Where to ... get filled up on tapas in Madrid
Hands down, my favorite tapas experience was at El Tigre, located in the Chueca neighborhood (Chueca or Gran Via Metro stops).
At El Tigre, you order a glass of vino tinto (red wine) for two euros and then the Tapas God behind the counter hands you a plate piled high with tapas of every kind -- tortilla, patatas bravas, jamon, queso ... you name it -- to accompany your drink. The best part is every time you order your cheap drink, you get another plate of deliciousness to soak up all that alcohol.
For a more varied experience, there is Mercado Plaza San Miguel near the Sol Metro. This gorgeous old building is PACKED with little stands featuring some of the freshest and tastiest food, including oysters, fruits and veggies, and tapas. Lots and lots of tapas.
Again, if you want to snag a seat, get there early. Otherwise, start practicing balancing a plate of tapas and a glass of vino tinto and eating/drinking at the same time.
Where to ... eat the best chocolate you will ever have (outside of Belgium)
The best and most unique chocolates in Madrid can be found at Cacao Sampaka, a modern chocolate/coffee shop that offers up some of the most mmmmgood chocolates taste buds will ever enjoy. Seriously. They've got it all -- balsamic chocolate, lavender chocolate, rosemary chocolate, liquor-filled chocolate, thick as molasses hot chocolates. It is a must. And, a half-second walk from the Alonso Martinez Metro stop.
Where to ... shop 'til you drop in Madrid
Gran Via has it all ... bars, clubs, restaurants, prostitutes and TONS of stores no matter your budget. For those watching the cents, there's Lefties and H & M, and tons of shoe stores featuring pretty cool shoes and cheapie price tags (I got a pair of knockoff high-top Chucks for 10 euros).
If you've got money burning a hole in your pocket, there are also higher-end stores like Miss Sixty, Calvin Klein and some fabulous (non-American) shops, too.
& also check my other Madrid travel tip:
Where to... stay, hangout, meet locals, have a top day trip & get the culture in Madrid
Written and contributed by Diana Edelman