Written by Sally Veall,
Last Modified: 9th May 2019

Madrid’s global influence for art and culture continues to grow. Financially, it is 14th in the Global Cities Index, scoring highly for business and communications. Now, that would be merely interesting, rather than tempting for buyers, were it not that Madrid is wonderful place to live, work and invest too. Let’s take a look around.

Of the many thousands of people who move to Spain each year (by no means all from within the EU, by the way), most head not to the coasts, but Spain’s cities. They come not just for work, but for the sophisticated lifestyle, shopping, restaurants and entertainment.

Barcelona, Seville, Valencia, Bilbao, Malaga, all have been attracting large numbers of “digital nomads” and expatriates. The Spanish capital, Madrid, has a population of 6.5 million if you include the wider metropolitan areas. British people living there number nearly 23,000 officially, but no doubt far more in reality.

You can pop out for some bread and find yourself standing next to a famous actor or a Spanish TV presenter.

For home-buyers, Madrid certainly isn’t a cheap part of Spain, but it is inexpensive compared to other modern capital cities. Around six million tourists come to explore its wonderful museums and art galleries, to enjoy excellent food and to see the many historic sites there. There are 14 British schools in the city, mostly for three to 18-year-olds, which cater for every type of student.

The city centre based around Puerta del Sol square is pretty busy all year round. Yet a mere 10-minute metro ride away are some of Madrid’s upmarket residential areas where tourists rarely tread. These districts  have their own “local village”, with small shops and restaurants just a few steps away from large mansion apartment blocks. You can pop out for some bread and find yourself standing next to a famous actor or a Spanish TV presenter.

Outside the old Casa de Correos, (now the headquarters of the Madrid Regional Government) the oldest building in Puerta del Sol, is a brass plaque placed in the ground. Here is the true geographical centre of Spain. Though it might seem Madrid is far from, say, Valencia, with Spain’s first-class rail system you can be on the beach in under two hours. In winter, skiing is close by at the Sierra de Guadarrama (Guadarrama Mountains), just an hour away. Ski resorts there do get very crowded at the weekends.

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Cool yet hot – Madrid’s capital (LucVi / Shutterstock.com)

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What makes Madrid a great place to live?


One of the most important aspects of any metropolis is transport. Madrid can boast a truly first-class public transport system. It has possibly the best metro in Europe and reliable bus services too. This is just as well as the current mayoress of Madrid has brought in measures to reduce traffic in the city centre and so to reduce pollution. It is working. I am asthmatic and when I used to visit Madrid, especially in summer, I had my inhaler at the ready. Last week I didn’t need it once! Nowadays you need to have a card rather like an Oyster Card to get around. 12.20€ is the minimum charge + 2€ for the card but you keep the card for ever and just top it up when necessary. It can be used on both buses and the metro.

When I used to visit Madrid I needed my inhaler at the ready. Last week I didn’t need it once!

Madrid, though, is a place to walk. The metro is efficient but you see nothing and walking opens up new vistas and hidden courtyards, majestic buildings and green spaces.

Cost of Living

Most Spaniards consider Madrid to be expensive. Until, that is, they go to London, Paris or Brussels! In fact it isn’t expensive, but Spanish salaries still lag behind other countries and accommodation can be costly. An spacious apartment of around 85 square metres costs just over €1,000 per month, although you can add 50% on that for upmarket districts.

Thankfully, eating out is affordable. And Madrid has some truly excellent restaurants and tapas bars. In residential districts the eateries will reflect the cost of accommodation. Madrileños will tend to go to their neighbourhood restaurants, so the price varies from district to district.

For groceries, supermarkets are not especially expensive in Madrid, although the real pleasure of life in the city is finding your neighbourhood market or deli.

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I find I discover places near me that I never knew existed when visitors come to stay. This is especially true in Madrid. Apart from the obvious landmarks – The Prado, the Royal Palace, Cathedral, Puerta del Sol, Gran Via and Retiro Park – there is so much more to unearth. Last week I visited the Royal Mint Museum, Museo Casa de la Moneda and ran out of time to see it all. A fascinating and well thought out museum, with excellent displays.

If the thought of  walking through the enormous Museo del Prado is daunting, cross the road and visit the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum which is smaller but has a permanent exhibition of old masters and modernist art and usually an interesting temporary exhibition. The best I have ever seen was there some years ago when the museum housed The Cartier Diamond Collection.

Just up the road is Caixa Forum, unmissable because it has a garden growing on an exterior wall. Another great place to see is the Museo Sorolla which is the house where the great Spanish Impressionist painter Joaquín Sorolla lived for the last years of his life and which holds many of his paintings. If you are in London, do visit his exhibition at the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square which is on until 7th July.

There are plenty of cinemas in local districts which show films in English or original version.

Madrid has many theatres and there is always something going. If you like jazz, Madrid has a lively jazz scene and for classical music lovers, there are important concerts most weekends.

Plaza Cibeles, Madrid

Social Life

Madrileños are extremely friendly and helpful. Mind you, that also includes all the South Americans who live and work there. There is an ease about them that I haven’t found in other capital cities.

Madrid is very cosmopolitan with people from practically every country in the world. This all makes for a varied and interesting social life. People tend to meet in bars or enjoy long lunches at the weekends. As for nightlife, Madrid wakes up as most sensible people go to bed. The 7am trains are full of people returning from a night out! Often it is busier in the early hours than mid morning. It is the city of partying but this is slowly changing and people are going out earlier and returning home earlier than a decade ago.

Finding Property

If you plan to stay in Madrid for some considerable time, then buying is the best option. If you are considering property close to the centre, some of the nicest areas are Ibiza (near Retiro Park), Chamberi, Conde Duque and Las Letras.

High-end property will of course start in six figures. But you can also find less expensive apartments even in some of the nicest districts. For example, this gorgeous two-bedroom penthouse in smart Salamanca district will cost €480,000.

€480,000 apartment

This rather lovely one-bedroom apartment dating from 1890 is in Cortes-Huertas and has three balconies. It is on sale for €650,000. Click on the image to view the property on Rightmove.

€650,000 one-bedroom apartment

Mortgage rates are excellent in Europe right now. Spain Property Guides can put you in touch with a finance provider with over 30 years’ experience in helping British buyers in Spain.

Madrid is an elegant city with plenty of parks and green spaces. It has some beautiful buildings such as the old post office in Cibeles (see photo above) which is now an exhibition centre. Outlying districts are now well connected by metro and the air quality is much improved since the current mayoress and council took over the running of the city, with further plans to improve it even more. It is a great place to visit but according to my friends, it is also a great place to live in.

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