Madrid is an art-lover's delight, and gourmet travellers won't be disappointed either. With over 73 museums, hundreds of art galleries, and a cuisine that is famous the world-over, Madrid leaves very few visitors disappointed. Even a casual walk through the city will have you awestruck, as you take in exquisite marble statues scattered through the Parque del Buen Retiro, visit the royal residence at the Palacio Real, see Picasso's famous Guernica at the Centro de Arte de Reina Sofía, and go bargain hunting for cheap wares in one of the world's best flea markets at El Rastro.
A trip to the Prado is a must, but try to visit smaller museums like the Sorolla which house hidden gems missed by most tourists. Real Madrid fans can pay homage to their soccer team at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, while those looking for something more old-school can book their Madrid flights to coincide with the bull-fighting season, or get tickets to traditional flamenco performances.
One vacation may not be enough to experience all of Madrid, but make the most of your time here and enjoy the mouthwatering food, vibrant nightlife, and rich cultural traditions that will have you flying back to Madrid in no time at all.
From within Europe, you can get flights to Madrid on full-service airlines like British Airways and Iberia or get cheaper fares on low-cost carriers such as Ryanair and EasyJet. Passengers travelling from North America can choose to fly with Continental, United, American, or Jet Airways, but for non-stop flights to Madrid from Canada, book with Air Canada or Air Transat.
Most international flights land at Madrid Barajas Airport (MAD) which is located about 12 kilometres away from the city centre.
Madrid is a popular destination year-round owing to its great weather which stays warm and dry for most of the year. The summer months can get quite hot and a lot of establishments shut down during the school holidays in July and August. Weather-wise, the most popular time for flights to Madrid is from March to May and September to early November.
Fewer visitors fly to Madrid in the winter, but with temperatures often dropping to single digits, you probably won't get the sunny beach Christmas you imagined. If you don't mind the heat in July, the summer is an excellent time to find cheap flights to Madrid.
Madrid Barajas Airport (MAD) has four terminals —T1 to T4, and T4 also has a satellite terminal, T4S, which is one of the largest in the world. A free shuttle bus connects all the terminal buildings and runs every 5-40 minutes (depending on the time of day). If your flight arrives at T4S, you will have to take the shuttle bus to T4's main building to collect your luggage. The travel time from the airport to downtown Madrid is about 30 minutes.
For further details on any of the ground transportation options listed below, visit the airport's website.
Bus: The Line Express Bus stops by Terminal 1, 2, and 4 while Line 200 stops at all four terminal buildings. With a one-way ticket priced at around €2, the Express Bus is a quick and cheap way to travel into the city.
Fares on Line 200 are marginally cheaper at approximately €1.50.
If you're planning to use the bus and metro networks extensively during your stay, buy a one-day Metrobus ticket which costs less than €10 and can be used on all bus, metro, and light-rail systems in the city. Alternatively, a Tourist Travel Pass costs about €50 and can be used to on all public transport networks within Zones A and T for up to five days. Check for discounts on tickets for senior citizens and children.
Train: Using the underground metro services, passengers can connect to the Spanish Railway Network (RENFE). The airport station can be accessed from Terminals 1, 2 and 3 via the stop at Terminal 2, while Terminal 4 has a separate access to the station. A €1 fee must be paid by all passengers entering the airport station and metro tickets range from €2-€3, depending on which zones you're travelling to.
The airport is spread out over a large area so if you arrive at Terminal 1, it may be better to just take the bus to the city while passengers on Madrid flights arriving at Terminal 4 will have a shorter walk to the metro station.
Hotel Shuttle: Many hotels in Madrid offer their guests a courtesy pick-up shuttle service from the airport. If you are using this service, make sure your hotel is aware of your flight number and scheduled arrival time, and also confirm the shuttle's pick-up location at the airport.
Taxi: Take a cab only from one of the official stands located outside the arrivals gates. Fares are metered and a one-way trip from the airport to downtown Madrid is about €15. Prices are higher after 9 p.m., on weekends, and on public holidays. A surcharge of about €6 is applied to all fares originating from the airport and a smaller fee is added if you are heading to destinations like the Juan Carlos Trade Fair Grounds.
Car Rental: Companies like Avis, Europcar, Hertz, National Atesa, and Sixt offer rental services from Terminals 1 and 4. Passengers arriving at other terminals will have to take the shuttle bus to either of these terminals to book their vehicles or collect cars they've reserved in advance.
Airport Shuttle and Chauffeured Car Services: You can hire chauffeured sedans, minivans, or limousines from AeroCity-Ares Mobile which has advance booking facilities as well as counters at Terminals 1, 2, and 4. If your budget runs to something cheaper, try their door-to-door shuttle services from the airport to destinations in and around the city. The frequency is approximately every 15 minutes and you can just walk up to the counter and wait for the next available shuttle.