Madrid, A Local’s Guide to Spain’s Capital City

Enjoying Spanish wines at the Museo de Jambon in Madrid. Zeljka Rajic photos.
Enjoying Spanish wines at the Museo de Jambon in Madrid. Zeljka Rajic photos.

A Madrid Mini-Guide: The Capital of the Kingdom of Spain, also its Largest City.

Nighttime lights at Madrid's Plaza de Cibeles. Nighttime lights at Madrid's Plaza de Cibeles.
Nighttime lights at Madrid’s Plaza de Cibeles.

Where

Located nearly right in the center of Spain.

Why Go?

Spain…the first thing that comes to your mind is bustling and always crowded Barcelona. Well, Madrid is so much different from that. Tidy, cosmopolitan, classy, non-pushy“ and very safe!

You won’t be able to feel it’s grandiosity due to its “relaxed rhythm”, yet it’s the European Union third largest city. With much to offer, you’ll be walking around and when you’re feeling tired there are bars and restaurants every 50 meters serving tapas (small side dishes) with any drink you order.

When to Go

All year round.

Summer can be very hot, but because of   Madrid’s low humidity temperatures seem lower (32 degrees Celsius seems like 25), autumn and spring temperatures are 13 degrees Celsius with an average of 13 rainy days monthly and winter averages are 5-10 degrees Celsius with 5 hours of sunlight!

Big Spanish sales, or rebajas, start on 1st of July and 7th of January, lasting till the end of August and end of February, where items are sold up to 70% off at the end of period, ultimas rebajas, the best savings of the year.

Interesting Madrid Facts

Madrileños have “great rehearsal“ of New Year’s Eve on 30th of December, the only difference is that there’s no count down on 30th of December and no fireworks. They also have Three Kings Parade (same in the other parts of Spain) the day before Three Kings Day (El Día de los Reyes) and Three Kings Day is their favorite gift giver day.

What I love Most

Madrileños really know how to enjoy life, their bohemian style and smiley faces, free tapas, friendly locals and Madrid being a lot cheaper city than Barcelona.

By Air

It’s sixth busiest airport in the EU and by size,  it’s a match to Charles De Gaulle in Paris, with direct flights from most European cities and all the European capitals. Also has direct connections with New York, Miami, Chicago, Dallas, Montreal, Toronto, Johannesburg, Tel Aviv, Shanghai…

By train from any Spanish city, from Paris with TGV train.

Plaza del Sol Madrid, Spain
Plaza del Sol Madrid.

Getting Around

Taxis operate 24/7. Airport to city price is fixed and it’s 30 euros. Metro operates from 6 AM to 1.30 AM. EMT buses operate from 6 AM to 23.30 PM. Night buses, buhos, operate from 23.45 PM to 6 AM.

Best Major Attractions (and Those Known Only by Locals

Museo Nacional Del Prado, Centro de Artes Reina Sofia, Plaza Mayor, Plaza del Sol, Palacio Real de Madrid, Catedral de Santa María la Real de la Almudena, Gran Via, Plaza Espana, Puerta de Europa, Santiago Bernabeu Estadio, Catellana, Parque de El Retiro, Palacio de Cristal, Casa de Campo, Parque del Oeste, Templo de Debod, Madrid Rio park, Calle de Alcala, Plaza de Cibeles, Puerta de Alcala, Plaza de Colon, Plaza de Torros de las Ventas.

Best Activity and Tour

Strolling along the city center and eating tapas in numerous restaurants, with famous Museo del Jamon, San Gines chocolateria and other great Madrid hangouts.

One of my favorite tapas bars is Indalo Tapas and favorite restaurant is Puerto Rico.

My favorite neighborhoods are:

Coffee at San Gines, Madrid.
Coffee at San Gines, Madrid.

Puerta del Sol – lots of cafes, restaurants, bars and numerous streets to stroll with 3 best shopping streets (Calle Preciados, Calle del Carmen, and Calle Tetuan) leading to Sol square.  An interesting fact is that Sol is “Zero kilometer Origin of Spain”.

Austrias y La Latina – bars and numerous streets to stroll with churches and some remainings of Habsburg Dynasty.

Chueca – north of Gran Via, known as gay neighborhood. Full of “I don’t care” people, bars, fashion stores, craft stores, jewelry stores.

Barrio de Salamanca –A posh neighborhood with grandiose avenues, high-end stores, pastelerias and expensive bars, more even expensive restaurants. Though, inexpensive restaurants and bars can be found, such as Lateral (Calle Velasquez 57), Luspar (Calle Don Ramon de La Cruz 81) and Starbeers bar (Calle Don Ramon de La Cruz 95.

Best Alternative

Take a metro and go to the uptown part of the city called Salamanca or take a Teleferico near Templo de Debod and visit Casa de Campo Park.

Best Local Haunt

Penalaire, Calle Embajadores 21

Museo del Jamon, Calle Gran Via 72, Calle Mayor 7, Paseo Prado 44, Calle Atocha 52

Indalo Tapas, Calle Perez Galdoz 7, Calle de la Princesa 5, Calle de Atocha 14

El Corte Ingles, especially during Rebajas period with prices up to 70% off + discount card for tourists!

Best Lodgings

Any hotel in city center, but I prefer Airbnb.

Best Eats

Restaurante Puerto Rico, Calle Chincilla 2. Non expensive delicious food, it’s a bargain!

San Gines, Pasaje San Gines 5. Here you can try hot chocolate with churros.

La Mallorquina pasteleria, Calle Mayor 2 – delicious sweets and chocolates

Visas and documents you need

Valid passport

Health and Safety

No reason to worry.

Money and Communications

Euro, ATMs are all over the city.

Rio Park in Madrid
Rio Park in Madrid

Best Madrid Resources

Lots of Hotels in Madrid on Hotels Combined

Madrid tourism site

Madrid General Info 

Palace of Crystal in Madrid.
Palace of Crystal in Madrid.
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