End-to-end Madrid travel guide | Best things to do

Best Things to do in Madrid for the best trip ever

First steps

Are you planning to visit Madrid city? Do you want to know the best things to do and see in Madrid?  

  • Congrats! You are in the right place.

Here you have the ultimate travel guide to Madrid, the capital of Spain. 

My mission is to help you to make a smart planning for your next trip to Madrid and make the most of your vacations in Spain.

But first, let me introduce myself. My name is Sara and I will be your personal travel guide on your visit to one of the most historic, monumental and cosmopolitan cities in the world. 

  • It’s written by a local. I was born and lived all my life in Madrid and I am sharing with you all my expertise.
  • I’m a professional travel blogger and I have visited more than 45 countries. I know first-hand how important is to properly plan a trip.
  • I’m continuously updating this Madrid travel guide to ensure you get all the actual information and benefit from the best offers and discounts.

To make the reading of this Madrid guide easier for you, I have included a navigation index so you can directly jump to the sections you are interested in. 

Besides, every section links to the specific pages or posts in case you need more info.

  • One more thing! 

If you like the content in Madrid Traveling and I’ve helped you to plan your Madrid city break and find out what to do in Madrid, please, share it on social media and book your flights, hotels and tours through my affiliate links (at no additional cost to you), as I earn a commission if you make a purchase with them.

This Madrid travel guide is quite long, add this page to your bookmarks and come back every time you need to check what to do in Madrid.

Pedestrians walking in Madrid after deciding when to go and how long to stay

Best time to visit Madrid

I could simply say that the best time to go to Madrid is anytime. Every season is different and unique and I’m sure that you will fall in love with the city no matter when you go.

As every person is different, you need to find which is the best time for you. For this, there are some considerations you need to be aware of to decide when to visit Madrid:

  • Weather. The weather in Madrid is quite predictable with quite extreme temperature fluctuations throughout the year.
  • Summer in Madrid is warm and dry, especially from mid-July until mid-August where the temperatures could reach 35-40 ºC / 95-104 ºF.

Days are very long so you can plan your outdoor activities for the earlier and later hours and do the indoor activities in the midday when the sun is hottest. You can also enjoy the Spanish siesta and take a nap after lunch. 

  • Deep winter in Madrid downtown is cold but not extreme. Rainy days are not usual and the city center rarely receives snow.

As thermometers don’t usually go down from 0 ºC / 32 ºF, you should be fine with just a coat. It’s only during January that travelers may get a glimpse of -4 ºC / 25 ºF nights.

Besides, most days are sunny and the thermal sensation goes up with the daylight, this will help you to enjoy all the outdoor things to do in Madrid.

Unless you come from a Nordic country with a freezing climate, you will probably need heavier clothes when the sun goes down.

You need to take into account that the highest and lowest temperatures don’t seem as bad due to the low humidity.

  • Madrid at Christmas time is especially beautiful, you can breathe the magic. It’s a time for family and traditions. I love wandering through the streets of Madrid with the Christmas lights shining and the smell of the roasted chestnuts.
  • Spring and autumn are very pleasant seasons, they don’t last long though. Summer usually overlaps spring, and winter does the same with the autumn. They are my favorite months though.

Visitors will be rewarded with really nice weather, moderate temperatures and with the colorful trees and flowers in Madrid beautiful parks and gardens.

As a general rule, no matter the season, rain boots and umbrella should not be a priority in your luggage.

crystal palace in el Retiro Park in Madrid in front of a lake with Autumn colours
  • Price. Most people cannot choose the best time to go to Madrid.

People usually depend on the work, the school calendar, and other daily responsibilities, which force them to travel when they can.

As a result, most people can travel just during the summer or winter holidays. Easter is usually quite busy too.

It obviously depends on many other factors but I usually notice a significant increase in the prices of flights and accommodation during these peak seasons in Spain.

Therefore, I would recommend you to fly off-season to Madrid if you want to save some money.

If you can´t, and your only available time is on high season, you can follow these tips of Madrid Traveling to find cheap flights to Madrid:

  • Anticipate, but not too much.
  • Be flexible with dates.
  • Follow up on the evolution of the price and establish alerts.
  • Use the “Incognito” mode.
  • Avoid weekends.
  • Don´t discard connecting flights.

You will find more tips to find affordable flights to Madrid in a detailed specific post, don’t skip the reading.

  • Crowds. The number of tourists visiting Madrid is quite stable throughout the year, it just usually decreases a little from November until February, excluding the Christmas holidays. Nevertheless, crowds are never so intense.

You need to know that most of the residents in Madrid (“madrileños”) take off most of July and August and leave the city.

Therefore, you could find some stores closed and some attractions will have reduced the opening hours.

For lower travel rates and significantly shorter lines at attractions, try to avoid, if you can, summer holidays.

Based on all the previous information, in my very personal opinion, the best time to visit Madrid is from March until the end of June or mid-July, September, and October

Days in November start to shorten, and the daylight will have disappeared by 18.00. 

In the recommended months the temperatures are moderate, without an excessive crowd, and probably cheaper flights and accommodation. Days are longer and you will fully enjoy the best sight to see in Madrid as well as the wide range of outdoor activities available and terraces.

Pink calendar on a blue and white table with a star identifying the best time to visit Madrid

How many days to spend in Madrid

Are you wondering which is the minimum number of days to stay in Madrid?

As you will discover when you read my full Madrid travel guide, there are plenty of landmarks, tours, and activities to do in your visit. You will find out that out of the Madrid old town there are also unique places in the world to visit on a one-day trip from Madrid. 

  • This way, in order to decide how long to stay in Madrid, it’s necessary to establish some priorities and identify which is a must-do on your trip.

It depends on the interests and preferences of everyone, but in Madrid Traveling I want to give you at least an idea of how many days you need to spend in Madrid.

In the itineraries section, you will find plenty of different routes for every visitor with the best things to do in Madrid, no matter the duration of the stay. Summarizing, I would point out 3 options:

  • Express: In my opinion, 2-3 days is the minimum stay to see the essential landmarks in Madrid, enjoy the most important parks and have an overview of the main neighborhoods.

At night you will have some time to taste the typical food and attend to a popular show.

In this option public transport must be your ally, you need to go straight to the point without wasting any time. Entering museums must not be a priority as they are quite time-consuming. 

You will probably have no much free time for wandering around or other leisure activities like shopping.

There is a high risk that you will miss some essential points of interest in Madrid and you will need to come back another time.

  • Standard: 4-5 days is my usual answer every time someone asks me.

Planning in advance what to do in Madrid will help you to optimize your stay in Madrid.

You will not depend so much on public transport and you can often enjoy a stroll to the points of interest within walking distance. I love wandering around the cities I visit, it makes the experience much more rewarding.

You will have time to visit the most important museums in Madrid, trying to avoid peak hours and having a general idea of the artworks you want to contemplate.

You will also have more time to enjoy the typical food, wine, and attend some shows. Maybe some free time for shopping.

  • Advanced: 6 days or more are great if you want to live the full experience.

You will have time to not just see but also understand and get involved with the history of all the landmarks of one of the most historic cities in the world.

You will be able to take a break and relax in a terrace, spend an afternoon shopping in some of the most exclusive streets of Europe, or even to take a one-day trip to unique cities like Alcalá de Henares, Toledo, Segovia or Avila.

No matter how long you stay in Madrid, adequate planning is essential. Take a deeper look at my itineraries section to fully customize your travel to Madrid.

Girl looking at the flight board after searching for the cheapest flights to Madrid

Find the cheapest flights to Madrid

Once you have decided when to go to Madrid and how long, you are ready for searching for flights.

  • Do you want to find the cheapest flights to Madrid? The price of plane tickets to Madrid fluctuates a lot. If you make a proper follow-up and read my tips you will be able to get the best offer and save a lot of money. Realize that if you travel with family savings multiply by 3 or 4.

If you come from far away, direct flights are for sure the most comfortable option. However, don’t discard connecting flights, one stop can often imply a significant saving.

Anticipation, flexibility, the use of the “incognito” mode, and the Skyscanner alerts are some of the additional aspects I detail in my guide, and which will make you find the best bargains.

Accommodation – The best place to stay in Madrid

Don’t delay it any longer and book now your accommodation in the best area to stay in Madrid

I always try to book my accommodation in advance when I travel, in order to get the best prices. 

  • I trust in Booking.com for its good reputation and the best price guaranteed. Besides, in most cases, you will not pay anything until your arrival or even departure.

The accommodation offer in Madrid is wide, diverse and for all budgets. There are many alternatives too, you can choose hotels of different categories, apartments, etc.

Another advantage is the efficient public transport in the city. It allows you to easily move in the city center no matter the neighborhood where you stay. Public transport will be your ally to visit the best things to see in Madrid.

So, don’t worry if you cannot find a hotel close to the Royal Palace, Sol, La Latina or Chueca. Hotels in contiguous areas like Retiro, Salamanca, Chamberi, Moncloa, and all along Castellana street are very well located and communicated too. These are some of the best neighborhoods in Madrid.

  • Apartments may be an excellent choice too. They are as clean as hotels, and they usually are cheaper, more spacious, and have a kitchen, which gives you more flexibility for meals. Look carefully the ratings and reviews of previous guests to prevent unpleasant surprises.

Travel insurance, don´t worry about unexpected events

Expect the unexpected, it is something valuable I have learned in my multiple travels. 

A cancellation, disease, or pickpocket can easily ruin your vacations and make you lose a lot of money. That is why I always prefer to be safe than sorry. This is something obvious when you are considering the security of your family and the affordable prices of the family travel insurances nowadays.

I am always happy when I come back safe home without having used the travel protection plan, as that means everything was perfect. For me, the travel insurance premium is not an expense but an investment for my peace of mind.

Check now how affordable is the travel insurance to Madrid with my guide to find the best travel insurance. Don’t worry about unexpected events, just focus on enjoying your vacations in Madrid.

Passport and visa, the necessary documents to travel to Madrid

Documentation for your trip to Madrid – Visa and Passport

Will you need a visa for your vacations in Madrid? Is it required a six-month buffer on the passport’s expiration date?

The documentation required in Spain for tourist purposes varies according to the country of origin:

  • Citizens from any State of the European Union, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein only need a valid national identity document or passport. Be aware that a driving license does not count as a valid ID.
  • Citizens from the United Kingdom and Ireland will require a passport since their countries are not members of the Schengen Area.
  • Citizens from countries like US, Canada or Australia traveling to Spain for less than 3 months do not need a VISA, just a valid passport for at least three months (six months recommended) beyond their stay.
  • Tourists from other countries could need a short-stay or Schengen visa. This document allows you to stay or travel around Schengen countries for no longer than three months (90 days) within a six-month (180-day) period from the date when you first enter the Schengen Area.

You can check here the list of countries whose nationals must be and must not be in possession of a visa.

Visitors, on some occasions, could be requested to justify they have sufficient funds for the stay and a return airline ticket.

For all nationalities, and visitors with other purposes different to tourism, I recommend to check the latest regulations in the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation’s website or contact the Spanish Embassy or Consulate to check all the requirements before starting your journey.

From Madrid airport to the city center

Do you want to know which is the fastest and cheapest way to go from the Adolfo Suarez – Madrid Barajas airport to downtown?

Public transport in Madrid is excellent in quality and price. Once you get to the airport my recommendation is to use public transport to go to downtown, where you will have probably booked your accommodation.

Regarding all the information below, please consider that children under 4 years old travel for free on metro and bus, and under 6 years old on Cercanias trains.

  • Metro

The total cost from the Madrid airport to the city center using Metro Madrid will be under € 5, quite affordable in my opinion compared to other cities I visited all around the world.

The metro line number eight has two stops in the airport: Terminals 1,2,3 and Terminal 4

Don’t worry about the Madrid metro hours, the line is working from 6.05 a.m. to 1.30 a.m. Be aware that the metro station called “Barajas” is in the town, not in the airport.

You could probably need to change to a different line to get to the subway line closest to your accommodation. Moving by Metro Madrid is super easy and you can find subway maps in all the stations and trains.

Be aware that you must have a “Multi” Public Transport Card loaded with a valid ticket type to use Metro Madrid.

Subway station of Metro Madrid, the best public transport in Europe
  • Taxi

I know well how appealing it results to just get a taxi straight to your accommodation after a long flight. Especially, when you carry heavy luggage.

If this is your situation, you will be happy to hear that the taxi fares from the airport to Madrid old town are not high. 

The price for a taxi ride from the Madrid-Barajas airport to the downtown (interior area of the M-30) is a flat rate of € 30 one way. No supplements to this price can be added. Credit card payments are allowed.

Taxi is usually the fastest way of getting to the city center, although it depends on the traffic.

  • Bus

The Airport Express bus runs 24 hours 365 days a year and the rate is € 5. You can pay the driver directly with cash or credit card.

The buses run every 15-20 minutes during the daytime and every 35 minutes at night (23:30-6:00), and the complete journey takes approximately 40 minutes.

  • Train

There is a train connection between the Madrid airport and the city center through the Cercanías C1 and C10 lines.

The service is quite fast too. For instance, it takes 15 minutes to get to Chamartin, 22 minutes to Nuevos Ministerios or 29 minutes to Atocha.

The frequency is every 15-20 minutes and the single-ticket fare is € 2.60.

Madrid tourist cards

The Madrid Tourist Travel pass and the Paseo del Arte pass will allow you to save money on your visit to Madrid.

  • Madrid Tourist Ticket, also referred to as Tourist Travel pass and Madrid city pass, allows visitors 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. 

Most tourists should be 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 city pass.

Visitors can purchase the tourist travel pass in any metro station. The Tourist Travel Passes are pre-loaded onto the Multi Card and once the Pass expires, you will be able to top up the Card with pay-per-ride tickets.

  • The Paseo del Arte pass grants one visit to each of the following three museums: Prado, Reina Sofia, and Thyssen-Bornemisza. These museums should be a must on your list of what to do in Madrid.

The price is € 30.4, which implies a 20% discount on the total cost of all three tickets if they were bought separately. 

An additional advantage is that the access to the museums is direct without the need to queue.

You can purchase the card online or in the ticket offices of the museums. The pass is valid for one year from the date of purchase.

Best things to do in Madrid - Essential landmarks

Do you know what to see In Madrid? Which are the most famous landmarks in Madrid?

Best Things to do in Madrid

Madrid is on the international radar for all of its museums and many other remarkable points of interest. 

There are so many things to see in Madrid that some tourists find overwhelming the daily planning of their vacations. With my help, you will get the perfect schedule to visit the most important landmarks in Madrid.

I strongly recommend you to read my complete guide of what to do in Madrid. I include below just a brief summary of the landmarks I have featured:

  • Museums: Prado, Reina Sofía, Thyssen-Bornemisza and Real Madrid.
  • Constructions: Royal Palace, Almudena Cathedral, Royal Theater, 4 Towers, Bank of Spain.
  • Monuments: Cibeles, Puerta de Alcala, Debod Temple, Faro de Moncloa.
  • Squares: Plaza Mayor, Colon, Oriente, Castilla, 2 de mayo, Plaza de España, Puerta del Sol.
  • Parks & gardens: Retiro, Campo del Moro, Sabatini, Casa de Campo, Parque del Oeste.

All of the previous are a must-see in Madrid but they’re not the only one. Read the Things to do section to get a complete planning of what to see in Madrid and take a look to this amazing video of Madrid:

The Itineraries section is essential too in order to make an efficient planning and don’t waste time on your trip to Madrid. 

Eat and drink

I love Spanish food. It is one of the things I usually miss when I visit other countries. 

I have also found out that most Spanish restaurants out of Spain do not reflect the actual level of Spanish cuisine.

The eating and drinking culture in Spain is one of the greatest attractions in the country. Some Spanish chefs are currently at the forefront of contemporary cooking worldwide.

In addition, wine-producing regions like La Rioja and Ribera del Duero have gained international recognition. If you are eating out, you must taste some of the country’s excellent wines.

  • Enjoying the Spanish food and wine is one of the best things to do on your visit to Madrid.

However, I recommend you to choose carefully the restaurants you try, skipping the ones aimed at a foreign clientele. With my tips, you will find the restaurants in Madrid to eat like a local.

In Madrid, you will be able to try some typical dishes of the capital, but also from other Spanish regions. Some of the most typical dishes are:

  • Madrid: Cocido, broken eggs with ham, croquetas, patatas bravas, squid baguette.
  • Rest of Spain: Potato Omelette, Iberic Ham, Salmorejo and Gazpacho, Rice and Paella.

Apart from this, meat, fish, and seafood are an excellent choice in most of the restaurants I recommend. 

You will also find sensational vegetarian and vegan places in Madrid, as well as top restaurants from many other different nationalities.

Enjoying the nice weather in the city, locals love taking an aperitivo and some tapas with the family or friends in the multiple terraces available. 

In case you have an allergy or food intolerance, ask the waiter for more information about the dishes before you order.

girl in black and red dancing flamenco, one of the roots of the Spanish culture and traditions

Fun and entertainment – Shows and events in Madrid

Are you ready for some fun? Do you know which are the best shows to see in Madrid?

Madrid has an outstanding scene of shows for children and adults, with many types of performances and events ranging from opera or theater to musicals, concerts, festivals, and flamenco shows.

Flamenco shows are a must-see in your visit. You will fall in love with the passion of the music and energy of the dancing, one of the roots of the Spanish culture and traditions.

The agenda of musicals in Madrid is very attractive and complete, full of successful shows which are currently triumphing on the billboard. 

And if you love sports, you cannot miss a soccer match with some of the best players in the world. You won’t find any other place gathering two top soccer teams like Real Madrid and Atletico de Madrid.

Check here my Fun and Entertainment section to find my personal recommendations for the best events and shows in Madrid city at the best price.

Shopping in Madrid

To go on a shopping spree in Madrid is an amazing experience for many visitors and locals. 

In fact, shopping in Madrid is one of my favorite activities. Most times I return home empty-handed, but that is not important. I really enjoy strolling along the beautiful streets of the old town looking at the store windows.

There are thousands of places to shop in Madrid. Consequently, it can be difficult to identify which are the most suitable shopping areas for you. 

I have grouped included below a list of the 6 most important shopping zones in Madrid:

  • Salamanca: The ideal place for those looking for high-end boutiques.

The Golden mile in Madrid is made up of exclusive streets as Ortega y Gasset, Claudio Coello, and Serrano. Loewe, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Chanel, Carolina Herrera, and Adolfo Domínguez are a few examples of both national and international designer stores you will find.

  • Gran Via, Preciados and Carretas: In the very center of Madrid, you will find the most important and international Spanish retailers like Zara. Full of fashionable clothes shops, these are some of the most popular shopping streets in Madrid.
  • Fuencarral, Malasaña, and Chueca: In this trendy and bohemian shopping area, visitors will find lots of fashionable brands, emerging designers, tattoo parlors, interior design shops, bookshops, and plenty of vintage stores.
  • El Rastro: It’s a famous flea market located in the popular neighborhood of La Latina.

It’s held every Sunday and public holiday with 3,500 stalls selling extremely varied objects. It has become one of the most popular things to do in Madrid. It usually gets very crowded, so keep an eye on your belongings and pickpockets.

  • El Corte Ingles: El Corte Ingles is the most important department store in Spain. You can find several stores in Madrid city center like in Nuevos Ministerios, Preciados-Callao, Serrano, and Goya.

El Corte Ingles offers a wide range of products, from clothing, jewelry, and sports to technology, books or food.

  • Las Rozas Village outlet: The best outlet is located on the outskirts of Madrid.

Las Rozas Village is an outdoor shopping center, constructed like a small village with individual buildings housing the various stores. It reminds me of some of the Premium outlets I visited in the US.

Just 30 minutes from the center of Madrid, the Shopping Express coach links the downtown with Las Rozas Village several times a day.

Warner Park is one of the best things to do when you visit Madrid with kids

Madrid with kids

Madrid is an amazing city if you are traveling with kids. There are plenty of family-friendly activities and attractions for your children.

Most of the children won’t fully enjoy a whole day visiting art galleries and monuments. That is totally understandable. You need to find the perfect balance between tourism and fun.

It’s quite easy to do so in Madrid. 

These are a few of the attractions available to enjoy Madrid with kids:

  • Madrid Amusement Park: One of the most complete and modern European theme parks.

Your children will love the 48 attractions available and the amazing shows of the park. One of the park’s latest attractions is The Walking Dead Experience, inspired in the US TV show.

  • Warner Park: Your kids will be greeted by their favorite characters and theme areas.

They will love the large collection of thrilling rides and fun attractions like the Scooby-Doo Adventure interactive ride, the Yogui Bear, the Superman steel attraction, and the Stunt Fall. Fun guaranteed for all ages.

  • Faunia: Faunia is an extensive themed and natural space where adults and kids will learn everything about over 3,000 animals.

The park is divided into ecosystems and themed areas adapted to each species, with their own habitat, temperature, light and humidity conditions. Visitors will be able to enjoy from the extreme cold of the Antarctic to the tropical heat of the Amazon jungle.

A visit to Faunia is essential in case you have traveled to Madrid with kids.

  • Zoo Aquarium: One of the most important zoos in the world.

The Madrid Zoo collects from the smallest insect to the biggest mammal. Children will contemplate over 6,000 animals including elephants, gorillas, koalas, dolphins, sharks, giraffes, kangaroos, and bears.

The Zoo Aquarium is a good opportunity to educate the children and teach them the need for protecting animals.

  • National Museum of Natural Sciences: The main goal of the museum is to promote a more complete understanding of the diversity of the natural world.

Kids will contemplate thousands of minerals, plants, animals, tools, arms, and objects from various cultures and ages, and precious minerals from all continents. Kids will enjoy learning.

Getting around Madrid

Do you know which is the best option for getting around Madrid?

Getting around Madrid is easy and cheap using public transport, one of the most efficient networks in the world.

I love to wander around and get to the attractions walking when I visit new countries. It’s a way to get more involved in the local culture. Walking in Madrid`s old town is an amazing experience. 

However, when distances are excessive or you are short of time it’s priceless to count on good public transport.

  • Metro and taxi are the quickest and the most comfortable ways to get around the city. Buses and Cercanias trains are a good alternative, with plenty of different routes, including the night services, and connections with the airport.
  • The BiciMAD e-bike rental service is becoming an increasingly popular way of getting around. Bike rental is my favorite choice after walking in Madrid, it’s a sustainable and fun way of transport.
  • Every day more tourists rent segways in Madrid as a mean of transport to see the most emblematic spots in Madrid.
  • Online services Uber and Cabify and services such as Car To Go, Emov and Zity, that rent e-cars by the minute, are growing in Madrid.
  • The tourist bus is a great way to visit the most important things to do in Madrid, allowing you to get a good overall view of Madrid, with the flexibility to hop-off the bus to further explore any attractions you particularly like.

Remember that the Madrid Tourist Travel pass is a good way to save money if you expect to use public transport during your stay in Madrid. The Tourist Pass allows you to use the metro, urban buses, and Cercanias trains in Madrid for an unlimited number of trips during the period of time you have purchased.

It’s worth to mention the Madrid Cable Car (Teleferico), which allows you to gaze from the air the Madrid skyline. Monumental buildings, parks, and gardens are at your feet, offering some of the most remarkable views of Madrid.

Image of Segovia with the cathedral alcazar and the Roman aqueduct

One-day trips

There are plenty of awesome and unique places close to Madrid that you can visit in a single day trip and enjoy your stay in Spain to the fullest. Alcala de Henares, El Escorial, Aranjuez, Toledo, Segovia, and Avila are some good examples that you must include in your itinerary.

  • Alcala de Henares was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1998 due to its historical, cultural and artistic legacy. The center of the city remains essentially medieval, with many winding cobbled streets, and amazingly preserved historic buildings.

Alcala was the birthplace of the most acclaimed figure in the Spanish literature, Miguel de Cervantes. His novel Don Quixote has been translated into over 140 languages and dialects; it is, after the Bible, the most-translated book in the world.

  • San Lorenzo de El Escorial is one of the municipalities with greater cultural interest in Madrid. Its main attraction is the Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial (El Escorial monastery), which was declared a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1984.

Juan de Herrera was responsible for the work, using a style characterized by the importance of the lines rather than the abuse of decorative elements that distract attention.  

In a privileged location, El Escorial is a very popular tourist attraction, with more than 500,000 visitors every year.

  • For centuries, the Royal families of Spain have chosen to spend the spring months in the Palace of Aranjuez. Thanks to its vast, stunning gardens, the Cultural Landscape of Aranjuez was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2001.
  • Toledo is one of the most beautiful and historic cities in Spain. It is usually referred to as the city of the three cultures due to the strong influences of Christians, Jews, and Muslims.
  • Segovia is famous for the Roman aqueduct, built in the second half of the first century. You will also be amazed by the Cathedral, the Alcazar, churches, monasteries, and many other astonishing landmarks.
  • The medieval walls are the main landmark in Avila, they are 2.5 kilometers long and they are perfectly preserved.

Packing Essentials

I always make a list before I travel to ensure I don’t forget something essential, especially useful travel accessories that cannot be purchased at the destination. 

You should be fine with my following top ten travel essentials for your travel to Madrid:

  • Valid passport or ID, and visa if necessary.
  • Travel insurance and medical cards.
  • Credit card (and some cash).
  • Bookings and reservations.
  • Medications and first aid kit.
  • Clothes depending on the season and comfortable footwear. Underwear.
  • Toiletries.
  • Sun protection (Sun glasses, Sun screen, Cap or hat).
  • Electronics. Cell phone/laptop/tablet, chargers and plug adapters.
  • Camera and memory cards.

Check the packing essentials section for a fully detailed packing list and a free download of my checklist in .pdf or .xls versions.

suitcase with the packing essentials for your vacations in Madrid

Practical information

There is some basic information you need to know previous to your trip to Madrid:

  • Madrid is the capital of Spain, and one of the most important cities in Europe.
  • It lies at the geographical center of the Iberian Peninsula and presents a dry Mediterranean but nearly Continental climate.
  • Madrid time zone is Central European GMT/UTC +1 hours. In summer GMT/UTC +2 hours.
  • Spanish is the official language in Madrid.
  • The currency in Spain since 2002 is the Euro.
  • In Spain, the power sockets used are of type C and type F. 230V.
  • The phone country code for Spain is +34.
  • The emergency number in Spain (equivalent to 911 in the U.S.) is 112. This number is available 24/7.
  • Regarding meal times, in general terms breakfast is served between 8.00 and 10.00, lunch from 13.00 to 15.30, and dinner from 20.30 to 23.00.
  • Business opening hours start between 9.00-10.00 a.m. and finish between 20.00-22.00. Some small businesses can close for 2 or 3 hours at lunchtime.
  • It is safe to drink tap water in Madrid.
  • Tips are not mandatory but they are welcome especially in restaurants. In case you receive a nice service, a 5%-10% tip will express your gratitude.
  • Restaurants often include in their menus the prices excluding VAT. The VAT in Madrid is 10% for food and non-alcoholic drinks, and 21% for alcoholic beverages.
  • Plenty of free wi-fi hotspots are available for tourists. Some examples are the Adolfo Suarez Madrid-Barajas airport, tourist information offices, public transport (buses) as well as some squares, parks, and museums. Obviously, customers will also have access to the private hotspots of restaurants, ask for the password to the waiter.
  • It is forbidden to smoke in enclosed public spaces (bars, health centers, schools, workplaces, etc.). Fines for smoking in unauthorized areas can reach € 600.
  • Alcohol may not be sold to people under 18 years old. It is also forbidden to consume alcohol on the street, except in outdoor cafés and bars.

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3 thoughts on “End-to-end Madrid travel guide | Best things to do”

  1. It’s the most helpful blog I’ ve seen as my wife and I are planning a trip to Madrid then Barcelona and then a 14 day cruise to the Mediterranean to celebrate our 50 plus years of marriage. We are from Puerto Rico and of course our first language is Spanish.

    • Thanks for your comment Luis. I hope you enjoy that wonderful trip with your wife, it looks awesome.

  2. Very nice guidelines for a traveller. Thank you for your brief explanation of the main spots

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