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Getting Around Madrid as a Tourist- Using the Metro

Updated on November 26, 2012
The metro became my friend while I traveled in Madrid!
The metro became my friend while I traveled in Madrid! | Source

One of the most intimidating things about traveling to a foreign city is the ability to get around. It is difficult to navigate a country where you don't speak the language right? How do you ensure you can get from place to place without getting lost or turned around?

Having just come back from Madrid, this article will give you some helpful information about how to travel in the capital city of Spain using the economical and reliable Metro system.

Metro ticketing booth
Metro ticketing booth | Source
The Metro Ticket- It's small, be careful not to lose it!
The Metro Ticket- It's small, be careful not to lose it! | Source

An overview: How do I get from the airport to my hotel?

If you are staying in Madrid, the Metro is the fastest and cheapest way to travel. Of course you can take the bus or the train, but there are just not as many stops with these methods, so you will potentially have a lot more walking to do. The metro has so many stops, you will most likely get close enough to your hotel to be able to easily walk with your luggage.

1. Get the EXACT address of your hotel.
2. If you can, ask them where the closest metro station is and write it down.
3. When you get to the airport, follow the signs for the metro.
4. There is only one metro line that goes into the airport and that is the pink line, so you won't have to worry about what direction (or train) to get on. It's only one train. Get on it!
5. From there you will make a transfer to a separate line and then arrive at your destination. I will go into more detail below.

Buying a metro ticket

All the ticket services are automated. When you get to the booth, you can hit the British flag to receive the instructions in English. You essentially have two choices....

-You can buy one ticket for your destination
-You can buy a ten trip ticket that will cost you around 12 Euros.

What constitutes a trip? Well, whenever you leave the metro station to go above ground, you will go through a turn style. That constitutes a trip. So if you take the metro for one station, that is a trip. If you change lines 14 different times and end up clear across the city, as long as you don't go above ground, that is considered one trip as well.

If you'd rather only pay for one trip, the machine will ask you for your destination station and charge you accordingly. The price will usually range from 2 Euros to 5 Euros.

You can pay with cash or a credit card. Keep in mind that when I tried to use a credit card, it asked me for a pin. Since I don't have a pin for my credit card, I simply used debit. Your ticket will come out and you'll be able to be on your way!

Download the PDF (the link is below) to follow along with my example. I added these stars to my map so you could easily find where I was going.
Download the PDF (the link is below) to follow along with my example. I added these stars to my map so you could easily find where I was going. | Source
It can be a bit crowded at times!
It can be a bit crowded at times! | Source

Understanding the map

Here is a picture of the metro line map. Everything is color coded and whenever you see a dot with a black line encircling it, that means it is a transfer station (from one color to the next). If it is just a dash, that means it is only a station with no ability to change lines.

Every single station has a ticket booth and a guard should you get lost or confused. Every station usually has a street performer too!

There are 12 lines that will get you anywhere in the city. Each line has to ultimate destinations. These are important because you will need to know what direction you are going in so you get on the right train.

Follow along with me as I take you from the airport to the Lavapies station. Lavapies is on the yellow line about halfway down on the map.

1. Get on line 8 (the pink line). As I said before, there is only one train in the airport so don't worry about what direction to go. *The only exception to this is if you get on at Aeropuerto T1-T2-T3. You will want to take the train that says Nuevos Ministerios and not the train that says Aeropuerto T4. That takes you to a different terminal in the airport.

2. In order to get to the yellow line, you will have to take a different color line since there is no direct connection between pink and yellow. In our example, the best line to take is blue. When you are on the train, you can follow along with the announcer until you get to the connecting station. In this case, we need to go until the end of the pink line (at Nuevos Ministerios). There is a connection to blue here.

3. Now it is time to go on the blue line. Here is where direction is important. The blue line starts at the top of the map at Hospital Infanta Sofia and ends at Puerta Del Sur. We are taking the blue line to the station Plaza De Espana (which is where it connects to the yellow). However, when you get off the station, there will be NO sign that says Plaza De Espana. It will only direct you to either end of the line. Which direction do we have to go to get to Plaza De Espana? We have to go south, in the direction of Puerta Del Sur. So that is the train you take.

4. Follow along until you reach Plaza De Espana and get off. Now you need to get on the yellow line. There are two directions for this one as well....MonCloa or Villaverde Alto. In order to get to Lavapies, you have to head towards to Villaverde Alto. Get on that train and then get off at Lavapies!

Congratulations! You did it!

This is what the average station looks like.
This is what the average station looks like. | Source
The turn style is a bit tricky with luggage, but you'll figure it ou!
The turn style is a bit tricky with luggage, but you'll figure it ou! | Source

Important points about the metro stations

-Not all of them are handicap accessible. Pay attention to the little signs on the back of the map. Only the ones with the wheelchair will have an elevator. Otherwise, it is stairs and escalators.

-If you need to get to the train or bus station, the metro line will have icons that show you what kind of options you have. Europe in general makes their public transportation very easy and accessible.

-Most trains run every 7-10 minutes and people STUFF themselves on. If you have any issues with claustrophobia, you might want to have a drink before you use the metro!

-The little red "i" icon means there is an information area for you should you be confused.

-There is a map inside every subway train car and at the station. Don't worry if you lose yours! The airport and train stations also have maps.

-For some stations, there are multiple exits. If you get off the subway and pop up on a certain street, the next time you use the subway, you might pop up in a different location. No worries though, all the exits are within several hundred feet of each other.

Stations that have tourist attractions nearby

If you want to see the most well-known and famous parts of the city, here are a few metro stations you should 'pop' out of to see the sights!

  • SOL- Lots of shopping and touristy things to do (yellow, red, light blue)
  • Gran Via- Shopping (blue, green)
  • Banco De Espana- The Communications Palace and a short walk to the largest park in Madrid (red and has a bus station as well)
  • Opera- On the western side of Sol and has a beautiful palace and opera (black, green, red)
  • La Latina- The famous Tapas area in all of Madrid (green)
  • Lavapies- An older part of town with lots of charm and a short walk to Plaza De Santa Anna (yellow)
  • Plaza De Espana- Lots of architecture, buildings, fountains (blue, red, yellow)
  • Atocha- Right near the largest train station with a beautiful indoor garden (light blue)

Don't stress if you get lost

The metro station is constantly running (well except in the middle of the night when you should be sleeping!). Even if you get on the wrong subway, there are lots of ways to get to the same location. Just get off and get back on going in the other direction, or if you aren't on a timetable, just stop at the new place you landed. You might discover something you didn't know existed.

Happy Travels!

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    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for sharing this useful information. You would love SF's metro (and BART).

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      This was great Julie and know you definitely know more than a bit of this from first hand now. Thanks for sharing and am sure this will help others who are indeed traveling in Madrid, too. Have as always voted up and shared all over, too!!