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Madrid: 7 Things Travelers Need To Know Before Visiting

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The Spanish capital of Madrid is a fun-loving, eclectic city full of fantastic food, museums, and an incredible nightlife scene.

Wandering through Madrid’s many neighborhoods is a great way to experience Spain’s slow, relaxed pace of life, and the city offers something for every type of traveler.

Visitors can enjoy exploring the city’s rich history, eventful nights out at thriving clubs and bars, world-class cuisine, and a culture that is authentic and welcoming.   

Madrid, Spain cityscape at Calle de Alcala and Gran Via.

But before setting off to Madrid, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. In this post, we'll cover everything you need to know about traveling to Madrid, including:

  • What are the costs for travelers?
  • Things to know about culture and etiquette
  • What are the top attractions?
  • How safe is it?
  • Local food and drinks
  • How good is the WiFi?
  • How long can you stay?
Cibeles Fountain in Madrid Spain

Ready? Here are the top 7 things you need to know before visiting Madrid:

Did you know…. Madrid’s Plaza Mayor is the hub of the city and a reference point for most tourists. The grand central square dates back to the 15th century and is a delightful open space in a crowded city and a gathering point for both locals and visitors. The plaza is a great place to sit for a coffee or beer while people watching or enjoying the local street musicians. If you visit in winter it is home to Madrid’s renowned Christmas Market.

1) Madrid Affordability

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The currency in Madrid is the Euro or EUR. The current exchange rate is €1 EUR = $1.10 USD and $1 USD = €0.91.

Here are the average costs for travelers in USD:

Accommodation

Madrid has a wide range of accommodation options to suit different budgets. Just be sure to research your hotel or hostel’s location before booking to make sure it is in a neighborhood you want to explore.

  • Average hotel price: One night at a 3-star hotel typically costs around $173, or $210 for a 4-star hotel.
  • Luxury 5-star hotels: Luxury 5-star hotels in a central area average $435 per night, although there are more expensive options if you want to indulge. The Four Seasons Hotel in the heart of Madrid has rooms starting at $1,250 per night, or you could spend up to $10,000/per night for the King Suite.
  • If you're on a budget: A bed in a Madrid hostel costs between $20 – $30, while a private ensuite room typically ranges between $60 – $90 per night.  

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Old cozy street in Madrid, Spain. Architecture and landmark of Madrid, postcard of Madrid

Food

Madrid is an incredible foodie city, with plenty of delicious and affordable options.

  • A 3-course meal at a mid-range restaurant for two costs around $50.
  • For a cheap meal at an inexpensive restaurant, expect to pay around $12.
  • A beer costs about $3, while a cappuccino is typically $2.

Transportation

Madrid has one of the best public transit networks in Europe which makes getting around as a tourist a breeze.

  • Madrid’s public transportation network includes a Metro with 12 lines, 3 tram lines, and an extensive bus system. A single ticket costs between $1.65 – $2.20 depending on the distance traveled. The city also offers a Tourist Ticket with unlimited travel on public transit for 1-7 days. A one-day pass for the city center zones is $9.30 and a three-day pass is $20.  
  • The city’s electric bike-share program BiciMAD is another great way to get around the city. There are over 3,000 bikes docked at 264 points across the city that can be rented through the BiciMAD app. Rentals are $2 for the first hour plus an additional $4 per hour past that.
  • Taxi fares start at $2.75 and cost an additional $2 per mile traveled, and slightly more on the weekends and late at night. Apps like Free Now and Join Up Taxi are helpful if you need to arrange a taxi. Uber is also available in Madrid.
A metro station in Madrid with busy city streets around

2) Culture And Etiquette In Madrid

Check this list before your trip! Here are some of the major Dos and Don’ts in Madrid.

  • DO check restaurant hours: The Spanish eat dinner late – typically not until 9 pm. If you plan on eating earlier be aware that many restaurants close between 5 pm – 8 pm to prepare for the dinner shift, so check ahead, or plan for a late lunch to get you through to dinner time.
  • DON’T forget to tip: While tipping culture in Spain is not like the U.S., a tip of 10% for good service is always appreciated.
  • DO be prepared for the siesta: In Madrid, it is typical to take a midday nap between 3 pm and 5 pm. Many shops and restaurants close during this time, so plan accordingly.  
  • DON’T plan on an early night: Just as with late dinners, the Spanish also go out to party late. Most people in Madrid won’t head out to the bar or club until after midnight and can stay out until the early hours of the morning.
  • DO dress up: Madrid is not as casual as other places in Spain, so bring a few nice outfits, or do some shopping while you are visiting!
  • DO learn some Spanish: It is always a good idea to learn a bit of Spanish before traveling to Madrid. Even if you just learn a few basics, it will go a long way.
a cafe with outdoor seating and a green awning in Madrid

3) Top Attractions in Madrid

Madrid is full of incredible places to explore. Here are a few of the top things to see and do while visiting the city:

  • Prado National Museum – Home to one of the world’s largest art collections, the Prado houses 20,000 works of art including pieces by Rembrandt, Monet, and Caravaggio.
  • The Royal Palace – The official residence of Spain’s Royal Family, although it is now only used for ceremonial purposes. The impressive 18th-century building has over 3,400 rooms many of which can be explored on a self-guided tour.
  • El Retiro Park – Madrid’s main park and UNESCO World Heritage Site, has 350 lush acres of parkland in the city center. With over 15,000 trees, a lake, monuments, sculptures, and gardens, the park is a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Royal Palace of Madrid The historic facade of the Palacio Real reflecting in the still waters of the ornamental pond set amongst the green trees of the Sabatini Gardens in the heart of Madrid, Spain's vibrant capital city. ProPhoto RGB profile for maximum color fidelity and gamut.

4) How Safe Is It For Tourists?

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Madrid is consistently ranked as a safe city for travelers and even for solo female travelers. However, there are still some things that travelers should keep in mind to stay safe during their visit:

  • Beware of thieves: pickpocketing is the most common crime that tourists encounter in Madrid. Be on high alert in busy areas, tourist hotspots, and on public transportation.
  • Only bring what you need: If you are going out at night, just bring the essentials. Leave your passport and valuables in your hotel just in case you get carried away.
  • Know how to call for help: Emergency services can be reached by calling 112.
  • DO get travel insurance: Travel insurance can help in health emergencies as well as with covering the costs of any travel mishaps during your Madrid trip. For 5 great options, read more here.
a woman takes a selfie in Madrid

5) Local Eats And Drinks

One of the best parts of travel is checking out the local cuisine, and Madrid is a fantastic place to try new foods. Don't let yourself leave without trying at least one of the following:

Food

Eating in Madrid is a communal experience. Tapas are common and sharing is the norm.

  • Cocido Madrileño – A traditional chickpea-based stew typically made with potatoes, carrots, cabbage, and pork simmered in a rich stock.
  • Cochinillo – Slowly cooked suckling pig traditional to the villages surrounding Madrid. The meat is juicy and very tender and the skin is crispy.
  • Pincho de tortilla – The much-loved Spanish omelet found in most bars and restaurants in Spain. This thick omelet is packed full of potatoes and served hot or at room temperature.  
  • Churros – Delectable sticks of fried dough that are crispy on the outside and custardy on the inside, Typically sprinkled with sugar and dipped into a hot chocolate sauce.
tourists eat churros in Madrid

Drinks

  • Sangria – a fruity punch made with red wine, citrus, and seltzer, and sweetened with sugar.
  • Cava – Spanish sparkling wine, perfect for a special night out, or for a refreshing mid-day drink break.
  • Spanish Horchata  – a sweet non-alcoholic drink made with tubers called chufas
  • Beer – great with some tapas, try the local brew, Mahou

6) How's the WiFi?

Using Ookla, an internet speed testing service, the average internet speeds in Madrid for February 2023 were 48.02mbps download and 11.89mbps upload.

Cibeles fountain in Madrid, Spain

7) How Long Can I Stay?

Americans traveling to Spain can stay for up to 90 days within a 180-day period without needing a visa. Passports must be valid for at least 3 months past the date of your departure. However, 6 months of validity is recommended.

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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com

Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.


Rachel

Tuesday 18th of April 2023

Still using stock footage of people wearing a face diaper outside but no mention of mask mandates. What is the message supposed to be here?