Madrid is the capital city of Spain and the third largest city in the European Union. Madrid has a population of around 3.3 million, with almost of fifth of this comprising of immigrants. With its high standard of living, good employment prospects, Mediterranean climate and fantastic cultural and sporting legacies, it’s an understandable choice of location to start a new life in Spain.
Moving home is always a daunting experience, but when it’s abroad to a foreign city in a new country, it can become an overwhelming time. If your move abroad to Spain is taking you to Madrid, here are the answers to some common questions you may have about moving abroad to Spain’s capital city.
Where to live in Madrid
There are 21 districts in the city of Madrid, offering people moving to Madrid different options to suit all lifestyles.
Areas for families
If you are moving abroad to Madrid with your family, you may have to look in the more suburban areas to find a property large enough to house you and your children, as residential property in the city centre comprises of mainly flats.
The suburbs of Salamanca, Retiro, Chamberi, Nuevos Ministerios and Chamartin are popular districts for families moving to Madrid.
Chamberi offers a traditional Madrid lifestyle, with local markets, authentic tapas restaurants and village feel. It is close to the city centre, but visiting tourists are scarce, so retains a residential atmosphere. You’ll also find many activities for children here, with a number of children’s playgrounds in the area.
Outside of working hours, Nuevos Ministerios and Chamartin are quiet neighbourhoods, prioritising practicality over nightlife, with good transport links into the centre of Madrid, served by the Cercanias railway.
Exclusive Salamanca is a very sought after area. It is close to the centre of Madrid, quiet, safe, and has excellent schools and local services. You should, however, expect to find property prices expensive here. Similar to Salamanca, Retiro is a quiet, residential area with excellent green spaces. It is less expensive than Salamanca, but isn’t as well connected to the city centre.
Areas for professionals
Popular areas for young professionals include Sol, Chueca and Malasana. Sol is in the heart of Madrid, with many shops, bars and restaurants, and a large number of English speakers. Chueca and Malasana offer a more residential feel, but still retains a trendy, vibrant atmosphere.
With buses every 10 minutes to the centre of Madrid, in addition to a railway station and Metro line, Aravaca is a popular area for commuters working in the city. The high quality of life and good housing in this district also makes is desirable for families.
If you are moving to work in Madrid, talk to your new colleagues before you move out to learn where they live or where they would suggest as good places to live, as this may help you decide on a location to set up home.
Life in Madrid
There are trains, tubes, buses and taxis around the city, which makes it easy to get around and to visit other places further afield.
The metro in Madrid, which is the fastest mode of transport in the city, is open every day from 6am to 1:30am, operating across 13 lines and more than 200 stations. The Madrid Metro is safe, clean, efficient, and the majority of the trains are modern and air conditioned.
In addition to the Madrid Metro, there are 170 bus lines and 10 lines of local trains, the Cercanias railway, which links the suburbs to the city.
For traveling during the night, there is a night bus, ‘buhos’, which runs from 11:45pm to 6am.
Although you can buy single journey tickets, most residents of Madrid get a Public Transport Card, which can be used across all public transport in the Autonomous Community of Madrid. If you’ll be using the Madrid public transport services regularly, you may be best getting a monthly or yearly season ticket.
Spain’s capital city is Madrid and like many other cities throughout Europe, it is busy and crowded. However, it has lots of green spaces and it’s an extremely safe city. There are pickpockets, so you must take care when you’re out and about, but it is safe to walk around in both day and night, and the public transport is very safe to use.
Entertainment in Madrid
Madrid has a constantly changing events list and wherever you live will have a community that has organised events too. There are plenty of bars and restaurants to suit all budgets, cinemas and theatres, and wonderful streets to explore.
Shopping in Madrid
Madrid is a shopper’s paradise; there are high end designer shops, together with high street chains and Sunday markets. Shops here are often open until late, sometimes until 10pm.
The streets of the Salamanca district are popular with shoppers. Calle Serrano and Calle Velázquez are the main streets, but the smaller surrounding streets in the area also offer excellent shopping options. With a number of department stores and shopping malls in Madrid, there is something here to suit everyone.
For a capital city Madrid is very green, the green areas cover over 250,000 hectares, and if you live on the outskirts of the centre you can expect to find plenty of green spaces, the river and parks for children.
The Retiro, Botanical Gardens and Parque del Oeste Park are just a few of the many parks to enjoy in Madrid.
Culture and sport
Madrid is full of cultural amenities and entertaining activities. As the culture centre of Spain, Madrid is considered a top destination for art museums. Museo del Prado in central Madrid’s ‘Golden Triangle of Art’ is one of the most visited museums in the world. You’ll also find the National Archaeological Museum and the National Museum of Natural Sciences.
If you’re a classical music and opera fan, you’ll find excellent venues to enjoy classical music concerts, including the Auditorio Nacional de Música and the Teatro Real.
You’ve also got two of the most successful Spanish football clubs, Atletico and Real Madrid. Whether you’ll be supporting Atleti or Los Blancos, you’ll certainly have a lot of football to enjoy during your time in Madrid.
The nightlife is a significant attraction to Madrid, with a number of tapas bars, nightclubs, live music venues and cocktail bars. There is a selection of enjoyable destinations for evening events in Madrid, including Sol, Bilbao, Tribunal and Chueca, which is particularly popular with the gay community.
It is notable that nights out in Madrid usually occur later, often not starting until 12am and going on until 6am.
Alternative art is also well represented in Madrid, with a number of performing venues and festivals celebrating the alternative scene.
Madrid Property Prices
Property prices are expensive in Madrid, as to be expected for a capital city, but they are certainly lower than somewhere like Paris or London. The average apartment price in Madrid is around 4,127 euros per square metre, but will differ depending on the area you are moving abroad to in Madrid.
Depending where you are renting, rental costs start at around 580 euros a month for a small apartment outside the city centre. For a larger property in the city centre, you can expect to pay around 1,500 euros a month.
Moving to Madrid with Children
As the capital city of Spain, Madrid is home to a number of international and bilingual schools, so you’ll be well placed to enrol your children into an international school to allow them to continue with the UK curriculum.
You may, however, wish you send your child to the local community school, of which there are many to choose from in Madrid. This would be a good way to get to know the other children around you and for your family you quickly become part of the community.
Castellano is the official language in Madrid and you can be sure your children will be picking it up soon after you have moved. It might be helpful to get some private Spanish lessons for them after school, or let them loose in the park to begin communicating with the local kids. Mixing with other children will soon get them talking.
page last updated May 2017
Please note: as we are awaiting information about the UK’s exit from the EU, this information is only correct up to September 2019. As soon as we have more information, we will update these pages. In the meantime, please refer to the government's 'Get Ready for Brexit' page.