Madrid Barajas Airport Spotting Guide

With almost 47,0 Mio passengers in 2015, Madrid is one of the biggest airports in Europe and always worth a visit. Its a known gateway from Europe to South America, and carriers like Avianca, LATAM Group and Aeromexico are regular visitors. Iberia and Air Europa as well as the low cost carriers Vueling, Ryanair and Easyjet are the big players in Barajas. Ibera has their complete long haul fleet based there.
Cubana operates the unique IL-96 for their scheduled flights from Havana to MAD and Conviasa from Venezuela use a 747 for there only destination in Europe. Spanish Charter airlines like Privilege, Wamos Air, Evelop and Plus Ultra have ther operational base in Madrid. The spanish Cargo operators Cygnus Air and Swiftair have their base in MAD. Latter also operates flights for Air Europa.

Due to the wide areal of MAD and the distance between the south and north approach, spotting can become a bit tricky. There is no favorite wind direction and they can switch the landing direction more than once a day. It will take at least 20 minutes by car to get from one end of the airport to the other.

Written by Julian Mittnacht, Jeremy Denton, Jozsef Soos (last update September 2016)

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Airline Variety
Photo Locations
Weather
Airport Information Runways 14R/32L 14L/32R
4.100 m (13.451 ft) 3.500 m (11.482 ft)
18L/36R 18R/36L
3.500 m (11.482 ft) 4.349 m (14.268 ft)
Terminals Terminal 1 Terminal 2 Terminal 3
Air Europa, Easyjet, Ryanair, mixed
Intercontinental Flights (widebodies)
Air Europa, Star Alliance Air Europa, Air France, KLM
Terminal 4 Terminal 4 – Satellite
mainly Iberia/oneworld members, Vueling mainly Iberia/oneworld members
Intercontinental and non-schengen flights
Spotting Information Ladder Not needed
Car Is needed for most spots. Also a GPS is useful as the street system is not the easiest.
Only the southern spots and Barajas spotting hill are accessable by public tranpsort or a hotel shuttle bus. To reach the northern spots is almost impossible without a car.
Restrooms Not next to all locations, closest facilities are tagged on the map.
Drinks/Food Not next to all locations, closest facilities are tagged on the map.
Hotels Many Hotels are located along the motorway A-2 and usually they have a free shuttle bus from the terminals.
Season There is no special season but its very hot in the summer and heat haze can be a problem at some positions. But we recommend May till October because you can visit the morning locations too which is almost impossible in winter. Otherwise you will miss a lot of interesting traffic that arrives only during the morning!
Runway Usage  General Info The airport is splitted between the eastern runways 18L/36R-14L/32R and the western runways 18R/36L-14R/32L. Usuallay all flights that cross the Atlantic (from America) arrive on the western runways as well as flights from Western Spain, Canary Islands, UK, Ireland and Maroc.
The eastern runways are used by all other flights from Europe, Asia and Arabia
14R/32L Southern Winds = 14R for departures only
Nothern Winds = 32L for arrivals only
14L/32R Southern Winds = 14L for departures only
Nothern Winds = 32R for arrivals only
18L/36R Southern Winds = 18L for arrivals only
Nothern Winds = 36R for departures only
18R/36L Southern Winds = 18R for arrivals only
Nothern Winds = 36L for departures only

Spot #1 – Carrefour – 32 L arrivals
WHERE The spot is located on the parking of the Carrefour supermarket. Its an alternative to spot #2 as you have a better angle and easier access. The disadvantage is the higher focal length. The access to this market is only from the A-2 heading to Madrid or Saragossa so be sure you get on this road. Stay in the middle of the parking lot.
WHAT You get arrivals on 32L only.  There are some huge power lines along the access road but the aircrafts are above those.
TIME In the summer only from sunrise until noon. In the winter the sun is not really long on this side.
MISC. The carrefour supermarket is just next to you with free WiFi, restrooms and a Burger King.
FOCAL LENGTH 747 = 250mm, A346 = 190mm, A320 = 350mm

Spot #2 – Purification Plant – 32L arrivals
WHERE This is an alternative to spot #1 as you are closer to the action. Disadvantage is the bad access and angle. From the Holiday Inn Hotel, take the road Calle Lola Flores, turn on the roundabout on the left, continue strait to the next one, turn on the right then directly on the right and before the highway start take the road on your right. Follow this road until the end you’ll take on the right to be on Acceso Diecinueve, continue strait then exit, to Av. Barcelona, take the road on the left Av. Aragon (the road cross the highway above. Turn on the right on Ctra. Munoza and finally on the left on the gravy way to the end of the road.
WHAT Arrivals rwy 32L.
TIME In the summer only from sunrise until noon. In the winter the sun stays not really long on this side approxiamte 1-2 hours..
MISC. There is nothing close to this spot. So bring what you need with you.
FOCAL LENGTH 150-300mm
Spot #3 – Av de Aragón – 32L arrivals
WHERE If you stay in one of the hotels along the road (Auditorium, Holiday Inn, SHS Aeropuerto) you can easily walk to this positions within 10-15 minutes. The spot is on a footbridge, between the Hotel Marriot and the Holiday Inn, that covers the Autobahn A2. Stay on the top of the bridge next to the airport because you are much higher than you will be on the sidewalk.
WHAT You get all 32L arrivals and some parts of airport in the far distance.
TIME From late noon until sunset.
MISC. You will find less facilities. Restrooms are in the hotels but we didn’t find a supermarket next to it. If you get hungry go into the hotel. The Autobahn is pretty loud and disturbing and can produce lot of heat haze. If you have a car visit spot #4 instead.
FOCAL LENGTH 200-400 mm
Spot #4 – Servair – 32 L arrivals
WHERE Its next to the catering company “Servair” on a mound just parallel to the runway. To get there by car you have to enter the airports cargo area from the M-14 or M-22. Pass all the cargo buildings on the main road (Ave. Central) and the Servair Building until you reached the last roundabout (the street ends here). Park at the roundabout and climb up the mound and walk along the path to reach the perimeter fence that you already see from the street. Keep in mind there are some roads blocked so access is only possible from two official entrances. (See map). Sometimes there is a security guard at the entrance of the cargo area. But don´t wonder just smile and pass through.

By foot from the hotels at the A-2 to this position. You can walk on the blocked roads and don´t need to make the diversion to the official entrances.

WHAT You get arrivals on 32L only.
TIME From late noon until sunset.
MISC. Nothing nearby but enough shadow. Closest facilities are the hotels by foot.
FOCAL LENGTH 767 = 140mm; 738 = 200mm

Spot #5 – Servair – 14 R departures
WHERE See spot #4 how to get there. But don´t climb up the mound indeed follow the closed road a little bit southwards.
WHAT All departures un RWY 14R.
TIME From late noon until sunset.
MISC. Nothing nearby but enough shadow. Closest facilities are the hotels by foot.
FOCAL LENGTH A330 = 190mm; A319 = 300mm, A321 = 200mm


Spot #6 – Ramp
WHERE See spot #4 how to get there. But this time don´t drive until the end of the main cargo road. After you have passed a the ramp security check to your left and drive through two roundabouts, you can stop your car and park at one of the lots. You can already see the apron and the perimeter fence from the road. There is a path leading to the fence.
WHAT You can photograph pretty different angles from here! Aircrafts using the taxiway A6/A5 after landing and heading to an southern apron position or to Terminal 1´s southern A gates and parts of B. Or departures using the M5/M6 taxiway to head north.
There are many airlines passing by e.g. Conviasa, Wamos Air, Air Europa, Cubana, Plus Ultra, United, Delta…Furthermore you can walk along the perimeter fence eastwards to get planes parked on the cargo ramp, mainly Swiftair and some Bizjets.
There is a fence but you can easily photograph though the mesh with your standard zoom objective. Only planes parked directly in front of you requires a smaller lens diameter.
TIME Depends on what to photograph. Taxiway from sunrise till afternoon. Eastern cargo ramp from afternoon till sunset.
MISC. Nothing nearby. Security passes by pretty often but don´t care about us.
FOCAL LENGTH Depends on motive. Taxiway 747 = 60mm. Parked aircrafts 50 – 200mm


Spot #7 – Terminal 2 – 32L arrivals
WHERE This spot is located on the public side, inside Terminal 2 on the second floor. Use the stairs in the middle of the terminal to the top. Turn left and head to the La Pausa Restaurant. You will see a small passageway with some windows that offers a direct view of the apron.
WHAT Its not the best place as you are behind glass. But its okay if you don’t have much time to visit the other spots. You will get the 32L arrivals at this place as well as some taxiway movements. The runway is in the distance so there will be a lot of heat distortion. Widebodies can be okay but its difficult for single aisle aircrafts.
There shouldn’t be any aircrafts parked in front of you that can restrict your view.
TIME Light is perfect from late noon until evening for 32L arrivals. The taxiway is a North/South direction so light starts to be good later at afternoon.
MISC. Restrooms and restaurants are just next to you.
TERMINAL MAP
FOCAL LENGTH 100-400 mm
Spot #8 – Barajas Hill – taxiway movements
WHERE This is the most popular spot at Madrid and you don’t need a car to get there. By public transport: If you arrive at Madrid Airport, use the Madrid Metro Line 8 to Barajas and exit here. Fare is 1,50 € plus a 3,00 € airport tax (2015). Its a little bit difficult to get to the hill. Exit the station to the left and follow the Av. Logrono until you reach a restaurant on the left side. Than you have to cross the bridge. Hold on that side until you reach the roundabout. You can see infront of you the hill with a transmission tower on the top and a small footpath that leads to the spot. I wouldn’t cross the roundabout, as the cars a pretty fast. Just keep on walking and cross the two exit roads instead, until you reach the footpath (is tagged on the map). Climb up the hill to the tower and follow the footpath until it ends. There you are!
If you arrive by car park at Barajas and use the same way as described above.
WHAT Its good for taxiway pictures and you get all aircrafts that are located in Terminal 1,2 & 3 and passing by for departure on 36L/R. Airlines which are located in the Terminal 4 (not the satellite!) and arrive on 32L will pass you as well. All arrivals on 18L/R heading to Terminal 1&2,3 will pass by too. Departures on 14R are possible but there can be much heat haze on the runway on hot summer days.
TIME From late noon until sunset.
MISC. You are in the middle of nowhere! Its pretty hot in the summer and no shadow is around you. Buy enough to drink in the supermarkets in Barajas!
FOCAL LENGTH 50-300 mm (heavies on the taxiways are pretty close)


 

Spot #9 – Cementery – taxiway movements
WHERE This is an alternative to the Barrajas Hill as its directly and easily accessable by car. Its situated at a dead end road, next to a cementery and some rental car companies. If you are coming from the city on the M-14, pass the terminal 1,2&3 facilities and after a small tunnel exit the road and follow signs to “service Zone”. At the next roundabout use the first exit to the cementery and turn right at the next crossing. Drive along this road until it ends and park at the roundabout.
By foot you can even walk from Barajas as there is a foot bridge crossing the M-14. Should be the same distance if you walk from the metro to spot #8.
WHAT Its similar to spot #8 but furthermore you a better view of the taxiways J/H that are connecting the Terminal 4 with the rest of the airport. Disadvantage is the bigger distance and the result is more heat haze in your pictures.
TIME From late noon until sunset. Taxiway J/H almost the whole day. Recommend during winter only due to the heat distortion.
MISC. Once again you are in the middle of nowhere! Its pretty hot in the summer and no shadow is around you. Buy enough to drink in the supermarkets in Barajas!
FOCAL LENGTH
Spot #10 – Purification Plant – 18R arrivals
WHERE The spot is pretty far away from the terminals and it takes a long ride if coming from the south. Drive from the M-12 northwards and use the exit to the city of Alcobendas. Once there take the first exit at the roundabout (next to a BP station) and drive northwards. At the third roundabout take the first exit. Drive along the smaller road until you reach the purification plant. No its up to you if you park here or continue on a pretty bumpy dirt road. If so pass the bridge under the R-2 and turn left until you can see a big hill. Park your car here and walk up the hill a few meter to get a better angle.
Foot walk from the plant is approximate 5 minutes
WHAT You get arrivals on 18R only. 18L is visible in the far distance. In the winter you might be able to photograph heavies with a 500mm lense. In the summer there is just too much heat.
TIME From afternoon until sunset.
MISC. No shadow and nothing else at this spot. Everything you need is at a big shopping plaza which you have passed minutes before (tagged on the map).
FOCAL LENGTH 767 = 170mm; 734 = 250mm

Spot #11 – Purification Plant – 18L arrivals
WHERE Use the same direction as you used for the spot before. Just continue on the farm track parallel to the motorway. The conditions of the path are much better once you have drive under the bridge. Just the first part is very bumpy. Drive as long as you reach the marked spot on the map. Park your car on the shoulder and don´t block the road. Locals use it too!
WHAT 18L arrivals only. Find your prefered position on the track for perfect angle and focal length.
TIME From afternoon until sunset.
MISC. No shadow and nothing else at this spot. Everything you need is at the big shopping plaza which you have passed minutes before.
FOCAL LENGTH 737 =  300mm; 788 = 250mm


Spot #12 – Gravel Factory – 36R departures
WHERE The spot is on the opposite site of the terminals, next to a gravel factory. If you are come from the city/terminal 1,2&3 on the M-14 take the exit to Paracuellos after you have drove through the tunnel. Just follow the signs to Paracuellos, pass the Barjas Hill Spot, drive trough the tunnel below the airport and continue on the M-111 after the next roundabout. Always follow the road that runs parallel to the ruwnay for 5 minutes. Once you have left the city there is a gas station at the end to your left hand side. At the roundabout use the last exit into a gravel road and drive till the end and park there. The spot is on a field next to the entrance of the factory.
WHAT Best for departures on 36R. You can hear the planes soon enough so you won´t miss them. 36L departures may possible too but you need at least 500mm for a heavy. There is not much heat distortion as this is a morning spot only.
TIME In the summer only from sunrise until noon. In the winter the sun stays not really long on this side.
MISC. No shadow and nothing else at this spot. Toilets and snacks available at the gas station (tagged on the map).
FOCAL LENGTH 738 = 250mm; 772 = 180mm


Spot #13 – Mountain – 32R arrivals
WHERE Exit from the motorway M-50 and drive into the town of Los Berrocales del Jarama. Take the second exit at the roundabout and then take the next left. Parking in the blind alley, on the edge of the road, in front of a barrier. The spot is approximate 500-600m from the parking place and you have to walk through the forrest on a dirt road.
WHAT You get arrivals on 32R only.
TIME In the summer only from sunrise until noon. In the winter the sun stays not really long on this side approxiamte 1-2 hours.
MISC. No shadow and nothing else at this spot.
FOCAL LENGTH A330 = 300mm: 737 = 380mm
Spot #14 – Gravel Road – 32R arrivals
WHERE This location is an alternative to Spot #15 (better angle and closer), but completely different to access. If you are coming from the Avenida de Aragon follow the road eastwards and cross above the highway. Turn right towards the airport. Follow the road until you will see a manned gate with restricted access, however there is a gravel road to your right. Follow this along the small Jarama river until the marked location. You can leave your car on the gravel and spot directly from here.
WHAT You will get all arrivals on RWY 32R.
TIME From afternoon until sunset.
MISC. No shadow and nothing else at this spot, however you are close to your car.
FOCAL LENGTH Approx. 220mm for a B738.

Sorry but we don´t have sample pictures available from this location. If you would like to share some with us, don´t hesitate to contact us!

Spot #15 – Carrefour/Closed Road – 32R arrivals
WHERE Use the same direction as descriped in Spot#1. Park your car in the east corner of the carrefour, next to the Burger King. There is a fence to prevent you from reach the closed road but there is a huge gap exactly in the north/east corner of the areal. Continue on this not finished road until you reach the final position. You can photograph the planes from the market but you are closer if you use our location.
WHAT You get arrivals on 32R only.
TIME From afternoon until sunset.
MISC. No shadow and nothing else at this spot. The carrefour supermarket is just next to you with free WiFi, restrooms and a Burger King.
FOCAL LENGTH A330 = 300mm: 737 = 380mm


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9 thoughts on “Madrid Barajas Airport Spotting Guide

  1. Daniel Stanislaus Martel

    Hello Everybody out there,

    I heard various contracting things about the Restaurant which, as it is the case in other places, spoiled the initial Terraza Mirador.

    Can somebody advise me on the current situation, e.g. Summer 2016? I have rather light (and discrete) camera equipment.

    Are there points in or next to the Iberia terminal as well?

    Your assistance would be highly appreciated.

  2. Alisdair

    Hi, I have just returned from a trip to Madrid. Note that the minimum cost of a metro journey is now €1.50 and they have added a €3.00 tax for any journey starting or ending at an airport station. So, a one-way journey from Terminal 2 to Barajas is €4.50.

    Thanks for the guide, it is very helpful!

  3. John Lloyd

    Just back from Madrid where we spotted for 2 days (June 16th 2015).
    Stayed at the SHS Aeropuerto hotel – free shuttle to all terminals – as we didn’t hire a car and did everything on foot.

    Spot #2 – whilst you can see the aircraft easily, it is an unpleasant location as it is directly above the major road as described. You can actually feel the bridge moving slightly as the traffic goes past ! It is noisy and there is an huge advertising board in the way of the best position as you pan the camera with the planes. We only stayed a few minutes to try it but soon gave up for a more peaceful location.

    Spot #3 – we actually didn’t stay here but went futher across, as the aircraft are still quite high and you are underneath them more than we liked. From the hotel / bridge walk back down the road past spot 3 and at the junction you will see Naranja parking opposite and a rough scrub field next to it. You can either stay here in the field on the sandy mounds ( watch out for the thistles and ants !) or as we did, walk all the way across it to the roundabout straight in front of you. You can then position yourself to suit your preference along this road which leads to the Cargo area I believe – it is not that busy a road but you are able to stand behind the barriers anyway and the small trees give you some shade. Still no facilities of any kind. Photos were still possible from about 1400 hrs when the sun has come round fully until 2130 hrs. The light just gets better as the day goes on. 32R arrivals can also be seen but not read off if you want the registrations.

    Spot #4 – the restaurant as described was disappointing ! We spent the morning there awaiting the sun coming round but :-
    a) the restaurant doesn’t open until 1100 hrs !
    b) the sun is directly in front of you for the whole morning
    c) you can only see the arrivals on 32L and 32R in the far distance plus some of the ramp – none of the Iberia stands / fleet for example

    We found a quiet corridor to the left of the restaurant with very large and clear windows but it is very hot as there is no air con in the area. It has roughly the same view as the restaurant.

    Hope that helps.

    1. JulianJulian Post author

      Hi, thanks for your feedback.

      Regarding Spot #2. Its indeed not the best place but its just a short walk from the hotel.

      Spot #3. We are going to upgrade our guide soon. Thanks for this new info.

      Spot #4. We didn´t wrote that you should stay inside the restaurant! There is a small passage next to it where you can stay. And we never mentioned thats a location for the morning. Its a good place if you wait for your outbound flight and have some minutes left 🙂

      Regarsd
      Julian

  4. Dietrich Eggert

    In the descriptions 1-5, you offer RWY 33L. Should`nt this be RWY 32L?? In the Airport Info on top there is RWY 32L.

    1. JulianJulian Post author

      Hi Dietrich,

      thanks for the info! The runway configuration was changed after our first visit there and we forgot to change it on the rest of the guide.

      Regards
      Julian

    1. JulianJulian Post author

      Sorry but I didn´t spot during the morning but I have seen pictures so there must be a location. Maybe if you follow the Av de Aragón more eastwards you will find an adequate place.

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