Travelling to Madrid

Mon, 22 Jul
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Located exactly in the middle of the county, Madrid is the capital city of Spain with a population of 3.16 million people. It is also the EU’s third largest city after London and Berlin, with the metropolitan population reaching 6.5 million. The origins of Madrid are unclear and disputed, however there have been Roman and Visigoth remains that have been uncovered. It was a Muslim settlement until the 11th century, but following this it was reconquered by the Kingdom of Castile where, in the 16th century, King Philip II selected Madrid as the permanent settlement for the monarchy. Since then Madrid has been considered the most important Spanish city.

The river Manzanares crosses through Madrid resulting in an abundance of parks and green areas such as El Retiro. Madrid is also the financial centre of Spain, and it is therefore often the host of several trade fairs throughout the year.

How to Get to Madrid

Flying into Madrid Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport

Madrid Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport is the biggest airport in Spain and the 6th in Europe with over 39 million passengers travelling via here annually. In addition to the many destinations the airport serves all around the world, it is also used as a popular connection airport connecting Central and South America with the rest of Europe. Air Europa, Iberia, British Airways, Air France, American Airlines or Alitalia are just some of the airlines that work through Madrid-Barajas. Having recently added an extra terminal, T4, the most popular destinations the airport flies to include Rome, Paris, London, Lisbon, New York, Amsterdam and Buenos Aires.

Getting from Madrid Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport to the City Centre

It is possible to reach the city centre by Bus, Train and Metro. The creation of the 200 bus line is solely for the purpose of commuters and travellers wanting to get to and from the airport. The bus departs from terminal 4 of the airport, leaving multiple times an hour from 5:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., and costing €5 for a single ticket. Also costing €5 for a single ticket is the Linea Expres Aeropuerto which runs 24 hours a day and will take you to the centre of Madrid and Atocha, the main train station of the city. A cheaper option is taking the train to the centre with a single ticket costing just €2.60, and the train departing from terminal 4. The quickest option is travelling by the Metro. This lasts just 20 minutes on Line 8 and departs from all 4 of the terminals at the airport.

There are also taxis available from multiple stops outside the station. If you wish to arrive within the M30 (inner city), the taxi will cost around €30. Travelling outside of this will cost an additional €20 for for the first 10 km. Five different motorways will direct you to the centre of Madrid from the airport. These include the M40, M11, A1, A2 and R1. The roads will be well sign posted and the drive should only take around 20 minutes for the 18 km journey.

Trains to Puerta de Atocha Station

Puerta de Atocha Station is the biggest train station in Spain. All of the high-speed trains from around the country will depart from this station, as well as most long distance rail routes. The most important and frequent connections are between Madrid and Barcelona, Seville, Valencia and Marseille. Along with having a large commercial area with several restaurants and information for visitors, there are also botanical gardens at the station with over 500 different species of animals and vegetation.

Getting from Puerta de Atocha Station to the City Centre

You can access the city centre from Puerta de Atocha Station by metro, bus and train. You can catch the metro, by using Line 1 which stops at Atocha Renfe. There are also several buses to catch to the centre including the 47, 55, 19, 85, 10, 24, 57 and 102. There are more buses you can take to get to the outskirts of Madrid. Taxi ranks ranks are located outside the station and are active 24 hours a day.

The central train station of Madrid is located just under 3 km from the centre, and driving without traffic will take only 9 minutes. Upon exiting the station, follow Paseo del Prado and you will reach the centre shortly.

Trains to Chamartin Station

Journeys that terminate in the northwest of Spain will depart from this station, and some of the most common destinations include San Sebastian, Burgos, Vitoria, Valladolid and Barcelona. The station handles around 21 million passengers annually, making it one of the busiest stations in Spain.

Getting from Chamartin Station to the City Centre

There are easy and regular metro and bus connections from the station to the centre. Metro lines 1 and 10 run very frequently and can not only get you to the city centre, but to all corners of the city. There are 3 bus lines available in order to access the centre, the L5, L80 and L10, in addition to intercity buses that depart from San Sebastian de los Reyes and Pozuelo de Alarcón.

Chamartin train station is located 7.5 km north of the city centre and without traffic will take 17 minutes to drive. The best route from the station to the centre is via M-30.

Buses to Estacion Sur Bus Station

Sur is the main and biggest bus station in Madrid, as well as the whole of Spain. In 2012 alone, over 7 million passengers were handled through the bus station. Due to the convenient location in the centre of the country, over 50 bus companies work from the station to provide more than 1,500 destinations in Spain and an additional 500 in Europe and Morocco.

Getting from Estacion Sur Bus Station to the City Centre

The station is located just under 4 km from the city centre of Madrid and there are metro, bus and train services to help you to go between the locations. By metro, catch the L6 from Mendez Alvaro, which is the metro stop located directly underneath the bus station, to the centre. Every 5 minutes one of seven buses can take you to the centre from the bus station, and these bus lines include the numbers 8, 37, 58, 102, 113, 148 and 158. Going by train is another option for those wishing to access the centre of Madrid; the intermodal train which stops at the bus station is a great way to travel short distances that cover the whole region of Madrid including quick, efficient travel to the centre.

There are great parking facilities in Sur bus station with a total of 290 spaces at very reasonable prices. Driving from the station should take no more than 15 minutes when there is no traffic. Drivers should simply follow the M10 via the Emperador Carlos, an extremely wide road, which will direct you almost straight into the city centre.

Driving to Madrid

Madrid is an extremely well connected city. This is due to its central location in Spain and the fact that it is the capital city! If you are entering the city via the north of Spain from major cities such as San Sebastian, follow the A1 through Vitoria and Burgos to access Madrid. From Barcelona take the A2, travelling through Zaragoza and Lleida. From southern cities, such as Valencia or Seville, following the A3 or A4 will lead you directly into Madrid. The A5 and A6 are the roads to follow from Portugal and Galician cities respectively.

How to Get Around in Madrid

Public Transport in Madrid

The public transport system is Madrid is the most common way to travel around the city due to its reach and simplistic nature. The underground network is the second most expansive in the EU, after London, and fourth in the world covering 293 km in total with 13 lines. There are also 194 bus lines and an abundance of short distance trains that reach the outskirts of the city. There are 4 different zones in Madrid and an inner city Madrid which is referred to as Zone A. The price of tickets goes up in accordance your distance from the centre.

  • Public Transport Provider: Metro Madrid
  • Cost of a Ticket: 1 day: €8.40, 2 days: €14.20, 3 days€ 18.40, 5 days: €26.80, 7 days: €35.40
  • Discounted Ticket Types: Elderly year ticket: €123 and monthly: €12.30, Students year ticket: €350 and monthly: €25, Disabled: 65% discount and large families also have discount that depend on their conditions.
  • Availability of Public Transport at Night: There are 27 night buses available that run all night; they are called Buho Buses.

Cycling in Madrid

Cycling in Madrid is fairly common place, especially with the introduction of the rental of electric bikes in the city. Despite this, cycle lanes are not always easy to come by as those living in Madrid tend to opt for the public transport system or simply walking.

  • Official Municipal Bike Provider: BiciMad
  • Rental Costs: €15 a year if you already have a public transport ticket in your possession, if not it costs €25 for the year. If you don't want to invest in a yearly subscription, it will cost 50c every 30 minutes.

Taxis in Madrid

Due to efficiency and size of the public transport system, taxis are not the most popular way to get around the city. However in the centre, where there will be a lot of tourists, taxis are used more often. You will recognise the taxis by their white appearance and the red signals on the door.

  • Base Minimum Fare: €2.40
  • Cost: €1.05 per km

Driving in Madrid

Driving is possible in almost all of Madrid, with the exception of the pedestrianised areas of the city centre. However, driving directly into the city centre is not always advised due to traffic and limited parking spaces. However, if you do choose to drive in the city then the best times to do so are very early in the morning, before the commuters rush hour, and late at night.

The national speed limit in Spain on the motorways are restricted to 120 km/hour, this then decreases to 100 km/hour on a dual carriageway and finally is 90 km/hour on a single carriage road.

Walking Around Madrid

Madrid is a very pedestrian friendly city; if the streets are not entirely pedestrianised, there are wide pavements for people to occupy. Walking around the old town of Madrid is particularly worth while, not only due to the accessibility but as it is most definitely the best way to experience the old centre. The entire centre of Madrid can be reached by foot, problems arise when you wish to go further a field.

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About Madrid

Located exactly in the middle of the country, Madrid is the capital city of Spain with a population of 3.16 million people. It is also the EU’s third largest city after London and Berlin, with the metropolitan population reaching 6.5 million. The river Manzanares crosses through Madrid resulting in an abundance of parks and green areas such as El Retiro. Madrid is also the financial centre of Spain, and it is therefore often the host of several trade fairs throughout the year.

Public Transport in Madrid

Whether you are travelling to Madrid for leisure or business, it's important to assess the city's best modes of transportation before arriving. The public transport in Madrid is clean, safe, fast and efficient. It includes the metro, bus, and the commuter rail service, with the metro being the quickest form of public transportation. The metro has 13 lines, travelling between more than 301 stations. Each line has a different color, making map reading and route planning easy. Taking the bus in Madrid is an affordable way to get around the city. The local bus service in Madrid is operated by a company called EMT, which offers 2,000 buses serving more than 200 lines between the downtown area and other parts of the city. Standard buses run daily from 6:00 a.m. until 11:30 p.m., every 10 to 15 minutes. Night buses operate from 11:55 p.m. until 5:50 a.m. Another fast way of getting from one part of Madrid to another, especially within the city center, is by the commuter rail service. The commuter rail service, also known as Madrid Cercanías, has ten lines, which offers frequent daily services between 5:30 a.m. and midnight.

Walking Around in Madrid

Madrid is made up of distinct neighborhoods, or barrios, each with its own character, drifting in and out of fashion. Unlike some capital cities though, its center is still a popular place to socialize, eat out, enjoy the nightlife and meet friends for a tapas crawl. The obvious starting point is Puerta del Sol, the central square that is used as the capital's measuring point for all distances in Spain, as well as the  meeting place for city celebrations or protests. West of Sol is the city's elegant 17th century Plaza Mayor, beautifully restored to its historic splendor, with archways leading to small streets still filled with traditional Castilian restaurants and bars. Sightseers heading further west to the Palacio Real pass through the oldest part of Madrid, with winding streets showing vestiges of Moorish occupation in the medieval era. An alternative route from Sol towards the Prado Museum leads southeast through the vibrant neighborhoods of Huertas and Santa Ana.  These barrios were once bohemian quarter of the city, and are still the preferred evening destination for enjoying a glass of wine and the latest tapas, with views of the picturesque Plaza Santa Ana, one of Madrid's must-sees.    

Eating in Madrid

Tapas bars may have become a global phenomenon, but the idea began in Madrid as a basic snack served in bars, a 'lid' for a glass of beer or wine. Madrid locals have turned a simple idea into a lifestyle, and most evenings will find office workers and families enjoying an early evening stroll in city center neighborhoods sampling the latest creations from the bar kitchens. Traditional dishes such as kidneys in sherry, potato omelet, braised tripe, or meatballs with paprika still feature, but are now joined by elaborate and stylish seafood morsels, as well as more international offerings. Basque chefs have also introduced the capital to stylish pintxos, northern Spain's eye-catching version of tapas, and these have become a popular lunchtime option. Although Madrid has all the international restaurants you would expect of a capital, locals still flock to Spanish regional specialty restaurants. Late evenings around Puerta de Sol are full of Madrid families thronging established eateries and snacking on Galician octopus, Castilian roast lamb, or suckling pig from Segovia. The perfect antidote to a spot too much Rioja is a morning visit to a Madrid cafe to dip freshly-fried churro donuts into the distinctively thick Spanish hot chocolate.

Best Time to Visit Madrid

If you are planning to visit the lovely city of Madrid, knowing when the best time to go is a great way to ensure that you have the most fun on your vacation. Summer stretches from June to September. These are the hottest months but should not be missed because of the music festivals and open-air concerts that take place throughout the city. August is the best month to explore the beautiful beaches in Madrid. Spring, from mid-March to May, is also a pleasant time to see the city. Throughout these months the weather is warm during the day, and cool at night, making nightlife very exciting. There are also a lot of cultural activities during this season. The winter season is from December to mid-March. It is usually dry and the best time for those who are avoiding the sun-tanning weather and large crowds. Snow falls, but it does not accumulate in the city, and during this time, you can stroll down without distractions from the crowds. You can enjoy seeing museums and other historical sites without waiting in long queues. It is also the best time for skiing in the mountains. Whatever season you may choose to tour Madrid, be assured that you'll find culture, cuisine, and excursions that are second to none.

Coffee Shops in Madrid

The coffee scene in Madrid has experienced exponential growth in the past decades, with formerly residential neighborhoods like Chamberi and Lavapies transforming into specialty coffee hotspots. Head on over to the heart of Madrid, where you'll find Ruda Café, a tiny but cozy caffeine shop where you can enjoy 100% Arabica coffees and great conversations with fellow coffee lovers - the place is always buzzing. For other breakfast options, find HanSo in the trendy Malasaña neighborhood. The menu hinges on single-origin beans roasted to a balanced perfection, served with a round of delicious Tostada con tomate and Matcha cake for dessert. With an eclectic, contemporary style featuring white wall tiles, concrete floors and a large communal table, you'll feel right at home amongst coffee lovers. A few steps away is the equally trendy Toma Café, where you'll find a set of staff devoted to the art of brewing coffee. Toma makes a great espresso with avocado toast, and is famous for brewing Toma beans in small brown envelopes. With a snug, laid-back vibe, it's the perfect place if you're in no rush and want to observe coffee connoisseurs in their element. Whether it's a morning coffee or an afternoon snack you're looking for, Madrid has a cup of coffee for all kinds of brew lovers.

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