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Moving to Madrid

Expats moving to Madrid will find a wonderful city that is a pleasure to live in, with great restaurants, lively bars, interesting art galleries and two world-famous football teams. 

Madrid is the commercial and political capital of Spain, and although the centre is convincingly international it retains a distinctly Latin feel. Foreigners have no need to fear the pressures of a high-speed lifestyle that are so often attached to other Western capitals. 

While retirees searching for sunnier shores and a relaxing descent into their twilight years may not relish the prospect of emigrating to Madrid, it is beyond a doubt the place to go for those looking to further their career in Spain while capitalising on an attractive quality of life. 

The economy of Spain was ravaged at the hands of the global financial crisis, but the country has recovered substantially. Madrid is the best city to find a job in the country, boasting both large multinational businesses and a fair amount of direct foreign investment.

The price of food, eating out and drinking is cheaper than in many other European cities. That said, average salaries are also generally inferior to those in other major European capitals.

In terms of accommodation, expats will find that quality housing in Madrid can be difficult to find for a good price, and it is important to know where to search, how to negotiate and how to make a deal quickly, knowledgeably and efficiently.

Healthcare in Spain is considered one of the best in Europe, and the Spanish National Health System (SNS) is available for free for all employees in Spain or EU citizens. The public education system is also well regarded, although many expat families choose to send their children to one of the many private schools that have bilingual or full English curriculum.

With the good schools and ample activities on offer, Madrid is a good city to bring up children, and its appealing weather means that they have plenty of opportunities to entertain themselves in one of the city's many parks. Do note, however, that the summer months can be very hot and air conditioning is a must, while winters are cold, with the occasional snowfall drifting down every other year.

On the whole, expats living in Madrid will find that the city’s rich history and youthful enterprise make for an exciting opportunity for individuals and families alike.

Weather in Madrid

Expats will find the weather in Madrid comfortable, but not as ideal as the Mediterranean climates of Barcelona and Seville. The city generally has a pleasantly warm and dry climate, but there is a broad variation between winter and summer temperatures due to its altitude and proximity to the mountains.

The summer heat can get very intense with an average temperature of 77ºF (25ºC), and many locals even leave during August in search of cooler climes. Winter temperatures can drop as low as 32°F (0°C). 

Rainfall is low and occurs mainly in late October/November and occasionally in spring.

Madrid Climate Chart

Working in Madrid

Expats working in Madrid can expect to be immersed in a modern city that lays claim to most of the population in Spain's central region, as well as the majority of its economic activity.


Job market in Madrid

As the national capital, Madrid attracts direct foreign investment as well as a fair number of multinational corporations. The city's largest economic sector is its service industry. The best performing sectors within the industry include corporate services, transport, communications, real estate and financial services.

On average, expats are likely to find more job opportunities in Madrid than in other Spanish cities. However, competition for jobs in Madrid is often much higher than in other major European cities.

Expats working in Madrid will receive some of the highest wages in Spain, which is an additional attraction for those moving to the city. The downside of this is that the growing population and increased demand for real estate mean that the cost of living in Madrid is also higher than the rest of the country. It should also be noted that salaries in Madrid are generally lower than in other Western European countries.

Teaching English in Madrid remains popular among expats in the city, while other industries that are popular with expat employees include IT, finance, skilled labour and engineering. 

Candidates who can speak Spanish or are willing to learn will find themselves at an advantage. Those who are also able to speak a third European language will find that they have more opportunities than the average job seeker in Madrid. 


Finding a job in Madrid

Expats who come from European Union countries have the advantage of not needing a work permit for Spain. Employers also generally offer job contracts to other European nationals before looking outside the continent. 

Expats who are non-EU nationals will need to have a job offer or apply to be self-employed in order to legally work in Madrid.

It is a good idea for expats to contact a recruitment specialist or head-hunter in Spain to assist them in finding a job. There are also several online portals which advertise job openings and should be checked regularly.

Making contacts and networking in Madrid is also important. The power of connections is not to be underestimated and is a principle ingrained in the Spanish working world. Expats should take advantage of any attempt to interact with decision-makers and should make an effort to attend job fairs and group events.

It should also be kept in mind that although many international companies have offices in the city and its diverse economy attracts all kinds of people, it is still important for foreigners to learn at least some Spanish. International business may be conducted in English, but other transactions will most likely occur in the local language. 

Accommodation in Madrid

Finding high quality and well-priced accommodation in Madrid can be relatively difficult. Central Madrid has continued to attract investors and expats alike. After a dip thanks to the recession, prices are going up again and are on the same level or higher than before the crisis. Furthermore, there is a lack of refurbished, spacious and well-located accommodation, which means the consequent high demand and low supply leads to increased rental rates. 


Types of accommodation in Madrid

The type of accommodation in Madrid that is typically occupied by expats is an apartment with a small balcony. Usually, the more modern an apartment, the smaller the living space. Demand and thus the price tags for these newer entities do, however, remain high.

In general, apartments that are 10 years of age or older will be of lower quality than those of a similar age found in other capital cities in Western Europe.

The typical city centre apartment sits within a charming old building, sometimes lacks light, has small bedrooms and, if it is a rental, is furnished sparsely and cheaply. On the upside, city centre apartments are in close proximity to nearly everything, which eliminates the need for expats in Madrid to own a car.

Just outside of the city centre, apartments are cheaper, larger, modern, well-equipped, and usually include a garage. In the suburbs, houses become more common, and newly constructed blocks can even include a swimming pool and tennis courts. Both furnished and unfurnished housing options are available. There are plenty of furniture retailers where items can be purchased at reasonable prices which will save expats from shipping furniture to Spain.

As in most large metropolitan areas, there are some parts of the city that are more desirable than others. Naturally, these are the most expensive and tend to be centrally located, close to good schools and transport connections.


Finding accommodation in Madrid

Expats who already know the area in which they’d like to live, and who have already defined the criteria for their accommodation, can search for apartments online. It is also possible to check data, organise viewings, negotiate rental prices with the landlord, review the contract and manage other administrative and legal requirements via this medium.

If an expat neither has the time, nor the knowledge or the language skills to search for accommodation in Madrid, a real estate professional will be their best resource. A Spanish estate agent’s level of English may not be the best, but they will look for apartments within their portfolio that comply with an expat’s criteria. It's important to bear in mind that agent's fees in Madrid can mount up and can reach the equivalent of 1 month's rent plus VAT.


Renting accommodation in Madrid

The rental market in Madrid is under-developed compared to other Western European capital cities, which means that it can be challenging for expats to find a quality apartment.

The average furnished apartment in Madrid is often of poorer quality than many expats may be used to, while most landlords expect their tenants to maintain the property themselves.

The good news is that the tenant selection process is not excessively demanding. Landlords choose their tenants on a first come, first serve basis; the only requirement being that the tenant shows proof of income, and can pay a security deposit amounting to between one and six months’ rent.

Sharing apartments, on the other hand, is slowly becoming the default option for students and young professionals who want to live in the city centre, but who cannot afford to pay rent on their own.

Negotiating a lease in Madrid

In general, the mandatory initial period is one year, the security deposit is the equivalent of one month of rent (two months if furnished) and payments are due at the start of each month.

Expat tenants are often asked to give proof of income (job contract and last three pay slips) and, in rare cases, references from their previous landlord. Providing this information to landlords can help an expat to show they are serious about renting a property and can help to differentiate them from other potential tenants. 

Areas and suburbs in Madrid

Madrid is a cosmopolitan city full of art galleries, theatres, cinemas, restaurants, universities and night spots.

Whether a student, an English teacher, a young professional, or an expat family, new arrivals are sure to find a suitable area or suburb in Madrid to call home. 

Expats tend to live in and around the historic centre, on the outskirts and beyond, and even in nearby provincial towns. Goods, services and reliable transport are widespread and usually within easy reach.

Expats should note that accommodation in most large Spanish cities is in the form of apartments, and Madrid is no different, meaning that the centre can be noisy and living space can be minimal.

Expats who would prefer to live in a quiet area in a spacious, affordable house, will probably have to live away from the city centre itself, implying a commute on excellent public transport networks or by road – although, the latter can be busy. 


Central areas of Madrid

City centre

In the city centre, winding streets fan out from Madrid’s famous tourist-friendly Puerta del Sol, a broad square that acts as the commercial heart of the city. While this area is exciting, there is little green space and the accommodation is expensive, often in older buildings and not all newly renovated. 

Wider avenues, such as the main artery of the Gran Vía or the area around the Plaza de Oriente, home of the Royal Palace, are nearby. In general, this area best suits young, fun-seeking students who can keep up with its frenetic pace.  

La Latina

Close by is La Latina, where expats will find inhabitants, bars and narrow streets reminiscent of traditional Madrid. Though certainly a charming neighbourhood, some of the accommodation found here is in need of upgrading. Some of the best tapas bars in the metropolis are found here, and on Sundays, the huge Rastro flea market winds its way down the area's eastern edge. Rent in this area is quite expensive, even if not all apartments are updated, as it is a very popular area to live in. 

Chueca and Malasana

Other fun options in central Madrid are Chueca and Malasana. This district has a flourishing nightlife and, as such, tends to be noisy; though Malasana manages to be quieter and more residential while keeping its trendy, alternative edge. These areas are perhaps best suited to young, well-earning professionals who prefer their accommodation to be in close proximity to their favourite party spots.

Retiro

Not far from the centre is the Retiro, a quiet, residential district made up of medium-sized period buildings. This neighbourhood lacks shops and markets but is close to Madrid´s biggest railway station, Atocha. It is suited to families but is rather pricey.

Salamanca and Castellana

Chic, well-heeled expat professionals may want to secure accommodation in Salamanca or Castellana, some of the most expensive areas in the city. The broad thoroughfares are lined with designer shops, stylish boutiques and upmarket restaurants. The US Embassy is found here, and amid the district’s wide highways and tall buildings are the headquarters of many banks and companies.  


Off-centre areas of Madrid

Chamartín

Chamartín is spacious and residential and is within easy reach of the city centre by bus and metro. Home to Real Madrid´s Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, it has a well-established community of expat executives and their families. Beyond the wide avenues, there are medium to more costly modern apartment complexes, as well as secluded and expensive villas. Stylish restaurants can be found here and there are international clubs, societies, churches and schools. It is well suited to high-earning professionals and their families.

Moncloa

Moncloa, north of the Plaza De Espana and the location of the Prime Minister´s official residence, is a quick, easy getaway from the buzz of the centre. This elegant area of four-storey buildings is laid out on a grid system and boasts a park as well as underground parking options. The neighbourhood is also home to the Complutense University campus with its well-kept sports facilities. Despite a large number of students, the area is quiet and is well-suited to expat families.

Nuevos Ministerios

Nuevos Ministerios, north of the city centre, is a middle-income zone and offers everything from restaurants and cinemas to clubs and cafés. The neighbourhood is well connected to the rest of the city by bus and the underground. Parking is as difficult to find as in the city centre. 


Outlying areas of Madrid

La Moraleja

La Moraleja (Alcobendas) is popular with the city's wealthier residents. Situated in Madrid´s northeast, it is the equivalent of the Spanish Beverly Hills. Tranquil, spacious and full of luxury villas with private gardens, rental and purchase costs are extremely high. Residents include the internationally rich and famous such as film stars, impresarios and top company directors. A selection of Madrid’s best private schools and sports clubs is located in this area, complete with tennis, golf and pony clubs. Restaurants are select and costly. A private car is essential, both for shopping in nearby commercial centres and for going into the city. This is the place to live for prosperous expats.

San Sebastian de los Reyes

San Sebastián de los Reyes, a historical town founded in 1492, is 11 miles (18km) north of Madrid. It is well connected to the capital and to Barajas Airport by rail and underground. Known for its bullfighting and sporting activities, it is also a shopper’s paradise, as major international companies such as IKEA and Leroy Merlin have branches in its Megapark and Plaza Norte malls. The home of Antena television station, it is a middle-class town and an ideal place for expat families.  

Las Rozas

Las Rozas is just over half an hour beyond the city limits to the northwest. It is an exclusive area with large, high-standard apartments, semi-detached houses and landscaped villas. With a strongly North American influence, there is an international choice of banks, shops and eateries. There are several international schools in the area and plenty of organised sports and social facilities. Las Rozas is best suited to prosperous families or couples.

Pozuelo and Somosaguas

Pozuelo is one of the richest cities in Spain, with a lot of expats living here, as there are many offices of well-known international companies. It is only 6.2 miles (10 km) to the city centre of Madrid. Somosaguas is an exclusive residential area with luxury standalone villas, where a lot of famous people live such as television or film stars, football players and artists.

Aravaca, El Plantio and La Florida

Aravaca still forms part of the City of Madrid, even if it is next to Pozuelo. Like Pozuelo, it has parts where the upper and high class lives. In El Plantio and La Florida, there are several international schools, which is why it is a popular area for families starting a new life in Madrid.

Healthcare in Madrid

Expats will find that healthcare in Madrid is supported by a large number of public facilities as well as a diverse private sector.

As is the case with all other regions in Spain, the national government provides basic coordination and legislation, and the regional administration is in charge of managing and planning public healthcare.

Free healthcare in Madrid can be accessed when an expat begins to pay into social security, a facility that can only be arranged by those expats with residence permits who have obtained an Empadronamiento and a health card. For working expats, this payment is usually arranged through an employer as an automatic deduction from the employee’s salary. Self-employed expats will have to pay into social security themselves to begin to receive healthcare.

There is an impressive range of public hospitals in Madrid, and a large network of healthcare centres and pharmacies, but many expats prefer to utilise private healthcare in Madrid. This sector eliminates the long queues that often plague the public system and provides individuals with more choice when it comes to specialists and practitioners. Expats will need to have private insurance if they wish to take advantage of these facilities.


Hospitals in Madrid

Below are some of the most prominent hospitals in Madrid:

HM Universitario Madrid

www.hmhospitales.com
Address: Plaza del Conde del Valle de Suchil 16, 28015

Hospital la Moraleja

www.hospitallamoraleja.es
Address: Avd Francisco Pí Y Margall 81, 28050

MD Anderson Cancer Centre

www.mdanderson.es
Address: Calle Arturo Soria 270, 28033

Unidad Médica Angloamericana

www.unidadmedica.com
Address: Calle Conde de Aranda 1, 28001

Education and Schools in Madrid

Public schools in Madrid are mostly attended by locals. These institutions can be good options for young expat children who are able to pick up the language more easily, but it can be challenging for older students to attend classes that are taught in Spanish. It is also an option worth considering for families who are looking to move to Spain permanently.

For the most part, expats along with wealthier locals tend to send their children to private or international schools which offer higher standards and a greater variety of extra-curricular activities. 


Private and international schools in Madrid

Many madrileños send their young students to private Catholic schools, which are subsidised by the government and form an important part of the system of education in Spain. Tuition at these institutions is often much less expensive than European private schools. However, subsidised schools also teach Spanish curricula in the Spanish language, and can be similarly difficult for newly arrived expat children. 

Independent and international schools in Madrid teach in English, but both tend to be on the expensive side. Independent private schools in Madrid can cost thousands of euros a year and expat parents should be aware that some of them might refer to themselves as international schools while teaching Spanish curricula in a foreign language. These tend to be more popular with the locals than the expat community.

There are, however, plenty of international schools in Madrid that uphold both the teaching language and curricula of countries such as the United States, England and Germany. These schools are more experienced in accommodating students who have previously studied different curricula and act as an effective bridge between a student's home country and their new environment. 

All reputable schools of this kind are registered with the embassy of their home country. Many international schools have long waiting lists, and expat families are encouraged to enrol their children well before the school year begins.

International Schools in Madrid

There is an assortment of bilingual and international schools in Madrid for expat children to attend. In fact, international educational standards are so commonplace that many schools with British and American curricula have a student body predominately made up of Spanish pupils.

Listed below are some of Madrid's most prominent international schools.


International schools in Madrid

Endaze British International School

Endaze British International School is a private school that offers British education to students of all nationalities, following the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum for students from 3 to 5 years old and the Cambridge International Curriculum throughout primary and secondary years. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-levels
Ages: 3 to 18

International College Spain Madrid

One of the leading international schools in Europe, International College Spain has been established for over 30 years and is the only school in Madrid offering the three prestigious International Baccalaureate programmes (PYP, MYP and DP) in English. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18

The American School of Madrid

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.asmadrid.org

King's College

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-levels
Ages: 1.5 to 18
Website: www.kingscollegeschools.org/madrid

Hastings School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-levels
Ages: 2 to 18
Website: www.hastingsschool.com

International School of Madrid

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-levels
Ages: 1 to 18
Website: www.internationalschoolofmadrid.com

Runnymede College British International School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-levels
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.runnymede-college.com

St George School Madrid

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-levels
Ages: 2 to 18
Website: www.stgeorgeinternational.es

Lifestyle in Madrid

A blend of old-world charm and contemporary chic, although the landlocked capital lacks sun-soaked beaches, expats can still look forward to a host of entertainment options and a fantastic lifestyle in Madrid.

There are plenty of historical attractions in Madrid but the city also has a wide selection of more recent attractions to offer residents. 

New arrivals to the city will find that the Spanish siesta is slowly dying out, but the nightlife that traditionally accompanies it is still as active as ever, with Spaniards sleeping on average an hour less than the rest of Europe.

The Spanish capital is filled with charming sidewalk cafés, restaurants, cutting-edge bars and nightclubs. There are several much-anticipated annual events in Madrid as well as excellent shopping options and a number of cinemas and theatres which put on productions all year.

Expats with children in Madrid will also have no problem finding something to do, with everything from the Madrid Zoo to an urban beach to keep the children entertained.


Shopping in Madrid

Opportunities for shopping in Madrid abound. Expats can find a wide variety of quality goods from various stores, markets and malls.

The Salamanca district in the northeast of the city is where leading Spanish and international designers display their wares, while Chueca is a popular part of town for boutique stores and high-end bargains. For high-street fashions and regional foods try El Corte Ingles, while the Rastro market is good for antiques and jewellery. 


Nightlife and entertainment in Madrid

The long siesta dividing the Spanish workday has traditionally meant later hours and a populace that is especially active at night. Although this tradition has changed over the last few years, many of the people who work in Madrid still take an extended lunch break and leave the office at around 7pm or 8pm and have dinner at around 10pm.

Many of the restaurants in Madrid cater for this, staying open while everybody else is on siesta and closing when everybody returns to work. Restaurants that do close for an evening break generally open after 8pm, with the busiest time for the city's favourite spots being about 10pm.

One of the ironies of life in Madrid is that expats will be able to order some of the best seafood dishes in Spain, despite the city's landlocked location. 

In addition to typical local delicacies, expats will find that dishes popular in other regions of Spain are easily available. Although cheap street vendors abound, the best food in Madrid is generally found at sit-down restaurants.

The nightlife in Madrid is among the best in the world, and a variety of vibrant cafés, bars and nightclubs are there for expats to explore. Some of the most popular nightlife venues borrow from local influences such as traditional tavernas and flamenco dancing. There are also plenty of more conventional venues for expats to let their hair down in.


Outdoor activities in Madrid

While it may be better known for its man-made structures, the city has a fair amount of green spaces that facilitate a host of outdoor activities in Madrid. The Casa de Campo is one of the biggest inner city parks in Europe, where expats will find the Madrid Zoo and the Madrid Amusement Park.

The best known among these is arguably Buen Retiro Park at the edge of the city centre. It used to be a royal garden in the 17th century and first opened to the public in 1800. Now, residents can be seen jogging and having picnics around the large artificial lake.

It is also a sporting city, hosting world-famous football (soccer) teams Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in their respective stadiums. Tennis fans will enjoy watching the Madrid leg of the ATP Masters Series, while expats who want to experience more traditional sporting fare can watch a bullfight at the famous Las Ventas bullring. 

Active expats will be able to join one of the local sports clubs in Madrid, go running in one of its many parks or conquer the hiking trails just outside the city.  Cycling is one of the great activities, as the city has many cycling trails expats can enjoy alone or with family. The new park alongside the Rio Manzanares is also a popular outdoor place.

Kids and Family in Madrid

As the largest city in Spain, Madrid draws international families and their children from all corners of the globe.

Expat mothers and fathers moving to the Spanish capital can take comfort in the warm-natured approach Spanish residents have towards children in Madrid.

The city has an even warmer child-friendly climate. Long spells of sunny skies and dry seasons make for enjoyable outdoor playdates and easy activity planning for the cost-conscious.


Education and schools in Madrid

Expats moving to Madrid with children will certainly need to consider the education on offer in the city. 

Madrid is not short of private international schools and houses Italian, French, English and even Russian schools. Parents who would prefer to integrate their children into a Spanish public school will, on the other hand, have to come to grips with the points system used for applications.

The Ministry of Education also introduced a bilingual programme a few years ago and some Spanish schools now operate as bilingual schools. In principle, bilingual schools offer a few more hours of English a week and the bilingual teacher is responsible for teaching English language, art, science, arts and crafts, and physical education while other subjects are taught in Spanish.

Expats who have children younger than three years of age may wish to take them along to one of the English-speaking playgroups in Madrid. These playgroups are usually formed by international parents as well as Spanish parents wishing to introduce their little ones to English at an early age. These are a great place to start meeting other international residents, to swap advice and to make friends.


Eating with children in Madrid

Cooking for children can become difficult if the little ones happen to be hung up on their favourite foods from home. Luckily for expats, there are many international shops in Madrid, including English shops, American delis, Swedish, Arabic, Hindi, Asian and Italian shops. Some stores, such as the Food Hall, even have online purchasing available.

Family restaurants in Madrid abound. For a taste of nostalgia, visit any of the themed restaurants, such as the Hard Rock Café and Foster’s Hollywood,  which cater to Westerners craving the familiar.


Activities for children in Madrid

There are plenty of attractions both nearby and just outside the city limits for parents who would prefer to take their children on a field trip to explore the surrounding countryside. Not to mention, Madrid is a mere 45-minute drive from several winter ski resorts if a family holiday is in order.

The Parque de Atracciones (Amusement Park of Madrid) is in Casa de Campo, well within the city limits. It can be reached by metro, bus or car. Even though it is labelled as a theme park, it is valued for its classic fairground atmosphere. The great thing about the amusement park is that parents can pay a small fee to accompany and observe their children having fun, or can pay for a full price ticket and participate on some of the many gravity-defying rides.

La Cripta Magica, located close to Atocha, captivates adult audiences during the week with magnificent magic shows, but on weekends it dedicates two shows in the afternoons especially for children from two to 12 years old. Children can sit right in the centre of the theatre for a full view and a truly magical experience.

Expat parents who would prefer their children to experience a more educational attraction should head to the Cosmo Caixa. This science museum in Alcobendas allows children to take part in an extraordinary journey of the solar system in a 3D planetarium. They can also get up close to some of the planet’s plants and animals or experiment with specially adapted scientific instruments.

For something a little out of the ordinary, parents can take their children on one of the themed train rides that run from several different train stations in Madrid. One of the favourites is El Tren de la Fresa, which allows children and their parents to enjoy local strawberries en-route while listening to tales of the past all the way to Aranjuez in medieval style.


Arts and culture for kids in Madrid

Madrid’s cultural repertoire is world renowned and doesn’t discriminate against young creatives.

One activity in Madrid that is as enjoyable for adults as children is the art walk. The Reina Sofia, El Prado and Thyssen museums are all within a five-minute walk of each other; each offering guided tours as well as family workshops which can be booked in advance.

Expat families can even visit places such as the Royal Tapestry of Madrid. If arriving at the right time, one might just catch a glimpse of elegant tapestries being woven on the premises.


Parks in Madrid

Children can get rid of some of their ample energy with a picnic and some playtime in any of Madrid’s beautiful parks.

Madrid’s most emblematic and largest park, El Retiro, is located in the city centre. Casa de Campo is a lot of fun for kids, not only because of the zoo and amusement park, but also because of the lake, ice stands and playgrounds. There is always plenty going on at the park, such as free puppet shows for children on weekends, seasonal rowing on the lake, as well as several exhibition halls which show interesting and unusual sculptures and art installations throughout the year.

See and Do in Madrid

A city of resplendent beauty and rich history, there is more than enough for expats to see and do in Madrid. 

The city’s character has been shaped by everything from medieval to modernist influences, which can be seen in landmarks as varied as the Gothic church of St Jerome and the abstract sculptures of the Museum of Public Art.

Known for being one of the world’s foremost destinations for art lovers, expats will be able to see everything from classical masterpieces to the surreal works of Salvador Dali. 

The most famous of the city's many museums are situated on the Paseo Del Prado, one of the city’s main boulevards. This includes the world-famous Golden Triangle of Art, which has three of the best-known museums in Madrid. 

Madrid is not only a city for culture vultures, however, and offers a host of attractions that should appeal to all kinds of expats. Sports fans will be thrilled by the prospect of a football (soccer) match at the Santiago De Bernabeu, and there is an abundance of green spaces for families to enjoy.


Popular attractions in Madrid

The Prado (Museo Nacional del Prado)

The Prado Museum is one of the world's principal art galleries, housing more than 7,000 paintings by artists such as Botticelli, Titian and Rembrandt.

Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza is located in the 18th century Palacio de Villahermosa and home to a vast collection of paintings, sculptures, carvings and tapestries by Renoir, Durer, Van Eyck and countless others.

Reina Sofia National Art Centre Museum

The Reina Sofia museum, designed to rival London’s Tate Gallery, has a great collection of 20th-century Spanish art for expats to enjoy.

Plaza Mayor

Dating back to 1619, the Plaza Mayor square is a must-see for any expat in Madrid. Once the scene of knights' tournaments and medieval rituals, the centrally located arcade is now home to cafés and spontaneous music performances.

Ermita de San Antonio de la Florida (Goya’s Tomb)

Referred to as Goya's Sistine Chapel, the Ermita de San Antonio de la Florida is the final resting place of the famed artist. The ceiling was painted and the frescoes designed by Goya himself.

Parque del Buen Retiro

Originally the private garden of Philip IV, this central park is now a wonderful spot for expats and locals alike to enjoy the fountains, lakes and play areas, or relax at one of the many outdoor cafés.

Corral de la Morería Flamenco

To get a true taste of Madrid, expats should head to Corral de la Morería, a world-renowned tablao flamenco  – a flamenco show restaurant.

Puerta del Sol

The Puerta del Sol plaza is home to iconic landmarks such as the Spanish clock tower that heralds the New Year, and the symbolic El Oso y El Madroño bear statue.

National Archaeological Museum of Spain

Founded in 1867, the National Archaeological Museum of Spain is a must-see attraction for any history-loving expat in Madrid. It boasts everything from prehistoric and Ancient Egyptian collections, to exhibits from the modern age.

Sorolla Museum

Joaquín Sorolla was a celebrated Impressionist painter, and today his former home is a museum that exhibits a fantastic collection of his work, as well as paintbrushes, furniture and other personal belongings.

What's On in Madrid

The Spanish capital’s annual events calendar is filled with everything from traditional religious parades to cutting-edge arts festivals and one of the biggest gay pride parades in Europe.

Whether someone is visiting on a weekend break or making a permanent move to the city, knowing what’s going on in Madrid is certainly worth it. 

Some of the best-known annual events in Madrid include:

Cavalcade of Magi (January)

Also called the King’s Day Parade or the Cavalcade of the Three Kings, this children’s parade occurs on the night before the Christian Feast of the Epiphany. A parade of “kings” on carriages can be seen tossing endless amounts of sweets to the children and adults following the procession. The parade takes place between El Retiro Park and Plaza Mayor. A children’s theatre programme accompanies the event.

Madrid Carnival (February)

The Madrid Carnival takes place the week before the start of Lent as a final display of excess before the traditional Catholic period of self-denial. The Madrid Carnival features parades, fancy dress and a concert in the Plaza Mayor, and is a wonderful showcase of Madrilenian culture.

Festimad (April/May)

An annual event since 1995, Festimad is a two-day rock music event that takes place on three stages and showcases countless local and international entertainers.  

Festival de Otono de Madrid (May)

This month-long festival heralds the onset of autumn and has been in operation since 1984. Since 2010, the event has taken place at the beginning of spring instead of autumn but the name has stayed the same. Attendees can expect to be entertained by theatre, dance and music events.

Fiesta de San Isidro (May)

A week-long festival in celebration of the patron saint of labourers, this festival also ushers in the bullfighting season. The fiesta sees carnival parades, music concerts, dances and other lavish and colourful events mostly around the Plaza Mayor area.

Suma Flamenca (May/June)

The Suma Flamenca is an annual month-long festival of flamenco, the traditional Spanish dance. The summit has a busy programme that includes flamenco singing and dancing events, as well as guitar-playing at venues throughout the city.

Madrid Gay Pride (June/July)

A week-long event towards the end of June, Madrid Gay Pride attracts over a million people from across the globe every year and is, according to the organisers, the biggest gay pride parade in Europe. Attendees of all kinds enjoy dressing up and watching a variety of performances, before the big parade, which is the festival's culmination.

Los Verano de la Villa (June to September)

Translating to “summer in the city”, this enormous festival showcases theatre, music, dance, circus performances, film, poetry readings and more at venues across Madrid. The organisers make a point of catering to a range of tastes, so there should be something for every expat to enjoy.

Castizo Fiestas (August)

A number of festivities celebrating the feast days of San Cayetano, San Loreno and La Virgen de la Paloma take place in the barrios of La Latia and Lavapies. There are street processions, dancing and live music to enjoy.

Madrid Jazz Festival (November/December)

A month-long jazz festival featuring international and Spanish jazz performances, jazz-related films and more – this world-class festival is a must for jazz fans the world over.

Frequently Asked Questions about Madrid

Expats moving to Madrid are likely to have many questions about adjusting to life in Spain's busiest city. Here are some answers to a few of the most frequently asked questions about expat life in Madrid.

How do expats deal with all the Spanish bureaucracy?

Dealing with Spain's red tape starts with an expat's work permit and continues once they arrive when it comes time to get an Empadronamiento or place their child in Spain's public school system. It is not easy, and it can be frustrating for expats that are used to more streamlined bureaucracy. Speaking Spanish or having a translator is a great asset. 

What will be the most expensive aspects of living in Madrid?

Recent rapid growth has meant an increase in the cost of living, though salaries seem to be stagnating. Accommodation will be the largest cost for expats, as house and apartment rental prices are disproportionately high in urban centres. Private schools, for those expats with school-aged children, are also more expensive in Madrid in comparison to other parts of Spain.

Is Madrid safe?

Madrid is very safe in terms of violent crime. Evenings are usually active in downtown areas, and people feel safe to walk home late at night. That said, petty crime does occur in Madrid. Expats should be mindful of pickpockets in crowded tourist areas and should be sure to lock their doors when they are not at home. Furthermore, if owning a car, it's best not to leave any possessions or valuables in clear view as this may invite a break-in.

Do I need a car in Madrid?

In short, probably not. There is excellent public transport in Madrid and unless planning to live in the city's outermost suburbs, expats will have no problem getting around. If expats do decide to buy a car in Spain, however, they should be prepared to feel the full brunt of Spain's bureaucratic culture.

Getting Around in Madrid

Expats worried about getting around in Madrid can safely shelve their concerns. The city is simply marvellous when it comes to moving about –  it is central and equipped with an excellent metro system.

Add Spain's famous high-speed train network to the mix, and expats have no excuse not to explore the wider region and the country as a whole. 

Furthermore, as the capital of Spain, Madrid is at the geographical and structural heart of the country and the international hub for all things Spanish.


Public transport in Madrid

Metro

Madrid’s metro reaches from the city centre into the outskirts and is one of the largest of its kind in the world. Stations are well distributed around the city and surrounding areas. There’s also a light rail system called the Cercanias, which works in conjunction with the underground metro but is a quicker option for getting around outside the city centre.

Train

There is a highly effective system of trains in Madrid that extends all the way to the country's extremities, but also to closer areas. These local trains are often quicker than the metro.  

When it comes to longer journeys, living in Madrid puts expat residents at the epicentre of domestic travel. One advantage of this is the AVE, Spain's high-speed train, which travels to and from several of the country's largest cities.

The trip isn't cheap, but the amount of time saved from not having to check bags or go through security lines makes it a sensible alternative to flying.

Bus

The bus network is a great alternative for getting to destinations the metro doesn't cover. Metro and bus tickets are interchangeable in the city centre and, similar to the train system, buses depart from Madrid’s centre and head in all directions. While they might be the most economical method of travelling outside of Madrid, they aren’t as comfortable or efficient as other options.


Taxis in Madrid

Taxis are a popular way to get around in Madrid. They are reasonably priced, but to avoid getting "taken for a ride" it is important for new arrivals to know where they are going and the best way to get there.

While most taxi drivers do their job with integrity, by law a taxi is only obliged to take the cheapest route if the passenger indicates which route that is. 


Cycling in Madrid

While Madrid may not be quite as bike-friendly as other European destinations, things are changing to make commuting more comfortable for cyclists. Parts of the historic centre have become mixed-traffic spaces where pedestrians and cyclists have priority over cars. There is also a growing network of cycle paths running along the river and through the city's parks.  

Despite some restrictions during rush hour, bikes are also allowed on public transport. 

In addition to BiciMAD, Madrid's electric bike-sharing service, there are lots of bike rental shops local throughout the city. 


Driving in Madrid

Driving in Spain can be harrowing as many local drivers don’t follow the rules of the road and drive quite aggressively. There’s also very limited parking and most expats living here find it far easier to get around on public transport.

When parking, people generally bump their way into parking spaces and care less for the condition of their car or others than one might be used to. Expect scrapes, scratches and dents – they are inevitable. Expats should also never leave anything of value visible in their car, or it may be broken into.