Madrid is known for its world-class museums, impressive architecture and vibrant dining scene. But like any large city, it can seem a bit daunting at first.
With a few insider tips, you’ll be ready to jump right in! Here are our top 10 travel tips for Madrid to help you make the absolute most of your trip to the Spanish capital!
Photo Credit: Gotardo González
1. 30€ taxi from the airport
Feeling beat after a long flight? Heavy suitcase got you down? Never fear! Grab a taxi outside of any airport terminal and pay a flat rate of 30€ to go anywhere in central Madrid. Central Madrid is considered as any location within Madrid’s ring road, the M30. To check if your hotel is within the M30, just check Google Maps.
Note: If your party has multiple destinations in the city center, the taxi will re-start the meter after the first stop.
2. Take the metro
Many cities lack great public transport, Madrid is not one of them! The Madrid Metro is a great public service with clean, modern trains and great connections. Get your 10 ride pass for 12.20€ at any metro station and ride away! Trains come frequently and are a great option for moving around the city. To get your bearings, check the large panels on each platform to make sure your stop is on the list of stops for the train’s route. As the trains are one direction per platform, if your stop is listed, you’re good to go!
Insider’s tip: Keep an eye on you purse or wallet as there can be the odd case of petty crime on the metro.
3. Beware of siesta time
Many smaller or family-run shops operate on the traditional Spanish schedule and will close between 2:00 and 5:00pm. But if you plan your shopping around those times and you’ll be fine! Chain shops and most supermarkets remain open throughout the day. Similarly, many restaurants and bars close after lunch service around 4:30pm and the kitchens will re-open for dinner around 8:00pm.
4. Eat a menú del día
One of our favorite ways to do lunch in Madrid is to go out for a menú del día. Served at most restaurants throughout the city, menú del día is a set lunch menu with drinks and dessert included. You’ll choose from several first course options– usually soup, vegetable or rice dishes. Then select your second course which is typically meat or fish accompanied by salad and or potatoes. For dessert, you can usually go for either something sweet or a coffee. This is a great way to try several typical Spanish dishes. As lunch is the most important meal of the day in Spain, portions are typically large and quite filling!
Insider’s tip: Casera means homemade. If a dessert is listed as a casera, it’s been made on-site and is a great option for satisfying your sweet tooth!
5. Check out museums during free hours
Both the Reina Sofia and Prado Museums have free hours throughout the week. For the Prado, the free entry hours are from Monday to Saturday 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm and on Sundays and holidays 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm. For the Reina Sofia Museum, free entry times are Mondays 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, Wednesday to Saturday 7:00 pm to 9:00 p.m. and Sundays 1:30 pm – 7:00 pm. The museum is closed on Tuesdays.
Insider’s tip: The glass elevators in the Reina Sofia are a great way to see the city from up above, be sure to take the elevators to catch a glimpse of Madrid’s beautiful rooftops.
6. Go out for raciones
Dinner in Madrid is a perfect time to try the shared plates known as raciones. Seen on menus throughout the city, raciones are the way we do tapas in Madrid. They are shared plates of everything from Spanish cured ham to fried calamari. Raciones are typically one type of food, expertly prepared and served with a bit of bread for making sure no delicious drop is wasted. Be a true Madrileño and order a selection of dishes to make a meal.
Insider’s tip: For smaller portions you can usually order a half ración (media ración in Spanish).
7. Learn a little Spanish before you come
In most hotels and touristic locations, you will find English speakers. However, in many restaurants and smaller shops, English can be limited. To get your morning caffeine fix, hassle-free, check out our guide for ordering coffee in Spanish. There are also great translation and dictionary apps that work wonders on getting through a Spanish-only menu. One of our favorites is wordreference.com. Here’s another great guide for Spanish menu translations that will make ordering a breeze!
Also, try learning a few quick phrases in Spanish to make a great impression:
Por favor: please
Gracias: thank you
Hasta luego: See you later (typically said when leaving a shop or restaurant)
8. Don’t eat in the Plaza Mayor
The Plaza Mayor is a spectacular 17th century public square with beautiful balconies, great atmosphere and historic charm. The square is also lined with outdoor restaurants and cafés. That said, many of these eateries are not ideal for sampling the best Madrid has to offer.
If you’re looking to enjoy a meal al fresco, great options can be found in Plaza Santa Ana. Close to the Puerta del Sol, Plaza Santa Ana is a local favorite with bars and eateries featuring traditional Spanish favorites and modern takes on classic dishes. In winter, there are large heaters to make outdoor dining a year-round option!
9. Order cañas
Here in Madrid we order beer by the caña, a small draft beer poured with a bit of foam on top. You’ll typically get a tapa with your drink (a free nibble typically olives, a slice of cheese or some potato chips). To order your caña just go up to the bar and say “una caña por favor“.
If you’re more of a wine person, try ordering a vino tinto (red wine) or vino blanco (white wine). In Spain we order wine by the region. For a fun red option try a Ribera from the Ribera del Duero region just north of Madrid. For a great white, order a Rueda for a light and fruity wine. Just say “un vino tinto/blanco por favor”
10. Take a food tour
We would love to show this amazing city and introduce you some of the passionate people behind some of Madrid’s best bites. For a great introduction to Madrid’s diverse eating experiences and a nice dose of culture and history, try our Ultimate Spanish Cuisine Tour.
Lauren grew up in an Italian-American family where 3-hour meals were the norm. After 10 years in the restaurant industry, she moved to Spain where she launched her popular Spanish food blog, Spanish Sabores, and soon after led groups on the first Devour Madrid food tours.