Madrid Travel Guide
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, too.
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.
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.
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.
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I don't speak Spanish: No habla Espanol
I'm lost: Estoy perdido
I would like: Me gustaria
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.
Things to Do
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.
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