This is a handy little city guide, small enough to fit in a bag or large pocket, and not too heavy. I found the maps at the back particularly useful; easy to follow and covering a wider area than those in other guidebooks I looked at. The tube map is also welcome.
The information is divided up into categories, which are then further subdivided by area. This is a departure from the more commonly seen guidebook format of dividing into areas and then into categories. It works quite well though - when you're sightseeing, you don't want lists of hotels intervening. It helps find the information you need surprisingly quickly. The only disadvantage is working out which 'barrio' (neighbourhood) you need to look in, which can be hard when you don't know the city too well. But I learnt very quickly, and I was only there for 2 days, so it wasn't a big problem.
All of the practical information you could wish for is here, including transport, places to sleep, eat, drink, shop and party, walking routes, and more general inforamtion (e.g. safety). I found it to be fairly reliable and up to date, though of course situations change so no guidebook can ever be one hundred percent correct. The safety advice does tend to the paranoid side, but it's better to be safe than sorry, so I don't think that's a bad approach. Some of the opinions expressed are quite strong and I don't necessarily agree with all of them - as is to be expected with opinions! - but readers should remember to take things with a pinch of salt and look at other sources of information as well when planning their trips.
As well as the sights of Madrid itself, there is an 'excurisions' section which covers Toledo, Segovia, Avila, Cordoba, San Lorenzo de el Escorial, Valle de los Cados, Placio Real de el Pardo, Aranjez, Chincon, Alcaca de Henares, Sierra de Guadarrama, Sierra Pobre, and Sierra Gredos. This is a good addition as those staying for a longer period might well want to explore further afield and this saves buying and carrying an extra guidebook for just one day trip.
There is also introductory and background material on topics like history, city life, and food and drink, which are informative and nicely written. Towards the back there's a short and rather sparse language section, which I wouldn't rely on if you don't have much Spanish.
On the whole, this is a good guide which I found really useful. Although it's geared towards independent travellers, a range of budgets and interests are catered for. The only real downside is the photos - there are relatively few colour pictures, and many of those are of things which might win travel awards but aren't much help to a tourist who's trying to work out what the building they've just circled for the fifth time is! There are some black and white pictures too, which aren't too helpful either. I would also recommend an additional phrasebook unless you are reasonably confident in your Spanish. But I would definitely recommend the book to anyone visiting Madrid.
There's never enough time in Madrid. You need to hit the ground running to get the most out of it. There are some things you just have to do during the day: visit the Prado, stroll round the Palace, relax in the Retiro. Then there's the nightlife. Madrid at midnight is as busy as Madrid at midday.
Like its companions, Lonely Planet's guide to Madrid helps you get the most out of your too, too short stay. From the off, armed with the information gained from the book, I had on morning one scouted some of the jazz and flamenco places that caught my eye, using the metro guide, and then went off to a gallery.
Some of the directions are a little vague, so it wasn't possible to find them all, but I found one that did the job two nights running anyway, a feat that would have taken more than a long weekend to achieve just walking round or asking at the hotel.
I'll admit that I didn't use the book much when it came to restaurants and hotel - none of the ones I ate or stayed at are named or described. But then the city doesn't lack for either, some excellent, some probably normally good if you get the right staff (I managed to get myself in one restaurant where service at table was worse than at McDonald's, but I'm charitably putting that down to the waiter being a jerk).
Also like its companions, the sections on the history of the city, the differences between the barrios, and guides to art, entertainment, food and language came in handy. Also take notice of the warnings about keeping an eye on belongings. Only the timely intervention of a considerate madrileña saved me from being ripped off in the Plaza d'España, my normal street caution suppressed by the fatigue of a day's sightseeing. My rescuer was, understandably, quite cross with me, but I wondered if I'd have got that kind of help in London. ¡Gracias, señorita! ¡Fue muy gentil!
Whether this is the best guide to Madrid I have no idea, but it served me well enough, and I left the city wanting more but feeling like it would have been difficult to get more in in the time available.
on 2 July 2012
as usual, lonely planet guide is accurate, updated, verry helpful, for serious travellers , helps saving money without missing the point. I had 24 hours in Madrid, and I managed to do and see so many things, thanks to Lonely Planet guide.
on 10 April 2011
I bought this guidebook for a short notice trip to Madrid. Other reviewers have complemented the book on it's
historical background info, I didn't have the time to read this before I travelled so can't comment.
I would say the maps were completely useless. Trying to find a museum, hotel,or restaurant on a map was hell. The reviews and maps don't always tie up. You can read a review and struggle endlessly to find it on a map and negotiate your way to it.Become used to flipping backwards and forwards endlessly and remaining confused.
Even when we were standing at a specific landmark, using the guidebook to navigate was a hopeless task. The helpful receptionist at our hotel was completely bemused when having booked us a restaurant the guide recommended we then asked her to show us on the map how to get there. We were about 250m metres from our destination but there was no conceivable way of accessing it following the guide
I've been happy with Lonely Planet guides in the past, but this was so dire to use I would think very hard about travelling with only a Lonely Planet guide for advice.