Flamenco dancing, incredible wine, creamy cheese, and lively, crowded tapas bars on every corner, and even an Egyptian Temple – welcome to Madrid! The Spanish Capital is so full of life that it feels like it’s a city that never sleeps, making it perfect for a fun and cultural solo vacation! In this ultimate guide to solo female travel in Madrid, you’ll learn everything you need to know to make the most of your trip to Madrid so that it’s one you never forget!
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Solo Female Travel In Madrid: The Ultimate Guide
Where To Stay In Madrid
The Best Neighborhoods
Madrid is full of diverse neighborhoods that you could spend endless hours exploring! However, if you want to be able to make the most of your time and be closest to the best things to do, the best neighborhoods to stay in are:
- Sol – this is the heartbeat of Madrid which makes it a great place to stay! However, it does make it more expensive and more of a “tourist hot spot”, so that is something to keep in mind.
- Malasana – one of the more trendy and artistic areas. This is the hot spot of nightlife and is also great for vintage shopping and cool cafes and art galleries!
- La Latina – aka: the best neighborhood in Madrid to go on your tapas crawl! It’s got a super laid-back vibe and amazing food!
- Lavapiés – A very multicultural neighborhood, so it’s a great place to meet other solo travelers or expats. It’s also centrally located and usually budget-friendly.
Most Popular Hostels
When you’re trying to figure out where to stay, the hostels in Madrid are where it’s at for a solo trip! They’re budget-friendly, safe, and always a good time! Some of the most popular hostels in the city center are:
- The Hat Madrid – You have the option for a private room or a dormitory, and they have dorms for women only. They also have a trendy rooftop bar, and the whole hostel feels very chic!
- Cats Hostel – You have the option for breakfast and laundry here, and this hostel is located right in the bustling Sol neighborhood.
- Central House Lavapies – You have the option of a shared or private room as well as a rooftop terrace, bar, and restaurant where you can get breakfast for a reasonable price.
- Ok, Hostel – You can opt for a private room or a small shared dorm, along with a bar and shared kitchen. It’s in a great location with a lot of bars and restaurants close by.
How To Get Around Madrid
Madrid is a big city that somehow feels small, which makes it very easy to get around. Here are all the best ways to explore the city when you’re out on your solo adventure!
Madrid has a network of 11 local trains called the Cercanias Renfe. These trains will get you around the outskirts of Madrid very quickly and you can jump on almost all of them at the Atocha Train Station, running from 5-6 am up until midnight.
The Metro in Madrid is one of the biggest European subway systems, and it has 12 lines, 3 trams, and over 300 stations! The lines typically run from 6 am to 1:30 am and the metros come every 2-15 minutes, depending on the time of day.
While the public bus may not be the fastest or most luxurious, it’s great to keep costs down! The public bus service is called EMT Madrid and has over 200 bus lines that generally run from around 6 am to 11:30 pm. After 11:30 pm there are 27 “Búhos” or “owl” night buses. These are marked with an “N”, and you can grab these from Plaza de Cibele. They run every 35 minutes from Sunday to Friday and on public holidays, and every 15-20 minutes on Saturdays and the eve of a public holiday. To pay for the bus, simply tap your credit card on board – easy peasy!
While you can taxi around Madrid, it’s much much pricier than other options, so it’s not recommended.
The best app is Cabify – you’ll find the best prices and lots of drivers. You can also try “BlaBla Car”, but that is an app where locals put in their driving plans and if they’re going where you want to go, you can tag along. So the rides are dependent on who is traveling where that time and day and can be very unreliable! It can be a fun local experience though!
Madrid’s city center is very compact, making it SUPER walkable, and your own two feet are the best way to get around the city and explore!
Best Things To Do Alone In Madrid
1. Go on a Food Tour
A food tour is a great way to get a lay of the city, learn some history, and eat a lot of great food! There is so much to eat in Madrid, and going on a tour will allow you to experience some of the best of it. It’s also a great way to meet other people to hang out with!
2. Explore the “Golden Triangle of Art”
Madrid is home to some of the best museums in the entire world, and three of them make up the “Golden Triangle of Art”. The museums inside the triangle are:
3. Catch a Flamenco Show
Spain is the home of Flamenco, and the show is a must-watch! Try to find a “Tablao” Flamenco show, as this is the oldest and most passionate style. Just don’t eat dinner at any Flamenco theatres – they’re not known for good food.
Recommended show: Cafe Ziryab
4. Eat Tapas on the Calle de Cava Baja
Situated in the La Latina neighborhood, this is THE street to eat tapas in Madrid. Simply wander around and hole up in the charming tapas bars to eat some of the best.food.ever!
5. Have Churros Con Chocolate
No solo trip to Madrid is complete without a visit to Chocolateria San Gines – the oldest and most popular spot for “churros con chocolate” in Madrid. These little fried sticks of sugary goodness are dipped in the darkest, smoothest melted chocolate and you’ll dream about them long after you leave!
6. Visit El Rastro, a Flea Market
This stop only applies if you are in Madrid on a Sunday or public holiday, as that is when this huge open-air flea market is open from 9 am to 3 pm. It claims to be the best in Europe, and it’s a fun place to just wander around and see what unique things you can find!
7. Relax in Retiro Park
You can’t miss the huge green space in the center of Madrid. It’s a perfect place to relax under a tree or stroll around the beautiful paths. Don’t miss the glass palace in the heart of the park!
8. Go on a Day Trip
Madrid is in the center of the country, making it a perfect base for exploring other cities in Spain.
The most popular day trips from Madrid are:
- Cordoba (a little further but very worth the trek!)
9. Take a Cooking Class
After trying all the local Spanish cuisine you are never going to want to be without it again – so why not learn to make it? A cooking class is a fun way to spend an evening, and another great way to make some new friends when you are traveling alone!
10. Explore The Many Food Markets/Halls
Madrid has a ton of food markets/halls that are lovely to walk around, people-watch, and try some unique foods. If you are cooking for yourself, it’s also a great place for local ingredients, meat, produce, cheese, etc.
Some of the top food halls/markets to visit are:
- Mercado De San Miguel (Although it is more touristy!)
- Mercado de Mostenses (for a more local vibe)
- Mercado Antón Martín (The best to get something to eat)
11. Visit the Royal Palace and Cathedral
The Royal Palace is the largest in Madrid and it’s only a couple of meters from the cathedral. If you can visit it at sunset, it’s absolutely gorgeous!
All About The Food
How to Find the Best Food
Madrid is straight-up heaven for foodies! You could go to ten tapas bars a day and barely even scrape the surface of all the good food the Spanish capital has to offer. However, not all spots are created equal, so here are some tips on making sure you’re getting the best eats:
- Skip restaurants with English menus or the ones in city centers that have big menus with photos posted outside. Locals don’t need photos – they know what they’re getting by reading. If you don’t feel confident ordering in Spanish, “pointing” is a universal language that always works!
- If you see a bar with a bunch of people standing inside, you know this is where the locals go! The best tapas bars are usually “standing room only”, which can get very packed and is a fun experience to have! You might even meet some new friends!
- Avoid restaurants that open very early for dinner (before 7 pm) as those are usually more touristy. Spaniards eat dinner LATE (think 9 pm-11 pm), so locals wouldn’t be going to restaurants that open early.
- Join a local food tour to discover hidden gems. Try to do this the first day so that you get the local road recs from the guide right away! You’ll also usually meet some cool people on the tour!
What to Eat and Drink
You could probably eat a shoe in Madrid and it would be amazing, because Spaniards just know how to make food taste good! But, there are ten things that you CAN NOT leave without trying:
- Potatas Bravas – big chunks of fried potato covered in a spicy sauce. It’s carb heaven and a very classic Spanish tapa.
- Manchego Cheese – One of Spain’s most famous cheeses that is creamy, milky, and a little tangy. It pairs very nicely with a Spanish white Albariño wine!
- Iberico Ham – This ham will ruin you for all other hams in the world. There is nothing like it and you can legally only get it in Spain. The pigs are fed only with acorns which makes the ham a little nutty and sweet, and incredible it is paired with some Rioja or Vermouth
- Pan Con Tomate – This is more common in Catalonia (like Barcelona) but you’ll commonly see it at tapas bars in Madrid. It translates to “bread with tomato” and that is all it is. It’s SO simple but incredibly delicious.
- Gambas Al Ajillo – This translates to “garlic shrimp.” We’re talking shrimp sizzling in delicious garlic and olive oil! Try it at La Casa del Abuelo, where it was invented!
- Croquetas – Little fried balls filled with all kinds of delicious things – ham and cheese being the most common!
- Tortilla Espanola – This is a big omelet with eggs, potatoes, and sometimes onion. It looks like a mix of an omelette and quiche and you’ll see it everywhere.
- Gilda – This is a Basque tapa that you will find in almost all tapas bars in Madrid! It’s a stick with anchovies, green peppers, and olives. Don’t knock it until you try it, because the taste is dynamite washed down with a glass of Spanish vermouth!
- Spanish wine – Spain is known for their big reds like Rioja or Tempranillo. They also make some lovely fresh whites that you must try – especially since wine is cheap in Spain!
- Vermouth – Not like Italian vermouth! Spanish vermouth is a fortified wine with lots of spices and herbs that is a little sweet and super flavorful.
Top Restaurants to Try
Using the tips above to find the best food means you won’t go hungry. However, here are some of the top restaurants to try for travelers taking a trip to Madrid:
- Taberna la Concha (the vermouth is a must, as well as the meatballs and Thai fish balls.)
- Taberna El Sur – The sangria is out of this world (even though it’s not what locals drink!), as well as the cod scrambled eggs.
- El MiniBar – All of it is great, but the goat cheese with tomato jam is a standout.
- Casa Toni – all the classics!
- GatoGato – This is a slightly more expensive restaurant, but it has incredible food and it’s a bit of a hidden gem. The grilled lettuce with pistachio sauce is unreal good.
- Ojala for breakfast or brunch – the traditional “Catalan” breakfast with pan con tomate, ham, and the creamiest scrambled eggs is a must!
What To Wear For Solo Female Travel In Madrid
When traveling solo in Madrid, aim for a subtle look so the fact that you are alone doesn’t stand out. Choose understated, neutral colors and simple, layer-able pieces like leggings, cardigans, basic jeans, and modest dresses. Opt for relaxed, flowy clothes over tight-fitting ones. For footwear, choose closed-toe shoes suitable for exploring the city with its cobblestone streets all day.
If you’re traveling in the winter you’re in luck because it doesn’t snow in Madrid, so need to bundle up in super heavy and hard-to-pack winter gear. Throw on a good quality jacket and you’ll be good to go.
Solo Travel To Madrid: Tips
Going to Madrid alone is going to be a very memorable experience regardless of what you get up to – it’s hard to have a bad time because it’s a city where the authentic Spanish experience lurks around every corner. You don’t need to try too hard to have a good time! However, here are some tips to really experience Madrid at its best!
- If you want to make friends to hang out with during your trip to Madrid, check out the local events calendar to see what is going on in the city. It’s a great way to meet people in the area that can show you around! Going on walking tours or food tours is also a great way to connect with other travelers.
- Know that it’s hard to find public toilets in Madrid. It’s best to have coins on hand as you will have to pay for any public toilet.
- If your waiter brings bread with a meal, it’s not free. It’ll be added to your tab if you eat it, so feel free to leave it.
- Sangria, while delicious, is not what locals drink, so do as the locals do and try the wine or vermouth!
- Tipping culture: at fancier restaurants, 10% is the unspoken expectation. At small cafes or coffee shops, a few coins or rounding up to the nearest Euro is appreciated.
- When you are done with your meal, your waiter will not get you the bill unless you ask for it!
FAQ About Solo Travel In Madrid
Is Madrid Safe For Solo Female Travelers?
Yes! Madrid is very safe for solo female travelers! It has a safety index rating of almost 75%, and the people are so friendly and welcoming! Like all big cities, just stay alert and don’t go wandering down dark alleys at night.
How Many Days In Madrid Is Enough?
There are so many things to see and do in Madrid that you need a minimum of 3 days to see (and eat!) it all. Ideally, you would spend 3-5 days if you want to experience the city and do a day trip or two!
What Is The Best Time To Visit Madrid?
The best time to visit Madrid is in the shoulder months – April and May or September and October. The weather is sunny and warm, but not excruciatingly hot, the prices are cheaper, and it’s not full of tourists quite yet!
Solo Female Travel in Madrid Final Thoughts
There you have it – the ultimate guide to traveling alone in Spain’s Capital city as a woman! The safety, life and vibrancy is what makes Madrid so worth a visit alone! No matter how long you stay or when you go, it’s going to be an incredible time!
Taylor is the creator of Culture Craving Couple, a travel blog focused on traveling as a couple in the USA and Europe. She and her husband’s goal is to help you explore the world while growing closer through off-the-beaten-path experiences and giving back.