Madrid City Guide

Madrid is the capital of Spain and one of the largest cities in Europe.  It’s had a host of identities since men first settled the fortifiable site by the Manzanares River.

From Roman waystation and Arab garrison town to the hub of perhaps the most powerful global empire the world has known.  Its history is a complex mosaic of peoples and cultures and in the 21st century, the city has re-invented itself again.

We will be exploring the city’s major landmarks and taking two day trips, one to medieval Segovia, the other to the imperial city of Toledo.

Due to its altitude Madrid has cold winters and very hot summers.  Traditionally Madrilenos left the city in August due to the unbearable heat, so maybe this is not the best month to go to Spain’s capital city.


Have a coffee in the Cafe de Bellas Artes.

Have a cana (half pint of beer) in one of Madrid’s many terraces scattered around the different city squares.

Take a day trip to Segovia to try cochinillo (suckling pig).

Make sure you see Picasso’s Guernika or some of Velazquez’s and Goya’s paintings in the impressive.  But also check out some of the new art space like the Matadero. You’ll find these and more on Madrid’s “Art Avenue” where you can wander into the Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen museums, and since 2007 also the CaixaForum.

On Sunday, visit the El Rastro – Madrid’s sprawling fleamarket. It’s an absolute must and the atmosphere is unbeatable.

If you can, visit Madrid during the Madrid Gay Pride.

Check out some Spanish shops like Uterque Zara and Mango – because they are manufactured in Spain by the clothing giant, Inditex, prices are much cheaper than back home. Also, some hot Spanish designers like David Delfin and Loewe.

Chill out in El Retiro park.  There are always people playing bongos and hanging out on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

Make sure you pack a phrase book and a good walking guide / map.


  • By air
    Madrid’s Barajas airport is 13km north east of the city on the A2 motorway.  Thanks to the new Richard Rogers designed terminal T4, the airport capacity is expected to reach 700 million passengers per year.All airlines that are members of the One World network (including Iberia, BA, Aer Lingus and American Airlines) will share T4 for national and international flights.For airport information, call 902 35 35 70 or 91 393 60 00 or check
  • Aerocity – provides shuttle services between the airport and city centre hotels.  Cheaper than taking taxis.
    Tel: 91 747 75 70
  • Bus from airport – Line 200 bus service runs between T1, T2, T3 and Avenida de America, while Line 204 runs to T4.  Both take between 30 and 40 minutes.
    Metro from airport – The metro is the cheapest way to get to central Madrid.
    Taxis – Taxi fares to central Madrid should be around €25.
  • By bus
    Almost all international and long distance coach services to Madrid terminate at the Estacion Sur de Autobuses.
  • By train
    Spanish national railways (renfe) has two main stations in Madrid – Atocha and Chamartin.
    To get to know Madrid , it’s best to explore on foot.  Most of the main attractions are witin walking distance of each other and for orientation purposes think of Puerta del Sol as the centre.Public transport is cheap and efficient – both bus and metro will get you where you want to go within half and hour, although it’s best to avoid the buses during rush hour.
    Metro is the quickest and simplest way of travelling to most parts of the city.  The metro is open 6am-2am daily



  • Population: Roughly 3.3 million making it the largest in Spain and the entire population of the Madrid metropolitan area is calculated to be 6.271 million. It is the third largest city in the European Union, after London and Berlin.
  • Currency: Like in the rest of Spain, the currency in Madrid is the Euro, (€).
  • Language: Spanish & English


Hostal Cats

c/Cañizares 6
28012 Madrid, Spain
+34 913 692 807

Madrilenos are called cats (gatos) and like cats, they like to come out at night.  Sleep is never guarenteed at this particular Hostal as the atmosphere is very social but it’s central and the perfect place to meet other travelers if you are running solo.

From €12 per night The Cats is very affordable. Rooms are clean but you may be sharing in bunk beds with other travelers and there’s an open all hours policy, no curfew here!

For more reccomendations, try the Lonely Planet’s exhaustive list or for a top ten run down The Guardian’s rounded these up nicely, from boutique type hotels to all-out luxe.


  • Not so long ago, it used to be that even dishes from other regions of Spain were thought as exotic here in the capital.  However, the times are changing and today you can find food from all over the world.
  • That said, this city remains a bastion of Spanish cuisine and what has often been describes as ‘brown food’.  The famous cocido madrilène – a stew of various bits of meat, offal and vegetables served up in three courses – is still eaten religiously.
  • For madrileno cuisine head for the area around Los Austrias and La Latina.  If you are not up for this heavy food, head over to Chueca, where you’ll find hipper, stylish restaurants.


  • Don’t go out too early.  Madrilenos rarely eat lunch before 2pm.  Although if you go after 4pm the kitchen will be closed.  Dinner is eaten late as well, around 10pm.
  • For lunch, order the menu of the day.  This is a great way to eat cheaply and well.  It usually includes starter, main course and dessert, bread and wine.
  • Careful if you decide to eat tapas.  It can end up being quite costly.  Ask for a menu where you can see the prices.  If they haven’t got one, check the price of each dish you order.  Your can also order half portions.


Tourist board –
Airport info –
Train info –
Tube/subway –
Buses –
Madrid Gay Pride – – contemporary art center


Time Out Madrid
Lonely Planet Madrid
Rough guide Madrid
Eyewitness Travel, Top 10 Madrid