Madrid is the central capital of Spain and has many historic and cultural aspects to it, from the European art to its many museums. Popular artworks from Spanish artists like Goya and Velazquez are located in the city at the Prado Museum. For travelers on a time crunch, Madrid's number one must-see sight is The Golden Triangle of Art Museums. This includes the aforementioned Museo del Prado, the Reina Sofia, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza.
For travelers considering planning a trip to Spain, Barcelona shouldn't be the only city on the list. Madrid can be explored in just five-days with this suggested itinerary, and hotels and other accommodations are readily available in the city. When planning a trip to Spain's cities, such as Madrid and Barcelona, visitors can combine their itineraries with these guided tours and must-see attractions.
How Travelers Can Immerse Themselves in the Culture
Travelers with a flexible time frame may want to consider staying a few months to learn the Spanish language. Travelers can also take a walk through Madrid's architecture, from classic Spanish homes to famous landmarks like the Teatro Royal. The food is inspired by various regions throughout the country, where travelers can enjoy local pleasantries like sopa de ajo, potato omelets, and of course, homemade sangria.
Traveling on a Budget
Planning an extended stay or an array of activities is a great reason for travelers to get a discount card. The Madrid Card is a great value card to consider for free entry into museums, guided tours, and other leisure activities. While visiting Madrid can get expensive, it is also possible to travel there on a budget by engaging in free things to do, as well as trying out cheap restaurants. Some specific ways to save money include staying in hostels, having coffee and pastry for breakfast, and exploring free walking tours around the city.
10 Things to Do Near Sol and Gran Via
AddressPuerta del Sol, Madrid, Spain
Sol is Madrid's most famous plaza and Gran Via is its most famous street. The two are tourist magnets that travelers may be tempted to hurry away from, but there are some little secrets worth checking out, as listed below.
- Puerta del Sol
This is Madrid's central square and Spain's 'kilometer zero'.
- Gran Via
Gran Via is Madrid's premier shopping street.
- Traditional Cocido Madrileño Stew
Taste Madrid's signature stew.
- Convento de las Descalzas
This is a famous convent with an art collection.
- Great Tapas at Casa Labra
Cheap and cheerful beer and cod dishes are made here.
- Debod Egyptian Temple
This is a genuine Egyptian temple in the heart of Madrid.
- Madrid's Iconic Post Office
Madrid's best photo opportunity for tourists to use is located here.
- Plaza España
This is a grassy plaza surrounded by Spain's oldest skyscrapers.
- Shopping on Calle Preciados and Calle Carmen
Some of Spain's biggest shopping chains can be found here.
- Museo de las Telecomunicaciones
This shows the history of telecommunication.
AddressPlaza Mayor, Madrid, Spain
This is Madrid's oldest district and likely to be one of the main focal points of one's trip to the capital. Check out these places:
- Plaza Mayor
Plaza Mayor is Madrid's most ornate plaza and home to the town hall. It is also a nice place for breakfast.
- El Botin
This is the oldest restaurant in the world, according to the Guinness Book of Records, and Ernest Hemingway's favorite restaurant.
- Madrid Cathedral
This is Madrid's famous cathedral and a must-see.
- Plaza Oriente
The Plaza Oriente is a plaza in front of Madrid's royal palace.
- Madrid Royal Palace
This is the royal palace in front of Plaza Oriente.
- El Flamenco Vive Music Shop
Buy some excellent flamenco music from those who know it best at this shop.
- San Gines Chocolateria
Spain's best chocolate con churros are a delicacy.
- Casa de las Torrijas
Here, travelers can find Spanish bread pudding served with sweet red wine.
- Arab Wall
This is Madrid's oldest sight.
- Hammam Al Andalus Turkish Baths
Travelers can indulge in some relaxation as needed.
La Latina is famous for tapas and its Sunday morning market, but there's much more to the district than just these things. See where to go:
- Tapas on Cava Baja
This has a high concentration of good tapas bars, most with English menus.
- Plaza and Iglesia de San Andres
Take a beer in the shadow of a magnificent church.
- Basilica de San Francisco El Grande
This is located just down the road from an even more magnificent church.
- Tapas at Casa Granada
This is Madrid's best-concealed tapas bar.
- Plaza Paja
Madrid's oldest square is a must-visit.
- El Rastro Market
Browse for trinkets in Madrid's famous Sunday market.
- Calle Segovia
An attractive street, with a viaduct and nice restaurants for exploration.
- Paella at El Arrozal
Find the best paella in this part of town, especially at this paella restaurant.
- Museo de San Isidro
A museum about the history of Madrid is a great stop in the city.
- Bravo Bikes
Take a bicycle tour through neighborhoods like La Latina and more.
10 Things to Do in Malasana and Chueca
These are the trendy districts to the north of Gran Via. Malasaña is the bohemian district, Chueca is nominally gay, and both are a lot of fun. Here's where to visit:
- Espacio Conde Duque and the Contemporary Art Museum
This is the attractive old barracks and is home to one of Madrid's best modern art museums.
- Coffee on Calle Espiritu Santo
English bookshops and retro-hip cafes are on this popular street.
- Cafe Commercial
Cafe Commercial is Madrid's most famous place to get coffee.
- Wine Tasting at Planeta Vino
Travelers can sample Spain's famous wine culture here.
- Mercado Fuencarral
Trendy alternative fashion is offered here (at a price).
- Tapas at Stop Madrid
Ham, cheese, and chorizo classic tapas are available here.
- Tapas at El Tigre
The cheapest tapas in the district can be found at El Tigre.
- Drinking at Via Lactea
One of Madrid's hippest bars in the 80s still attracts a crowd.
- Biggest Drinks in the World at Diplodocus
These drinks are huge and are made to be shared.
- Con Dos Fogones Restaurant
This is an excellent fusion restaurant at a reasonable price.
Top 5 Things to Do in Huertas
This is another old district of Madrid. Huertas has some of the best (and worst) bars in Madrid. Ernest Hemmingway also used to frequent this part of town. See where to go:
- Viva Madrid and Magister
Viva Madrid is the oldest bar in Madrid. Magister brews its own beer and gives you free tapas as well. The two bars are virtually opposite of each other.
- Plaza Santa Ana
This is a pretty plaza that was popular with Hemingway.
- Flamenco at Cardamomo
A flamenco show with all the trimmings is a great visit but skip the overpriced meal.
- Calle Huertas
This is an attractive tree-lined and pedestrianized street, with a couple of well-known jazz cafes.
- The House Where Cervantes Died
The Spanish writer, Miguel de Cervantes, once lived here.
Top 5 Things to Do Around Paseo Del Prado
Paseo del Prado is one of Madrid's most majestic boulevards, with some of the city's most important museums close at hand. Madrid's famous park, El Retiro, is also near here. Museums and parks to visit:
- Museo del Prado
This art museum vies with La Sagrada Familia and the Alhambra as the most visited sight in Spain.
- El Retiro
Known as Madrid's Central Park, travelers must walk through here.
This is a contemporary art space for art goers.
- Real Jardin Botanico
Madrid's botanical gardens is a lovely spot for environmentalists.
- The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum
This is one of Madrid's most famous art museums with some of the best private art collections in the world.
Top 10 Things to Do in Lavapies
One of the poorer districts of Madrid, Lavapies' mix of immigrants and trendy youngsters make this part of town one of the most diverse places to be. See what to do here:
- Centro de Arte Reina Sofia
This is Madrid's premier modern art gallery, with key works by Dali and Picasso (including the latter's Guernica.)
- Coffee at Cafeteria Barbieri
Sweet tooths should try the cafe bonbon at this favorite cafe in Madrid.
- Visit a Moroccan Teahouse
This place has a whole host of spiced teas and shishas.
- Bars on Calle Ave Maria
There is a number of classy bars on this street.
- See a Concert at Sala Juglar
While it may have some expensive beer, there are concerts every night that pull in the crowds.
- Curry in Lavapies
Here, there are cheap and cheerful Indian restaurants run by the local expat community.
- Casa Encendida
This is a must-see exhibition space.
- Bocadillo de Calamares at El Brillante
Some of the best squid sandwiches in Madrid are made here.
- Atocha Train Station
This is a tropical garden, with terrapins, and a monument to those who died during the 2004 terrorist attack.
- Gaudeamus Cafe Rooftop Bar
This is a hip cafe and bar on a rooftop.
Top 5 Things to Do in Casa de Campo
AddressCasa de Campo, Madrid, Spain
Madrid's other famous park, Casa de Campo, is a bit further away than El Retiro but offers a number of worthwhile attractions. Here's what to explore:
- Madrid Teleferico (Aerial Tramway or Cable Car)
Get a bird's eye view of Madrid while whizzing from close to Plaza de España all the way to the park.
- Madrid Zoo and Aquarium
This aquarium is home to a rare white rhino and a baby panda.
- Madrid Parque de Atracciones
Madrid's closest theme park is full of fun attractions.
- Paseo de la Gastronomia
These high-class restaurants come at a price.
- Walk Around the Lake
Take a stroll to see Plaza España from an unusual angle.
Top 5 Things to Do in Barrio Salamanca
This is Madrid's most chic district, with a few good museums around, too. Here's where to go:
- Archeological Museum
This museum includes a replica of the Altamira cave in Cantabria, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Museo Lazaro Galdiano
This private collection features coins, medals, paintings, ceramics, jewelry, and more.
- Museo de Escultura Abstracta
This is an open-air abstract sculpture collection.
- National Library
The library here features a vast book museum.
- Window Shopping on and Around Calle Serrano
While this is too expensive for most people's budgets, this is a great place to walk around or get a small item.
Top 9 Things to Do Elsewhere in Madrid
Away from Madrid's most touristy districts, there are still plenty of things to do. Explore outside of Madrid:
Madrid is one of the main centers of bullfighting in Spain.
- CosmoCaixa Madrid
This is an excellent science museum on the outskirts of Madrid.
- Museo de las Americas
This museum is about Spain's exploits in the discovery of the New World.
- Faro de Madrid
Madrid's "lighthouse" has a lookout point where one can see the whole of Madrid.
- Anden 0
This old metro station was turned into a little time capsule.
- Blind Museum
This museum is for the blind and about the blind. The sighted can get a lot out of the tactile exhibitions too.
This is Madrid's wildlife park.
- Madrid Planetarium
This is a great planetarium to visit in Madrid.
- Naval, Railway and Air Museums
Transport aficionados can indulge themselves in these three museums.
20 Things to Do Outside of Madrid
Address08014 Barcelona, Spain
Here are 20 final places to visit, including some of the region's amazing array of towns and villages:
The AVE high-speed train makes this possible as a day trip, though it's expensive, and Barcelona deserves more than a day.
This walled city is one of Spain's most famous sights.
This is the jewel of Spain's south and home to flamenco and bullfighting.
This city is home to one of the biggest mosques in the world.
Segovia has a 2,000 year aqueduct and a German-esque fairytale castle.
The walls and turrets of this medieval city are more impressive than those in Toledo.
- El Escorial
This is the burial place of most of Spain's monarchs.
- El Valle de Los Caidos
This is a chilling monument built to honor the memory of Franco, Spain's former dictator.
This place is famous for its windmills, such as the ones that Don Quixote thought were giants. It is also known for its saffron.
Aranjuez is the royal family's former retreat.
This is one of the nicest plazas in Spain and worth a visit.
Cuenca is famous for its hanging houses, also known as dwellings built over the sides of cliffs.
- Ribera del Duero
Visit one of Spain's two most famous wine regions.
This is Spain's third biggest city and the birthplace of paella.
- El Pardo
El Pardo is Franco's former country retreat.
- Warner Brothers Theme Park
This is considered Madrid's best theme park.
This is a nice, quaint village near Madrid.
- Alcala de Henares
This is a university town and a UNESCO world heritage site.
Hiking and the Roman road to Segovia are located here.
This is a 12th-century cathedral and a historic train journey can be taken here.