Ultimate Madrid Travel GUide

Madrid is often overshadowed by its northerly neighbor Barcelona. There seems little reason for this, though—with delicious food, affordable living, and deluxe shopping, the capital of Spain deserves its own spotlight of fame!

Discover what many locals already know and love about their city—plentiful rooftop bars, nonstop nightclubs, fantastic museum exhibitions, and luscious green parks.

Check out all of my tips in the ultimate Madrid travel guide!

What to Expect in Madrid

What to Expect in Madrid

  • Language: The official language is Spanish, naturally! You’ll find that many people do speak English.
  • Currency: The Euro
  • Credit Cards and Banks: The majority of retailers and restaurants accept debit card as payment; an increasing number are using credit cards.
  • Climate: Hot and dry summers, cold winters, and mild springs and autumns. Infrequent rainfall.

Getting Around Madrid

Getting Around Madrid

Madrid has one of the best public transit systems in the world. City traffic tends to be congested so it’s best to stay off wheels unless you’re driving out of town.

  • By Metro: The metro is very easy to navigate, even for non-Spanish speakers, and it’s much less expensive than other metro systems in Europe. If you’re heading into the suburbs, hop on one of the local trains or buses.
  • By Car: Parking is no picnic in Madrid, but if you must arrive by car, be sure to use a reliable GPS.  
  • Arriving by Air: The airport is just a few minutes from downtown. Catch the metro to the city center for just a couple of euros. 

Renfe Train

Where to Stay Madrid

Where to Stay in Madrid

Madrid is an extensive city, with many different neighborhoods. While getting around via metro is easy, picking an awesome area to begin with can only make the trip better!

The Best of Budget Accommodations in Madrid

  • Hostal Madrid: Single, double, and triple rooms—all with free internet and 24-hour reception. Prices range from 19 to 62 euros per night. Hostal Madrid is a budget-friendly option and is located in the heart of the historic center between Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor.
  • La Pepa Chic: Single, double, family, and panorama rooms—all with Wi-Fi. Prices range from 50 to 71 euros per night. La Pepa Chic, a modest B&B in the historic center, is close to the Atocha train station and has an Art Nouveau feel.
  • Room Mate Óscar: Rooms, minisuites, and suites—all with Wi-Fi and 24-hour reception. Prices range from 119 to 260 euros per night. You will find the Gran Via just 20 meters away.
Luxury Hotel Madrid

The Best Luxury Accommodations in Madrid

  • Hotel Ritz, Madrid: Built in 1910, this exquisite Belle Époque hotel offers excellent restaurants and an intimate cocktail bar. Don’t miss the luxury spa wellness center, which offers premium massage treatments and facials.
  • Westin Palace: This 1912 hotel is located in the “Triangle of Art,” which means it’s within walking distance of the Prado, Thyssen, and Reina Sofia Museums.
  • Hotel Orfila: The Orfila is a stunning boutique with cream-color walls, a flowered patio, and a rooftop terrace. Built in 1886, the hotel feels more like an art gallery with its period furniture and marble décor.

What to do in Madrid

What to Do in Madrid

As a lively capital city, full of history and culture, beautiful parks, and exciting nightlife, Madrid encompasses everything a traveler could want!

  • Flamenco Dinner: One of the most iconic forms of dance, Flamenco originated in Spain and still plays an important role in the culture. Madrid has a range of venues that offer Flamenco shows with a traditional Spanish dinner—a lively and fantastic way to spend the evening. Be sure to check out Villa Rosa!
  • Real Madrid Futbol

  • Watch a Game of Fútbol: Spain is one of the most fanatic nations when it comes to soccer, and Madrid is a perfect spot to catch a game. Stars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale strut their stuff around Madrid. Players from Atletico Madrid (the underdogs) are equally exciting to watch.
  • People Watch at Puerta del Sol: As a major transport hub, the Puerta del Sol is the most interesting square to visit in town. Here you’ll glimpse intriguing statues, public artworks, and historic architecture. Grab a coffee and relax while you watch the people of Madrid go about their business.
  • Wander Around Parque del Buen Retiro: I would compare this park to New York City’s Central Park —a beautiful oasis in the middle of a large, bustling city. You could get lost among the park’s paths, fountains, and monuments and get some great people watching in too!
  • Palacio de Cristal

  • Marvel at Palacio de Cristal:  Located inside of Retiro Park, the Palacio de Cristal was built in 1887 and is made almost entirely of glass set in an iron framework. It is set in a 130-hectare park alongside a large lake where there is a variety of flora and more than 15,000 trees to discover on a sunny Spanish afternoon.
  • Visit the Catedral de la AlmudenaThis ornate cathedral is one of the largest in Europe and blends a neo-Gothic style with modern statues and pop art décor. Construction took more than a century and the cathedral was only consecrated in 1993.
  • Pastries in Madrid

  • Eat your heart out at Mercado de San Miguel: The beautiful Mercado de San Miguel sits next to Plaza Mayor and serves a variety of pastries, snacks, and tapas. Locals and tourists alike flock here to sample fresh nibbles, and it’s a great way to see Madrid through the eyes of its natives.
  • Classical Art of the Highest Order at the Museo del Prado: The Museo del Prado is one of the best museums in Europe—it boasts a fine collection of classical art from Spanish masters like Velasquez and Goya and far-off artists such as Rubens, Botticelli, and Caravaggio.
  • Take a Day Trip to Segovia or El EscorialSegovia is a colorful Spanish town—home to an ancient (and incredibly stunning) Roman aqueduct. El Escorial was once the home to Spain’s Royal Family. It now offers tours of the palace and is an operating monastery.

Where to Eat Madrid

Where to Eat in Madrid

Madrid is has a plethora of traditional, authentic Spanish cuisine. Here are some of the must try places to eat in Madrid!

  • Churros & Chocolate at Chocolatería San Ginés: Don’t miss this famous and historic café at Pasadizo de San Gines. Since 1894, this delicious Chocolatería has specialized in thick hot chocolate and mouthwatering, deep-fried churros.
  • Chocolatería San Ginés

  • Madrid Food Tour: Join Devour Madrid Food Tours and learn about the city’s age-old relationship with culinary delights. It offers a range of specialty food tours from neighborhood gourmet treats to the history of tapas.
  • Vermouth and Pinxtos at Mercado de San Miguel: Get your nibbles and tidbits form the Market of San Miguel. This historic market in the old quarter is perfect to sample your way through Spanish cuisine—vermouth, pintxos, oysters, olives paella, caviar—the list goes on and on.
  • Madrid Paella

  • Visit a Butcher for Jamón Ibérico de Bellota (the BEST ham in Spain): The best ham in Spain is incontestably Ibérico de Bellota ham, which is made from the black Ibérico pig whose diet consists of wild holm oak acorns. This ham can cost twice what normal ham does but oooohhhh is it worth it!
  • The Bar at Ten Con Ten for a G&T: Madrid’s favorite cocktail is the gin and tonic—and there’s no better one than at Ten Con Ten. This chic bar is hugely popular with upscale Madrileños and celebrities. The eclectic menu also includes queen scallops, roasted octopus, Asturian beans with quail, and monkfish hamburger. Be sure to reserve your spot well in advance!

Top foods to try!

Bacalao (salted and dried cod), olive oil and olives, jamon (ham), cheese, patatas bravas (smoky potatoes fried in oil with aioli), pimientos de padrón (spicy fried peppers) and tintos de verano (carbonated sangria)!

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Read Next: Top Seven Things to See and Do in Madrid

 

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Kiersten Rich
Kiersten Rich is the bikini-obsessed author of award-winning solo female travel and lifestyle blog, The Blonde Abroad, featuring travel tips, fashion, food, festivals and photography from around the world.