An Un-Guide to a Spontaneous Madrid Weekend


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When your friend asks you if you’d like to join her for a weekend trip to Madrid, you say hombre, claro. If, like me, you finish work early on a Friday, you should aim to get into the city just in time for the typical 9:30 P.M. dinner with a local. I happened to know one through our previous contact in Logroño, so I was in luck. We feasted on cachopo: “A gooey meat feast from Asturias, Spain,” according to The Guardian. It’s a combination of steak, ham, and cheese, which is crumbed like a snitty (which pleased my Aussie gut immensely).

After dinner and a gin-tonic, I was left to fend for myself in Lavapiés, so I made a bee-line to the closest craft-beer destination. I can almost sniff them out nowadays (not really…I use Google Maps to ‘star’ the cool joints before my trip. Genius.). The lucky bar that got the pleasure of my presence this lovely evening was Chinaski, where I enjoyed a couple of nice stouts and accidentally joined a Couchsurfing meet-up due to a fellow Australian accent that stood out in the crowd. I had also walked past Madritallica earlier (yes, it utilised the Metallica logo on its sign) and I’d planned to go in for a beer later, but it will have to wait until the next Madrid visit.

In the morning, make sure you head straight to Toma Café. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Order one of their creatively lovely pan options and enjoy your beautiful coffee. Grab a bag of beans to go, if you’re that way inclined (like me).

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Strawberries, goats’ cheese, and sunflower seeds. Can’t go wrong.

By this time, feel free to make your way towards the Plaza Mayor to meet your friend, who is due to arrive on her bus at anytime. I recommend standing at the statue in the centre of the plaza. That way, while you are waiting, you can photobomb everybody’s photos and have a good laugh. When your friend arrives after figuring out the Metro (go, Jill!), make your first stop Chocolatería San Ginés, where you can catch up over six churros and a classic Spanish hot chocolate combo for €4 each.

Next, if your body is ready, go to the Mercado de San Miguel and squeeze through the crowds and enjoy some great Spanish food and drinks. We thought we should make it a complete tourist day and fill ourselves up on sangria and paella. Walk off some of your new kilos on your way to the Palacio Real de Madrid, and detour past the Catedral de la Almudena. Pay the donation (€1 is sufficient) and check out the wondrous ceiling inside the cathedral. If you have access to them, bring along those special belay glasses that allow you to look up without moving your neck (if you have no idea what I’m on about, check them out here. I need some for cathedrals, honestly.).

Spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the streets, and don’t be afraid to indulge on the occasional mojito. Wave goodbye to your friend in the afternoon and head to your next hostel, which you may need to do if your trip is spontaneous like mine, and the place you stayed the first night doesn’t have any beds available for the second night. I stayed in U Hostels the second night, which I was really impressed with. If you didn’t sleep well the first night, now is your chance to have a quick siesta before Saturday night gets underway.

I was conveniently located near Tierra Burrito Bar and I got there around 8:30, just before the line snuck its way out the door. After my scrumptious pork burrito, I was on my way to The Stuyck Co to enjoy some nice craft-beers, when I bumped into my friend from the night before! It was such luck that I had to follow his group of friends to their destination, Macera Workshop Bar, a bar that creates a huge number of specialty gins, rums, and more. Set in a really creative space that draws in the hipsters by their perfectly pruned beards, Macera uses the process of maceration to create the wonderful flavours of their drinks. I recommend the Rojo Fruto Ginebra (with tonic, of course).



Photo taken from the Macera website (their photography is much better than mine).

Once you’re finished here, feel free to have an early night, or check out one of the many bustling bars in the area, then let me know what life is like at that hour. If you had an early night, you’ll be up for a Sunday morning breakfast and coffee at HanSo Café in Malasaña. If you still have an hour to kill, don’t miss La Bicicleta Café, where you can bathe in the hipster essence a while longer, sipping your short-black and listening to The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and Elvis. If you want to hipster-up even more, ride your bicycle there, or take your sketchbook to keep yourself from looking like an outsider.

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I’ll leave you here. I have to tend to my succulents whilst listening to a band you’ve never heard of.



A Music and Craft-Beer Guide to País Vasco


Long story short, I moved to País Vasco in October of last year. I’ve been living in a town of 600 people in the Basque province of Álava. I’ve learnt some words in the local tongue (Basque, or ‘euskera’) and I have discovered some places to get my music and craft-beer fix that I’d love to share with you.


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El Dorado, Logroño

I’ll start with Logroño, even though it´s technically not in País Vasco. It’s my closest city so I’ve spent the most time here. The first bar that caught my eye was El Dorado on Calle Portales. I heard Bob Dylan playing and I was won over by the decent craft-beer selection. The music alternates between jazz, rock, and the classics, like Dylan and Springsteen.

Just last week I came across Café Odeon. They were cranking Guns ‘n’ Roses, and their four craft-beer fridges definitely caught my eye. The staff here are super friendly, too. I sat between a Bob Dylan poster and a Led Zeppelin one, and I noticed an electric guitar hanging from the ceiling. It’s close to El Dorado, so you’ve got time to try both before heading to Thursday night Pinchato on Calle Laurel.

As for concerts, I’ve never been to any around here as I can’t get home afterwards, however I’ve heard great things about Biribay Jazz Club.


Vitoria (Gasteiz in Basque) has a cool punk-rock feel about it. The medieval city is full of Basque men with rats’ tails and hoop earrings, and the great music that comes with Basque culture. The first place I’d recommend is El Parral, a vegetarian restaurant by day, and a great little music venue by night. With frequent free gigs that range from traditional Basque folk bands, to rock, to ‘power pop-rock’ (whatever that means!), it’s a music paradise. Get in early if you want a good spot.

For bigger gigs, including international acts, check out Jimmy Jazz Gasteiz, the local spot for all your rock and metal needs (among other genres).

While you’re in town, grab a great coffee with a sweet treat at Fresa y Chocolate. The staff here are great, and it’s perfect for relaxing while waiting for the bus! If you like enjoying a nice vermouth with your pintxos, don’t miss Dazz.


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Penguin Bar, Bilbao

Even after three visits, I still haven’t accomplished all of the things on my Bilbao list, (partly due to everything in Europe closing on a Sunday). The first place I must mention is Penguin Bar. With 16 craft-beer taps, it’s definitely worth a visit. Head in after lunch if you like your beers quiet, or go after dark for a bustling local vibe. Morrocotuda was a nice stop for a beer from their decent selection, but Penguin still has my vote. There are a few on my list that I haven’t had a chance to check out yet, but let me know if you have! La Catedral de Cerveza, a craft-beer store, and  Bihotz, which looks like a fantastic spot for beer and coffee.

I would love to get out to Laugar Brewery one day. It’s not in Bilbao, but they have brewery visits available if you can get there (bookings required). A bus would take a little under an hour from Bilbao.

The only concert venue I’ve experienced in Bilbao so far is Santana 27, and it didn’t disappoint. They have so many bars so you won’t have to worry about a line, and the lockers located throughout the venue are much easier than the traditional cloak-room.

If you like cupcakes, you have to go to Mami Lou Cupcake, a cosy Belgian bakery by the river. Without a doubt, the best cupcake I’ve ever had! The coffee was not half-bad either, and they do have a few nice Belgian beers available.

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Mami Lou Cupcake, Bilbao

Donostia-San Sebastián

Before we head into San Sebastián, I want to stop about a 20 minute train ride away, at Basqueland Brewing Project. This one is on my to-do list, and they offer brewery visits (bookings required). Another local brewery, about 35 minutes by train from the city, is Bidassoa Basque Brewery.

Now, heading into the centre, I recommend checking out the quirky neighbourhood of Gros. Here you’ll find Kañabikaña, a craft-beer shop where you can purchase beers from one of their 18 taps to take home. Just around the corner you’ll see Mala Gissona Beer House, stocking their own beers as well as a great selection of national and international beers. Their burgers are fantastic, too! If you get sick of beer, check out Holly Burger for a nice selection of interesting gins which have been flavoured in-house.

For amazing coffee and breakfast, don’t go past Sakona Coffee Roasters.

Feel free to comment your music and craft-beer findings!




Kañabikaña, San Sebastián