Getting to the City
Madrid has an extensive and advanced transport infrastructure. Public transportation is based on bus, metro, local railway system (Cercanias) and taxi. The Madrid Airport (MAD) is known as Adolfo Suarez Madrid Barajas airport after its former president and located 12 kilometres northeast of the city centre (Centro).
Madrid is accessible by air from numerous major cities across the five continents. There are over 150 direct flights from cities such as Athens, Cairo, Delhi, London (fly time 3 hours), New York City, Sanghai etc. Madrid can be reached by train from all the major Spanish cities as well as Lisbon (Portugal) and Marseille (France). The journey time from Lisbon and Marseille by train is 9 and 7 hours respectively.
There are four terminals at the airport and there are several options to get in to the city from the airport like Airport Transfer Taxi Service, Chauffer Service, Bus (Airport Express), Metro, Train, Taxi and Car Rental.
Airport Transfer Taxi Service is a specialised private taxi service and can be booked well in advance from the website of welcomepickups.com. They provide air-conditioned comfortable Sedan car with an English speaking driver. For four passengers it will cost a total of 36 Euros to the City Centre with baggage.
AresMobile is fully personalised Chauffer driven private taxi service. Booking can be done online. Generally chauffeurs are English speaking, but if you let them know well in advance, they can arrange a chauffeur proficient in other languages too. Cost of this service is 65 Euros to the city centre.
In both the above services, it would take around 20 minutes to reach Madrid Centro.
Airport Express is locally known as Expres Aeropuerto, a 24 hour bus service from airport to Madrid City with limited stops. The stops are O’Donnell, Plaza de Cibeles and Atocha. Note that they do not stop at Atocha between 11:30pm to 06:00am. Normally it takes about 40 minutes to reach the city from the airport. During regular daytime hours you will get a bus every 15 minutes, and during night in 35 minutes gap. You can purchase a ticket directly from the driver or else use transport pass. The cost of travel to the city is 5 Euros.
Metro Rail: Madrid airport has two metro stations, one at Terminal 2 and the other at terminal 4. There are free bus shuttle services available to get from one terminal to another. Metros are available every 5 minutes from 06:00am to 02:00am. Use line 8 trains for Madrid city centre (i.e. Nuevos Ministerios metro station) and it takes only 12 minutes to reach. A single ticket costs 5 Euros including airport supplementary charges.
Train: You can take trains from Line number C-1 of Terminal 4 to reach city centre of Madrid. It takes around 25 minutes to reach Atocha station from the airport. Single ticket will cost you 2.60 Euros. The first train starts at 05:56am from the airport and the last train leaves at 10:25pm. Trains run at an interval of 15 to 20 minutes. If you are carrying a long distance train ticket or an AVE ticket (High speed trains in Spain) then you do not need to purchase any ticket for this train ride.
Taxi is a convenient but expensive option to get to the city. The taxi stand is outside the airport terminal. There is a fixed rate of 30 Euros to reach any point at the central area of Madrid City (M 30 ring road). Try to avoid the drivers offering rides from inside the terminal building… it can be a rip off. You can also book a taxi online. It takes around 25 to 30 minutes to reach the city by taxi. Please note that most of the taxi drivers won’t allow more than 3 passengers.
Major Car rental companies like Hertz, Europcar, Avis and others are present at arrival hall 1 and 2 of Terminal 1 of Madrid airport. Contact details are provided below under the car rental section.
You can choose from a wide range of private transport and transfer services (including airport transfers) and book online from this Viator site.
Public transport system in Madrid is very efficient and runs under a single transport network known as CTM (Consorcio Transportes Madrid). Metro, trams, buses and suburban trains all are under the roof of CTM. With many bus lines and metro rails you can visit almost any place within the city quite easily.
Inner city light rail service complements bus and metro services. Spain’s National Railway Company is known as RENFE (Red Nacional de Ferrocarriles Espanoles) and runs Madrid’s metropolitan railway system known as Cercanias. This is a good option to travel fast to the suburbs.
Bus service in Madrid is extensive with 208 city lines operating within the city. City bus Service Company is known as EMT. A fleet of over 2,000 buses cover the entire city and its neighbourhood. City buses operate every 5 to 15 minutes between 06:00am to 11:30pm on week days (Monday through Friday). Frequency depends on the line and the time of the day. You will find displays at most of the bus stops mentioning bus timings and route charts.
The night bus service in Madrid is known as ‘buhos’ which means owls. Nocturnal service operates from 11:45pm to 06:00am with frequency of 15 to 30 minutes.
Buses are air-conditioned with wheelchair access, folded bicycles are allowed too. Newer buses are equipped with children seats. Regular buses operate from 07:00am to 11:00pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Night bus runs from 11:00pm to 07:00am on Saturdays and on the eve of public holidays. The route numbers of night services start with a capital N.
As a step forward to the war against pollution, public transport department of Madrid introduced ‘Hydrogen fuel cell’ buses on the city roads. These buses are blue.
Madrid metro is not only convenient, it is fast and economical. It has 13 lines connecting over 300 stations within the city. Each line is colour coded on the route maps. Madrid metro operates from 06:00am to 01:30 am with a service frequency of about 3 to 4 minutes. But frequency depends upon the line and time of the day. The waiting time could be as much as 15 minutes at night hours.
Be prepared to face crowd during rush hours. Also stay alert from pickpockets especially at the tourist areas and during rush hours. Tickets can be purchased at any metro station from the automated vending machines. The machines allow you to select English as the language.
Inner City Light Rail
A newer introduction in Madrid transport system is Inner City Light Rail or the Metro Light Railway. It complements the conventional underground metro system and plays a key role in improving the connectivity with the peripheral destinations. It travels mostly on the surface. Currently light railway is operative in the areas of Sanchinarro, Las Tablas, Boadilla del Monte and Pozuelo de Alarcon and it is rapidly expanding.
RENFE runs the major railway system in entire Spain. Madrid’s commuter train system is known as Cercanias that connects the entire Autonomous Region of Madrid. The national rail service of Spain is known for its punctuality and efficiency. Complementing the metro service, Cercanias operates from 06:00am to 11:00pm with a frequency of 10 to 30 minutes.
This is a great way of travelling out to the city outskirts and exploring new places. Travelling to the suburbs will cost you more but it’s quite budget friendly. Like metro tickets you can purchase Cercanias tickets from the automated vending machines installed at all stations.
There are number of tourist trains that will take you to number of places with scenic beauty and historical importance.
- The Philip II train takes you to royal site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial in 50 minutes. The carriage and locomotive of this train is dated back to 1940’s and 60’s.
- The Cervantes* train is in the memory of the famous Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes. The train runs between Madrid Atocha station and Alcala de Henares, the home town of the author. During the journey tourists can enjoy local artists performing various parts of Cervantes’ famous work ‘El Quijote’.
- The Arganda train is pulled by a vintage locomotive. This 45-minute ride covers 4 kilometers. It runs from La Poveda to Laguna Del Campillo. There is a famous old Spanish saying, “El tren de Arganda, que pita mas que anda” (The Argandan train, whistles more than moving).
The Strawberry train runs during spring and autumn from Madrid to Aranjuez. This place is a UNESCO world heritage site and widely known for its mouth-watering strawberries.
Madrid has a great taxi network. Fare structures vary in different circumstances. There are three sets of taxi fares… Fare Zone 1 is for weekday normal hours (06:00am to 09:00pm), Fare Zone 2 is for night hours (09:00pm to 06:00am) and Fare Zone 3 for holidays and festive days.
The metre down charge is 2.40 Euros. However if you are picking up a taxi from Madrid airport you need to pay 5.50 Euros extra as airport supplementary charge. Journeys starting from any taxi stand, bus station, railway station and approach road will attract a supplementary payment of 3 Euros.
During Christmas and New Year you need to pay additional supplementary charge of 6.70 Euros over and above normal charges. Luggage, pet and wheelchair attract no supplementary charges though.
Fare zone 1 rate is 1.05 Euros per kilometre during 06:00am to 09:00pm (Monday to Friday, Saturday 06:00am to 03:00pm). Fare zone 2 rate is 1.20 Euros per kilometer (Monday to Friday 09:00pm to 06:00am and Saturday 03:00pm to 06:00am).
Madrid taxis are white with a red strip on the front door and there is a display light on the roof which will turn green if the taxi is free. There is a fare zone indicator next to the light.
Taxi calling numbers
- Eurotaxi/ Radio Telefono Taxi: +34 91 547 8200
- Radio Taxi Asociacion Gremial: +34 91 447 3232/ 5180,
- Radio Taxi Indipendiente: +34 91 405 1213
- Teletaxi: +34 91 371 2131/ +34 90 250 1130.
Note that when you call a taxi over phone your metre will start ticking from the moment and place the call is received by the driver. Rates are higher than the general taxis and it varies depending upon companies.
Unlike other European cities, Madrid offers mainly three types of passes for tourists… two for free travelling around the city – reloadable Multi Card and Travel Pass (or the Tourist Travel Pass). Since 2018, Multi Card acts as a common pass for bus, metro and train. The third pass is known as Madrid Card or Madrid City Pass.
Also known as Tarjeta Transporte Publico is a combined tourist pass for all public transport in and around Madrid. Functioning of this card is based on contactless technology. Locals mostly use this card. These rechargeable cards are valid for ten years. This card costs 2.50 Euros and can be purchased from automated vending machines at any metro station.
During the journey you need to validate the card on a card reader placed inside a bus and at the entry/exit points of metro and train stations. You can select single or multiple rides for metro, city buses, intercity buses, trains etc and in any combination. For more information, visit the website www.crtm.es.
The Travel Pass, also known as Abono Tourist Card, offers a superb & cost effective way to travel around Madrid. You can also load your Travel Pass with a Multi Card and it works perfectly. You get access to bus, metro, local suburban trains, inner city light railway as well as transfer from airport by metro.
You can buy this pass for 1, 2, 3, 5 and 7 days. There are two types… one is valid for ‘A’ zone and the other for ‘T’ zone. If you are a tourist then pass for ‘A’ zone will be sufficient as it covers all the tourist destinations within the central district of Madrid City including the airport. You need a pass valid for ‘T’ zone to reach Madrid’s autonomous region.
1 day ‘A’ zone pass costs 8 Euros, 2 day is 13.40 Euros, a 3 day pass costs 17.40 Euros, price of a 5 day pass is 25.40 Euros and the 7 day pass costs 33.40 Euros. The pass costs 50% for children under 11. Bus and Metro are free for children under 4. In suburban trains children up to 6 years are free.
You can purchase a Travel Pass online or else you can buy it from Madrid Metro Customer service Desk (open 07:00am to 10:00pm daily) at the Madrid Airport’s Terminal number 2 or at the tourist office located at Plaza Mayor.
For a tourist, Madrid Card or Madrid City Pass is a good option for museum hopping and visiting other places of interests within the city. This card offers discount on many attractions but is not much helpful for using public transportation in Madrid. It offers a free taxi ride from the airport to your hotel and one free hop on hop off city bus trip.
The card costs 89 Euros for persons above 14 years and 49 Euros for children between 5 to 14 years. Detailed collection information is provided once you complete the purchase. Normally the options for collection are same as Travel Pass.
You can purchase Bonotren Pass for 10 Euros to enjoy 10 free rides. Metrobus Card is valid for both metro and bus. It costs 12.20 Euros and you can use it for 10 journeys.
Single Ride Ticket
You can also buy tickets for a single ride directly from the bus drivers for 1.50 Euros. Single tickets for trains and metros can be bought at the vending machines at the stations.
Getting to the major attractions
Puerto del Sol is a large plaza located at the heart of the city. Major attractions are located around it and can be reached on foot.
Puerta del Sol or the ‘Gate of the Sun’ is located at the heart of Madrid. People gather here on the eve of festival days. Madrid’s famous symbols like the statute of the Bear and the Strawberry Tree are located here.
The grandiose Palacio Real or the Royal Palace has over 2,500 rooms. It is located just 800 metres west of Puerta del Sol, roughly a 10 minute walk. Alternatively take a metro train line 2 from Sol station towards Cuatro Caminos and get down at Opera station (1 minute journey). From there the walk is around 400 metres.
Plaza Mayor is a well-known square of Madrid. Here you will find the tourist information centre in Casa de la Panaderia located opposite to the plaza. Plaza Mayor is easily walkable and located 350 metres south west of Puerta del Sol.
Prado Museum houses over 7,000 works of art. The museum is located 1 kilometre south east of Puerta del Sol. You can walk or else take a metro line 2 train from Sol towards Las Rosas and disembark at Banco de Espana (2 minute ride)… from there walk for 700 metres.
Temple of Debod located in the Parque del Oeste is a temple of the Egyptian goddess Isis. It was once located on the bank of River Nile in Egypt. The temple is located 1.7 kilometres north west of Puerta del Sol. Take a metro line 3 train from Sol towards Moncloa and get down at Ventura Rodriguez; from there you need to walk for 650 metres south west.
The Reina Sofia Centre of Art National Museum is a relatively new inclusion in Madrid’s attractions. It was inaugurated in 1992. It is located around one and half kilometres south of Puerta del Sol. Take metro line 1 towards Valdecarros and disembark at Atocha station (journey time is 4 minutes). From Atocha station walk for around 230 metres.
There are many car rental companies operating in Madrid. At the airport terminal-1 you will find offices of the various car rental companies. Here are few of them:
- Hertz- Starting rate is 40 Euros per day (www.hertz.com/rentacar/reservation/)
- Europcar- Starting rate is 45 Euros per day (www.europcar.com/location/spain/madrid?)
- Avis- Starting rate is around 40 to 45 Euros per day (www.avis.com/en/locations/es/madrid)
Like most of the European cities you will find bikes and ebikes for hire in Madrid. Here are some of the well-known ones…
- BiciMad- The rate for the first hour is 2 Euros; 4 Euros per additional hour (www.bicimad.com).
- Eco moving sports- The rates of ebikes: 2 hours (minimum) is 14 Euros, 3 hours 20 Euros and 4 hours 25 Euros. Non electric bicycle rent starts from 5 Euros per hour to 43 Euros for 10 hours (www.ecomovingsports.com)
There are several scooter rental companies and they offer you wide range of models. Here are some well-known companies:
- Cooltra Motors- The rental rate starts from 45.60 Euros per day (www.cooltra.com/en/)
- Moto & Go Rent- Their hire rate starts from 44.77 Euros (www.motoandgo.es)
- Motofly- 27 Euros per day is the lowest rate (www.motofly.es/?lang=en)