Metro Madrid is one of the top ten most extensive metropolitan transportation systems in the world. After London England’s underground system, the subway in Madrid is the largest in Europe, and an excellent way to get around this city on any vacation.
The history of the subway and Madrid trains dates to 1919, when the first line was opened with more than two miles of track and eight stations. Over the next few years, two more lines were added and by 1936 there were two more lines. All stations along the subway in Madrid were used as air raid shelters during the bitter Spanish Civil War that began with an attempted coup in 1936 and ended in 1939 with Francisco Franco in control of the country. Although the system continued to be expanded over the decades after World War II, it was the 1990s and the early 2000s that saw its expansion into the vast network that today connects every part of the city from the heart of the city around Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor to the international airport and beyond, including about one-third of its lines outside of the metropolitan city limits.
The subway connects to Madrid rail lines that extend across the nation, with metropolitan lines extending to the nearby cities of Segovia, about a 35-minute train ride away and known for its beautiful Romanesque churches, and Toledo, the classic UNESCO World Heritage city about a 45-minute train ride away. Both of these cities provide popular day trip destinations for visitors. You can also reach the city of Avila on Madrid trains in less than an hour. This city is located at an altitude of nearly 3,700 feet above sea level, making it a popular destination for locals looking to escape Madrid’s extreme summer heat for a few days.
If you want to travel even further afield, the extension of the ultramodern high speed Madrid AVE Train can get you to the beaches of Barcelona in about two hours and 40 minutes, even though this city is more than 300 miles away. The beaches of Valencia are closer (about 230 miles), but there is no high speed train service. You can take Madrid trains to Valencia, but the journey takes close to four hours—practical only if you plan on going there for a night or two.
Today, the Metro Madrid network boasts more than 230 stations and a dozen different lines that run over nearly 200 miles of track. The surface traffic in the city is extremely heavy and congested. If you are staying in the city, getting car rentals for your vacations is one of the least practical methods of transportation. Taking the subway in Madrid is convenient, fast, and very affordable. The newer and busier stations in the city are expansive, modern facilities and the busier stations are in convenient locations near hotels of all descriptions and budgets and numerous shopping venues.
You can buy single journey tickets, but if you are staying in the city for several days it is more economical to purchase a ten-journey Metro Madrid or a Tourist Travel Pass that is good for unlimited journeys during a one to seven-day visit. These tickets are generally good only for Zone A, but this is the central zone where the majority of the city’s major tourist attractions are located.