Madrid, the capital of Spain, sometimes ignored by travellers over the more touristy Barcelona. But we’re here to show you why Madrid should not be missed out, whether you’re travelling around Europe or if you’re wanting a jam-packed city break. This massive city certainly needs time to be explored and if you’re not careful it’s easy to leave feeling disappointed that you didn’t see all of the sights. There are unquestionably many things to do in Madrid, so here are our suggested top 14 things to do in Madrid.
1. Stroll along Gran Via
Walk along this buzzing avenue, Madrid’s entertainment, cultural and shopping street. Expect to find high street shops, luxury boutiques, cinemas and even a number of musicals. No matter your taste, you’ll be sure to find something that tickles your fancy. A night owl? This is also the place to find some of Madrid’s top nightclubs.
Top tip: Look out for the most photographed site in Madrid, the famous Metrópolis building with its gorgeous dome and bronze statue.
2. Visit the Royal Palace of Madrid
One of Madrid’s top attractions, The Royal Palace is the largest building in Madrid and even the largest palace in western Europe. You can choose to appreciate the elegant architecture from outside or pay to admire 50 out of the 3418 rooms, pretending to be a prince or princess for the day! Overlooking the hills to the west of Madrid, the square in front of the place is also a popular place to watch the sunset.
Price: Basic admission €10
Location: Calle de Bailén, s/n, 28071 Madrid
For more information click here.
3. Explore the city on a Free Walking Tour
Many major European cities now offer ‘free walking tours’ whereby you meet at a pre-arranged meeting point with a group of other tourists and are taken around the city. At the end of the tour, you pay what you think the tour was worth. A cheap and cheerful way to see what Madrid has to offer. It’s also a fantastic way to learn about the city and its interesting history.
Top tip: Take the tour on your first day in Madrid. It’s a great introduction to the city and you’ll then have a better idea of how to explore yourself and what to see.
For more information: Sandemans New Europe Tour
4. Bocadillo De Calamares
When most people think of food in Spain, they think of tapas, pinchos, paella and more tapas! Who’d have thought that a calamari sandwich was a popular dish in Madrid? Head down to Bar La Campana, next to Plaza Mayor and try this local treat! Grab a beer with this delicious delight and sit back with the locals in the cosy, atmospheric bar.
Location: Calle Botoneras, 6, 28012 Madrid
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5. Escape the hustle of the city in Retiro Park
Retiro Park, situated right in the heart of the city, is a green oasis to relax and unwind. Don’t worry, it’s not any old park, instead, you’ll find all kinds of magnificent monuments, gardens, a lake and even a palace! Spend the afternoon strolling through the many gardens, following the peacocks through the maze-like bushes and watching the locals as they go about their daily routines. Don’t forget to check out the Palacio De Cristal, or The Crystal Palace, built in 1887, it is made entirely out of glass and is a great spot for a photo.
Top tip: Don’t miss the Alcala Gate at the entrance to the park. It’s one of Madrid’s best-known landmarks and another great photo spot.
Location: Plaza de la Independencia, 7, 28001 Madrid
6. Rent a boat on the lake
Also situated in Retiro Park (we told you it was a great park!), is this popular spot, where locals and tourists alike, go to sunbathe or chill on the cool steps. Whilst the lake itself is just beautiful to look at, the main attraction is to hire a rowing boat. A perfect start to a lovely summer’s day. Sit back and watch the ducks or even bring a picnic!
Top tip: Arrive early when the lake opens at 9 am. We were the first to hire a boat and had the lake to ourselves.
Price: €6-8 per rowing boat
7. Eat churros at Chocolateria San Gines 1894
Hidden away in a little alleyway, San Gines is a must do in Madrid. This authentic cafe is famous for its churros and pot of melted chocolate. Although this treat might be calorific, it’s definitely worth the extra walking you’ll have to do.
Price: €4 – 6 churros and 1 pot of chocolate
Location: Pasadizo de San Ginés, 5, 28013 Madrid
Fun fact: We found this place by pure accident. We were walking back to our accommodation one day when we saw a huge queue! Obviously, we had to investigate and we never looked back!
8. Watch the sunset at Templo de Debod
Madrid boasts some great spots to watch the sunset but Templo de Debod is the most unique. This Egyptian temple dates back to the second century BC and was sent to Madrid by the Egyptian government block by block! Surrounded by water, the temple is free to explore and is a great place to end your busy day exploring Madrid.
Location: Calle Ferraz, 1, 28008 Madrid
Top tip: Stay until after sunset to see the temple light up and enjoy the ambience of street performers and live music.
9. People watch in Plaza Mayor
With nine different entrances, this popular renaissance square in the city is filled with cafes, restaurants and beautiful three-story residential buildings looking out onto the square. Grab a café con leche from one of the many cafes, sit back and watch the world go by.
Top tip: The restaurants and cafes in the popular Plaza Mayor are all very expensive and what can be known as ‘tourist traps’. We recommend buying no more than a drink to enjoy the ambience and spend your well-earned money elsewhere!
10. Visit Santiago Bernabéu Stadium
A must do in Madrid for any football fanatic! Whether you support the team or not, Real Madrid is Europe’s most successful football team to date and you’re sure to have a great day out at the stadium. Try and bag yourself a ticket for a game or if you’re not there on match day, choose to take a tour around the 81,000-seater stadium. The tour will grant you panoramic views of the stadium, a walk onto the pitch and through the players’ tunnel, as well as an up-close look at all of the trophies.
Price: From €25
Location: Av. de Concha Espina, 1, 28036 Madrid
For more information click here.
Flamenco is a must see whilst in Spain. Admittedly, the flamenco dance is more prominent in the South region, however, a trip to Madrid would not be complete without witnessing this fancy dance with your own eyes. Listen to the mesmerising music, awe at the colourful costumes and sit back and relax whilst eating the delicious Spanish cuisine. Check out Cardamomo for current prices and show times.
12. Mercado de San Miguel
Who doesn’t love a great, big food market? This market is not far from the popular Plaza Mayor. Full to the brim with fresh fruits, local delights, stalls and restaurants, this is the place to go if like me, you like to try everything. Look at it as a giant buffet and make your way around, filling your bellies for as little as €10. This is also a great place for late night drinks and tapas.
Location: Plaza de San Miguel – 10am-midnight
13. Restaurant Botín
Always wanted to dine at the world’s oldest restaurant? Well, you can, right here in Madrid. Restaurant Botín was founded in 1725 and has been serving traditional Castilian dishes in the same wood fire oven for all of that time. This restaurant is even mentioned in Ernest Hemingways ‘The Sun Also Rises’ and Hemingway himself was a frequent visitor, always sitting at the same corner table. Although the Botín dining experience may be a little on the expensive side, it’s definitely worth the extra cash and to be able to tick it off of your bucket list. If you do decide to dine, you will need to make a reservation as the restaurant quickly fills up.
Location: Calle Cuchilleros, 17, 28005 Madrid
For more information click here.
14. Museums, museums, museums.
Although we wouldn’t class ourselves as ‘museum people’ we couldn’t leave this blog post without mentioning the countless museums in Madrid. If you’re on a strict budget then spending a day in Madrid’s museums could save you some cash. Many museums offer free admission on certain days and times. The two most famous museums in Madrid are Museo Nacional del Prado and Museo Reina Sofía.
To find out more about Madrid’s museums and find out when you can visit with free admission click here.
What are your favourite things to do in Madrid?
If you think we’ve missed something amazing out, let us know in the comments! If you enjoyed reading our top things to do in Madrid why don’t you check out our three day Madrid itinerary?