Getting around Madrid is not always easy.
In this post, I will show you the best and cheapest ways to explore the city.
You will find out that public transport in Madrid is affordable, safe, comfortable and efficient.
Table of contents
- 1 Slow travel in Madrid: Time to take it easy
- 2 Getting to Madrid from the airport
- 3 Getting around Madrid by subway
- 4 Getting around Madrid by bus
- 5 Getting around Madrid by train
- 6 Walking around Madrid
- 7 Getting around Madrid by bike
- 8 Getting around Madrid by car
- 9 Cable car
- 10 Travel Cards
- 11 Useful Apps for getting around Madrid
- 12 Final words
Slow travel in Madrid: Time to take it easy
I believe that walking is the best way to experience any city in the world firsthand.
Slow travel is the most sustainable way of tourism and it allows you to better engage with local people, history, and culture.
It is also true that a tight schedule is quite usual, as most tourists want to make the most of their stay in the capital of Spain.
That is when visitors most appreciate the comfortable, diverse, and efficient ways of getting around Madrid.
The weather in Madrid is generally excellent to enjoy a stroll.
And in my post about the best landmarks in Madrid, I have organized all the top-rated attractions by area.
This way, getting around Madrid is much easier, the ones in a specific area are within walking distance and you can use public transport just to move among the different zones.
» Check out my popular post: 10 Best Things to do in Madrid in Winter.
Your accommodation location is also relevant for getting around Madrid.
Depending on how far it is from the main attractions, you may need to use something more than your feet. Be sure you choose one of the best-located neighborhoods.
Ready to start? Here’s my practical guide to getting around Madrid.
Getting to Madrid from the airport
If you are planning to travel to Madrid, you need to know that Madrid has just one airport serving all the routes arriving and departing from the city.
Adolfo Suarez Madrid-Barajas Airport (code IATA: MAD, code ICAO: LEMD) is located in the northeast of Madrid, Barajas district, only 8 miles (13 kilometers) from Madrid city center.
The total cost of Metro Madrid is under € 5, including a supplementary Airport charge. It is quite an affordable price in my opinion compared to other cities I visited all around the world.
Metro Madrid is fast, comfortable, safe, and economic.
However, the best option to go from the airport to the city center will obviously depend on the area where you have booked your accommodation when visiting Madrid.
In my guide to getting from Madrid Airport to the City Center, you will find detailed information about how to get there by metro as well as other excellent options such as bus, train, taxi, or car rental.
Getting around Madrid by subway
Public transport in Madrid is cheap, fast, clean, and comfortable.
Getting around Madrid by subway will get you to the top-rated monuments in just a few minutes. This way you will save time and make the most of your trip to Madrid.
As I said before, there is nothing better than walking in Madrid but if you want to travel fast you have to go underground.
With more than 300 hundred stations, 294 km of network, and 2,400 trains, Madrid´s subway is one of the best and safest in the world.
More than 2 million travelers enjoy every day one of the most popular means of getting around Madrid.
Madrid Metro lines are identified by both their number and their color, as you can see on official metro signs and maps.
Madrid´s subway stations can be accessed from the street. You will find signs on lampposts guiding you to the nearest station.
You will need a transport card to enter the subway.
You can purchase them and top them up in the user-friendly machines located in all the subway stations. Credit cards are accepted and children under 4 years old can travel without a ticket.
There are several types of transport cards but most locals and visitors use the Multi Card.
The price of this card is €2.50 and you can load single and 10-journey tickets.
The Multi Card can be consecutively validated as many times as passengers are using the service with the same card. Just be aware that all of them need to begin and end their journey together.
In order to get to the station platform, just swipe the Multi Card through the active turnstiles which are highlighted with a green arrow.
Inside the Madrid Metro stations, you will find plenty of information and orientation signs to help you find out where you are and how to get to your destination.
The panels located on the platforms of all stations inform travelers about the waiting times for the next trains.
Wait for the train to completely stop before approaching it and let people out before going in.
When the train arrives at your destination station, you will find green signs on the platforms and corridors indicating the exit and the nearest streets.
The subway in Madrid operates from 6 a.m. to 1.30 a.m. Metro is the fastest way of getting around Madrid and it is open almost 24/7.
The Metro Madrid official app is available for both Android and iOS.
It is really convenient for getting around Madrid by subway. Among others, you can get information about the stations closest to your location, waiting times for the next trains, and calculate the best route to your final destination.
I find pretty useful for getting around Madrid this touristic map of the subway network:
Madrid Metro is fast, comfortable, extensive, affordable, and safe.
What else could you ask for on your trip to Spain? A single ticket can get you anywhere in the city.
Getting around Madrid by bus
Save time, stress, and money getting around Madrid on public transport. Madrid´s public buses are a convenient and cheap way to move.
Most times buses will not be as fast as the subway but they offer plenty of sightseeing opportunities along the way.
Buses in Madrid run from 6 am till 11.30 pm from Monday to Friday and the usual frequency is 4-15 minutes, depending on the line and the time of day.
On weekends and public holidays, they run from 7 am till 11 pm and buses are slightly less frequent.
After 11.30 the city operates night buses for some specific routes.
Most of the bus stops in Madrid have electronic displays which indicate the waiting time for the next bus to arrive.
When you are waiting at the bus stop, you must signal to the driver that you wish to board as the bus approaches.
If not, the bus could skip the stop and continue its route.
The line number and direction are indicated on the front of the bus and both sides of the bus. Anyway, in case you are not completely sure, ask the driver.
You get on the bus at the front and get off at the rear door of the bus.
The Multi Card must be validated in the ticket stamping machines on EMT buses.
Tickets can be purchased on board too and can be paid for by card. Currently, the price of a single ticket is 1.5 €. Be aware that notes larger than 5€ are usually not accepted.
As it happens in the subway, children under the age of 4 travel for free when getting around Madrid by bus.
In most cases, buses only stop at designated bus stops, and only upon request. To ask the driver to let you off at the next bus stop, you must press the button before you reach it.
Madrid buses can sometimes be faster than the subway and passengers can enjoy the views. Anyway, be aware of the time and skip rush hours to avoid traffic jams.
EMT has created this website with an interactive map that allows you to check the estimated waiting times, calculate the best bus route plan between two points, and other interesting aspects for getting around Madrid by bus.
Hop on hop off
Madrid Hop on Hop off touristic bus is one of the easiest and most convenient ways of getting around Madrid and discovering the most popular attractions in the city.
I am not such a big fan of this type of tourism as I usually prefer walking to get more involved with the history and culture of the places I visit.
But this is indeed an excellent and pleasant option if, for example, you do not spend much time in Madrid.
All you have to do is purchase your ticket, hop on the bus, put on your earphones, listen to the recorded commentaries and enjoy the tour, monuments, and other attractions you pass by.
You can hop off the designated route at the stop you want, as many times as you like.
You will also benefit from free wifi on board.
Prices, routes, and other information can be found on the official site.
Getting around Madrid by train
The Renfe service consists of 9 train lines connecting the center to its surrounding suburbs.
Getting around Madrid by train Trains in Madrid is an excellent option due to the high quality of the service. However, it is true that you will not probably need to use them on your trip to Madrid unless you want to make a one-day trip.
The Renfe lines have fewer stops than Metro Madrid and EMT buses, which is why they are more convenient for long distances.
However, if your visit focuses on the attractions of the city center, subway, bus, and walking should be your usual options for getting around Madrid.
As many locals leave outside the city center, every morning they use the train to go to work and to get back home in the afternoon.
Trains start running in Madrid every day between 5 am and 6 am and stop at around midnight. They normally run every 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the line and day of the week.
» Check out my popular post: 10 Reasons to visit Madrid, Spain.
Getting around Madrid by train is quite affordable too, although the price varies depending on the distance traveled.
Train tickets can be purchased in the self-service machines located in the Cercanías stations.
The same line can sometimes have different destinations. Be sure you take a look at the information displays placed on the platforms to get on the right train.
Walking around Madrid
Madrid is a beautiful city to explore on foot.
The weather is really nice most of the year and many of the city’s top landmarks are within easy walking distance.
For me, walking is the best option for getting around Madrid.
It is true that there could be long distances to cover but good planning will allow you to explore the city by neighborhood.
This is why I have prepared a comprehensive guide with the best landmarks and monuments in Madrid by area. It will be key to saving time and making the most of your trip to Spain.
Strolling around the city will allow you to immerse yourself in the local culture and traditions. It will also allow you to discover some of Madrid´s hidden gems.
Madrid also has a wide offer of free walking tours that are usually given by young, local guides who are often students. There is no fee to participate in a walking tour, but if you enjoyed yourself a tip will be welcomed.
Getting around Madrid by bike
Madrid is increasingly bike-friendly, and the network of cycling lanes is growing every day.
You will enjoy the city at your own pace in a healthy and sustainable way.
Rain is not usual in Madrid so weather conditions will be probably quite good to enjoy a ride. Summer can be quite hot though, so remember to carry enough water.
Getting around Madrid by bike is an excellent and sustainable option.
Madrid´s public bicycle scheme is called BiciMAD and is a great and healthy way to discover the city, especially for short rides around the city center.
BiciMAD offers a comprehensive, practical, and simple service with more than 2,500 electric bikes. Besides, it is really simple to use.
You can sign up as an occasional user at the docking station totem, where you can choose among a 1, 3, or 5-day pass.
You will insert the requested information in the totems as well as the credit card number where you will receive the charge (cash payments are not allowed).
Although BiciMAD will immediately block 150€, they will charge you 2 € for the first hour and 4 € for every additional hour.
You can rent a bike at any of the docking stations and leave it in any other.
You will be billed at the end of the selected period depending on the use of the service.
The mobile app also allows you to check in real time if any bikes are available at the nearest pick-up point.
To pick up a bike the base must be showing a green light. Just approach your card you got from the totem until you hear a sound and the bike will be released.
To return a bike, the base must have a red light. Make sure that the bike is well placed when you leave it, to avoid extra charges. If it is correctly placed the base will go green and you will hear a noise.
However, getting around Madrid by bike requires extra care. Remember that children under 16 years old must wear a helmet, wear reflective clothing in the dark, obey all traffic signs and lights, and do not cycle on pavements.
The electric bikes are an entertaining way to discover and get around Madrid.
Getting around Madrid by segway is a unique experience. A segway tour is a perfect way to feel Madrid´s spirit, visit the main city attractions, and have fun at the same time.
Segway tours are safe and children-friendly. You will get an orientation instruction and practice session before even starting the tour and a safety helmet is provided for each person.
It is advisable to wear comfortable clothes.
There are many Segway tour companies with different packages. Choose the one you prefer and book the tour now.
It is a thrilling experience!
Getting around Madrid by car
Getting around Madrid by taxi
A taxi is probably the most comfortable option for getting around Madrid. It is often the fastest too although it depends on the traffic.
Official taxis in Madrid are easily recognizable, white-colored with a red stripe and the coat-of-arms of the city on their doors.
If a taxi is free, the green light on its roof sign is lit and all you have to do is raise your hand to hail it.
There are also taxi ranks throughout the city with a recognizable blue signpost.
Taxis in Madrid are a popular option for locals and tourists, especially at night, on rainy days, or if you are carrying heavy luggage.
Getting around Madrid by taxi is indeed more expensive than other means of transport, but the tariffs are affordable too and less expensive than in other major European cities.
All vehicles accept payment by credit card.
The fare is based on a price per distance. There is a minimum fare that varies depending on the day of the week and some extra charges could apply depending on the origin or destination.
A flat-rate fare of 30 euros has been set for all trips from Barajas to Madrid city center and vice versa.
Some taxi drivers in Madrid speak and understand English, at least at a basic level. But, to avoid misunderstandings, I recommend you to show them a paper or a mobile screen with the address.
Getting around Madrid by ridesharing (Uber)
As in most countries in Europe and America, there are several ridesharing companies active in Madrid. The most popular ones are Uber and Cabify.
If you are new to ride sharing, this is a service that arranges one-way transportation on short notice. They are pretty popular as they are easy to use and rates are competitive.
To use a ridesharing program, you will just need a smartphone, a credit card or Paypal account, and the corresponding App.
Some of the pros of getting around Madrid by ridesharing are that you can see the price to be charged in advance when you book the ride.
And you can even watch the driver move on the map as the car gets closer to your location.
The entire transaction is handled by the app and your credit card is charged automatically.
It is quite convenient as the driver does not handle any cash or credit card information.
Getting around Madrid by ride sharing is a safe option and these companies make safety a priority.
However, as it is better to be safe than sorry, always check the driver’s review score in the app and verify the identity of the driver and the car before entering the vehicle.
» Check out my popular post: Free Museums in Madrid.
Driving in Madrid
Most of the must-see attractions in Madrid are in the city center and visitors can easily visit them walking or, for long distances, public transportation in Madrid will cover all your needs downtown.
It is a good idea to avoid driving in Madrid, due to the heavy traffic at peak times and the limited parking in certain areas.
Besides, this is the less sustainable option. I will just recommend you to rent a car if you are heading out of the city on a day trip to a place that public transport does not reach.
If you finally need to drive while in Madrid, make sure you are fully aware of the rules of the road and respect speed limits.
Most importantly, remember that in Madrid you drive on the right and safety belts are compulsory in both the front and back seats.
Before you travel, check if you can use your foreign driving license during your trip to Spain.
And always use a reputable car rental company with the best insurance coverage.
A cable car (or funicular) is a unique way of getting around Madrid. It goes from Paseo de Rosales to Casa de Campo in a 11-minute ride.
Traveling 40 meters up in the air, it takes you on a special sightseeing tour that offers a bird’s eye view of the city. A recorded voice describes everything you see, from the Royal Palace and La Almudena Cathedral to the San Antonio de la Florida chapel.
The Madrid Cable Car offers the chance to fly over the city and gaze from the air at the most historical Madrid landmarks.
Monumental buildings, parks, and gardens will be at your feet, offering one of the most evocative views of the capital of Spain.
If you expect to use public transport extensively for getting around Madrid, it is worth thinking about getting a travel tourist pass covering the subway, bus, and train.
Madrid Tourist Ticket, also referred to as Tourist Travel pass and Madrid city pass, is a travel card that allows you to use all types of public transport (metro, urban buses, and Cercanias trains) in Madrid.
You are allowed to take unlimited trips within your chosen timeframe: 1, 2, 3, 5, and 7 calendar days.
You should be probably fine with just Zone A, and the prices are € 8.4 for 1 day, € 14.2 for 2 days, € 18.4 for three days, € 22.6 for four days, € 26.8 for five days, and € 35.4 for seven days.
Children under 11 years old have a 50% discount when purchasing the Madrid tourist ticket.
Visitors can purchase the tourist travel pass at any metro station.
The Tourist Travel Passes are loaded onto the Multi Card and once the Pass expires, you will be able to top up the Card with pay-per-ride tickets.
While planning your trip to Madrid you should consider how much you will use Madrid´s public transport. If you expect to use it often you will probably save money by getting this tourist ticket for getting around Madrid.
Useful Apps for getting around Madrid
Today, there is an app for almost everything.
In fact, all the ways for getting around Madrid commented before have their own apps, such as Metro Madrid, Uber, and BiciMAD.
However, downloading numerous apps does not make much sense and it is not practical at all.
For sure you can use the BiciMAD app if you are finally getting around Madrid by bike, but here I will just share with you the app that I use most to get around the places I visit:
With over 100 million downloads, this app is very popular among travelers and is essential for getting around Madrid.
All you have to do is input your destination in the app, which will track your current location and suggest several available public transport options.
After choosing the one you prefer, Moovit will outline step-by-step directions to get to your required destination.
In case the journey requires a change of bus or train, Moovit offers real-time information on estimated waiting times. Based on my experience, they are pretty accurate but it usually depends on the country.
While you move, the app will keep you updated on nearby attractions and notify you when you are close to the destination.
Getting around Madrid has never been so easy.
I hope you liked this post about the best ways to get around Madrid, let´s make a summary:
What is the best way to get around Madrid?
The best way to get around Madrid is on foot and by subway. Due to the Spanish nice weather, you can walk to the main attractions, and wandering along the city center is the best way to immerse yourself in Madrid´s culture and history. For longer distances, Madrid Metro is fast, comfortable, safe, and affordable.
What is the cheapest way to get around Madrid?
On foot. And it is the most sustainable too. Madrid´s subway and buses are pretty cheap too compared to other European cities. Madrid´s transport network is efficient, affordable, and safe. It is one of the best in the world.
Do you need a car in Madrid?
No. A car is completely unnecessary in Madrid, especially for a short stay. You will find heavy traffic at peak times and limited parking spaces in certain areas. I will just recommend you to drive in Madrid if you are heading out of the city on a day trip to a place that public transport does not reach.