Tag Archives: Madrid

The Best Places to get a Tattoo in Madrid

Originally posted at OffTrackPlanet.com

So you’re in Madrid and looking to get tatted? Madrid’s reputation as a world center of art is home to some of the best tattoo artists in Europe.  Whether you want to commemorate the trip of a lifetime or you’ve been inspired to get some trippy shit down your sleeve, Madrid’s tattoo parlors will have you covered (literally).  Based on their best qualities, OTP has compiled this list of shops to get you properly tatted-up:

First off…
What is more important to you, price or quality?  If price is paramount, pick from any of the dime-a-dozen tattoo joints along Calle de Montera between Plaza del Sol and Gran Via. Keep reading if you want something with more character and style.

Second, Go to Calle de Fuencarral
Catch the metro to Gran Via and walk north along c/Fuencarral.  Most of Madri’s tattoo parlors are either on this street or just off it in the neighboring barrios of Malasana and Chueca.  The following are OTP’s stand-out spots.

Finally, Pick a Shop…

Mao & Cathy Tattoo

Most Experienced

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The oldest and most well-known tattoo shop in Spain.  Mao & Cathy’s reputation rests upon professionalism and experience unrivaled in Madrid.  Over the last 20+ years, they’ve continually hosted world-class artists including Robert Hernandez (now at Vitamin Tattoo).  Such success draws a large crowd, so reservations are advised.  Mao & Cathy is a mandatory stop, but let’s step back onto c/Fuencarral and check out some other places.

Contact:
http://www.myspace.com/maoycathy
Corredera alta de San Pablo, 6
915311973

*NO PIERCING

True Love Tattoo

Perfection in Old School Style

4127671072 f039c4095e The Best Places to Get a Tattoo in MadridIf you’re less ”Zen” and more ”punk,” check out True Love, run by El Bara,a friendly Argentine widely respected amongst Madrid’s tattoo artists.  The studio’s blood-red interior nicely contrasts the all-black uniform of its hard-rockin’ clientele. El Bara is famous for creatively fusing the retro swagger of Malasana with the old-school style made popular by ”Sailor Jerry” in the 1950s. Any artist at True Love can hook you up, but if you want El Bara, you’d better make reservations two months ahead.

Contact:
www.tattoosbybara.com
Velarde, 22 (near Plaza del Dos de Mayo)
680 204 724

La Mano Zurda

Most Innovative

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Tattoos are increasingly respected art form and at La Mano Zurda, the needle and the paintbrush are held in equally high regard.  In addition to an excellent tattoo studio, it boasts an abstract art gallery and an art academy that offers drawing or tattooing classes.  The studio’s decor is Zen meets punk and their eclectic tattoo style embodies everything in between.

Contact:

C/ Fuencarral, 92, at intersection of C/ Apodaca
http://www.lamanozurda.com/
91 522 87 33
info@lamanozurda.com

Por Vida

The Most Unpretentiousness

Don’t let the dark black storefront intimidate you – Por Vida is one of the most welcoming places we found. Check it out for yourself and join the scores of Madrilos who feel at home at Por Vida.  The friendly staff speaks excellent English and are happy to help you design a tattoo that you can proudly rock for life, that is Por Vida.

Contact:
Fuencarral 43
925 220 720
http://myspace.com/porvidamadriz

Tattoo Magic

Most Dependable

Just down the street is Tattoo Magic. They’ve been tatting Madrilenos for 8 years and their new studio rests smack in the middle of c/ Fuencarral. Their ability to remain in the center of it all is a testament to their unwavering popularity with locals. Despite being one of the larger studios, they maintain their success by keeping their levels of artistic ability high and levels of B.S. The numerous awards hanging from their walls prove that Tattoo Magic is a safe bet.

Contact:
28 c/ Fuencarral.
915215074
http://www.tattoomagic.net/

Vitamin Tattoo

The Most Original

Lastly, we have Vitamin Tattoo, the home of the world-famous Robert Hernandez. Any of the above shops can whip up whatever tat you have in mind but odds are you couldn’t think up anything that competes with Robert Hernandez’ sinister creations.  Picture images pulled from the baddest depths of rock and roll and more realistic than your worst nightmare. So don’t come here for a cute little star on your ankle.  If you want a tat of Gene Simmons so life-like it will give Grandma a heart attack, then you’ve found your man.  Browse through the photos on his website or watch this video to see if he’s your cup of tea.

Contact:
Calle de La Unin, 4
915 488 766
Website: http://www.rhernandeztattoos.com/
Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/roberthernandeztattoos
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yii1lbJ7UeI

En Fin…

Whether you prefer experience, dependability, familiarity or the unique styles of El Bara and Robert Hernandez, Madrid’s the spot for you to get some ink done.  So what are you waiting for? Find your cojones and let Madrid’s finest artists make your 2010 EuroTrip one you’ll always remember.

Post Tat Pep Talk

OTP Tip: If this is your first tattoo, keep in mind you will need to take care of it once its needled on your skin. This means that despite your grimy hostel existence, you will need to keep it clean and moisturized. NEVER USE VITAMIN E RICH LOTION; it will suck the tattoo right off your skin. Scented lotions are bad too. Just get the stuff your shop of choice sells and you should be fine. Make an effort to keep it out of the sun for a little while as well.

Top 10 Things to do in Madrid on a Backpacker’s Budget

Originally published on OffTrackPlanet.com

Whether you’re just making a pit-stop on a EuroRail marathon tour or spending a year at one of Madrid’s universities, OTP will help you cut past the crowds and get straight into the heart of Spain’s vibrant capital, without busting a hole in your wallet. Ready to start? Here’s a list of 10 things you can’t miss while in Madrid.

Historical Madrid on the Cheap

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Lucky for you, the most historical sights in Madrid are free. The Spanish are a social people, so it makes sense that Madrid’s most important public monuments are the large plazas where Madrileno’s (the people of Madrid) congregate to chat and people-watch. Each of Madrid’s neighborhoods have their own plazas, but the largest and most central are: Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol, Plaza de la Villa and the marvelous Plaza de Oriente. The latter opens up to the former royal palace, El Palacio Real. You have to pay to enter the palace, but it is enjoyable to simply wander around its gardens for free.

Hang with Dali and Picasso

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Anyone who leaves Madrid without visiting at least one of its world-famous museums deserves a smackdown. The most famous three, Museo del Prado, Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, and Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, collectively hold more masterpieces than you could possibly absorb in a weekend. Even the most philistine among us can appreciate Picasso’s Guernica or anything by Dali. The first two museums are free on Sundays. Bring your student card for a discount! But there are many other smaller gems, including our personal favorite: Museo Sorolla (free for students).

Salir de Tapas

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Hopping from bar to bar sampling tapas (bite-sized bar snacks) is one of the most enjoyable Spanish traditions. Going out for tapas typically involves having a drink and a nibble at a half dozen bars, all of which are, loud, standing-room-only, and loads of fun. Though tapas traditionally come free with your drinks, Spain is drifting towards pay-per-tapa system. OTP has scraped up some places that defy the trend. Try El Tigre in Chueca for the best free tapas in Madrid. The most concentrated areas of tapas bars are in La Latina (especially Calle de Cava Baja and C. de Huertas).

OTP TIP

When Spaniards eat tapas, they throw their trash on the floor, so check the ground of wherever you go: the dirtier the floor, the better the tapas.

Jam to Flamenco Guitar

Music is a vital element of Spanish culture. No visit to the birthplace of flamenco would be complete without seeing a live show. Most flamenco bars charge 30 euros to enter ($45) and that’s no bueno. Our suggestion? Go to La Solea in La Latina where you’ll get free admission when you order a copa of wine, settle down in the smoky bar and let the gypsy-influenced rhythms carry you away.

Get Lost in the Barrios

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Most tourists will hang around central Madrid, near Plaza Mayor and Plaza del Sol. Give it the obligatory gander, and then check out one of the city’s offbeat barrios, (neighborhoods). All are within walking distance and each offers something different: the funky old-skool vibes of Malasana, the live music and nightlife in Huertas, or the stylish restaurants of Madrid’s gay barrio, Chueca. Forget your guidebook and wander through each of them until you discover your own special corner of Madrid.

Pick Up Some Spanish Style

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No, the Spanish don’t have sexier DNA; it’s the way they dress. Madrid is the home of Spanish style, and it’s not hard to find something to bring back home. If the ritzy boutiques of Salamanca are not for you, head over to Malasaña, Gran Viaor Calle de Fuencarralto find what you need. If you’re counting your last Euros, hold out till Sunday to bargain in El Rastro flea market.

Eat Like a Local

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A fun introduction to Madrid’s food is El Mercado de San Miguel. The glass and metal building contains dozens of kiosks showcasing a wide variety of Spanish cuisine. You can easily spend a few hours here stuffing your cheeks with a bit of everything. For a cheap, authentic meal, go to Casa Mingo next to the Principe Pio metro stop. Also, Cien Montaditos(the menu consists of 100 little mini-sandwiches) is a chain of cheap restaurants. It’s hard to argue with a montadito and a beer for 1.20 Euros.

OTP Tips:

Eating Out Formula for the “so broke it ain’t no joke” (about 5 Euros per day) : tortilla (potato omelet) for breakfast 1 euro‚ bocadillos (sandwiches) for lunch from the Museo de Jamon (locations everywhere), and El Tigre for a dinner of tapas (see #3).

Have a Fridge at Your Disposal? Go to Supersol, Dia or any other local supermarket. Stock up on sliced meat, cheese and bread (label the packages with your name and date so people at the hostel feel guiltier stealing them) and make your own damn bocadillos!

Drink Like a Local

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Memorize this word: Botellon. Every weekend, thousands of young people gather in plazas to drink wine under the stars before going out. This practice, called the botellon, is widespread across all of Spain, especially in the summer. Do as the locals and mix yourself a calimocho: 2 parts red wine and 1 part coca-cola. Don’t shy away from wine in boxes. Don Simon boxes run you about a euro and the contents are of better quality than the crap you’re paying 6 bucks for in the states.

Best places to botellon: Plaza de Espana and Plaza de Santa Ana between 10-2 AM.

By the way…Drinking in public is technically illegal in Madrid and although the law is rarely enforced. You don’t need to brown bag and look over your shoulder, but just don’t piss on anybody – follow the locals.

Dance Like a Local

665144 Top 10 Things to Do in Madrid on a Backpacker’s BudgetAvoid the pijo (posh) discos and go where the students are. Tupperware (bar) or Palma III (disco) in Malasana will bring out the booty shaker in you. A safe bet is to head to Plaza de Santa Ana, talk to the club promoters passing out flyers, pick a place and dance till the metro opens up at 6 AM.

Lazy Sunday

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After you’ve done all the above, wrap up with a lazy Sunday, Madrid-style. Here’s the plan:

  • Wake up at the crack of noon and make your way to the La Latina neighborhood to catch El Rastroflea market before it closes at 3. It’s the largest outdoor market in Europe and the whole city comes out for it every week. You can buy anything from a scarf to a chicken at this place. Buying nothing at all is fine; the bustling vibe is the most exciting part anyway.
  • Then migrate with the Madrilenos to El Retiro park to while away the afternoon. Thousands of people lounge on the grass and a massive drum circle starts up next to the lake.

Not active enough for you? Rent a rowboat for 4 euros and row around the lake till your arms fall off.

If you are able to squeeze half of these activities between your siestas, you’ll walk away from Madrid having experienced a side of the city most visitors never see. So what are you waiting for? Flamenco, tapas, and fiestas beckon.

Paseo Through Arévalo

 

Each day before sunset the people of Spain traditionally leave their homes and take a leisurely stroll called a paseo.  I take my paseo at five in the afternoon and join the rest of the pueblo in their daily walk through our village, Arévalo.  I descend the steps of apartment to the street below and merge into the slow procession of townsfolk wandering through the old barrios, past the abandoned mansions of forgotten caballeros, around the crumbling churches of Catholic Spain, and towards the castle that crowns the northernmost tip of the five-pointed town.

As the sun dips below the horizon, I walk behind the castle that once housed Queen Isabella, stand at the confluence of the two rivers that encircle Arévalo, and gaze across the fields of Castile.

Castile, the heart of historic Spain.  It was here that Castellano, the language commonly known as Spanish, was born.  It was here that Queen Isabella and Ferdinand allied their kingdoms and swept the Moors off the Iberian Peninsula in the reconquista.  It was in this town that the Spanish and Portuguese divvied up the New World. And it was across the plains to my south that Don Quixote rode in search of adventure.  In those times Arévalo was a thriving village well situated between the economical and political centers of power in Madrid, Valladolid, Segovia, Avila and Salamanca. That was the Golden Age of Castile.

As dusk sweeps across the central Spanish meseta, I stare into the twilight and imagine the golden days of Arévalo.  I turn and face the castle and peer through the slotted apertures into the candle-lit chambers of Isabella and listen for news of the reconquista.  I sneak past the sentries and pull my donkey through the shadows and past the palacios of the gentry, deferring respectfully to the armored caballeros who ride past on horseback.

The church bells ring loudly from the belfries of the town’s dozen churches, one for each of the twelve barrios as mandated by Isabella the Catholic.  It’s nighttime now and the paseo is almost finished, but through the mist I descry the stream of people ahead and walk towards them.  A string of lanterns holds the darkness at bay and a muted rumble of voices and laughter slips from the taverns and warms the night air.  I rejoin the paseo and follow the townsfolk down cobbled streets into the central plaza of Arévalo, Plaza del Arrabal.

The men of the town are gathered here speaking to one another and suddenly I feel out of place amongst the merchants and gentlemen of the town.  They discuss news from Madrid, trade with the Americas, war with the English and they gossip of their neighbors.  I sense them starting at me and I look down at my worn clothes and ashamedly try to sneak out of the crowd before I become the subject of more gossip.

The Spanish are a sociable people, always gathering in large public groups and making it nearly impossible for the foreigner to make himself scarce.  But tonight I have it.  I escape from the plaza and round the corner to the calle principal, when an old man stops me and, not recognizing my face, inquires about my business in Arévalo.

Buenas noches, Señor.  I am a humble English teacher in the secondary school.  I hail from the distant colony of San Diego, in California Alta and I am staying here for a year to teach the children of Arévalo the English language.  I have just finished my paseo and I now am repairing to my abode to finish the most recent work of Señor Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote.

Don Quixote!?!”  The viejo, exclaims.  “That Cervantes is as foolish as that character of his!  Why, I can’t understand why a man would spend the last years of his life writing about a buffoon riding across Castile tilting at windmills!  You are a teacher, my boy, why do you read such whimsical non-sense?  Surely you could be studying works of more importance, works of practical significance, works that would bring you closer to God!  Would you teach this garbage to Arévalo´s children?  And why would you teach them the language of our most hated enemies, the English?  And…”  …so on, and so on into the night.  I nod my head, and at the soonest opportunity bid him farewell and slip into the night fog.

Don Quixote has a bad rap, I thought, What is so wrong about harboring romantic dreams of adventure?  The mist thins as I pass the last church in the beautiful old town and walk past the petrol station and along the park into the new part of town.

To my right is a row of Franco-era apartments, many of them covered in aggressive graffiti – anarchist signs, crossed out swastikas and anti-monarchist slogans.

As I approach my building I am greeted by the stench of manure blowing across the plains from the wheat fields that surround Arévalo on all sides.  My fingers, frozen cold in January night, fumble with my keys and after a minute I enter my lobby, flip on the light switch, check my mailbox and walk up two levels to my door.

It is dark and empty in my five-bedroom flat.  My only roommate has turned off the heater and lights (as always), ostensibly to save money but more likely to freeze his wacky roommate to death until he moves back to California.  I walk past his room, closed and locked (as always), and stick my tongue out at the green light spilling out from the television behind his door.  I throw my letters on my desk – all bills, no letters from damsels in distress – and collapse on my bed.

I think about all my dreams, about traveling to foreign lands, sailing across distant seas, speaking exotic tongues, and writing words that change the world.  I wonder if these dreams will come true.

Am I just hopelessly quixotic?  I stare at the ceiling, but the peeling paint offers no answer. Will my dreams surrender to rigid realities and prove to be nothing more than the chimeras of idealistic youth?  My roommate emerges from his cave and slams his door, loosening a flake of paint from the ceiling that falls falls falls down onto my cheek.

Dammit.

I sit up and survey my room and wonder once again if life in a 7,000-person town is slowly driving me insane.  The piles of books heaped in huge teetering towers on the floor, a dozen corners of the room bedecked with trinkets from a dozen corners of the world, a massive California Republic flag, and a map of Europe tacked against the wall and perforated with a geographical to-do-list: pins poking across the continent, from the Basque Country to the Balkans, from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea, north to Norway and south to the Sahara.  My dreams have exhausted my supply of pins.

Then there are the countless pieces of paper that cover the rest of my room like the crazed wallpaper of some Beatnik poet gone-mad.  About half of them were a collection of poems and quotations written by my favorite authors and, increasingly, by myself.  The rest of them are flashcards covered in red marker with commands (START WRITING!!!), questions (What is your book about?), themes (Search for individualism in modern society), chapters (Buying the Minsk – Saigon, Vietnam), topics (The Dalai Lama and China) and orphaned epiphanies searching for a home somewhere in the first draft of my first book.

My roommate farts, and the noise bounces through my paper-thin walls, something that would make me smile if my situation were not so bleak.

What the hell am I doing here? Am I ever going get this book together, or will I just get lost along the way? Is it even possible to write a book in such a stiflingly small town?  And if I get the book written, will it ever get published?

I have no answers, only the strange faith born from the audacity of dreaming the impossible.  I sit down at my desk, stare at the START WRITING!!! message on my wall and pick up a pen and paper.  Dear Don Quixote, It’s January 21th, 2010 and it’s time to assess my dreams, both those realized and those still lying ahead…