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Madrid is, on the whole, a very safe city for women – or men – travelling alone. Locals are friendly, and it’s so busy that you are unlikely to ever find yourself walking down a dark and quiet street if you keep to the city centre. As with any city, though, there are a few tips that are worth following if you are travelling alone.
Madrid’s centre is very walkable, but the city’s public transport system is great if you want to go a little bit further afield. Buy a multi-card at any metro ticket machine, then load your tickets onto the card (the metro recently switched from paper tickets to this multi-use card). The card can be used on metros and buses across the city.
Madrid has a huge array of accommodation options, from the finest five-star hotels to no-frills hostels. Many of the city’s best hostels have female-only dorms and are a great place to mingle with fellow travellers. The Hat, just off Plaza Mayor, is one of Madrid’s newer hostels and has a boutique theme and a cool rooftop bar. It has a six-person female dorm with its own bathroom. Legendary party hostel Cat’s has eight-person female dorms from €15 per bed.
Eating alone can sometimes be a little bit awkward, especially in Spain, where it sometimes seems as if everyone is out in a huge group of family or friends. If you want to avoid sitting alone at a restaurant, head to some of Madrid’s great food markets, where it’s easy to join the crowd, browse the stalls and sample some great local specialities. Mercado San Miguel is Madrid’s most central market and is worth checking out, even if it can get packed with tourists. Other more local markets include Mercado Antón Martín and Mercado San Fernando, both in Lavapiés, and the food stalls often held at the Matadero, a cool arts space along the river.
Taking a tour is a great thing to do when you’ve just arrived in an unfamiliar city; it can help you get your bearings and give you lots of inspiration for things to see and do during the rest of your trip. From walking tours to food tours and a tour that gives you a great introduction to the world of flamenco, there are plenty of options whatever you’re into.
While Madrid is generally a very safe city for women travelling alone, there are certain things you can do to make sure you’re as safe as possible.
Pickpockets can be a problem in Madrid, as in many big cities. Some work the metro line from the airport, so make sure your luggage is securely locked and, even better, travel as light as possible to avoid having to struggle with heavy suitcases. Wear a bag with a zip and fastening, if possible, and wear it across the body with the fastening towards you, so that sneaky hands can’t get into your bag or snatch it off you when you’re in busy public places or on the metro. And always remember to check maps in your hotel before you leave or when you stop for a coffee break. The sight of a confused tourist with an open map can be a big draw to pickpockets.
It’s always useful to learn a few key phrases, whether you need to ask for help navigating public transport or simply want to try an off-the-beaten-track local tapas bar where the waiters are unlikely to speak English. Most guidebooks will have a handy Spanish section in the back and there are lots of great language apps that make learning more fun than sitting in the classroom.
There are several local groups where you can meet local and expat women who would be more than happy to show you their city. The website Meetup is a great resource with different events to suit lots of different tastes. Alternatively, you can search Facebook for local women’s groups or attend an intercambio night – a language exchange where you can practise your Spanish and help Spaniards with their English.