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Madrid Travel Guide

The 6.5 million Madrileno (that’s what the people here call themselves) Spanish capital Madrid hits a lot of tourism bull’s-eyes: architecture, nightlife, food, sport and culture. Madrid has so much personality it’s like a mini-country with its own distinct identity. The Spanish Royal family greatly influenced Madrid’s growth and looks, as did Franco’s rule.

Madrid is often called Spain’s party town and this is because there are events and festivals held all year round – and this isn’t just to draw in tourists. The locals really do love their celebrations.

It’s divided into neighbourhoods, some of which are tourist traps and others are tourist heaven, for example, Lavapies, Gran Via, Masalena, Moncloa, Salamanca, La Latina and Chueca. Within these neighborhoods, you’ll discover very particular kinds of pleasures (Chueca is Mardrid’s LGBT central).

Best Time To Visit Madrid

April, May, June, September and October, which are the months of spring and autumn, are the best times to visit according to travel guides. Madrid weather touches extremes in the summer (hot and dry), and winter (frosty). Winter sees some days of snowfall, spring and autumn see rain.

How To Reach Madrid

GET IN

  • By Air: Adolfo Suarez Madrid-Barajas Airport is one of Europe’s largest airports with many flights daily. 5 EUR in cash will pay for your ride on a 24-hours express bus service to downtown Puerta del Sol or Atocha. It’s a 30 – 40 minute ride. Train Line C1 connects Terminal 4 to Atocha and Chamartin stations. The metro line 8 connects all terminals to the Nuevos Ministerios station
  • By Train: RENFE; Madrid and Barcelona (2h 40min), Seville (2h 20min), Malaga (2h 30min). Other connections include Ciudad Real, Lisbon, Milan, the French coast, Paris. Northbound and international trains arrive and depart from Chamartin station. Trains to Barcelona, Valencia and southern Spain depart from Atocha.
  • By Bus: Madrid’s 8 massive bus stations connect the city to practically all of Europe.
  • By Car: The Highways A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, and A6 all lead by road into Madrid.

GET AROUND

  • By Metro de Madrid: Second in size only to the London Underground. Extremely convenient. Multilingual tickets. So long you have a stamped ticket inside the Metro zone, you can travel far and wide; once you leave though, you have to get another stamped ticket. Metros run from 6:00 am – 1:30 am. EUR 1.50 per ride.
  • By Bus: Buses will take you everywhere the Metro won’t, and they have free WiFi. EUR 1.50 per ride.
  • By Cercanias Train: Very, very slow. Prefer the metro.
  • By Car: Don’t! Parking is a nightmare. A tourist can find all the information needed to navigate these online though. Get a map, and a reliable GPS device.
  • By Taxi: Inexpensive. Hail them on the street. Marked with “Libre” on the roof.
  • Tip: Lost in Madrid? Drive downhill – you’ll eventually get to either the Castellana/Recoletos/Paseo del Pardo central axis or the M30.
  • Walking: It’s the best way to get around the compact centre of Madrid with its many tourist attractions.

Tourist Attractions In Madrid

Madrid sightseeing is dominated by fine art museums, stunning parks, lovely road, tapas bars and flamenco dinner shows. Definitely check out the Teleferico (the Madrid Cable Car), and the Royal Botanical Gardens. The most popular Madrid tourist attractions, in descending order, are:

  • Prado Museum
  • Retiro Park    
  • Royal Palace of Madrid
  • Mercado San Miguel               
  • Sorolla Museum    
  • Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum    
  • Paseo del Prado                                      
  • Queen Sofia Arts Center
  • Plaza Mayor    
  • Metropolis Building
  • Plaza and Palacio de Cibeles    
  • Alcala Gate    
  • CaixaForum
  • Templo de Debod    
  • Atocha Railroad Station    
  • Zoo Aquarium de Madrid
  • Gateway of the Sun
  • Plaza Monumental de Toros de las Ventas
  • Cerralbo Museum
  • Hermitage of San Antonio de la Florida
  • Almudena Cathedral And crypt     
  • National Archeological Museum    
  • Parque El Capricho            
  • Madrid Rio    
  • Museo Naval
  • Sobrino de Botin
  • Plaza de Espana    
  • Royal Botanic Garden
  • Parque de Atracciones
  • Hammam Al Andalus Madrid
  • Teleferico   
  • Museo Lazaro Galdiano
  • Real Basilica de San Francisco el Grande    
  • Museo del Romanticismo
  • Chueca
  • The Valley of the Fallen
  • Plaza de Santa Ana    
  • Faunia           
  • St. Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts
  • Parque Juan Carlos I
  • Malasana 
  • La Latina and El Rastro
  • Convent of the Royal Barefoot Nuns
  • Bellas Artes Center
  • Church of San Antonio de los Alemanes
  • St. Jerome the Royal
  • Museum of the Americas
  • Museo del Jamon
  • Essential Flamenco
  • El Rey Leon
  • Tablao Flamenco La Quimera
  • Corral de la Moreria
  • Parque del Oeste
  • Casa de Lope de Vega
  • Iglesia de San Manuel y San Benito
  • Casa de Campo
  • Museo del Aire
  • Museum of Costume
  • Madrid Xanadu
  • Museo Geominero
  • Puerta de Toledo
  • Parque La Quinta de los Molinos
  • The Moorish Garden
  • Cafe de Chinitas
  • Palacio de Linares
  • Museo de los Origenes
  • Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales
  • Church of San Gines
  • Puerta de Europa  Torres Kio
  • Monasterio de la Encarnacion
  • Almunada Cemetary (Cementerio de Nuestra Senora de la Almudena)
  • Plaza Lavapies
  • La Central de Callao
  • Las Tablas
  • Vinicola Mentridana
  • Casa Patas, Flamenco en Vivo
  • Cafe Central
  • Las Carboneras
  • Cafe La Palma
  • La Venencia
  • Lola Fonseca
  • San Miguel Artesania
  • Macchinine
  • Cooking Point
  • Kenika Thai Massage

Hotels & Restaurants In Madrid

WHERE TO STAY

Budget Hotels:

  • Artrip Hotel
  • Hotel Francisco
  • Hotel Gaia
  • Room Rate Mario
  • Mayerling Hotel
  • Ibis Centro Madrid Las Ventas

Mid-Range Hotels:

  • Aparto Suites Jardines de Sabatini
  • Hostal Main Street Madrid
  • Sercotel Suites Viena
  • Hotel Room Mate Alicia
  • Room Mate Laura
  • Praktik Metropol
  • Room Mate Oscar

Luxury Hotels:

  • Hotel Atlantico
  • Hotel Preciados
  • Catalonia Las Corte
  • The Westin Palace Madrid
  • Gran Melia Fenix
  • Hotel Ritz by Belmond
  • Hotel Liabeny

WHERE TO EAT

Madrid must haves:

  • Gallinejas and Entresijos (lamb meat fried in lamb fat)
  • Callos a la Madrilena (spicy beed hot pot)
  • Cocido Madrileno - Chickpea stew with meat and vegetables
  • Oreja de Cerdo - Pigs ears, fried in garlic
  • Spanish Sopa de Ajo - Garlic soup
  • Tapas

Rather than point out specific restaurants, your gastronomic experience in Madrid will be much better served by hitting up the districts famed for food, such as La Latina and Mercado San Miguel (Though the Madrid day food tours around the city are excellent too). Avoid advertised paella – find a regular looking place instead. Still the best places to eat are mentioned below:

  • El Club Allard
  • Casa9 Restaurante
  • La Tragantua
  • Taberna Gastromaquia
  • Taberna del Chato
  • Metro Bistro - Templo de Debod
  • El Abrazo de Vergara
  • Mercado de San Miguel
  • Malaspina
  • Lua

Festivals & Events In Madrid

January:

  • January 5: Cabalgata de Reyes (Procession of the Three Wise Kings)
  • January 6: Reyes Magos (Three Wise Kings Day)
  • January 17: San Anton (get your pets blessed)

February:

  • February 3: Festival of the San Blas neiborhood
  • February 14: St. Valentine's Day

March:

  • First Sunday of the March month: Festival of Jesus de Medinaceli (first make 3 wishes at the hermitage and then go visit the fair).
  • March 17: St. Patrick's Day (Irish craic and tapas)
  • March 19: San Jose (father’s day)

April:

  • Semanta Santa Week
  • April 23 to May 4: Our Lady of Valverde in the Fuencarral neighbourhood

May:

  • May 1: Labour Day. Food and music events at Casa de Campo, Madrid
  • May 2: Festival of the Autonomous Community of Madrid
  • May 15: San Isidro Labrador – festival for the patron saint of Madrid. Fairs, pilgrimages and bullfighting.

June:

  • June 13: San Antonio de la Florida (Moncloa area). Girls pray for festival.
  • June 23 to 24: Festival of San Juan. Lots of fire play
  • June 29: San Pedro and San Pablo (Carabanchel Alto area). Fairs and fireworks.

July:

  • First Sunday: Nuestra Senora de las Victorias (Tetuan area).
  • July 8 to 17: Virgen del Carmen (Vallecas area). 
  • July 25: Santiago (Carabanchel Bajo area) for the patron Saint of Spain.

August:

  • August 7 and 8: San Lorenzo and San Cayetano
  • August 15: Virgen de la Paloma (La Latina, Lavapies and Las Vistillas areas). Street organs and chotis dance.

September:

  • September 2: La Merced (Mediodia area) patron Saint Festival
  • September 5 to 13: La Melonera Arganzuela area, celebrated around the Manzanares river.
  • September 24 to 29: Fiestas de Otono, or Autumn Fair (Chamartin area).

October:

  • October 12: Nuestra Senora del Pilar, Our Lady of El Pilar (Salamanca, Pilar and Orcasitas areas). This is a national festival.

November:

  • November 1: All Saints' Da

December:

  • December 6: Constitution Day
  • December 8: La Inmaculada Concepcion (Immaculate Conception)
  • December 25: Christmas Day

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