Madrid is the capital of Spain, and one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. It’s a medium-sized city with an intimate feel, and the passion, architecture, and clear blue skies will seep into your soul and provide the energy to maintain the up-all-night lifestyle. Madrid is a place for adventurers, artists, and people who don’t need a lot of sleep. It’s full of fútbol (soccer) fans, Royal history, artistic masterpieces, and a glorious clash of historic and modern culture. Go ahead, immerse yourself in Madrid.
First things first…
Unlike other cities in Spain, one should definitely have at least a basic handle on Spanish before visiting- or be willing to learn and practice. While it is a cosmopolitan city where most people speak some English, certain interactions can be challenging, but don’t let that deter you!
Spain uses Euros, and has a broad price range when it comes to shopping, food, and partying depending on where you go. There is also a “Disfruta MADRID Mas” program that offers discounts to international students, as well as the option of presenting a student ID or attending venues on certain days/times for free.
Madrid is located in the dead-center of Spain, and has one of the largest airports in Europe (Madrid Barajas International Airport). The airport is accessible by the city Metro and is the principal location for Iberia Airlines. It’s common for many people to reach Madrid via connecting flights from Barcelona, so you can always check out that option if you are having trouble finding a direct flight.
There are also several major bus lines and high-speed trains making Madrid easy to reach from surrounding locations. The two main train stations are Chamartín on the north side of the city and Atocha on the southern side of the center of the city. Bus routes to and from Madrid throughout Spain are a convenient, much cheaper option and allow you to experience the Spanish countryside until you reach your destination.
The city Metro is one of the cheapest, cleanest and user-friendliest Metros in all of Europe. There are stations all over the city with signs and maps available, but be aware it is closed from 1:30 am- 6 am. However, cabs are plentiful at all hours of the day and night, and there is a very good bus system that runs all night for the same price as the Metro.
There are many options for hostels ranging in price and quality in Madrid. If you’re looking to book a hostel, try to be close to Puerta Del Sol (the city center) because it is within walking distance of many museums, restaurants, clubs, bars, and shopping areas. While the Madrid airport conveniently (and cheaply) runs along the city Metro, avoid booking a hostel or hotel near the airport if you plan to explore the city because it is far outside the city center.
Listed below are some popular hostel options with different locations and prices within the city:
• U Hostels– Described as “Madrid’s first luxury youth hostel at backpackers’ prices!”
• Room007 Ventura Hostel– Located in downtown Madrid near all the main attractions.
• Way Hostel– Praised for a helpful FREE walking tour and friendly staff.
• Parque del Buen Retiro– One of the largest parks in Madrid, this expansive Garden of Eden belonged to the Spanish Monarchy before it was made a public space in the 19th century. Spend the whole day or just a few hours relaxing by the pond, renting rowboats with friends, or exploring the grounds around the Crystal Palace.
• Puerta del Sol/ Plaza Mayor– These sites mark the harmonious clash of modern and historic Madrid, with bustling shops, bars, and restaurants operating alongside famous buildings and landmarks from centuries past. The heart of Madrid, this area is close to countless museums, the Royal Palace, and so much more.
• Prado Museo– Home to some of the most famous painters and paintings in the world, Spain is loaded with remarkable museums, especially the Prado. It’s free for students with a valid student ID, so there’s no excuse to miss this before you leave Madrid.
Madrid tip– You would be surprised at how walkable the city of Madrid is, so save some cash and walk a couple stops instead of taking the Metro. Even enjoy a paseo, or evening stroll, just before dinner. You won’t regret seeing the beautiful architecture, people watching, and enjoying the impossibly blue skies.
What to Eat In Madrid
European Spanish food is considered Mediterranean, so don’t be expecting tacos, burritos, and nachos to be on every menu. Spanish culture is known for its “tapas” or smaller, snack-sized portions served with drinks to make up meals for a lighter dinner (typically between 9 pm- 11 pm). Common tapas include olives, paella (savory rice mixed with choice of seafood, vegetable or meat), croquetas (small bread-crumbed fried rolls of potatoes, cheese and/or ground meat), patatas bravas (fried potatoes served with a spicy tomato sauce or mayonnaise), and ham and cheese bocadillos (small sandwiches loaded with high-quality cheese and cured ham).This is a great way to sample several different types of food at once and share with a group of family and friends.
Lunch is the largest meal of the day in Spain (typically between 2 pm- 4 pm), and consists of soup, vegetables, seafood or chicken, and plenty of bread. It’s common for a small glass of wine or beer to be consumed at this time, as well as a sweet dessert like flan. After this, escape the hottest part of the day for the siesta or period of rest between lunch and dinner by enjoying one of Spain’s several world-renowned museums or an afternoon in Retiro Park.
Nightlife in Madrid
Nightlife in Madrid is unique because it truly lasts all night. With even small children and families out to dinner past 10 pm, don’t expect your night to start until at least 11 pm. It’s very common for people to pregame on the metro or botellón (drink in the streets) with friends and hit up the bars until 1 am before heading out to their final destination.
There are bars all over Madrid, and it is very common to bar hop instead of staying at one place all night. The club scene in Madrid is expansive, and picks up around 2 or 3 am, and doesn’t die down until 6 in the morning when the Metro reopens. If you’re worried about staying awake the next day after being up all night, that’s what strong Spanish coffee and the afternoon siesta are for.
Madrid Drinking Tip– The secret to lasting all night is to avoid drinking too much at the beginning. While Spaniards certainly enjoy their alcoholic beverages, they know how to pace themselves. If you do the same and pace yourself throughout the night, you won’t even notice that the sun is starting to rise.
Do you have questions about studying abroad in Madrid? Let us know in the comments and I’ll answer them!