The Spanish capital is a stylish and vibrant hub of activity, with too many attractions to pack into just one visit. Here we offer our 20 favorite things to do in Madrid, just to whet your appetite.
1. Madrid’s Art Triangle
Madrid is renowned for its world-class art collections, most of which are displayed in three galleries within close proximity of each other. The Museo del Prado is the most popular attraction in the city. It houses works by iconic artists including Goya, Rubens and Bosch. The Reina Sofia is a modern glass and steel structure, housing mainly 20th Century art by the likes of Picasso and Dali. The triangle is completed by the eclectic collection at the Thyssen-Bornemisza.
2. The Royal Palace
The Spanish Royal Family no longer live in this palace but the opulent late-Baroque building is worth a visit in its own right. Tourists can explore all the main areas, including the state rooms, the Throne Room and even the King’s dressing room!
3. Circulo de Bellas Artes
This major arts center is most famous for its rooftop terrace, which offers stunning views across the whole of Madrid. It’s an excellent spot to relax with a drink while you identify the city’s main landmarks against a backdrop of the setting sun.
4. El Oso y el Madrono
This translates as “The Bear and the Strawberry Tree,” and that’s exactly what this iconic sculpture depicts! Standing over 13 feet tall, the sculpture is a main meeting point right in the center of Madrid. No visit to the city is considered complete unless you’ve had your picture taken with it!
5. El Rastro
Taking place in the Embajadores district each Sunday, El Rastro is Madrid’s most famous market. Here you can find crafts, jewelry, clothes, vinyl records and a whole lot more, all at bargain prices!
6. Parks and Green Spaces
The people of Madrid love their green spaces. The largest and most popular is the Casa de Campo, which covers 6.6 square miles and is home to Madrid Zoo. For a more unusual outdoor experience, head to the Parque del Buen Retiro, which offers some lovely walks as well as regular puppet shows!
Madrid has long been associated with style and offers a variety of shopping options to suit all budgets. C/ Fuencarral is Madrid’s main shopping area, where you’ll find high street names along with beauty products and jewelry. There are plenty of bargains to be grabbed at the Las Rozas Village outlet, or if you’re looking for exclusive designer fashion, head to C/ Serrano – Prada, Armani, Loewe and many other designer labels can be found here.
8. Plaza Mayor
The main square in Madrid, Plaza Mayor is renowned for being one of Spain’s most attractive open spaces. From here you can access the laneways that lead outwards to the rest of the city and take in the architecture surrounding the square, which has been at the heart of city life since the 17th Century.
9. Templo de Debod
In the downtown area of Madrid you can find a genuine Egyptian temple! Originally located on the banks of Lake Nasser in Egypt, it was saved from flooding by being sent block by block to Spain, where it was reconstructed in the capital.
10. Sample the Local Cuisine
The people of Madrid love their food and the restaurants are friendly and welcoming here. Head to Cava Alta and Cava Baja, where many of them are located. Don’t forget to try the local specialty dishes – the main one of these is a stew called Cocido, or if you’re feeling really brave you could opt for a calamari sandwich!
11. Plaza de Santa Ana
A popular meeting place for Madrid’s artistic crowd, the Plaza de Santa Ana contains statues of the writers Calderon de la Barca and Federico Garcia Lorca. You can find this attractive and peaceful square at the heart of the Huertas district.
12. The Gran Via
This is the main tourist route through the city, beginning at the iconic domed Metropolis building and leading to the Plaza de Espana. Along the way you’ll find a variety of landmarks, cafes and bars, including the popular celebrity hangout, the Museo Chicote.
13. Paseo de la Castellana
Madrid’s main financial district also houses some exclusive shopping. The Natural Science Museum can be found along this strip, as can the Santiago Bernabeu soccer stadium, home of Real Madrid.
If you want a traditional Spanish tavern, head to Malasana, or try Tribunal for the city’s most famous clubbing venues. Live music is also hugely popular here, with jazz, blues, acoustic and rock being served up every night at various venues throughout the city.
15. Museo Lazaro Galdiano
This beautiful Italian-style mansion was the home of businessman Don Jose Lazaro Galdiano, who donated his private collection of art and historical artifacts to the city when he died. Today you can see them on display in his former home.
16. The World’s Oldest Restaurant
Established in 1725, the Restaurante Sobrino de Botin is recognized in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest restaurant in the world. It serves traditional Spanish fare in an old-world atmosphere.
17. The Gay Center
Chueca is known as Madrid’s “Gay Center,” which offers some of the best-known and friendliest clubs in the city. Take in the atmosphere at the Plaza de Chueca at the heart of the district. For the biggest party of the year, don’t miss the Gay Pride festival at the end of June.
The people of Madrid love to celebrate. Festivals are held regularly throughout the spring and summer to commemorate various historical events. Expect live music, street stalls and a carnival atmosphere!
19. Go Skiing
The mountains that surround Madrid are a popular skiing destination. The largest and most visited resort here is Valdesqui, which boasts 27 runs suitable for different levels of ability.
20. Just outside the city…
Some of the sights surrounding Madrid are as memorable and beautiful as those within it. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Aranjuez, with its stunning palace gardens, or take in the San Lorenzo del Escorial Monastery while you’re here.