Right in the heart of Spain lies the country's capital - the famous and glorious city of Madrid. Undeniably the largest city in the country, Madrid is very cosmopolitan and contemporary, full of wonderful museums and charming green spaces, where all kinds of cultures mix. In this city of elegant and lively boulevards and large, well-kept parks, there are many attractions to discover and historic corners full of charm for you to stroll through. In Madrid you will find neighborhoods of all kinds, with centuries-old traditional family taverns and restaurants, and museums that display the most impressive works of art in the world. Definitely a city with a unique beauty and authenticity! Here we will show you the top 15 things to do in Madrid so you can enjoy the city to the fullest.
Take a relaxing walk in the Parque del Retiro
The Parque del Retiro is a green refuge in the heart of Madrid and is considered to be the lungs of the city. With about 118 hectares, this peaceful park was laid out in the 17th century and designed by Italian landscape architect Cosme Lotti. It is definitely one of the best places to relax and unwind in Madrid and one of the most popular parks for tourists and locals to stroll or practice sports. Full of cultural and architectural attractions, great walking trails, artwork and fountains, this green oasis is the city's main urban park. On weekends, Parque del Retiro is full of people and activities, and even some musicians and other artists showcasing their skills. The Palacio de Cristal, a greenhouse full of exotic plants, is the standout building in this idyllic park. It is easy to see why Retiro Park is included in the World Heritage List of UNESCO! Take a look at the ahuehuete (Taxodium mucronatum), probably the oldest tree in the city, planted around 1630, or enjoy the artificial lake and take a nice boat ride. You can also do the Passeo Argentina, the so-called statue tour, where you will find statues of several Spanish kings. Enjoy this green oasis and escape the hustle and bustle of this lively city!
Go see the “Guernica” at the Museo Reina Sofía (and admire other works of art too)
The Museo Reina Sofia is part of the famous "Golden Triangle of Art" in Madrid. The museum was named after Sofia, queen consort of Juan Carlos, who was king of Spain for almost 40 years. It is housed in a former 18th century hospital and is a national museum dedicated to 20th century Spanish art. It has a beautiful permanent collection but it hosts many temporary exhibitions too. Picasso's "Guernica" is the museum's most famous work of art and the one that attracts the most visitors, although the museum also exhibits artwork by Salvador Dalí and Joan Miró, for example. According to the museum, the government of the Spanish Republic acquired the "Guernica" mural from Picasso in 1937. During the World War II, the artist decided that the painting should remain in the care of New York's Museum of Modern Art for safekeeping, and the work finally returned to Spain in 1981. This huge painting was conceived as a giant poster and was said to be a "declaration of war against war and a manifesto against violence".
Admire the artwork at the Museo Nacional del Prado
The Prado National Museum is one of the most popular and recognized places in the art world and is also part of the “Golden Triangle of Art”. Surrounded by trees and emblematic monuments, the Prado National Museum is the first museum that appears in the most visited tourist route in the capital, the Paseo del Arte. In this museum you will be able to admire the world’s largest and most important collection of Goya and Velázquez paintings (but there are many more masterpieces by great painters). Diego Velázquez’s “Las Meninas” and Francisco de Goya’s “La Maja Desnuda and La Maja Vestida” are probably the most famous paintings in the museum. There is a rich collection of sculptures, drawings, etchings, coins, medals and decorative art pieces, and the museum has the most complete collection of Spanish paintings from the 11th to the 17th centuries. In addition, the museum also displays the most important works of Flemish and Italian painting, as well as remarkable examples of German, French and English art. There are themed rooms, dedicated to the Italian Renaissance, for example. The Prado National Museum is undoubtedly one of the richest museums in the world!
Try the famous churros with chocolate
Every visitor in Madrid must try the famous churros with hot chocolate, because they are a national culinary treasure! This delicacy is the specialty of Chocolatería San Ginés, a historic café located in the Pasadizo de San Ginés, near Puerta del Sol, in the heart of Madrid. Since 1894, the tradition of selling this fried dough pastry has been maintained here. The pastries are still made in the traditional way! These delicious treats became popular because back in the day people leaving the nearby Teatro Eslava were looking for a late-night snack. Since then, chocolate churros have gained a certain status as one of Madrid's culinary specialties. The façade of the café, also known as "La Escondida" (The Hidden One), appeared in various films and literary works. This place was a meeting point for literary figures of the late 19th century. The traditionally furnished café is undoubtedly one of the most touristy places in Madrid!
Visit the majestic Palacio Real
The Royal Palace is one of Madrid’s top sights and it is easy to see why. This sumptuous building is the largest royal palace in Western Europe and one of the largest in the world. It has more than 3,000 stunning rooms, with countless magnificent tapestries, beautiful ceiling frescoes and marvellous chandeliers, unique in the world. In truth, this palace has witnessed centuries of Spanish history, having been the seat of the monarch since the city became the capital under Philip II. It is one of the few official Heads of State residences open to the public. The Royal Palace dates back to the 18th century but it sits on the site of the old Alcázar of Madrid, which was a medieval fortress. Among the various different rooms, the Salón de Gasparini, the Salón de Columnas (Column Room) and the Sálon del Trono (Throne Room) stand out for their majestic beauty. The palace also houses paintings by Velázquez, Goya, Rubens, El Greco and Caravaggio, so in a way it is almost like a museum! Today, the Royal Palace is still used for audiences and official events. Visiting this palace is definitely one of the most unforgettable experiences you will have in Madrid!
Explore the gastronomic richness of Spain in the Mercado de San Miguel
The Mercado de San Miguel, built in 1916, is one of Madrid’s oldest and loveliest markets. Here, you can sample many different tapas and buy all kinds of products. With more than twenty stalls selling snacks, ham, fish, cheese, olives and wine, among others, this market aims to reflect the gastronomic richness of Spain with quality products. The traditional market is located in an emblematic building, the only one built with an iron structure that has been preserved to this day. At the market you can do your daily shopping, participate in activities and exhibitions, taste products and have a drink. This place brings together top professionals, tradespeople and cooking enthusiasts. Here you will find all the highlights of Spanish cuisine! There is also a Centro de Cultura Culinária in the market, where presentations and fairs are held. It is easy to see why the market has been declared a Bien de Interés Cultural (Place of Cultural Interest). It is undoubtedly the gastronomic temple of the city and a meeting place for foodies!
Walk through the Plaza Mayor, the largest square of the city
The Plaza Mayor, inaugurated in 1620, is the largest square in Madrid and a pleasant open space in which to stroll at your leisure. This rectangular square with arcades all around, just a few meters from the Puerta del Sol and the Royal Palace, was the scene of coronations, executions, festivals, theatrical performances, bullfights, processions of the Inquisition and more. In this square you will find the famous statue of Felipe III, one of the most valuable works of art to be found in the streets of Madrid. In Plaza Mayor you will also find many traditional shops as well as numerous bars and restaurants. Enter the square through one of the many archways, admire the balconies facing the center of the square and marvel at the façade of the Casa de la Panadería, covered in incredible frescoes.
Visit the Puerta del Sol and admire the famous clock tower
This is the central square of Madrid and a popular meeting place. You will be fascinated by the beautiful façades and you will be able to admire the famous clock, whose chimes have been ringing in the New Year since 1962. The oldest building on Puerta del Sol is the Real Casa de Correos, which incorporates the clock tower. Another main attraction in this square is the Kilometro Cero (Zero Kilometer), the point where the Spanish radial roads begin. At Puerta del Sol you will also find the statue of El Oso y El Madroño (The Bear and the Strawberry Tree), which has been a symbol of Madrid since the Middle Ages, as there were bears in the surrounding forests at the time. It was built in 1967 and is one of the most popular meeting places in the city. From this square you can easily reach practically all the main attractions of Madrid!
Admire the imponent Real Basílica de San Francisco el Grande
n the southwest of the La Latina neighborhood, you will find this neoclassical basilica with a majestic yellow façade, a huge dome and a richly decorated interior. Around the dome is a series of eight images celebrating the glorification of Mary. The chapel of San Bernardino de Siena, which contains a beautiful painting by Francisco de Goya, is also noteworthy. The site where this basilica was built was once a Franciscan convent, founded, according to legend, by Saint Francis of Assisi himself in the 13th century. In 1761, this basilica was begun by Francisco Cabezas and it was completed by Francisco Sabatini and Miguel Fernández in 1784. Admire the artistic richness of its interior, such as the extensive collection of paintings by Spanish artists and the magnificent white marble sculptures, as well as the impressive dome, the largest in Spain!
Go visit the Templo de Debod by sunset
This is without a doubt one of the most curious monuments in Madrid. This building dates back to the 2nd century BC and was originally on Egyptian land. Nowadays, you can find it in the Parque de la Montaña, near the Plaza de España. This beautiful temple is one of the architectural remnants of the Egyptian civilization and is surrounded by a fountain and gardens. It is the oldest monument in Madrid and preserves the original interior decoration. Inside the building you can read about Egyptian society and hieroglyphics. This temple has about 2 200 years of history and was a gift from Egypt to Spain in gratitude for their cooperation in saving the temples in Nubia. It was opened in 1972 and transported to Spain stone by stone. The temple is surrounded by beautiful gardens where you can walk, relax or have a picnic. At sunset, the monument unfolds a special magic.
Do some antique shopping at El Rastro
El Rastro is the most popular open-air flea market in Madrid and one of the oldest in Europe. Its origins date back to the 15th century! This market takes place every Sunday and public holiday of the year and covers several streets and alleys. The market is located between the La Latina neighbourhood and the Embajadores neighbourhood. One of the most common routes is to walk from the top (the popular Cascorro square) to the bottom (the Puerta de Toledo Market). At El Rastro you will find a wide variety of products, both used and new. In fact, you will find a little bit of everything here! From antiques, decorative items, clothing, jewellery and crafts to cosmetics, furniture, toys, old flamenco records and many other items. Currently, there are more than 1,000 street vendors at El Rastro Market. A visit to this market is a great way to experience Madrid's culture and popular arts and crafts. Visit the different stalls set up along the streets and buy some souvenirs. There are true treasures just waiting to be discovered!
Enjoy the late afternoon on a beautiful terrace
There are several terraces in Madrid where you can enjoy the late afternoon and watch the sunset while having a drink and relaxing after a day of sightseeing! The terrace at El Corte Inglès in Plaza del Callao is a great choice. It is one of the best viewpoints in Madrid and is located on the terrace at the very top of the building, on the 9th floor. Here you will have a breathtaking view over Gran Vía, the buildings in Plaza de España and the historic area around the Royal Palace. The terrace of the Palacio de Cibeles, which is another impressive viewpoint, is also a must-visit! Known as Mirador Madrid, this viewpoint is located on the eighth floor of the building's central tower, but there is a fee to enter. Finally, you can always enjoy a drink on the rooftop of the Círculo Bellas Artes in Madrid, a panoramic bar that offers beautiful views of Gran Vía and the Metrópolis building. It is probably the most impressive viewpoint in the city!
Taste the delicious tapas in Calle de la Cava Baja
Calle de la Cava Baja goes from Plaza de Puerta Cerrada to Plaza del Humilladero. In this lively street, every door leads to a tapas bar or restaurant! It is one of the main streets of the La Latina neighborhood and is famous precisely because of its numerous tapas bars, taverns and restaurants where you can enjoy traditional and typical tapas of the region. In addition, many of these popular bars also have live music, making it the ideal street to go out and have fun in the evening! This is probably one of the liveliest streets in Madrid. If you want to enjoy the best tapas and the best wines, this street is a must! And why not go on a tapas tour? There is nothing better than trying a little bit of everything!
Explore the historic Barrio de las Letras
In the center of Madrid, you will find the Barrio de Las Letras (also known as the Huertas district), the neighborhood where some of the most famous writers of the Golden Century of Spanish literature (17th century), such as Miguel de Cervantes and Francisco de Quevedo, lived and wrote. Several streets are named after some of these well-known writers. In this neighborhood, you can walk through the small pedestrian streets and stroll through the beautiful squares, like the Plaza de Santa Ana, surrounded by bars and restaurants with lovely terraces. This square quickly became a meeting point for the city’s intellectual life and a place of choice for artists to gather. This legacy is actually immortalized by the statues of Calderón de la Barca and Federico García Lorca. In this square, you will find the Teatro Español, Madrid’s oldest theatre. On the floor of some of the streets at this barrio, you can even read some excerpts from the great classics of Spanish literature. You will also find several traditional places with centuries of history (but there is also no shortage of more modern spaces)! Explore the old bookstores, the traditional taverns and the lively streets.
Relax and take a walk at the Casa de Campo
This natural space is the largest public park in Madrid. It is a green oasis, rich in ecosystems and great biodiversity. A real lung for the city! Inside, there are several attractions, such as the amusement park, the lake, the swimming pool (one of the most popular in Madrid), the zoo and the cable car. With over 1,700 hectares, Casa de Campo consists of miles of gardens, nature and beautiful views, with a wide variety of plants and birds. For those who enjoy walking along extensive trails, practicing outdoor sports and admiring wild flowers and diverse flora and fauna, this destination of great ecological value is a must-see! The perfect place for a stroll on a beautiful sunny day. Take the opportunity to go on a cable car ride and be swept away by the breathtaking views! Beautiful photos are guaranteed.
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