Destination guide: Madrid, Spain

Madrid is the capital of Spain (Europe) and is in the middle of the Iberian Peninsula.

To get to know this city, you can visit El Retiro Park, the Temple of Debod, the Sabatini Gardens, the Capricho Park, the Main Square, the Royal Palace (a baroque castle made of stone and strategically located on the top of a cliff) and the Cibeles Fountain (a sculpture representing the Romen goddess Cibeles), as well as many other attractions.

Purchase your flights to Madrid and discover all of Spain’s culture, history and traditions.

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  • Madrid - Transportation

    Moving around the city is even simpler, with Madrid’s extensive, modern metro system all you’re likely to need. There are also plenty of buses, as well as reasonably priced taxis.

    Bicycle

    Lots of people zip around town on motos (mopeds), but little has been done to encourage cyclists in Madrid and bike lanes are almost as rare as drivers who keep an eye out for cyclists. You can transport your bicycle on the metro from 10am to 12.30pm and after 9pm Mondays to Fridays and all day on weekends and holidays. You can also take your bike aboard cercanías (local trains serving big cities, suburbs and nearby towns) from 10am onwards Monday to Friday and all day on weekends.

    Bike Spain organises cycling tours of Madrid. It should also be your first stop for practical information and finding bike-friendly accommodation. The tourist office’s Descubre Madrid programme of tours also includes cycling excursions.

    Bus

    Buses operated by Empresa Municipal de Transportes de Madrid (EMT; [tel] 902 507 850; www.emtmadrid.es) travel along most city routes regularly between about 6.30am and 11.30pm. Twenty-six night-bus búhos (owls) routes operate from midnight to 6am, with all routes originating in Plaza de la Cibeles. Fares for day and night trips are the same: €1 for a single trip, €9.00 for a 10-trip Metrobús ticket.

    Car & Motorcycle

    The Spanish drive on the right-hand side. The grand roundabouts of the major thoroughfares sometimes require nerves of steel as people turn left from the right-hand lanes or right from the centre. The morning and evening rush hours frequently involve snarling traffic jams that are even possible in the wee hours of the morning, especially on weekends when the whole city seems to be behind the wheel or in a bar. The streets are dead between about 2pm and 4pm, when people are either eating or snoozing.

    The big-name car-hire agencies have offices all over Madrid. Avis, Europcar, Hertz and National/Atesa have booths at the airport. Some also operate branches at Atocha and Chamartín train stations. If prices at the bigger agencies seem too high, try Auto Europe (www.auto-europe.com), which operates as a clearing house for the best deals by the major companies.

    Most of Madrid is divided up into clearly marked blue or green street-parking zones. In both areas parking meters apply from 9am to 8pm Monday to Friday and from 9am to 3pm on Saturday; the Saturday hours also apply daily in August. In the green areas you can park for a maximum of one hour (or keep putting money in the metre every hour) for €1.80. In the blue zones you can park for two hours for €2.55. There are also private parking stations all over central Madrid.

    You’ll see local cars parked in the most unlikely of places, but following their example by parking in a designated no-parking area exposes you to the risk of being towed. Double-parking is similarly common and decidedly risky if you wander far from your vehicle as fines can reach €300. Should your car disappear, call the Grúa Municipal (city towing service; [tel] 91 787 72 92). Getting it back costs €138.70 plus whatever fine you’ve been given.

    Public Transport

    Metro & Cercanías

    Madrid’s modern metro ([tel] 902 444 403; www.metromadrid.es) is a fast, efficient and safe way to navigate Madrid, and generally easier than getting to grips with bus routes. There are 11 colour-coded lines in central Madrid, in addition to the modern southern suburban MetroSur system as well as lines heading east to the major population centres of Pozuelo and Boadilla del Monte. The metro operates from 6.05am to 2am. In theory most trains are air-conditioned in summer, but that doesn’t mean it always works.

    Colour maps showing the main central Madrid metro system are available from any metro station; the MetroSur is unlikely to be of interest to visitors.

    The metro covers 284km (with 282 stations), making it Europe’s second-largest metro system, after London. To give you an idea of its scale and popularity, passengers make around 650 million metro rides in Madrid annually.

    The short-range cercanías regional trains operated by Renfe ([tel] 902 240 202; www.renfe.es), the national railway, go as far afield as El Escorial, Alcalá de Henares, Aranjuez and other points in the Comunidad de Madrid. Tickets range between €1.15 and €3.80 depending on how far you’re travelling. In Madrid itself they’re handy for making a quick, north–south hop between Chamartín and Atocha train stations (with stops at Nuevos Ministerios and in front of the Biblioteca Nacional on Paseo de los Recoletos only). Another line links Chamartín, Atocha and Príncipe Pío stations.

    Major infrastructure works are currently underway which, when completed, will connect Atocha train station with Sol, Nuevos Ministerios (for connections to the airport), and Charmartín, making it a whole lot easier when arriving, passing through or leaving Madrid. Like most major works in Madrid, when they finish is anyone’s guess.

    Tickets

    Unless you’re only passing through en route to elsewhere, you should buy a Metrobús ticket valid for 10 rides (bus and metro) for €9.00; single-journey tickets cost €1. Tickets can be purchased at stations from manned booths or machines in the metro stations, as well as most estancos (tobacconists) and newspaper kiosks. Metrobús tickets are not valid on cercanías services.

    Monthly or season passes (abonos) only make sense if you’re staying long term and use local transport frequently. You’ll need to get a carnet (ID card) from metro stations or tobacconists – take a passport-sized photo and your passport. A monthly ticket for central Madrid (Zona A) costs €42.10.

    An Abono Transporte Turístico (Tourist Ticket; per 1/7 days €5/22.60) is also possible. The fine for being caught without a ticket on public transport is €20 – in addition to the price of the ticket, of course.

    Taxi

    You can pick up a taxi at ranks throughout town or simply flag one down. Minimum meter charge is €2.05 from 6am to 10pm daily, extra tariffs apply late at night and on fiesta days. You pay €0.98 per kilometre (€1.15 between 10pm and 6am). Several supplementary charges, usually posted inside the taxi, apply; these include €5.50 to/from the airport; €2.95 from taxi ranks at train and bus stations, €2.75 to/from the Parque Ferial Juan Carlos I; and €6.70 on New Year’s Eve and Christmas Eve from 10pm to 6am. There’s no charge for luggage.

    Among the 24-hour taxi services are Radio-Taxi ([tel] 91 405 55 00, 91 445 90 08, 91 447 51 80) and Tele-Taxi ([tel] 91 371 21 31, 902 501 130).

    Radio-Teléfono Taxi ([tel] 91 547 82 00, 91 547 86 00; www.radiotelefono-taxi.com) runs taxis for people with a disability in addition to normal services. Generally if you call any taxi company and ask for a ‘eurotaxi’ you should be sent one adapted for wheelchair users.

    A green light on the roof means the taxi is libre (available). Usually a sign to this effect is also placed in the lower passenger side of the windscreen. Tipping taxi drivers is not common practice, although most travellers round fares up to the nearest euro or two.