The 10 top Things to See & Do in Madrid
There are many things to be done in Madrid, so choosing where to go and what to see can be stressful. Here we profile the ten most fun, interesting and unique things to do in Madrid, so no matter if you are spending two days or ten in this amazing city, you will be sure to have covered the top things the city has to offer.
Visit the museums: Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza; Reina Sofia and Sorolla
Madrid has many beautiful art museums, famous around the world for their majestic architecture and their awe-inspiring permanent collections. Some of the best ones are Museo del Prado, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Museo Reina Sofia and Museo Sorolla. Each of them has different styles of art, ranging from the classic to the contemporary and they often have temporary exhibitions.
Be sure to check out their websites for more information.
Hire a boat in the Retiro
It can be overwhelming to sightsee all day in such a busy city, so if you are tired of all of the hustle and bustle head to Madrid’s most beautiful park, El Retiro, and relax. Lie down on the grass, have a picnic or hire one of the boats and row around the park’s lake. This is something that the locals do too; everyone needs to take a moment to relax and breathe in this amazing city, and going to El Retiro is one of the best things to do in Madrid.
Eat a squid roll while walking around the Plaza Mayor
Squid rolls are one of the most typical dishes in Madrid, and many restaurants and bars sell them around the Plaza Mayor area. One of the best things to do in Madrid is to buy one and eat it while you discover the city’s most famous square. You can enjoy the taste, atmosphere and views of the Spanish capital all at once for an authentic experience.
Visit the Templo de Debod
This is an Egyptian temple that was gifted to Spain in 1968, located on a hilltop by Casa del Campo. Templo de Debod has amazing views of the Palacio Real and Catedral de la Almudena on one side, and of Casa del Campo and the mountains on the other, especially during sunsets and at night. Go here for a relaxing picnic or a stroll and take some incredible photos of the city.
The Royal Palace
The Palacio Real is, of course, one of the must-sees when you are in Madrid. It is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family (although they really reside in the Palacio de la Zarzuela, in the outskirts of the capital), but who knows, if you are lucky you might just stumble upon a royal who is standing behind a closed door! Take in and enjoy the vast art collection and the beautiful Stradivarius that are housed in this majestic palace.
Atocha train station
This train station has a very original ‘jungle’ inside: where you least expect it you will find tropical trees, a beautiful turtle pond and hear birds chirping. The architecture is original and the inside is really one-of-a-kind. Take a train or the metro to another part of Madrid, or even to one of the many towns worth visiting in the surrounding area, such as Alcala de Henares (Cervantes’ hometown) or El Escorial (the site of a beautiful monastery and a town where Spanish royalty used to live).
Stroll around the Puerta del Sol area
Puerta del Sol is right in the center of Madrid, and it is definitely one of the top places to visit when you are in the capital. This is where the locals come to celebrate New Year’s Eve, amongst other things, and it is an iconic landmark of the city (and possibly Spain’s most famous square). Stroll around the area and discover all of the great restaurants, bars and shops whilst enjoying the local culture and the Spanish pace of life.
Shop in Gran Via
Gran Via is undoubtedly one of the busiest and most famous streets in Madrid. All of the typical high-street chains can be found here: Zara, H&M and Bershka all feature, as well as some higher-end boutiques. Check out the Spanish brands (which are more affordable in Spain than elsewhere, of course) to get a good deal and visit one of Spain’s most iconic department stores, El Corte Ingles, which can be found nearby, for all upscale brands and a truly Spanish shopping experience.
This beautiful building houses more than 30 million books and is over 300 years old. The National Library is one of the most interesting and unique places to visit in Madrid. Take one of the guided tours and learn about the history of the building, how its books are preserved and visit its beautiful rooms. If by the end of the tour you still want to spend more time in the library, you can finish the visit on your own and explore it at your own pace.
Go for tapas in La Latina
Tapas are, without a doubt, one of the first things that come to mind when one thinks of Spain. Head to La Latina area for great restaurants and bars, and do as the locals do: order a drink and you will usually get a free tapa, then head over to the next bar. You will not only discover the neighborhood but you will also be able to taste a great variety of Spanish tapas at an affordable price!
Written by Sonia Cuesta for The Culture Trip