Madrid Guides

Quick facts:

  • Rough location of city: Madrid, Central Spain
  • Language: Spanish
  • Population of city: 3 million
  • Nearest airport: Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport
  • Main train/bus station(s): Madrid Atocha Railway Station, South Station (bus)
  • Best time to visit? All year round, but spring to autumn for the best weather & to make the most of the open-air lifestyle!
  • Budget level? ££
  • Best for: History/Museums, Shopping, Nightlife, Romantic Escapes, Arty, Excursions/Day Trips

Main Districts:

Madrid is split into different neighbourhoods called barrios, each of which has its own set of eateries, bars, shops and cultural hangouts that gives it its distinct personality.

La Latina

One of Madrid’s oldest neighbourhoods, La Latina is the place to go to experience tapas like no other. In many of the colourful bars, free tapas are served when you order a drink, so make like a local as you hop from bar to bar sampling a tapa in each one. La Latina is also home to the famous open air El Rastro flea market, held every Sunday and public holidays.

Atocha

Here you will find the unique Atocha railway station. The station has a glass roof and houses a surprising tropical botanical garden with huge palm trees overhead. The garden is also home to hundreds of turtles, most of which used to be pets, and ended up living here some way or another!

Barrio de las Letras

Some of Spain’s greatest authors, like Cervantes, were once resident in this old-fashioned neighbourhood. Narrow winding streets offer up many shady cafes and tapas bars if you fancy stopping off for a refreshment as you soak up the rich history of this quarter.

Malasaña

Hipster heaven. Here you’ll find the edgy cafes where you can sit sipping your café con leche or wander around aimlessly admiring the eccentric street art. Once night falls, hit up the bars for a taste of Madrid’s thriving nightlife.

Chueca

In recent years, Chueca has transformed into the city’s most well-known LGBT hangout. This is the place to find cutting edge bars and clubs, quirky fashion, and hosts the city’s largest Pride parades in summer.

Top Attractions:

Retiro Park

Not the largest, but certainly the most popular of Madrid’s parks. In the centre is a huge water fountain set over a boating lake, and nearby is the Crystal Palace, a large greenhouse type building housing plants and built entirely from glass panes. In summer, you will find a host of small market stalls around the outskirts of the park selling second hand books and other local wares.

Palacio Real

The official residence of the Spanish Royal Family, although they no longer live here and it is only used for ceremonies. Take a tour and you’ll be whisked away to view beautifully ornate rooms with lavish furnishings. The palace is also home to spectacular manicured gardens.

Chocolateria San Gines

San Gines is the undisputed king of churrerias in Madrid. It’s a little hard to find as it is tucked away in a back alley, but it is well worth the hunt. Enjoy delicious crunchy churros and thick hot chocolate at any hour of the day or night, as it’s open 24hrs.

Best place to go out:

In Madrid the afternoon is for siesta and the party doesn’t start until after hours, so most restaurants will only be open from 8pm at the earliest with locals eating around 10 or 11pm. Make the most of your mornings by having a lie in, hit the museums, parks or shops in the afternoon, and grab a mid-pm snack in the form of churros or tapas to keep you going. Bars are open from 11pm onwards, and will be at their busiest around 2-3am. Nightclubs often stay open til 7am.

Museo del Jamon

Despite the name, this tourist-friendly place is actually a series of restaurants dedicated to Spanish charcuteria. If you’re feeling peckish you can grab a fresh sandwich (bocadillo) and take it to Retiro Park for a picnic, or you can sit in with a beer and some tapas.

Chocolateria Valor

If you can’t face the queues at San Gines, you could try this equally excellent chocolateria. You won’t have to battle for a table seat, and you can treat yourself to a dipping plate with 4 different types of chocolate to dunk your churros in, or a luxurious hot chocolate with cream!

Best Culture Spots:

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Rein Sofia

Spain’s national museum of 20th Century art. A must not miss for art lovers, this museum contains works from many of the greats such as Picasso, Dali and Guernica. The building is easily recognised by its two glass elevators that go up and down the outside of the building.

El Oso y el Madroño

 The Bear and the Strawberry Tree takes pride of place as emblem of Madrid, and its central location in the Puerta del Sol square makes it a natural point for people to meet up of an evening. Queue up to get your snaps with this 4-metre-tall bronze sculpture before hitting the shops on Gran Via, the Spanish Broadway.

El Prado Museum

Has the world’s best collection of European art. You could spend a full day here contemplating the masterpieces of Goya, Bosch and Velazquez. El Prado is located on the edge of Retiro Park so you can stretch your legs afterwards.

Free walking tour

Departs from the Plaza Mayor main square, and covers many of the top Madrid attractions. Tours daily at 10am 11am, 12pm and 2pm in English and Spanish.