Situated in the very heart of Iberia, Madrid is Spain’s capital and one of Europe’s liveliest and most liveable cities. If you want to immerse yourself in Spanish culture and enjoy an urban lifestyle whilst having a central base that is perfect for exploring the whole country, Madrid is impossible to beat. Read on for our Madrid digital nomad guide to find out more!
Table of Contents
- Nomad Cities – Madrid Guide
- Best Neighbourhoods in Madrid
- Things to Consider
- Madrid Guide – Costs
- Coworking Space Madrid
- Verdict: Is Madrid good for digital nomads?
Nomad Cities – Madrid Guide
- Population – 3.4 million
- Country – Spain
- Language – Spanish
- Currency – Euro
- EU & Schengen Area
Madrid is a curious case. Weekend visitors usually leave content but often not bowled over as might be the case in a city like Barcelona which has more in the way of obvious sights, attractions and insta-friendly locations to be checked off, snapped and posted. However the Spanish capital is a grower and the preference of people who have spent longer periods in each of the country’s two major cities, often veers more towards Madrid with time.
That’s in part because its late culture and nocturnal ways are difficult to adjust to if you only have two or three days in the city. However it’s also because there is an atmosphere and a buzz to Madrid which isn’t immediately tangible. It’s a big city with a sprawling metropolitan area, but get yourself a central base and at times it can feel like one giant village. Its year-round sunny climate is conducive to long walks and an outdoors lifestyle which will frequently see you shunning the metro in favour of leisurely strolls.
Less hectic and friendlier than London, Rome or Paris, Madrid doesn’t take itself quite so seriously. It’s a city of neighbourhoods that are bohemian but not pretentious, and one where the spirit of La Movida Madrileña continues to live on.
Best Neighbourhoods in Madrid
Madrid is not like some European capital cities where the central districts are so extortionate to live in that most people are forced to look to the distant suburbs. You can find affordable rooms and apartments in the very heart of Madrid if you do some digging and most of the best areas are within walking distance of the centre.
In terms of getting your bearings, Sol is considered the centre point in Madrid. As a rough guide, it’s worth noting that many Madrileños consider living outside of the M-30, a motorway which encircles the central and main northern areas of the city, to be too far out. Certainly first-time visitors would be advised to find accommodation inside the M-30 (which you can easily spot on Google Maps). However you needn’t worry too much if you’re not in the very centre as everywhere in that area is well served by metro, buses and in some cases faster Cercanias trains.
The Malasaña district is one of the best options for living, working and enjoying your free time. Located to the north of Sol, it is an artsy neighbourhood full of coffee shops, vintage stores and quaint plazas. By night, particularly at the weekend, it’s one of the best areas in Madrid for going out with lots of small, grungy bars and pubs. Calle de la Palma, close to Tribunal metro station, is the centre of the action. In the summer months, the party spills over into the street and if you’re on a really tight budget, you can still have a good time by buying cans of beer and passing time in the squares and streets, with Botellón a deep-rooted tradition amongst the city’s youth.
Staying north of Sol, and adjacent to Malasaña, Chueca is Madrid’s famous gay barrio and one of the biggest LGBTQ districts in the world. Student-friendly Moncloa is a bit further out to the northwest of the centre but may be a good place to look for a budget-friendly flatshare and you have easy access to the Parque del Oeste, one of the city’s best parks.
South of Sol, La Latina is another of Madrid’s most famous and distinctive neighbourhoods. It’s full of tapas bars, street food stalls and on Sunday mornings is taken over by a huge flea market known as El Rastro, an essential experience for any visitors to the city that will feature in every Madrid guide. Nearby Lavapies is another of the most affordable central neighbourhoods. It has a long history of housing new immigrants to the city and its multicultural atmosphere is evident. It’s the best place in Madrid to come for a curry with a large number of Indian restaurants to choose from.
- Vibrant Barrios
While Madrid does have some fantastic parks and impressive squares and structures, it is in its many different districts and historic barrios that you can truly find the city’s soul and discover its many faces.
That’s particularly true after dark. Many of the things you may read and hear about Madrid’s infamously late culture are largely true. Madrileños really do have dinner around 10:00 p.m. with many bars staying open well into the early hours while clubs don’t really get going until at the very least 2:00 a.m. and often much later. You haven’t truly experienced an authentic Madrid night out until you’ve stumbled home in the daylight and luckily Madrid is not short on options when it comes to nightlife.
- Excellent Rail Links for exploring Spain
The most negative thing most Spaniards will say about Madrid is that it doesn’t have a beach and nor is it particularly close to one with the nearest offerings in the Valencian region around 350 km away. However the good news is that Madrid is very central and at the heart of Spain’s excellent high-speed rail network, one of the world’s fastest.
From Madrid, you can reach the likes of Sevilla, Malaga, Alicante, Valencia and Barcelona in under 3 hours by the fastest connections. While prices can be high, you can usually find better deals by booking in advance while newcomer Ouigo has started offering bargain high-speed connections with Barcelona starting at around 20 Euros on some days – a huge discount on the previous best fares on the route.
Check out our digital nomad guide to Spain for an idea of some of the other best destinations to visit and work remotely from.
- Sunny Climate
Madrid enjoys an estimated 350 sunny days a year which makes it one of the sunniest cities in Europe. While there is occasionally the odd rainy day or two in the Spring and Autumn, you can usually rely on there being blue skies. While the winter is cooler than many realise with sub-zero temperatures common at night, the sun usually continues to shine with wet and wintry weather rare.
Things to Consider
- Summers are stiflingly hot
One thing you do need to be aware of though is just how hot summers can be. In August, Madrileños tend to flock to the coast en masse giving Madrid a noticeably quieter feel compared to other periods of the year in which the central areas around Sol and Gran Via can get incredibly busy. Temperatures often soar towards 40°C during this period which can be too hot for some, but there is a small bit of good news in that humidity is much lower in Madrid than on the coast which makes things slightly more bearable. There are also plenty of great festivals and events throughout the summer such as the excellent Mad Cool Festival.
- Speaking some Spanish helps a lot!
While people in many Spanish resort towns and coastal cities such as Barcelona and Malaga are fairly used to foreigners coming for a few days and only speaking English, Madrid is a city where having at least a basic knowledge of some Spanish will help a lot. Away from the most touristic places in the city near Sol and Plaza Mayor, you won’t find English menus in restaurants and the vast majority of locals aren’t accustomed to conversing in anything other than Spanish.
- Finding accommodation can be a pain!
Madrid has some reasonable options on Airbnb if you’re only planning to stay in the city for some days or a few weeks at most. However for longer stays, to get considerably better value, you’ll need to go about it like a local and that can be a tiresome task, made all the harder if you’re not a Spanish speaker.
Sites like Idealista are a good starting point but there are plenty of sub-standard offerings and it can be really competitive during peak times such as September with many landlords preferring to rent to locals and people able to commit to at least 12 months. Madrid landlords also have a fairly poor reputation when it comes to honesty and integrity with unreturned deposits sadly commonplace.
Madrid Guide – Costs
|Private room in central Airbnb||From €30/night or €600/month|
|Private room for long-term rent (central)||€300-450/month|
|Studio/1-bedroom flat on Airbnb (central)||From €50/night or €1000/month|
|Studio/1-bedroom flat for long-term rent (central)||€600-800/month|
|Meal (plato) in an an affordable restaurant||€8-12|
|Beer in a bar||€1.50-3.50|
|Coffee in a cafe/restaurant||€1-2.50|
|Single metro ticket in city centre||€1.50-2|
|10-journey ticket (metro & buses)||€12.20|
|Metro ticket from airport to city centre||€4.50-5|
|Train to Barcelona (2 hours 30 minutes)||€20-80|
The costs for this Madrid nomad guide were compiled in May 2022. You can expect some seasonal variations in accommodation prices on Airbnb and it’s not uncommon for almost all Airbnb and hotel options to sell out during national holidays and festivals, of which there are many! By “central” we are continuing with the inside the M-30 motorway definition. You can find better value by going further out or looking at the commuter towns to the south of the city such as Getafe, Leganes and Fuenlabrada which still have good rail connections with Central Madrid.
Overall, Madrid is really good value for a capital city in Western Europe and that largely extends to groceries and typical household items. However it is a large city so it can take some time to discover the best ways to go about enjoying your free time and evenings out without spending a lot of money.
In terms of getting around, the 10-journey tickets are ideal for most visitors planning to spend several days or more in the city and it covers all metro lines (airport journeys require an extra supplement) and EMT buses in the city proper. You first need to purchase the red multi-card from a ticket machine (€2.50) and you can then reload the 10-journey ticket as many times as you need.
Coworking Space Madrid
Madrid has plenty of cafes and small neighbourhood bars and terraces where you may be able to work for a few hours too. However digital nomads in Spain do not flock to Madrid in truth and it didn’t have a huge remote working culture before the pandemic, although the use of coworking spaces has certainly become more common since.
Many cafes also get very busy, so you may want to check with the owners that it’s okay for you to stay longer before settling down to work for the afternoon. Chains such as Starbucks or Rodilla are better options for getting work down where nobody will bother you, although again they can get quite busy and noisy so aren’t the best places if your work involves making calls.
In addition, you may want to check out CoCohub Madrid, a coworking and coliving Madrid digital nomad community.
Verdict: Is Madrid good for digital nomads?
Spain is certainly a great country to live in as a digital nomad but given its central, inland location, Madrid isn’t exactly its postcard nomad destination. If you’re simply not a city lover and prefer to be surrounded by nature and have the benefits that living on the coast brings, there are loads of better options to be found across the country.
However if you enjoy the buzz of a big city and are keen to really immerse yourself in Spanish culture, Madrid is a great option. With relatively affordable living costs (for a capital city), excellent transport links and a sunny climate, Madrid has plenty going for it, although it is something of a slow burner and you’ll need more than a few days here to truly get to know it and appreciate what makes it special.
This Madrid digital nomad guide was written in May 2022.