101 Madrid Spain

Madrid 101: Arriving & Getting Around

Madrid_Palacio de Cibeles
Contrary to other European capitals, Madrid only started to grow in importance in the 16th century when it was appointed a capital. Since then, though, it has caught up with its counterparts and today is a must-visit destination full of beautiful architecture and culture.

But before getting elbows deep into sightseeing spots and neighborhoods, here’s what you need to know even before buying your flights!

ARRIVING in Madrid

Madrid is located in the center of Spain, so if you are coming from abroad, you’ll typically arrive by plane, although trains and buses are definitely possible as well.


The Spanish capital is served by Madrid-Barajas Airport (MAD). This is one of the busiest European airports and a major hub for flights to/from Central and South America. More importantly, it’s huge, the only airport where I have ever lost a flight, so don’t underestimate the time you need to navigate it.

Arriving at Barajas, the best option to reach the city is using the Metro. There are two stations: T1-T2-T3 and T4 on Line 8, which will take you to Nuevos Ministerios in approx. 20 minutes. From there, you have to change (this is a step-free station), but 4 stops further you arrive at Plaza de España.

The downside is that, although the metro system is extensive, many stations are not step-free. But for a short trip with limited luggage, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Rail Station_Madrid Puerta de Atocha
Puerta de Atocha


There are two main rail stations in Madrid:

  • Puerta de Atocha, the largest and closest to the city center; and
  • Chamartín, further to the north.

Both are directly linked by the Cercanías local train, with only two stops in between, one of them being Nuevos Ministerios, connected to M8 going to the airport.


There are coach stations/stops around the city, but the main is Estación Sur, next to Méndez Álvaro (M6) station. Wherever you arrive, you are likely to have a connection to the metro system.


The transport network in Madrid is extensive and served by the metro (subway), cercanías (local trains) and buses. The system is not simple, with prices of the single ticket varying depending on how many stations you cross. If you come from or go to the airport, a supplement would also be necessary. Here is a place where a transport pass really comes in handy.

If you want the simplicity and flexibility of taking whatever means of transport as you wish, you can get a Tourist Card:

  • first choose how many consecutive days: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 7; then
  • which zones: A or T.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • the airport supplemental fare is included in the Tourist Card for zone A;
  • because of that, most visitors will have no need for the zone T pass;
  • it can be purchased at all Metro stations;
  • the tickets are valid starting 0h00 the first day of use until 5am following the last day;
  • this pass is personal, non-transferable and you could be asked to present an official identity document.

If this is too much for your needs, you can also buy a set for 10 trips (varying savings compared to single trip tickets), but good luck figuring out the math 😉 Find detailed pricing here.

Madrid Metro Map

Read also:

Lisbon 101: Arriving & Getting Around

Lisbon: Top 10 & Day-Trip in One Weekend

Paris 101: Arriving & Getting Around

Trains in Europe: Get the Best Deals

Accommodation: How to Find the Best Deals

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