Saunders 1865 | Moving to Madrid

Moving to Madrid

Are you moving to Madrid? Located in central Spain, Madrid is the capital city with a central area of 258.6 square miles.  It is home to both the Spanish Royal family and the government.

Situated in the centre of the Iberian Peninsula, and surrounded by natural parks and mountains, Madrid’s extensive green areas cover more than 250,000 hectares.

Our free, in-depth Moving to Madrid report includes info on:

• The best areas to live
• The good schools
• The average monthly rental prices
• The excellent public transport system in the city

Watch a short video that explains our VIP Destination Support Package

Putting Madrid on the Map

Located in central Spain, Madrid is the capital city with a central area of 258.6 square miles.  It is home to both the Spanish Royal family and the government.

Situated in the centre of the Iberian Peninsula, and surrounded by natural parks and mountains, Madrid’s extensive green areas cover more than 250,000 hectares.

The transport links are excellent, linking Madrid with other major Spanish cities, and within the city for commuters.  The busy Madrid-Barajas Airport was renamed Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas in 2014.  Servicing both international and domestic flights, it is only 8 miles north-east from the city, with excellent transport links.  With two metro stations and a 24-hour airport express, taxis, private car hire and chauffeur hire, getting into the city is a cinch.

Traffic levels are incredibly busy, and recently the mayor imposed car restrictions on alternate days and free public transport to tackle air pollution.  Fortunately, the measures worked, the ban was lifted and smog was down to an acceptable level.  That being said, it is far easier to use the efficient public transport system to get around, thus avoiding the almost constant roadworks.  Including 170 bus lines, 13 metro lines, 3 tram and 10 lines of Cercanias (local trains), the services are fast, cheap and efficient.  The Metrobus card is valid for the buses and the metro.

There are future planned cycle routes across the city, but in the meantime cycling outside the centre is more pleasant.

Madrid is dominated by its historical buildings, centred around the Plaza Mayor.  In the heart of the historic district, its history dates back to the late 15th century.

The Areas

With expats choosing to live mainly around the centre, the majority of accommodation is apartments.  In order to live in a reasonably-priced, spacious house, expats would need to move slightly further out, but the good public transport will enable a reasonably quick commute.


The most exclusive and best-known area in Madrid, this authentic and secure district is popular with expats. It is close to the city and business district, with high-quality housing and well-kept streets, suited to family living.

The best lounge bars and restaurants are found here along with art and architecture adding to the atmosphere of the place.  The most expensive, chic shops line the boulevards of this traditional suburb.

A centuries-old university town, this romantic setting has an exciting student culture.  Roman bridges span the river, with cathedrals and convents, and numerous museums adding to the ambience.

Quick trips on metro lines 2, 4 and 5 will whisk you into Madrid in less than 20 minutes.


The ultimate in old-world charm, combined with being in Madrid’s city centre, historic stone buildings and cobbled streets add to the local colour.  This authentic and cultural area is convenient without being crowded by high-rise city blocks.

Middle-class and peaceful, with green spaces and good restaurants, the area is well-maintained, clean and safe.

The unique buildings owe much to their history.  During the 18th century residents were commanded to donate the second storey of their homes to accommodate the burgeoning numbers of the king’s court officials.  In order to disguise their houses, the norm was to build a façade so that the dwelling appeared to be single-storey.  Another ruse was to build such a confusing mess of rooms that it couldn’t be divided to house anyone other than the family.

Within walking distance of the Plaza Mayor, the area couldn’t be more central.  Public transport is efficient to escape the city, and parking a car is the perennial nightmare.  Madrileños tend to park by feel and sound, and show no remorse if they ding your car. But owning a car is unnecessary in this part of the city.

The small shops stock necessities and the Plaza is converted to a Christmas Market in December, where you can shop for Christmas trees, knick-knacks and cribs.


Although this is the financial and business district in the northern limit of central Madrid, it is also spacious and residential.  For those who choose to live here it is convenient to walk to work, busy in the daytime but quiet at night, or a quick metro ride to the city centre from Chamartin station.  There is little in the way of nightclubs, but there are good restaurants and bars.

With modern apartment complexes and secluded villas, societies, international clubs, churches and many good schools and colleges, including King’s College infant school for 3 to 6-year-olds, the district is well suited to professionals and their families.

Chamartin railway station offers the ability to visit the rest of Spain and Europe, while other public transport makes getting out of the city easy at weekends.  The headquarters of many Spanish companies are based here, making it an important business hub.

Santiago Bernabéu Stadium is situated here, home to Real Madrid football club, and many properties overlook the stadium.  Another landmark is the Gate to Europe, twin towers leaning towards each other, at a height of 374 feet.


Named after El Parque del Buen Retiro, a huge park that dominates the area, this green area is traditional and close to the city centre. Considered by some as the less posh, but more laid back, sister of Salamanca, this quiet middle-to-upper class neighbourhood is ideal for families with children.

The lack of shops is made up for by the biggest city railway station, Atocha, being so close.  Also, parking is not a big problem.

It is less expensive than the centre of Madrid and Salamanca.  But if you want to blend into traditional Spain but be really close to the action, then Retiro is for you. The buildings are older, so when looking to rent, ask to see refurbished apartments.


Slightly further out, but still only a 20-minute trip by train, you may never need to go to the city centre of Madrid again.  Everything is close at hand here, with a high standard of living.  With its lovely shopping malls and a variety of services, Pozuelo has the highest revenue per capita in the country, after Girona in Catalunya.

La Finca, an exclusive gated estate just outside the centre, is where many Real Madrid football players live.  The most sought-after areas to live are Avenida de Europa and close to the Cercanian near the old centre.  The choices will be between stand-alone houses, apartments and semi-detached homes.  The apartments are mostly in complexes with a common use swimming pool.


With typical old buildings, gastro markets, good restaurants, quaint bars and pubs, this laid-back, diverse suburb is an open neighbourhood, inhabited by a high population of homosexuals, and is a mix of conservatives, traditional and trendy.

Chueca is located slap-bang in the middle of Madrid.  The San Anton Food market is famous for its gourmet food, a favourite with foodies.  So, all-in-all, an ideal area for the young-at-heart.

Who Lives and Works in Madrid?

With its population of 3.1 million and with 7 million in the total metropolitan area, Madrid is the most populated area in Spain and features 3rd in the EU countries.

Voted the 6th best city to do business in Europe, based on a qualified workforce, infrastructure and location, the service sector plays a prominent role in the economy.

Known as the telecommunications hub of the country, IT, publications, media, finance and insurance all feature highly.  The biggest employers are Repsol, Acciona, EADS Casa, Endesa and Telefonica.  The financial district in AZCA hosts the international and local banking sector.

18% of the population hold foreign passports, mainly Ecuadorians, Bolivians, Romanians, Peruvians, Colombians and Chinese.  Unemployment in the city stands at 13%.  While Spanish is the official language, English is widely spoken, notably in the tourist sector.

The Best Bits

With a lower crime rate than other European capitals, one should always be aware of the pickpockets.  The lower than European average cost of living and medium-to-high salaries work in favour of expats.

This “walkable” cosmopolitan city has many art galleries, cinemas, theatres, restaurants and night clubs.  Often known as the capital of museums, the Musea del Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza make up the Golden Triangle of Art, and are within walking distance of each other.

Amongst the many green areas, the Parque de El Capricho is likened to a secret garden.  Resembling a Disney fairy-tale, it was commissioned by a Duke for his wife.  It is open all year round, with many attractions including historical monuments and a lake.  In the summer, many theatrical performances and live concerts are held here.

Caso de Campo is one of the world’s largest parks at 6.6 square miles.  The Madrid Zoo is located here, and many a day can be spent in exploring the surrounds.

Campo del Moro consists of three gardens encompassing the Royal Palace.  Open to the public, it is just the place for cycling, jogging and walking, and is opposite the Royal Opera House.

As one of the top ten fashion capitals, all the high-end clothing stores are found here, along with dozens of more affordable shops.

Just a short trip and you’re in one of the many historic surrounding towns and cities.  With monuments, cathedrals, mountains and hiking trails, take a dip in a natural pool or visit the Roman aqueduct.

Take a cable car to view Casa de Campo and Madrid Rio, then hike back through the park.  Madrid and its surrounds are perfect for adventure lovers.

Bringing the Kids

Madrid is a perfect city for children.  Along with the relaxed way of life and fabulous parks, the local schooling system is excellent, albeit conducted in Spanish, and is free of charge.

However, most relocated parents would prefer to have their children schooled at one of the many international schools, although these come at a cost.  Lessons are conducted in the school’s language of choice, making easier for the children to settle in.  These schools are registered with their embassies, often having a long waiting list.

Most independent schools are Catholic, which are subsidised by the government with the lessons conducted mainly in Spanish.

The six public universities offer a wide range of subjects, with some English-based studies available.

Thousands of students stream into Madrid annually to attend one of the international campuses and to enjoy the vibrant student culture of the city.

Madrid Quirks

Firstly, it’s important to understand the siesta.  This is not just a short nap after lunch, business and shops open and close for up to 3 hours, especially family-run enterprises.

Tapas, or small snacks, served with drinks are usually free and can be crisps, olives and the like.

Lunch is usually served from 2pm until 4pm, and dinner from 8pm, with the kitchens closing at around 11.30pm.

Relocating to Madrid

Spain’s capital is beautiful, with many grand historical buildings and picturesque parks.  The excellent public service transports commuters to work and back, quickly and efficiently.  The strong economy fosters a feeling of well-being and reliability.

The residential areas are plentiful, with a choice between traditional and modern, from apartments to mansions.

A strong social scene is based around eating great food and drinking.

Help may be needed with finding the right accommodation in the right area, close to schools and other amenities.  Saunders 1865 will help with all the ground work, registrations, spousal support and lease negotiations.  Rather than making the wrong choices due to language and other differences, let us bring our expertise of the local area, and reduce the normal stresses involved with relocating to a foreign country.


Family friendly
Great Transport
Green space
Museums & Galleries
Average Monthly Rent - Madrid
Apartment (1 bedroom) in city centre €848
Apartment (1 bedroom) outside of centre €624
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in city centre €1,552
Apartment (3 bedrooms) outside of centre €1,041
Contact us for a free initial consultation about your specific situation.
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