Moving to Madrid

The complete guide to living in the city short term

May 27, 2024
view of madrid from one of most famous rooftoopsview of madrid from one of most famous rooftoops

Spain’s capital is one of the most popular cities to visit in the world, with over 5 million visitors each year. There's good reason for this. Firstly, Madrid is a stunning city. World-renowned architecture lines the streets, which are wide and spacious. One hour walking around this city and you see why people come back for more. The food, culture, and lifestyle are also huge draws. There are not just one or two things that attract people to Madrid. Whoever you are- you’ll find something for you.

While many people come on holiday, there are also a great number that move here, either permanently or temporarily. Living here permanently is a great choice, but the rise in remote working has made more people choose the middle ground. Digital nomads, among others, are increasingly choosing to live here for a few months, without committing to a permanent move.

Our complete city guide will tell you everything you need to know if you’re considering moving to Madrid short term.

Is it the right move for me?

Everyone is different, so only you can be sure if Madrid is the right choice. We can tell you that it is a city with so much on offer, so we’re pretty confident that you’ll find some great reasons to stay. Here are a few, to whet your appetite:

Work/life balance

Madrid is an important business hub, and in 2021 came 9th on the Global Power City Index. Since 2014 the city has moved into a strong economic position, and many people who move to the city do it for the employment opportunities. This is also the city of Rioja, tapas, and flamenco, a place where people relax in plazas with a cafe con leche or an ice cool cerveza. If you’re looking for somewhere not only to work, but to play afterwards, then Madrid is your city.

Perfectly located

Madrid is in the very center of Spain. This is great if you like to travel, as the country has so many wonderful places to visit. The Basque country to the North, Seville to the south, Valencia to the East- go a bit further and you get to Ibiza! If you want to head further afield, Portugal, France, Italy and Morocco are all just a couple of hours away.


While (surprisingly) not a real Spanish word, this is still a very good way to describe the summers in Madrid. The heat continues into the night, so you won’t need a sweater however late you stay out. Madrid does still get all four seasons, but Spring and Autumn are warm and pleasant. Even in winter the temperature rarely drops below 5ºC.

Safe and expat friendly

Short term residents in any city want to know if it’s safe, and Madrid certainly is. Pickpocketing happens occasionally, so keep an eye on your things. More serious crimes are very rare, and the streets are safe even at night.

The city is also incredibly multicultural. Statistics show that 16% of the population are expatriates, making it really easy for new arrivals to settle in the city.

Green living

Madrid is one of the greenest cities around, literally. Long home to enormous parks, new government initiatives include expanding these, putting more greenery on pavements and rooftops, and creating a ‘green wall’ of forest around the city. As well as absorbing CO2, these measures help to keep the city cool and retain rainwater.

Diesel cars are already banned from the city center, and large areas of road are being converted into cycle lanes. All this is making Madrid cooler, cleaner, and a more eco friendly place to live. If you want to know more then take a look at our sustainability guide.

What documents to I need to live in Spain?

First things first, let’s get your paperwork in order. If you’re only moving to Madrid short term, you won’t need to do much, but there are some things you should know about. If you’re staying longer than 3 months then there is a little more to do. Fortunately we have all the information you need right here:


Nationals of EU countries can skip this section, but most will need a visa. The exact rules vary depending on where you come from, but there are several types:

  • Short term (visado de corta duracion): Valid for 90 days. UK and US citizens, among others, do not need this, and can live here for 90 days without one.

  • Long term (visado nacional): Visa that grants non-EU nationals permission to live and work in the country.

  • Residence only (visado de residencia no lucrativa): For those not planning to work or study, often used to retire or reunite with family.

  • New International telework visa: Created with digital nomads in mind, this visa allows you to live and work remotely in Spain for up to 5 years.

To apply for a visa you’ll need to contact the Spanish embassy or consulate in your home country, which you can find here.


Only necessary if you wish to live in Madrid for more than 3 months. An identification number (NIE) is essential to work here, open a bank account, or rent an apartment. The process can be done from your home country or when you arrive. Non-EU nationals will also need an identity card (TIE), here is a step by step guide to obtaining both.

Social security number

Not essential if you’re only moving here short term (up to two years) and working remotely. However, getting one will allow you to contribute towards, and therefore use, Spain’s excellent public healthcare system. Find out more here.

Empadronamiento (Citizenship)

This process makes you a legal resident of Madrid. It is only necessary if you are living here for more than 6 months, but will allow you to get the TIE card, and use the healthcare system. Here is more information.

How do I find the right apartment?

There is always a lot to consider when trying to make the right choice of accommodation. If you’re remote working in Madrid for a few months, some things are extra important. Having outside space is a huge bonus, even if it’s just a small balcony. You’ll want to take advantage of the weather here, and a coffee outside with the sun on your face is lovely all year round. Having an apartment that is already furnished and connected to the grid is also a must if you don’t want to waste time when you arrive.

Short term or long term?

If you want to rent long term, websites such as Idealista can help you. Renting long term has its problems though: you may already need to have your paperwork in order, which might not be the case when you first arrive. You will also generally need to pay 2 months rent up front as a deposit, and 1 month as an agency fee. Depending on who you rent from, you may also be expected to communicate in Spanish. This might be a problem initially.

You could also rent an apartment with us. We cut out the hassle that goes with longer term rentals, and fully furnish and service them. This makes them perfect for digital nomads, and others moving to Madrid for only a few months.

What’s the best area to live in?

Madrid is enormous, and while its excellent transport system makes it easy to get around, there will be days when you want to keep it local. This makes it really important which neighborhood (or barrio) you choose to live in. There are too many to tell you about here, but here are a selection of the most popular:


As you may guess, centro is the heart of Madrid. As a result, it’s very well connected, an important business hub, and awash with bars, restaurants, museums, and monuments. It is divided into smaller areas, including:

  • Sol - The center of the center. A stone’s throw from numerous bars and restaurants, theaters, and the Royal Palace.

  • Malasaña - Hipster with a touch of history. Full of monuments, vintage shops, and nightclubs. The bohemian choice.

  • Chueca - A lively neighborhood; famous for art, nightlife, and being home to one of the world’s biggest Gay Pride parades.

  • Lavapiés - Probably the least touristy part of centro, and the most multicultural. Perfect if you want somewhere a little more edgy and underground.


Madrid’s most upmarket neighborhood. Once home to the aristocracy, Salamanca is more accessible these days, but still high on quality. Great if you want more space, or luxury shopping, as Madrid’s famous “Golden Mile” shopping street is here. Goya and Castellana are both found within Salamanca.


Still well connected to the city center, but further away from the action. Retiro is known for its vast green spaces, including the famous park of the same name. Popular with families, and also young professionals in search of a slightly calmer pace of life. Ibiza is one of its most popular neighborhoods.


A district with variety. Chamberí is a mix of the upmarket and the more affordable. It features some of the city’s most beautiful architecture, some important business areas, parks, and delightful plazas. A good choice if you’re looking for balance.

Is it a problem if I don’t speak Spanish?

Not really. It obviously helps a lot, and there will be the odd situation where you’ll need to deal with someone that doesn’t speak English. Generally though, you can get by in English as so many people speak the language in Madrid.

But if you’re going to live in Spain for a few months, it’s a great opportunity to learn a really useful, globally-spoken language. There are so many language schools around: online or in person, morning or evening classes, intensive or once a week. You’ll surely find one to suit your needs, and once you know a little- get out and practise with the locals!

Until you get that far, here are 5 phrases guide to help you get by:

  • ¡Hola! - Hello!

  • ¿Hablas inglés? - Do you speak English?

  • ¿Dónde está…? - Where is…?

  • Una (dos, tres…) cerveza(s) por favor - One beer please

  • ¡Gracias! - Thanks!

How should I use the transport in Madrid?

As with most new cities, your first port of call should be the metro. It's easy to understand, and regularly looking at the metro map will help you learn the layout of the city. Initially you’ll want a Multi card, which can be loaded with single trips, or bundles of 10, which work out cheaper. If you’re staying for a few months and know you’ll use public transport regularly, get yourself a Personal card. These allow you to load monthly or annual tickets. A monthly ticket costs as little as €20, depending on age and zones required. You can get these from metro stations and tobacconists, among other places.

The buses are another option and use the same tickets. It’s harder to figure out the routes, but Google (or other) maps can tell you the quickest route if you’re not sure.

Something more private?

If you’re here for a few months you might rent a car, although the traffic and difficulty of parking mean it isn’t a great option. Taxis are safe, and very useful at times- but make sure they put the meter on. Some might not, to get a little extra cash out of you.

Greener options

Madrid has become a great place to cycle, with more lanes and bikes available. If you don’t have your own, the electric city bikes- BiciMAD, are a fantastic option. Tourists can take advantage of the 1,3 or 5-day cards and be charged for each journey. Those staying in the city for a little longer can rent one for the whole year for €25 euros and pay considerably less per journey, so it might be worth it even if you only stay a few months.

Finally- why not get out and have a walk? Madrid is a spectacular city to walk around. It may be massive, but most of the sights, hotels and rental apartments are fairly central, so you often won’t have far to travel.

Is there anything to do in Madrid?

In a surprise to absolutely nobody- yes, there is lots to do and see in Madrid. Far too much for me to explain here in fact, but we’ll help get you started.

Culture time

Madrid has some of the most famous museums and art galleries in the world. Even if it’s not your thing, you should check out some of the highlights. If it is your thing, you should check out a whole lot more than that. First on your list should be:

  • Museo del Prado - the country’s most famous, featuring masters from Spain and across Europe.

  • Museo Reina Sofía - holds many great works, Picasso’s Guernica being the standout.

  • Ikano - not quite as well known; an interactive, experimental art gallery that will interest even reluctant visitors to the art scene.

Park life

Madrid may not have a beach, but it makes up for it with its wide array of parks. El Retiro is its most famous, where you can find art galleries, go rowing, or just relax and enjoy the street musicians at the weekend. There are many others, such as the stunning Jardines de Sabatini, and the enormous Casa de Campo, where you can find the zoo, among many other things.

Go to a game?

If you’ve heard of futból (soccer), then you’ve heard of Real Madrid, the most successful team on the planet. Their museum tour will fascinate any lovers of the sport, regardless of allegiance. The sight of the Santiago Bernabeu full to the rafters on match day will fascinate just about anyone.

Real Madrid is not the only team in town though. Many will have heard of Atlético de Madrid, who in recent years has been almost as successful as its more illustrious big brother. If you want to back the underdog though, go to see the city’s third team- Rayo Vallecano. The working man’s club- their fans will tell you that the atmosphere in the stadium, and in the nearby plaza before the games, easily outstrips its rivals’.

Escape the city for a while?

Toledo is just one of many lovely places nearby for you to explore when you have a free day or weekend. Here are some of the best options if you’re looking to get out into the countryside for a while.

How about some downtime?

Whether you want to do some shopping, party hard, or keep it chilled, Madrid has plenty on offer. We can’t mention everything here, but here are some ideas:

Find your plaza

Some of Madrid’s plazas are very well known, like Plaza del Sol and Plaza Mayor in the center. Every neighborhood has one though and they are great places to relax in the day, or meet after work for a drink. Sometimes you’ll find street performers and musicians, and some of them get lively later on. Many have great bars and restaurants. Wherever you’re staying, make sure to find your local plaza and see what’s happening.

Want some fiestas?

If you’re looking for a bit more action, there are plenty of hotspots throughout the city. Some of the best areas are:

  • Malasaña - for a trendy, hipster scene where the music is more alt-rock than reggaetón.

  • Chueca - stylish, gay-friendly neighborhood.

  • Salamanca - more upmarket, cocktail lounge vibe.

  • Avenida de Brasil - bigger bars and clubs. Commercial music, shirts and shoes.

Or hit the shops

There are great shopping areas all over Madrid, and every barrio has somewhere worth visiting. Here are a few you shouldn’t miss:

  • Gran Vía - worth visiting for the architecture alone, Gran Vía is also lined with shops. Most big name brands are here somewhere.

  • La Milla de Oro (The Golden Mile) - found in Salamanca, this is Madrid’s famous area for luxury shopping.

  • El Mercado de San Fernando - The opposite end of the scale, low on prices and high on atmosphere. Want your butcher to fry up your meat in front of you while you sip on a vermouth? Head to San Fernando market.

What if I have a medical problem?

Spain has private healthcare for those looking for that extra layer of protection, or shorter waiting times. Most would agree though, that their public healthcare system is one of the best in the world. In fact, some people move to Madrid short term purely for medical procedures. If you are paying into the social security system then you have access. First you need to get your paperwork in order (see earlier section). Once that’s done you can apply for the health card. Alternatively you can just find your closest center and go there to register.

Can my dog visit Madrid as well?

They love animals here, and Madrid is one of Europe’s most dog-friendly cities. You will need to have your dog vaccinated and microchipped before travelling, and you’ll need a lead and muzzle for public transport and some parks. Once you have everything, your furry companion can enjoy Madrid’s open streets and fantastic green spaces with you!

Best get that flight booked then!

If you hadn’t already made up your mind about moving to Madrid for a few months, maybe you have now. Everyone should visit this city, and we hope our city guide helps. There’s so much to explore and discover that you’ll quickly realise you need more than just a week or two. Be careful though, once you live the life of a Madrileño- you may never want to go back!