Destinations | Europe

First timers guide to Madrid

30 Jan 2020 | Destinations, Europe, Spain

Ever since I was a child, I have been visiting Madrid almost every two years, and to be honest the Spanish capital never really made my heart beat any quicker. But this last trip finally changed my opinion, we were guided around by a local who gave us the chance to get to know the city by taking us to places we had never been before. And I have to admit, the tour changed my mind! Madrid is very beautiful and definitely worth a city trip. Read all about it in my first timers guide to Madrid.


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first timers guide to Madrid

When is the best time to visit Madrid?

Madrid has an inland climate which means that the winters can be very cold and the summers very hot. The best time to visit the city is in spring or autumn, when you will also avoid mass tourism.

How to get in Madrid?

From Zaventem, Brussels you fly about two hours and fiveteen minutes to Madrid. From the airport in Madrid, it takes 20 minutes to get to the city center with a taxi. The ride will cost you around 20 euros.

From Madrid airport to the city center by bus is a much cheaper alternative. It will take you to the city as of 6 am to midnight for only 3 euros.

The best way to move around in Madrid the city is by foot or by bicycle. Madrid also has an excellent metro network. The hop on, hop off bus is ideal if you are only in the city for a short period. The bus stops at 30 different places in the city and you can choose where you want to hop on and off. From March to October the bus drives throughout the city from 9 am to 10 pm.

Recommended stay

To explore the city, a three-night stay is certainly not a luxury. Madrid is a big city and your days will be well packed with all the wonderful activities and must-sees the city has to offer.

Where to stay in Madrid?

You will find dozens of affordable hotels on Gran Via. This street is in the middle of the center and is the perfect base for your stay in Madrid. We stayed at Catalonia Gran Via and were extremely satisfied with our stay.


Must sees in Madrid

  • Parque del Buen Retiro is a beautiful park in the middle of the city. Definitely visit the Palacio de Cristal as well, which is a beautiful crystal palace.
  • Plaza Mayor is the most famous square in Madrid. Although very touristy, it is certainly worth a visit. The beautiful square nowadays contains small shops, restaurants and terraces. It serves as the central place for many events and street artists can be found all around.
  • Palacio de Comunicaciones, this former main post office from 1909, serves since 2007 as Madrid’s town hall and as a workplace for the Mayor. It is by far the most beautiful building in the city.
  • For football fans, a visit to Bernabeu, the Real Madrid stadium, is a must. Buy your tickets online so that you escape the long queues in the stadium itself.
  • La Tabacalera Museum, this place has been turned into an edgy museum for artists of the spraypainting persuasion. In fact, it’s a bit old-school Berlin; it’s a squat-turned-creative space.
  • Prado Museum
  • Patrimonio Nacional, the royal palace of Madrid

first timers guide to madrid

Where to shop?

Calle De Serrano and the streets around in the borrow “Salamanca” are a true shopping paradise. Not only will you find the most beautiful designer shops and luxury boutiques here, but also the nicest restaurants.

Looking for budget friendly stores? Then you have to be at Plaza Mayor, Gran Via and Puerta del Sol. Here you will find all major international brands, such as Zara and Massimo Dutti. Did you know that these two chains are much cheaper in Spain than in other countries? Another excuse to go shopping!

Looking for shoes? Then Chueca is the place to be!

Every Sunday you can find Madrid’s popular flea market El Rastro on Calle de la Ribera de Cortitores. You will find both new and second-hand items, as well as food stalls or every corner of the street. Attention, it can get quite busy, keep your belongings safe, as pickpockets will never be far away.

Best view over town

A beautiful view of the city while you enjoy a cocktail? Then you are at the right place with Círculo de Bellas Artes. For 4 euros per person you can take the elevator to the top and you will arrive at a beautiful rooftop bar with cozy seats, where you can enjoy a beautiful view and cocktails at reasonable prices. Try to go up before 6 pm as the later in the evening, the longer the queue gets.


Where to eat?

  • Taberna los Gallos: Order all dishes either as a half or a whole portion which is ideal if you want to share a cozy meal or if you are an eternal doubter when it comes to choosing dishes. You will find other restaurants in this pleasant street and I have been told that they are all equally good.
  • Mercado De San Miguel, a covered food market. Taste a fresh cheese board at Mya Quesos Artesanos or fresh oysters at Ostras Daniel Sorlut
  • Tapa Tapa Santa Ana
  • Plaza de Sta. Ana, a square where more locals come than tourists, you have several nice tapa bars.
  • Bar La Campana, famous for its fried octopus. Expect a long queue in summer.
  • Malasaña is a very nice borrow in Madrid with not only trendy shops but you also have good food all around. Here you will come across the vibrant Madrid nightlife!
  • San Ginés You cannot leave Madrid without trying churros con chocolate from Sang Gin’s (which really is sugar-drenched-deep fried dough sticks with hot chocolate). It has been serving churros since 1984 and is open all night long. This makes it the perfect pit stop on your way to your hotel after a night out in town.


Still got some time left?

Visit Desert City if you have some time left. This botanical garden of 5000sqm is located about 30km out of town but is definitely worth the visit.

Do you have any further questions about this article? Feel free to leave a comment below.

You may also like: 2 days in Barcelona – The ultimate itinerary

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