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Three Places to Explore Alone

Retiro Park in Madrid pixabay.com CC0

My tips for learning about your new city solo. 

I have to say that I’ve been very lucky since arriving in Madrid. Through mutual friends, I immediately found some great people of a similar age to me who will also be living in the same city for the year. Even after knowing each other for just one weekend it was like we had all been friends for years.

However, the majority of my new friends are on work placements. I, on the other hand, am studying here and had a week of daytimes to fill before classes began. So, I found myself in the potentially daunting situation of being in an unfamiliar capital city with so much to explore, but having to do so alone. 

Unfazed, I saw it as an opportunity to really get my bearings and make the most of the opportunity I’d been given. After a week of exploration (and clocking up on average 25,000 steps a day), here are my top tips when exploring new surroundings on your own:

Start with the touristy areas to see what all the fuss is about

Where I’m living is just a short walk from Sol and Gran Vía, areas often dubbed the shopping hub of Madrid. I soon found myself joining the scores of people scrambling to take advantage of the end of season ‘!Rebajas!’ and marvelling at the selection of everything you could ever need at El Corte Ingles.

But what I can truly say was a sight to behold was the Primark in Gran Vía, a five-floor spectacle of a building that you could honestly get lost in. It even has its own Harry Potter section where you can browse all kinds of magical fashion while listening to the soundtrack on a loop. If you do no more than just walk in and look at the place, it’s a still a must-see.

I found that starting my exploration with an area full of tourists can initially make you feel more comfortable in unfamiliar surroundings as you won’t feel so out of place.

Venture further afield

While shopping in a capital city was fun, it wasn’t really the purpose of my adventure. Madrid is full of so many fun and quirky places that, especially when exploring alone, can really be appreciated. Just to the south of the city centre is an area called Embajadores, which is an incredibly multi-cultural area teeming with funky shops and colourful markets. Having the freedom to just casually explore allowed me to really get a feel for what the slightly quirkier area has to offer.

Find a green space and watch the world go by

Living in a city is undeniably exciting and I’d definitely recommend throwing yourself into everything on offer within it. However, I think there’s a lot to be said for taking some time out to chill and take in your new surroundings.

In Madrid there’s a gorgeous park called Buen Retiro Parque, which I have pretty much fallen in love with. In it, there’s an extensive Memorial wood that's great for running in and also plenty of little streams which are perfect for sitting next to and reading a book. There’s also a beautiful glass building in the centre called the Palacio de Cristal, and, if you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the turtles that reside in the lake in front of it.

If I hadn’t had this time on my own to discover all that the park has to offer, I wouldn’t have realized that I now always have somewhere to come if I ever need a little time out from the fast-paced city life.

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Published in Study Abroad Blogs
Anna Matthews

Anna Matthews is a 21-year-old English Literature and Spanish student at the University of Leeds. She is currently undertaking and Erasmus study placement at the Universidad de Alcalá, just north of Madrid.

Website: https://www.instagram.com/annaamatthews/

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