Madrid, the lively Spanish capital. The first stop of our around the world trip. The biggest city in Spain, home of Spanish Royal Family and Government. Madrid is the capital and it is located in the middle of the Iberian Peninsula, so it is really the heart of Spain with nearly 3,5 million people living there. To help you explore this amazing city we give you some tips about where to stay and what to do in Madrid.
Surrounded by mountains, Madrid has a nice weather with cold and rainy winter, but also a hot and dry summer. Of course, we arrived there by the beginning of spring, so we avoided the rain and enjoyed the city with a burst of beautiful sunshine.
We landed in Madrid on the 25th of April, it was springtime and the temperature was supposed to be mild, with sunshine and no jackets on. But the beautiful capital was waiting for us with a chilly wind and thermometer showing 8ºC! Our idea of a European summer turned out into a freezing nightmare. Thank God we had some cardigans, jeans, and socks!
» First tip:
– When you are traveling to Europe during springtime, always bring a jacket!
Nights tend to be a bit chilly in the old continent, if you are around the sea you will freeze with breeze. For the girls I suggest to carry on your bags a nice scarf, it keeps you warm, protect your hair and also bring a glam touch for your look! 😉
Don’t forget to buy your Travel Insurance!
We use and recommend World Nomads and SafetyWing, click on the name of the company and book your insurance now. If you need more information read our Travel Insurance Guide here.
Apart from the cold weather, Madrid enchanted us. It was our first time there and we enjoyed a lot. So many things to do, to see and eat that our 5 days ran really fast. We’ve spent so much time during the day walking around the city and visiting the attractions that, by night-time, we were wrecked. Even with a great nightlife, we did enjoy Madrid more on day time. If you are planning to visit Madrid and other cities in Spain and Europe, check out the 14 days in Europe Itinerary for more inspiration.
What to do in Madrid and how many days you need to visit the city? I would say that 4 days are enough, but if you want to do it slowly I’d recommend at least a week. Actually, it all depends on how much money you can or want to spend. Madrid is not cheap compared to other Spanish cities, so be aware that, the longest you stay, the more you will cash out.
Although Madrid is an expensive city in Spain, it is not the most expensive city if you compare with other European capitals. The 2014 Backpacker Index ranked the Spanish capital as the 27th cheapest city to visit, so you still can enjoy it a lot without going bankrupt. Especially with all the tips you will get from us for what to do in Madrid on a budget or free!!!
Where to stay in Madrid
To make the most of Madrid you have to think wisely about where you are going to stay. It doesn’t matter if your budget is tidy or luxurious, you have to be where everything happens. We are traveling with a low-budget and accommodation is our major concern. Less money we spend on beds, more money to spend on fun! Did you get the math?
Most of the time we try to rent a room in someone’s house/apartment, with access to the kitchen, bathroom and laundry. That way we can save money eating in and washing our clothes. Of course, hotels are super comfy, but they are also more expensive!
In Madrid we stayed in a student house, we got a double bed private room with shared bathroom and kitchen. We paid for it just € 17,20 ($ 23,50) per day/ per room, a really good deal if you compare with hotel prices around town. And the best was our neighborhood: the Royal Palace was just one block from our building. Cheap rent with a King view!
To find our place we used Airbnb website. It is a very easy platform to search properties all around the world and you can filter by price and type of room. There you can find from full houses and apartments till shared rooms, it all depends on what you are up to. Saving money and having a good room is subject for another entire post, so for the moment let’s keep focus on where to stay Madrid.
We were in the center of Madrid, in front of the Opera Theatre, 5 minutes to the lively Puerta del Sol square and about 10 minutes by metro to all the major attractions. I do recommend that area, super safe to walk around during the day and night. Full of restaurants, cafes and markets, you never get wrong staying there.
There are other neighborhoods that are nice too like Malasaña (brilliant for nightlife) and Chueca (known as a gay area). There you can find lots of hostels that are really cheap for dormitories, some boutique hotels and great places for dinner.
Now that you already know where to stay let’s discover what to do in Madrid!
You can rent a house, an apartment, a boat, a castle or a room on Airbnb. Curious? Sign up here and get a discount on your first booking!
What to do in Madrid? Culture, parks & fairs. Madrid has it all!
There are many things do in Madrid, from museums to parks, from flea markets to concerts, the city has something special to offer for every tourist taste. Nevertheless, we made a list of great things you have to do, unmissable places you have to see and how do get inside them for free.
– Palacio Real de Madrid (Royal Palace)
Address: Bailén St. s/n
Getting there: metro Ópera (L2 and L5), bus lines: 3,25,39 ,148
Opening hours: April-September: Monday to Sunday 10am – 8pm / October-March: Monday to Sunday 10am – 6pm
Tickets: 10€, reduced ticket 5€
The palace was built in 1738 and took seventeen years to be finished. Home to the kings of Spain, from Carlos III to Alfonso XIII, the palace is now open for public visits. It is worth to pay 10€ to get access to the rooms, to the amazing staircases, enjoy the beautiful architecture and art collection. Nowadays it is not the official royal residence anymore, but it is still used to hold official ceremonies, like the new king nomination in June of this year.
Outside the palace, on the side of the courtyard, you can find hiding in a little door a nice museum about the Spanish Armory. You get in with the same ticket you bought for the palace.
Also, have a walk around the palace garden. The Sabatini Garden is open every day from 9 am to 9 pm and it is free. To get there you just have to leave the palace and walk towards your left side, opposite to the Cathedral. Take a rest in the park for a few minutes our list of what to do in Madrid is big and you will get tired.
– La Almudena Cathedral
Address: Bailén St. 8-10
Getting there: metro Ópera (L2 and L5)
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday 9am – 8pm
The construction of the Cathedral began in 1879 but it has been finished just in 1993 when Pope John Paul II consecrated it. Because of such a long period of construction, the project has changed a lot and inside you can see neo-gothic, neo-romanesque and pop art styles.
Beautiful view of the Cathedral is on sunset time and the beginning of the evening. The square and the church get all illuminated and it is magical! This place is so beautiful that we manage to visit twice, during the morning and sunset.
Address: Alcalá St. 237
Getting there: metro Las Ventas (L2 and L5), bus lines: 12, 21, 38, 53, 106, 110, 146
Opening hours: every day 10am – 6pm (except on bullfighting days when the tours finish at 2pm)
Tickets: 9€ for adults, 6€ or children from 6 to 12 years. The price is for entrance and a guided tour around the arena.
We don’t want to offend anyone, but we are against bullfighting. We know that it is a tradition in Spain, I do respect it, but I don’t want to support it by paying for a tour inside the building. So we just saw the building from outside and the architecture is really nice.
For those who like “tourada”, the season starts in March and goes till December, but the busiest days are in may during the San Isidoro feast. From 11th till the end of May there are daily bullfighting every evening and the arena can get packed of 23.800 people, the seats on the shade side are the most expensive ones.
Las Ventas is also used for concerts, sports games and political events.
Address: Ferraz St 1- Parque del Cartel de la Montaña
Getting there: metro Plaza de España (L3 and 10), bus lines: 74, 25, 33, 39, 46, 74, 75, 148
Opening hours: Monday to Friday 10am – 2pm and 6pm – 8pm. Saturdays and Sundays 10m – 2pm. Closed on Monday.
Incredible place to watch the sunset, grab a wine or a beer, sit for an hour just to relax and enjoy nature (be careful because drinking in public parks is not allowed in Madrid, but everyone does). The temple is beautiful during the day, but with the night lights it gets stunning. It is an original ancient Egyptian temple built in 2nd century BC that was moved to Spain in 1968. The intention was to keep it saved and preserved, Like the Debod Temple, other monuments were sent by Unesco to different countries. All of them were located on the shores of the Nile river and were threatened by the construction of the Aswan High Dam.
From there you can have a view of Park Casa de Campo, another nice spot in Madrid. We will be talking about the parks and museums in our next post, the list of what to do in Madrid is so big that our guide is going to be divided not into 2, but into 3 parts.
Address: Plaza Mayor
Getting there: metro Sol (L1, L2 and L3)
Opening hours: 24h every day
It is a charming square in the heart of old Madrid, in the past it was an important location for markets and local commerce. Surrounded by residential buildings the square has 9 entrances and some restaurants and cafes where you can sit, drink a “caña” (traditional small glass of beer) and watch people getting around. Sip a beer at Plaza Mayor is one of the must things to do in Madrid. Enjoy it!
Address: Plaza de Cibeles
Getting there: metro Banco de España (L2)
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday 10am – 8pm
Tickets: Free to visit the palace, 2€ to go to the tower
The Palace is not mentioned in most of the city guides and maps, we found it by accident when we were leaving the Naval Museum. Even not receiving much attention from the tourist office the palace is superb, beautiful from outside and inside. A visit to the palace is our personal recommendation on what to do in Madrid.
The construction started in 1907 and it was opened for the public in 1919, and it was built to be the headquarters of the Spanish Postal Service. In 2007 it became the City Hall. As we found it by mistake we arrived there late to go to the tower, and it was our last day in Madrid, so we didn’t have the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful view they have. It said that you can see Madrid in 360º. In the building also there are nice café and fancy restaurant.
– Feria El Rastro
Address: Along Plaza de Cascorro and Ribera de Curtidores
Getting there: metro La Latina and Puerto de Toledo (L5) and Tirso de Molina (L1), bus lines: 3, 17, 18, 23, 41, 60, 148
Opening hours: Sundays and public holidays 9am – 3pm
Wake up early just have a small breakfast and go to El Rastro Flea Market. It will be crowded so dress something comfortable, I recommend flat shoes and no bags (or a small one, there are pickpockets around the market, so pay attention). There isn’t a right way to explore the market, it`s packed with small stalls, tiny streets and alleys. You have to lose yourself and then you will find lovely and nice stuff.
From clothes, leather shoes, bags, organic products, flowers and antiques, some secrets are hiding in every corner. From second-hand products to souvenirs, El Rastro is a mix of things and people. In the middle of your way, you will find some artists spreading smiles and great music. When you get tired take a seat in some local coffee shop, they have great brunch menus, eat some tapas, drink a coffee or a glass of wine. You are traveling, so enjoy it!
Madrid has so many things to do and see that we couldn’t write just one blog post. So we decided to split this guide into 3 parts. Next post you will find all the info about art, museums, parks and our favorites places in Madrid!
Is Madrid on your travel plans? Did you know about all these attractions and what to do in Madrid?