As Spain's capital and largest city, Madrid teems with must-see sights, scores of excellent bars and restaurants, and a nightlife scene unlike any other. In order to make the most of your time, figuring out the city's extensive public transportation network is a must.
Luckily, it's not as overwhelming as it seems. Public transportation in Madrid is efficient and easy to navigate. Here's everything you need to know about getting around this thriving, happening city like a local.
How to Ride the Madrid Metro
By far, the most frequently used method of public transportation in Madrid is the metro. Stations can be identified by a red and white diamond-shaped sign marked "Metro" with the name of the stop below it. As you make your way into the station, you'll be able to see which lines (identified by number and color) that location serves. Follow the blue signs that say "Entrada."
Once inside the station, you'll need to purchase a public transport card from one of the machines. Simply follow the self-explanatory instructions on the screen (changing the text to your preferred language if need be). Once you have your card, you can then load your metro trips onto it, eliminating the need for paper tickets. Single journey and 10-trip passes are available.
To access the metro, scan your card over the electronic reader at the turnstiles. Do the same as you exit once you reach your destination.
Madrid Metro Fast Facts:
- Cost: €2.50 for the transport card; single journeys range from €1.50–€2. A 10-trip ticket costs €12.20.
- How to pay: With cash or card (where available) at the electronic ticket machines.
- Hours of operation: 6 a.m.–1:30 a.m.
- Transfer information: At the transfer station, follow the signs indicating where to board the train for your final destination. Once you arrive, exit the station as normal.
- Accessibility: More than two thirds of Madrid's 300-plus metro stations are completely accessible, and that number is increasing every year.
The Madrid Metro website offers an easy-to-use trip planner that can help you plan your route.
Riding the EMT Bus
Another popular method of public transportation in Madrid is the bus, with more than 200 lines serving all corners of the city. Local buses are blue and are operated by the company EMT. All bus stops throughout the city have digital screens showing the wait time until the arrival of the next bus from each line serving that stop.
A single-journey ticket on the bus costs €1.50 and can be purchased from the driver. The largest bill admitted is five euros. If you've purchased a 10-journey ticket on your metro card, you can also use these trips on the bus.
Once on board the bus, keep an eye on the screens inside which show the next stop. In order to signal to the driver that you need to get off, simply press the nearest button.
Normal bus service runs from 6 a.m.–11:30 p.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m.–11 p.m. on weekends. After hours, a limited number of night buses (known as búhos) are available on some lines.
To start exploring, use the route planner on the EMT website.
The Cercanías Commuter Rail
Cercanías stations are marked with a backwards white C against a red circular background. Inside, purchase your tickets at the electronic kiosk or from an employee at the desk. Hold onto your ticket throughout the entire trip—you'll need it both to access the train as well as to leave the station at your destination.
Information on routes and timetables can be found on the Cercanías website.
Travelers headed to or from Madrid-Barajas Airport have several options.
- Airport Express shuttle: Connects the city center (with stops at Atocha train station and Plaza de Cibeles) with all terminals of the airport. Luggage racks are available. Tickets cost five euros and are purchased on board.
- Metro: Line 8 from the Nuevos Ministerios station stops at the airport, with access to all four terminals. An additional three-euro supplement is charged.
- Cercanías: Line C1 connects Atocha station to terminal T4 at the airport. Tickets cost €2.60 for a single journey and €5.20 for a return trip. If you have a ticket for the AVE high-speed train, this journey is free. Ask a staff member for help if need be.
Official Madrid taxis are white with a red diagonal stripe on the front doors. You can hail one yourself on the street, online, or by calling +34 915 478 200. Another option is to have your hotel call a cab for you, or head to a designated taxi stop (indicated by a blue sign reading TAXI in white letters).
Biking in Madrid
If you'd like to see the city from two wheels and get in a great workout at the same time, you're in luck. Madrid's bike share program, BiciMAD, offers dozens of docking stations all around town. One, three, and five-day passes are available and can be purchased at the stations themselves.
Renting a Car
While it may seem like renting your own vehicle allows you more freedom and accessibility, it's not the best idea when visiting Madrid. The city's streets can be confusing to navigate for drivers unfamiliar with the area, traffic in central areas tends to be heavy throughout the day, and parking is next to impossible. If you're used to automatic cars, these tend to be more expensive to rent than their manual counterparts, which are more commonly driven in Spain. Save yourself the trouble and stick to public transportation.
Tips for Getting Around Madrid
- Many of the main sights within Madrid's city center—such as Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, and the Royal Palace—are within walking distance from one another. Consider exploring on foot.
- Late at night, the only public transportation available are taxis and the búho buses, and even these don't operate on all normal bus lines. Plan your night out accordingly.
- Renovations and other improvement works are a near constant with the metro, and some stations may be temporarily closed as a result. Keep an eye on the Metro website for up-to-date information.
- Though generally safe, Madrid's public transportation network does draw its fair share of pickpockets, particularly at peak travel hours when trains and buses are more crowded. Always be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on your things.