Is Madrid going downhill?

Well, it’s over here in Madrid.

(Sorry, everyone…)

Recently, El País has announced that Madrid is in a downhill slide.

They say that the city is not a cultural reference like it used to be, that Barcelona is attracting more tourists, that it’s dirty and cheap and has no recognizable skyline or monuments like the Eiffel Tower and blah blah blah.

Is it true?

Let’s see…

So for real: Is Madrid going downhill?

There certainly are fewer people on the streets and in the bars than there used to be, at least on weeknights.

According to the article, a lot of bars are closing

Especially the “authentically castizo” places.

You know, the real old man bars with a zinc countertop and a hostile white-haired guy shouting orders back to the kitchen. The places with the olive pits and balled up napkins forming a blanket across the floor.

Or classic places like the highly overrated Café Comercial.

But around the center, a lot of bars are opening also.

Take a look.

The old man bars close when their owners retire or their customers die. They’re replaced with something more chic that will appeal to a crowd that’s a bit livelier – or at least alive. Nobody’s spending money in Almudena Cemetery, after all.

And I still pass by at least a dozen bars in the 5 minute walk from the metro to my house – in my totally unglamorous working-class neighborhood. There’s no shortage of places to get your drink on.

Updated: now I live in Tetuán, and it’s the same deal. Bars everywhere.

vallecas skyline. is madrid going downhill?

A bit of unglamorous skyline in my neighborhood, Puente de Vallecas.

And here’s something else…

Is Madrid dirty?

Well, the article is illustrated with a photo of a girl walking across Plaza Mayor after the passage of thousands of Danish football hooligans. Naturally, it’s full of empty bottles and trash. But as far as I can tell, they still clean up in the center every night.

Maybe not in the peripheral neighborhoods. But in the center, definitely.


Are there fewer cultural events being organized?


Is it more difficult to have a gin and tonic on a terraza at 2 in the morning than it used to be? Possibly. But if spending all night drinking is your only idea of fun, you probably need to find some hobbies.

In my mind, it’s about time some things got cheaper around here.

We’ve spent the last decade paying European prices while earning our terrible Spanish salaries, and salaries are going down.

Who’s going to go to a club and pay 7 euros for a beer if they’re earning 600 euros a month? Only somebody who lives with their parents and doesn’t have any expenses.

Some things are improving, for sure:

The article does well to mention Madrid Rio, a new park along the Manzanares that’s several kilometers long and much nicer than the highway that was there before. In central areas, all kinds of gourmet bakeries, fashionable bars and restaurants are springing up.

Is Barcelona a better place to go?

Well, last I heard they had prostitutes performing sex acts in the streets and were charging 9 euros admission to keep the black market CD vendors out of Park Güell.

Sure, they have a beach. Sure, they had the Olympics. Madrid has now failed in 3 Olympic bids… But is everybody rushing off to visit Atlanta, who hosted the games in ’96?

Are people all over the world watching Ana Botella’s “relaxing cup of café con leche” speech and deciding they’d better go somewhere else on vacation?


News flash for Spanish people: outside of Spain, nobody is thinking about you very much.

Do you research the linguistic abilities of the Mayor of New York or Rome or Paris before you plan a holiday? Of course not!

So, is Madrid going downhill? Not any more than the rest of Spain.

Let’s see if we can get unemployment down to a somewhat more manageable number like 20%, and then we can start worrying about drinking those gin and tonics on the terraza at 2AM.

Priorities, people.


Mr Chorizo.

P.S: What do you think? Is Madrid going downhill? Hit me up in the comments… and have fun!

P.P.S. You might also like my articles about pros and cons of living in Madrid, and also the top 10 pros and cons of living in Barcelona, which is where I’m at now.

P.P.P.S. The whole Madrid vs Barcelona debate is a big one. And now that I’ve been up in the north for a while, I realize that every 2 weeks the local press is publishing some article about how Barcelona is going downhill. I guess it’s just good clickbait. Anyway…


How did I end up in Spain? Why am I still here almost 20 years later? Excellent questions. With no good answer... Anyway, at some point I became a blogger, bestselling author and contributor to Lonely Planet. So there's that. Drop me a line, I'm happy to hear from you.

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