3 Reasons to Get Lost in Madrid

Michelle Alderink is a student at Grand Valley State University  and an ISA Featured Blogger. Michelle is currently studying abroad with ISA in Granada, Spain

Before I started my trip to Granada I prepared everything I could. I printed maps and guidelines and scoured the internet for the most recommended tourist attractions. During my first week, I was excited to put my knowledge to use and experience all of Spain. Despite my eagerness, I never considered that getting lost would be a valid component to my experience in Spain. While looking for souvenirs as cliché tourists, my friends and I found ourselves lost but decided to make the most of it, discovering the true beauty of Madrid. So, before packing your bags and planning every aspect of your trip abroad, here is a list of reasons why getting lost can actually be quite serendipitous.

  • You can find random attractions you weren’t planning on seeing:

While walking around Madrid, my friends and I were taking in the sights and enjoying our Spanish pastries, we stumbled across a beautiful Baroque-style church with a group of people waiting outside. As we started walking in, we noticed that Mass or ‘Misa’ was starting. Having never been to a Catholic Mass, we decided to participate since Catholicism is the main religion of Spain.

Tasty surprise in Madrid: pastries on calle Mayor
Tasty surprise in Madrid: pastries on calle Mayor
  •  You have liberty to try whatever you’d like AKA- lots of great food :

While continuing on our adventure, we got hungry and decided to try some local cuisine. We found a tiny bar and ordered some Sangria and tapas (deliciosas). As we continued our adventures through Madrid (with no concrete destination) we stumbled upon a ‘churro’ restaurant, where we not only enjoyed delicious churros, but also some amazing hot chocolate.


  • You’ll learn survival skills useful in the rest of your study abroad experience

When we finally realized it was time to head back, we figured we could just use Wi-Fi and Google-map our way back to our hotel in Atocha. However, the Wi-Fi was not adequate so we busted out our map and stepped out onto the streets.  Having to find our way home familiarized us with reading maps, a necessary skill abroad. Also, it forced us to speak Spanish, since we had to ask locals for directions.

Although I recommend simply seeing where the streets of your home abroad take you, I would like to state a few safety precautions to ensure a lively and safe getting-lost-adventure.

  1. Always go out with friends
  2. Never go out super late at night
  3. Trust your instincts- if you find yourself in an unsafe environment, turn around
  4. Stay around areas with available public transportation

Overall, you’re abroad to experience as much as you can, and although planning is important, going with the flow can offer many surprising experiences you would have otherwise never experienced.

2 thoughts

  1. I used to dread getting lost when my Spanish wasn’t very good. Now I bumble all over Buenos Aires with my bad sense of direction, and don’t hesitate to barge into ice cream shops or markets to ask, “Donde queda…? (fill in the blank). The only person who’s ever been grumpy about it was a cop.

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