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Living in Madrid
A comprehensive guide about living well in Madrid
Life in Madrid is exciting and very diverse. As the fourth most populous city in Europe, it is also a popular expat destination. InterNations GO! provides you with plenty of information on living in Madrid, including advice on health and safety, education, and accommodation.
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Life in Madrid
People living in Madrid are proud to be part of such a cosmopolitan city. There are 3.3 million people living in Madrid proper while the entire metropolitan population amounts to 6.5 million. Due to the countless number of annual visitors, most people are used to tourists and foreign residents asking for directions or general information about the city. The proud madrileño may even launch into a brief history of their city!
Since Madrid is both the capital of Spain and its largest city, the head of government as well as the Spanish royal family are living in Madrid these days. Despite the crisis, it is still a major financial center in southern Europe, a hub for trade and industry, as well as Spain’s center of fashion, music, arts, and culture. With all these accreditations, it is no surprise that Madrid boasts a high standard of living for expats.
Personal Wellbeing in Madrid
If you are considering living in Madrid but are afraid of the relatively high crime rate that one would expect in such a large city, you need not fret! For most people in Madrid, crime is not a major concern. Of course, as in many larger touristy cities, there are lots of pickpockets in Madrid. However, if you keep an eye on your personal belongings and are weary of the skilled pickpockets, you will find life in Madrid not particularly risky.
Moreover, the standards of medical care in Madrid are relatively high. As far as vaccinations are concerned, doctors only recommended keeping the standard ones up to date and maybe getting a hepatitis shot before your move to Madrid. You should also be prepared for a climate with fairly cold winters and rather hot summers, and pack appropriate clothes.
Transportation: Made Easy by the Madrid Metro
You will quickly realize that driving is not the most efficient means of travelling from one location in Madrid to the next. Traffic is horrendous as madrileños drive by their own rules, and it’s almost impossible to find a parking space. Although Spanish people love biking, you should avoid cycling while living in Madrid. Due to most motorists’ hectic and accident-prone driving style, commuting by bike is stressful and dangerous.
Taking taxis on a regular basis while living in Madrid can become quite expensive. When used infrequently and in emergency cases, they are, however, a good way to get from point A to point B. Ultimately, the best way to get around is using public transportation, even for your daily commute. The Madrid Metro is one of the best public transit systems in the world, with a subway line running in almost all directions, making it the eighth longest underground network in the world in 2013.
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Education and Housing in Madrid
The Multicultural Classroom
Even though the public school system in Spain is very good and free of charge for all children up to the age of 16, many expats living in Madrid prefer to send their children to private international schools. Madrid has a wide range of international schools to offer its foreign nationals. The most popular and abundant are English-language schools, followed closely by education catering to the German and French communities.
A prominent American school is the American School of Madrid, located about 15 kilometers northwest of downtown Madrid in Aravaca. It provides an education to children between the ages of 3 and 18. A highly regarded British school for expats in Madrid is King’s College. Offering options for both day-school children and boarders, King’s College has three campus locations in Madrid for the various age ranges (i.e. kindergarten, primary school, secondary education).
German schools are also common with Spain being a favorite destination among German expats. A type of school that can thus be found in almost all larger Spanish cities is the Deutsche Schule. Located directly in the heart of downtown Madrid, it offers its students the German Abitur (German high school diploma). The Lycée Français de Madrid offers French families the opportunity to send their children to a school based on the French education system. The lycée enables graduates to meet the criteria necessary for a smooth transition into French universities.
The Barrios — Unique in Their Diversity
The many neighborhoods making up each come with their own unique flair. Depending on preference, income, and proximity to your work or school, Madrid’s various neighborhoods will have something meeting everyone’s needs and taste. Almost every area hosts numerous cafés, bars, and small restaurants, where madrileños sit on the terraces late into the night. If you’ve been to Madrid or anywhere else in Spain, for that matter, you will have noticed that this form of socializing is a firmly-entrenched part of Spanish culture.
Central and downtown Madrid, including the Sol, Opera, and Las Cortes areas, is very crowded and noisy, with lots of tourists running about admiring Madrid’s many famous monuments. Salamanca is a trendy and wealthy neighborhood, something which is reflected in its prices. It also contains the famous Parque del Retiro, which is a favorite weekend destinations for families and those looking for a place to exercise.
Residential Areas for Expats
Nuevos Ministerios, Ríos Rosas, and Chamartín are residential areas where the relative lack of cafés is compensated for by a more-oriented atmosphere. The International School of Madrid is also located in Chamartín, drawing in a lot of foreign families. Chueca has been claimed by the younger cosmopolitan crowd and is more of a hotspot for bars and clubs. In recent years, it has also emerged as the gay neighborhood of Madrid. La Latina is a neighborhood with very old and beautiful architecture reminiscent of a more traditional Madrid.
Moncloa and Argüelles are home to the largest university in Madrid, the Complutense. It is not only students that live here, though: others also enjoy the escape it provides from the bustling city center, which is only a short metro ride away. The two parks in Complutense offer some shelter from the hectic life in a large metropolitan city. Do keep in mind, though, that students dominate the nightlife in this neighborhood.
This is only a small percentage of the many barrios in Madrid. It’s best to visit Madrid before actually moving there to scope out which area best suits you and your lifestyle.
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