Madrid Summer Romance: 8 Dates Under 8€

By guest writer Sarah Carroll, an English teacher and AIL Madrid student living in Madrid.

cheap dates in madridSummer: the season of warm weather, long days and whirlwind romances. Whether you’re an avid tinder user or in a serious relationship, coming up with date ideas can be difficult; we always tend to fall back on the classic dinner and a movie. But, though a staple in the dating world, this classic outing can also end up costing an arm and a leg. Luckily for us, we live in a hub of historical sights, lavish parks and, most importantly, reasonably priced wine! So, for all you English teachers and/or travel enthusiasts who are new to Madrid and looking for something affordable to do with your honey, here are eight romantic summertime activities- all under 8€!!

Churros con Chocolate

chocolateria-san-ginesTake a walk through the historical center of Madrid. Meander the streets of Sol and bask in the beauty of the old buildings, check out street performances and experience the lively energy at any hour. Down the quaint street of Pasadizo San Ginés (number 5) you will find the guiri favorite, Chocolatería San Ginés. For just €3.50 you and your sweetheart can sit on a terrace and enjoy five churros with a steaming cup of melted chocolate.

Row, row, row your boat

retiro boatsGet away from the hubbub of the center and go to Madrid’s own oasis, Parque del Retiro. Stroll through the 350-acre park and discover several gems like the Cristal Palace and the Fountain of the Fallen Angel. After, head to the north end of the lake where you can rent a rowboat for you and your date. Enjoy 45 minutes on the lake for just €5.80(Mon-Fri) or €7.50 (Sat, Sun and Holidays). This summer, the rowboats are available for rental between 10:00-20:30.

Beat the heatyelmo

Change up your regular Saturday night drinks by taking your boyfriend/girlfriend/tinder lover on a cool weeknight date, literally. Escape Madrid’s sweltering temperatures with a Wednesday night movie for just €3.50/ticket at any Yelmo Cinema.

Night on the Town

Bicihome-bici-madrid-2Set aside your dresses and button up shirts because for this date all you’ll need is comfortable clothes, trainers and a bottle of water. Rent an electric bike from one of Madrid’s many new bike share stations (pick up points: Set off on an hour-long bike ride around the vivacious streets of Madrid for just €2/person.

Champagne Sunset

templo-de-debodHead down to your local supermarket for some strawberries and cava. Pack those up, along with a blanket and two glasses, and take them to the adorable little park of Templo de Debod. There, you’ll find a gorgeous view of the city (including the Royal Palace) and a breathtaking sunset to enjoy with your sweetie.

Picture Perfect

museum coupleMadrid is home to some wonderful art museums. And one of the most wonderful things about them is their weekly free admission hours. The Prado: Mon-Sat from18:00-20:00, Sun and Holidays from 17:00-19:00. The Reina Sofia: Mon, Weds-Sat from 19:00-21:00. Thyssen Musuem: Monday from12:00-16:00. Use the rest of your €8 to grab drinks at a nearby bar after exploring the museum.

Stay Fresh

wine at homeEnjoy a relaxing night in your awesome new apartment by cooking up a lovely dinner for two. Get fresh meats and veggies at your local pollería and frutería. By avoiding the “big name” supermarkets you are sure to find all the ingredients for less than €8. And hey, you might even have enough money left over for an affordable, but delicious, bottle of vino!

When in Rome…

la campanaTake a detour off of Plaza Mayor onto Calle de Botoneras (number 6). There, you will find La Campana, a busy cervezería serving up some of the best bocadillos del calamares in Madrid. You and your main squeeze can enjoy this local favorite for just 2.70/sandwich. You can eat them in the upbeat bar or enjoy them as your wander the picturesque streets surrounding Plaza Mayor. La Campana is open Sun-Thurs 9:00-23:00 and Fri-Sat 9:00-00:00.

Sarah is a California girl gone Spanish who finds all the best ways to be thrifty in Madrid. If you like her recommendations, you might also like: AIL Madrid Spanish School, her article “Dos Besos”, and picnics in Retiro!


4th of July and Madrid Pride!

For all you American Guiris out there, 4th of July is coming to Madrid with a bang this year! Between an American-themed food truck festival, the second largest gay pride parade in the world, and numerous American style restaurants to choose from, we’re planning to have as much fun as we would in the states!

As an American guiri myself, I hold a very special place in my heart for the 4th of July. The words alone evoke the smell of BBQ , the sounds of kids screaming excitedly as they catch candy from passing floats, water gun fights, and afternoons by the river. Growing up in a small New England town, the 4th of July has always been as much about community as anything and I was very nervous about losing that tradition when I arrived in Madrid three years ago. But, though there are a few things you can’t capture when celebrating abroad (my hometown happens to have a bizarre tradition of racing outhouses down Main Street that I haven’t found anywhere else in the states, let alone Spain), celebrating in Madrid is tons of fun and we have a great community of guiris here!

This year’s events lineup is even better than last year, so be sure not to miss out:

American Street Food Festival

food truck madridFirst up, we have the fiesta de Food Trucks! This is going to be just as awesome as its name sounds. Inspired by the American trend, tons of food trucks will gather in La Moraleja Green from July 3rd-6th, serving everything from grilled cheese to BBQ, hot dogs, and more. If you’re feeling homesick or just want to eat until you feel actually sick, head on over, explore, and tweet us your recommendations @Guiri_guide: we can’t wait to hear your opinions!

Madrid Pride 2015

Madrid prideNext up, if you don’t feel like leaving the city center, the second largest pride celebration in the world is happening right here in Madrid. With parades, concerts, protests, parties, and more, there is a little something for everyone. Even sitting in a café and watching some of the incredible costumes and outfits pass by can be like a 4th of July parade in and of itself! For a full program of events, check out the Madrid Pride 2015 calendar.

BBQs, Diners, and A Taste of Americataste-of-america-ext-620x350

Finally, if you just want to enjoy with friends or share the tradition with your new Spanish friends, there are a few great options for a low-key day. First off is the beloved terraza BBQ (if you have enough space, or substitute with an oven): if you are searching for any US-specific products, try The Taste of America (they have several stores throughout the city). If you don’t feel like hosting, there are also a number of American diner themed restaurants throughout the city, such as Tommy Mel’s and Peggy Sue’s.
Whatever you choose to do, there are plenty of ways to celebrate your home country in your newly adopted one! As for this guiri, I’ll be focusing on what 4th of july has always meant for me: a tight-knit community of people who enjoy a good adventure… see you at the American Street Food Festival!

Dos Besos and Other Cultural Differences

girl in MadridOur newest Guiri Guide writer, Sarah Carroll, is California girl gone Spanish who teaches English here in Madrid. She’s an AIL Spanish student, lover of thrifty fun, and top notch picnicker with a lot to share from her two year’s experience living here, so take it away Sarah! Welcome to Guiri Guide!

Bienvenido a España!” It was a hot September afternoon when I stepped off the plane and into my new life in Madrid, where I would start my TTMadrid TEFL training. I had two suitcases, a backpack, and a cheat sheet of all the Spanish phrases I might need to navigate myself to my new flat. Using my rusty Spanish, I got in a taxi and confidently made my way to Barrio Goya: the taxi driver unloaded my bags onto the sidewalk and I thought, “I’ve done it!” I had tackled the language barrier; what I thought was going to be the biggest difference between my home country and my new home. I lugged my bags up the narrow staircase and into my apartment (which I found using Madrid Rent Flat). There I was greeted with a bottle of wine, a plate of jamón (see this fun video on how to cut it), and two big kisses from my landlord. I immediately realized the language barrier was just the tip of the iceberg: at that moment I knew I was in for a cultural awakening. In the two years since then, I have discovered some key cultural differences between Spain and the USA that might be helpful for new guiri’s:

Dos besos 

dos besosIn Spain, it is customary to give two kisses when you meet someone, see friends, return to work after a holiday, on birthdays, and pretty much all the time. Handshakes are reserved for male-to-male contact and even then, dos besos may be in order depending on the relationship (i.e. father to son).

What are you doing in my space bubble?

As you can tell from their greeting, Spaniards have little to no personal space requirements. It is completely normal to stand inches away from someone while speaking, sit right next to someone in a completely empty metro car, or act as someone’s shadow in line at the supermarket. At first this can seem invasive, but after a few interactions you will adjust.

Spanish Time

Everything is Spain is slower; the walking pace, two hour lunch breaks, and you can almost always expect a Spaniard to arrive a few minutes late. Don’t worry, after some time if Spain you will actually learn to enjoy the relaxed mentality.

Cookies for breakfast

desaynoSpanish meals typically consist of biscuits for breakfast, fruit or a bocadillo for a snack, a fairly large lunch, another snack, and something light for dinner (usually between 21:00-22:00). You can still find cereal in every supermarket but you might want to branch out, Spanish style!

Leaving home at 18? You’re crazy!

It is not uncommon for Spaniafamilia tipicards to live at home into their early thirties. In Spain, the “best way,” perhaps, to raise your children is to provide them with as much as you can. Instill them with strong family ties- so much that they are happy to depend on the family for financial and professional support.

These are just some of the many cultural differences I have come across during my two years in Madrid.  While I am still a strong supporter of a heart healthy breakfast, I am learning to adapt to the cultural customs in the city that I have come to know and love and hope you do too!


Join AIL Madrid in Raising Funds for Nepal!

Hey Guiris!

carrera liberty guiriJust a quick update about an important cause from an organization we love: our friends over at AIL Madrid Spanish School are impressing us yet again with their ability to take action and help others! As you can see on the AIL blog, their staff, professors, and students are running the Carrera Liberty on May 31st to benefit victims in Nepal and are aiming to raise 1.000€!

Almost their entire staff and tons of professors and students have signed up, and we encourage all you guiris to join or donate before May 31st (contact: As we all know from reading the news, it’s a worthy cause and, knowing as many AIL students as we do, we feel confident backing this hard working team.

Go AIL Madrid!


Guiri on Wheels

rollerbladesNew guiri writer Jamie Prachar is an AIL Madrid Spanish student and has a great taste for adventure and all things outdoors. Welcome to Guiri Guide, Jamie! It’s all yours:

Wondering how to work off those go-to weekend comforts of binge eating patatas bravas, croquetas, olive oil soaked pan de abuela, and, of course, copious amounts of red wine?  How about if you could do that AND meet new people, all while getting some of the best views of Madrid? Look no further than the popular madrileño sport of… rollerblading! I know what you are thinking, #1992, #KellyTaylor, #BeverlyHills90210, #unfortunatejeanshorts. In actuality, rollerblading has become a popular social sporting activity throughout Europe, regaining popularity in recent years due to its social, health, and ease of city transport benefits.

rollerblading girlsConvinced by Spanish friends to try the sport having never done it before, I actually picked it up rather quickly with a few pointers (after loosening my death grip from a nearby tree trunk).  You need relatively little equipment to begin: skating clubs will lend you skates to try or they can be bought secondhand for as little as ten to twenty euros.  If you become hooked, new pairs are very reasonably priced at sports outlets such as Decathlon, where you can also purchase elbow and knee pads for as little as five euros, especially recommended for the gravity-impaired. With a low startup cost, rollerblading is a fun, outdoor alternative to a gym. Skating is a great workout for all shapes and sizes, you will definitely gain some strength in your quads and glutes and a sunny glow just in time for beach season.

rollerblade dance class

Rollerblade dance class in Retiro!

One of the best things about rollerblading in Madrid is the accessibility: there are many places to skate and groups to skate with, for free! Retiro Park and the Madrid Rio are ideal places to practice and, for the super adventurous, there is even a 65km paved route circling Madrid, Anillo Verde that allows for both great views of the city and an escape to nature.  You can skate solo or opt to join a free monthly skating route group, such as Escuela de Patinaje Sobre8Ruedas, who also offer free trial lessons and have groups ranging from beginners to advanced, taught in Spanish or English.  Skating groups are a great way to meet new people, and falling is more fun if there are other people there to laugh with you (or at you).

rollerblading retiroOnce you spruce up your skills, you can even use rollerblading as a practical, abono-free way of navigating the city.  A stuffy, hot metro ride can be transformed into a quick, breezy, above-ground route on skates.  I personally stick to skating in the parks and paved river paths, I´m bad enough on my own feet on Spanish sidewalks, let alone adding wheels to the mix.

Now that you know about the health, social, and practical benefits of rollerblading, get out there and try it! Just watch out for tiny dogs and baby carriages.  For more information on above listed groups and classes, check out