Madrid is Extremely Walkable

Madrid, the capital city of Spain, is known for its walkable streets and pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods. You will find lots of people moving around all the time, especially during the weekends. What makes Madrid so walkable? There are several factors that contribute to Madrid’s excellent walkability.

Compact City Center

Madrid’s city center is relatively compact, making it easy to explore on foot. Many of the city’s main attractions, such as the Royal Palace, Cathedral, Puerta del Sol, and Plaza Mayor, are within walking distance of each other. We stayed in the neighborhood of Malasaña, and we could easily reach the main sights within ten or fifteen minutes. Not only that, but there were countless shops, grocery stores, restaurants and cafes within a few minutes of our airbnb.

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Pedestrian Streets

Madrid has closed off a number of streets and squares to traffic, making them ideal for walking to shops, bars, restaurants, and theaters.

The plaza Puerta del Sol is the heart of Madrid. In fact, this plaza is also the very center of Spain itself, marked with a sidewalk plaque as Spain’s kilometer zero. 

From Puerta del Sol, a network of pedestrian streets branch out. The largest streets head north, with Calles Preciados and Carmen running side by side to the Callao plaza. Montera heads northeast to Gran Vía. Here it transforms into Fuencarral for unknown reasons and remains car-free almost to the Tribunal metro station. Walkers heading west will find Calle Arenal, which leads to the palace. The Plaza del Ángel, located east of Puerta del Sol, is not entirely car-free, but it still counts. This plaza transforms into Calle de las Huertas and one can walk east all the way to the Prado.

Well-Maintained Sidewalks

We’ve walked all over many different cities, and in some, you really have to pay attention to where you step. They always seem broken, chopped up, missing pieces and so on. One thing that struck me right away about Madrid: the sidewalks are flat and smooth with very few broken places or pitfalls to avoid. And we were in Madrid for three weeks, walking several miles every day, covering multiple neighborhoods, so I’ve had a good look.

Madrid’s sidewalks are generally well-maintained, with wide pavements that allow for comfortable walking. There are very few curbs; the streets are usually flush with the sidewalk. Many sidewalks also have ramps for easy access for people with disabilities. In addition to the odd pole placed between the road and the sidewalk to protect from cars, the main pitfall to watch out for are the open beds around trees, often sunken and seldom covered.

Madrid Walkable

Green Spaces

Madrid has several parks and gardens that are ideal for walking. The largest and most famous park is El Retiro, which is located in the city center and offers a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. You will find this park filled in the evenings and weekends with people strolling around, jogging, walking their dogs, and just hanging out on the many benches and monuments.

Retiro Park Madrid
Retiro Park in Madrid

Other great parks for strolling include the Royal Botanical Gardens, Parque del Oeste (with its Egyptian temple), and the Casa de Campo (five times the size of New York’s Central Park), which also includes the zoo, the aquarium, and even an amusement park.

Flat Terrain

Madrid is ringed by mountains and sits at an elevation of some 2,120 feet above sea level, making it one of the highest capitals in Europe. However, Madrid is a mostly flat city with few hills, which makes walking easier than in other cities.

Public Transportation

Madrid has an excellent public transportation system, which includes buses, metro, and suburban trains. This makes it easy to combine walking with other modes of transportation to explore the city.

City Center Restrictions on Cars

In November 2018, Madrid established “Central District,” a low-emission zone in the historical center of Madrid, aiming to reduce the level of vehicular pollution in the area. Access to Central District is limited to authorized vehicles only. This reduces vehicle traffic in this area, making it easier to walk – and breathe!

See Madrid with a Free Walking Tour

Madrid is best explored on foot, and a great way to see the sights and get the lay of the land is through a free walking tour with SANDEMAN’s NEW Europe network, one of the largest walking tour companies in the world. Local freelance guides enthusiastically share the history and culture of Madrid, working only for tips. At the end, you pay what you believe the tour is worth. We’ve always enjoyed these tours and found the guides friendly, knowledgeable, and passionate about their city.

Conclusion: Is Madrid Walkable?

Overall, Madrid is a very walkable city, thanks to the compact city center, pedestrianized streets, well-maintained sidewalks, green spaces and mostly flat terrain.


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