Living in Madrid

Welcome! In the Madrid Summer Law Institute, you will spend a month living and studying in Spain's capital and largest city. The climate in June is usually wonderful with plenty of sunshine and an average high temperature of about 80 degrees and an average low of about 60.

Universidad Rey Juan Carlos


URJC campus

The Madrid Summer Law Institute is hosted by the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos (URJC) which was named in honor of King Juan Carlos I (who abdicated the throne to his son on June 2, 2014, the first day of classes for the 2014 Madrid Summer Law Institute!). The University has approximately 33,000 students spread across four campuses. The Institute is located at the Vicálvaro campus which is the center of law and social studies.

URJC law professors teach the European Union law course in the Institute and the URJC law school provides administrative support and classroom space. In turn, UNM School of Law provides URJC law students an introductory class on U.S. law and the opportunity to audit Institute classes alongside U.S. law students.

The campus has a bookstore, library, gym, and two cafeterias. One of the cafeterias offers simple food, such as coffee and sandwiches at very reasonable prices. The other offers set menu lunch specials consisting of a first and second course, dessert, and drinks (including wine).

Administrative Office

Inés García Saillard is the Institute's Onsite Program Administrator. She is fluent in English and Spanish (and several other languages). Her office number is J09 in Edificio Departamental. To find her office, enter the building and go down one flight of stairs to the jardin (garden) level, then look for number J09.

Hours: Institute office hours in Madrid are Monday through Thursday, 9am - 2pm from the first day of classes through exam day.  

Mail: Generally, students should receive personal mail at their apartment. If you are unable to do so, advise your friends and relatives to address your mail to:

Inés García Saillard
Instituto de Estudios Jurídicos Internacionales
Universidad Rey Juan Carlos
Pº de los Artilleros, s/n
28032 Madrid, Spain
(Please deliver to ___your name____, Madrid Summer Law Institute).

Normally airmail sent from the United States will take a week to two weeks to be received in Madrid. Customs delays are not unheard of when sending packages.

A list of the names of those people receiving mail is posted outside the office. You need to pick up your mail personally and during regular office hours.

Staying Safe

Despite its large size, Madrid has a very low rate of violent crime. However, it has its share of pickpocketing and phone grabbing in tourist areas.

Pickpockets almost always work in groups. One or two people will do something to distract you while another member tries to take your stuff. Once the theft has occurred, the thief who stole the item will often hand it off to someone else and they all run in separate directions.

Mimimize Potential Loss.  Before you leave home, take steps to minimize your potential loss. Make copies and/or take photos of important documents and store them online. Make sure you have a "find my phone"-type app, back up your data, and enable password protection. Back up your phone and its photos each night. If you don't know how to sync your stuff to the cloud, learn before your trip.

Wear a money belt.  Carry some cash and a credit card in your wallet and use the money belt for the rest of your cash, a backup credit card, and anything you really, really don't want to lose.

Leave valuables in your apartment or dorm room  Expensive gear, such as your laptop, is safer in your room than with you in a day bag on the streets.

Secure your bag, gadgets, and other valuables.  Thieves want to quickly separate you from your valuables, so even a minor obstacle can be an effective deterrent. When sitting down to eat or rest, loop your bag's strap around your arm, leg, or a chair leg. If you plan to sleep on a train, clip or fasten your pack or suitcase to the seat, luggage rack, or yourself. Most zippers are lockable, and even a twist-tie, paper clip, or key ring is helpful to keep your bag zipped up tight. Never set down valuable items — such as a camera, phone, or wallet — on a restaurant table or train seat, where they are easy to swipe.

A good discussion on avoiding pickpockets:

Travel Warnings & Alerts

Currently, there is a State Department Travel Warning for Spain. You are strongly encouraged to monitor Travel.State.Gov to stay current on travel information for Spain and for any other countries you plan to visit.


There are a multitude of fabulous web pages dedicated to eating and drinking in Madrid. But since you need to be in the classroom at 9am every day, you might want to consider the following suggestions on how to blend the food culture of Spain with American mealtime traditions.

Breakfast.  The classic American breakfast is not part of Spanish cuisine. Have breakfast before you leave for school in the morning or buy coffee and a pastry at one of URJC’s onsite cafes. 


Lunch.  La comida is served between 1pm and 4pm and is the largest meal of the day in Spain. Almost every restaurant offers a menú del día for lunch: from a shortened menu, you select a drink, a first course, second course, and dessert. These provide a full meal for a reasonable price. Alternatively, grocery stores in Madrid have excellent ready to eat foods, breads, lunch meats, cheeses, and produce. Buying these allows you to have portions and choices similar to an American lunch while still experimenting with local dishes such as gazpacho, tortilla española, and empañada de atun.

Dinner.  If you don’t want to eat dinner between 9pm and midnight, forego that Spanish tradition and instead eat around 6pm-7pm while Madrileños are having their afternoon snack, which is called merienda. At this time of day, you can fill up on delicious food and drinks and be satisfied for the night. 

Travel with Family

Gazpacho to go

Grocery Shopping  A large store that has virtually everything you might need is the Alcampo at the Estrella metro stop on Line 9, about ten minutes from Vicálvaro. This is the place to go if you want certain American pleasures, like peanut butter, maple syrup, pancake mix, and certain Mexican and Asian foods.

More information on grocery shopping:


Public Transportation

Madrid has a fast, efficient, clean, and inexpensive public transport system -- which is good since you will probably use it daily!

The public transport options include the Metro (subway), day and night buses, the Metro Ligero (light rail), as well as Cercanías which are the suburban trains that connect the city of Madrid with rest of the Madrid region. 

Travel with Family

Ticket machines at a metro station entryway

Ticket Machines:  Tickets are purchased at ticket machines located in all metro stations. The machines have an English language option you can choose at the beginning of your transaction. You will also need to choose the zone you wish to travel in. It is unlikely you will ever need to leave Zone A which encompasses all of central Madrid, including Vicálvaro where the campus is located. Finally, pay using cash (euros), debit, or credit card. 

Monthly Transportation Pass:  Hopefully, you ordered a Public Transportation Card before you left the U.S. and had it delivered to the Institute office. If so, pick up your card from the office on the first day of class then go to a metro station and use a ticket machine to add the Monthly Transportation Pass to the card. Using a monthly pass gives you full access to Madrid’s public transport system for 30-day periods at the cheapest available price.

Tourist Pass: Before you area able to pick up your Public Transportation Card, the most economical option will be to buy a tourist pass for the number of days until classes begin. With a tourist pass, you get unlimited transportation for the number of days you buy. These passes are available at the metro ticket machines.

Other Options: Tickets valid for a single journey or for 10 journeys are also available but the monthly and tourist passes will be the most economical options for most people.

For more information on public transportation in Madrid, see 


Taxis in Madrid are white with a diagonal red band on their front door bearing the emblem of the city. They have a green light that is on when they are free. To hail a taxi all you need to do is raise your hand. Finding an available taxi on any of the city’s main thoroughfares is rarely difficult. There are also several taxi stands around the city, indicated by a blue sign with a white letter ‘T’.

All vehicles accept payment by credit card and can also be paid in cash (taxi drivers are required to have coins in sufficient quantity to facilitate change to the user up to the amount of 20 euros). Some taxis even have wifi or are equipped with car seats so you can travel with small children. Fares are based on a price per kilometer and a price per hour, which is applied alternately depending on the speed of traffic.

Uber is available in Madrid. If you already have the app before your arrival, it will automatically update to the Spanish version.  

Free Now (mytaxi) is an app that allows you to book ebikes, escooters, taxis, and private cars in Madrid and many other European cities. Taxis booked through Free Now are at a fixed rate rather than the price per km/hour system of the city's official taxis.

For more information on taxis, see:

Museums, Culture & Nightlife


Madrid is one of the best cities in the world for people who like museums. In addition to its amazing art museums, there are also museums dealing with such diverse topics as anthropology, archeology, bullfighting, soccer, and tapestry.

prado-entranceVisit the Prado Museum to see the works of Velázquez, Goya, Bosch, and El Greco. Admission is free Mondays through Saturdays from 6pm to 8pm and Sundays from 5pm to 7pm.  

The Museo Reina Sofia is Madrid’s modern art museum. Here is where you will find Pablo Picasso’s most famous painting, Guernica. Note that this museum also allows people to enter for free Mondays and Wednesday-Saturday from 7pm to 9pm and Sundays from 12:30pm-2:30pm. 

Culture & Nightlifenightlife

From an evening tapas crawl to the “people’s opera” at the Teatro de la Zarzuela, the opportunities to enjoy Madrid's culture are endless. In a typical day, you might go to class, eat an amazing plate of paella, study a bit, and then see an authentic flamenco performance at Casa Patas or enjoy live music and dancing at Medias Puri.

Weekend Travel

Inexpensive and easy travel opportunities are abundant in Spain. From Madrid, it is often possible to find inexpensive airfare to European cities which will allow you to take advantage of the three-day weekends of the Madrid Summer Law Institute. In a couple of hours, you can be in London, Paris, or Morocco, where you might ride a camel through the Sahara.train-atocha

Although there are several budget air carriers that fly out of Madrid, two of the most popular are RyanAir and Easy Jet. Check out their websites to see how little it costs to travel from Madrid:

If you prefer to stay on the ground, take a train or bus. Madrid is centrally located in Spain, which makes it easy to see the country. If you hop on a high speed train, you can arrive in Valencia, with its beautiful Mediterranean beaches, in just over an hour and a half. The next weekend, you can take the two-and-a-half hour high speed train to Sevilla, in the heart of Andalucia, to enjoy authentic flamenco performances. Even the amazing city of Barcelona, near the French border, is only two and a half hours away by train.

For a slower ride over a long distance, take a “Train Hotel” (trenhotel). These comfortable trains allow you to take in the beautiful countryside. Popular routes include the overnight trains to Paris, Lisbon, and the famous pilgrimage city of Santiago de Compostela.

Most trains leave out of the Chamartín (to the north) and Atocha (to the south) train stations. See the Renfe website for schedules and prices.

For even cheaper travel, take a long distance bus. See ALSA’s website for schedules and prices.


Medical Care

Pharmacies: Your first stop for minor ailments and illnesses is a farmacia. Unlike in the U.S., pharmacists in Spain give medical advice and prescribe medicine. Pharmacies are plentiful and their large, green cross makes them very easy to spot. Pharmacy hours tend to be Mon-Fri 9:30am-2pm and then from 5pm-9:30pm, Sat 9:30am-2pm. In addition, every pharmacy posts on its door the address of the nearest one that is open 24 hours.

Doctor: If you need to see a doctor, contact the Onsite Program Director who will refer you to one who speaks English.

Emergencies: Emergency medical treatment is readily available in Spain, regardless of your insurance coverage or immigration status. Simply go to the nearest Urgencias or call 112 (emergency services) from any telephone. 

Paying for Medical Services: Please notify CISI by contacting TeamAssist and they will make every effort to arrange to pay the doctor or hospital directly. If you prefer to pay yourself, they will reimburse you (you may scan/email or fax the claim information to CISI and they will process it while you are still abroad, OR you may file the claim information after your trip). The average claim processing time at CISI is 2 weeks from receipt of claim information.

Entertaining Friends & Family

Because students often travel with family members, including spouses, parents, and children, it is useful to think about what they might be able to do while you are in class or studying.  Fortunately, the opportunities in Madrid are endless.

Travel with Family

Of course, there are plenty of museums and cultural events to keep people entertained.  In addition, there are many many parks throughout the city, including the fabulous Parque del Retiro. For outdoor activities, spend the day biking or hiking at Casa de Campo.

family-churrosMadrid also has wonderful amusement parks, zoos, and water parks that will keep children of all ages happy. For a wonderful zoo very close to Vicálvaro, try Faunia. If you don’t see an animal that you’re looking for there, try the Zoo and Aquarium. This wonderful zoo also has a large shark tank, a dolphin show, a sea lion show, and two different types of bird shows.

If amusement parks are what you are looking for, try the Parque de Atracciones. This is Madrid’s local theme park.  For an amusement park full of familiar cartoon characters, try the Warner Brothers Amusement Park.  If water parks are your thing, try one of Madrid’s two Aquópolis water parks.