You can read all about my trip to Madrid here.
And here come the tips for Madrid as per my experience.
Within the City:
- If you are staying somewhere near the center, then most of the places of interest are within walking distance of one another.
- It is mostly flat but there are some ups and downs on the streets. So wear comfortable shoes.
- But sometimes one does get tired after standing in queues, walking around in museums for 3-4 hours at a stretch, or simply doesn’t have that much time. So for such scenarios, I felt that it was a good idea to buy a 10 trips card for Zone A which works both on Metros and buses. It can be purchased from the ticket machines at the metro stations. There is a plastic card which has a one time cost of 2.50 Euros and then on top, this 10 trip ticket costed 12.20 Euros. The same card can then be topped up when you need more, after having exhausted your 10 trips. There are options also to have single journey loaded on it as well as 1/2/3 day passes. You need to look carefully for the options. The machines have an English interface too. And sometimes I have also seen the staff from the Metro standing there to help the people.
- Before having bought this metro card, I used the buses twice and I could buy the ticket directly from the driver by paying cash. The interactive bus map whose link I have given above works but is a bit slow. Google map showed only metro/circanias connection and not the bus connections unfortunately.
Airport to City transfer:
- If you want to use the Metro to come to the city from the airport then you would need to add on the card mentioned above, using the ticket machine, a 3 Euro airport supplement which is valid only for the same day as when you have added it.
- I liked the option with the Bus that runs from outside all Terminals and for 5 Euros, it takes you to Atocha, which is a big train station close to the center. It was bus no. 203 from Terminal 1. You can directly pay to the bus driver and get the ticket. You would see the “Expres Aeropuerto” written outside the airport terminal to know where you can board it from.
- There is another option – a train called “Circanias” with this symbol . Please note that this is different from the Metro. You will have to purchase a separate ticket for this. It is a different ticket machine than that for the Metro. Could be purple or red colored. It costs the least of the three options – bus, metro, circanias – at 2.60 Euros one way ticket as there is no airport supplement required for that unlike that for the metro. It starts from Terminal 4. If you land on any other terminal, then there is a free shuttle bus that can take you to Terminal 4. The option on the ticket machine to be chosen is “Adult Ida” for one way ticket and it would then let you select the station you want to go to. Note: keep the ticket safe because you would need it to both enter and to exit the station.
- And of course, there is the option to take a taxi. From what I read online, it is at a flat rate of 30 Euros to the city center. What does city center mean for that, I don’t know. So may be do your research first according to the hotel where you plan to stay before deciding whether taxi would work out for you.
The following list is something that you would find on all the websites about what to see in Madrid, but I will write them down for completeness sake:
Another Art museum – Thyssen-Bornemisza
History Museum – National Archaeological Museum – A very good museum showing artifacts from pre-history to early modern times. Explanations are in English too. For a good experience, I’d suggest to rent the audio-guide. The app doesn’t work properly.
El Retiro Park with a lake and a Crystal Palace inside it.
Cathedral Almedina (free entry for the cathedral, museum is with a ticket)
Lots of other churches can be seen along the way as well. In particular I went to the church having the tomb of Goya where he had also made the frescoes. It’s called Ermitage San Antonio de la Florida.
Plaza Mayor, Puerta de Sol, Plaza Espana
El Rastro street market on Sundays and public holidays – starts at 9:00 AM. Go early to avoid crowds.
Mercado San Miguel (and several other mercados) – market halls with fresh produce, meats, fish and so on.
Of course, Madrid is much more than these. There are so many free museums to see. For a list, check out this page. I went to two of them mentioned on this page – the Casa Lope de Vega (house of the author Lope de Vega) and the Museo de Historia de Madrid. I liked both of them.
In addition, there is one other good thing in Madrid – for the Palace, the Prado museum and the Reina Sofia museum at least (there will be other places too), there are timings for free entry for general public everyday. You may want to check online if the timings fits on the days you are going to be in Madrid. The queues may be large for that – so plan accordingly. At the palace, they stop the entry one hour before the closing time. At the Prado Museum, the queue for the free entry starts getting built up one hour before the time and can be really long! At the Reina Sofia, I went on Sunday and the queue was quite alright at 1:30 PM. I took the entrance for the Nouvel building. The queue on the other entrance – Sabatini building appeared to be longer.
I took two day trips from Madrid to these very beautiful medieval towns:
Toledo – You can either take the Alsa bus from bus station at Plaza Elliptica or a train from Atocha Renfe. To go to the main square – Plaza Zocodover which is uphill, after reaching Toledo, you can take the elevators by walking from the train/bus station towards what looks like a parking lot. Look towards the city uphill from the bus station, and you would see this structure and that’s where the elevators are:
Or you can take the bus (5, 5D, 51, 61, and 62) from right outside the train station (on exiting the train station, turn right and you would see a bus stop on the main road). I don’t remember the exact ticket price for the bus but it was somewhere around 1.50 Euros.
Or you can hike. Depends on your energy level.
There was a very good free walking tour (tip based) at 11:00 AM from the Plaza Zocodover. Try to take that one. It gives a very good overview. Then you can decide which places you would like to go in to know more about them. There was a red band ticket which gave you entry to several sites. The cathedral entry requires a separate ticket. On Saturdays, the El Greco museum and the Sefardi Museum (Synagogue) allow for free entry after 2 PM. Otherwise they are part of that red band ticket.
Segovia – You can either take the Avanza bus from bus station Moncloa or a train from Atocha Renfe.
You can reach Plaza Elliptica and Moncloa easily with the metro.
It takes a bit longer with the bus than with the train but the frequency of buses is higher, the scenery along the way is nice and they have wifi. The directions were quite easy to follow at both the Moncloa and Elliptica bus stations.
In Segovia, the bus station is like 5 minutes away from the Aqueduct (from where you start your tour) while the train station is farther away. The tourist information center has very friendly and helpful people who will explain everything to you. Their map is also extensive with photos of the sights and brief explanations so you know exactly what are you looking at. There is a walking tour from there at 4:00 PM (may be there are other slots but I don’t know about them). While I was there, I saw there were several groups of people with a private walking tour but I don’t know how to book if you are just by yourself. I could find no free walking tour like the ones in other cities. It’s definitely worthwhile going inside the Cathedral and the Alcazar (paid entrance).
I took the train to go to Toledo and returned with the bus. My experience was that it was much cheaper and easier to travel with the bus than with the train even if it takes slightly longer.
If you are able to eat everything and have no dietary restrictions, you will love all the things there. But if you do have dietary constraints, then it may be tricky to find things you can eat. I found a few places which worked for me as a vegetarian and with food sensitivities. Check on google maps or tripadvisor when you are in a particular area but be careful about the timings as sometimes the opening hours might not be correct on google maps which happened with me twice. Or, just do your research beforehand and stick to the plan to avoid surprises later.