There is no other place in the world like Madrid – vibrant, laid-back and unhurried. Many would say that it’s one of the most liveable cities due to its stunning architecture, world class art, delicious cuisine, friendly locals, cleanliness, beautiful parks and buzzing night life. Madrid is the top destination of those looking to experience a taste of the real Spain.
To help you plan your trip and make sure that you can fit in as much as possible, we have picked the city’s ten most popular sights and attractions. And if you are still hesitant about visiting Madrid, hopefully our recommendations will make your decision easier.
Madrid’s most famous arcaded plaza is elegantly beautiful. The symmetrical, rectangular square dates to the 17th century and is bordered by uniformly designed three-story apartment buildings with their balconies, all 237 of them, facing the square. Over the years, it served as a venue for markets, bullfights, football games as well as executions. Today the Plaza Mayor is a social hub – home of world class bars, restaurants and performing artists. Make sure that you try one of the local delicacies and grab a calamari sandwich upon your visit. You can then walk over to the Mercado de San Miguel market where you can learn about the typical ingredients of the Spanish cuisine.
The Palacio Real, or Royal Palace is one of the most beautiful palaces in Europe. It was designed by an Italian architect and was built on the site of an old castle that was destroyed by fire. The architecture of the new grandiose and stunning palace was inspired by that of Versailles. It was built entirely from granite and limestone, without any wood to make it fireproof. The Palace is open to the public and hosts official receptions and ceremonies. The Royal Family reside in another Palace near Madrid.
Gran Via is Madrid’s most famous and most popular boulevard amongst tourists. In 1910, when the construction works began, it was intended to be a centre of entertainment and is now lined with hundreds of shops, theatres, cinemas, bars and restaurants. Even if you are not a fan of shopping, we recommend that you visit the Gran Via for its impressive architecture. Have a stroll along the street and look up to the gorgeous secession style buildings!
Buen Retiro Park
Parque del Retiro is one of the largest parks in the centre of Madrid. It is home to stunning gardens, beautiful sculptures and galleries, a breath-taking crystal palace and a peaceful pond where you can rent a boat. During the summer time, you can enjoy free concerts whilst having a picnic and enjoying the sunshine. Those who prefer to stay active on their holiday can rent a bike and cycle around the park. On your way to the Buen Retiro Park why not getting off the metro at the Banco de Espana and walk from there via one of Madrid’s iconic squares, the Plaza de Cibeles.
Museo del Prado
The Prado Museum is considered one of the world’s greatest museums and it displays a comprehensive collection of Spanish, Italian, Flemish and German artwork from the 12th century to the early 19th century. Despite being the largest museum building in Spain, thousands of works are on temporary loan to various galleries and many are kept in storage due to lack of space. The most famous artwork on display at the museum is Las Meninas by Velázquez.
Tip: For free admission visit the Museo del Prado from Monday to Saturday between 6pm-8pm and on Sunday and holidays between 5pm-7pm.
La Latina district
La Latina is Madrid’s oldest and most authentic neighbourhood. As it is very popular amongst locals, a Spanish fiesta is guaranteed in the evenings and at the weekends! Take a note of the two main streets, Cava Alta and Cava Baja, which are lined with traditional bars, taverns and restaurants. Grab a table on the terrace, share some Spanish tapas and wash it down with some local beer or Sangria.
On Sundays, La Latina becomes the home of Madrid’s largest open air market called El Ratsro.
Did you know that you can also visit an ancient Egyptian temple from the early 2nd century BC?
In 1960, the construction of the Great Dam of Aswan put several historical sites at risk. To save these monuments the UNESCO called for international intervention. Spain was one of the countries that provided help and as a sign of gratitude the Egyptian state donated the temple of Debod to Spain in 1968. The temple was dismantled and rebuilt in Madrid brick by brick.
Malasana is Madrid’s most provocative and quirky neighbourhood. The area is full of history: in 1808, it was the scene of a battle with Napoleon’s forces and in the ‘70s- ‘80s it became the epicentre or a cultural revolution and of course, the rock n roll. Nowadays the area is filled with shops of local independent designers, vintage music stores, hipster bars and some incredible street art.
Casa de Campo
Casa de Campo is the largest park in Madrid. It’s a perfect spot for a family day out and it features a zoo and an amusement park, too. The amusement park is divided into four themed areas, each section offering a different type of entertainment. If you would like to see Madrid from the air and enjoy the stunning views of the city, you can take the cable car to the Casa de Campo. The journey starts near the Argüelles metro station, from the park behind the Debod Temple.
Santiago Bernabéu Stadium
Football lovers cannot leave Madrid without visiting the home stadium of Real Madrid, the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. With its seating capacity of 81 000, it also hosts prestigious international football events such as European Cup and Champions League final. The final matches of the European Championship in 1964 and of the World Championship in 1982 were held here, too. Ut is advisable to buy your tickets to the Berabeu Stadium in advance. Avoid the long queues and save some precious time! To book your stadium tour click on this link.
You can purchase tickets and travel passes using your card. To make this payment method more popular, it is now possible to pay any amounts by card when buying your tickets from the ticket machines (there used to be a €5 minimum charge for card payments). All international cards such as Mastercard or Maestro are accepted. Uber is also available in Madrid.
To help you plan your day, we have marked Madrid’s top attractions on the map below:
Transportation from/to Madrid Airport
Line 8 Travel time to Nuevos Ministerios is 13-15 mins
For the timetable please click here, you can see all stops on the line here and for more information about tickets and prices please click here.