Category Archives: Culture


Top 5 things to do in Madrid – Top places to eat, to party, and must-see places in Madrid

¡Hola! I am Estefania (Tefi), I am from Venezuela but been in Europe for sometime now. After doing my masters in Paris for one year, a new challenge opened up to me: an internship in PR at Condé Nast, Madrid.

I arrived in Madrid around 3 months ago, but not only I have fallen in love with the city, I also fell for its food, its people, and the culture. Madrid is a great place to be! It is the capital city so you have all the infrastructure, and the buzz that you need, balanced with a great quality of life! Before I get into how to make most of Madrid a few tips:

  1. You must know some Spanish to live it up in this city – Like most of Spain, most people in Madrid will only speak Spanish – so learn some before you get there, and you’ll have a great time. The people are very friendly and welcome outsiders
  2. Please interact with locals, make some friends who aren’t from the same country as you are! As foreigners, we often end up making just a small circle of friends who are from similar regions. I strongly suggest you don’t do this, and mingle with some locals. Not only will this help you make most out of your visit, but it will give you a great cultural perspective

So, if you get the above two right, here’s Tefi’s top 5 round-up for Madrid which will ensure you fall in love with this beautiful city!

Of-course, it has to start with food! It is always about the food, isn’t it :)

Top 5 places to eat in Madrid

Madrid food Madrid terrace restaurants

  1. Ramon Freixas: By one of the greatest established chefs in Madrid. Try the “experience menu” with wine pairing – it is perfect! :)
  2. Terraza del Casino: This one is Michelin starred, and with Paco Roncero managing the kitchen, you are sure to experience a delightful meal! Terraza means terrace in Spanish. There are tons of excellent terrace cafes and restaurants in Madrid that come alive in the evening.
  3. Bar Tomate at Salamanca district: Amazing food and great ambiance! The drinks are great here. The decor is chic and attracts many fashionistas. On weekends, they have the DJ playing after 11 PM, make sure you make reservations!
  4. Ten con Ten: This one is my personal favorite, you can have a great time and great food. At about 12 PM, the music starts and it attracts a lot of people
  5. Whitby: Follows this Spanish custom of clubbing dinner and party!

I know I was going to do a top-5 but I’ll add one more name to this list :) : Ramses: Perfect for Sundays! Brunch is served and party starts at 4pm when the DJ arrives  (don’t miss the bathroom of the place)

Top 5 places to party in Madrid

Madrid nightlife

To start off, a party tip: Party in Madrid starts only at 2 AM . So, be prepared for a loonnnggg night! In Madrid it’s never late!

  1. Malasaña: for the hippies and eclectic, this neighborhood brings in a lot of bars and small places in order to gather and have some “chupitos” (shots in Spanish) at at-least 5 different places the night :) . Have some tapas and then bar hop across this neighborhood
  2. Gabanna: is a must, with a great disco – not too big, not too small; and the perfect house music
  3. Kapital: the biggest night attraction, it has a 7 floor disco that will have you partying till 8 AM in the morning
  4. Fortuny: for those who like a more serious and not so crazy party :D
  5. Palacio Gaviria: Thursday is international and house music night – foreigners come together on Thursday – it is a lot of fun!

Top 5 must see places in Madrid:

The city is full of museums, historical sites, activities, and tours.

  1. Parque del Buen Retiro – In English meaning Park of the good retreat, perhaps the most important park in Madrid. It is amazing! You should visit the crystal palace once you are inside. The park also hosts some free concerts on Sundays
    Parque_del_Buen_RetiroCrystal Palace Buen Retiro Park
  2. The Royal Palace
    Royal Palace Madrid
  3. Chueca – Gay neighborhood of Madrid. It has a lot of emerging designers and nice small places to eat and have a drink
  4. Gran Via, in the city center is a very nice place to walk and you’ll find a lot of shops, and theaters – the street is known as the Spanish Broadway
    Gran via A shopping street in Madrid
  5. Ortega y Gasset and Serrano – You have to go to Ortega y Gasset and Serrano when in your shopping mode! Some of the most luxurious shops are located here

Top 5 food items to try in Madrid

Being a Spaniard, I had tried some of these before in Venezuela, but each place has a distinct variety and I highly recommend you try these in Madrid:

  1. Tapas!! – Madrid and Tapas go hand in hand. “Tapas” are a wide variety of appetizers, or snacks, in Spanish cuisine. Madrid has a number of Tapas bars with menus so large, you’d often wonder what to eat and what not!
  2. Tortilla de patatas (Omlettes!)
  3. Pinchos de jamon Serrano (Serrano ham skewers) – jamón serrano is basically mountain ham, is a Spanish delicacy and a must try!
  4. Paella
  5. Gazpacho – tomato or vegetable based cold soup


Picture credits:

Languages Europe

European day of languages!

Today is the European day of languages!

The European Day of Languages is 26th September, as proclaimed by the Council of Europe, at the end of the European Year of Languages (2001). Its aim is to encourage language learning across Europe.

Throughout Europe, 800 million Europeans represented in the Council of Europe’s 47 member states are encouraged to learn more languages, at any age, in and out of school. The Council of Europe believes that linguistic diversity is a tool for achieving greater intercultural understanding and is a key element in the rich cultural heritage of Europe.

Key themes

The key themes behind the European Day of Languages are:

  • Educating the masses about the importance of language learning
  • Diversifying the range of languages learned by the public in order to increase plurilingualism and intercultural understanding;
  • Promoting the rich linguistic and cultural diversity of Europe;
  • Encouraging lifelong language learning in and out of school.

Europe is home to more than 220 languages!  With globalization, citizens increasingly need foreign language skills to work effectively throughout the world. English is important but perhaps no longer enough.


On the occasion of the day, a range of events are organized across Europe, including those for children, television and radio programmes, language classes, and conferences. There are online events and offers as well, which take place on the web!
The EDL website hosts many online games to test your language knowledge and skills.

The highlight events of 2012 included Lyrics and Rap Competition, Speak Dating, Language Exchange, Talking Online Avatars, Live Flags, Online courses, and more!

CultureAlley is offering its Spanish course for free on the EDL website: Check out the details here!
So are you all ready to venture into learning a new language? Explore the linguist within you!

Picture: Urion Argador

Learning Spanish for Cultural and Professional Growth | Anthony Diab

Spanish studentThis week we feature one of our star students – Anthony Diab. Anthony is a culture enthusiast and runs a business in the tourism industry. Realizing the importance of Spanish in both his professional as well as personal life, Anthony decided to take up the challenge to learn Spanish – and he has excelled in it! In no time, Anthony finished all the lessons (yes more than 60 lessons!) at CultureAlley and is now getting into practicing his Spanish accent with our coach Ivan over 1on1 Skype lessons.


We spoke to Anthony to understand how others like him can learn Spanish quickly:


CA: Tell us a little bit about yourself
Anthony: I’m from Lebanon – a town called Jezzine. I studied a double major at a university in Beirut (Fashion Design, and Music).
We have a mountain resort and a restaurant – I spend time with my dad working on making it better and growing our business.


CA: Why did you decide to learn Spanish?
Anthony: For two reasons: One,
Spanish is really helping me take my hotel business to the next level.
Second, I am inspired by the cultural diversity of this world! I’m really interested in singing (opera), I love Spanish music, Tango dancing, the Greek mythology, and wine! Learning Spanish has a big relation to all these cultural inspirations I draw!
Being a fluent French speaker, I thought that I really should learn this lovely language – Spanish. I really see myself walking down the streets of Spain trying to realize my dream!!


CA: How did you start your learning journey and how did find the right source to learn Spanish from?
I started by reading books about translation from English to Spanish and from French to Spanish – but after trying for 4 months, I did not find them too useful. So, I moved to find a way which was more professional.
Something that had structured lessons. I Googled for websites to learn Spanish and after reviewing some of the options I made my choice. I think it was the best choice that I made by choosing CultureAlley as my teacher!


CA: How did you learn Spanish so fast? Tell us about your learning routine

Anthony: My background in Arabic and French did help me a little but it is not as difficult to learn Spanish quickly.

I started with CultureAlley as a normal person who just knows how to say ‘hi’ and ‘bye’ and ‘how are you?’ in Spanish. I started, and every day this website gave me more and more passion to continue learning!

I took about 3 lessons a day sometimes even 4 and wrote the notes on sheets of paper.

Every day before starting a new lesson I ensured that I revise right from paper 1 which contained the basics (Hola/Adíos etc.). I revised till where I stopped the previous day just to remember all the words without forgetting anything. Then I took quizzes – multiple times till I got everything correct. Regular practice and repetition helped me learn Spanish fast. Now I will get into Skype lessons for developing my listening skills and my accent.

CA: Has learning Spanish helped you? If so, how?
Anthony: Learning Spanish has helped me immensely.
First of all,  now I really can communicate with the Spanish tourists that come to our hotel. It makes our hotel appear more professional and adds a personal touch.
I already speak Arabic, French, and English, and now Spanish is adding another dimension.
Secondly,  now I understand the Spanish songs that I really loved, so now I sing them with more passion and I can Dance on Tango Songs with great passion .
Third, the nightlife here in my country Beirut makes me meet a lot of people who speak Spanish – now I can hold real conversations with them in this lovely language!


CA: How did CultureAlley help you in learning Spanish?
CultureAlley is so professional and contextual that it contains lessons on topics like – if you were in a hotel or in a restaurant – it was very useful learning these for my business.
Its a very cool website and not boring at all! The teachers and founders are available on live chat and they reply to your emails very quickly with a lot of passion. It gives you more momentum and energy to continue your lessons!
Now I am taking the Skype lessons with a coach to perfect what I have learnt and improve my accent!
CA: To conclude, what would you like to tell other learners who are thinking of learning Spanish?
Anthony: At the end, I can tell you that if you really want to start learning Spanish and you don’t have time to register in school or something like that just click and  you will start living your Spanish dream from the second you press on the button!
Thank you very much again CultureAlley Team you have helped me a lot!
13th floor

Friday the 13th and other superstitions!

All of us have heard of, and at some point believed in some superstition or the other! Whether it is about Friday the 13th being an unlucky day, black cats crossing our path, beginner’s luck, bad luck coming in threes, doomsday, and more!

Today we discuss some such interesting (and some amusing) myths, beliefs, and superstitions across cultures!
Starting with the one that happens today – ‘Friday the 13th’ is actually said to be a pretty recent superstition, gaining popularity only post the 18th century!

It is a combination of two older superstitions about Friday and the number 13. Friday has  been considered unlucky for a long time.
In numerology, 12 symbolizes harmony and completeness: 12 months in a year, 12 hours of a clock, twelve signs of the Zodiac, etc…
13, on the other hand is considered irregular.

However, did you know that Friday the 13th is not considered unlucky everywhere?

Spanish speaking countries:
In Spanish-speaking countries (specifically in Spain), instead of Friday, Tuesday the 13th is considered a day of bad luck! There is a saying: “Martes 13: ni te cases, ni te embarques” (Tues 13th: Don´t get married, nor board [a plane]).
Although some Latinos consider Friday the 13th unlucky as well.

13 is actually considered lucky in China! In China, the numbers are considered auspicious or inauspicious based on the Chinese word the number name sounds similar to.
Number 8 is considered extremely lucky because its pronunciation is similar to Chinese pronunciation of ‘prosperity’. The Chinese believe that the numbers 8, 18, 13, and 168 are lucky.
Number 4 is considered unlucky because it sounds similar to the Chinese word for ‘death’. The belief is so strong that 4 is omitted from the elevators, car registration numbers, house numbers, etc…
Gifts in sets of four are also not good because 四 (, four) sounds like 死 (, death).

In Italy too 13th is not considered unlucky. 17 on the other hand is!

Here are some other superstitions:

Spanish speaking world:

  1. If, while sweeping, the broom hits the feet of a single person, that person will never marry!
  2. When offering a toast, look every person in the group in the eye and never toast with a glass of water!
  3. When passing salt, never hand the salt shaker to someone – just keep it on the table for the other person to pick it up


  1. The Chinese believe that clipping toe-nails or finger-nails at night would bring ghosts to that place.
  2. The Chinese believe that the entire house should be cleaned before the New Year’s day. On the New Year’s day, all brooms and brushes are put away and the floors are not swept as it is believed that it may sweep away the good fortune!
  3. Gifting clocks should be avoided because clocks symbolize that the time is running out

The list of-course is endless! Tell us about some superstitions that you have heard of or believe in!

And yes – Happy Friday the 13th :)