Sleeping in Airports

Madrid Airport Layover Sightseeing

This article includes links to our travel partners at Tripadvisor, where you can read traveller reviews, book tours and plan your visit to Madrid.

Madrid Airport layover sightseeing
(photo credit: ESB Professional / Shutterstock)

Known for its art museums, delicious food, and lively neighbourhoods, Madrid should be on every traveller’s must-see list. Located in the centre of Spain, most consider this city the heart of the country. Not by chance, one of its most famous sites, Puerta del Sol, which can be translated as ‘Gate of the Sun,’ is known for being the intersection of Spain’s six main roads. But can you visit this vibrant city while on a layover at Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport? Let’s find out together.

Airport Overview

The trip from the airport to Madrid city centre takes about 45 minutes to one hour. So, once you consider getting through the airport and transportation to the city, you need a full-day layover to make the journey worth it. But what if you are here only for a short layover? Like most European airports, Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport has free Wi-Fi, allowing you to check your emails and chat with friends while waiting for your next flight. On top of this, the airport is home to several restaurants, fast food chains, and duty-free shops, where you can have a bite and buy a few souvenirs while waiting for your plane. Last but not least, you can choose to relax in one of the airport lounges. Check out our Madrid Barajas Airport Guide for more information on the airport. But what if you are on a long layover and wish to visit Spain’s capital?

Madrid Sightseeing Attractions

Below are a few of the top things to do in Madrid:

El Prado

El Prado
(photo credit: Rob Wilson / Shutterstock)

El Prado is, without a doubt, Spain’s most famous museum, and for good reasons. Here you will find paintings from world-renowned artists, ranging from Francisco Goya to Diego Velázquez and Hieronymus Bosch.

  • Plan your sightseeing: Visit Tripadvisor for more information about El Prado, read traveller reviews or book a tour.
  • How to get there: You can reach El Prado by metro or train. The whole trip will take you about 45 minutes to one hour.
  • Time required: El Prado is huge, and you can easily spend half a day or more here. However, if you are in a rush, you can visit the most famous paintings in just a few hours.

Retiro Park

Retiro Park
(photo credit: Anton Gvozdikov / Shutterstock)

Retiro Park is the ideal place for you if all you want to do between flights is immerse yourself in nature and relax. This park is home to several gardens, such as the Jardín de Vivaces and Jardines de Cecilio Rodríguez, as well as an artificial lake. Here, you can rent a boat and row on the water or visit the Velázquez Palace and the Glass Palace, home to exhibitions organized by the Reina Sofía Museum.

  • Plan your sightseeing: Visit Tripadvisor for more information about Retiro Park, read traveller reviews or book a tour.
  • How to get there: You can easily reach Retiro Park by train and metro. The complete trip will take you about 40 to 45 minutes.
  • Time required: You can spend as much time as you like here, from a few minutes to several hours.

Gran Via

Gran Via
(photo credit: ESB Professional / Shutterstock)

Shopping and architecture lovers must take advantage of the chance to see the Gran Via. This street is home to several fashion brands and interesting buildings in the latest architectural style, such as the Metropolis Building and the Edificio Grassy.

  • Plan your sightseeing: Visit Tripadvisor for more information about Gran Via, read traveller reviews or book a tour.
  • How to get there: Opt for the bus, metro, or train system. Regardless of your choice, you can reach the centre in about 45 minutes to one hour. You can then arrive at the Gran Via with a five or ten-minute walk, depending on your chosen transportation.
  • Time required: The Gran Via is roughly 1.3 km long, meaning it will take about 20 minutes to see this famous street without stops. Add at least an hour to check some of the shops and buildings on the way.

Calle De Cava Baja

Together with the Gran Via, Calle De Cava Baja is one of the most popular streets in the city. Known for its delicious tapas restaurants, this is the perfect spot to enjoy your lunch or dinner. From tortillas Españolas to croquetas and gambas al ajillo (garlic prawns), you will leave this place stuffed!

  • Plan your sightseeing: Visit Tripadvisor for more information about Calle De Cava Baja, read traveller reviews or book a tour.
  • How to get there: Choose among one of the many buses, metros, and trains departing from the airport, and you will be able to reach Calle De Cava Baja in about 45 minutes. To this, you will also have to add a 10-minute walk.
  • Time Required: Budget at least a couple of hours to eat your meal without rushing and get the chance to stroll on this picturesque street while taking a few pictures of its colourful houses.

Airport Transportation

Madrid Airport is about 15 km from the city centre, meaning a trip to Spain’s capital is entirely possible if you are on a long layover. There are several ways in which you can reach the city centre. Here are the most popular ones:

  • Metro: Line 8 connects the city centre with several airport terminals. Please remember that between the two stops, Terminals 1,2,3 and 4, there is an extra stop called Barajas. Do not get off here, as “Barajas” is in town. A single ticket will cost you from 4.50 to 5.00 euros. On average, the trip to destinations such as the Gran Via and The Prado will take 45 minutes to one hour, with a few changes in the middle. Visit the Metro de Madrid website for more information.
  • Rail: Trains are located on floor -1 of terminal 4. They run approximately every 30 minutes, and a ticket costs 2.60 euros. If you opt for this option, you’ll be able to reach the centre in about 40 minutes. Visit the RENFE website for more information.
  • Buses: Several buses connect the airport to the city centre. Among these are buses 822, 824, 927, and 828. They depart every 15 to 20 minutes, and a ride will cost you 5 euros. Most buses will take you to Atocha station in the city centre in 30 to 40 minutes, depending on your terminal and traffic. Visit the Madrid Airport transportation pages for more information.
  • Taxis: Of course, you can also opt for a taxi. A ride to the city centre will cost you about 30 euros.

Before You Go: Layover Tips

Now that you are excited about your mini layover vacation, be sure to check a few final logistical concerns off your list before you fully commit.

  • Do you need to organize a visa to leave the airport? Requirements change frequently and for each nationality, so be sure to seek out current details on the availability, cost and procedures of obtaining a transit visa.
  • When is your next flight’s check-in time? Double-check with your airline exactly when you need to be at the airport – and plan your layover accordingly. Remember that Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport is enormous, so arrive a few hours early.
  • What are security wait times like at the airport? Some airports are notorious for extended security wait times, so do your research in advance and factor that into your overall time budget.
  • What’s happening with your luggage? When you check in to your first flight, confirm whether your luggage will be checked through or needs to be picked up between your connecting flights. Check out our Madrid Airport Guide for information on luggage storage.

Other Useful Resources

Finally, here are a few handy resources to help you plan your layover even more thoroughly: