rain, but check the forecast just before you are leaving.
If you plan renting a car, be aware the local government just approved some traffic restrictions. My recommendation is to use the train and/or metro. They arrive to literally everywhere (including the airport). The price of the ticket changes depending on how many zones you cross, but I believe you can buy a tourist pass. Find and save the train and metro maps in your phone, or download an app.
The hottest places to shop are in Preciados, Castellana, Goya and Gran Vía. Depending on what you want to buy you will get recommendations at the hotel (or are yoy staying in an AirBnB?). International tourists can get the VAT reimbursed.
If you want to use cash, you will need euros. However, credit cards are acceptes virtually everywhere.
The farther you go from the most touristic places, the less likely it will be to find people who speak English, so don't rely on that. However, most people under 40 will have at least basic knowledge, and the youngsters under 25 are more or less proficient thanks to the regional bilingual education program. Print the name of the locations you want to go to and the address in case you have a language barrier with a taxi driver.
Some restaurants will have an English menu, but most won't. Download a dictionary to understand the menu. Waiters will love you if you try to order in Spanish. Tipping is not mandatory or even expected, but you can tip 1-2 € for a good service.
Learn how to pronounce the Ñ. It sounds like "gn" in lasagna.
Drinking alcohol in the street is not allowed.
Tap water is extremely good.
You will probably need a plug adapter.
If you like art don't miss the Triangle of Art (Museums of El Prado, Thyssen and Reina Sofía).
The city is enough to keep you occupied, but there are also amazing places in range of a one-day trip: Toledo, Ávila, Segovia, Alcalá de Henares and the national park of Sierra de Guadarrama. And now food!
Breakfast in Spain is usually sweet. But most hotels will have an international buffet. Have churros or porras at least once. You can find them in most bars in the early morning and eat them with coffee or hot chocolate.
For lunch you can have a "menú del día" at any bar or restaurant. For 10-12 € you will have two dishes and dessert. This is what most locals eat on work daya.
For dinner I recommend you to have tapas on some bars while you drink cañas (beers). La Latina and Huertas are the typical zones while the locals have tapas. You can also try Sol and Plaza Mayor, but it's more expensive.
For a more gourmet experience you can try many restaurants. Spanish gastronomy is extremely rich and you will find restaurants specialized in all the regional gastronomies: Galician, Asturian, Basque, Valencian, Andalusian and of course Castillian (Castille is the historical region where Madrid is located). All of them are worth trying. If you feel adventurous or homesick there are many international restaurants as well.
You can buy excellent fruit at good prices in any market.
Also, pork is everywhere. Try jamón ibérico. You're welcome. What about Spanish GOG?
Spain has the Southern Europe regional prices. When a regionsl price exists, it is never more advantageous than the base price in USD. :( We get wallet funds back to make up the difference.