City guide: Madrid

A traditional capital moving at a modern pace.

Madrid is one of the great European capitals. Despite the ongoing economic crisis in Spain, art and culture, as well as business and finance, remain central to the city. Residents of Madrid, madrileños, are always on a quest for entertainment. With the city’s great food, vibrant nightlife and warm hospitality, it’s easy for locals and visitors to find fun.

Getting to and from the airport

Madrid’s Barajas airport is 13 kilometers (8 miles) northeast of the city center. More than 100 carriers serve the airport, which is a major hub for flights to Latin America.

Metro Line 8 runs from the airport’s four terminals to the Nuevos Ministerios station in Madrid’s center. The journey costs €4.50 (US$5.77) and takes 12 to 15 minutes. The metro generally operates from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m.

The C1 local railway line connects Terminal 4 with several stations in Madrid including Chamartín, Nuevos Ministerios, Atocha and Príncipe Pío. It runs every 30 minutes from 5:15 a.m. to midnight, and a one-way ticket costs €2.40. Journey time is about 11 minutes.

There is also a 24-hour express bus service from terminals 1, 3 and 4 to the Atocha-RENFE transport hub in the city center, with stops at Plaza de Cibeles and Calle O’Donnell. Cost is €5. Journey time is approximately 40 minutes.

Official taxis in Madrid are white with a red stripe and the coat-of-arms of the Madrid City Council on the doors. Taxis to and from the airport charge a €5.50 supplement. All four terminals have taxi ranks outside the arrivals area.

Getting around Madrid

Although Madrid is a large city, the city center covers a relatively small area. To get elsewhere, use the extensive public transport system.

A single ride on the metro or bus costs €1.50 and a 10-ride metro-bus ticket costs €12.20. A Tourist Travel Pass covers up to seven days, costing €8 for one day and €33.40 for seven days; it allows unlimited trips in the city’s central zone. Buy the pass at metro stations and tourist information offices, including the tourist office in Plaza Mayor.

Where to stay

For luxury accommodation, try the Gran Melia Fenix Hotel, Calle Hermosilla 2
Madrid 28001, Ph: 34-91-914316700. Upscale properties include the Radisson Blu Hotel Madrid Prado, Calle Moratin 52, Ph: 33-1-46932852; Intercontinental Madrid, Paseo De La Castellana 49, Madrid 28046, Ph: 34-91-700-7300; Melia Avenida de America, Juan Ignacio Luca De Tena 36, Madrid 28027, Ph: 34-91-423-2400

For a midscale stay, try NH Practico (Express), Calle Bravo Murillo 304, Madrid 28020, Ph: 34-91-571-2880; and for a full service midscale stay, try Mercure Madrid Plaza de Espana, Calle Tutor 1, Madrid 28008, Ph: 34-91-541-9880.

Economical accommodation options include Holiday Inn Express Madrid, Esquina Calle Metalurgia1-3, Madrid 28108, Ph: 34-91-293-2700; and Tryp Alcala 611, Alcala 611-613, Madrid 28022, Ph: 34-91-743-4130.

Things to see and do

Madrid’s Big 3 museums are within a few meters of one another on the Paseo del Prado. The Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza all expanded in recent years and offer sensational permanent collections and temporary exhibitions. Lesser-known museums are well worth a visit, too. Just a few minutes’ walk from the Paseo del Prado, the San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts has a stunning collection and is never crowded.

If soccer is your sport, you can take a tour of the Real Madrid Bernabeu Stadium and follow in the footsteps of Cristiano Ronaldo and company as you walk down the players’ tunnel. Matches often take place on Saturday and Sunday evenings.

Feel like a king or queen at Madrid’s former royal park, El Retiro. Take a boating excursion on the lake, stroll through the gardens or people-watch from a café.

Enjoy stunning aerial views of the city and fill your lungs with fresh air at Madrid’s largest park, the Casa del Campo. Get there on the Teleférico cable car, which both locals and tourists use. Start your journey at the Paseo de Pintor Rosales terminal downtown. You’ll cover the 2.5-kilometer ride in about 15 minutes, at a maximum height of 40 meters. At the park, enjoy the lake, amusement park or zoo and aquarium.
If time allows, visit a 2,000-year-old piece of Egyptian history at the Temple of Debod in the city center. The Temple, open to the public since 1972, was reconstructed in Madrid when a major dam project required the monument’s removal from its original site near the Nile River.

Where to eat

Tapas are a great dining option in Madrid. Cava Baja is packed with tapas bars that serve traditional dishes such as croquetas de jamon. Or for a new spin on tapas, try Casa Lucas, which offers innovative plates such as black cannelloni stuffed with seafood. It’s at Cava Baja 30, Ph: 34-91-365-0804.

Traditional dishes such as roast suckling pig and lamb roasted in a wood-fired oven await you at Restaurante Botin, which claims to be the world’s oldest restaurant. There’s a great atmosphere, and reservations are essential. Find it at Calle Cuchilleros 17, Ph: 34-91-366-4217.

For a Michelin–rated dining experience, you can pick from about a dozen starred restaurants, including Ramon Freixa Madrid in the ultra-cool Hotel Unico. The restaurant offers an updated take on traditional Spanish cuisine. Go to Calle Claudio Coello 67, Ph: 34-91-781-8262.

Remember that madrileños eat lunch around 3 p.m. and rarely dine before 10 p.m.


en dining in Dubai, remember: Locals eat late. If you choose to dine before 8 p.m., you’ll probably be surrounded by empty tables.

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