Beat the Heat in Madrid: 9 ways to cool off like a local this summer

June 11, 2023

Summertime.

If there’s one thing nearly everyone in Madrid can agree on these days, it’s this…

It’s hot.

And in a country where many houses don’t have air conditioning, and where the price of electricity is constantly rising, this is more than a minor problem.

Every summer, like clockwork, the temperature rises and local residents – seemingly – are shocked.

Eso no es normal, they can be heard to say. ¡Hace mucho calor!

Of course, the heat, for the most part is normal. There’s even a proverb about Madrid’s fabulous weather: Tres meses de infierno y nueve meses de invierno.

And right now, it’s time for the infierno part of the story.

What should a good madrileño do to beat the heat?

The debate rages on, as many Spaniards are also convinced that a bit of A/C will kill you faster than the 2014 ebola outbreak.

Updated: or, um, the Coronavirus.

So to help you stay cool, I’ve compiled this short list of tips. If you’re looking to avoid (or at least feel better about) these next few weeks of sticky, sweaty discomfort, try these ways to beat the heat in Madrid.

This article is also a new podcast… check it out!

Or read on, for all the fun…

1. Drop those persianas

I have to say, these rolling shutters most houses in Spain have are a pretty good invention.

But they work so much better if you actually have A/C.

You can effectively shut the sunlight (and part of the heat) out of your house by having them down during the day, but don’t kid yourself.

Unless you have the windows open, or the aircon on, it’ll still be hot. And sweating in stagnant air can’t be any better for you than a little draft, in my opinion.

2. Be a vampire

Staying indoors till sundown seems to be a popular option among locals.

You might, naturally, have other things to do during daylight hours than lie in a dark, coffin-like room waiting for nightfall. A day job, perhaps?

But if you have a lifestyle that permits it, then by all means: stay in bed with a wet towel on your head all you want.

Patience, though: Did I mention it gets dark around 10 PM in summer? Yep. 10 PM. 

Thanks to Spain’s silly choice of timezone back during the dictatorship, you might be spending quite a lot of time at home.

3. Get in touch with your inner bovine

Back on the ranch in Arizona, where the heat is, in fact, much worse than in Madrid, I can’t remember eating lighter or colder foods in summer.

My mom would make a nice hearty beef stew in January or in August, no sweat.

Pass the biscuits!

But at this time of year, a lot of “real” Spaniards go on an all-salad-and-gazpacho diet.

And to be fair, eating lighter in summer does seem to work.

While a piping-hot plate of lentils with chorizo is a delicious way to spend a long Spanish evening, a salad with some tuna and hard boiled egg won’t heat you up nearly as much and might let you sleep a lot easier.

4. Hang out in the park

This one also depends, of course, on your not having a job to go to during the day.

But if you can, by all means: Parque Retiro is beautiful at this time of year and it’ll be full of people sitting around and enjoying life in the shade, as Europeans know how to do oh so well.

If you’re tired of Retiro, there are some other parks around town that are quite nice, too: Casa de Campo, Parque Berlin, El Capricho and more.

Get some shade and some green in your life, and you won’t notice the heat quite so much.

5. Get out of town

This is another option. Perhaps more expensive than catching the metro to Retiro, but unless you’re (for example) an English teacher watching the contents of your “secret money sock” approach zero in August, you can probably afford to head for the beach for a few days.

And you’re in luck!

Being on a peninsula means that Spain is surrounded on all sides by beautiful beaches.

The most famous are in Valencia, Alicante and Andalucía, but you shouldn’t forget the north coast either. Galicia, Asturias and País Vasco are all worth a visit too.

And if you prefer, another options is to head for the hills. The mountains to the north of Madrid are beautiful, and lots of locals love to take a day trip to Cercedilla, Miraflores or one of the other cute towns for a cooling-off and perhaps a walk in the woods.

how to beat the heat in madrid this summer
The natural pool in Rascafría. PhotoRaul A on Flickr.

And of course, there’s the wet and wild option…

6. Get all sloppy and wet

Madrid has some pretty nice public pools. Check out the one in Lago (Casa de Campo) or Moncloa, or check this list to see if there’s one in your neighborhood.

It’ll cost you a few euros to get in, but afterwards you can sit around all day on the grass, relax, have a picnic, enjoy the scenery. Whatever you want!

If you want to go further out, there’s a (very cold) natural pool in Cercedilla, surrounded by pines and mountains. And another in Rascafría.

The pools, fed by water from mountain streams, seem to be just above freezing at any time of year, even if it’s insanely hot downtown.

In other words: cold! But I enjoyed it, and you might too.

Also…

7. Move to one of the “pueblos blancos”

Of course, in Andalucía they’ve been dealing with the heat for millennia, and they have their own strategies.

Many small towns are painted all white, which reflects the sun and keeps people inside the houses cool.

how to beat the summer heat in Spain
Not a pueblo blanco, but you get the idea. This is Puerto de Santa Maria, Cádiz. Photo by Daniel Welsch.

The streets are narrow, which provides some much-needed shade, and you can sit in one of those lovely Andalusian patios and enjoy a respite from the heat in the afternoon. Have some sherry while you’re at it, and a tortillita de camarones (little shrimp omelette) – you won’t regret it.

Of course, all of that is small comfort for those of us living in Madrid, where summer is a ghost town, with these wide streets where the sun beats down on you like a hammer and you find yourself wishing that autumn would come sooner.

8. Drink more beer

This one, much to my liver’s chagrin, is my personal favorite.

My advice?

Find a terraza and stop being all puritanical about drinking between meals.

Listen: if America was built by colonists who stayed hydrated on pints of beer and huge quantities of wine (and it was), there shouldn’t be a problem with sitting back and letting the Mahou flow freely…

At least until the weather cools down and it’s time to order some Rioja.

And finally…

9. Beat the heat in Madrid by moving somewhere hotter…

If all else fails…

This solution isn’t exactly practical, but trust me, it works.  I grew up in the desert outside Phoenix, Arizona.

Want heat?

Try spending a couple of decades out there.

We don’t even have shade, for the most part, unless standing in the shadow of a giant cactus works for you. (Don’t even try sitting down–everything in the desert has spines.)

After you’ve done ten or twenty Sonoran Desert summers, come back to Madrid and let’s talk. It’ll feel a lot cooler, I promise.

By the way, is the aircon-makes-you-sick thing just an old wives’ tale, or can you actually get a cold from the chilly blasts of air at the office?

Well, funny thing about that… The jury’s still out. Science says: maybe.

Coldly yours,

Mr Chorizo.

P.S. So. How are you dealing with the heat this summer? Let us know in the comments!

P.P.S. The aircon-makes-you-sick thing is just one of the many fun things you discover about Spanish culture when you date a Spanish girl. Check out 7 things you should know for more about that.

P.P.P.S. Just hope they don’t cut your water in August. It sucks. Ask me how I know.

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About the Author Daniel

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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  1. Hello Daniel.

    You can also spend the afternoon in the department stores enjoying their free air conditioning.

    Regards.

  2. Great post! As a Phoenician myself everyone always says this heat in Madrid is nothing compared to the desert… But I always found I was FREEZING in Phoenix all summer long because everyone cracks the air conditioner so cold that I have to carry a sweater every where I go! Its a whole new battle here when you’re sweating inside your house… I survive with this weird Chilly Towel I bought in Phoenix and luckily my in-laws have pools in their buildings! Glad to know there are other Arizonans here ❤️

  3. Hi Daniel, a good place where you can enjoy a lot being cool and even get a cold in a hot summer day in Spain is in a cinema.
    All the best

  4. Not that you haven’t mentioned some in your post, but here are my tips:

    At home, let the early morning fresh air (if any) run through your apartment so the whole structure cools down. Then close all the windows and pull the shutters down. It would be sensible to instal an awning outside those windows receiving the longest sunshine during daytime.

    As you said, avoid any sources of heat in the house: forget about the cooker, the oven, the laptop and keep electric appliance use to a minimum. A fan during the hottest hours in the day may be the exception to this. Air conditioning can keep you chilled indoors, but you’re throwing an awful lot of heat into the air outside, which will eventually come back in for you. Public places like libraries and culture centres make a much more efficient use of air conditioning, keep you chilled and make a good daytrip for your laptop.

    Outdoors, go to the corniche (that’s the stretch Templo de Debod – Parque de las vistillas down Bailen St) in the late evening. Stunning sunsets and chiller sensation as the wind usually blows there.

    Anywhere near Casa de Campo or along the river banks should bring some relief, especially in the last hours of the day, where the heat still can be felt.

  5. Hey Daniel-

    Nice article! I’m a recent arrival. Former RN out of Scottsdale – I formerly split my time between Prescott and Scottsdale with an anual dose of Argentina. Living the Madrid life for 4 months after visiting for many, many years.

    I’m currently in a rear / internal Salamanca (cave) apartment with no sun on the 3rd floor… windows closed and experimenting with a home-made evap cooler. LOL I’m with my wet laundry drying with an indoor fan. (I knew I should have stocked up on my psych meds!) But seriously, you know what- it’s working. Chill breezes. That smell awesome. (Fabric softener is mandatory.)

    Your site came up when I googled, “Does Madrid use Evap Coolers when it’s hot and the humidity is low?”

    Anyhow- off to Retiro after getting some salads y practico mi Espanol.

    Stay cool- (& do laundry or is this a failed experiment you AZ guy?)

    1. Hey George! I’ve never heard of evaporative coolers in Spain. It’s definitely worth prioritizing windows and A/C in your living space, if there’s any way you can afford it, though. Have fun down in Madrid! (I’m from N. Scottsdale, right around Dynamite Road, by the way.)

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