I’ve recently had an experience I’ve never thought could be so enriching: I discovered a hidden side of Madrid with a local guide through U2GUIDE - I've learned more in four hours about the history of the city than in the last 8 years that I’ve been living there. This is how it went!
Who was my local guide?
His name is Sergio. He is fun, friendly and very professional at the same time. He turned out to be the perfect companion for the afternoon we spent together :)
He truly believes that the cultural wealth of the city is a treasure that must be shared… His explanations made me feel like I was part of something, part of a city I love.
I specifically asked Sergio to focus the experience on history: he did adapt the experience for for my liking, which I really appreciated.
Curious to discover Sergio's profile and experiences? Here is a link!
What was the experience like?
We spent all the afternoon together, more than four hours and the experience was divided into very clear parts. All of them left some place for improvisation and fun facts, we didn’t stop talking for a minute through the whole visit.
This was something I enjoyed like a little girl, just being able to ask whatever I wanted and always getting a smart and fun explanation. Let’s now have a look on them so you can also taste a bit of Madrid with Sergio and me!
Arco De La Victoria
Surprisingly, this first spot is really close to where I live and I had never taken five minutes to admire it the way Sergio made me do it.
He told me some very interesting facts about how it was built. I was so into what he was telling me that I started to imagine all the troops entering Madrid back in the days of the Civil War! I was creating my own story in my mind... - a habit of mine when discovering new places!
Plus, I just loved to see how hectic and full of people this spot was. I could totally feel the energy of a capital like Madrid filling my traveler spirit! From minute one, I literally felt so revitalised and ready to step out of the usual places I visit in my beloved Madrid… The yearning of conquering the capital made me enjoy the experience a 100% more. Sergio was totally passing on to me his passion for his city!
Casa de Campo
The park itself is such a nurtured area. I looked up to the surrounding trees and pines and I could clearly hear lots of birds singing. They were comfortably settled in their nests and I couldn’t do anything else than smile at them and stare at the spectacle for a while!
That was actually a blast for someone who loves nature as much as I do. Especially considering that I’m used to running everywhere without ever stopping to appreciate essential stuff like this. I leveraged the moment to close my eyes and just breath.
I breathed as deeply as I could and saved that moment in my memory. It’s not that usual to be immersed in such an authentic experience in a big city like Madrid. Sometimes it’s pretty hard to find those moments of calm, so I actually thanked Sergio for taking me there :)
We could see the whole city from where we were standing with the snowed mountains as a background - absolutely stunning. It was a reminder of how traveling (even if it’s in your own city) brings out the best in you when you expect it the least!
Madrid es noticia
Related content: How to enjoy Madrid as a local
Parque Del Oeste
This is a very well-known park in Madrid, but Sergio showed it to me in a complete different way! He took me to a hidden part of the park where there are actual bunkers that are very well conserved from the war. It kind of caused shivering in my whole body, just seeing all the holes from the bullets clearly marked in the walls of the bunkers.
As he went along with his explanation, I couldn’t help but imagining all the soldiers gathered in one little bunker, whether it was very hot or cold outside, with or without food and provisions. I couldn’t stop asking myself what they must have felt. And especially, how it was possible that I had passed by that place so many times and never realized the meaning of those constructions.
Afterwards, we took a nice walk around the beautiful green spaces in Parque del Oeste. I already loved this place from before, but seeing in from a historic perspective was way cooler than I expected! It was crazy for me to find out how full of history is my city, things that I didn’t even know happened only 80 years ago.
Secretos de Madrid
If I had to mention one outstanding neighborhood from Madrid, it would be Vallecas. It’s not the typical place you visit when doing some tourism, since it’s a bit far from the center and it’s mainly a working-class district. But it has some amazing stories behind its people, which are the ones who give meaning to everything that happens here!
If you ask locals, the most iconic symbol of Vallecas is its football team - el Rayo Vallecano. You know football in Spain is something big! Sergio took me to see the stadium and then we visited (and loved!) “El parque del Cerro del Tío Pío”, which is so well-known for having several small hills where you can stand and see the most beautiful sunsets in Madrid. No joke, I couldn’t believe how impressive seeing the sun go down was.
The coolest part was “sharing” that moment with all the other locals that were there at the same time. Some of them were just sitting eating pizza and taking pictures of the landscape, living the local experience with us.
Vallecas is the kind of place you'd never think of when visiting Madrid. Locals would consider this as a "dangerous neighbourhood" after dark. It's not!
Visiting the neighborhood with Sergio made me realise how many preconceptions I had... If it hadn’t been for him and his “out-of-the-box vision”, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to experience all of this!
The Best “Patatas Bravas” in Madrid
We couldn't but finish our local visit without a culinary experience. So that’s what we did. Sergio took me to Docamar, a bar locals go to eat the best “patatas bravas” (fried potatoes with hot sauce - or "salsa secreta") in Madrid. And they are right! They are absolutely delicious and generously served.
One of the things I liked the most was seeing some elderly people playing cards at the entrance of the bar. They spend the afternoons like that, sharing moments together. It made me discover a hidden part of Madrid for me, where people from different places and backgrounds interact and have fun together.
After ordering, we sat down and started talking about mainly everything, a bit of history, politics, the lifestyle in Madrid… I felt like he was my lifetime friend and the time flew by until we took off and finally went back home.
Related content: How to enjoy a culinary experience in Spain
What I Take With Me From This Experience
I am pretty clear on this: my biggest learning from this U2GUIDE experience was to actually realise how different any city or place appears when your journey is shared with a local.
It’s obvious they do know better than anyone what’s the local lifestyle like, all the secrets hidden in each corner and it’s awesome when they pass all this information to you in such an enjoyable way. Sergio did a really nice job adapting the process to my liking and I could really feel how well prepared everything was.
Discovering Madrid through a local was also about going out of my comfort zone and daring to explore and actually enrich my mind and spirit with new people and places. I will make sure to not let these kinds opportunity slip away in the future from now on!
As the icing of the cake, I was able to donate a percentage of what I paid to SINGA, an NGO that works for social and economic integration of refugees in France, giving people the right tools to build a world where everyone feels one, creating a common space for each citizen.
If you’d like to have a similarly inspiring local experience, visit U2GUIDE and find hundreds of authentic trips and experiences to enjoy wherever you are, always with a social impact through a trusted NGO of your choice!
Here I leave you a short video about the experience, so you can get a sneak-peek of what the experience felt like! Enjoy and let me know how you'd feel doing an immersive experience even in your own city!