Pack your sunblock
Plan to be ready with sunblock, because Madrid is Europe’s sunniest capital. Although there’s no beach in sight, Madrid has about 300 days of sunshine a year and it’s easy to burn. So apply sunblock, bring a hat, put on those sunglasses and find some shade.
Despite the sunshine, Madrid locals typically don’t wear shorts or sandals until June, and you’ll rarely see flip flops around the city, those are saved for the beach. You can, of course, wear what you like – but if you want to look like a local, skip the flip flops.
Plan for siesta
Many small shops still close from about 2 to 5 pm. If you have important errands to run, make sure to get them them done in the morning. In fact, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, and take a little nap yourself.
Do it all later
Everything is shifted a few hours later in Madrid. Wake later, eat later and to go sleep later. Plan to adjust your schedule to 3 pm lunches and 10 pm dinners. If you just can’t fathom eating that late, at least try to wait until 1 pm for lunch or 8:30 pm for dinner. Some restaurants won’t even open for lunch or dinner until those times.
Prep your Spanish
Although Madrid is the capital city of Spain, the level of English spoken there isn’t high. Most locals are friendly but don’t expect advanced vocabulary especially if you head outside the city center or beyond the typical tourist spots. The good news is that most Madrileños will try to help you with whatever you need despite the language barrier.
Madrid is one of Europe’s cheapest capitals. You can splurge and stay in a fancy hotel, or you can find cheap hostels for 20-50 euros per night. Beers will cost you just over one euro, expect to pay 2-3 euros for a glass of wine and dine out for 15-30 euros for a 3-4 course meal.
Get ready to eat
Diet beforehand, because once you arrive in Madrid, all you’ll want to do is eat. Spanish food is hearty and delicious, and the Spanish love to share their cuisine with anyone who will eat it. Do keep in mind that although more modern eateries are opening up, Madrid can be a difficult city for vegetarians, so do your research ahead of time if you have special dietary restrictions.
Getting around is easy and cheap in Madrid. There are many options to get from the airport to the city center such as different buses, the subway and taxi. The metro is easy to use and there are tourist passes available as well as 10-ride options which are great for short stays. The bus system is fairly easy to use, especially if you download the EMT bus app. Taxi’s can be hailed from anywhere or found at taxi stops, and apps like Uber and Cabify are also useful if you need to get around town.