Madrid is a large city, but it has the advantage of having most of its monuments, museums and points of interest concentrated within a relatively small central area, meaning you can explore it on foot. If you walk from one end of this tourist area to another without stopping at a good pace, it will take about two hours. However, Madrid's extensive public transport system means you can get to any point in the city quickly and conveniently.
Access to the historic centre from airport and Madrid's main train and bus stations is quick and easy using the metro (for information on how to get into the city from the airport, see the How to get there section). It runs every day from 6 am to 1:30 am, and metro station entrances are marked with the letter 'M'.
Buses are also a good option. They operate from approximately 6 am to 11:55 pm and run on special bus lanes in the city's main streets. Bus routes and their frequency are displayed at the stops. You can travel with rucksacks (as long as they are held in the hand and not on the back), with suitcases (the same size as airline hand luggage) and with folding bicycles. To get around by night there are night buses, popularly known as "búhos" (owls), which run on Thursday to Sunday from 11:55 pm to 4 am. They depart from Plaza de Cibeles square and have an 'N' in front of the route number. On Fridays, Saturdays and the eve of public holidays there is also a 'búho-metro' service: night buses that cover the same routes as the underground lines, but on the surface. They can be distinguished by the letter 'L' and the number corresponding to the underground route in question. They run from 12:45 to 5:45am, and can be boarded at bus stops close to the underground stations.
Nevertheless, many people prefer the comfort of taxis when travelling at night. They run all day, and are white with a red stripe, and the city's crest and their licence number on the side. They can be hailed in the street when the green light is on. Otherwise they can be found at taxi ranks or you can order them by telephone using the radio taxi service. Tariffs are displayed inside the taxis and comprise the minimum fare, flag-down charge, kilometre charge and other extras such as night service, public holidays, and station or airport service. The total cost is displayed on a meter.
To get to Madrid's suburbs and surrounding areas, you can either take the bus or the train. RENFE Cercanias (suburban passenger service) runs from 5-6 am to midnight (approx.) and offers frequent daily services to places of interest for tourists such as Alcalá de Henares, El Escorial and Aranjuez.
Apart from Renfe's scheduled services, find out more about their Knowledge Trains, Culture Trains, Fun Trains and Special Trains on Renfe's official website.
How much does transport cost?
There are several tickets and passes available. On the metro, single tickets cost €1.50 and can be purchased at the ticket windows and vending machines in stations. On the bus, they also cost €1.50 and can be purchased from the driver. You can also use the combined ticket, valid throughout the Madrid Region metro network, costing €3, and the Metrobus card, valid for both metro and bus services. It costs €12.20 and is valid for 10 journeys. They can be purchased at estancos (tobacconists), newspaper stands and in metro stations.
For the train you can either buy a single ticket for €1.65, or a 'bonotren' pass costing €9.85, valid for ten trips.
Another option is the tourist pass. These can be used by the holder only and offer unlimited use of the metro, bus and regional train services. They are available for one, two, three, five or seven days, and prices range from €8.40 to €70.80. Children under 11 receive a 50% discount. There are two types: for travel within the city of Madrid only; and for travel throughout the whole region (T-Zone), including towns such as Alcalá de Henares, Aranjuez, El Escorial, Toledo and Guadalajara. Among other points, they can be purchased from the Regional Transport Consortium, in metro stations, at the Passenger Service Centre in the airport metro station, or via the Internet. www.neoturismo.com/es/transportes/transporte-en-madrid
Finally there is also the Madrid Card, which not only offers unlimited access to the Madrid Sightseeing Bus, but also includes admission to the main museums, along with discounts for shops, leisure attractions, shows and restaurants. There are cards available for two, three or four days, costing €45-€75. They can be purchased at various outlets, as well as online at www.madridcard.com, and at some tourist offices. Which is the best option? The best option will depend on where you are staying, the number of journeys you wish to make, and the number of people travelling. The central tourist area has excellent transport facilities, with numerous metro stops and bus routes. The vast majority of local people get about using the Metrobus pass. Not only does it offer substantial discounts compared with single tickets, but it also allows access to both bus and metro services, has no time limit for use and is transferable, meaning it can be shared by more than one person. Tourist passes and the Madrid Card are only valid for one person and offer unlimited use of public transport for a specified period.
The Madrid Sightseeing Bus runs to the city's most emblematic spots and monuments. Tickets are valid for one or two days, and cost €21 and €25. There are discounts for under 16s and over 65s. It is free for children under six, and there are discounts for families. Another original trip to make is on the cable car which runs from Pintor Rosales Avenue to the Casa de Campo park. Prices range from €4 to €5.75. www.teleferico.com