Madrid Travel Tips | Helpful Things To Know Before You Go To The Spanish Capital
Planning a trip to the Spanish capital? Need some Madrid travel tips?
In 2011, I flew from New York City to Madrid which was the starting point of the European leg of my round the world trip. At the time my friend Jay was living there. Lucky for me he hosted me at his apartment! My original plan was to be in Madrid for 5 days but on the 4th day I ended up in the emergency room with a lung infection. That changed my travel plans and in the end, I stayed in Madrid for about 2 weeks. Looking back I remember crying and wanting to end my RTW trip and go home. In a weird stroke of luck, I ended up spending more time in Madrid due to my illness. Since that initial visit, I have spent a total of 10 months in the city and I have fallen in love with the Spanish capital. I thought it was about time to share helpful Madrid travel tips for those planning a visit.
*Information checked and updated April 2019
Scroll to the bottom to read my Madrid travel tips
Photos from my visit in 2011:
Rather than walk around aimlessly, I found a free walking tour by Sandemans. that guided me around some of the major attractions around the city. The tours often advertise as free but you should always remember that these nice guides work on tips.
- A helpful solo Madrid travel tip: I always meet nice people on day tours. After this Madrid tour, I went for beers with a couple of other travellers.
Palacio Real de Madrid or the Royal Palace
Puerta Del Sol
The Spanish streets
I would often sit in El Retiro Park and just people watch
When in Spain, you eat a lot of jamon (ham). You will be over jamon by the time you leave Spain but then you will weirdly miss jamon once you leave.
I randomly came across a ham festival, yes it’s true (Feria de Jamon Iberico)
Mercado de San Miguel, a must-visit in Madrid
Who doesn’t love breaded fried goodness? Croquetas!
Sangria jug at Mercado de San Miguel
Restaurante Botin, the oldest running restaurant in the world
Chocolateria San Gines: if you are a chocolate lover, you must go here
Chocolate y churros!
Another great market to visit, Mercado de San Anton
Seafood at the market
Outside the Prado Museum
Palace Hotel at night
Must dos in Madrid
- Mercado de San Miguel
- Mercado de San Anton
- Parque del Buen Retiro
- Plaza Mayor
- Puerta del Sol
- Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (omg Guernica by Picasso!)
- Museo Nacional del Prado
- CaixaForum Madrid
- Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza
- El Rastro – flea market on Sundays (go off the main drag where they sell newer things meant for tourists)
Helpful Madrid travel tips
- During my first visit, I took the Madrid metro to and from Adolfo Suarez Barajas Airport. It cost me 5 Euros + the fare to your destination (usually under 3 Euros). It’s super easy and much cheaper than a taxi. I took out some cash from an ATM so that I could get on the train. Here’s a link for the Madrid Metro
- The Madrid Metro now requires you to buy a Metrocard which is re-loadable. You can buy a single trip or a 10 pack
- The city is very walkable so my first visit, I never rode public transportation other than my initial ride in from the airport
- Click here for some foreign banking tips! If you are taking out cash in Spain from an ATM, the cheapest bank fees are by the banking company called Bankia. Most of the banks charge 5-6 Euros but Bankia is under 2 Euros.
- Uber does exist in Madrid (use my code uberarnette in the app to get a discount if you have not used the service) so you can also get an Uber rather than take a taxi if you have a lot of bags with you.
- If you are looking for an even cheaper way into the city, use the taxi app Cabify. I found a discount code and my cab ride cost me $12 Euros to the Salamanca area rather than the normal 30 Euros. Use my code ARNETTEE1 for discount
Cell Phone Service
- Updated 2019 – I bought a SIM card and a data plan with Orange. I bought it in the city centre (not sure if they sell SIMs at the airport) at an Orange store. For the sim card and 7 gigs of data which would work throughout Europe, the first month cost me 30 Euros. My subsequent data was 15 Euros a month for 7 Gigs.
- Please bring your passport for your purchase of the SIM and data. This is a requirement in most countries. The store I bought my sim card from had a kiosk machine and I was able to navigate and purchase in English without help.
- In regards to accommodations, I am not much help because I stayed with a friend in 2011 and now my brother and sister in law the past 3 years. This past March I stayed at the AC Marriott Cuzco in the business district with my boyfriend for a staycation. I really liked the hotel but it is about a 15-minute metro ride into the center or to tourist sites. For more Madrid hotel reviews, click here to read them on Tripadvisor.
- I also cooked a fair bit since I was sick with a lung infection so I would visit the Eroski nearby and buy groceries
- If you are looking for a budget-friendly grocery store, Mercadona is a good one. There are also a lot of Carre Four stores and El Corte Ingles Supermercados (SuperCor) on almost every block.
Look up the best rates for your Madrid hotel with cancellation here:
- Take a walking tour. Most of them are free. I took the one by Sandemans in several European cities. A great way to get a little bit of a history lesson, a guided walk to the site, a great way to meet other travellers if you’re solo, and meet a local (guide) who knows the ins and outs of the city. Don’t forget to tip them well!!!
- You can also try out local experiences in Madrid with Air Bnb. I wrote about one here. For $15 off your first experience, use my link.
- I have loads of posts about Madrid linked here
- When I was sick I went to the Hospital La Princesa. I had travel insurance with World Nomads which was great. It was actually not that expensive if I were to pay cash. Treatment was just like any hospital I had ever been to minus my lack of Spanish skills. The hospital gave me an inhaler for free (I know that Advair costs $150 at Costco in the US with co-pay) and cough syrup and antibiotics were only 8 Euros at the farmacia. Insane!! I remember buying some antibiotics at Costco in Indiana and they were $150.
- Since I was sick and feeling under the weather, I would must up some energy and wander around different neighbourhoods each day. Some days I would sit in a coffee shop and drink cafe con leche and just people watch.
Were these Madrid Travel Tips Helpful? Have any others to share?