For an authentic look at how locals live, stop at one of these plazas in Madrid for coffee, window shopping or people watching. These plazas, as featured in 100 Things to Do in Madrid, are some of the top spots in Spain's capital city.
Puerta del Sol, more commonly known as just Sol, is the plaza in the heart of Madrid (and indeed, the whole of Spain). Famous features include the Royal Post Office that serves as the president of Madrid's office. It's also where locals gather every New Year's Eve to ring in the new year.
Just a short walk from Puerta del Sol is Plaza Mayor, Madrid's grandest plaza. The food is overpriced, but it's a fine place to enjoy breakfast. The plaza is home to the Christmas market, which has been a favorite custom since 1860.
This pretty plaza is in front of the Royal Palace of Madrid. Also nearby are Teatro Real, the city's opera house originally built in 1818, and the Royal Monastery of the Incarnation, a women's convent.
If you want to go shopping, head to Gran Via, Madrid's main shopping boulevard with many famous stores. Gran Via is also known for its architecture. If you're looking for some nightlife, this is the place to be.
Calle Huertas, commonly just called Huertas, dictates the character of this part of Madrid. Small bars, classy restaurants, ice cream parlors and loud music bars mean that the old, young and the tourists brush shoulders here.
At this grandiose Romanesque church, children play outside while their parents drink in the vibrant cafe around the corner. The church has undergone several reconstructions since the 1600s, and parts of the interior were destroyed during Spain's civil war in the 1930s.
Plaza Santa Ana
Designed in 1810, Plaza Santa Ana became a favorite of intellectuals, poets, artists and writers, including American writer Ernest Hemingway. It features many cafes and Teatro Español, Madrid's oldest theater, which opened in 1583.
Plaza de la Paja
Plaza de la Paja, which means "straw square," is said to be the oldest plaza in Madrid. You'll find two vegetarian restaurants here. At the bottom of this sloping plaza is a garden called Jardín del Príncipe Anglona.
If you reach Plaza España from Gran Via, your first impressions of Plaza España may not be so great. However, the plaza is bigger than it first appears. You'll find some of Madrid's tallest skyscrapers here.
This meandering street in the historic Palacio neighborhood passes by the best paella restaurant in Madrid. It also goes under the city's famous viaduct, which is pedestrian friendly.