Check out the top 20 things to do in Madrid while you are in Spain
Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain. It’s the political, cultural and economical centre of Spain, as it is the seat of the government and the residence of the Spanish monarch. The city itself has a mixture of old and modern architecture, so it is quite a spectacle to see. Madrid also houses the headquarters of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), a part of the United Nations Organization (UN), and it is kind of fitting, since there are dozens of popular attractions in the city. If you don’t know what to see of all the numerous attractions, see our list of the top 20 things to do in Madrid.
- Plaza de Cibeles
The Plaza de Cibeles is a popular square with a neo-classical complex of marble sculptures with fountains. It has become an iconic symbol for the city, and visited by many citizens and tourists. The main building is the Palace of Communications, which was formerly a post office but now serves as the city’s mayor’s office. The goddess on the fountain, Cybele, has become a symbol for the Real Madrid football team, and whenever they win a title, they held a parade which ends here, with one of the members putting a flag on the statue.
2. Market of San Miguel
The Market of San Miguel is a frequently visited large market in Madrid. It’s popular among tourists as well since it is located in the center of the town. It’s not really a grocery market, but a market focusing on a wide variety of freshly prepared tapas, hams, olives, baked goods and other foods. If you want to grab a bite at a local vendor, this is the place to go.
3. Plaza Mayor
The Plaza Mayor is the main and largest square of Madrid. It’s located right at the heart of the city, near the Market of San Miguel. It’s filled by people all day long, but for a reason, because the cafés and restaurants here are all great. Street performers entertain everyone coming here, so it’s always nice to just sit down at one of the cafés watch the people going by.
4. Casa de la Panadería
The Casa de la Panadería is one of the buildings at the Plaza Mayor. It was formerly a bakery house, but later became the headquarters of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts and the Royal Academy of History, until they were replaced by the Municipal Libary and the Municipal Archives, which were once again relocated. Today, it houses the Madrid Tourist Board and the Madrid Tourism Center.
5. Buen Retiro Park
The beautiful Buen Retiro Park was originally in possession of the Spanish monarch, but later it became a public park. Today it is a very popular spot for recreation, as the lush greenery and the many different fountaints, statues and other attractions all provide a great and relaxing experience, not to mention all the activities one can do here. Be sure to come here if you want to take a break, as it is one of the best things to do in Madrid.
6. Palacio de Cristal
This ornate glass and steel greenhouse sits on the edge of a lake in Buen Retiro Park. Thanks to its design, the park’s lush green surroundings can be appreciated in addition to the exhibitions inside. These include art exhibitions, botanical exhibitions, and many more. Together, these provide a breathtaking experience.
7. Puerta del Sol
Puerta del Sol, or Gate of the Sun, is the name of one of the busiest and most popular squares on Madrid. It’s the focal point (0 km) of the radial network of Spanish roads, and it’s surrounded by numerous beautiful and important buildings. Eating here at one of the local restaurants or just using it as a meeting place is worth it, even if you don’t like big crowds.
8. Royal Palace of Madrid
The Royal Palace of Madrid is the official residence of the royal family, although they don’t currently live there. The palace is huge with around 3000 rooms, out of which only some are open to the public, like the royal pharmacy and the armory room, both of which are quite a spectacle, and well worth a visit. The gardens and statues around the palace are just as beautiful as the palace itself, so be sure to check those out as well.
9. Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum
Found in the Villahermosa Palace, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum is a gallery with a large collection of art. Artists featured include Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky, Marc Chagall, Vincent van Gogh and more, providing more than a thousand works of art.
10. Museo del Prado
If you want to see even more art, especially Spanish art, head to the Museo del Prado, the national museum of art.The collection currently comprises around 8,200 drawings, 7,600 paintings, 4,800 prints, and 1,000 sculptures, in addition to a large number of other works of art and historic documents. The most famous and popular works include Velazquez’s “Las Meninas,” Goya’s “The Third of May 1808,” and El Greco’s “Adoration of the Shepherds.”
11. Santiago Bernabéu Stadium
The Santiago Bernabéu Stadium is the home stadium of the world-famous Real Madrid football team. This place is a must-see among the things to do in Madrid for any football-enthusiast. It’s a spectacular stadium with a large capacity of around 80 thousand seats. It hosted numerous large scale football events ever since its foundation.
12. El Rastro Market
The El Rastro Market is the most popular flea market in Madrid. Lined with hundreds of merchants and vendors selling everything from souvenirs to antiques and even everyday household items, the market is always busy with people. You can try some local foods as well at the many food stalls. Live music is also often played here, for those interested.
13. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía is the last of the three large and spectacular art galleries of Madrid. It’s centered around more modern works of art, and contains about 20,000 works, including pieces from Salvador Dalí and Joan Miró. The probably most famous work is found on the second floor, Picasso’s “Guernica” is the museum’s crowning jewel.
14. Map of Juan de la Cosa
The Map of Juan de la Cosa is famous for being the oldest known map of America, dating back to 1500. The map of Juan de la Cosa is the only cartographic work that was made by an eyewitness of the first voyages of the well-known Christopher Columbus to the Indies that has been preserved. It wasn’t always in Madrid, but has been brought back after it was found, and now it is held in the Naval Museum of Madrid.
15. La Tabacalera de Lavapiés
Located at an old tabacco factory, the La Tabacalera de Lavapiés became a popular public space for individual expression, hosting debates, exhibitions, galleries, and lectures. Pretty much anyone can come here and use the site to paint, perform, sing, dance and do other kinds of artistic activities.
16. Real Jardín Botánico
The Real Jardín Botánico is the royal garden of the city. It’s a massive garden cointaining around 90,000 flowers and plants, and 1,500 trees. The garden has different indoor and outdoor section, including desert environments, Japanese gardens, English gardens and many more. If you love nature even just a little, then this place should not be missed.
17. Templo de Debod
The Templo de Debod was originally located in Egypt, but nation gifted in to Spain for their contribution and support in saving historic sites. It’s located in a park called Parque de la Montaña with a pool next to it, that reflects its image. It’s worth visiting at night or sunset as well, since it’s even more magnificent.
18. Sobrino de Botin
Considered one of the oldest restaurants still in operation, the Sobrino de Botin is an excellent restaurant with a great atmosphere. Opened originally in 1725, the restaurant today covers four floors of seating, each with its own Spanish theme, from the brick cellar to the fancier Felipe IV room. One of the best dishes here is, of course, a whole pig prepared in a brick oven.
19. Chamberí Ghost Station
The Chamberí Ghost Station is what remains of the original metro station that was located between the Bilbao and Iglesia stops. Opened in 2008, the museum called Andén 0, or “Platform Zero” features a fully restored Chamberí, complete with old ticket offices, turnstiles, maps, and a film about the building of the Metro.
20. Gran Vía
The Gran Vía is an ornate and upscale shopping street located in central Madrid, and thanks to its popularity, it is also known as the Spanish Broadway. It’s frequently visited by citizens and tourists alike, as the number of large theatres, movie theatres, hotels and shopping malls are quite high here. The overall architecture of the streets is well worth a visit, if nothing else.