Living in Madrid
If you’ve ever found yourself daydreaming about what life would be like in a vibrant Spanish city, you’re certainly not alone. The allure of sunny days, leisurely siestas, and steaming dishes of Paella have been attracting Americans for many years—even the literary likes of Hemingway were won over. So, what’s all the recent talk of Madrid about?
The growing number of US citizens choosing to make Madrid their new home is a trend that’s on the rise, and there are plenty of compelling reasons behind it. With a lively night scene, impressive gastronomy, and a pace of life that’s pleasantly slower than other major European cities, Madrid offers a diverse range of experiences that few other European cultural hubs can match.
In this comprehensive guide, you’ll find what it’s really like to live in Madrid—and not just the pretty parts. We’ll be diving deep into everything you’ve been itching to know about the Spanish capital. What’s the cost of living in Madrid? What’s the dating scene like for women age 30+? And is Madrid’s tap water really as good as they say?
Where do most American expats live in Spain?
In the latter half of 2022, Spain’s National Statistics Agency (INE) reported a noteworthy surge in the American expatriate community, with 41,952 US nationals proudly calling Spain their new home. This figure reflects a remarkable increase of over 2,000 individuals since the previous year. And where are the majority of these Americans going? You guessed it—Madrid. The capital houses over a quarter of all American expats in Spain, with Barcelona taking second place.
Is Madrid a good place to live for a 30+ year-old?
Absolutely! We’d argue that Madrid caters to every age, but Madrid holds particular appeal for individuals 30 and up, offering almost everything you can think of needing at this point in life:
- Cultural Backdrop – Madrid provides the perfect backdrop for a fulfilling life. Museums like the Prado and Reina Sofia offer endless opportunities for artistic exploration, while enchanting neighborhoods like La Latina never fail to amaze you with their unique beauty. You’ll find that there’s an event going on every day of the week. Whether it’s Jazz night at the bar 5-minutes from your apartment, a free classical concert in a park, or night of dancing to electronic or indie music till the wee hours, life in Madrid won’t leave you short on plans.
- Social Life – Whether you’re a sociable extrovert or one who savors quieter moments, Madrid offers a warm and inclusive environment where you’ll encounter plenty of like-minded individuals in their 30s+ as well. Eager to make new friends? Join a language exchange night at a local bar. If you’re up for a unique twist, explore the city’s diverse hiking groups that convene weekly for guided mountain adventures.
- NMNK (not married, no kids)? No Problem. – Madrid is a paradise for singles, especially single women who are childfree. Here, you’ll never feel like the odd woman out. Whether you’re eager to dive into the dating scene or searching for a vibrant group of friends to share adventures with, Madrid is the ideal setting. In Madrid, singles of all ages thrive, enjoying a lively social scene that celebrates independence and fosters meaningful connections.
Cost of living in Madrid
While Spain is known for its low cost of living when compared to other countries in Europe, the flip side of that coin is how low salaries are here—we’re talking €27,000/ year low. So although costs for groceries and health insurance are mind-blowingly affordable, rent in particular is on the rise, and Spanish salaries are struggling to keep up.
That being said, here’s a breakdown of the current prices of various costs that you can compare against what you currently make and spend:
- Housing – Rental prices vary by neighborhood, with the city center being pricier, averaging €900-€1,500 per month for a one-bedroom apartment.
- Transportation – A single metro or bus pass is currently €1.50. Another popular option is the city’s public bike service, BiciMAD, which only costs 50 cents for every half hour.
- Dining Out – Enjoying local or even international cuisine at restaurants and bars can range from €10-€20 per person for budget-friendly options, but you’ll have no issue finding upscale dining as well at €50 or more for those special occasions.
- Entertainment – Museum tickets are around €10-€15, with a majority having free days, theater tickets vary, and a night out in Madrid’s nightlife areas might cost €30-€50.
- Groceries – Weekly grocery expenses for a single person range from €30-€50, depending on dietary choices, and can even be budgeted down to €20 when shopping at fruterias, the fruit and vegetable stores that dot the city, and lower-cost supermarkets like Lidl.
- Healthcare – Spain offers a well-regarded public healthcare system accessible through social security contributions. Although depending on your visa, you will most likely not have access to the public system and will need to purchase a private health insurance plan, private plans can start at as little as 50 euros a month!
5 Pros and cons of living in Madrid
As you contemplate the idea of making the leap across the pond, it’s essential to look at the pros and cons of life in Spain. Although Madrid holds a lot of cultural and practical similarities with the rest of Spain, it offers its own set of advantages and challenges that will come together to shape your experience as an expatriate there.
Pros of living in Madrid
Other than the exquisite tap water (yes, it’s really that good), here are 5 pros of living in Madrid:
- Safety – Madrid is considered a safe city, with low crime rates and a strong police presence, offering residents a secure and comfortable living environment.
- Diverse Neighborhoods – From the trendy coffee-shop-lined streets of Malasaña to the posh and pristine avenues of Salamanca, Madrid boasts an array of diverse neighborhoods, each with its own unique character and charm.
- Excellent public transportation – Madrid’s public transportation system is efficient, affordable, and extensive, featuring an easy-to-navigate subway, bus, and train network, making it easy for even the newest residents to move around the city.
- Low cost of living – Madrid offers a relatively low cost of living when compared to many other major European cities, making it an attractive destination for expatriates seeking affordability without compromising on the richness of European culture and lifestyle.
- Vicinity to nature – Madrid’s numerous parks and green spaces within the city allow residents to escape the urban hustle and enjoy the tranquility of nature without venturing far from the city center. Looking for a full escape? Hop on a quick bus or train ride an hour outside the city and spend the day hiking in Cercedilla or Lozoya.
Cons of living in Madrid
Now onto the flip side of the coin, here are 5 cons of living in Madrid:
- Highest cost of living in Spain – Along with Barcelona, Madrid is known for having the highest cost of living within Spain, which can be a financial challenge for many residents who are earning an average local salary.
- Fewer job opportunities – While Madrid offers a plethora of job opportunities when compared to the rest of Spain, getting a job or work visa sponsorship of you’re a US citizens is extremely difficult. Coming with a remote job, and a visa to back it, is your best bet, such as the digital nomad visa.
- Language barrier – The language barrier, particularly if you’re not proficient in Spanish, can sometimes present communication challenges in daily life or if you are interested in joining a Spanish company.
- Summer heat – Summers in Madrid can be scorching, with temperatures often exceeding 95°F, making it a tough season for those who are heat-sensitive and causing Madrid to turn into somewhat of a ghost town in July and August.
- Far from the beach – Despite its many attractions, Madrid is landlocked and located far from the beach, which might disappoint those who enjoy coastal living. Good news? Valencia, which is on the coast, and Madrid are connected by a high-speed train that can get you there in 2 hours flat.
Nightlife in Madrid
Madrid’s reputation as a vibrant and dynamic city is well-deserved, beckoning individuals of all ages, both locals and visitors, to come together deep into the night. The nightlife scene is incredibly diverse, catering to a wide range of tastes, from traditional tapas bars to energetic nightclubs. And you can rest assured that you won’t find yourself as the oldest patron at these establishments—Madrid’s nightlife welcomes people in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond.
One of Madrid’s unique features is the culture of staying out until the sun rises—it’s not uncommon to see the city’s lively streets filled with revelers well into the early morning hours who top off the night with a breakfast of churros con chocolate.
If pulling an all-nighter isn’t your thing, you won’t have to compromise. For a shorter night out, consider enjoying an intimate flamenco performance in La Latina, having a few casual drinks at a dive bar in Puerta del Ángel, or cozying up for a €3 old movie in the historic Cine Doré.
Dating in Madrid
Madrid offers plenty of opportunities to meet, connect with, and get to know other singles. In the digital age, dating apps like Tinder in Spain have become a popular way to meet people in Madrid, although they aren’t your only resource if you prefer other methods of mingling. Websites like Meetup list tons of events from travel groups for singles in their 30s to wine nights for single parents.
Madrid fully celebrates the shift towards marrying later or not at all, with a thriving population of singles in their 30s and beyond. It’s increasingly common to be an unwed, childfree woman in Madrid, to the point where it’s almost considered the norm. Amid this social landscape, you’ll never feel alone as a single person, and the added benefit is the abundance of dating opportunities.
Madrid is also recognized as one of Europe’s most LGBTQ+-friendly cities. In the neighborhood of Chueca, you can find the highest concentration of queer bars, nightclubs, and even cafés to checkout. That’s not to say that you’re limited to this neighborhood—it is quite common to spot pride flags flying from balconies, LGBTQ+ friendly stickers posted on the doors of local businesses, and queer social and cultural events listed all throughout Madrid. Madrid stands as a shining example of a city that celebrates queer identities.
Madrid for families
Moving to Madrid with kids can be an enriching experience, with the city offering a family-friendly environment, quality education options, and numerous parks and playgrounds for children to explore. Additionally, parents may find the Spanish lifestyle’s later schedule for kids aligns well with the city’s culture of family togetherness and relaxed, family-oriented living. If your kids are a bit hesitant about moving abroad, a later bedtime might just win them over!
Public schools in Madrid provide quality education, following the Spanish curriculum, and many offer bilingual programs in Spanish and English or Spanish and French. Alternatively, numerous private and international schools cater to expatriate families, offering a range of educational approaches, including International Baccalaureate (IB) and foreign curricula.
For after-school and weekends, the options are endless. Head over to the children’s section in your closest public library, grab a ticket to a kid-friendly museum or movie, or even check out the puppet theater in Retiro Park! To form connections with both local and international families, English-speaking parenting groups are easy to join on Facebook.
Eating in Madrid
Most aspects of daily life in Spain, and Madrid in particular, are formed around when people eat. If you run into difficulty trying to make plans that don’t involve lunch from 2-4 pm, don’t be alarmed, it just is how it is. As the meal times can take some getting used to, here’s a glimpse into when you can expect to eat in Madrid:
- La comida – Lunch is the main meal of the day in Spain and is typically enjoyed anywhere between 2 and 4 pm, reflecting the country’s cherished tradition of leisurely dining and savoring the midday break.
- La merienda – The afternoon snack, typically taken between 5:30 and 7 pm, serves as a clever way to curb hunger before the late dinner hour and enjoy a brief catch-up with friends.
- La cena – Dinner in Spain usually starts at 8:30 pm or later. It’s typically lighter than lunch, and especially on weekends, you’ll often find people dining past 11 pm. Spanish restaurants serving dinner at 7 pm are rare, often indicating tourist-heavy areas.
If you’re a foodie who loves trying different cuisines each weekend, the options are diverse in Madrid, from the Chinese restaurants of Usera and Plaza España to the Indian restaurants of Lavapies, you won’t have trouble finding any cuisine or pandering to any diet. Vegan and Vegetarian restaurants are becoming increasingly easy to come by and gluten-free options are on the rise as well.
Best neighborhoods to live in Madrid
Madrid is truly a melting pot of diverse neighborhoods, each with its own distinct personality and charm. Whether you seek a tranquil escape, a bustling urban center, or a creative hub, Madrid has the perfect neighborhood for you. Here’s a list of the top 5 areas to live in Madrid that won’t disappoint:
- Alonso Martinez – This charming neighborhood combines the best of both worlds, offering a relaxed, residential atmosphere while also lying right by the city center. Its tree-lined streets are dotted with trendy boutiques, cozy cafes, and cultural hotspots, making it a favorite among young professionals, Madrid locals, and American expats alike.
- Malasaña – Known for its artistic and bohemian vibe, Malasaña is a hub for creative souls. Its narrow streets are brimming with vintage shops, quirky bars, and live music venues, making it an ideal choice for those seeking a lively and alternative scene.
- Salamanca – Salamanca is Madrid’s upscale district, renowned for its luxury boutiques, Michelin-starred restaurants, and elegant architecture. It’s a haven for those who appreciate the finer things in life and seek a sophisticated urban lifestyle.
- Chamberí – Chamberí offers a balanced mix of tranquility and city life, located just a short metro ride from the heart of Madrid. Its leafy squares, classic architecture, and local markets create a sense of community, making it a popular choice for families.
- Lavapiés – Known for its multicultural atmosphere, Lavapiés is a melting pot of cultures and traditions. Its diverse culinary scene, vibrant street art, and affordable living options attract a global community, fostering a unique sense of belonging.
Move to Madrid
If you’re an American looking to move to Spain, you’ll want to start looking into your visa options to see which you may be eligible for. The most popular visa options for living in Spain as an American include student, non-lucrative, freelance, and the shiny new digital nomad visa. Although this article won’t be going too deep into the intricacies of Spanish visas, here is a brief overview of each of these visas and a resource you can tap into for more information below:
- Student Visa – A student visa allows you to live in Spain for the duration of your studies, either by enrolling at a university or certain approved language academies. Many U.S. citizens come to Spain on a student visa as a language assistant.
- Non-Lucrative Visa – This visa allows you to live in Spain as long as you aren’t seeking work and have proof of financial means to support yourself. This is a popular option among U.S. citizens.
- Freelance Visa – This option is for freelancers and self-employed individuals who want to work in Spain or set up their own business.
- Digital Nomad Visa – Spain’s digital nomad visa is relatively new, officially approved and signed into law in December of 2022. It requires a degree or at least 3 years of professional work experience, a remote job, and a minimum income of €2,160 a month.
For more detailed information about these visas, their requirements, and how to apply, get your copy of I’m Outta Here! An American’s Ultimate Visa Guide to Living in Europe. In this digital book, you’ll find everything you need to know about the aforementioned visas as well as 50+ other visa options for the 18 easiest countries to move to in Europe for Americans!
What is so special about Madrid?
Many expats proudly state that they quickly felt Madrileño / Madrileña, a local from Madrid, in no time, and for good reason. Foreign enough from the US that you’re not tricked into thinking you’re in Philadelphia, but cosmopolitan enough that the culture shock doesn’t knock you over, Madrid has found a way to seamlessly blend its rich culture with its ever-growing international influence.
There’s never a shortage of activities to partake in, bars to check out, or museums to wander into, but it’s anything but overwhelming—especially when compared to the other main European cities of Paris, Berlin, and London. You’ll run into your friends often, easily find your way around, and find that, especially when compared to American cities, there’s a laid-backness that is unparalleled.
More support to get you to Madrid
You didn’t think we’d just let you off here, did you? For continued support in your moving abroad journey:
- Join our Facebook Group for women age 30 and up who want to move abroad
- Grab your copy of our Ultimate Visa Guide to Living in Europe as an American
- Sign up for the next Move Abroad After 30 Masterclass to see if a move abroad is a possibility for you!
You’ll be rolling your r’s and trading that Starbucks coffee for a cup of café con leche in no time.