At a Glance
When to Go
The unbeatable convenience of the AVE, Europe’s fastest high-speed train, makes traveling across Spain a cinch. For arrivals by air, Madrid Barajas Airport is located in the northeast of the city, and from there it's a cheap train ride to anywhere in the city. A taxi bank awaits outside the arrivals area, but note there is a 7.95 Euro supplement (about $10) when leaving the airport. For bus journeys, ALSA is the best for both domestic and international travel from Madrid, but the overnight options tend to be long and punctuated with several stops.
Madrid’s Metro is easily one of the best in the world, covering the entirety of the city with regular service. Employee strikes are becoming more frequent, and this can sometimes lead to 20-minute wait times. On strike days, you’re typically better taking a taxi or pounding the pavement. Don’t dismiss the bus system—it's one of the better ways to stay above ground and take in more of the city than you thought possible. The Madrid Transport system has a highly functioning website in English, allowing you to plan your public transit easily.
Food and Drink
From flamenco and soccer to bullfighting and ham, Madrid has a proud tradition of culture seeping from every corner of the city. Hemingway’s haunts dot the trails of downtown, and the tapas and beer spill out into the streets, begging you to stop and spend a moment soaking in Madrid.
Epiphany, in early January, is Spain’s favorite holiday, when presents and parades abound in the city. The entire downtown closes to enjoy and participate in the parade, while the Three Kings throw candy to the cheering crowd. To see the real spirit of Madrid, visit in mid-May when the San Isidro festival transforms the city into an earlier version of itself. Everyone, young and old, dresses in traditional Madrileño costumes and dances the night away in the San Isidro neighborhood. This is also when the famous San Isidro bullfights are held at Las Ventas arena, and the city pulses with energy.
What the Locals Know
Brandy Bell is a travel writer currently living in Madrid, Spain, where she dabbles in everything from nunchucks and hula hooping to street art. She is on a quest to build a recycled cello, perfect a French accent, and is currently planning a trip to South Africa where she hopes to skin dive with Great Whites. Follow her journey at Itsoneworldtravel.com.