A man in a yellow shirt in a square living in Madrid

Madrid is the capital of Spain and is located in the heart of the country. It has a large population of 3.2 million people. Situated at an altitude of 650m above sea level, it is Europe’s highest capital. With almost 3000 hours of sunshine per year, it is an enervating place to live. For art lovers, it has some of the best museums in the world. So let’s dig deeper and consider what living in Madrid is really like for Expats.

Pros & Cons of Living in Madrid

The sun almost always shines in Madrid! But due to its location far from the sea and high, it does get chilly in winter and hot in summer. If you are chasing the perfect climate, you would be better off moving to Valencia or Malaga for year-round warmth tempered by the Mediterranean.

However, for culture vultures, Madrid is the undisputed queen of Spanish cities. It’s renowned for its museums crammed full of European art. These include the Prado Museum’s works by Goya, Velázquez, and other Spanish masters. Outside the gallery walls, Madrid is a city of fine boulevards and manicured parks, and stunning palaces.

Madrid is known for its delicious cuisine, including tapas, cocido (a hearty deconstructed stew,) paella, and churros with chocolate. The city is home to many excellent restaurants and bars, where you can enjoy traditional Spanish cuisine and wine.

It also abounds with rooftop cocktail bars and cool nightclubs for all tastes. It has a thriving LBGTQ+ scene and a liberal outlook.

Actual Life vs. Tourist Visit

So while all of that is great for a flying visit, how does it stack up when you live in the city? Madrid is a safe city with a high quality of life. The city offers excellent public services, including healthcare, education, and transportation. While you may not be visiting art galleries every weekend, you are unlikely to get bored when you live here. The city has a lively atmosphere, and there is always something to do, whether it’s going to a concert or trying a new restaurant.

It is an easy city to make friends as there is a thriving international community. Employment prospects are good with so many international companies based here. However, air quality is often poor. It is miles from the beach, so the summers can be stifling.

But if you jump into the vibrant lifestyle with both feet, you will not regret living in Madrid.

Cost of Living in Madrid

The cost of living in Madrid depends on your choices and preferences. However, you’ll find living in Madrid is much cheaper than an equivalent life in the USA or the UK. And Madrid is one of the cheapest capital cities in Western Europe.

The cost of living in Madrid is lower than that of Barcelona but higher than in cities like Valencia.

Use our Spain cost of living calculator to see the differences and plan your budget.

Do You Need to Speak Spanish to Live in Madrid?

It is possible to get by in Madrid without speaking Spanish but knowing the language will make your life easier and more enjoyable. Speaking. It will help you integrate into Spanish society and culture more easily.

And, of course, you will have more opportunities to connect with locals and participate in local events. Perhaps most important of all, If you plan to work here, it may be essential for your job prospects. If you are going to be living in Madrid for any length of time, it is worth giving it a go!

English-Speaking Jobs in Madrid

There are, however, opportunities for jobs that only require English-speaking employees, especially in the fields of technology, education, tourism, and finance.

There is a high demand for English teachers in Madrid, especially for teaching English as a foreign language. Completing a TEFL Diploma course before applying for these positions is wise.

Many international companies have offices in Madrid, and they often require customer service representatives who are fluent in English.

There are also English-speaking opportunities in tech jobs such as software development, data analysis, and project management.

Many financial institutions based in Madrid require English speakers for positions involving financial analysis, risk management, and client relations.

Where to Live in Madrid

Madrid has a variety of neighborhoods, each with its own unique character and charm. Choosing where to live in Madrid depends on your budget and personal lifestyle preferences. Here are some of the most interesting places to choose from.


Sol is in the heart of Madrid and is known for its lively atmosphere and proximity to major tourist attractions. It’s a popular area for young professionals and students, with a variety of restaurants, cafes, and bars.


Malasaña is a trendy barrio popular among artists and bohemians. It displays a vibrant street art scene and boasts a plethora of independent boutiques. It’s also a great area for nightlife, with many bars and clubs open until late.


Chueca is Madrid’s LGBTQ+ neighborhood and is known for its welcoming and inclusive atmosphere. It’s a cool and happening area with many shops, restaurants, and bars catering to the LGBTQ+ community but welcoming to all.


Salamanca is a more upscale residential area known for its high-end shopping, luxury boutiques, and Michelin-starred restaurants. It’s a quieter area, popular among families and professionals.


Chamberí is a more traditional and residential neighborhood with many tree-lined streets and parks. It’s a great area for families and those looking for a quieter, more laid-back lifestyle.


Lavapiés is a multicultural barrio known for its diverse population and eclectic mix of shops and restaurants. It’s a great area for those looking for a more bohemian and alternative atmosphere on a tighter budget.

Best Madrid Neighborhoods for Expats

Any of the areas described above are great for Expats. They all offer a rich and diverse population. It is really down to whether you want a quiet, family-friendly area or a more buzzing nightlife vibe.

Madrid Neighbourhood Map

A illustrated map of the barrios (neighborhoods) of Madrid.
By the super talented Chelen Écija @ http://www.chelenecija.com/

Expat Communities in Madrid

American in Madrid

Madrid is a friendly city with a large expat community of around 1 million! Joining local clubs, meetups, or language exchange programs can help you meet new people and make friends. Jump in with both feet and embrace the culture. This may involve some change in your habits. Madrileños don’t eat lunch until 2 or 3 pm, and dinner lasts until 9 or 10. Many shops will still close during the Siesta hours. But once you relax and accept their way of life, you won’t want to go back!

Madrid is known for its lively nightlife, delicious food, and numerous cultural activities. Take advantage of all the city has to offer and explore its museums, parks, and festivals.

To legally work, rent a place, and open a bank account in Madrid, you must obtain a NIE (Número de Identificación de Extranjero). You can apply for a NIE at Madrid’s Foreigner’s Office (Oficina de Extranjeros).

Spain has a reputation for bureaucratic processes that can be time-consuming and frustrating. When dealing with government offices, banks, or other institutions, be prepared to encounter this.

Living in Madrid may have its challenges, but it makes up for it in the fabulous lifestyle.

Is Living in Madrid Safe for Expats?

Madrid is generally a safe city for Expats and visitors. Like any major city, there is some level of crime, and certain areas may be less safe than others, but overall, Madrid has a low crime rate compared to other major cities in Europe.

To ensure your safety follow the same safety rules that would apply in any major city. Pay attention to your surroundings, especially in crowded areas such as public transport and tourist attractions. Keep your valuables secure and avoid walking alone in isolated areas at night. Trust your instincts, and you will be safe living in Madrid.

Public transport in Madrid

Transportation in Madrid is efficient and well-connected, making it easy for residents and visitors to get around the city.

Metro System in Madrid

Madrid’s metro system is one of the most extensive in the world. It’s a lifeline for daily commutes, connecting various parts of the city seamlessly. Tickets are interchangeable with buses, and the metro operates from 6 am to 1:30 am, ensuring you are never stranded.

Buses: Madrid’s Above-Ground Network

Madrid’s bus network is vast and efficient. The EMT buses cover almost every corner of the city. Night buses, or “búhos,” ensure that the city’s nightlife doesn’t leave you without a ride home.

Exploring Madrid and Beyond: The Train Network

Madrid’s train system, operated by RENFE, is more than just city-centric. It’s a window to the diverse landscapes and cultures of the broader Spanish region.

Cercanías is a commuter rail system that connects Madrid with surrounding towns and cities. It is operated by Renfe, Spain’s national rail company.

Madrid’s train system, operated by RENFE, is more than just city-centric. It’s a window to the diverse landscapes and cultures of the broader Spanish region.


Navigating Madrid by taxi is a straightforward and often convenient option, especially for those unfamiliar routes or late-night outings. The city’s taxis, easily recognizable by their white color and red diagonal stripe, are abundant and equipped with meters, ensuring transparent pricing.

While Madrid’s public transport system is efficient, taxis offer the advantage of door-to-door service, making them a preferred choice for many, especially during the city’s scorching summers or chilly winters. Additionally, with the rise of ride-sharing apps like Cabify, hailing a taxi or scheduling a ride has never been easier for residents and visitors alike.

Bike Share

Madrid has a public bike-sharing system called BiciMad, which has over 2,000 bikes and 165 stations throughout the city. There are also many bike rental shops and bike lanes available.

Owning a Car in Madrid

Living in Madrid, Expats debate the need for a car. The city’s public transport is top-notch, and honestly, driving during rush hour can be a real test of patience. Plus, with Madrid’s push for a greener city, there are days when driving restrictions are in place, especially in the central zones.

On the flip side, having a car does come with its perks. Weekend getaways to nearby towns, late-night drives, or those big grocery trips feel more convenient. But then there’s the hassle of finding parking! For many, a mix of using public transport for daily commutes and renting a car for special occasions or trips outside the city works well. It’s all about finding that balance.

Read our guide to transportation in Spain for more information on getting around.

International Schools in Madrid

American Schools in Madrid

American School of Madrid (ASM)

ASM is a private, co-educational day school serving preschoolers through grade 12. Accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, and offers an American-style education with a focus on Spanish language and culture.

International College Spain (ICS)

ICS is a private, co-educational day school offering preschool education through grade 12. The Council of International Schools accredits the school and offers an American-style education with a focus on global citizenship and social responsibility.

British Schools in Madrid

King’s College

King’s College is a private, co-educational day school offering classes from preschool through grade 12. The Council of International Schools accredits it and offers a British curriculum with a focus on British culture and values.

Runnymede College

Runnymede College is a private, co-educational day school located in La Moraleja, Madrid, Spain. Founded in 1967 by Arthur Powell CBE as the first British school in Spain. It provides the British curriculum to students from the age of 2 through 18. Accredited by the Council of International Schools.

SEK International School

SEK is a private, co-educational day school that teaches children from preschool through to pre-university. It offers the International Baccalaureate. The Council of International Schools accredits the school. It also offers a boarding option to Spanish and international students. Their pupils currently hail from over 15 countries.

Madrid Universities

Madrid is home to many universities and colleges, meaning there is a vibrant student culture with many social and cultural activities.

English-language courses at Madrid Colleges

It is home to several universities that are popular among international students and offer courses in the English Language.

Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M)

UC3M is known for its excellent economics, business, and engineering courses. It offers the possibility of taking the majority of their undergraduate studies entirely in English or as a bilingual degree.

Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM)

UCM degrees with significant coursework in English include Business Administration, Chemistry, Computer Science, Economics, Education, English Studies, Physics, and Psychology. Outside of these degrees, English offerings are rare and alter from year to year.

Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM)

UPM is a leading technical university with a focus on engineering and science. It offers programs in both Spanish and English. Here is a link to their full offering of undergrad courses taught in English.

IE University

IE University is a private university in Madrid known for its business programs. It offers undergraduate and graduate programs in both English and Spanish.

Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM)

Known by its Spanish initials UAM or as “la Autónoma”. It offers a range of exciting exchange programs taught in English.

FAQ – Living In Madrid

Do you need a car to live in Madrid?

For many people living in Madrid, you would be better without a car. The public transportation system is efficient, effective, and affordable. You can easily explore the city on foot, and bikes are a great way to get around. Also, parking can be difficult.

Are people in Madrid friendly?

People in Madrid are generally very welcoming. It is an open-minded city with a bustling social life.

Is Madrid a walkable city?

Yes, Madrid is a lovely city to walk around with elegant boulevards and leafy streets.

Does Madrid have a beach?

No, Madrid is located in the center of Spain so it is a very long way to the sea.

Is Madrid safe at night?

For a city of its size, Madrid is generally a safe city. But always exercise the usual precautions you would employ in any large city at night.

Is Madrid beautiful?

Madrid has fabulous architecture, famous landmarks include the Royal Palace of Madrid and the Plaza Mayor. It also has beautiful parks in which to relax in the heat.

Can people in Madrid speak English?

Spanish is the official language of Spain, and it’s the capital city. However, you will get away with speaking English for ordering and simple requests in tourist areas.

Which city is better to live in, Madrid or Barcelona?

Barcelona has a better climate, a beach, and a cool vibe. Living in Madrid is cheaper, has more employment opportunities, and the only official language is Spanish rather than Catalan too. Take your pick.

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