Madrid’s 12 Best Things to Do

Madrid has a rich history and is an amazing city. The Spanish capital is home to many attractions and sights, including architectural marvels, world-class cuisine, famed museums of art, and an Egyptian temple. These are the 12 must-see experiences.

Image alt=”People walking through the corridors of Madrid’s Prado Gallery, looking at art.” class=”lazyload rounded shadow-md” data-src=”″ data-srcset=” 1x, 2x, 3x, 4x, 5x” data-testid=”article-img” title=”shutterstockRF_453303412.jpg” typeof=”foaf:Image” width=”850″/>
You will find a variety of internationally-acclaimed artworks in the Prado (c) Trabantos/Shutterstock

The Golden Triangle of Art is open to you

Madrid’s “Golden Triangle of Art” consists of three museums: the Museo del Prado and Reina Sofia, which are all home to the most important art collections in the world. These museums are worth a visit, even if you don’t usually like galleries.

Many masterpieces of Spanish artist Diego Velazquez and Francisco Goya can be found at the Prado. The most well-known work is Velazquez’s ‘Las Meninas,’ an oil on canvas painting that has been regarded as one of the greatest in Western art. It is located in Room 12.

While the Reina Sofia is the Spanish National Museum for 20th Century Art, it also houses impressive collections by Pablo Picasso and Surrealist artists Salvador Dali, as well as Picasso’s huge antiwar oil painting, ‘Guernica.

The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza is the last of these private collections. It was once home to nearly 1000 works of art by some of America’s most renowned European and American artists. This is a feast for art lovers.

img alt=”A man eats tapas at a counter of the Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid. class=”lazyload rounded shadow-md” data-src=”″ data-srcset=” 1x, 2x, 3x, 4x, 5x” data-testid=”article-img” title=”Mercado San Miguel Market in Madrid” typeof=”foaf:Image” width=”850″/>
Get along locals to hop between the tapas spots in the city. (c) Chalffy / Getty Images

Take part in a tapas crawl

Tapas hopping, also known as ‘ir des tapas’ in Spanish, is an American pastime that is enjoyed before dinner. It is usually eaten from 9:00 pm to midnight. Tapa is small plates of food that are accompanied by a glass or wine.

After work, you can meet locals and go from tapas bar one to another to try a variety of Iberian cheeses, hams, and charcuterie. Cava Baja is a street that’s popular in La Latina, the historical neighbourhood, on Sunday afternoons. It has a variety of bars, restaurants, and taverns, perfect for casual tapas crawls.

El Rastro’s flea market is in existence for more than 400 years. (c) Vanessa Galvan/Getty Images

The Rastro flea marketplace is a great place to shop

Participate in an 400-year-old shopping tradition every Sunday at El Rastro’s flea market. El Rastro is open from 9am to 3:00pm. It runs along La Latina’s Plaza de Cascorro and La Ribera de Curtidores.

You can also find beautiful vintage furniture at extremely affordable prices here. You should bring cash with you to these vendors. Otherwise, it will be difficult to find the right machine.

Teleferico: Ride it

The Teleferico de Madrid, which connects with Casa de Campo (the city’s green lung), offers the most spectacular views from the skyline of Madrid.

It has 80 cabins that can hold six passengers and travels nearly 2500m. The Teleferico can be climbed to 40m and provides spectacular views of both the Casa de Campo and city below.

Sobrino De Botin, the oldest restaurant on the planet and Hemmingway’s favourite spot (c) Krzysztof Dydynski/ Lonely Planet

Follow Hemingway’s steps

Signs in Madrid stating that Hemingway didn’t drink there are a common joke. The American literary genius, affectionately known as “Don Ernesto”, was a Madrid sybarite. He loved to drink and eat while covering the Spanish Civil War as an international journalist.

Hemingway fans can follow his path and visit some of his favorite haunts, such as El Sobrino de Botin. This 16-century-old cellar houses dusty wine bottles, while Guinness World Records calls it the oldest restaurant in the world. Hemingway used to visit La Venencia in dimly lit bar. This bar is almost frozen in time due to its large molasses stained wooden barrels and antique cash register.

An arched glass and iron building in front of a lake with a fountain in the middle
Although once used as a greenhouse by the grand Palacio de Cristal, it is now used to exhibit art (c) Julian Elliot Photographs / Getty Images

Explore Retiro Park

Madrid’s most well-known park, covering 118 hectares, was previously reserved for Spanish royalty, and the aristocracy. It was opened to the public in 1921. The park’s renowned ‘El Retiro” is decorated with fountains and statues honoring Spanish authors and heroes. There are also gazebos and open-air cafes. There are many landscaping options available in the park, including French-inspired lawns and tree-lined paths. The romantic La Rosaleda rose gardens, which boasts over 4000 roses, is also on display.

There are many landmarks within the park, such as the Monument to Alfonso XII that depicts former Spanish king atop a horse. The “The Fallen Angel”, a public Lucifer statue which is one of only a few in the world and Madrid’s oldest tree, was also located in the grounds. Palacio de Cristal is an iron-and-glass architectural wonder that hosts occasional events and shines brilliantly onto the water of the nearby lake.

Cardamomo is one of the best places in Madrid to watch flamenco (c) Krzysztof Dydynski/ Lonely Plane

Flamenco shows on video

Although flamenco’s birthplace is located in Andalusia, southern Spain, it can be seen live in Madrid. Unesco has also listed the Spanish dance as an immaterial cultural heritage. A full entertainment package is provided by tapas, dinner, and beverages.

The spectacle can be seen in large, touristy places like Teatro Flamenco and Cardomomo, or small, intimate venues like Las Tablas. These venues are able to accommodate the huge flamenco performers they host. The Corral de la Moreria, a small space with a Michelin-starred chef, offers a luxurious dining experience.

You are in central Spain

Puerta del Sol (or simply Sol) is Madrid’s main public square. The Plaza’s central building is the Casa de Correos, a former post office. Every New Year’s Eve, thousands gather to enjoy the twelve traditional grapes.

Sol is the symbol of Spain’s centre, and all roads lead there (quite literally). It can be found at the Casa de Correos footsteps. The equestrian statue representing King Charles III is at the centre of the plaza. However, his fame is overshadowed somewhat by the Bear by Madrono tree sculpture on the eastern side of the square. This bear represents Madrid’s coat-of-arms.

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Santiago Bernabeu is one the most well-known football venues in the world. (c) Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Visit Madrid’s most iconic soccer stadiums

Spain has a strong footballing tradition, and the national team won the European Championships and the World Cup twice in the spanish men’s team’s most productive period between 2008-2012.

Madrid is home to two football teams. If you are unsuccessful in getting tickets, then take a guided tour through both stadiums. The Wanda Metropolitano and Santiago Bernabeu, atletico de Madrid have world-famous histories. Guided tours are available to museums which display the various teams’ memorabilia, including their trophies and kits over the years.

An iron statue of a man on a horse in the middle of a plaza
Plaza Mayor can be found in the centre of Madrid’s lively city center (c. Querbeet / Getty Images).

Place a seat in the Plaza Mayor

A beautiful and expansive plaza is located in the middle of Madrid. It has been the setting for many events, including royal crowning ceremonies as well as football games, bullfights, bullfights, outdoor markets, public executions, and even the Spanish Inquisition.

From a three-story residence, 237 balconies look out onto the plaza. It’s easy for people to be distracted by the plaza’s mainstays, Spider-Man and buskers, but it is worth sitting down at one of these buzzing cafes to take in the stunning frescoes between the balconies. This square is also home to the annual Christmas market that has been held since 1861.

Three stone arches on a stone platform over a reflecting pool surrounded by trees with yellowing leaves
This temple to Isis, a gift from Egypt has the most beautiful views in the city. (c) Izaac Afridi/Getty Images

Explore an Egyptian temple

It is not common for people to know that Madrid has an ancient Egyptian temple dating back as far as the 2nd Century BCE. The Temple of Debod, dedicated to Isis and Amun, was built by the Egyptian government as a token of appreciation to Spain for their assistance in the restoration of the Abu Simbel temples of Upper Egypt.

It was moved to Madrid’s Cuartel de la Montana Park near Plaza Espana, and then rebuilt in stone. It offers spectacular views from the Temple, especially at sunset, when it is reflected in the pools surrounding the temple.

The Spanish monarchy still calls the Royal Palace their official residence (c) Fotoeventis/Shutterstock

The changing of guards at Madrid’s Royal Palace can be seen

The Palacio Real is no longer the residence of Spain’s king and queen. The palace was built in the style of Bernini, an Italian sculptor, and has 3,418 rooms. It is the largest European royal palace.

Every Wednesday and Saturday there is a biweekly changing of the Guard. But the most spectacular spectacle of all is the Solemn Changing of the Guard. This showcases a parade of horses as well the Spanish Royal Guard from King Alfonso XII’s time.

Madrid: Introducing

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This article first appeared in March 2020. It was last edited in July 2021.

Publiated at Wed. 28 July 2021, 15:39:00 +0000

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