Madrid is a great year-round destination, but it can be freezing in winter and boiling in summer as it's at an altitude of 2,000 ft
Carnival - a series of parades and costume parties culminates on Ash Wednesday to mark the beginning of Lent.
Fiestas del 2 de Mayo - celebrates the Community of Madrid. Expect concerts, open-air dancing, sporting events and bullfights.
Fiestas de San Isidro – a month-long celebration to honour the patron saint of Madrid, starting on May 15th. Traditional Castizo dress is worn, and barquillos (rolled wafers), buñuelos (fritters) and rosquillas (doughnuts) are sold in the streets.
San Isidro - the male Patron Saint of Madrid is honoured on 15 May, and followed by 20 days of world-famous bullfighting at the Las Ventas bullring.
Fiestas de San Lorenzo, San Cayetano and the Virgen de la Paloma – from 6-15 August, these festivals are commemorated with processions, open-air dancing, and pavement concerts.
1 Jan: New Year's Day
6 Jan: Epiphany (national)
20 March: San José
Dates vary: Easter Thursday and Easter Friday
1 May: Labour Day
2 May: Fiesta de la Communidad
15 May: San Isidro
15 Aug: Virgin de la Paloma
12 Oct: Spain's National Day
1 Nov: All Saints Day
9 Nov: Almudena
6 Dec: Constitution Day
8 Dec: Feast of the Immaculate Conception
25 Dec: Christmas Day
Note: flight, boat, train and bus timetables change constantly, and airlines come and go, so please do not rely solely on this information for your travel planning. Check with relevant companies, or a flight search engine like Skyscanner, first.
BY AIR FROM THE UK
The flight time from the UK is 2 hours. Services include: easyJet from London Gatwick, Bristol, Liverpool and Edinburgh, in addition to many European hubs; British Airways from London Heathrow and London Gatwick; Iberia from London Heathrow, in addition to many European hubs; Ryanair from London Gatwick and London Stansted, in addition to many European hubs; Air France from Aberdeen, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, London City, London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Manchester, Newcastle and Southampton, via Paris; KLM from Aberdeen, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Humberside, Leeds, London Gatwick, London City, London Heathrow, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich and Southampton, via Amsterdam.
From the Airport:
Flights arrive at Barajas Airport, about 30km from the city centre. The airport is served by taxi, metro and bus. Transfers between Terminals 1, 2, 3, and 4 are by shuttle bus.
Trains run between 6am and 1:45 am every day. Metro Line 8 runs towards the centre (direction Nuevos Ministerios), but passengers have to change at Mar de Cristal (Line 4) to reach most central destinations. The Airport metro stops are in Terminal 2 and 4, reasonably close to Terminals 1 and 3.
Taxi stands are located outside the ground floor in all terminals. In Terminals 2 and 3 the stands are located close to the baggage claims. The journey time to central Madrid is 25 to 45 minutes according to the time of day, as traffic can be heavy.
Buses start early and stop late. Line 204 buses stop at Terminal 4 arrivals and link the airport with the Avenida de América. Line 201 stops at Terminal 4 arrivals and connects the terminal with Barajas metro. Passengers in Terminal 4 who wish to travel by metro should take this bus, or go to Terminal 2 for the airport metro. Line 200 stops at Terminals 1, 2 and 3 and links the airport with the Avenida de América. The bus stops are located at arrivals and departures. Line 101 links Barajas Metro, Terminals 1 and 2 and various other convenient stops.
BY TRAIN FROM THE UK
For those with a fear of flying or a passion for trains, a more environmentally friendly and scenic alternative is to go by train from London to Madrid. The early afternoon Eurostar train from London to Paris Gare du Nord catches the overnight 'trainhotel' from Paris Gare d'Austerlitz, arriving in Madrid Chamartín at 9am the next morning. The return route leaves Madrid at 7pm, arriving in Paris at 8.30am, with the return Eurostar arriving in London at noon.
For more info see www.seat61.com.
Taxis are plentiful, reasonably priced and drivers are on the whole fairly honest. All official taxis are painted white with a red diagonal stripe across the front doors. There are surcharges for things such as extra passengers, pick-up from a phone call, pick-up at the airport, loading of luggage etc. Make sure the meter is running, otherwise you risk being being overcharged. When taking taxis from the airport, train and bus stations, it is advisable to use the official taxi ramps as roaming touts who offer lifts are often on the look out for an easy rip-off.
You'll not need a car to travel about the city centre which is far more rewarding on foot. However, if you plan to explore the countryside around Madrid see our car rental recommendations.
The metro is open every day from 6am to 1.30am. Train frequency fluctuates between every 3 minutes at rush hour to every 15 minutes at night. Each of the 11 lines is colour coded. The metro is closed between 2-6am, so you'll need to get a taxi if you go out late.
The 170 EMT bus routes in Madrid link the centre with all the districts of the city. Most vehicles are disabled-accessible; they all have air conditioning, essential during the hot Madrid summer. EMT buses operate every day of the week from 6.00 am to 11.45 pm. Frequency fluctuates between 5 and 15 minutes. From 11.45 pm onwards, a network of 25 nightly bus routes comes into operation - commonly known as ‘owls’. The bus terminal for these buses is located on the central square of La Cibeles. If you should wish to see the whole city, the Circular or “C” route goes round the city centre, or the number 27, which goes down the Paseo del Prado-Recoletos-Castellana thoroughfare, the main avenue in the city. An open-topped tourist bus is also a pleasant way to see the sights.
BY SUBURBAN RAILWAY
The 3 main means of public transport to get to Madrid are linked to the suburban railway stations: Atocha and Chamartin (long-distance railway and the AVE – high speed rail network), Nuevos Ministerios (underground connection to the Airport), Méndez Alvaro (Estación Sur de Autobuses – long-distance coaches).
Other stations within Madrid are Delicias, Pirámides, Príncipe Pío and Recoletos. The axis of Paseo de la Castellana, with the three leading art galleries of El Prado, the Thyssen Museum and the Reina Sofia Centre, or the Nuevos Ministerios shopping area, can be reached using the suburban railway. Trains runs from 6:00 to 23:00, every three to five minutes.
The Tourist Travel Card is a personal transport card that entitles its holder to travel an unlimited number of times on the Underground, EMT (bus network) or Renfe-suburban railway, in zone A.
Alternatively, consider buying a 10-pass ticket or a 3-day journey pass (includes the airport journey, the bus and the Metro).