Known for its culture, history and great architecture, Madrid is one of the top destinations in Europe.
It is not only one of the largest and most influential European cities but an incredible destination for travelers whether it is their first time in Spain or not.
Last year, I had the opportunity to visit and stay in Madrid for a month while waiting for my new passport application to be processed. It was this time that I discovered how much I’ve grown to love this city. It is definitely one city that I can see myself returning to in the future, and that you will probably enjoy exploring as well.
Here’s 14 reasons to love Spain’s capital city.
1. Less of a tourist trap than some places in Spain
Sure, as the capital city, it is one of the biggest tourist destinations in Spain. It does get very busy especially at places such as Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor.
But the further you are from these spots, the less of a tourist vibe and crowd you will see compared to places like Barcelona and Ibiza.
2. It’s not expensive
Despite being one of the huge tourist spots in Spain, it is less expensive than cities such as Barcelona and San Sebastian.
On the whole, Western Europe is pretty expensive but Madrid is affordable by its standards.
A one-way metro ticket costs between 1.50 and 2 Euros. As for accommodation, a decent shared hostel room costs as low as 13 Euros, and you can find reasonable hotel room rates from as low as 70 Euros per night. These are the prices you can find if you book in advance of course.
Even if you book your accommodation closer to your travel dates, the cost of living is still lower than Barcelona and many other Western European cities.
3. Easy access to food
Whether it’s tapas, paella, pastries or fine dining, you can easily find all kinds of food in Spain’s capital city.
One of the best (and amazingly cheap) places is Sidrería El Tigre in the Chueca area. It is a tapas bar with great atmosphere and great deals (you get two free plates of tapas if you order a pint of beer)!
In Madrid, there are tons of culinary options from around and outside the country. Not to mention the trendy food markets available. One of them is Mercado de San Miguel – you can taste some really fresh seafood and shaved ham right here.
I recommend showing up before noon to avoid the tourist crowd.
Madrid also has really best döner kebab – probably one of the best in Europe. They are not only affordable but also great for snacking while sightseeing or at night.
4. Great architecture and history
As the capital city of Spain for more than four centuries, Madrid boasts a rich history and culture, as well as incredible architectural landmarks.
Entry to the museum is free for students aged between 18 and 25, and 15 Euros for each adult. Admission fee for the Palace is around 10 Euros.
5. Authentic feel to it
While having all the features of a big, cosmopolitan city, Madrid has a more Spanish feel compared to places like Barcelona and Ibiza.
Take flamenco shows for instance.
Originally from Southern Spain, flamenco is a style of art that comes in the forms of songs, dance and music. As an integral part of mainstream Spanish culture today, it is one of the best things you can experience in Madrid. While there are flamenco shows that you can watch in various bars, you can also take part in dance classes.
You can also feel the authenticity of the city from its abundance of tapas bars and traditional restaurants – something that I see less of in the Catalan and Basque regions.
6. Vibrant Couchsurfing community
Couchsurfing (CS) is a hospitality exchange website that allows members (mostly travelers) from all over the world to connect with each other through local events, forum discussions and on the basis of free accommodation. It is one of the best platforms to start with for meeting people in new cities.
Madrid is one of the few Spanish cities with a sizeable CS community with tons of events happening. You can find a lot of locals who are part of it and keen to meet foreigners.
7. Friendly and nice people
This is not specific to Madrid but Spanish people are generally very friendly, helpful and outgoing.
Throughout my stay there, there are way more moments where people helped me out with directions and translations than I can count.
8. Great energy
One of the things that amazed me was the nightlife here!
Madrid is the place to be if you’re a night owl. People here tend to have their dinner pretty late (around 9 pm), so they will party later as well. From 1 am, they start partying through the wee hours of the night.
Apart from nightlife, I have also seen people gathering outside and taking strolls as late as 2 am.
I also stumbled upon the Beer Bike – a unique way of exploring Madrid by bike for 45 minutes while enjoying soft drinks and great music. It is very common for such tours to operate even at night!
9. Great location for teaching opportunities
As a friend of mine Elisa mentioned in this interview, Madrid is by far the best paid region for teachers.
If you have ever thought about teaching English in Europe, Madrid is one place you should consider.
10. Great place to learn Spanish
Although you can learn Spanish pretty much everywhere, it’s safe to say that you can find more of such opportunities in bigger, cosmopolitan cities like Madrid and Barcelona because of the abundance of language schools and language meet up events.
But since the official language in Barcelona is Catalan, learning Spanish would make more sense in a city with Spanish as the main language of instruction.
11. Best job prospects in the country
As the capital city and main economic centre of Spain, Madrid is where the best (and most number of) job opportunities are. Some of its largest economic sectors include the financial, tourism and transportation industries.
Teaching is also another sector that is doing well as the earning potential and job prospects are the highest in the country as mentioned previously.
If you’re serious about moving to Spain (and am fluent in Spanish), Madrid would be an excellent place to start from.
12. Perfect location for day trips
Being located in the centre of Spain, Madrid is the perfect spot for going on day trips around Spain!
The city of Toledo is located just an hour drive from Madrid. It is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Centre due to its history spanning 2,000 years, and one of the most popular day trips from the capital city.
Further up north is the Basque region, with cities such as Bilbao and San Sebastian. They use a different language (Basque), have a different culture, and have amazing food (especially pintxos).
You can either drive or take intercity buses (especially ALSA) to these cities.
13. Great weather all year round
With over 300 days of sunshine each year, Madrid is one of the warmest European destinations and perfect for those who want to escape the cold winters up north.
Just avoid the wet months of March, April and May, and you will be fine.
14. Cheap travel to/from many destinations
I’ve found that airfares to Madrid are quite affordable if you’re flying from places such as Toronto, New York City, London and Tokyo. This is based on my experience from visiting Europe (three times) and researching on cheap flights.
It is also well served by many flights operating within Europe. For instance, for June 2018, it is cheaper to fly from Budapest to Madrid than it is to Munich or Vienna.
Madrid’s central location in the country also makes it an excellent spot for traveling to other Spanish cities on a budget (by bus or car).