How to get from Madrid Airport to Atocha Train Station

If you’re heading from Madrid Barajas Airport (MAD) to Atocha Station and you’re wondering how to get from the airport to the the train station you are in luck because it’s one of the easiest methods of transportation I’ve come across yet.

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Before I go into my recommendation, there are other options. You can take a taxi, which will run you about €30 or you can look into booking private transfers (helpful if you’ve got a lot of luggage). 

The cheapest option is to take the metro which costs about €2, but comes with the hassle of having to transfer to at at least one station to get to Atocha.  I don’t want to completely discount the Metro as we didn’t use it to get to Atocha; however, I had a great experience with the route we took so I’m going to pump that option up here.

Inside Terminal 4 at Barajas Airport in Madrid
Inside Terminal 4 at Barajas Airport in Madrid (MAD).

I believe the Línea Exprés Aeropuerto, which runs 24 hours and during peak times come around every 15 minutes, is the easiest option.  This bus will only take a couple of stops on your way to Atocha Station but it’s a great option at only €5 per person. Just make sure that you have the cash on hand because the bus driver will only take cash (and I don’t think you can purchase tickets ahead of time online).

We landed at T4 and took the bus from there but I’m pretty positive it also stops at T1 and T2 but don’t remember it going to T3 so check ahead if you think you’ll be arriving at that terminal.  A few sites reported that it would take about 40-45 minutes to get to Atocha Train Station but I recall it taking us about an hour to get there so plan accordingly.  The ticker and routes maps inside the bus were a little confusing so when we made a couple of stops I wasn’t exactly sure where we were stopping at.  However, when you finally do arrive at Atocha you will know you are there as the station is so large it’d be impossible to not know you were at Atocha.

The bus stop for the  Exprés Aeropuerto will be on your right as you exit from T4. Just head to where the busses are and look for the yellow post pictured below. You really can’t miss the bus once it shows up.  Also, the bus never got really packed when we boarded it going into the city or even coming back so hopefully that’s the norm and you won’t have to worry about any major crowds.

Pick-up Point at Terminal 4 Madrid Airport
The Pick-up Point at Terminal 4, Madrid Airport

One last tip: don’t get confused when you are ready to head back to MAD airport.  On the post at Atocha Station, the sign will say that Terminal 4 is only for arrivals. I’m not sure why that signs says that but you can definitely depart from Terminal 4 like we did. If for some reason you don’t have your ticket with you and you’re not 100% sure which terminal you will be departing from there is a list of all of the airlines and their corresponding terminals on the bus driver’s window, inside the bus. So just check that list out and you should be fine.

Finally, if you’re looking for an easy and convenient way to get around Madrid, then consider booking a hop-on-hop-off tour bus. Although it might seem too “touristy” to some people, it’s one of the easiest and cost-effective ways to get around Madrid, so I’d look into it.

Things to do in Madrid

I recently spent three nights in Madrid and felt like it was a prefect amount of time to hit some of the top attractions.  If you’re going there for only a few days, here are some things to consider while you visit Madrid.

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1. Eat Tapas

If there’s one thing you can’t leave Spain or Madrid without indulging in, it’s definitely Tapas. What are tapas? Tapas are a wide variety of appetizers and snacks that take many forms. Often served with some kind of bread, you’ll get everything from jamon, salmon, fried octopus, olives, and sardines sometimes combined with different types cheeses, sauces, and random toppings.

Tapas Madrid
Tapas in Madrid!

In Spanish culture, they eat lunch and dinner hours after we do in the United States and UK, so tapas are often eaten during social periods before dinner and lunch. In Madrid, you’ll find restaurants that serve tapas or simply tapas bars everywhere and hopping from bar to bar snacking on tapas is highly encouraged and a lot of fun. At some bars these trays are delivered to you free of charge so long as you’re there having a few drinks.

Just watch out because whether you’re full or not, the tapas won’t stop coming in and before you know it you will be completely stuffed. It happened to me pretty much every night we went out for tapas so be warned!

2. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

A lot of people might’ve put the Prado ahead of the Sofia but I really enjoyed the Sofia. One of the major reasons was that we showed up right when the museum opened and so we got to enjoy Pablo Picasso’s Guernica all to ourselves for a few minutes. They don’t allow photos in that room so I wan’t able to snag a photo of the painting but it was still an experience to see it.

Un mundo A World Spain
Un mundo (A World)

For those who don’t know, Guernica is Picasso’s most renown work and easily one of the top 5 paintings in the entire world. It depicts the horror of the bombing of the small town of Guernica back in 1937 when the Spanish nationalists essentially directed the Germans and Italians to decimate the town. The painting is the most famous of all anti-war paintings and portrays the suffering of war in a number of symbolic ways and there’s even a few hidden images in the painting.

In addition to Guernica, there’s plenty of other great exhibits and collections in the museum including a number of works from another one of the most famous painters of all time: Salvador Dalí, the painter of the Persistence of Time (which unfortunately is located in New York).

The Enigma of Hitler by Dali
“The Enigma of Hitler” by Dali

3. Day trip to Toledo or Segovia

It may seem odd to list going to another city as something to do in Madrid but you’ll thank me later for the suggestion. My day trip to Toledo, Spain was actually the highlight of my trip to Madrid and I know a lot of other travelers who felt the same way. Madrid is great, but spending a day wandering through the cobblestone alleys of Toledo will have you feeling like you’ve stepped into the world of Aladdin for a day — truly unforgettable and a must for anyone with enough time to take the trip. A round trip on a high speed train to Toledo will only run you €20 (roundtrip).

Toledo Spain
The beautiful city of Toledo, Spain

4. Visit the Museo Nacional Del Prado

This is Madrid’s most renown museum with the finest collection of Spanish art and it’s easy to see why when you visit its vast collections and exhibits. One interesting work is the Mona Lisa. Of course, the actual Mona Lisa is at the Lourve in Paris but the Prado is home to its own copy. Unlike many of the other copies that were created after the Mona Lisa came into existence, this one was actually painted simultaneously, likely by one of DaVinci’s pupils.

Prado Museum Mona Lisa
La Gioconda in the Museo del Prado, Madrid.

You can visit this museum and many others for free during certain hours in the evening and on certain days so don’t forget to look into those options.  Just know that if you venture to these museums during these free times your experience is going to resemble the frenzies you find at other major museums like the Louvre in Paris and you can all but forget about any kind of intimate museum experience.

5. Take a stroll through the city

Madrid is a beautiful place to just walk around and admire the beautiful architecture. Since Madrid is a fairly young city (by European standards) you’re not going to see a bunch of medieval castles and fortifications around the city, but there are plenty of colorful buildings that tower over the roads throughout the city. If you’re into the shopping scene or looking for good nightlife,  one of the streets to take a stroll on is Gran Vía.

Calle de Atocha
Streets of Madrid

6. Rooftop terraces

There are a lot of different rooftop bars around Madrid that offer sweeping views of the city so be sure to check one of these out. Simply google “Rooftop terraces in Madrid” and plenty will show up. One of the best according to many is Círculo de Bellas Artes but I think that plenty of others also offer great views. Just try to make reservations if you’re planning on eating dinner at some of these because I know some of them can fill up rather quickly.

Seating at restaurant Madrid Spain
Photo by Jason Paris (Creative Commons).

7. Chocolat con churros

Just like tapas, no trip to Madrid would be complete without a good portion of chocolat con churros.  You can eat these with breakfast or as an afternoon or late night snack or you can even have them as a meal — nobody’s going to judge you. 😉 The holy grail of places to find these treats is San Ginés but don’t be afraid to try out other places. If you’re in the Atocha area then take a look at this article and give the place I recommend a try and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Chocolat Con Churros Madrid Spain

8. Buen Retiro Park

This is recommended by almost everyone. We strolled through a small portion of it pretty quickly mostly because it was hitting in the 20s°F/-°C, so we weren’t exactly trying to hang out for extended periods of time outside. However, had the temperatures been more mild, I could see how it is such a draw. If you make it there, be sure to check out the glass palace before you leave.

9. Templo de Debod

This Egyptian temple was dismantled in Egypt and rebuilt in Madrid. The Egyptians dedicated it to Spain as a thanks for helping them save the temples of Abu Simbel. It’s a good spot to fit in your itinerary if you’re going to visit the Royal Palace of Madrid since it’s just a short walk from there. Crowds build up at this site so if you want some decent photographs try to get there early or late.

Spain Templo de Debod
Templo de Debod (with frozen waters surrounding it)

10. Drinking delicious sangrias and mojitos

Living in the Texas and being in close proximity to so many Tex-Mex restaurants I’ve had my fair share of mojitos and sangrias.  And though I’ve never been to Cuba, I’ve got to say that I was thoroughly impressed with the mojitos I came across in Spain. The sangrias were right up there, too. Even if you don’t consider yourself much of a sangria or mojito drinker you owe it to yourself to give them a try in Madrid.

And of course, the cerveza is just as good and it’s not uncommon to find it for cheap. Specials can get you a large glass sometimes for as cheap at €1.50 or less.

Mojitos Madrid
Dos Mojitos, por favor!
Sangria and fried red mullet tapas in Madrid
Sangria and fried red mullet tapas.

Obviously there’s a lot more to see and do in Madrid like checking out the markets, flamenco dancing, the amazing night life, and so forth so don’t take this list to be a comprehensive list. However, from my recent time in Madrid, these seemed to be 10 of the top things to do that you didn’t want to miss.

5 Places to eat and drink in Madrid near Atocha

So you’re researching places to and eat in Madrid and looking for a few suggestions? I got you covered. Here are a few places near to Atocha (and one place near Plaza Mayor) that I didn’t disappoint us on our recent outing to Madrid.

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1. El Hecho

Looking for a nice little bar to stop at for a couple of drinks? Look no further. Out of every place we stopped at, this place had the best and the strongest mojitos.  I think it’s one of their specialities based on their website but man were they amazing. Try to get there a little early as it did get pretty packed on a Saturday night.  Also, I’m not sure if it’s customary or not but that little baggy in the photo below is housing some complementary cerveza inside, which I highly enjoyed.

Mojitos Madrid Spain

2. El Olivar

This little place is more of a bar/restaurant but we actually got stuffed here on tapas and sangria.  The sangria was a little pricey at about €12 for a jug; however, it was very good and the best that we tried while in Madrid. I’m not sure what exactly they put it in but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

As for the tapas, they had a tapa dish with the works of different tapas to try that  had a little bit of everything in it! Fish, jamon, and different types of meats topped with brie cheese.  Everything tasted authentic and were some of the best tapas we tried. The staff was also very friendly and it was overall one of the best dining experiences we had while in Madrid. The dish below costed us €15, which isn’t that bad if you consider that it’s €7.50 per person for dinner. They also supplied us with the plenty of olives and prawns as complimentary tapas in true Madrid fashion.

If you’re really interested in tapas then I would consider doing a tapas touryou can look into booking a tapas tour here!

Tapas Madrid
Tapas Madrid

3. Chocolat Madrid

If you’re coming from Atocha Train Station and in search of the famed churros con chocolat in Spain you might be tempted to first stop at a place right next to “Dunkin Coffee” that’s immediately across from the train station — but don’t do it! There’s a place much better just a bit further away called “Chocolat Madrid.”  The place (whose name I can’t remember) next to Dunkin Coffee had some okay chocolate covered churros but the churros con chocolat (the real deal) didn’t compare to those found at Chocolat Madrid.  They also had some great cafe con leche as well.

Churros Madrid

4. La Plateria

This was one of the more touristy places that we ate at. Not overly touristy — it just didn’t feel quite as hole-in-the-wall as some of the other places we tried. Brad and I both had the same dish (something we try not to do) and I think both of use were pretty impressed.  It was a hearty dish with eggs, brie-topped potato slices, and a whole lot of onions.  They served up come complimentary tapas (fried red mullet) and they were surprisingly tasty. I didn’t quite think things through before my first bite and ended up plucking a lot of fish bones out of my teeth but it was worth it in the end, or at least I kept telling myself it was.

This was also the first time we tried the Sangria in Spain and while we thought it was good, El Olivar’s (#2 above) tasted better to us.

Sangria and Tapas Madrid

5. Cafetería Magerit

Okay, so this place isn’t really near near Atocha but it was one of the other places that we tried tapas at and enjoyed them so I thought I’d throw it in here. This place was the most touristy of them all and that was completely expected as we knew what to expect at Plaza Mayor.  We had a little cerveza here and then tried some of their tapas, smoked salmon topped with brie cheese and jamon.

If you check on the link you’ll see that this place only has gotten 3 out of 5 stars on Trip Advisor. I agree with most of the reviews that the food is not blow-you-out-of-the-water delicious but the tapas were still pretty tasty and seemed about on par with some of the other places we ate at.

Plateria Madrid

Overall, if you’re a foodie you’re going to love Spain and Madrid.  Out of everywhere we’ve visited so far, Madrid is where we’ve gotten the most stuffed. Sometimes I even tried to refuse tapas or extra sweets but they insisted so I just went along with it and kept stuffing myself.  Between the tasty tapas, churros at every corner, and sangria to go along with just about anything you may want to put in those extra miles on the treadmill leading up to your trip to Spain.