Madrid Travel Guide

The excitement and anticipation that overwhelm you when preparing for a trip can sometimes distract you from planning every single detail about your upcoming travel. With so many things to consider, such as booking a ticket, packing and making the flight in time, you might forget about planning the itinerary for the actual time you will be spending in Madrid.

You do not need to worry, because we have a perfect Madrid travel guide, which is going to help you with practical information you will need when staying in Madrid, as well as suggestions on places to visit.

Few facts about Madrid

When traveling to Madrid, you will benefit from knowing few things about the city, such as:

  • Madrid is the capital city of Spain.
  • The metropolitan area has population of approximately 6.5 million, making it the third-largest city in EU.
  • Official currency is Euro.
  • Official language is Spanish.
  • Time zone: CEST – Central European Summer Time (UTC/GMT +2 hours)

Getting to the city

There are several ways to get to the city, and airport is one of the most convenient ways if you are traveling from abroad. Madrid-Barajas Airport is located 13 km from the city so once you get to the airport, you will easily reach the center of the city. There are several types of transport available to you at the airport:

  • Rent a car – Although a more costly option, this is something you could consider if you would like to be mobile while in the city, if you are planning on visiting landmarks that are away from the city center or shopping malls located in the outskirts.
  • Take a taxi – It is certainly a cheaper option, but provides the same convenience when it comes to traveling from the airport to the accommodation. Lots of taxi drivers are circulating around the arriving terminals, so you do not need any phone numbers in advance. You will see them once you leave the terminal.
  • Shuttle – This is specialized taxi service with fixed pricing of 23 Euros. However, this is not an exclusive ride and you will have to share the taxi with other passengers in case you are traveling solo.
  • Airport Express (Exprés Aeropuerto) – Buses operate 24 and take passengers from the airport’s terminal T1, T2 and T4 to one of these three places in the city: O’Donell, Plaza de Cibeles and Atocha. Ride at 5 Euros is certainly the main benefit for choosing the bus, but since it is an express bus, it has only three stops in the city, after which you will have to find other ways to reach your final destination.
  • Commuter train – Terminal 4 is connected to Atocha and Chamartin train station with a commuter train C-1. The train is available from 6 am until 10:30 pm with a ticket from €2.60.
  • Metro – Line 8 goes to Nuevos Ministerios station from all terminals, but to reach city center you will have to change metro line twice, which might be inconvenient if you have a lot of luggage.

In case you would like to use a train to arrive to Madrid, there is a connection with the French coast and Paris. Buses connect the city with major cities in Europe, and these international departures are scheduled from the Estación Sur de Autobuses. Metro is quite near the bus station, providing great connection with the rest of the city.

Finding apartment in Madrid

Preferably, you will have already found your accommodation prior to arriving to the city. Even though Madrid has a lot to offer when it comes to tourist accommodation including hotels, hostels and apartments in Madrid, during the peak season it can become more difficult to find accommodation. Therefore, it is advisable to book accommodation in advance. Due to conveniences and flexibility, we would suggest apartments in Madrid rather than any other type of accommodation. When it comes to how to rent an apartment in Madrid, we suggest browsing online as the best way to find available apartments in the city.

Finding your way around the city

Madrid has excellent public transport, allowing travelers to easily find their way around the city even if they are first time visiting. Different parts of the city are connected with 12 metro lines. The entire map of metro lines is available online.

 Metro and Light Rail Network - Madrid

Image source: https://www.metromadrid.es/export/sites/metro/comun/documentos/planos/Planoesquematicoingles.pdf

When walking around the city and looking for interesting landmarks to see, you will need a map. Tourist offices will have different kinds of maps available, including the one with metro lines, but you can always use an online map. Here is an interesting map of the central area of the city with the most important landmarks being represented through small graphics.

 Map of the central area - Madrid

Image source: http://www.esmadrid.com/sites/default/files/documentos/mapa_bloc_esp-ing_22082016.pdf

Going around the city with your map exploring the local landmarks is a great way to explore the city and get to experience your unique tour of Madrid. However, you will get in contact with a lot of locals, so learning a couple of Spanish phrases can be very helpful. Plus, the locals will be delighted by your trying to learn their language. Here are a couple of phrases you might need:

Hello/Hi (informal) – Hola
Have a good day – Que pase un buen día
How are you? (informal) – ¿Cómo estás?

How are you? (formal) – ¿Cómo está usted?
Fine, thank you – Muy bien, gracias.
Thank you – Gracias
I’m sorry – Lo siento / perdón
Goodbye – Adiós, Hasta luego
I speak a little Spanish. – Hablo un poco de español.
I can’t speak Spanish (well) – No hablo (bien) español
Do you speak English? (informal) – ¿Hablas inglés?
Do you speak English? (formal) – ¿Habla usted inglés?
Yes – Sí
No – No

If you need more helpful Spanish phrases, if you want to learn the numbers and how to tell time in Spanish, here is a great phrasebook which includes instructions on how to pronounce each phrase: Spanish Phrasebook.

Sightseeing of Madrid

Since the purpose of this travel guide is to help you get acquainted with the city and how to get the most when exploring the capital city of Spain, here are some suggestions on what to visit in Madrid.

  • Enjoy the art

If you are fond of art, Madrid is a place where you will absolutely enjoy! Permanent and temporary collections in the museums are always available and all you need to do is pick a museum in Madrid you would like to visit and have amazing time. Some museums offer free admission, while those that do charge the admission fee usually have group discounts and days when they offer free admission for everyone. When paying admission fee, the tickets start from 1.5 Euros and they can be up to 17 Euros. The prices in one museum may vary depending on the exhibition you want to visit. Most museums in Madrid are closed on Mondays and have shorter working hours on weekends.

However, there is more art to be seen apart from the museums. You could visit galleries and attend exhibitions. You could find out more about the Spanish royals by visiting the Royal Palace of Madrid and explore the art works displayed inside. Either way, you will get to experience the art works, some of which are centuries old and for an art lover, this would be an art tour of Madrid you will remember forever.

  • Admire the architecture

Madrid is well-known for its architecture that preserves the original look of historic neighborhoods especially in the central area of the city. As you walk down the streets of the city you get to admire the buildings and constructions that are product of different epochs, each of them leaving the traces on both interior and exterior. The Paseo del Prado is one of those streets where you get to see how the city landscape has changed over the centuries, preserving the best of the city’s history and heritage that will last for generations to come and still be symbols this city can be proud of.

 Madrid - Arquitecture

Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/madrid-building-architecture-385104/

  • Indulge in the local cuisine

Since Spanish cuisine is renowned worldwide, it is only fair to explore these famous dishes and tastes in the original surrounding. Numerous restaurants, cafes, pasty shops and bars are scattered around the city, especially in the central area. Dinner is typically served later in Spain, so an ideal time to have dinner when in Madrid is around 8 or 9 pm. Here is a guide with interesting places you could visit when it comes to eating out: Madrid Gastronomic Guide.

  • Visit the landmarks

Visiting the landmarks is your primary goal when visiting Madrid as a traveler, but as you explore the map of Madrid, you will notice that there is so many interesting places you could visit. If you are going to spend only a few days in the city, you might find it difficult to choose which places to visit, and which ones you will have to leave for some other trip to Madrid. The three must-see places in Madrid we would recommend are the Royal Palace of Madrid, the Retiro Park and the Gran Via Street. They are all located in the city center, so if you rent an apartment in the center of Madrid, you will certainly have time to visit them, regardless how short your stay is.

  • Explore further

While most travelers tend to focus their stay in the central area where they go sightseeing, as most of the landmarks are in fact located in the center of the city, there is more to be seen in Madrid than the central part. Visiting outskirts of Madrid is an amazing opportunity to see some historic places and small towns surrounding Madrid. Alcalá de Henares and Toledo are two of those, both of which are UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.

  • Have fun

If you would like to find out about even more about what to do in Madrid, here is the list of ten things to do in Madrid. The city of Madrid is also well known place to go out and have fun, so all those outgoing people will enjoy the friendly atmosphere in the local cafes and bars. Another popular form of entertainment in the city are festivals. Most of them are organized during the period of nice weather which start from April and ends in October. Explore some options and suggestions related to festivals in Madrid here.

Ten Things to Do in Madrid

When you first arrive to the capital city of Spain, you might face a great dilemma when it comes to which places to visit and what things to do in Madrid. Since the city is such a popular tourist destination, you might have some general idea on which places are the most visited in Madrid, but it is always helpful to have a quick guide to discover things you need to experience in Madrid.

As a provider of apartments in Madrid, we have met a lot of tourists from all over the world, coming to the city eager to explore it and learn about its culture and customs, and we have come to know the most popular places every tourist would love to see. We are going to highlight the most commonly visited places, and if you are visiting Madrid, this is a great list of the things you could do while in the city.

Visit the museums

Famous center of culture and art, Madrid is a place one could not leave without visiting at least one museum. The abundance of museums scattered around the city provides all sorts of exciting collections and exhibitions which will satisfy all sorts of travelers. The most popular area is certainly in the Paseo del Prado, with the Prado Museum being located there. As the most visited museum in the city, it stands out as the place most tourists are eager to visit. The main reason for this is the rich collection owned by the museum and displayed in an impressive interior as you are exploring different epochs and enjoy the works of art created by both local and international artists. Two other museum located close by include Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía and Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. Together, all three of them make the famous Golden Triangle of Art, a common point of interest for all art lovers visiting the city. Convenient location and impressive collections make these three the most visited museums in Madrid, but the city has so much more to offer. If you are interested in more ideas on which museums to visit in Madrid, here are some suggestions: Museums to Visit in Madrid.

Have coffee at the plaza

Squares in Madrid are known as plazas, and they have historically been places of great interest for the local life. They usually were the places where local celebrations, fairs and other public events took place, but today they are still essential part of the city, where you will meet a lot of people, find a lot of shops and cafes. Nice weather and great company are enough reasons for you to decide to enjoy a cup of coffee in one of those cafes at the plaza in Madrid. While there, you will enjoy the view and perhaps plan some impromptu shopping adventure nearby.

Go for shopping adventure

Traveling is a great way to experience new places and meet new traditions, but for all shopaholics out there, this is also a great opportunity to scout some new stores and check out the latest items that have just found their way into the stores. When it comes to shopping in Madrid, the central area is the best way to start, as most stores are located in this part of the city. Of course, if you prefer indoor shopping, which is particularly recommended during the bad weather conditions, you might want to visit one of the shopping malls. While in Madrid, make sure you check out some of the famous Spanish brands, such as Zara, Bershka, Stradivarius, Pull&Bear, Sfera, etc. Although you might have these stores in your home town, it is always nice to visit the stores in the Spanish capital, where these brands originated from.

Walk around the Retiro Park

Although there are so many wonderful parks around Madrid, the Retiro Park is certainly the most famous one in the city. It is also the largest one, with so many activities for the visitors, which is the reason why we include this landmark in the list of ten things to do in Madrid. Walking around the park and enjoying the nature is an amazing way to spend an afternoon in Madrid. Of course, if you are up for some sightseeing, the Crystal Palace, the Monument to Alfonso XII and Rosaleda del Retiro are some of the places you will find worth visiting while in the park. Depending on the time of the year you visit, you might come across book fairs, exhibitions, street performances, fireworks and other entertaining activities organized for the park visitors.

 

Retiro Park

Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/input-park-removal-madrid-door-1523566/

Enjoy the view from the cable car

It might be an unusual way to explore the city, but when in Madrid you will have a unique opportunity to see the city from the cable car going above the buildings and houses from the Paseo del Pintor Rosales street over the River Manzanares and into the Casa de Campo park. The cable car, called el Teleférico, was built as a part of the amusement park Parque de Atracciones. It reaches the height o 40 meters above the ground and this exciting ride takes around 10 minutes from start to finish, with the route being approximately 2.5 kilometers long. As you reach the top at the Casa de Campo park, you will get to enjoy panoramic view of the city, so prepare yourself to take lots of cool photos.

Try local specialties

When traveling to new places, one of the must-do things is embracing the local tradition and trying specialties that are typical for the cuisine of the country you are visiting. Madrid and the Spanish cuisine are well-known around the world, so you have probably heard about the dishes such as paella, tortillas, croquetas, huevos rotos, curros con chocolate, etc. Even though you might have tried these dishes, there is nothing better than visiting one of the local restaurants and coffee shops to taste dishes prepared based on traditional, decades-old recipes that actually created specialties that have been replicated in many restaurants around the world.

Information about which places to visit is available in this gastronomic guide, with tips and recommendations for choosing some of the best and the most popular restaurants, pastry shops and tapas in Madrid.

Explore the city on a bike

Hop on/hop off buses and similar city tours are part of every large city tourist offer, as they are popular and convenient way to explore large part of the city more efficiently. However, bike tours are growing in popularity, being a more eco-friendly solution, as well as healthier and more interesting option for travelers. If you are in a good shape, and if you are comfortable riding a bike for great lengths (usually up to a couple of hours, with breaks), exploring the city on a bike is a perfect choice for you. You can rent a bike and come up with your own route of famous landmarks, but it is more advisable to join a group of travelers exploring the city on their bikes, with a guide, knowing just which streets to avoid and how to safely reach a specific destination.

Admire the architecture

Wherever you go around Madrid, you will be able to see plenty of notable buildings designed under many art influences throughout the city’s rich history. Many of those centuries-old buildings are preserved nowadays as remnants of the turbulent past and city life that has been present in the central areas for centuries now. The Royal Palace of Madrid and the Royal Theatre are two architectural landmarks worth visiting as notable buildings of historic importance and great cultural value. The Gran Vía is also great place to visit when it comes to admiring the architecture as it showcases patterns ranging from Vienna Secession style, Plateresque, Neo-Mudéjar, Art Deco and other styles influencing the final outcome we know today.

 

Madrid - Architecture

Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/spain-madrid-architecture-capital-985372/

Visit the Mercado de San Miguel

A covered market located in the central area of Madrid, the Mercado de San Miguel has become one of the greatest symbols of the city’s tradition and one of the places you need to visit when in the city. The food market is designed to showcase the amazing dishes of Spanish cuisine in pleasant surroundings. Variety of different specialties offered is what attracts so many tourists turning this into a landmark worth visiting.

Relax with a glass of sangria

Regardless if you would rather drink wine, or if you prefer the sweet taste of sangria, Madrid is the place to be for all fond of a glass of wine in the evening. When in Madrid, visit a cafe or a bar where you will be provided with the finest selection of local wines or sangria. In some bars, you will be able to order tapas with wine, making this a typical evening out in Madrid. Most popular places are located in the center of the city, which makes it very convenient to visit them. And since you are on vacation, relaxing with a glass of sangria or wine is what makes this visit even more complete.

Once you get back to your apartment in Madrid, you are left with a unique experience as you finished a fulfilled day of sightseeing. As the impressions start to pile up, you will get to sum up everything and plan the next day of your Madrid adventure.