Around February 2023, I plan to visit Madrid and stay there for one month as a home base from which I can explore other parts of Spain and Portugal. I am looking for an area that is quiet at night, has fresh local produce and meat, a strong sense of community, easy access to public transportation and good dining and live music For example, Padua has much of these qualities as an alternative to staying directly in Venice. What areas do you suggest I should stay?
No specific recommendations, but I guess I would see two approaches.
The first would be a neighborhood in Madrid with a close Metro stop, the other would be a nearby town with a station on one of the high speed train lines. Segovia for example would be about a half hour from Madrid, a nice town in itself.
Are you looking for a neighborhood in Madrid or outside of it? Torrejón de Ardoz or Alcalá de Henares might work. Both are near Madrid, but not in it. There are plenty of neighborhoods in the city. The area near La Vaguada mall used to be nice, but I’m not sure about now. It isn’t near any tourist site and there is a nearby market Tomé Mercado selling fresh food.
I would prefer not to be further than 20-30 minute ride on train to the City Center. I am scoping out the areas that I may want to settle in on an extended visa in 2025. So, being close to the sites isn't as important as checking out friendly neighborhoods with fresh food and social, local community.
Take a look at Cuenca.
I vote for Alcala de Henares. It's on a local rail line with very frequent service, even on weekends. Transportation into Madrid would be cheap and easy
I'm a fan of Cuenca, but it's not close enough to Madrid for your purposes. You'd have to use one of the express trains (and even they take 54 minutes) because the locals are far too slow--over 3 hours to Madrid. Those AVES, etc., are usually very expensive if you don't buy your ticket way in advance; with one exception, all the fast-train options for next Tuesday morning cost at least 32.50 euros one way. Another complication is that the express trains depart from a station well outside Cuenca, requiring either a taxi or a connecting bus. I believe the buses do not run often on weekends. I'm also not sure Cuenca is a good option as a base for someone who wants to take side-trips without a car. For example, Teruel and Albarracin are interesting places not too far away as the crow flies, but you can't get to either one by public transportation without taking a circuitous route (probably through Valencia and requiring time on a potentially expensive express train). That would be totally impractical for a day trip.
I urge you to spend time on the Renfe website to investigate travel times and cost. Spain is a large country with top-class destinations in all directions (and then there's Portugal, with which there are few ground connections). Madrid has a relatively central position on the Iberian peninsula, but it is in no way practical to rent an apartment nearby for a month (just guessing that may be your intention) with a plan to "explore other parts of Spain and Portugal". What you would be able to do is see the many wonderful towns within Madrid's orbit, among them Toledo, Segovia, Salamanca, Alcala de Henares, Cuenca (plan ahead for an affordable train ticket) and Chinchon. And there are certainly others. Most of the places I've listed would be worth at least two days, so I think you could occupy yourself very nicely for a month. If willing to commit far enough ahead of time to grab promo-priced train tickets, you could push farther from Madrid, visiting places like Zaragoza (1 hr. 19 min.) and Cordoba (1 hr. 48min.). However, Cordoba, especially, has so much to see that I wouldn't care to visit it on a day-trip from Madrid.
The only area in Spain from which you might conceivably day trip to Portugal would be Galicia, the area around Santiago de Compostela.
If you really want to visit a variety of areas in Spain, even aside from Portugal, staying in one place is not the way to do it. You could spend 10-12 days in/near Madrid and split the rest of the time between two or three other areas. For February I'd be much more inclined to focus on Andalucia and/or the coastal area between Barcelona and Valencia, where weather would be milder. Madrid, in the interior at about 1900 feet, can be chilly in the winter.
Such helpful information! I should be clearer with my goals… My longer term goal is to obtain a visa and settle into an area for an extended period of time at the beginning of 2025. My trip in 2023 is to explore areas where I may want to settle more permanently in 2025. Based on acraven’s feedback, for the 2023 trip I’ll plan to visit in March instead of February to avoid having to pack for cold weather, and I’ll choose 3 different areas to stay for about a week instead of staying in one place a month. When I return in 2025 more permanently, I want to live in a friendly community with easy access to public transportation, that is quiet at night, and has fresh produce & meat. In March 2023 these longterm criteria are not as important, although I still want to be close to public transportation. I’m less concerned with seeing sights (including Portugal) on either trip. I will have plenty of opportunity to do that when I return in 2025. Now my question becomes much more complex! It is really 2 questions: (1) What are the 3 or 4 areas you suggest that I stay for several days in 2023 as I explore and (2) which areas do you suggest I explore for the longer term stay? Alcala de Henares sounds great!
I'll still go with Alcalá de Henares. A great town yet not known by many non-Spanish tourists. Cervantes, of Don Quixote, fame lived there for a while. Has train connections to Madrid and is a commuter town.
There are groups of expats on FB—they’d have insight from a “looking to settle” perspective. (Among other insights, wisdoms and bickering—it IS Facebook…)
If you happen to be a fan of House Hunters International on HGTV (a usually fantastical representation of expat home buying, but fun for the real estate eye candy), Alcala de Henares is to be featured on the show this week.
What kind of weather are you looking for? There's a world of difference between Andalucia and the stretch of northern Spain along the coast between the Basque Country and Galicia.
A large chunk of central Spain (including Madrid) gets pretty hot in the summer and pretty cold in the winter.
Thank you, valadelphia, for the referral to upcoming HGTV show on Alcala:)
I appreciate you staying with me, acraven:) I prefer a climate good for backyard vegetable gardening. I want to avoid snow and heat that exceeds "feeling like" it's over 100F - I prefer more heat to colder climates. My main goal in landing in Madrid is easy access to offices that will issue a Foreign ID within the required timeframe of my visa. Once I've accomplished that, I can relocate and spend several days in various parts of the country.
And air quality is important to me! I was surprised to see how bad the air quality was in Madrid. I assumed that because it was on a peninsula, that would not be an issue (similar to San Francisco).
I assumed that because it was on a peninsula, that would not be an
issue (similar to San Francisco).
Huh? Madrid is hundreds of miles from the sea, smack dab in the center of some of the hottest terrain on the continent.
I don't see why you need to emphasize Madrid in particular. Sevilla could have nice weather in February--theoretically--and there is bus, train, and airport for your travels.
My main goal in landing in Madrid is easy access to offices that will issue a Foreign ID within the required timeframe of my visa.
The Extranjero offices in Madrid are notoriously the most backed up in the country!! Getting your TIE there will take longer than anywhere else.
Also, most (all) resident visas require the TIE appointment (which you may need the padrón to make) to be made within the period of the visas’ validity. Not even that the appoint be IN the time frame—just that you booked during that time. But applying for, processing, and getting the TIE—I don’t think that happens within 90 days almost anywhere in the country. Certainly not MAD.