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Getting Around Madrid on the Cheap

Though wandering around the streets of Madrid is a great way to see the city, be sure to take advantage of the fantastic public transportation system in the capital.

Getting to Madrid From the Airport

Madrid Barajas International Airport connects to the city by Metro line 8 and by Cercanias commuter train line C-1. The fastest, and least expensive way, to access the city center from the airport’s Terminal 4 is to take C-1 train to Nuevos Ministerios then transfer to either the C-3 or C-4 train; Sol will be the first stop and takes one to Puerta del Sol, the city’s main square.

Train tickets cost €2.15. Alternatively, one can take the Metro from any of the airport’s terminals to the city center. Take line 8 to Nuevos Ministerios, the end of the line. One can stay in the Metro system and take two additional lines to Sol or take commuter trains C-3 or C-4 for an additional fee. Metro tickets from the airport cost €2.50, as riders to and from the airport must pay an additional €1 supplement. Train and metro tickets can be purchased from machines in any station. The machines accept cash, credit cards, and debit cards. Remember to hold onto your tickets, especially those purchased for the trains, as you may need to re-scan them through machines to exit the station.

Getting to Madrid From the Train Station

Madrid has two train stations: Atocha and Chamartín. Renfe operates train service to and from Madrid. Chamartín serves trains from international destinations like Lisbon, Paris, and Milan and northern Spain, while trains from Barcelona, Valencia and southern Spain arrive and depart from Atocha. Both stations connect to the Metro and Cercanias commuter trains.

Madrid’s Metro System

Click map to enlarge

Madrid has one of the best public transportation systems in the world and the second largest network in Europe, behind only London. Single tickets cost €1.50 per trip, with an infinite number of transfers while in the Metro zone. If you take the Metro to or from the airport, you must pay an additional €1. Unlimited travel passes can be purchased as well: one day (€6), 2 days (€10), 3 days (€13), 5 days (€19), or 7 days (€25). If you purchase an unlimited travel pass, you do not have to pay the airport supplement.

Maps of the Metro can be acquired at Information stands in most stations. Announcements of stops on the Metro are made in Spanish, but signs throughout the stations are in Spanish and English. Metro trains often feature maps of several lines, not just the line you may be traveling. Be aware of what line you are on and which stop you are trying to reach.

The Metro officially opens at 6:00 AM and closes at 1:30 AM, though some lines may run until 2:00 AM.

The city also has an extensive bus system, which reaches parts of Madrid that the Metro does not. Metro and bus lines use the same tickets. Night buses provide transportation between 1:00 AM and 5:30 AM.

Commuter Trains in Madrid

Cercanias commuter trains (C-lines) connect the city center to the suburbs. These trains are useful for connecting to different parts of the city while avoiding multiple Metro line transfers. For instance, from the Sol stop in the city center, one can access the airport by transferring from Metro line 1 to line 10 to line 8 or one could take C-3 to C-1. Both terminate at Terminal 4 of the airport.

Written by Morgen Young for


Friday 5th of October 2012

Can I use the Unlimited Travel Pass to ride the Cercanias commuter trains ? Or, I must buy the ticket separately, one for "regular" train/metro/bus and one for commuter trains.


Saturday 6th of October 2012

From what I can find, these are two different systems. The Cercanias commuter system is run by RENFE and the Metro system by the municipality. I doubt you can use the same pass on both.

nancy todd

Friday 27th of April 2012

Great tips.  And if you end up at Atocha Train Station, it is a beauty.  Jungle gardens, a pond with dozens of turtles and good cafes.  A pleasant place for a rest, wait, delay...all those things that can happen with trains.

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