Are you planning to visit Madrid? Do you want to spend your holiday in the city famous for its cultural and historical importance? Do you want to experience the best of Madrid and make the most out of your holiday in the Spanish capital?
If your answer is yes, you will need a city guide to help you find your way around the city and ensure you do not miss any of the important landmarks worth visiting.
When to go?
Depending on your situation, choosing the period for your visit might not be as flexible, due to work, school or university classes, etc. These are the reasons that will influence not only the period of the year you will visit the city, but it will also affect the length of stay. Luckily, when it comes to Madrid, Mediterranean climate with mild cool winters and hot summers, creates great weather conditions throughout the year. July and August are the hottest months, with daily temperatures going over 30 °C, and January is the coldest month.
How to get to the city?
The answer to this question mainly depends on where you are traveling from. If you are visiting from another city in Spain, it is likely that you are going to use bus or train to get to Madrid. On the other hand, traveling from a different country, or perhaps from a different continent means you will probably be using a plane to arrive to Madrid. Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport is the main international airport in Madrid. With over 47 million passengers each year and regular flights towards all Europe’s large cities, as well as great connection with Americas, Madrid is considered as one of the largest and business airports in Europe. Conveniently, it is located around 13 kilometers from Madrid city center, which is why tourists can easily reach the historic center of the city.
Transport from the airport:
- Aerocity – This is a type of specialized taxi service, available at 23 euros. One of the downsides is that you may have to share this taxi with two or three more passengers.
- Airport Express (Exprés Aeropuerto) – This is perhaps the most affordable and yet the easiest way to get to the city center. The buses operate 24 hours, every 15 minutes during the day and every 35 minutes during the night. There are stops at terminals T1, T2 and T4, and three stops after the airport: O’Donell, Plaza de Cibeles and Atocha. The cost of transport is 5 euros. The main drawback is that there are only three stops in the city where the bus can take you, meaning you will have to walk or use other types of public transport to arrive to your destination.
Where to go first?
The first place you will visit in Madrid is certainly the accommodation you have booked for yourself, regardless if your choice is a hostel, a hotel or an apartment in the center of Madrid. In case an apartment is your preferred type of accommodation, and you have decided to stay in an apartment in Madrid, you might want to use Aerocity transportation service from the airport, as you will arrive exactly at the destination where you will be staying. Another thing to have in mind is that renting an apartment in the center of Madrid is always advisable if you are visiting for the first time and if you are in the city for a short trip, as this is very convenient when it comes to sightseeing, going out, etc.
Things to know when you first arrive
Since the purpose of this guide is to help you quickly learn how things in Madrid work, here are some things to know if you are visiting for the first time:
Local currency: Euro
Time zone: CEST (UTC/GMT +1)
Language: Official language is Spanish. Even though you will find lots of people being able to communicate using basic English phrases, you will still be much better off if you speak Spanish, or at least understand some basic travel terms.
Working hours: Siesta is an important part of Spanish culture, so you should have this in mind when you explore the city during the day. Siesta is an afternoon rest or a nap, during which most restaurants, cafes and even shops are closed. Therefore, working hours are usually from 9 am until 1:30 pm or 2 pm, and then again from 4 pm or 5 pm until the evening hours. Some restaurants or cafes remain open even until midnight.
Emergency phones: There are a few emergency phones you need to know when you visit the city. Have in mind that they are all toll-free.
- General emergency services – 112
- Madrid City Council Information – 010
- Fire service – 080
- National police – 091
- Municipal police – 092
- Ambulance – 061 or 112
Around the city
Choosing accommodation in the center of the city is great way to explore the city on foot. In this case, you would only need transport to get from the airport to the apartment in the center of Madrid, and you are ready for sightseeing. Most of the landmarks are actually situated in the historic center of the city, enabling you to easily walk from one point of interest to another. On your way, you will definitely enjoy city’s architecture and artistic display, present all around the city.
However, in case you do want to use public transport, here are a few useful tips that will help you optimize your journey around the city and choose the most convenient way to reach a certain location.
- Madrid Metro
Metro in Madrid is known to be very fast and cheap way to travel around the city. It runs from 6:00 am to 1:30 am, in intervals between 2 to 5 minutes, depending on the line. The map of the lines is available at the airport, at the bus or train stations, and in tourist offices. You can also check out the online version of the metro map here.
- Madrid Card
The Madrid Card is a great solution for tourists, as it combines free public transport with a pass for major museums and attractions in Madrid. The Madrid Card includes a tour around the Real Madrid Stadium and the Atlético de Madrid stadium, the Las Ventas bullring tour and a trip on a Cable Car. It also included discounts for restaurants, gift shops, etc. The card contains your name and it cannot be transferred to another person. It is activated the first time you use it, and it is valid on consecutive days, as the card is purchased for the period of days. The price of the ticket starts from 47€ (one-day card).
Image source: http://www.madridcard.com/en/que-es-una-tarjeta-turistica
- Travel Pass
Travel Pass is also a personalized ticket, allowing you to use all types of public transport, and it is valid for 30 day. The price and the type of the ticket depends on the zones you want to visit in Madrid, so the best way to check if this card is what you need is to consult the official page of metro Madrid travel pass.
- Tourist Card
Since most travelers are in the city for a couple of days only, the most practical way for them to use public transport is to use tourist card, which can be purchased in five different types, depending on the number of days the card is valid (1, 2, 3, 5 and 7). There are two zones, but most tourist will be satisfied with Zone A (including the municipal district of Madrid) and the price of the tourist card is from 8.40€.
What to visit?
When it comes to places you should visit, each visit is distinctive and unique. There is no universal itinerary that will be perfect for organizing a trip around the city of Madrid, but Madrid is generally known as a place of culture and rich cultural heritage, with lots of landmarks preserved throughout the history as a legacy that proudly showcases the cultures and art movements that were part of Madrid’s city life.
This is the reason why most tourists choose to visit these particular landmarks in Madrid:
Royal Palace of Madrid is one of the most remarkable buildings in the city, originally constructed in the 18th century, with several renovations over the years. It consists of almost 3500 rooms and it represents one of the largest and most important royal palaces in Europe.
Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/madrid-castle-palace-architecture-328126/
The Golden Triangle of Art is a great place to visit if you are interested in art and culture. The complex is comprised of three most important museums in Madrid, which include: the Prado Museum (National Museum featuring pre-20th-century art), the Reina Sofía Museum (National Museum featuring 20th century modern art), and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum (private museum, historical through contemporary art). Of course, Madrid has a lot more museums, depending on the historic period or art movements you are interested in, which is why we suggest this guide featuring most important museums to visit in Madrid.
The Plaza Mayor is a large square, rectangular in shape, surrounded by three-story residential buildings, which their distinctive red façade and flower-decorated balconies. The square has had tremendous importance in the history of the city, and today is a very important landmark in the center of the city.
Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/main-square-madrid-spain-722707/
The Puerta del Sol is another square in Madrid, which is known as the busiest place in Madrid and favorite meeting point of the locals.
Another landmark you would not want to miss when visiting Madrid is Gran Vía, the upscale street known for its remarkable 20th century architecture and well-known shopping area in the city. It leads from Calle de Alcalá to Plaza de España.
Madrid is known as a green city, with lots of parks and green surfaces inside the central area, but the most famous one is certainly the Retiro Park, which is also the largest park in Madrid. Wonderfully decorated, with lots of interesting landmarks inside the park and cultural events organized throughout the year, this park is definitely one of those must-see places in Madrid.
Where to eat?
The central area of the city is full of restaurants and cafes, where you can have a light snack or a full-size meal. Regardless if you would like tapas or pizzas, if you prefer Italian or Chinese cuisine, or you simply want to try out local specialties such as patata bravas, croquettes, Spanish Tortilla or paella, you will find a lot of interesting restaurants in Madrid.
La Musa Latina – a cheap restaurant offering a large selection of tapas, grill, roasted vegetables and desserts.
Botín – a very popular tavern, serving traditional meals and wines in a lovely surrounding.
La Bodega de los Secretos – seafood, pastas, as well as roasted meat are some of the delicious specialties on the menu of this restaurant in the center of Madrid.
Where to shop?
When we think about shopping in Madrid, we usually associate it with Gran Vía street, where most of the high-end shops are located. Apart from Gran Vía, central area of the city has a lot of shops scattered around so you will find lots of them in the Paseo del Prado or in the Paseo de la Castellana. Mentioning the most famous Madrid’s flea market is also important, so if you prefer flea market instead of big fancy shopping malls, you should visit El Rastro de Madrid.
Which places are on your list of places to visit in Madrid? If you have already visited Madrid, which one of these would you recommend?