Madrid - Top Ten Things to Do

by Ana Magalhães

Well-known for its lovely parks and wide avenues, Madrid is the capital of Spain and a modern European metropolis that attracts millions of tourists from all over the world each year. From world-class museums where you can see artworks from artists like Francisco de Goya and Diego Velázquez to iconic landmarks such as Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol, there are plenty of interesting attractions worth visiting here.Buzzing with activity, Madrid is also famous for its vibrant nightlife. Whether you wish to watch a flamenco show, try traditional dishes like Cocido Madrileño and Callos a la Madrileña in an authentic Spanish restaurant, or simply unwind with a refreshing cocktail, Madrid offers something for everyone. To help you decide what to see and where to go, we’ve put together a list of top ten things to do in Madrid.

Keeping this in focus here is the list of top ten things to do in Madrid to make the best of your time:

1. Prado

Art lovers will definitely want to visit the prestigious Prado Museum while staying in Madrid. It is one of the most famous museums in the world and houses an impressive collection of artworks by both Spanish and International artists. Admire masterpieces by Spanish painters like El Greco and Francisco de Goya or check out works by Rembrandt, Brueghel, and Botticelli. There is usually a line in front of the museum, so make sure to get there early in the morning and see some of the most prized artwork in the Museum including Las Meninas by Velázquez and Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights.

2. Retiro Park

Created in the 17th century, Retiro Park is an ideal destination for visitors who wish to experience nature in Madrid. From the charming Crystal Palace where you will find a reflecting pool and contemporary art exhibitions to the enchanting Rose Garden and the neoclassical monument of Puerta de Alcalá, Retiro Park is home to dozens of amazing attractions. Paddling in the central lake and admiring the monument of Alfonso XII is one of the best ways to experience the park.

3. Royal Palace

No visit to Madrid is complete without admiring the luxuriousness of the famous Royal Palace. With around 3,000 rooms, the Royal Palace in Madrid is the largest royal palace in this part of Europe. The good news is that many rooms inside of the palace are open to the public. Expect to find works by Goya, Velázquez and, Caravaggio here, as well as the royal pharmacy room and the armory room. The beautiful Sabatini Gardens that are adjacent to the palace are also worth visiting. Admission costs around 12 euros per adult.

4. Santiago Bernabéu Stadium

Sports fans will love this one! You’ve probably heard of Santiago Bernabéu, the home stadium of the famous football club, Real Madrid. This 85,000-seater stadium looks really impressive and boasts an incredible museum with displays of team artifacts, trophies, and other memorabilia. If you wish to watch a game, make sure to check the schedule and purchase tickets for the match beforehand. There is also an organized tour of the stadium which includes a tour of the giant stadium itself, access to the dressing room and press room, and a visit to the Presidential box.

5. National Archaeological Museum

Founded in the 19th century by Queen Isabella II, the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid houses the largest collection of prehistoric artifacts in Spain including Iberian treasures, Egyptian mummies, the Treasure of Guarrazar, and Mudéjar ceramics. You will also find artifacts up to the 19th century here, as well as the most important possession of the museum, the bust of the Lady of Elche. Unlike other museums in Europe where you need to spend a fortune for tickets, the entrance to the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid will set you back just 3 euros.

6. Puerta del Sol

One of the most popular places to visit in Madrid, Puerta del Sol is a spacious town square where both locals and tourists come to enjoy life. Whether you wish to have a cup of coffee at one of many cafés and bars or you wish to go shopping at El Corte Inglés, the largest department store in the city, you probably won’t be bored in Puerta del Sol. The area is also a hub of public transportation, which means that the square can be easily accessed from other parts of the city.

7. Gran Vía

Built in the early 20th century to connect neighborhoods of Salamanca and Arguelles, Gran Vía is the busiest and most popular street in the city. It is home to numerous boutique hotels, restaurants, and theaters. However, the biggest draw here is shopping! With popular chains like Bershka and Zara and both International and local luxurious boutiques, Gran Vía is a true shopaholic’s paradise. Bar-hopping is also popular, as there are many cool cocktail bars here.

8. Plaza Mayor

A 17th-century Renaissance square located in the heart of Madrid, Plaza Mayor used to be the center of municipal life and the place where proclamations of kings and other ceremonial events took place. Today, Plaza Mayor is a major meeting place and a car-free area surrounded by dozens of nice cafes and restaurants. In the middle of the plaza, you will see a big statue of King Philip III. Keep in mind that the square gets rather busy in the afternoon and at night.

9. Mercado San Miguel

Mercado San Miguel is definitely the best culinary destination in Madrid. With around 200 stalls and tapas bars, this Art Nouveau marketplace offers a vast selection of food including our favorites such as Banderillas at La Hora Del Vermut, Burrata from Mozheart, and seafood at Carro de El Señor Martín. Foodies will instantly fall in love with this rather unique market.

10. Flamenco

Flamenco is the most famous style of music and dance in Spain. Although flamenco originally comes from the south of the country in Andalusia, many talented artists came to the capital of Spain to make it in the world of flamenco. There are many excellent flamenco venues in the city including places like Corral de la Morería, Cardamomo, Las Carboneras, and Torres Bermejas.

Tips on local traditional food

For travelers who are interested in local cuisine here in Madrid, here are a few typical dishes to try.

Callos a la Madrileña– stew with beef tripe and blood sausage

Bocadillo de Calamares– Fried squid sandwich

Cocido Madrileño-Traditional Spanish stew made from pork, vegetables, chickpeas, and chorizo sausage

Huevos Rotos – freshly-fried potatoes topped with eggs

Whether you are interested in history, culture, nightlife, or art buff, Madrid has everything to keep you thoroughly entertained during your Madrid trip.