Madrid is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It has a vibrant atmosphere that instantly sucks people in and leaves them feeling as though they’ve had a whirlwind romance with an old flame. The city offers excitement, culture, a unique way of living, superb weather and of course a plethora of tourist attractions. It has it all.
Driving in Madrid makes it possible to really make the most of the city and the surrounding areas, and car parking makes those areas within the city a lot more accessible.
Things to do in Madrid City Centre
Before we dive into examples of Madrid tourist attractions which are best seen by car, let’s have a look at some of the most popular and interesting things to see and do within the city on foot.
The Prado museum is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. It consists of one of the oldest and most highly regarded art collections in the world. Whether you are an art enthusiast or not this is one of those places that has to be seen to be believed.
Once a Royal Residence, visiting The Palacio Real will allow you to marvel at the exuberant décor which is sure to wow you in every possible way. Felipe V built the palace in the 18th century in the hope that it would bring luxury to the Royal family while also displaying their powerful wealth. The palace is adorned by marble floors, gold furnishing and celestial frescoes and is now used for ceremonial reasons.
Touring The Santiago Bernabeu, regardless of whether you are into football or not, is one of the activities in Madrid you have to do. Home to the world-famous Real Madrid Football team a tour will enable you to revel in their glory and take in the amazing 80,000 seater stadium. If football is your thing, you could even attend a game!
For a Gourmet experience make a beeline for the El Corte Inglés department store. Now don’t panic, this is not a recommendation for the best shops but you are sure to have an experience that any foody would absolutely love. On the 9th floor, accompanied with spectacular views over the Capitol building, the Palacio Real and the mountains in the distance are some of the best bars and food stalls (madridfoodttour.com) you could find. Go on. Immerse yourself!
Sticking with the food theme, Restaurant Bostin is the oldest restaurant in the world. Established in 1725, it offers amazing roast suckling pig known in Spain as “ochinillo asado”, as well as Roast lamb, known as “cordero asado”. The food is cooked in wood-fired ovens and the experience of eating in the world’s oldest restaurant will be enhanced when you try their food in the vaulted cellar.
Tourist Attractions Outside of Madrid
While many of the Madrid tourist attractions are located within the city, peering beyond the boundaries of the inner city will open a world of completely new tourist attractions. From old rural outposts, vineyards and crumbling militant cities there is an abundance of stunning attractions all within driving distance of the capital. If you’re looking for cheap car hire in Madrid, your best bet is collecting one straight from the airport.
Set against a stunning mountainous backdrop, Cercedilla is around an hour’s drive from Madrid and ideal for those who enjoy hiking. Now, those of you who don’t like hiking don’t need to go running for the hills (excuse the pun) as there are activities for everyone. You could simply spend all day devouring typical Spanish food or relaxing in a natural hot springs. Whatever you choose to do, the view will be unforgettable.
Wine tasting in Ribera del Duero
If wine is your thing then why not take a tour of three wineries, where you can sample the inimitable history and fine wine of producers Ribera del Duero. Visiting these wineries will allow you to experience alternative settings, ranging from modern to traditional and even medieval architecture. This region is famed for some of the best wine in the world and here you will have the chance to taste their wine and indulge in the wealth of region. Ribera del Duero is about 2 hours and 15 minutes by car, heading north, from Madrid capital. For wine tour options, have a look at what Wine Tourism Spain (winetourismspain.com) have to offer.
To the southeast of Madrid is the historic city of Cuenca. This is undoubtedly one of the jewels in Spain’s crown and is Unesco listed. Found between two striking canyons which contain the rivers Jucar and Huecar, Cuenca is a place of real beauty. Its old streets are steep and the “hanging houses” whose balconies hang precariously over the dark depths of the canyon give the city a truly unique character. The Saint Paul Bridge offers the best views and also provides short routes to the Convent of Saint Paul and the old town. The colourful houses certainly inject life into the city and its streets. For lunch, sample some tapas at Calle San Francisco and try the pâté Morteruelo – a firm local favourite.
So where can you park in Madrid?
Just like any other capital hub on the planet, tackling the busy city roads can prove challenging but driving in Madrid will allow you to do as you wish, when you wish. This will mean that you have to find parking though!
There are more than 293 different places to park in Madrid, with the average hourly rate averaging around €4. Some of the Metro stations including Atocha and Chamartin have parking facilities. There is parking available along certain streets, which can be identified by blue and green dotted lines. You must pay at the designated parking meters (parquimetros).
- Blue: There is usually a maximum stay of around two hours before the ticket expires and as a visitor to Madrid, you have priority over these spaces. Residents may also use these spaces and are subject to the same rights.
- Green: You may park in spaces marked with a green dotted line for up to 1 hour. Residents who pay the annual fee have priority over these spaces.
For more information on parking in Madrid, check out this detailed post by The Madrid Traveller (madrid-traveller.com)
A great app I use when driving abroad – or anywhere really – is Parkopedia. Using GPS and its own mapping system this genius app shows you all the available parking spaces in a city and how much each costs. 100% recommended!
Using a car to travel around Madrid and beyond is relatively stress-free if you plan well. Buses may be cheaper and remove the hassle of parking but they are quite restricting. Madrid taxis are another option but needless to say these are very expensive to rely on as your primary means of transport. If you choose to rent a car in Madrid, you can visit the places you want to see without having to worry about tour guides or public transport! As they say in Spain – perfecto!
Some Important Things to Know About Driving in Spain
- The legal driving age in Spain is 18 (justlanded.com) but most car hire companies require a minimum age of 21 in order to hire a car. Moreover, drivers under the age of 25 may be subject to a ‘young drivers’ fee, charged by the car rental company at pick up.
- The legal drinking age in Spain is 18 (gomadrid.com). Spain’s law against drink-driving is stricter than the UK’s, allowing only 0.5 milligrams of alcohol per milliliter of blood. The law is even tougher for new drivers, who are allowed just 0.1 milligrams per litre.
- Travel from Madrid airport to city centre by car is reasonably straightforward if you have Sat Nav or a device with GPS. If you don’t have Sat Nav or GPS available ask for directions at the car hire office. They will be able to speak English.
Are you planning a trip to the Spanish capital? Is there anything else you’d like to know? Get in touch. I’m happy to help 🙂