Cityscape of Madrid at sunset

Madrid Travel Guide

By Meena Thiruvengadam
July 16, 2021

There's far more to Madrid than bullfighting, flamenco, and tapas, though you'll certainly find all three in the Spanish capital. Barcelona often steals the spotlight, but it's in Madrid where you'll find the Golden Triangle of Art, the world's oldest restaurant, and the flamenco club of your Spanish dreams. 

Madrid is a city with a rich history, gorgeous architecture, world-class shopping, and a vibrant nightlife. It's a European capital filled with fine art, excellent wine, delicious tapas, and the kinds of impromptu street performances memories are made of. 

Looking to revamp your wardrobe? Madrid is filled with designer boutiques, mainstream retailers, and one-of-a-kind shops. And there are plenty of cafes for breaks along the way. 

Madrid is a college town that's home to not one but two world famous football clubs — Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. It is the world capital of bullfighting, which takes place from March through October. And while it doesn't boast beaches like Barcelona, Madrid offers plenty to do. 

Madrid offers so much to do that you may want to embrace the concept of siesta. The city's bars and clubs tend to hit their stride after midnight. An afternoon nap may be just the fuel you need to transition from a day of sightseeing to a night of music and dance.

Time Zone

Madrid is in the Central European time zone. Central European time is six hours ahead of Eastern Time, and Spain does observe Daylight Saving Time in line with most other European countries.

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Best Time to Go

Madrid is a city that literally sizzles during the summer with temperatures that can soar above 100° F. It's worth it to brave the heat for Madrid's take on Pride, which starts each year in late June and runs through early July. What used to be a small celebration in the late 1970s has since grown into one of the largest celebrationbsn of LGBTQ pride in Europe. For better weather, lighter crowds, and cheaper prices, try visiting during the fall or spring when temperatures are more pleasant. The days are sunny, and you'll be able to celebrate events like the San Isidro Festival, held each year in May.

Things to Know

Madrid is an inland city that's been the Spanish capital since the 17th century. English isn't as widely spoken in Madrid as it is in Barcelona, making it an ideal place to dust off your Spanish in restaurants, cafes, and shops. You might want to plan for a mid-morning snack as you're exploring, however. Lunch and dinner are typically eaten late in Madrid, where siestas really do break up the day. 

Currency: Euro
(Check the current exchange rate)

Language: Spanish

I don't speak Spanish: No habla Espanol 

I'm lost: Estoy perdido 

I would like: Me gustaria 

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How to Get Around

Trains: Madrid is a city with an excellent metro system that extends from Madrid-Barajas Airport, through downtown and to the suburbs. Fares are based on a zone system with prices determined by the distance traveled. The cheapest fares are around 1.50 Euro. If you'll be in town for a few days, consider purchasing a flat rate metro card to cover the length of your stay. 

Buses: For anywhere Madrid's dozen or so metro and light rail lines can't take you, the city operates a fleet of more than 2,000 buses. Those buses run over 200 routes and serve more than 10,000 stops. 

Taxis: Taxis are typically white with a diagonal red band on their front doors and roof signs. They can be found at taxi stands throughout Madrid, hailed by raising an arm, or called through several apps. Remember, fluent English-speaking cabbies may be fewer and farther between in Madrid than they would find in Barcelona. 

Ride service: Uber is available in Madrid. Traditional cabs also are available via Uber in Madrid.

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Best Hotels

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Interior of the Four Seasons Madrid
Credit: Courtesy of Four Seasons

Four Seasons Madrid

Address: Calle de Sevilla 3, 28014, Madrid, Spain
Phone: +34 910 880 188
Website 

The Four Seasons Madrid combines seven historic buildings to create a new luxury property in the heart of Madrid. The hotel is the Four Seasons brand's first in Spain and sits just steps away from luxury shopping along the famous Gran Via. The property includes a rooftop terrace and pool as well as a four-level spa. 

The Principal Madrid
Credit: Courtesy The Principal Madrid

The Principal Madrid Hotel

Address: Calle del Marqués de Valdeiglesias, 1, 28004 Madrid, Spain 
Phone: (+34) 91 521 87 43
Website 

This intimate boutique hotel boasts just 76 rooms, but its rooftop terrace offers some of the best views in the city. The five-star property is located along the Gran Via, just steps from some of Madrid's best shopping, and is home to a two-Michelin star chef.

Axel Hotel Madrid

Address: C. de Atocha, 49, 28012 Madrid, Spain
Website 
Phone: +34 910 88 33 80

The Axel Hotel is located in Madrid's famous Barrio de las Letras, a bohemian literary quarter known for its shopping, dining and fun. This intimate property has just 88 rooms and is a favorite of gay travelers. The rooms are fun and whimsical, and the rooftop includes a pool with sweeping city views.

SLEEP'N Atocha

Address: Calle del Dr. Drumen, 4, 28012 Madrid, Spain 
Phone: +34 915 39 98 07
Website

This centrally located hotel isn't just good for your wallet, it's good for the environment. This hotel combines whimsical design with the perfect location to create an affordable gem within walking distance of some of the best art in Europe. The hotel aims to be carbon neutral and offers a coworking space made for digital nomads.

Only You Boutique Hotel Madrid

Address: Calle del Barquillo, 21, 28004 Madrid, Spain
Phone: +34 910 052 746 
Website 

This boutique hotel sits inside a 19th century palace in a trendy neighborhood filled with shops, restaurants, and bars. It combines modern design with classic Colonial architecture to create a truly one-of-a-kind space. This hotel has just 45 rooms, some with terraces.

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Best Restaurants

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Churros and hot chocolate at Chocolateria San Gines in Madrid
Credit: Tamara Loyber/Getty Images

Chocolateria San Gines

Address:  Pasadizo de San Ginés, 5, 28013 Madrid, Spain
Phone (+34) 91 365 65 46
Website 

You'll find Chocolateria San Gines in the heart of Madrid just a short walk from Puerto del Sol. The intimate cafe traces its history to 1864, when it began developing its reputation as an after-theater dessert destination. Chocolateria San Gines is tucked behind one of Madrid's oldest churches and serves up its signature dark hot chocolate and churros around the clock.

Tables are set for diners in one of the rooms of the restaurant 'Sobrino de Botin'
Credit: Samuel de Roman/Getty Images

Sobrino de Botin

Address: Calle de Cuchilleros, 17, 28005 Madrid, Spain
Phone:  +34 913 66 42 17
Website 

For a truly memorable meal, head to Sobrino de Botin, the official oldest restaurant in the world and a favorite of authors Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Sobrino de Botin opened its doors in 1725 and continues to base its dishes on its original recipes. Among those recipes? The roast suckling pig that earned a mention in Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises".

Los Montes de Galicia

Address: Calle de Azcona, 46, 28028 Madrid, Spain
Phone: +34 913 55 27 86 
Website 

This upscale restaurant is famous for its tasting menu, which features seafood and traditional Spanish cuisine. You can wear your casual clothes, but expect to pay more than you might for the average meal in Madrid. 

Dos Cielos Madrid

Address: Calle de la Bola, 6, 28013 Madrid, Spain
Phone: +34 915 41 67 00
Website 

Dos Cielos Madrid is no ordinary hotel restaurant. Located inside the five-star Gran Melia Palacio hotel, Dos Cielos is the brainchild of Michelin award winning TV chefs Javier and Sergio Torres. Like the Barcelona location of Dos Cielos, the menu here is inspired by their grandmother and includes items like crunchy suckling pig and a top sirloin cap steak marinated for 90 days.

Cruz Blanca de Vallecas

Address: Calle de Carlos Martín Álvarez, 58, 28018 Madrid, Spain
Phone: +34 914 77 34 38
Website 

This restaurant is off the typical tourist path and outside the city center, but if it's a traditional Cocido Madrileño you're after, it's worth the trek. This is the place to go for the city's famous chickpea and meat stew. It's also the kind of restaurant you'll need to plan ahead to visit. It typically has a waitlist longer than many of its Michelin-starred counterparts.

Iconic Flamenco Venue 'Corral De La Moreria' Reopens In Madrid
Credit: Borja B. Hojas/Getty Images

Corral de la Morería

Address: Calle de la Moreria, 17, 28005 Madrid, Spain
Phone: +34 913 65 84 46
Website  

Corral de la Moreria is the place to experience flamenco in Madrid. This venue has been hosting live flamenco shows since 1956 and holds performances every night of the week. And if it's dinner and a show you're after, there may be no better place. Coral de la Moreria has a Michelin-starred restaurant on site.

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Things to Do

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Puerto del Sol

Address: Puerta del Sol, 28013
Website

Puerto del Sol is the place to hang out in Madrid. Located in the heart of Madrid, it is the city's best known public square and home to the clock whose bells mark the beginning of the Spanish New Year. Puerto del Sol is also the official center of Spain's road network.

General view of the Museum during the reopening of the Prado Museum,
Credit: Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images

Museo Nacional del Prado

Address: Calle de Ruiz de Alarcon, 23, 28014 Madrid, Spain
Phone: (+34) 913 30 28 00
Website

This is Spain's main national art museum. Along with the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and the Museo Reina Sofía, the Prado forms Madrid's Golden Triangle of Art. The museum was founded as a museum of paintings and sculptures in 1819. It's collection includes pieces by Francisco Goya, El Greco, and Diego Velazquez.

Royal Palace viewed in the evening light
Credit: Travelpix Ltd/Getty Images

Royal Palace of Madrid

Address: Calle de Bailén, s/n, 28071 Madrid, Spain
Phone: (+34) 91 454 88 00 
Website 

The Royal Palace of Madrid is among the largest and most opulent palaces in Europe, boasting more than 1.45 million square feet of space spread over 3,418 rooms. Public tours visit several opulently decorated room housing paintings by artists including Francisco Goya and Diego Velazquez. The Palace is also home to the world's  only complete Stradivarius string quintet and hosts changing of the guards ceremonies on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Plaza de Cibeles

Address: Calle Alcala and Paseo de Recoletos, 28014
Website 

Plaza de Cibeles is a public square anchored by the iconic Cibeles Fountain, which has stood here since 1782. This spot offers one of Madrid's best known views and is surrounded by four pieces of legendary Spanish architecture, including the former post office that now serves as Madrid City Hall. Plaza de Cibeles also marks the beginning of Madrid's arts district.

Historic Temple Of Debod Reflection In Pond Against Pink Sky During Sunset
Credit: Rolando Caponi/Getty Images

Temple of Debod

Address: Calle de Ferraz, 1, 28008 Madrid, Spain
Website 

An Egyptian temple may be the last thing you would expect to find in Madrid, but that's exactly what the Temple of Debod is. This Egyptian temple traces its history to the 2nd century BC. It was given to Spain by the Egyptians and moved to Madrid, where it was rebuilt stone by stone and opened as a tourist site in 1972. If you're looking to soak in a gorgeous Madrid sunset, this is one of the best places to do it.

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Best Shopping

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Gran Via In Spain, Madrid
Credit: Gemma Escribano/Getty Images

Gran Via

Gran Via is a nearly mile-long retail paradise where shoppers can expect to find a mix of luxury boutiques and mainstream brands nestled among some of the city's finest architectural gems. Retailers along the Gran Via include H&M, the Real Madrid Official Store, the Atletico Madrid Official Store, and the largest Huawei store in Europe.

Calle de Preciados

If you're looking to shop til you drop, you may want to head straight to Calle Preciados. This lively area is home to restaurants, impromptu performances and popular retailers including Zara Mango, Desigual, Camper, and Sfera.

Calle de Serrano

If you've got Spanish luxury on your mind and money in your pocket, head straight to Calle de Serrano, home to names including Loewe, Manolo Blahnik, Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, and Adolfo Dominguez. This is also where you'll find an outpost of Spain's leading department store El Corte Ingles.

Centro Comercial Principe Pio

Address: Paseo de la Florida, 2, 28008
Phone: +34 917 58 00 40
Website

Centro Comercial Principe Pio is no ordinary shopping mall. This sleek retail destination is built inside a gorgeous 19th century train station and boasts popular names including H&M Intimissimi, Mango, Misako, and Zara.

Market of San Miguel (Mercado de San Miguel) in Madrid, Spain in the morning.
Credit: leochen66/Getty Images

Mercado San Miguel

Address: Plaza de San Miguel, s/n, 28005 
Phone: +34 915 42 49 36
Website 

Mercado de San Miguel opened as a wholesale food market more than 100 years ago. Nowadays, it's the place to sample everything from Iberian ham to fresh fish and tapas from more than 20 stands serving up authentic Spanish food.

Neighborhoods to Know

Las Austrias: This is the heart of old Madrid. It has been home to palaces, churches, and monasteries since the 16th century. It's now home to a key gathering spot, Plaza Mayor as well the Royal Palace and Corral de la Morería, a flamenco spot whose guests over the years have included Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, Che Guevara, and Demi Moore.

Las Letras: This lively neighborhood known as the Literary Quarter is a book lover's paradise. This is where you'll find the former homes of icons of the Spanish Golden Age, including Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote. The streets here are narrow, car traffic is limited, and the bohemian vibes run deep. 

Chueca: This is the heart of Madrid's LGBTQ community. It's a lively area filled with bars, cafes and shops and at the center of Madrid's iconic Pride celebration each year 

Malasana: This area in central Madrid is the city's hippest neighborhood. It's known for its vintage shops, one-of-a-kind boutiques and its role in helping Spain return to democracy. This is where you'll find the live music as well as edgy clubs.

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Weather

Madrid is one of Europe's sunniest cities, boasting more than 300 days of sunshine each year. It sits at higher altitude than you might expect, giving it some serious seasonal temperature swings. Summers are hot with temperatures reaching over 100 degrees, though a relatively dry climate makes the heat a bit more bearable. Winter temperatures can drop into the freezing range, but severe snowstorms like the one that blanketed the city in January 2021, are rare. Spring and fall offer the most pleasant weather if you can dodge spring rains.   

The following are average temperature highs and lows by Month in Fahrenheit. 

January: 38°F to 50°F
February: 39°F to 53°F
March: 43°F to 60°F
April: 47°F to 66°F
May: 53°F to 73°F
June: 63°F to 85°F
July: 67°F to 90°F
August: 66°F to 89°F
September: 60°F to 80°F
October: 52°F to 67°F
November: 42°F to 56°F
December: 38°F to 50°F

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Apps to Download

Welcome to Madrid Guide: The City's Official Tourist Guide
iOs | Android

Madrid Metro: Metro Maps, Service Updates, Wait Times
iOs | Android

Essential Art Walk App: The City's Official Tourist Guide
iOs | Android