Inside the old lift shaft of a former brothel, I’m holding a 22-photo exhibition throughout the months of December and January. Each photograph displayed on these walls is connected to one of our articles, helping you explore Madrid’s less-beaten path.
I’ve created this exhibition for both locals and visitors to Madrid, focusing on the increasingly important ‘responsible tourism’ movement.
Some of the best parts of Madrid are unfairly overlooked because they’re seen as poor, dangerous or culturally insignificant. The objective of this photo exhibit is to dispel these myths and encourage visitors to get off the tour bus, take to their feet, and explore every inch of this vibrant city.
Let each step of this beautiful old lift shaft be your guide to a Madrid not yet touched by gentrification; to our old neighbourhood bars, our vital immigrant communities, and the humble Madrid way of life that will disappear before our eyes unless we, together, do something about it.”
HOW TO BE A RESPONSIBLE TOURIST…
Make a positive impact on the place you’re visiting. For a long time, tourism has focused only on what the tourist can get out of a place, based on an assumption that pumping foreign money into the local economy is all that matters.
Sadly, tourism often causes lasting damage to the local area. It displaces residents through unregulated tourist lets, it congests and pollutes the city centre with giant tour buses, chaotic tuk-tuks and fuel-guzzling classic cars; and it erodes local culture by either encouraging the stereotype or deferring to the comfort blanket of globalised chains.
The increasingly prevalent responsible tourist, however, is conscious of the place they’re visiting and of what they can offer it in return. So what does responsible tourism look like in practice? There are four simple rules:
EAT, DRINK & SHOP LOCALLY
Many iconic bars, restaurants and markets are closing, and they need your help. As their regular customers grow old and their younger clientele are forced out of the neighbourhood by rising rents, many places less obvious to the typical tourist stand to vanish from Madrid’s bustling streetscape, causing irreversible damage to the community.
Don’t let Spain’s traditions, culture and identity melt into a grey, sanitised pool of homogeneous chic. Support our local bars, our local markets, and the places on this blog – they’re the small, family-run businesses that make Madrid the vibrant city that it is.
GET OFF THE BEATEN PATH
If you want to see the true Madrid, you have to dig deeper or travel a bit further out. Use public transport, just as the locals do, and head out of the city centre.
Visit a stunning olive grove just an hour from here, or explore Madrid’s huge cemetery, with its rich areas, poor areas and an anarchist squat, or go to Vallecas, Madrid’s rebellious working-class neighbourhood where you’ll find buildings like this:
APPRECIATE OUR LOCAL CULTURES
As well as Spanish culture, get to know our immigrant communities. Madrid is a world city and we’re proud to be able to pick up a baklava from our Syrian patisserie, share a plate of Cuban ropa vieja between friends, and have our clothes made by a talented tailor from Senegal.
STAY IN AN OFFICIAL HOTEL OR HOSTEL
…because you’re supporting a local business. Don’t stay in an Airbnb – this is an unregulated, disruptive industry that’s displacing local residents. Did you know that around 50% of accommodation in Sol is now exclusively for tourists, and around 12% in the rest of Madrid Centro? Rent prices are increasingly unaffordable for locals, and it’s devastating our communities.
ENJOY YOUR JOURNEY TO THE TOP OF THE STAIRCASE
This exhibition recontextualises Madrid No Frills giving you the chance to see some of our most loved images up close and unplugged. Climb the staircase slowly, making sure to stop at every other step, and when you get to the top, don’t worry; it’s not over. Keep following our blog via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or our newsletter, and let’s continue exploring Madrid together, responsibly.