With numerous restaurants, grocery stores, stunning architecture and activities for over three million people, traveling to Madrid with food allergies is an excellent choice. Located in the middle of Spain, Madrid is also a hub for transportation, making it easy and efficient to access other areas of the country and popular cities like Barcelona.
On my last visit to Madrid, I did not have a very positive experience with food allergies (read more here). Eight years later and my impression of Madrid has taken a complete 180 and has certainly made up for my initial visit. On this trip, I found fun allergy-friendly options, explored neighborhoods off the beaten track, and felt more comfortable dining out safely.
Getting To Madrid, Spain:
Flying to Madrid: I flew from the U.S. to the UK on Air Canada for a quick stop before heading to Madrid. I then flew Norwegian Air from London to Madrid. All flights were uneventful. I checked in before boarding the flights and I didn’t see any nuts served on my flights. To read more on how I handle flying with food allergies go here.
Transportation in Madrid, Spain:
I took the metro everywhere in the city. The metro is comprehensive, clean, and well marked and takes you basically anywhere. I definitely recommend getting a metro card if you are there for more than a day or two. I bought one with ten rides and used them all within the first week.
I also took Uber on a few occasions because of timing and hotel locations.
Where To Stay in Madrid, Spain:
I hopped around while I was in Madrid. I started my trip at an AirBnb for the first week I was there. I had two conferences spread out over a few weeks, so in between I explored other areas of the city. I rarely dine inside hotels because I rather roam around and explore, so I only ate at two of the hotels below. Both worked with my food allergies and made safe dishes for me.
- Radisson Blu Hotel, Madrid Prado– Near Atocha Station and all of the museums including the Prado. The location is the best part of this hotel. My room was tiny each time I stayed here. I was also able to successfully eat at this hotel.
- AC Hotel San Sebastian de Los Reyes– I stayed here during a Summit we held for work in this area of the city. I was able to eat here for lunch and dinner using my chef card.
- Zenit Abeba – This hotel is in the Salamanca District and I found it for a reasonable price on Hotel Tonight. The hotel itself was clean and the room size was better.
- H10 Puerta de Alcala – Another hotel in the Salamanca District. This hotel was fun and modern. I liked the aesthetic and it had a rooftop bar. The room size was also decent and the rooms were clean with nice amenities.
Where To Eat in Madrid, Spain:
Spain is known for its small plates of tapas which are typically shared. This can prove challenging with food allergies. Fish is prevalent but can be avoided. They are also known for “tortilla de patatas” which is a Spanish omlette. Be aware if you are allergic to potato. Spain is part of the EU and therefore some menus do label the top 14 allergens on their menu. Overall, allergy awareness is considerably better than it has ever been in Spain and I didn’t get turned away from many restaurants because of my long list of food allergies. Most restaurants were willing to help find something safe or make a dish safely for me. The restaurants I’ve listed were all willing and able to safely work around my food allergies.
- Numa Pompilio Restaurante: Beautiful restaurant with European high-end style and delightful Italian food. This was a fairly pricey meal for Madrid but they did well with my food allergies and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
- Restaurant Casa Carmen: This was inside a shopping center near the hotel I was staying in for our work Summit. The manager was so kind and did such a lovely job of making anyone with food allergies feel welcome. The food was also delicious!
- Restaurante Botin: The oldest restaurant in the world according to Guiness World Records. Botin was established in 1725 and has taken care of the likes of Ernest Hemingway. It is a fun experience and definitely worth a visit if you have time and can get a reservation. I was traveling alone and was able to get a small table without much difficulty however I think in general you need a reservation in advance.
- Mercado de San Miguel: There are countless stalls of different foods at this market. I was able to find a stand that only had meat (and there was one that only had cheese but I chose the meat). I asked ingredients and was able to eat the jamon (Spanish ham). The crackers that came with it were also safe for me. This was a MAJOR allergy win since I often struggle to find anything safe in markets.
- Casa Galleta: This restaurant is cozy. I recommend getting a reservation if there is more than one dining. They were able to work with my food allergies when I walked in and make a safe pasta dish. I was also able to eat their bread which they made at the restaurant.
- Los Arcos: Go here for a drink and enjoy the people watching in Plaza Mayor. The food is typical, overpriced and not especially good. They did manage to make pizza safely though with my food allergies, so if you’re in the area and starving it’s a okay option.
What To Drink in Madrid, Spain:
I tend to drink wine when I am out, however Spain is known for Sangria. When I decided to have Sangria instead, I always asked about the ingredients to make sure no liquors or anything else unexpected was in it. Typically, Sangria consists of red wine and fruit, but some can also have brandy or other alcohols, so I ask first. I didn’t have any difficulty with this and if I was concerned I would just order a glass of wine instead (which is also quite delicious there). Rioja is a favorite of mine!
Allergy- Friendly Sweets in Madrid, Spain:
For sweets, churros and chocolate are well-known and quite popular in Madrid. I asked about ingredients, but was told there was likely some small amount of nut in the chocolate (which I already had assumed). They thought the churro ingredients could be safe for nut allergies though. I chose not to try a churro, however I think it could be worth investigating more if you really want to try one. If you have nut allergies, I would definitely avoid the chocolate without question.
- Confitería Marqués– This is a beautiful bakery that is gluten free, nut free, peanut free, dairy free, vegan, and free of other common allergens. It is still infrequent to find safe bakeries in the U.S., so I hadn’t envisioned finding one in Spain! The bakery is owned by Alejandro and Lordes, who are truly passionate about what they do! They kindly took time to show me the kitchen, how they make it safe, and why they chose to make it so allergy friendly. I tried countless sweets there, including some European desserts that I’ve heard of but never tried, like a Sacher Tort known in Austria or Spanish cookies called Palmiers (elephant ears).
To see a video of the bakery and meet Alex and Lordes, go to my YouTube channel here.
Grocery Stores in Madrid, Spain:
When I first arrived in Madrid, one of the first stops I made after dropping off my bags at the AirBnB was the grocery store. Check out my video here. Below are the addresses of the grocery stores mentioned in my video.
- Dia– Av. de Asturias, 40, Near Ventilla Metro
- This is a common grocery chain but has fewer options and this one in particular was in a neighborhood outside the main city center.
- Carrefour Market– Calle de Valencia, 2, Near Antón Martín Metro
- There are tons around the city and I would expect that they would have similar options. The Express ones may have more limited choices though since they are smaller.
- Mercadona– Calle de Serrano, 61, in Salamanca neighborhood
- This grocery chain has some great milk alternative options and gluten free choices as well.
What To See & Do in Madrid, Spain:
There are countless things to see and do in Madrid. Below are some of my favorites from this trip as well as some popular tourist spots.
- Plaza Mayor– A central main square with cafes and restaurants around it.
- Puerta del Sol– This is the zero kilometer mark for five roads that begin from this square. Side note: If you forget your phone or computer charger, there is a massive Apple store there.
- Prado Museum – The first time I came to Madrid I went to this museum to see the famous Las Meninas by Valazquez, as well as other artists like El Greco and Goya. Even if you’re not a museum person, this is the Spanish Louvre; its memorable, impressive, and a must-see. I’ve been twice now! A combined ticket to go to Museo Nacional Centro de Arte, Reina Sofia and Museo Thyssen- Bornemisza is around 30 Euro. I highly suggest buying your tickets ahead of time to save on waiting in line.
- Real Jardin Botanico– During part of my stay, I was right across from these beautiful gardens. The Royal Botanical Gardens are impressive and definitely worth the visit. It has been in its current location since 1781 and has been an important location for the study of botany, with over 5,000 species from all across the world. There are stunning terraces, greenhouses, and exhibits.
- Parque de El Retiro– I went for some excellent long runs through this park. I couldn’t believe how many runners and running groups I saw during my time in Spain and especially in this area not far from the Prado Museum.
- Centro Cultural Flamenco De Madrid, Conde de Xiquena, 6 This was the best, most personal Flamenco show I’ve seen in Madrid. The audience is no more than 40 or so people. It is in a small theater and you feel like you are part of the experience. The artistic director and performer, Leilah Broukhim is incredibly talented. Definitely highly recommend.
- Royal Palace– I didn’t make it there on this trip, but I definitely recommend a visit from my previous trip here.
Allergy- Friendly Things to Know About:
The Oficina de Informacion de Turismo, Comunidad de Madrid at Alcala 31 has printed chef cards to check off your allergens in Spanish. It also has the emergency number and is written in a very specific way that I think is excellent. These same cards can be printed online here and this guide.
Trips from Madrid
Since Madrid is a main transportation hub, it makes travel to other areas of Spain simple and efficient. There are many high speed trains that make getting across the country very doable for a weekend trip. While I was there I went on three different weekend trips, two overnight trips and one day trip. I was able to get around easily and found the entire process to go relatively smoothly. One tip I would suggest is booking your train ahead of going to the station becuse they do get booked up throughout the day. Most reservations I made the day before without a problem.
- Segovia- A short train to this impressive little spot, with its incredible Roman aqueduct, Gothic Cathedral and the Alcazar, a royal palace. It has its own Plaza Mayor which is a busy spot and good meeting point for visitors. Take the train for about 14 Euro one-way from Madrid.
Both of these cities below were highlights of my time in Spain. There are upcoming blog posts that will get tagged once they are published below.