Madrid Travel Guide: Your Complete Handbook to the Spanish Capital

Introduction to my Madrid travel guide

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

My goal is to assist you in planning your next trip to Madrid wisely and ensure you get the most out of your vacation 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. But why is this the best Madrid travel guide?

This Madrid travel guide by Madrid Traveling is quite extensive. Be sure to bookmark this page and return whenever you need to find out the best things to do in Madrid. Plus, each section links to specific posts with detailed information.

Puerta de Alcalá

Is Madrid safe?

Yes. Madrid is a safe destination. Like other well-developed European cities, the living standards and personal safety are very high in Madrid.

Pickpocketing is the most common form of street crime in Madrid, especially around popular tourist attractions. Scams are also a risk around tourist spots.

The Madrid Pride festivities, famous worldwide, are a good example of the existing freedom, tolerance, and respect. The biggest day is the Madrid Pride Parade, which brings more than a million and a half people each year to the streets of the capital to continue demonstrating for LGBTQ+ rights.

Spain is considered one of the safest countries for solo travelers, even at night. However, just like any other city in the world, crime rates rise after midnight so you need to be especially careful, especially in these 10 neighborhoods tourists should avoid.

Best time to visit Madrid

There are lots of reasons to visit Madrid, but one of the best is the good weather! 

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.

In my personal opinion, the best time to visit Madrid is from March until the end of June or mid-July, September, and October. During these months, you’ll encounter fewer crowds, moderate temperatures perfect for sightseeing, and long days to make the most of your vacation.

However, as every person is different, keep reading my Madrid Travel Guide and consider the following factors before deciding when to travel to the Spanish capital:

How is the weather in Madrid?

Family in Madrid in summer

You can take advantage of the long days by planning your outdoor activities for the early morning and late evening when the temperatures are cooler. Reserve indoor activities for midday, when the sun is at its hottest.  You can also enjoy the famous Spanish “siesta” and take a nap after lunch. 

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.

Keep in mind that the highest and lowest temperatures may not feel as extreme due to the low humidity levels.

Puerta del Sol at Christmas

Once the winter cold is finally gone, the Spring in Madrid bursts with new life in its parks, streets, and terraces.

In Autumn, 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.

Autumn is the best time to visit Madrid

Is Madrid an expensive city?

They often have to consider work schedules, school calendars, and other daily responsibilities, which dictate when they can travel.

As a result, most people can travel just during the summer or winter holidays. And you will notice a significant increase in the prices of flights and accommodation during these peak seasons in Spain. Madrid also tends to be quite crowded during Holy Week.

Therefore, I would recommend you to fly off-season to Madrid if you want to save some money. You can also follow these tips to find cheap flights to Madrid:

When is the peak season?

Prado Museum is one of my top 3 art favorite galleries in Madrid

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 of the top-rated attractions will have reduced the opening hours.

To avoid long lines at attractions, consider visiting outside of the peak summer holiday season, if possible.

How many days to spend in Madrid

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

As you’ll find in my comprehensive Madrid travel guide, there’s no shortage of landmarks, tours, and activities to explore during your visit. Additionally, beyond the capital, you’ll discover unique destinations for day trips from Madrid that are unlike anywhere else in the world.

In the itineraries section, you will find a variety of routes tailored to every visitor, showcasing the best things to do in Madrid, regardless of the duration of your stay. Summarizing, I will highlight 3 options:

Front side of the The Royal Palace, one of the best landmarks in Madrid

Duration of your trip to Madrid

However, if you are just spending one day in the capital check out the step-by-step itinerary of my Madrid Travel Guide to make the most of your day. At night you will have some time to taste the typical food and attend to a popular show.

If you spend only 2 days in Madrid, you will probably have no much free time for wandering around or other leisure activities like shopping. 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 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 hoursYou will also have more time to enjoy the Spanish typical foods and attend some shows. Maybe some free time for shopping.

You’ll have the opportunity not only to see but also to understand and immerse yourself in the history of all the landmarks in one of the most historic cities in the world.

Take a break and unwind on a terrace, spend an afternoon shopping on some of Europe’s most exclusive streets, or embark on a one-day trip to unique cities like Alcalá de Henares, Toledo, Segovia, or Avila.

San Lorenzo del Escorial Monastery

Cheap flights to Madrid

Once you’ve decided when to visit Madrid and for how long, you’re ready to start searching for flights. 

The prices of plane tickets to Madrid can vary greatly. By keeping a close eye on prices and following my tips, you’ll be able to secure the best deals and save a significant amount of money. Keep in mind that if you’re traveling with family, the savings can multiply by 3 or 4.

If you’re traveling from a distant location, direct flights are undoubtedly the most comfortable option. However, don’t overlook connecting flights, as a single stop can often result in significant savings.

One of the goals of my Madrid Travel Guide is to help you save money on your trip. In my guide to finding the cheapest flights to Madrid, I explore additional aspects such as anticipation, flexibility, using “incognito” mode, and setting up Skyscanner alerts. These strategies will help you find the best bargains for your trip.

Accommodation

The range of accommodations in Madrid is extensive, diverse, and caters to all budgets. You’ll find numerous options including hotels of various categories, apartments, and more.

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.

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.

The best hostels in Madrid offer budget-friendly accommodation, fostering a sense of community and providing opportunities for social interaction among travelers.

hotels for families in Madrid

Travel insurance, don´t worry about unexpected events

Expect the unexpected – it’s a valuable lesson I’ve learned through my travels.

While Madrid is a safe city, unexpected events like cancellations, illnesses, or pickpocketing incidents can easily disrupt your vacation plans and result in significant financial loss.

That’s why I always prioritize safety. It’s especially important when considering the well-being of my family and the affordable rates of family travel insurance available today.

I’m always grateful to return home safely without needing to use the travel protection plan, as it indicates that everything went smoothly. To me, the cost of travel insurance isn’t an expense, but rather an investment in my peace of mind.

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?

My user-friendly Madrid travel guide helps you identify the entry requirements to Spain from your home country. The documentation required in Spain for tourist purposes varies according to the country of origin:

Family with passports and travel documentation

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.

Besides, there could be additional requirements or certificates associated to the Covid-19 pandemic. Therefore, don´t forget to check the most updated entry requirements for the country you are traveling from.

From Madrid Airport to the city center

Do you want to know which is the fastest and cheapest way to go from 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.

The total cost of traveling from Madrid airport to the city center via Metro Madrid is under €5, which I find quite affordable compared to other cities I’ve visited worldwide.

Metro line number eight serves the airport with two stops: Terminals 1, 2, 3, and Terminal 4.

Don’t worry about Metro Madrid’s operating hours – the line runs from 6:05 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. Just note that the metro station named “Barajas” is in the town, not at the airport.

You may need to transfer to a different line to reach the subway line closest to your accommodation. Navigating Metro Madrid is incredibly straightforward, and you’ll find subway maps in all stations and trains.

Keep in mind that you’ll need a “Multi” Public Transport Card loaded with a valid ticket to use Metro Madrid.

Metro Madrid

I understand the appeal of taking a taxi straight to your accommodation after a long flight, especially when you’re lugging heavy luggage.

If this sounds like your situation, you’ll be pleased to know that taxi fares from the airport to Madrid’s old town are quite affordable.

The flat rate for a taxi ride from Madrid-Barajas airport to the downtown area (within the M-30 interior) is €30 one way, with no additional supplements. Credit card payments are accepted.

Taxis are typically the fastest option for reaching the city center, although travel time may vary depending on traffic conditions.

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.

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

In my Madrid travel guide, I want to show you the main tourist cards and whether they are worth it.

The Madrid Tourist Travel pass and the Paseo del Arte pass will allow you to save money on your visit to Madrid. Recently, the city council has also launched the Madrid City Card.

madrid tourist card

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

Another advantage is direct access to the top-rated museums in Madrid without the need to wait in line.

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?

Cibeles Palace in Madrid

There are so many things to see in Madrid that planning daily activities for your vacation can be overwhelming for some tourists. With my help, you will get the perfect schedule to visit the most popular landmarks in Madrid.

I highly recommend checking out my comprehensive guide on what to do in Madrid. I include below just a brief summary of the landmarks I have featured:

From iconic landmarks to local hotspots, my Madrid travel guide unveils the best of the city. All of the previous ones are a must-see in Madrid but they’re not the only ones. The tourist map by Madrid Traveling is essential for efficient planning and making the most of your trip to Madrid.

Madrid is a city of art, culture, and history, but not many locals and visitors know that it is also a hub of street art too.

Eat and drink

I love Spanish food. It is one of the things I usually miss when traveling abroad. However, I’ve noticed that many Spanish restaurants outside of Spain don’t quite capture the true essence of Spanish cuisine.

One of the highlights of my Madrid travel guide is the gastronomic offer and the wide variety of excellent restaurants in the city.

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 eat out, you have to try some of Spain’s great wines. Wine is probably the most popular Spanish drink.

Best Spanish foods

I recommend you to choose carefully the restaurants you try, skipping the ones aimed at a foreign clientele. You’ll find my restaurant recommendations in the “Eat and Drink” section.

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:

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

Taking advantage of the pleasant weather, locals enjoy grabbing an aperitif and some tapas with family or friends at the many outdoor terraces around the city.

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.

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

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.

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:

Zara store for shopping in Madrid

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.

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

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.

Madrid with kids

Warner Park is one of the best things to do when you visit 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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

How to get around Madrid by car

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

I enjoy exploring new countries by wandering around and visiting attractions on foot. It’s a great way to immerse myself in the local culture.

Exploring Madrid’s old town on foot with my Madrid travel guide in hand is truly remarkable. Many of the top attractions are within walking distance.

However, if the distances are too far or you’re short on time, relying on Madrid’s public transportation is invaluable. It’s one of the most efficient, safe, and affordable networks in the world.

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.

Finally, there are times when renting a vehicle could prove more convenient, particularly for excursions beyond Madrid. In such instances, familiarize yourself with these 10 essential aspects of driving in Madrid before hitting the road.

One-day trips

Segovia day trip from Madrid

There are numerous amazing and distinctive places near Madrid that you can explore on a day trip, enhancing your experience in Spain to the fullest. Alcalá de Henares, El Escorial, Aranjuez, Toledo, Segovia, and Avila are just a few excellent examples that should definitely be part of your itinerary.

Alcalá de Henares is where the famous Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes was born. His book “Don Quixote de la Mancha” has been translated into more than 140 languages and dialects, making it one of the most translated books globally, just after the Bible.

Juan de Herrera was the architect behind the design, known for emphasizing clean lines over excessive decoration, allowing the focus to remain on the essential elements of the structure.

Packing Essentials

I always create a checklist before traveling to make sure I don’t overlook any essential items, especially those travel accessories that may not be available at my destination.

Here are my top 10 travel essentials for your trip to Madrid:

Don´t forget to check out my post with the 30 best travel accessories for women.

suitcase with the packing essentials for your vacations in Madrid

Practical information

I want to conclude my Madrid travel guide with some basic information you need to know previous to your trip to Madrid:

I hope you found my Madrid travel guide useful! Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, there is something for everyone.

If it has been helpful to you, don’t forget to share it and leave your comments below. Your feedback is greatly appreciated! 

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7 thoughts on “End-to-end Madrid Travel Guide”

  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.

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

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

    Reply
  3. You are by far the most informative blogger I have found for the trip I’m planning. Thank you so much. So much detail, thank you thank you thank you!

    Reply
    • Thanks so much! We are so happy that you find the blog really useful. Let us know if you need any help planning your trip to Madrid!

      Reply
  4. Estamos planeando nuestro viaje a Madrid, Espana y esta pagina contesto la mayoria de las preguntas que teniamos y aclaro muchas dudas. Me gustaria si es posible que me dieras el web site de la estacion de trenes , para comprar tickets.Pensamos ir de Madrid a Toledo, Sevilla y Barcelona y no queremos ir a paginas que no son reales y perdamos el dinero. Es reconmedable comprar los tickets adelantados? O simplemente llegamos a la estacion y los compramos? Cuando es la temporada de toros? Y por ultimo, donde se come la la mejor paella?

    GRACIAS
    Angel Vargas

    Reply
    • Hola Angel, me alegro de que el blog haya sido de utilidad. Para comprar los billetes de tren te recomiendo que lo hagas a través de la web de renfe.com. Es mejor comprar los billetes por adelantado para asegurar la disponibilidad y porque es más sencillo encontrar mejores precios. En el blog también encontrarás un post sobre los mejores sitios para comer paella en Madrid, puedes usar el buscador si no lo localizas. Un saludo!

      Reply

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