What you need to know about Madrid
Madrid is one of the great capitals of Europe, packed with extraordinary heritage, architecture and art, and some of the finest cuisine you’ll find anywhere in the world. It’s also a city full of life, colour and Spanish passion, with wonderful squares like the Puerta del Sol, packed with street entertainers, dancers and music.
Sightseeing aside, Madrid is Spain’s biggest business centre – a modern, dynamic city with a beating cultural heart, where visitors are invited to browse the art at the Prado, sample fresh tapas and local beers, then soak up the atmosphere as sun sets and Madrid truly comes to life.
There’s a local saying that goes something like “if you’re in Madrid, you’re from Madrid”, and it won’t be long before you’re feeling like one of the local Madrileños - hanging out in cafés, browsing the local markets, or partying the night away in one of the Madrid’s many bars and clubs.
Food and drink
Spanish food is a sensory joy from start to finish, and you’ll find the very best of Spain’s wonderful cuisine in Madrid. The city has nine Michelin-starred restaurants, so you won’t be short of fancy dining options; but the star of the gastronomic show has to be local Iberian speciality Tapas. The food may be simple, but there’s nothing ordinary about the flavour-packed dishes you’ll find in the thousands of tapas bars, marisquerias (seafood bars) and restaurants across the city. If you're only in Madrid for a short visit, tapas should definitely be on your to-taste list!
La Latina is the best area for eating and drinking, so it’s well worth joining the vibrant tide of people wandering the streets of an evening, stopping for food, drink and a friendly chat. Madrid has thousands of lively bars, so you won’t be short of places to enjoy a local beer or a cocktail, before (if you wish) heading to the nearest club to dance until dawn.
Madrid is a great place to shop, with many of the shops laid out in separate districts to make retail therapy easy. Most of the main department stores and Spanish chains like Zara and Mango are on the Gran Via or in the Madrid 2 shopping centre, with designer labels and luxury brands found in the Salamanco barrio. Independent designers and more alternative fashion can be found in Malasaña and Chueca, or you can head to Plaza Mayor for vintage boutiques and quirky outlets.
Madrid’s markets are wonderful – the famous El Rastro Sunday flea market in La Latina is not to be missed, and most of the districts have traditional food markets where you can buy wonderful fresh ingredients and regional specialities, perfect for preparing from the comfort of your serviced apartment. If fish floats your boat, Madrid is home to the second biggest fish market in the world after Tokyo.
Madrid is Spain’s largest financial centre and one of Europe’s largest too; as Spain’s national capital, it’s no surprise that many of Madrid’s businesses are connected with national government and the public sector. The city is also home to the headquarters of many Spanish companies and global businesses, like Telefónica, Iberia, Prosegur, BBVA, Urbaser, Dragados, and FCC.
Madrid’s transport network has undergone huge investment in the past ten years, from the new terminal at Barajas International Airport to the outstanding high-speed rail network, which connects Madrid with all of Spain’s major cities as well as destinations in France and Portugal.
Once you’re here, you’ll find that Madrid has an excellent public transport network, with 11 metro lines across the city and over 200 bus routes. Taxis are relatively cheap and easy to find, you can hail one from outside your serviced apartment, and whilst it’s theoretically a lovely city to cycle, taking to Madrid’s roads is definitely not for the faint-hearted, with cars and mopeds everywhere. Walking is your best bet for exploring the historic centre, or try one of the ever-popular Segway tours!
Things to watch out for
Madrid is the fourth hottest city in Europe, and July and August can be stifling. However it’s also the highest capital in Europe, which means it gets much cooler and more bearable in the evenings. An afternoon siesta is a way of life in Spain, and it will leave you well rested for a fun evening out.