Madrid Pride. It’s one of, if not the, largest Pride events in Europe. Visited by around 2 million people every year, this week long festival is jam packed full of amazing parties, events, street festivals and a parade that will knock the socks of anyone game enough to visit. Known as Orgullo (Spanish for Pride), the whole event is open to, and greatly visited by, people from all walks of life, so finding your LGBT+ brothers and sisters may be a little trickier earlier in the festival.
Not only is the Main Parade on Saturday afternoon at 6pm, the WE Party festival begins a few days earlier and provides a mega-gay party event every day until the end of the festival. For those who aren’t into the massive man-flesh crush that is a circuit festival – and I know you’re out there – the City of Madrid offered a complete week of events and live music concerts and DJ’s to keep you dancing until the early hours of morning.
Our week began with a short trip from the airport to Madrid centre which is easily accessible by a combination of the Metro (40+ mins) or the Metro and the TVL train (20+ mins). The tickets are available in cards of ten, and you’ll need to buy an airport pass for a few euro extra per person when you leave the airport on the metro. Exact fares and combinations available alter depending on if you’re arriving to T 1-3, or T4, but the trip takes about 30 minutes, and costs less than 5€ each way.
Once in town, we had a cosy little apartment looking over Placa del Sol, which is a main meeting point, tourist hub and metro/highspeed rail station. From Sol it’s a short walk up the affectionately named ‘Hooker Street’, which is lined with women asking you to dine in her restaurant, or men and women, offering more intimate nights out, towards Chueca which is the main gay area of the city. Not that during Pride it’s easy to tell the gay areas from the non-gay areas: pride flags fly from almost every balcony, shop window, store front, stores have ‘pride sales’, and seeming pop-up-stores appear out of nowhere to sell ‘minis’, which are basically 700ml cups of mojito or sangria. No one seems to know why they’re called minis – it’s just a Madrid thing.
All around Chueca you can find singing, dancing, music, and people relaxing and drinking, and generally having a good time. It’s here that you can find tiny little bars that will sell you a beer for 6€ and also give you a plate of tapas for free – each new beer brings a new plate – it can be a very cheap way to eat out on some local(ish) specialties. Speaking of specialties, *the* thing to eat in Madrid is calamari on a baguette, and the best place to have it, is a cute little diner called The Little Bell. It seems to be almost all they serve, and is literally deep-fried calamari on a short baguette bread. It’s wonderfully delicious if not a little strange. As my friend Matt commented: ‘How is seafood a specialty in a city in the middle of Spain?’ While we’re on food, traditional Madrid food is a wonderful mix of seafood and meat. Dishes are covered more in oil than not, and if you want a salad with your plate of meat, make sure you order a side salad, or you might literally get a quarter of a tomato as your salad. It seemed to me that the lovely Spaniards aren’t big on ‘healthy’ eating.
Despite the seemingly unhealthy food, the Spaniards are generally a very attractive people. And the Pride parade gives them ample opportunity to show it all off. The parade starts at 6pm, so that it’s not too hot, although when we arrived to watch at about 8pm, the local firefighters were hosing down the crowd with the truck hoses. Unfortunately they were all fully dressed. The crowd on the other hand, not so much. While some people just went shirtless, others came in costumes of all kinds, rainbows were flying from every visible hand, surface, tree, and body. They even had a massive rainbow flag draped over the Madrid Town Hall from top to bottom in the first time in the parade’s history. The parade made its way slowly down the street past a water fountain lit in rainbow colours, towards the Town Hall, where a massive stage had been set up to provide a live band and an all-night party to entertain the crowd for hours. One of the interesting things about the Madrid pride is that it is not only frequented by Madrid’s gay population, but also by other members of the general community, bringing families and friends together to enjoy the celebration of individual expression and acceptance that embodies the modern pride parade era.
The Madrid pride festival runs for a week at the beginning of July each year. Dates vary from year to year, the parade is always on the Saturday at the end of the festival beginning at 6pm. Nightly free street festivals and concerts are presented by the City of Madrid free of charge at various sites around the city.
Madrid is serviced by all major airlines from cities across the UK and Europe.