The Best Things To Do In Madrid

Written By: Carina Lòpez

It is the heartbeat of Spanish history and culture, and each year it draws millions of tourists in search of the magic and allure which can be found nowhere else on the globe. Welcome to Madrid, Spain’s largest city which possesses an enchanting magnetism which is all its own. Madrid sits roughly in the center of Spain, which is rather fitting for a capital city and is located southeast of Valladolid, southwest of Zaragoza and north of Toledo. During your visit, you will get to feel the city’s pulse as you stroll along the bustling Gran Vía, immerse yourself in the rhythms of the flamenco and dance the night away at one of the city’s trendy nightclubs. You will also get to experience its history as you visit the vast Palacio Real and admire priceless works of art at the impressive Museo del Prado. With all these and much more, you can be sure that your vacation in this sunlit city will be simply unforgettable.

One of the best means of getting to Madrid is by rail. If you happen to be visiting Barcelona on the Mediterranean coast and intend to experience the capital, you will be able to get there in just under two and half hours. Valladolid which lies slightly closer is just an hour away while a train trip from Malaga will last about three hours. Navigating Madrid once you get there will be pretty easy since its transport network runs rather smoothly. The various options you will have at your disposal include the metro, bus and taxi while its bike share scheme is also a great option if you enjoy cycling. The Gran Vía is the one place to visit to soak in the city’s vibrant atmosphere. This impressive walkway which is just under a kilometer and half in length is filled with adventures and fun discoveries. The plethora of malls which can be found there offer endless opportunities for loads of retail therapy. And afterwards, you will be able to treat yourself to a movie in one of its many cinemas.

Europe is filled with several palaces of impressive size, but few of them come much bigger than the Palacio Real, the royal palace. Its scenic location, lavishly decorated interior and numerous treasures and artifacts will certainly make it one of the highlights of your vacation.


Plaza Mayor

In the heart of Madrid, you will find Plaza Mayor, a large open space surrounded by beautiful architecture. Sit for a while and people-watch as the locals go about their day, and admire the dominant statue of King Phillips III. The square also has a fascinating history; you will be entering the site of the executions, held during the Spanish Inquisition.


Royal Palace (Palacio Real)

See magnificent architecture and interior decorations at the Royal Palace (Palacio Real), which is still used for official ceremonies, but no longer as the royal residence. Take a fascinating guided tour through the most important rooms of this enormous complex, exploring the paintings, the armour and even the historical Royal Pharmacy, as well as the Throne Room and Royal Chambers!


Gran Via

Come down to the central hub of Madrid and explore the Gran Via, the main road through the middle of the city. Explore the shops, stop for a meal and few drinks in the countless restaurants and bars, and admire the ornate architecture of the surrounding buildings. The city stays open late, so take your time, and if you’re staying in Madrid for a while, this will probably become one of your most frequented destinations!


El Escorial

Take a forty-five kilometre drive from Madrid to the small village of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, to visit El Escorial, the Royal Monastery once home to the king of Spain. History lovers – and those who admire beautiful architecture and art – will enjoy exploring the huge complex of buildings – with beautiful decorations and frescoes – including the palace, the church, and the library.


Puerta del Sol

The central hub of Madrid is known as Puerta del Sol; a busy square that was once the gates to the city, it is now a common meeting point for most of the tours on offer. There are many hotels and bars nearby, and once you have rested for a while – and enjoyed the statues – it’s within walking distance of several of the city’s landmarks.


Prado Museum (Museo del Prado)

Located in the heart of Madrid, art lovers – and those who enjoy magnificent beauty – flock to the Prado Museum (Museo del Prado) to admire one of the world’s best collections of European art. Admire the paintings, the sculptures and diverse objects, and look for the ever changing visiting exhibitions. As you stroll through the galleries you will be taken on an artistic journey from the twelfth, to the nineteenth-century, seeing the works from the many masters of these times.


Parque del Buen Retiro

Take a break from the hustle and bustle of Madrid, and stroll through the sprawling Parque del Buen Retiro, which takes up 350-acres of the city. Known as the lungs of the city, explore the gardens and admire the statues, and maybe hire a boat for a paddle on the lake. Why not have a picnic and people-watch as the locals go about their day; it’s a relaxing way to soak up the culture of this great city!


Plaza de Espana

When you come to the western-end of the Gran Via, you have arrived at the Plaza de Espana. Take a break and sit for a while, and enjoy the fountain, the monuments, and the statues scattered throughout the square. Admire the architecture of the surrounding buildings, and watch the street artists that wander throughout, entertaining the locals.


Temple of Debod (Templo de Debod)

Why is there an Egyptian temple in Madrid, I here you ask? The answer lies in the generosity of the Spain, who helped save historical sites in Egypt when the Aswan Dam was built. In thanks, the Temple of Debod was dismantled and given to Madrid. So, don’t miss this chance to visit ancient Egypt, and at the top, get great views of the city!


Almudena Cathedral

As you approach the Roman Catholic Almudena Cathedral, you will see a statue of Pope John II, who consecrated this relatively young cathedral in 1993. Admire the Neo-Classic architecture of this magnificent structure – that took nearly a century to complete – and gaze over the kaleidoscope of colours that decorate its ceiling, then explore the side chapels and mysterious crypt below!


Alcala Gate (Puerta de Alcala)

Impossible to miss as you tour the city, the Neo-Classical monument – Alcala Gate (Puerta de Alcala) – has become a favourite landmark within Madrid, standing almost twenty-metres high! Come and admire the intricate designs and carvings, and at night enjoy the stunning sight of its illumination.


Sabatini Gardens (Jardines de Sabatini)

When you visit the Royal Palace, at the northern edge of the grounds you will find the beautiful Sabatini Gardens (Jardines de Sabatini). Take a break and relax around the stunning pond and fountains, and explore the fascinating hedges that are geometrically designed. This is a fantastic place to view the sunset and admire the magnificent architecture of the palace.


Santiago Bernabeu Stadium

Football fans will not want to miss a visit to the magnificent Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, home to the world-famous Real Madrid football team. Get tickets to a game and soak up the indescribable atmosphere of the crowd. If that isn’t possible, take an informative guided tour behind the scenes. You will see the extraordinary view from the top of the stadium, walk the players’ tunnel, feel the pitch beneath your feet, and even visit the dressing rooms! Once you’re done, explore the press rooms, the trophy rooms and pick up a special memento to remember your time here.


Valley of the Fallen (Valle de los Caidos)

An hour’s drive from Madrid is the Valley of the Fallen (Valle de los Caidos), a towering monument dedicated to those who fell in the Spanish Civil War. You will see the monument well before you arrive, as the cross that stands on top towers 500-feet high! While the monument is controversial around the role of General Francisco Franco, the cross, the architecture, and the decorations of the basilica that pays respect to the dead, are magnificent and well worth a visit.


Plaza de La Villa

Travel back to the medieval history of Madrid with a visit to the exquisite Plaza de la Villa, a small but intimate space, lined by historical buildings dating from the fifteenth to the seventeenth-centuries. Take a guided tour of Casa de la Villa and admire the architecture, and the artwork of that era, with stunning lead light, frescoes and paintings.


Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas

The Plaza de Toros de las Ventas is the home of the famous Las Ventas bullfighting arena, climbing four-stories high and seating almost 25,000 people. The architecture is stunning, and the stadium is open to tours when the bullfights are not on, so it’s a great way to learn about the history of bullfighting if you don’t wish to attend an actual event. A ticket to the bullfighting – which runs from March to October – will immerse you in the culture of the country, so take some time to soak up the atmosphere of this Spanish tradition.


Plaza de Oriente

As you tour the city of Madrid, you will no doubt come across the Plaza de Oriente, as it is next to famous landmarks such as the Royal Palace and Royal Theatre. Take some time to stay and explore the many statues that line the pathway, and enjoy the tranquil setting surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the city centre.



Just 50 mi (80 km) north of Madrid, Segovia transports you back to a distant time in history. From its ancient Roman aqueduct to its 13th century castle, this city is full of symbols representing its inhabitants of the past.

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