Madrid Guide to Study Spanish in Madrid

What can I expect from Madrid as a city?

Madrid is addictive. Anybody who has been to this capital city will say the same! Full of people from all over Spain and the world, Madrid makes everybody feel welcome. Once you’re there, it becomes surprisingly easy to slip into the huge city’s rhythm. Eventually, you’ll like it so much that it gets hard to leave…

Madrid is teaming with museums, monuments, parks, seven-nights-a-week nightlife, fabulous restaurants and tapas bars – and a city population that’s cosmopolitan and busy, but never seems stressed. Other capitals have these things, but Madrid gives a special Spanish twist to cutting edge urban life. It’s wonderfully easy and fun to live in this city’s vibrant present without worrying about tomorrow.


Tackling Madrid

Madrid is huge, of course. The best way to explore the city is by checking out each barrio, or neighbourhood, one at a time. You can take the metro from one area to another to cover longer distances and then discover the unique personality and history of each barrio by foot.  Here’s a lowdown on Madrid’s main areas for you, including important landmarks and sights. Also check out the nightlife section for Madrid in our Spanish “party city” blog post.


THE EPICENTRE: Puerta del Sol & Gran Vía

Puerta del Sol is known as kilometro zero in Spain. The words mean “zero kilometres” and this is because every one of the nation’s roads leads to Puerta del Sol and the distances of Spain’s motorways are measured starting from here. Puerta del Sol is considered Spain’s heart for this reason, as well as being Madrid’s central point.

The area is known for its large department stores, shops and fast food restaurants. If you choose Madrid as your study destination, at some point you’ll inevitably arrange to meet friends underneath the Tío Pepe sign at Puerta del Sol. In fact, the plaza’s famous Tío Pepe advertisement and the famous statue, “El Oso y el Madroño”, are considered symbolic Madrid landmarks.

You can reach many of Madrid’s main attractions from the Puerta del Sol. If you head towards the north, you’ll first find shopping streets (Calle Montera, Carmen and Preciados), before getting to the Gran Vía. When you cross the Gran Vía, you’ll find yourself in the Malasaña district. Southwest, you’ll find the Plaza Mayor square and the Austrias neighbourhood. Westwards on Calle Arenal, you’ll see the Royal Theater and Palace. In the east, Carrera de San Jerónimo takes you to the Congress and the Prado Museum and Calle de Alcalá leads to Plaza de Cibeles, the Puerta de Alcalá and the Retiro Park.

Metro stops: Sol, Sevilla, Gran Vía, Ópera


Plaza de España & Moncloa

Plaza de España is the second one of Madrid’s most emblematic squares. It’s located near the Palacio Real, or the Royal Palace. If you are into history, the excellent Palacio Real guided tour is well worth it. You’ll hear all about the palace, the nation’s history and interesting tidbits of information about the current King and Queen of Spain.

The two biggest avenues in Madrid, the Gran Vía and Calle de Princesa, converge here. Gran Vía leads southeast, towards Puerta del Sol and Calle de Princesa leads to Moncloa, where the Complutense University is located.

Surrounding the Plaza de España you’ll find cinemas, ethnic restaurants and a large park called Parque del Oeste. The atmosphere is relaxed and peaceful and you might find buskers here, like small jazz quartets or jugglers, who are out to entertain and make some money from the passers by. You’ll also see the Templo de Debod in the southern part of the park. This is an Egyptian temple originally built in Aswan, southern Egypt, but moved to Madrid in the 70’s. If you want to catch an amazing Madrid sunset, this is the place! You’ll get incredible views over the Almudena Cathedral and the Royal Palace.

Northwest of Plaza de España is the city’s biggest university district, Argüelles and Moncloa. Here you’ll find lots of popular student venues: live music bars, restaurants, clubs and shops.

Metro stops: Plaza de España, Ventura Rodríguez, Argüelles, Moncloa


Plaza Mayor, Austrias

Walk down any of the small streets from the Plaza Mayor square and you’ll discover the Old City, also known as Madrid de los Austrias. The Plaza Mayor was one of Madrid’s first market squares.

Here you’ll find the city’s biggest tourist information office and a number of expensive, but lovely cafés. There will often be fairs or exhibitions on and at Christmas a traditional nativity scene draws crowds to the square. Try Cava Baja street for bars, busy any night of the week.

Metro stops: Sol, La Latina, Ópera, Tirso de Molina


Lavapiés, Rastro

El Rastro is named after the flee market, which is set on the streets next to the La Latina metro stop every Sunday. This area represents the hip, arty, bohemian Madrid. In the Middle Ages, Lavapiés was the Jewish and Moorish area of the city, located outside the city walls. The neighborhood still enjoys an ethnically diverse culture and is quickly becoming more and more fashionable with its art galleries, cafes and bars.

Metro stops: La Latina, Lavapiés, Tirso de Molina, Antón Martín, Puerta de Toledo, Embajadores, Atocha


Huertas & Paseo del Prado

The Paseo del Prado, known as Paseo de los Artes or “Arts Boulevard”, of course boasts the famous Prado Museum. Huertas is also known as “El Barrio de las Letras,” referring to the literary population and pursuits in Madrid. This is where Miguel de Cervantes lived. The streets leading out of Plaza de Santa Ana are heaving with tapas bars, small discos and bars.

Here you’ll also find the emblematic Puerta de Atocha and the Plaza de Cibeles, where football fans pile into the fountain every time Spain’s national football team or Real Madrid win a cup. Calle Atocha leads the way from the Atocha main train station to Plaza Mayor and in the north you’ll find Carrera de San Jerónimo street, which ends at Puerta del Sol.

Metro stops: Antón Martín, Atocha, Sevilla, Banco de España


Recoletos & Salamanca

King Charles III of Spain expanded the city’s boundaries eastward in the 1700’s, starting with the Paseo del Prado. This new area is called Nueva Madrid, and Recoletos and Salamanca are its oldest parts. Make sure you visit the huge El Retiro park and see the statue of the Devil! Beyond the El Retiro park you’ll find Madrid’s wealthy areas with elegant buildings and old palaces.

Metro stops: Banco de España, Colón, Velázquez, Goya, Retiro, Príncipe de Vergara



Chueca is Madrid’s gay neighborhood. If you’re looking for cutting edge pop culture, here you’ll find chic boutiques, modern restaurants, fashionable bars, clubs and tapas restaurants. Known also as the “Barrio Rosa” (Pink Neighborhood) the extravagant Gay Pride parade brings huge, happy crowds to Chueca for frantic street partying every June. Look for Paseo de Recoletos and Calle de Fuencarral on the map to poinpoint the area. Its center is the Plaza de Chueca.

Metro stops: Chueca, Alonso Martínez, Tribunal, Colón



Malasaña is Madrid’s revolutionary barrio. Two uprisings happened here, firstly against Napoleon in 1808 and much later, La Movida in the 1980s. On Calle Fuencarral you’ll find shops and towards Plaza Dos de Mayo there are rock music bars, cafes and restaurants. In fact, Malasaña has a reputation for being the place for rock music fans! Surrounding the Conde Duque barracks (a municipal culture centre) you’ll find many cafes with outside terraces – this is the perfect place to sit and watch Madrid life.

Metro stops: Tribunal, Bilbao, San Bernardo, Noviciado, Gran Vía, Callao, Santo Domingo, Plaza de España, Ventura Rodriguez


Getting Around

Madrid Metro

This is very easy way to explore Madrid. A single ticket within the city costs 2€. The metro single ticket from Madrid-Barajas Airport to the city’s centre currently costs 5€ each way – you need to buy a single ticket and then a 3€ surcharge ticket for each journey. See the Metro website for more information or print a metro map.*


City Busses

See the CTM website’s bus line selector, which allows you to click on main bus routes to see the exact stops each bus takes. Tickets are available on the busses, they cost 1.50€ for a single journey.*


Tourist Transport Passes

These enable you to travel around for a full day on any metro, local train or bus and are available at metro stations. Prices start at 8.40€ per day.*


Madrid’s Main Train Station, “Atocha”

Glorieta Carlos V, s/n

Tel. (+34) 902 243 402

Long distance and local train schedules and prices are available on the RENFE website.


Airport, Madrid-Barajas

Tel. (+34) 913 937 305 

Madrid’s international Madrid-Barajas airport offers a huge range of scheduled and charter flights to Spain from virtually everywhere in the world. You can take the metro into Madrid’s centre from here (see above) and there is also an Express Bus to the city, see here.



These are plentiful. Madrid city taxis operate on a meter. Usually you can just hail a cab anywhere in the central are, but if you need to call a cab, Madrid Radio Taxi is on Tel. (+34) 915 478 200.


Useful Contacts

Emergency services: Dial 112

Tourist Office: (The largest tourist office is on Plaza Mayor.)

Foreign Embassies in Madrid area:


* Prices quoted in April 2013.

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