The 12 top things to do in Madrid

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on whatsapp
Share on email

Things to do in Madrid

Capital cities like Madrid are full of things to do. You could spend weeks and yet not get tired, find something different each day, and each night. And with so many things to see it gets more important to plan ahead and choose among the, sometimes, an overwhelming amount of local proposals. We would like to start this section with our recommended 5 top things to do in Madrid. We would then move on and recommend activities in Madrid based on your travel style. You can also find lots of information to plan your trip to Madrid at our Madrid travel guide

Our 12 recommended plans in Madrid

The top 12 things to do in Madrid

This initial short list may vary depending on whether this is your first time to Madrid or not… If you are not a newcomer your priorities may be different… or you may after all decide you would like to repeat some of these top things.

Enjoy tapas at different neighbourhoods.

To start our list with the best things to do in Madrid we start with food and wine!.  We would recommend to start on the safe way and join a tapas tours first. Some of them are really good.

They cover the most typical areas and you will get to understand what tapas is about, what to do and things to avoid. Then, once you are ready you can decide to get more adventurous (a safer option compared to bar hopping is to enjoy restaurants that specialise in tapas and where you can eat seated)

Our top recommendations include streets Doctor Castelo, Menorca, Lope de Rueda (all these streets are near El Retiro park.
In Chamberi district Calle Ponzano is a must. Packed bars and fantastic diversity make this a locals´s favorite.
In La Latina you should walk down (and enter and try!) every single bar in Cava Baja, including the famous Casa Lucio.

In Huertas, besides the famous Plaza de Santa Ana, we recommend you Calle Echegaray. The quality of tapas is probably not as good as in the other streets we have mentioned, but there is so much fun at night in this area!

Get lost in the Retiro park 

The Retiro is a fantastic park located at the very heart of Madrid and visiting it is one of the top things you can enjoy in Madrid. 

Our recommendation is to enter the Retiro from street Alfonso XII (this is very convenient after a visit to the Prado museum for instance) or from Puerta de Alcala (which is perfect if you are arrive from Cibeles or from Calle Serrano). You can enjoy some of the highlights at El Retiro (the lake, the Bosque del Recuero, The Palacio de Cristal, the Fallen angel statue, the Rosaleda…) We strongly recommend to drink a horchata at one of the terraces in the park and once you are done, leave the park towards Calle Ibiza to enjoy top quality local tapas

Retiro Park

Retiro Park- Madrid

Retiro Park, the best park in Madrid The Retiro park is probably Spain´s most famous park. Enjoying a boat ride in the Retiro lake is one of the top things to enjoy in Madrid with children. Among the many interesting things you will be able to enjoy in El Retiro park you will be able to take some pictures of trees, squirrels, ducks and beautiful fountains. This will allow you to take home beautiful memories

Retiro park Guide »

Enjoy the best views from Debod Temple

This itinerary will take you 25 minutes (if you do not stop on the way). You will enjoy Calle Mayor, which is full of shops and from you wil be able to get to Plaza Mayor, the San Miguel market or La Latina district and the Cava Baja street (wine and tapas paradise). You can head toward the beautiful Plaza de la Villa, one of the least mentioned, yet most beautiful squares in Madrid. Your itinerary continue towards the Royal palace and the iconic Plaza de oriente. You are half way now to the Debod temple. This temple was saved at the time the Asuan water dam was being built. The temple, located at the end of The Parque del Oeste is located right next to a view point with breath-taking views of Madrid (Royal palace and Cathedral) and beyond…

Enjoy the Plazas in Madrid

Madrid is home to some fantastic squares where locals and visitors gather alike. These plazas are meeting points for many tours. There are many different plazas in Madrid and it is difficult to say which is the best. The three most famous Plazas are Plaza Mayor (at the heart of the city and full of terraces) , Puerta del Sol (the cero kilometer of Spain´s motorway network and a meeting point on new Year´s eve), and Plaza de Oriente, with beautiful gardens and at a superb location between the Royal Palace and the Opera House. But luckly for all of us there are many more! Plaza de Santa Ana in Huertas or Plaza de la Paja in La Latina are your place to enjoy tapas and relax, Plaza de la Villa is the one boasting the oldest buildings, Plaza de España is great to enjoy the old skyscrapers of Madrid on your way to Debod Temple, Plaza de Olavide is the best one to enjoy life like locals do, and the list goes on and on!

Feel like a King or Queen at the Royal Palace

The Spanish Royalty may not have the glamour or fame of the British Royal family. This may be the reason why some tourists that visit Madrid do not pay a visit to the amazing Royal Palace in Madrid. Its location, right next to the Plaza de Oriente and bordered by beautiful gardens, and its architecture are fantastic. But what awaits inside is even more impressive. The Royal Palace is probably a number of one amongst the top attractions in Madrid and a must-do visit. If you decide to skip this visit, we at least recommend you admire the beauty of the imposing Royal Palace from the Debod Temple at sunset. A truly romantic experience!

In search of Picasso, Goya, Velazquez or Dali

Any trip to Madrid should in our view include at least one of the top art galleries in the city. 
Art lovers find Madrid is kind of heaven. The city boasts three of the top art galleries in the world and many less-known art museums. The good news is the top three galleries are within walking distance from one another, and they offer very different collections. The Prado Museum is your place if you would like to enjoy Goya, Velazquez and El Greco (among many others!), the Thyssen Bornemisza is for you if you enjoy impressionist artists, and the Reina Sofia hosts the amazing Guernica from Picasso. But you will find many other, super interesting smaller collections spread throughout the city.

Top hotels in Madrid near El Prado Museum
Tourist attractions Spain

Madrid art galleries

Madrid and its “Paseo del Arte” (The local name given to the distance between the top 3 art galleries in Madrid (The Prado Museum, the Thyssen Bornemiza and the Reina Sofía museum) set Madrid amongst the top art destinations in the world.

Besides this 3 top museums, there are other smaller art galleries which would stand out at most cities in the world: The Real Academis de San Fernando, the Lazaro Galdiano museum he Casa Sorolla museum and the Cerralbo Museum.

Art galleries in Madrid »

Real or Atletico?

Soccer is a very important part of the life of Madrileños. Do you support Real or Atletico? This is a question often asked. It comes with no surprise that the soccer stadiums in Madrid are one of the top attractions in the city. The Bernabeu is home to the best soccer team in the world, Real Madrid, and one of the most visited attractions in the city, but the Wanda Metropolitano, home of Atletico de Madrid, is a superb stadium, newly created, and also worth visiting.

Wanda Metropolitano

Wanda Metropolitano- Madrid

Overview: Wanda Metropolitano The Wanda Metropolitano is a spectacular stadiumd, home to one of Europe’s top teams and the second best team in Madrid: Atlético de Madrid. Of course, Real Madrid and Atlético have an intense, cross-city rivalry and is considered to be Madrid “blue colar” team and that plays

Wanda Metropolitano »

Buy food as locals do

Food markets have become a tourist attraction worldwide and there are many tourists that have them amongst the top things to do in any city. If this is your case, Madrid has a good number of food and fruit markets worth visiting. The San Miguel Market is the most famous market in Madrid. Though It has lost part of its local charm and it is mostly today a market to enjoy tapas and wine, some stalls are still full of character and the place is overall beautiful. But there are other food markets in Madrid (you can find a full review in this post)  where locals still shop and where you will be able to both enjoy a tapa and buy food as locals do.

Calamari sandwitch and cocido stew

Eating a calamary sandwich or a cocido are in our view amongs the top things to do in Madrid. Let´s start with calamari. The sea is no close to Madrid, but one of the typical foods of Madrid is the calamari sandwich. One theory claims the wave of Andalusian emigrants centuries explains the success of this food: squid is cheap and the sandwich a simple product to prepare…  Best tasted near La Plaza Mayor at a terrace during a sunny day.

Cocido is Madrid´s most famous dish, though we would not recommend you a cocido if you visit the city in summer. This is a chic-pea stew with a good mix of vegetables and meat.
The best places to enjoy cocido are Malacatin, La Bola, and the luxurious Lardhy.

In search for bargains at El Rastro

If you like flea markets, you cannot miss a Sunday at the Rastro. This market runs every Sunday near Puerta de Toledo and for many locals Sundays are synonymous with Rastro. El Rastro is probably Spain´s most popular flea markets. Before it became a flea market it was a market where animals where sacrificed, and this left blood traces. El Rastro means trace. Today you will not find any such thing, but a colorful market where locals try to find the next bargain or antique. There are plenty of bars and taverns in the area which locals visit after a stroll in the streets of El Rastro.

Local customes: Dance a chotis or enjoy the bullring tour

This may be the first time you hear about a “chotis”. Well, this is a typical dance from Madrid. It is traditionally danced in mid-may when the San Isidro Festival takes place. But there are many other festivals in Madrid, including La Almudena in November, when locals visit the Cathedral of La Almudena with flowers, or La Virgen de la Paloma, a popular Fiesta in mid-August, a time when locals stay late at night in bars and theatres. 

Madrid is also home to Las Ventas, the most important bullring in Spain, and a place worth visiting, even if you are not keen on the idea of bullfights.  

Las Ventas bullring

Las Ventas is the Bullring in Madrid. It can hold almost 24,000 people and it is used not just for bull fights (corridas) but also for concerts and other cultural activities. Las Ventas, with 60 meters (196 feet) of diameter and it is the second largest after the Plaza de

Las Ventas bullring »

Enjoy a day trip from Madrid to a Unesco site

If you have a bit of time (and believe us, you should really try to squeeze that time in your travel plan) we strongly recommend to enjoy at least 1 of the 5 amazing Unesco sites located at less than 1 hour from Madrid Madrid is the capital city in Europe with more Unesco sites so close and yet this is unknown to most visitors. Toledo and its 3 cultures, Segovia and its amazing aqueduct, Aranjuez and its gardens, Avila and its fascinating walls  or El Escorial monastery they are all amazing places worth visiting. You will not regret this decisiion

Tourist attractions Spain

Day trips from Madrid

Madrid is one of the few cities in the world, if not the only one, that can claim to enjoy so many Unesco heritage sites at less than 1 hour drive from the Capital.

Fascinating medieval villages where local gastronomy remains unspoilt, top palaces and gardens (El Escorial, Aranjuez, La Granja) or one of the world´s most impressive medieval walls in Avila. Add the famous hanging houses of Cuenca, the wines of Ribera del Duero, the windmills of Don Quixote, or the elegance and beauty of Salamanca and you will start to consider Madrid as a perfect base from where to enjoy day after day amazing destinations.

We have left to the end of this list Segovia and Toledo, 2 of the World´s bes preserved medieval cities and, in both cases, ancient capitals of Spain.

Unesco site excursions from Madrid »

Best things to do in Madrid with Children

Family traveler icon
Family

Traveler

Travelling with children always needs a bit of extra preparation. Madrid is pretty flat and easy to walk. Public transportation is excellent and clean and taxis are not over-priced. This means moving around with children gets easier. Madrid has 2 excellent zoological parks, excellent parks with lots of attractions for children (our favourite park with children is Madrid Rio). We are sure one of the Soccer stadiums in Madrid will be a sure bet with children and if you would like to follow the cultural route the Reina Sofia is probably your safest option (the elevators are already a good attraction for children!) We copy here a link to some good family-friendly restaurants in Madrid.

FAUNIA MADRID

Faunia Madrid

Faunia Madrid is the cities second zoo. The park opened its doors back in 2001. Back then it was known as the Parque biológico de Madrid, but it was renamed Faunia by philologist and writer, Fernando Beltrán. Faunia describes itself as a theme and nature park. Faunia looks to provide

zoo madrid

Madrid Zoo

Overview The city of Madrid has had a long relationship and interest in exotic animals. The first Madrid zoo that was ever opened in Madrid did so in 1770, under King Charles III. It was known as the Casa de Fieras and it was located in Retiro Park. The old

Madrid wax museum

Overview The Madrid wax museum is located in the heart of Madrid on Paseo de Recoletos nº 41 and oddly enough is one of Madrid’s most popular tourist attractions. They feature a great number of wax figures of different famous and historic characters. The museum is 2000 square metres large,

Estadio Santiago Bernabeu

Estadio Santiago Bernabeu- Madrid

Overview The Santiago Bernabeu soccer stadium in Madrid is the home of one of the top sports teams in the world: Real Madrid. This imposing coliseum is located in the modern heart of the city, right on the Castellana, Madrid’s main artery. The Stadium is named after Real Madrid’s first

Madrid Rio

Madrid Rio- Madrid

Madrid Rio. The park with the best views in Madrid Madrid Rio´s very long path starts in the Puente de Los Franceses and runs a few miles until you reach the Matadero area. A large number of trails makes it very pleasant to walk, and by the time you’re done

Museo Reina Sofia

Reina Sofia museum

Rein Sofia museum – Picasso, Dali and so much more! The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia is one of the most important museums of Madrid. It offers the visitor an extensive collection of Spanish modern art pieces. Founded in 1992, the Reina Sofia Museum continues the periods that

Top romantic things to do in Madrid

Romantic traveler icon
Romantic

Traveler

Free and always great for couples, El Retiro park is the ideal place to stroll or bike. You will be able to rent a boat too!. If your idea of a romantic stay implies fine dining, Madrid offers many luxury or traditional restaurants which are great for romantic dinners in Madrid. Many couples find also very romantic food markets, and besides San Miguel (maybe too touristic these days, you wll be be able to enjoy Mercado de San Anton, Mercado de Ibiza, Mercado de Chamartin among many others. Remember that the best views of the city are to be found from Debod temple!

Madrid botanical gardens

Madrid botanical gardens The botanical gardens in Madrid are centrally located. At 5 minutes walk from other top tourist attractions in Madrid like the Prado Museum or the Thyssen Bornemisa art gallery, the botanical gardens offer the perfect opportunity to enjoy fresh air in Madrid city center, and learn about

Algarabía

The most romantic restaurants in Madrid

Couples that arrive to Madrid to enjoy a romantic break or to celebrate an anniversary or special occasion will find it easy to discover some hidden treasures and ideas that can bring that extra magic to their stay. We recommend you to visit our guide with romantic things to do and ideas in Madrid.

From parks to go hand in hand during romantic strolls, to restaurants that offer that perfect atmosphere to end the day… Our team of local experts have hand-picked the following restaurants.

Mercado de San Anton

San Anton Market in Chueca, Madrid

The San Anton market is once of the most popular food markets in Madrid. It is located so close to gran Via street that it became soon after it was refurbished a top tourist attraction of Spain´s capital.  But San Anton market is located in a district where people actually

El Capricho Park

El Capricho Park- Madrid

El Capricho Park, Madrid´s most romantic park El Capricho is probably Madrid´s most beautiful and romantic park and despite it is not very well-known, we believe it is one of the important attractions in Madrid. The park boasts rich botanical treasures, but it is not limited to this since there

Plaza de Oriente

Plaza de Oriente- Madrid

The Plaza de Oriente is one of the most beautiful squares in a city where there are many plazas, and many of them are fantastic. The Plaza de Oriente is next to the imposing Royal Palace of Madrid. Many people pay a visit to La Plaza de Oriente simply on

Top cultural activities to enjoy in Madrid

There are great museums in Madrid and also many temporary exhibitions. Art lovers from all over the world arrive to Madrid to enjoy one of its well-known art-galleries. We are sure you will also find amazing some of the smaller museums (the Sorolla museum is our favourite). The Austrias district is the area of Madrid with more interesting architecture. Plazas are one of Madrid´s most interesting things: Plaza Mayor, Plaza de Oriente, Plaza de Olavide, Plaza de Chueca, Plaza del dos de Mayo, Plaza de España, Plaza de Sol…. Our favourite are Olavide (where you will still get a genuine local atmosphere) and la Plaza de la Villa, with traditional architecture.

matadero madrid exterior

Matadero Madrid: beautiful and trendy culture center in the heart of Madrid

Matadero Madrid  Matadero Madrid describes itself as a “Centre for Contemporary Creation”. It is housed within the beautiful grounds of what used to be Madrid’s old slaughterhouse and cattle market, a location of great historic and architectural value.  It is run by the Madrid City Council’s Department of Culture and

Royal Academy of San Fernando – Gallery and museum

This one of the finest art galleries in Spain. Since it competes with the the Prado, Thyssen and Reina Sofia, many people do not pay much attention to it, but it is worth a visit without hesitation. It does not normally show among the top attractions in Madrid, but this

Museo Thyssen Bornemisza

Museo Thyssen Bornemisza- Madrid

Thyssen Bornemisza Museum – Visitor´s guide Located at the heart of the Paseo del Prado, almost in front of the Neptune Fountain, the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum shares the limelight with two of the other art museums in Madrid: the Prado Museum and the Reina Sofía museum. Since these three museums are

Catedral de la Almudena

The Almudena Cathedral in Madrid

The Almudena, Madrid´s  Cathedral Due to the way in which it was built, the cathedral of Madrid, the Cathedral of La Almudena has received critics. Some claim it has no real style. This can be well true, but its dimensions and some of the things we find inside it make

Museo Reina Sofia

Reina Sofia museum

Rein Sofia museum – Picasso, Dali and so much more! The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia is one of the most important museums of Madrid. It offers the visitor an extensive collection of Spanish modern art pieces. Founded in 1992, the Reina Sofia Museum continues the periods that

Museo del Prado

Prado Museum in Madrid – Complete visitors guide

Museo del Prado, one of the world´s finest art galleries The Museo Del Prado is one of the main tourist sites of the city of Madrid and you should not pass it up. You can see masterpieces of the Spanish, Italian and Flemish schools. Average customer review Score for Museo

Sections where you can plan and organise your trip to Madrid