Madrid is an often overlooked destination compared to many of the beautiful cities in Spain, however, I felt like Madrid has the most culture I’ve seen in Spain. Spain is more traditional in a sense and you will find more Spanish speakers here than those speaking English which makes it a great place for a Spanish language study abroad program. There were a lot more things to do in Madrid than I had thought, which is why it was so important for me to write this.
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Madrid, Spain | Amazing things to do in Madrid
Planning a trip to Spain and Portugal, this detailed Spain and Portugal Itinerary will give you the basics to planning your trip.
Best Things to do in Madrid – Madrid Tourist Attractions
There are a lot of amazing things to do in Madrid. Like Barcelona, there are a lot of art aspects in Madrid. Here are some of the most popular places to visit in Madrid.
The Prado Museum
If you are going to visit a museum in Madrid, this should be the one you should visit hands down. This will be one of the most popular things to do in Madrid. This museum is one of the best museums in the world and has some of the most popular art pieces in the world. Some of the most famous pieces of art and artists you will see are Velázquez, El Greco, Goya, and Caravaggio.
If you aren’t too familiar with art, then I highly recommend seeing these pieces at the Prado Museum:
- “Las Meninas” by Diego Velázquez – This is crucial if you plan to visit the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. There is an entire area dedicated at the Picasso museum where he mimics this exact painting.
- “Saturn Devouring His Son” by Francisco Goya
- “The Garden of Earthly Delights” a Triptych (3 Panel) by Hieronymus Bosch
- “Infanta Margarita Teresa in a Pink Dress” by Diego Velázquez
- “David with the head of Goliath” by Caravaggio
- “Charles IV of Spain and his family” by Francisco Goya
Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum of Art
The Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum, or simply the Thyssen, is an art museum in Madrid, Spain, located near the Prado Museum. This museum has a lot of works collected from the private collection of Heinrich, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon. The collection was originally stored and hung in the family’s estate.
You will find a variety of different types of paintings including renaissance, baroque and rococo, impressionism, and more.
I absolutely loved this park. Retiro Park, Spanish El Retiro, or Parque de Madrid, the main park of Madrid, Spain. At Retiro Park, there are zoological gardens, the Crystal Palace (Palacio de Cristal; a glass building used for art exhibits), a lake, numerous statues of royalty, and the Rosaleda (“Rose Garden”), Palacio de Velázquez, and more.
I recommend visiting the Crystal Palace and the Palacio de Velázquez – which are both FREE if you have a chance. The Crystal palace alone is quite beautiful, but also the Palacio de Velázquez was a great way to cool down from the heat.
Temple of Debod
This was one of my favorite places to visit during sunset. It’s a great location to have a glass of wine or a picnic during sunset. You get a great view of the city, beautiful pictures of these ancient ruins from Egypt. The Temple of Debod is an ancient Egyptian temple that was dismantled and rebuilt in the center of Madrid, Spain. I think it’s quite interesting that they took this artifact and reassembled it in a country far from where it originated.
This was one of my favorite things to do in Madrid just because of the gorgeous view. It was interesting to see and check out.
Plaza de Cibeles
This is one of Madrid’s most symbolic palaces. Although, this building is now used for diplomatic purposes. However, there is a great restaurant and rooftop bar worth venturing to if you have the chance. There isn’t much to do here, but it’s a beautiful building to admire from the outside.
If you like architecture, it’s something you could check out during your travels in Madrid. Although, I may leave this to the last thing and only if you have time.
This is the most popular open-air flea market in Madrid. It is held every Sunday so many sure to check before you visit. It is usually open from 9 am to 3 pm. It is currently closed due to COVID, however, if you plan to visit after COVID, I highly suggest you go!
This is considered Madrid’s or Spain’s Broadway and is known for shopping, theatrical performances, hotels, and movie theaters. Although the main focus is shopping since many of the theaters have been converted into shopping areas. This is a big city walking street worth checking out if you want to wander, shop, and eat. The Edificio Metrópolis or Metropolis Building is the most popular and famous building in Gran Vía. This building is one located on a corner built like a narrow triangle.
Tapas in Madrid Tour
If the only thing you do in Madrid is this Tapas Tour, then I will say you have tasted most of the tapas of Madrid. This tour was absolutely outstanding and I love food. It was one of the best food tours I have taken and maybe it’s because I love tapas, but it was just so educational, fun, light-hearted, and delicious. It was carefully crafted which is what I loved about it. We got a variety of different types of tapas from expensive, medium-priced, and the cheapest tapas you can get in Madrid.
Chocolateria San Gines Churros – Most Popular Places to visit in Madrid
If you are looking to get churros in Spain, this hands down will be the best place you can get them. Everywhere we went in Spain, I tried to find and eat as many churros as possible. I went to so many places and I kept coming back here when I was in Madrid. Nothing compared to this place. When we traveled to Barcelona, I was not even impressed and didn’t even think I was eating churros at the places I had them there. So please, even if you don’t like chocolate, take the time to try these churros.
This place was founded in 1894 and has been around for over 120 years and for a good reason. This is a 24-hour cafe which is great because even if you are out late, up early, jetlagged, or whatever the case may be, you can easily grab these churros. These are what classic Spanish churros are supposed to taste like.
Second, don’t compare these to Disneyland or Mexican Churros since these churros are not covered in cinnamon sugar. These churros are served with a side of melted chocolate and you can order coffee as well. It’s treated more like a cafe than anything.
San Miguel Market
This is probably the most popular market in Madrid due to its accessibility to lots of delicious traditional Spanish food and drinks. They receive about 10 million visitors each year. You can get fresh seafood, tortillas, and so much more. I highly recommend trying the tortillas here. They were absolutely delicious. Tortillas are Spanish omelets. It is made with eggs and potatoes, sometimes including onion. It is often served at room temperature as a tapa.
Palace of Madrid
This is an extravagant palace located in the heart of Madrid. I highly suggest you book tickets prior to visiting because they book up quite fast. This is the official residence of the royal family of Madrid, however, it is mainly used for tourism and state ceremonies now. The royal family does not currently reside here and currently resides somewhere in the countryside.
The palace was initially built by Muhammad I, Umayyad Emir of Cordoba, between 860 and 880. On the inside of the palace, you will see the royal pharmacy, royal library, armory room, apartments, chapel, and finally the crown room. Book your tickets to the palace of Madrid to save time, skip the line, and ensure your reservation.
Cathedral of Alemundo – My favorite place to visit in Madrid
Right next to the Palace of Madrid is the cathedral of Alemundo. This was surprisingly a great place to visit. They had a lot more than I anticipated since I’ve traveled to so many cathedrals growing up Catholic. This cathedral has a lot of artifacts, beautifully designed parts, and a gorgeous view at the top. I highly suggest going just for the view itself. Entrance to the cathedral was very affordable and was easy to do without a reservation. We didn’t even know about this place until we saw it next to the palace.
A Flamenco Show
I will recommend a flamenco show in every city in Spain, however, flamenco shows are most popular in Seville. If you aren’t able to travel to Seville, then I highly suggest seeing it in Madrid. I felt the emotion to be so powerful when we saw it here. It was absolutely stunning. Madrid is in the top 5 places to see a flamenco show in Spain, so even if you don’t have the chance, it would be worth taking a visit. Maybe even compare the differences between each city.
Santiago Bernabéu Stadium
If you are a sports fanatic and love soccer or as some people call it football, then this is the perfect place for you to visit. This is the second-largest stadium in Spain. If you are interested in buying tickets to a game, you can purchase them here. You can also choose to do a stadium tour as well. They offer a self-guided tour that follows a route. You have the options to see the dugouts, press room, players’ tunnel, changing rooms, presidential box, the shop, and more.
Tour Information Dates and Times:
- Tour is open until 5 hours before kickoff
- Mondays to Saturdays from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm
- Sundays and public holidays from 10:30 am to 6:30 pm
- $25 admission
National Archaeological Museum
This is another museum if you have time on your list to visit. I added it to make sure you have this as an option, but this could easily be skipped if you are short on time. This museum is solely to represent the history of Spain by bringing together a collection of Spanish antiques. This museum was founded in 1867 by Isabel II. This museum takes pride in protecting and preserving its artifacts. You will find anything from Greece, Egypt, East Asia, and more.
Puerta del Sol
A public square but also one of the busiest places to visit in Madrid. There are three main points of interest here: El Oso y el Madroño, Real Casa de Correos, and Kilometre Zero. The La Puerta del Sol was originally one of the gates to Madrid.
Reina Sofia Museum
This is another popular art museum to visit in Madrid. I would consider this to be more of a modern museum in comparison to the Prado and Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum of Art. They have a lot of rotating art exhibits that change seasonally. This museum is dedicated mainly to Spanish art which includes famous paintings by Picasso and Salvador Dali. One of the most famous art pieces in the museum would be Picasso’s “Guernica”.
There are a ton of parks to visit within Madrid that are popular to visit in Madrid. As someone who lives in Seoul, a highly populated city, I appreciate any green space I can get. Sometimes a break from the big city life is needed even on a vacation. It’s a great way to get away from a lot of people but also just a way to slow down during the trip.
Recommend Parks in Madrid
- Retiro Park
- Jardines de Las Vistillas
- Madrid Rio
- Parque Quinta de los Molinos
- Royal Botanical Gardens
- Casa de Campo
- Parque Juan Carlos I
- Parque del Oeste
- Campo del Moro
- Jardines de Sabatini
- Jardín del Príncipe de Anglona
- Dehesa de la Villa
- Parque del Capricho
Best time to visit Madrid
If you are looking for fun things to do in Madrid, then choosing the best weather and time frame to visit to make the most of your trip is crucial.
The best time to visit Madrid is in the fall (September to November) or spring (March to May) which I feel is mostly due to the weather. Although, I wouldn’t be opposed to saying it’s not okay to visit during winter. If your only option is to visit during the summer, it’s still quite doable. Actually, it’s the time that I visited Madrid, Spain in August.
The first problem with visiting during the summer months is the extreme heat which can make it difficult to travel if you are not tolerant to humid and hot temperatures. Many of the things to do in Madrid are outdoors, so it does get quite hot. The second reason why it’s difficult to travel during summer is that that is when many tourists travel – especially in August.
Many tourists from European countries, North America, and others usually have summers off. Due to so many tourists, the prices do get more expensive and more difficult to find accommodation at times.
Weather in Madrid, Spain
Learn about the types of weather in Madrid so you can pack appropriately for your trip.
Spring in Madrid
This is probably one of the best times to visit Madrid despite the worries of spring rainfall. March and April have temperatures of around 54ºF (12ºC) with cooler evenings. Rain is more common during the March months and less likely during April.
Fall in Madrid
Fall in Madrid would probably be my favorite time to visit. I enjoy fall clothes the most because they are what I am most comfortable with. The foliage during these months make the city absolutely beautiful. September can still be considered warm as the summer heat starts to cool down. Temperatures vary around 60ºF (16ºC) with even colder temperatures in December. A jacket or light sweater is recommended in the evening.
Winter in Madrid
It is typically cold and dry, but there are some chances of snow. The coldest month of the year is in January where average temperatures during winter can be as low as 43ºF, (6ºC) on average. It is typically clear of skies and not so grey during winter, but of course, it all varies. This is the best time to have and enjoy some delicious churros and dip them in hot chocolate.
Summer in Madrid
Summers in Madrid are very hot and humid. It can be difficult to navigate when a lot of the outdoor things are during the summer months. However, I still suggest visiting. The temperatures range from high 60ºF (20ºC) to low 80ºF (30ºC). There are some areas that lack air conditioning so it will be quite hot in some areas. I suggest finding a hotel that has air conditioning to make sure you are comfortable when you sleep.
Traveling to Madrid in August? Read all about Spain in August.
How to get to Madrid
There are a couple of ways to travel to Madrid. This depends on how you plan to visit and where you are coming from.
Getting to Madrid By Car
If you are renting a car or driving from other parts of Europe, then getting to Madrid will be quite easy. You will be able to get here at your own pace and during your own time. I would suggest getting an International license from your local AAA – if you are able to. If you are looking to rent cars in Spain – you can easily rent one here.
Getting to Madrid By Bus
This takes the longest time. If you are not short on time, this would be a good option. The bus would be around 46$ one way. You will want to take the bus labeled Larga distancia. These are long-distance buses, very comfortable and extremely reliable. There are not a lot of multiple stops in comparison to the other bus options. There are a variety of different companies and you can easily plan a bus route from Barcelona to Madrid which takes about 7-8 hours.
Getting to Madrid By Plane
This is by far the fastest way to get to Madrid, but also fairly affordable if you look into budget airlines. I would suggest doing this if possible because it will save money and time.
Getting to Madrid By Train
This is another option to take, however, I found the cost of the train to be the same as flights and flights are typically shorter but require more time regarding security. So you need to weigh the pros and cons. If you are traveling with some heavy luggage, this might be the best route. However, it was relaxing, comfortable, and a great way to get to Madrid.
If you have a Eurail train pass, this will be quite affordable for you and easier to travel around.
San Miguel Market | What to eat in Madrid
This is one of the most popular places in Madrid to grab some delicious food. I wish I had a list of things to eat there because it was so hard for me to decide what to grab and where to go. There are a ton of great options here and these are some of the food you should eat at San Miguel Market or Mercado de San Miguel:
- Tortilla – Spanish Omelette
- Fresh oysters
- Fried Squid
Where to stay in Madrid
I would suggest staying somewhere quite centrally located in Madrid. There are quite a few places you can stay in Madrid. I found the low-cost hotel my favorite because it was a great way to meet other travelers, so if you are traveling solo or want to meet other people, I found this hostel to be the best.
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Map of things to do in Madrid
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