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Madrid Travel Guide- Everything You Need to Know

Madrid Travel Guide

Madrid, the capital of Spain, is a beautiful city to visit. It has a rich history, pedestrian friendly streets, the Royal Palace of Madrid, many plazas to stroll or relax in, Retiro Park to relax in and rent a row boat, Mercado de San Miguel and many more amazing things to experience. In this Madrid travel guide, we will share what you need to know before you travel to Madrid for the first time. We’ll also provide a list of things to do in Madrid, many of which we’ve enjoyed personally during our time in Madrid. This Madrid travel guide will also have a list of best restaurants, including what to order, what things to buy in Madrid, where to stay in Madrid and answers to all of your most frequently asked questions. Check out our Madrid travel guide below, and links to more in depth Madrid content.

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Madrid Travel Guide Frequently Asked Questions

Why should you travel to Madrid?

Madrid is a great city in Spain to travel to. It is a very large city, filled with many things to do, parks and plazas to explore, many tapas and wine bars and shopping. In Madrid, you’ll find iconic landmarks like the Royal Palace of Madrid, Retiro Park and the Prado Museum which rivals the Louvre in Paris. When artists have their international tours, often Madrid is one of the cities on their European leg, and often tickets are cheaper in Madrid than the United States. Madrid is also an incredible city to see a soccer / football game. Whether you are a solo traveler, couple traveling, on a girls trip or on a family vacation, Madrid is a great place to travel to.

Easiest Way to Get to Madrid

The easiest way to reach Madrid is by flying into Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport. Madrid’s main airport has connections to major cities worldwide. From the airport, travelers can conveniently take a taxi or use the metro system to get to Madrid’s city center. If you are already in Spain, it is also easy to take the high-speed train from many cities in Spain to Madrid.

What US cities have direct flights to Madrid?

There are many US cities that have direct flights to Madrid. In general you can expect direct flights to Madrid from New York City (JFK), Newark, New Jersey (EWR), Miami International Airport (MIA), Chicago (ORD), and Los Angeles (LAX).

What European cities have direct flights to Madrid?

There are many European cities that have direct flights to Madrid, including London, Paris, Rome, Berlin, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Lisbon, Brussels, Athens, Dublin, Zurich and Vienna. It is very easy to travel to many other destinations in Europe to and from Madrid with a direct flight.

What cities are connected to Madrid by train?

Madrid is well-connected to other Spanish cities and European capitals through a high-speed train network. In Spain, you’ll find cities like Barcelona, Valencia, Seville and Malaga are easily accessible to/ from Madrid through the high-speed train network. There are also international cities connected by train to Madrid including Paris, Marseille and Lisbon.

What do I need to know before going to Madrid?

  • Madrid has a robust public transit system and it is easy to use public transportation to travel within Madrid and also very easy to use high speed rail to travel to other cities within Spain.
  • If you’re in Spain already, like Seville or Barcelona, it is easier and cheaper to take the train than to fly. Barcelona to Madrid for example is about a 2 and a half to 3 hour train ride depending on the train.
  • It is very easy to start in Madrid, flying direct and then fly direct out of another city in Spain, like Barcelona since both cities have a lot of direct flights to and from the US.
  • The airport is 20-30 min from central Madrid, and in June of 2024 the rate was set at 33 Euros to get to the airport.
  • Cabify is the “uber” in Spain, easy to use but often takes 10 min for the car to arrive. You’ll need to download it ahead of time as when you download it you need to wait 15 minutes to book your first ride.
  • Ensure your passport is valid for at least 6 months beyond your intended departure date to ensure smooth travel
  • Europe is starting new visa requirements for US travelers, but this is now delayed until 2024 or 2025. When it starts, US travelers between 18-70 years old will need to fill out an ETIAS visa-waiver form prior to their trip, and pay a €7 entry fee, to travel to European countries within the Schengen Area. This will be valid for three years or until your passport expires. It’s expected to have a quick turnaround but it’s important to plan and submit ahead of your trip.
  • The official language is Spanish, and English is not always understood so download Google Translate ahead of time incase you need Google to translate your English to Spanish. Many restaurants have English menus.
  • Madrid has a typical Mediterranean climate, and you can expect hot, dry summers and relatively mild winters.
  • The currency is the Euro.
  • AMEX is not accepted everywhere but is accepted some places. It is best to bring another credit card with you.
  • Credit cards are widely accepted, though every now and then a taxi driver will have issues with their credit card machine or you want to get a cold water on the street so it’s best to have a little cash with you.
  • Tipping is not obligatory but appreciated. In restaurants, rounding up the bill or leaving about 5-10%. For taxis and other services, small tips are sufficient.
  • Spain uses a 230-volt, 50 Hz electricity supply with Type C and Type F power plugs and sockets.
  • The dress code in Madrid is generally casual, though you do not see much athleisure walking around.
  • The food in Madrid is great and there are a lot of affordable options, though the touristy spots can be more expensive, like in the plazas.
  • Don’t miss out on trying local food specialties like jamon, cheese, basque cheesecake, hot chocolate and churros, Spanish wine, tapas, Spanish omelet, and seafood. 
  • Pay attention to the public holidays in Madrid as they can affect business hours.
  • Madrid has a siesta culture, and many shops are closed in the afternoon for siesta, typically from 2pm to 5pm. Dinners also start late, usually with the earliest seating at 8pm, though many people don’t start having dinner until 9pm or later.

What are the best day trips from Madrid?

Madrid’s central location offers easy access to several day trips, but if it is your first trip to Madrid / Spain in general you may find your time is best spent visiting other destinations in Spain for a few days like Barcelona, Seville and Mallorca. From Madrid, you can explore Toledo, which is known for its architecture and history. Segovia is another potential day trip from Madrid which has a castle. If you enjoy wine, you can go to the scenic vineyards of Ribera del  Duero. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, you may want to visit Sierra de Guadarrama National Park to go hiking.

What are the best things to do in Madrid?

The best things to do in Madrid include spending a few hours at the Royal Palace of Madrid, strolling around plazas like Plaza mayor, and renting a row boat in Retiro Park. In Madrid, you can also visit museums like the Prado Museum, eat at the Mercado de San Miguel and much more. For our full guide, see the best things to do in Madrid.

How many days should I spend in Madrid?

The ideal number of days to spend in Madrid depends on your interests and what pace you want to explore the city. In general, a good rule of thumb is to spend 3 days in Madrid. This will give you time to explore iconic landmarks like the Royal Palace of Madrid and El Retiro Park, go on leisurely strolls around the city and plazas and enjoy the culinary scene. Spending only 3 days in Madrid will also provide time to spend in other Spanish cities like Barcelona and Seville, which are both easily accessible by train from Madrid.

Best time of year to visit Madrid

The best time to visit Madrid largely depends on your preferences and interests. Spring (March to May) and fall (September to November) are generally considered the optimal times to visit, as the weather is mild and pleasant. During these shoulder seasons, it’s the perfect temperature for spending time outside exploring Madrid’s outdoor attractions and charming neighborhoods. If you’re interested in seeing a soccer / football game in Madrid, the season usually runs from August to May.

What is Madrid famous for?

Madrid is the capital of Spain, and is famous for having world-class museums, stunning architecture, incredible parks and plazas and overall being a great city to walk around. Here, art enthusiasts will love the Prado Museum. Families will love how easy it is to walk around with a stroller and visit the many parks and playgrounds for free. The Royal Palace of Madrid is an incredible place to see and admire the details and grandeur. Madrid is also famous for its tapas culture, late night dinners, soccer games and flamenco performances.

What is the weather like in Madrid?

Madrid has a Mediterranean climate which includes hot, dry summers and relatively mild winters. Summer months, from June to August, will have temperatures rise from high 80s to low 90s Fahrenheit (around 30-35 degrees Celsius) and there may also be occasional heatwaves. The sunny, dry weather during this time is good for all of the outdoor attractions and walking around Madrid, though some may find it a bit too hot and prefer to visit during the shoulder seasons when it is a bit cooler. Winters, from December to February, are cooler but still mild compared to other European cities, with temperatures ranging from the mid-30s to mid-50s Fahrenheit (2-12 degrees Celsius). Snow is rare in Madrid, though there are occasional morning frosts. Spring (March to May) and fall (September to November) offer pleasant weather. During these shoulder seasons temperatures range from the 50s to 70s Fahrenheit (10-25 degrees Celsius). Visitors who don’t like the weather too hot or too cold will find the shoulder seasons the ideal time to visit.

Is Madrid Safe?

Overall, Madrid is considered a safe destination for travelers. Madrid has a low crime rate and violent crime is rare in most areas. However, Madrid is still a major city. It’s essential to take common-sense precautions to ensure your safety and especially your belongings. In crowded tourist areas especially, pickpocketing can occur. Keep belongings secure, and be cautious of scams. Spain sometimes has protests and demonstrations, especially in major cities.

Driving in Madrid

Renting a car in Madrid is really unnecessary. It is easy to get around the city by walking, taking a taxi / Uber/ Cabify, or public transportation. Even if you are traveling a little outside of the central part of the city, like to the soccer stadium, it is easy to take the train and it is also easy to take a taxi or Cabify to get there and back. In Madrid, streets can be very narrow and there is a lot of pedestrian traffic. Parking can be scarce and expensive in the city center. Additionally, Madrid operates a strict low-emission zone (Madrid Central) where only residents and authorized vehicles can enter without facing fines, so be mindful of any restrictions. It will cause more stress to rent a car than it is worth while you are on vacation.  If you need to rent a car to explore outside the city, the road network is well-maintained and major highways connect major cities and regions. In Spain, you drive on the right side of the road like in the United States.

How to save money traveling in Madrid

Traveling to Madrid on a budget is very achievable. To save the most money, travel during the off season or shoulder seasons so you can get better pricing on hotels and airfare. Also, make sure to book your hotels early to get the best price and also the cheapest room at the hotel. Madrid has a robust public transportation network, not just within the city, but also has high speed trains connecting it to other cities like Barcelona which makes it affordable to travel to different destinations within Spain. If you prefer to take taxis, we found that the taxis in Madrid were cheaper than taxis and Ubers in many US cities as well as major European cities like London and Paris. There are many things to do in Madrid that are completely free, like visiting attractions like all of the plazas, El Retiro Park, the Egyptian Ruins of Madrid and strolling around the city. A glass of wine sometimes only costs a few euros more than a bottle of water. Walking around at night, we saw many neighborhood bars where people congregated outside enjoying the weather and a cheap beer or glass of wine. There are also many great, affordable dinners and lunches in Madrid. If you can get a great deal on airfare, and a great rate at a hotel, the rest of your trip to Madrid will be easy to keep affordable.

Madrid Travel Guide Conclusion

In conclusion, Madrid is a great city to travel to, and we hope this travel guide helped plan your first visit to Madrid. Whether you choose to visit only Madrid, or multiple other destinations in Spain like Barcelona and Mallorca, your trip to Madrid promises to be a great one.

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