How to Solo Travel Madrid: Everything You Need to Know
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When I solo traveled Spain for over a month, Madrid was one of my favorite cities – and I’m not alone in this. Many people love Madrid and even decide to eventually move there. For solo travelers, Madrid is a safe city full of delicious food, monumental history, interesting sights, and dynamic culture. Here’s the ultimate guide to solo traveling Madrid.
Reasons to solo travel Madrid
There aren’t any reasons to not solo travel Madrid, and all the reasons to. Even if you’re soloing it for the first time, Madrid is a great starter city that’ll hopefully have you hooked on solo travel.
Easy to navigate on your own
Madrid is easy to navigate, whether you’re walking or taking public transportation. Uber and taxis are also available. I recommend taking public transport though. The bus and metro are cheap and will get you anywhere you want to go.
When I was traveling solo in Madrid, I exclusively used the metro and walked everywhere.
English is widely spoken
While only 27.7% of Spaniards speak English, most workers in the touristy areas of Madrid know at least a little bit of English. Young people will usually know enough English to help you out or have a basic conversation. English is taught in school, but it’s the common problem of “use it or lose it.” When I took a BlaBlaCar in Spain, my driver told me that because they don’t use English outside of school, many people don’t speak it well.
Spanish is also easy to learn. You can quickly pick up some key phrases – enough for you to ask basic questions and get around. And if all else fails, Google Translate is your best friend.
Dining and drinking alone is common
It’s common to see people eating and drinking alone in Madrid. Local workers go out for a drink, coffee, or lunch on their own. You’ll blend right in, and no one’s going to bat an eyelash if you ask for a table for one.
A beautiful city with lots of charm and things to do
I fell in love with Madrid when I was there for almost two weeks, but it doesn’t take that long to see the city’s charm.
Madrid is a city that you could spend a week or more in and not get bored. There’s delicious food, beautiful architecture, plenty of sights, lush greenery, vibrant neighborhoods, and lively nightlife.
Best hostels in Madrid for solo travelers
Sungate One is one of the highest rated Madrid hostels on Hostelworld, and it’s certainly earned its rating. Sungate One offers a ton for solo travelers. They’ve created so many opportunities for travelers to connect, including free family dinners, day activities and trips, and pub crawls. On top of that, the hostel is clean, well maintained, and dorm rooms don’t have bunk beds.
Cats Hostel Madrid Sol
Cats Hostel Madrid Sol is a bit of a party hostel, if that’s what you’re looking for. Rooms are on the more basic side, but where Cats Hostel shines is its social atmosphere. They run frequent bar crawls and there are many common areas to socialize.
The Hat Madrid
The Hat Madrid is a boutique hostel that’s great for solo travelers. Aside from modern, clean facilities, they have a rooftop bar that’s great for meeting other travelers and they organize activities. Even if you decide not to stay here, their rooftop bar is open to the public so you can still swing by to meet others.
2060 The Newton Hostel
2060 The Newton is perfect if you’re looking for a social-but-not-party hostel. They only organize a pub crawl, but it’s easy to meet people in the kitchen and rooftop bar. If you want to go out, you’ll certainly find others who want to do the same. If you want to sleep, the rooms are quiet and the bunks are cozy and private.
How to get around Madrid
Madrid is a walkable city, and all the major sights are pretty close together. The sidewalks are in good condition, although narrow in some places. And there are plenty of crosswalks and traffic lights to keep you safe.
If you stay in central Madrid – close to the tourist attractions – you can get to everything by just walking. Walking everywhere, I would easily reach 20,000+ steps in a day. Sometimes even 30,000+ steps! Plus, you’ll save on transportation costs.
Madrid lags behind in bike friendliness, which is why you won’t see many cyclists around. But that doesn’t mean you can’t bike around the city.
BiciMAD is Madrid’s public electric bike service. If you’ve used public bike programs before, you’ll be familiar with how BiciMAD works. Pick up a bike from one of their docking stations, head off, and return the bike at another station. You’re charged based on the amount of time your ride takes.
Be careful when biking around. There aren’t many bike lanes throughout Madrid, so you’ll be sharing a lane with cars.
I was impressed with Madrid’s metro system. It’s straightforward to navigate, efficient, and reliable. During the weekday, trains run as frequently as every two minutes. I never had to wait more than three minutes for the next train, and trains were never late. The metro runs from 6 AM to 1:30 AM.
Signs in the metro system are clear. Every train line has its own platform, which means you won’t accidentally get on the wrong line.
A single trip ticket ranges from 1.50€ to 2€. You can buy a 10-trip ticket as well.
There are stations near all major attractions. The metro system also connects the city center to Madrid’s airport.
There are over 200 bus lines covering Madrid, with buses running every four to 15 minutes. While the metro doesn’t operate 24/7, the bus system does. After 1:30 AM, night buses fill in the gap until the morning.
Bus ticket prices are the same as metro prices. If you buy a 10-trip ticket, you can use it on both the bus and metro.
Uber is available in Madrid. It’s a convenient option if you’re out late at night or getting to and from the airport.
An alternative to Uber is Cabify, a ride-hailing app that was founded in Madrid. Similar to Uber, you can order a car and see the price upfront before booking. Through Cabify, you can book a taxi as well.
There are plenty of taxis in Madrid, so it’s not difficult to find one. Unlike some other places in the world where taxis are outrageously expensive, taxis in Madrid are decently priced. They also charge by the meter so you won’t get ripped off.
You can flag down taxis off the street or order one via an app. FREE NOW is a taxi-hailing app where you can order a taxi instantly or schedule one in advance.
Things to do in Madrid alone
Take a walking tour
Walking tours are the best way to quickly become familiar with a new place. Plus, it’s an easy way to meet other travelers. If your hostel offers a walking tour, join in. You’ll meet other people who are likely up for sightseeing together. If a walking tour isn’t offered at your hostel, there are many companies in Madrid that offer donation-based walking tours.
I took a fantastic one with Sandemans that covered the history and culture of Madrid.
Wander Madrid’s beautiful parks
Madrid has two stunning parks: El Retiro and Casa de Campo. While El Retiro gets all the love in travel guides and is certainly worth going to, Casa de Campo is Madrid’s largest public park. It’s nearly 10 times as large as El Retiro (1,535 hectares vs. 142 hectares) and was used as a hunting ground by the Spanish royal family. Both deserve a visit – you can easily spend hours in them.
When I was solo traveling in Madrid, one of my favorite things to do was grabbing a coffee and pastry in the morning and heading to El Retiro. The park is quieter at this time, with mostly runners and locals.
Hit up Madrid’s world-class museums
Going to museums is one of my favorite activities when traveling alone. You can go at your own pace, taking as little or as long as you like without the pressure of someone else.
Madrid is known for its art museums, which feature art spanning from the 12th century to today. The Golden Triangle of Art is made up of Madrid’s three most well-known art museums: Museo del Prado, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, and Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza. If you plan on visiting all of them, I recommend getting the Paseo del Arte card. It grants you admission to all three museums at a 20% discount.
Madrid has plenty of museums covering other interests, from railroads to romanticism. For museum-lovers, Madrid is heaven. You can spend many days hopping from one museum to another.
Take a day trip
Since Madrid is in the center of Spain, it’s a great base for day trips. Cities are also well connected in Spain by either bus and/or train. From Madrid, you can discover other historic Spanish cities in less than a two-hour bus ride and with little planning.
Popular day trips include going to Segovia, Toledo, El Escorial, Ávila, and Cuenca.
See a football game
If you’re a football fan, you can’t visit Madrid without seeing a match. The rivalry between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona is one of the biggest and fiercest in the world. Real Madrid plays in the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, which is also where the 1982 World Cup was hosted.
You can buy tickets on the Real Madrid website or in-person at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. Getting to the stadium by metro is straightforward – take Line 10 and get off at the Santiago Bernabeu stop.
While you’re at the stadium, combine a football match with a visit to The Real Madrid Museum. Learn about the history of the club, see its countless trophies, and get an inside look at the stadium.
Gran Vía is a famous commercial street, lined with shops and restaurants, in central Madrid. No matter the time of day, you’ll find it bustling with locals and tourists. If you’re looking for international apparel brands like Zara, Uniqlo, Primark, and H&M, they’re all on Gran Vía.
If you want boutiques, vintage and thrift shops, and independent, local stores, then you’ll need to head off of Gran Vía and into the different neighborhoods. Malasaña and Lavapiés-Embajadores are home to vintage and secondhand shops. Las Salesas, Chueca, and Barrio de Las Letras are hubs for independent and specialty stores.
Eat your heart out at the food markets
The food markets of Madrid are a fantastic way to try different Spanish foods. Mercado de la Paz, Mercado de Antón Martín, and Mercado de San Miguel all have a number of restaurants and food vendors under one roof. Get small bites to sample a variety of things or sit down at a restaurant to have a full meal.
Search for secondhand treasures at El Rastro
El Rastro is Madrid’s most popular open-air flea market and has been around since 1740. It’s held every Sunday and on public holidays, with over 1,000 merchants. There’s a bit of everything at El Rastro, so it’s hard to walk away empty handed.
The market gets very busy, so it’s the perfect target for pickpocketers. Be careful with your belongings. Make sure your valuables are always zipped up and either in a sling in front of you or in a hard-to-reach place.
Although Madrid isn’t the birthplace of flamenco, there is fantastic flamenco here. The downside is you’ll pay a premium to see it in the country’s capital.
Las Carboneras is one of the best in Madrid. They put on a passionate, emotional flamenco performance, featuring female and male dancers. Shows run Monday through Saturday. Tickets start at 45€ for adults, which includes a drink and tapas.
Join a pub crawl
Many hostels in Madrid run pub crawls – sometimes as often as daily. Pub crawls are always a good time, and you’re guaranteed to meet lots of other travelers.
Grab a coffee or drink and people watch
I love the large amount of outdoor seating available in Spain. Nearly every restaurant, café, and bar has outdoor seating, making it perfect for people watching. Order a coffee or drink and observe the world go by. No one’s going to rush you, so relax and simply enjoy being in Madrid.
Discover Madrid’s many unique neighborhoods
One of the great things about solo travel is the ability to wander aimlessly and explore anything that piques your interest. Madrid is filled with many neighborhoods to discover – each with its unique characteristics.
Chueca is the heart of Madrid’s LGBT community. Barrio de Las Letras, the Literary Quarter, was home to many great writers like Miguel de Cervantes. La Latina is known for its clusters of tapas bars. And Salamanca is a beautifully chic neighborhood with lots of designer brands and fine dining restaurants.
There are many more neighborhoods to explore, so start walking and see where your feet take you.
How to stay safe as a solo traveler in Madrid
Is Madrid safe for solo travelers?
Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection named Spain the 11th safest place to travel in 2023. With Madrid being a city filled with immigrants from around the world, it’s a safe place for solo travelers of all backgrounds. Madrid is safe for female solo travelers. I was never harassed or catcalled. Madrid also has a thriving LGBTQ+ community and hosts the largest Pride celebration in Europe.
The biggest danger in Madrid is pickpocketing. But as long as you take the right precautions, you’ll leave Madrid with all your belongings intact.
- While the majority of Madrid is safe at any time for solo travelers, be alert particularly at night.
- Stay away from areas that give you a bad feeling. Dark alleys, deserted parks, streets with many homeless people.
- Prevent getting pickpocketed by keeping your phone and wallet in a hard-to-reach place on your body, like a zipped pocket on the inside of a jacket, or somewhere in your eyesight, like a sling in front of you. And if you’re in a crowded area, take extra care of your belongings and wear your bag in front of you. Packed metro trains and busy markets are prime places for pickpocketing.
- Leave your valuables locked up when going out. Better safe than sorry.
- If you go out and drink, watch your drink being made and don’t go back to your drink if you left it unfinished. And if you do get drunk, it’s always safer to take an Uber or taxi back than walking the streets at night. Drunk tourists alone at night are easy targets for robbers.
More resources for solo traveling Spain
- Málaga Solo Travel Guide: Best Hostels, What to Do, & More
- 8 Best Hostels I Stayed at in Spain
- Perfect One Day in Bilbao Itinerary: What to See, Do, and Eat