Transport around Madrid
The Spanish capital's urban sprawl is immense. Fortunately, most of the city's best-known monuments and museums are located within a relatively small central area, easily explored on foot. For farther-flung attractions, Madrid has an efficient public transport system that covers the city and surrounding areas (metro, light rail, tram, bus). Travellers who despise mass transport can flag down taxis at ranks and street corners around town or hop on rental bikes and weave through the rush-hour traffic at their peril. Aerial views of the city can be had via its teleférico
, or cable car, on a ride over Parque de Oeste and Plaza de España.
282 Madrid metro
stations extend to the far reaches of the Spanish capital and nearby communities. 11 lines serve the city centre, and further lines connect Madrid proper with southern and eastern suburbs in Europe's second-largest metro system. The Metro runs from 06:00 to 01:30 with a 5-minute wait between trains at rush hour, and a 15-minute wait after 23:00. A single one-zone ticket costs 1.50€, and a 10-trip ticket costs 12.20€. There's a surcharge of 3€ for travel to the airport.
Light rail and Parla Tram
Open since 2007, Madrid's light rail or Metro Ligero
has four lines connecting the city centre with outlying neighbourhoods and has the sightseeing advantage of being mostly above ground. The light rail tickets for ML2 and ML3 cost 2€ or 12.20€ for a 10-trip pass. A trip on Parla Tram's circular route costs€1.30€ or 8.50€ for a 10-trip pass.
Madrid’s standard red EMT buses run regular routes between 06:30 and 22:30 and búho
(owl) routes originating in Plaza de la Cibeles from midnight to 06:00. The frequency of buses can vary, but is displayed at most stops. Of course, if you prefer you can find out when your bus should get to a particular stop via text message to 217 217 with the word ‘espera’, a space, the bus stop number (listed on the bus shelter), a space, and then the bus line number. In addition to regular overnight routes, Fridays, Saturdays and the night before holidays, the búho-metro route offers transport between metro stops from 00:45 and 05:45.
There are also green suburban buses between Madrid's centre and surrounding areas, bright yellow 24-hour airport express
buses, and the double decker Madrid City Tour Bus
, which runs a hop-on, hop-off tour with stops at the city's main attractions.
Dream of swooping over the city on birds' wings with your camera? This is your best chance at seeing Madrid from a bird's eye view without shelling out some serious cash and hiring a hot air balloon or a helicopter. Visitors can catch Madrid's teleférico
at Paseo del Pintor Rosales near Argüelles Metro station and take a scenic trip over Manzanares River, and Casa de Campo Park. You’ll see views of Plaza de España, the Temple of Debod and Oeste Park, as well as the Royal Palace, Almudena Cathedral, and the Chapel of San Antonio de la Florida. Cabins reach a height of 40 metres above ground, and the trip lasts 2.5 kilometres and a little over 10 minutes.
Bike lanes are all but inexistent in the Spanish capital, and you're only allowed to drag your bike on board the metro after rush hours (10:00 to 12:30 and after 21:00). That said, if you're dead set on cycling around the city, you can hire a bike (electric, folding and 3-wheeled versions are available) or book a guided tour with Bike Spain
, Karacol Sports
. Inexperienced bikers may be well advised to limit their cycling adventures to Madrid's green spaces.
Taxis are fairly easy to flag down at intersections around town, or you can grab one at marked taxi ranks. Another option is calling ahead and having the taxi come to you with 24-hour services like Radio Taxi (91 405 55 00, 91 445 90 08 or 91 447 5180) and Teletaxi (91 9371 21 31 or 902 501 130).
Make sure to grab an official taxi which you can recognise by their white colour with a red stripe and Madrid's crest and a licence number on the side. Green lights on the roof mean the taxi is available and drivers should always turn the meter on. There are supplementary charges for trips from the airport, from taxi ranks at train and bus stations, from the Parque Ferial Juan Carlos 1, as well as on the evenings of New Year's Eve and Christmas Eve, but not for luggage.
While taxis may be more comfortable than public transport, they're more expensive and because of traffic sometimes slower besides.