For those traveling on Air Europa or Iberia, chances are that you will get a long layover in Madrid International Airport of Barajas, if you are lucky enough and that’s your case, don’t miss the opportunity of visiting the city! Better than traveling somewhere, is getting the chance to visit another city for free!
Some of you may ask if it is possible to visit Madrid during a long layover, but don’t worry, it is completely doable. Although it is a big city like any other capital, a stopover in Madrid is enough to visit the most important tourist attractions in Madrid.
In this guide, you will learn things to do in a layover in Madrid and how to get from Madrid international airport to the city center.
First of all, don’t worry about getting from Madrid airport to the city center. Barajas airport is located kind of far away, however, it is pretty simple to move around.
The city has a great infrastructure and it is pretty easy to come and go, so it won’t be hard to enjoy your long layover in Madrid, and it will be totally worth.
For short layovers, like a 3-hours layover in Madrid, I would recommend to stay at the airport and enjoy the facilities, there are things to do, don’t worry. They are listed below.
If you have between 3 and 5 hours layover you can visit the nearby places, I also included a list of attractions near Madrid airport, in case of a short layover,
How much time do I need to visit Madrid in a long layover
I would say that a short layover would be anything less than 6 hours. Barajas is kind of far from the city center so less than a 6-hour layover in Madrid would be risky.
Bear in mind that in international flights the ideal time for check-ins in 3 hours before departure, so keep an eye on your watch.
Madrid International Airport – Madrid Barajas Airport
Barajas is the international airport of Madrid and this is probably the airport you will arrive in. Although it is super easy to get to Madrid’s downtown from the Barajas airport, you must bear in mind that this is one of the five biggest and busiest airports in the world, and boy, it is HUGE!
The airport has four terminal and to go from one side to the other can take up to 20 minutes so if you have a short layover in Madrid, don’t distract yourself, because it can take a while till you figure out and get to your gate.
Barajas is situated 12 km away from the city center, but it is really easy to get to the city center thanks to how well connected everything is, both the airport and the city are entirely organized to make it easier for tourists to come from the city center to the airport and vice versa.
What to do in Madrid Airport
For those who have a short time in Madrid, not enough to make your way to the city center and back in time to catch your next flight, don’t worry. As I said, Barajas airport is really big and has a variety of things to do and ways to distract yourself until the next flight.
Both buildings offer many shops where you can wander through and go for shopping if you like this kind of thing. There are many good clothing shops, as well as souvenirs.
For the hungry ones, there are cafes and restaurants as well, and of course, the lottery, after all, we are in Spain, and Spanish people love a lottery opportunity!
What to do near Madrid airport
As I said, Barajas airport is kind of far from the city center, consequently, there is no much to do around the Airport of Madrid.
Parque Juan Carlos I
But if you don’t have time to go to the central area of Madrid, but still want to have a taste of the city, head to the Parque Juan Carlos I. There are beautiful views, gardens, and some monuments.
Castillo de la Alameda
Crossing the road, on the Park’s corner, there is a ruin of a castle, known as Castillo de la Alameda. It dates back to the 12th century. It has also been a prison, and after a partial restoration, it is now open to the public.
Parque El Capricho
Down the road, there is the Parque El Capricho, with beautiful flowers in the Flores de El Capricho Garden, and beautiful monuments and artificial ruins such as the Fortin de El Capricho, that was built at the beginning of the 19th century, like most of the monuments and ruins in the park.
The Fortin was built on the site of an old fortified tower, but it was only built to simulate a fortress, for landscaping reasons.
Other notable monuments are the Ermita de El Capricho, Temple of Bacchus, Casa del Artillero, and Salon de Baile
The park was created by the Spanish nobility in the 18th century to be their personal green oasis. It is important to note that in this specific park, it is prohibited to enter with food, animals or wheeled gadgets, so don’t forget to lave your belongings in the airport’s Luggage storage.
Airport to Madrid city center
There are many ways to get from Madrid airport to the city center. You can take a taxi, which can be kind of expensive, take the metro, which I don’t really recommend and will explain why shortly, and the transfer, or shuffle that will pick you up in front of the airport and leave you right in the heart of the city.
Madrid taxi service
Madrid taxi service is probably the most convenient and comfortable, but also the most expensive, it will cost you around €30 to get to Madrid central area and another €30 to go back to Madrid’s airport. The trip takes around 30 minutes each round.
In my opinion, it is not necessary to take a taxi, as it is simple and fast to take a bus.
Similar to the taxi, the Aerocity is a transfer service that operates in the airport that offers a 7-seater van to take you to whatever destination you want. It is cheaper than a normal taxi and the price can vary depending on the number of people in your group.
The prices go between €20 and €30. It can be reserved in advance from their website. Just like the taxi, the Aerocity will take around 30 minutes to get from Madrid airport to the city center and vice versa.
The good point in it is that you can choose your destination but I would recommend Aerocity only if you are staying for at least one day in Madrid so that you can reach your hotel easily.
Madrid airport bus
Madrid airport bus, known as Airport Express is probably the best option if you want a comfortable and cheap mean to get to the city center, the price for its ticket is around €5 and the trip takes 40 minutes until the last stop.
The bus makes three stops after the airport: O’Donnell (which is close to a metro station), Plaza de Cibeles and Atocha (a train station). If you want to visit the tourist points, you can alight at Plaza de Cibeles.
You can take the bus at the entrance of terminals T1, T2 and T4 it is a 24-hours service and the buses run every 15 minutes during the day or every 35 at night. The tickets can be bought on board.
This option can be a bit complicated especially if you are new to the city and don’t speak Spanish. Madrid is a big city and so is its metro system.
Buying the tickets and taking the metro, at least for the first time, can be a bit challenging.
You can hop on the metro line 8 in terminal 2 or terminal 4. If you arrive in Terminal 1 or 3 you can take a free bus inside the airport to change terminals or simply walk till there.
The metro runs every 5 minutes during the day and 10 minutes during the night and the time of the trip till Nuevos Ministerios (Madrid’s central station) takes only 15 minutes.
The tickets can be purchased from the tickets machine at the toll entry in the airport and metro stations and the price with the airport supplement starts at €4.50 depending on your destination.
Spain itinerary: How to spend 12 days in Spain.
What to do in a Long Layover in Madrid
Plaza de Cibeles
In Plaza de Cibeles is located one of the most famous monuments of the city, a fountain of the goddess Cybele riding a lion-drawn chariot.
Behind it is the Palace de Cibeles, the building was first a mail-post then the city hall and now it is a cultural center, hosting art exhibitions and workshops, etc. The cafe on the top of the building has a beautiful view of the city.
Puerta de Alcala
Nearby, in the Plaza de Independencia, is located the Puerta de Alcala. Older than the Arc Triomphe and the Brandenburg Gate, it is considered as the first modern post-roman triumphal arch build in Europe and used to be one of the old gates of Madrid.
Going down in the avenue Calle de Alcala, there is a beautiful building that used to be the headquarter of the National Bank of Spain.
Nowadays it is the Instituto Cervantes, a cultural institution that promotes the Spanish culture and language.
Puerta del Sol
Going further, until the end of Calle del Alcala, is the famous pedestrian square Puerta del Sol, a huge opened area full of street artists and lotteries.
In the center of the square is a plaque on the ground marking the Kilometré Cero, the center of Spain.
Puerta del Sol is the house of another famous monument in Madrid, the Estatua del Oso Y El Madroño (The Bear and the Strawberry Tree) representing the official Coat of Arms of Madrid.
In Puerta del Sol, look for the only orange building, this is Madrid’s city hall, in front of this building is celebrated the New Year and try to eat a dozen grapes, one for each chime, a tradition dated from 1895.
It is said that the one who manages to eat all twelve grapes, which is almost impossible, has the chance to make a New Year wish!
Following the avenue in front of the square, the Calle Mayor, it will bring you to another important public square in the city of Madrid, the Plaza Mayor, a big square surrounded by a beautiful building.
The most impressive building is the Casa de la Panaderia, built to be the main bakery of the town, nowadays it is occupied by the Madrid Tourist Board while the ground floor houses the Madrid Tourism Center, you can take maps and magazines for free here.
In the middle of the Plaza Mayor is located a bronze statue of Philip III, the king who planned the construction of the square.
Plaza Mayor was the stage for big events in the city during the centuries, including bullfighting, the city’s inquisition court, and three fires: 1631, 1672 and 1790.
All these events are recorded in the four light poles, come closer and take a look to see the details.
Catedral de Almudena
Back to the Calle Mayor, following it until the very end o the avenue, is the Catedral de Almudena, the main Cathedral of the city.
Take your time to admire the architecture and the art inside it, it is possible to climb on the top of the cathedral to have one of the best views of the city.
Right in front of the Catedral de Almudena is the royal palace of Madrid, the Palacio Real or Palacio de Oriente. The building is very impressive, clearly inspired by Versailles.
It is possible to visit the interior of the palace and I really recommend if you have time, there are many rooms to visit, including the stunning throne room.
All rooms are richly decorated, with many arts and interesting items like porcelains, beautiful paintings, well-detailed frescos, armors, etc.
To fully enjoy the palace, and be able to pay attention to the details, you would need around 2 hours to visit its interior.
If you don’t have this time, skip the interior visit and head straight to the Palace’s gardens.
On the side of the palace, is located the Jardins de Sabatini and behind the palace, the Jardins Campo del Moro, to get to this last one you will need to walk a little bit more, but it totally worth it.
The visit to the gardens is completely free.
To come back to the Plaza de Cibeles, you can take the metro behind the Teatro Real (Royal Theater). Take Line 2 to Banco de España, it will leave you right in front of the fountain, where you can take the Airport Express back to the airport.
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