Guide to MadridUpdated January 2024
So, you’ve added Madrid to your travel itinerary? Congratulations! You are in for a treat!
Madrid is my favourite city in the world, my adopted home and (at the risk of sounding like an Instagram meme) my true happy place.
I started this page as a place to keep my many recommendations for friends visiting this fine city. A page full of ‘locals tips’, the must-do (and also best avoided!) sights and some special ways of getting the best out of this incredible city.
But it grew.
And now it’s several pages!
So grab a note pad and buckle up!
Madrid All Year Round
One of the many joys of Madrid is that there is ALWAYS something on!
Here’s a list off the top of my head of ‘what happens and when‘. I’ll add more as I come across them but… there’s so much more than this! Check the esMadrid magazine for a comprehensive What’s On for the current month.
January: Three Kings Day Parade(5th) and the Dia del los Reyes itself (6th)
February: Cherry blossoms in Retiro and Parque de la Quinta de los Molinos,
March: Semana Santos (Easter)
April: Madrid Marathon.. rain, lots of rain (by Madrid standards anyway!)
May: San Isidro (15th), Tomavistas Festival
June: Feria del Libro de Madrid, PHotoEspaña, Orgullo LGTBQI parade in Madrid (
August: Disclaimer: if you come in August it will be hot. Really, really hot. If you have a choice… come any month other than August.
But… if you must come in August. Apart from being incredibly hot (many locals clear out and go to the beach, visit family pueblos.. just leave for the month) there are the big three fiesta – Fiestas de San Cayetano(7th), Fiestas de San Lorenzo (10th) and Verbena de la Paloma (from 12th). This basically means a good week of street party in the Embajadores / Lavapies / La Latina neighbourhood. There are pools, and good beer…. but plenty of places close, so book or check before heading to any of the places on my eats list.
November: Meninas Madrid (in the street), Christmas Lights (turned on the last Friday in November)
December: Christmas (lights, iceskating and Christmas markets)
- The language
Don’t know any Spanish? Don’t sweat it – people are generally amazingly generous. Try the words you have (por favor, gracias, perdona, lo siento….) as they go a long way and the ffort will be appreciated. And if you get stuck always remember that Google Translate is your friend. This goes for researching on the internet too.
- Getting around
Public transport in Madrid is excellent. The buses are fast (!) and run often. The trains are super regular and with a change or two can weave you all around the city. PT is genuinely all you need in Madrid.
Get a Metro card, load up a tourist ticket and ride to your heart’s content. If you are stingy you can load a 10 trip ticket but if you are touristing lots, you’ll want an unlimited. Be warned google maps is good with routes but crap with times and connections. I find Citymapper to be the most accurate app (it works off the bus and metro a API) getting around town.
Bus stops (and a lot pf metro stops) use Navilens to tell you when next buses are coming… you can bookmark your faves and as it’s direct to the EMT API it’s as accurate as the digital displays you find on a lot of stops.
- You can also train to and from the airport with your metro card – you just need to add the airport fee at a machine (you can do this at the airport train station).