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Things to do in Madrid

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The top 2.831 attractions in Madrid

Gardens in Madrid
Retiro Park
: No matter where I travel, visiting the local parks is always one of my favorite activities. It’s in those places where you can discover the natural beauty and personality of the city and its people. My visit to Retiro Park was in the autumn so the weather was great. The park is located in the heart of the capital, only steps away from the famous Puerta de Alcalá, and is where thousands of locals and tourists go to relax. The immense park measures 118 hectares and traces its origins back to King Henry IV around the year 1640. As you stroll around the walkways, you’ll find gorgeous gardens, fountains, and monuments. You can admire the impressive King Alfonso XII monument across from the paddle-boat-filled lake. Snapping a few quick photos of the trees, ducks, and fountains will let you take home a little reminder of this legendary park in the Spanish capital. This is one place you absolutely cannot miss!
Streets in Madrid
Gran Via
The Gran Vía of Madrid is definitely a must-see in the capital city of Spain. Until recently, Madrid was not a city of very high buildings or skyscrapers. Lately, this has been changing in the area of Paseo de la Castellana and Plaza de Castilla, but just recently, the highest buildings were on Gran Vía. And they have history. And a great beauty. Walking on Gran Vía means looking up and down constantly. Because of the buildings and because of the people, and because of everything all around you. One can say Gran Vía is to Madrid what The West End is to London. Full of cinemas, theaters, people. Go for a walk on Gran Vía.
Historical Monuments in Madrid
Temple of Debod
The Temple of Debod is an ancient Egyptian royal temple in Madrid. It is over 2000 years old and is made of blocks of stone removed from Egypt. When, in the mid-20th century, the Egyptian government decided to build the Aswan Dam, they made an appeal to UNESCO to give this temple back to them, as otherwise they would sink into the waters of the Nile. Spain was one of the countries that responded to the call and in 1961 the temple was dismantled but not it wouldn't reach Madrid until 1970. When it was at its best, in addition to the main chapel (dedicated to the goddess Isis), it had two walls that surrounded it but currently only the pillars at the doors survive. Today it has become a symbol of the Spanish capital and is a magical place to watch sunsets. A visit is a must and if possible go inside so you can learn about its nature, use and history.
Markets in Madrid
Mercado De San Miguel
History radiates from all the corners of this market right in the old part of Madrid and at the same time it offers the most interesting innovations in terms of culinary art. The walls made of glass invite the passersby to take part in what happens inside, encouraging them to go in and find out about a world of flavors and smells one cannot forget. And it is not only that you can buy things and cook them at home, but you can also have tapas in different places, they have various types of food. You can eat directly at the counter or in the area made for this purpose. Every corner of the market has a specialty: seafood, cold meat, croquettes, bread, candies, wine, etc. On the cod fish stand you can have different types of it for 1€ each snack, you get it on a small tray, and then you should go and get a drink to enjoy even more. You can also have an oyster, a little bit of caviar, cheese, ham, gazpacho, shrimp, and many other delicious delicacies. Although some of them are quite expensive, most of the pinchos cost like 1,50€ or 2€. And don't think you will have to skip dessert: a stand of chocolate or cakes served in portions will leave you flabbergasted without knowing which one to choose. Another interesting element is the opening hours, from Thursday to Saturday they open between 10 am and 2 am without interruption, so that at approximately 8 pm it starts getting busy, not only with locals but also with travelers from all over the world, coming to this market to give their palate a real "feast of flavors".
Squares in Madrid
Puerta del Sol
Puerta del Sol is one of the most emblematic places in Madrid. Because it is the historical center of the city and of the country, since it is indeed the "kilometer 0" of all national roads in Spain, and because it is a place with history, past and present. It is one of the common meeting points for young people in Madrid, it is one of the best located places when you have to go shopping in the center and it is also known for the very famous New Year's Eve celebrations. Puerta del Sol is a must-see for all visitors of Madrid, despite the hustle and bustle, I highly recommend it. In the last years, the authorities have tried, with relative success, to clear the area limiting traffic to most vehicles. From "Sol", as it is commonly known among the people of Madrid, it is easy to start a walking route in the old part of town: Preciados, Arenal, Carmen, Mayor, just next to Gran Vía, the Barrio de las Letras, Paseo de la Catellana, Plaza de las Cortes...
Squares in Madrid
Plaza Mayor of Madrid
The Plaza Mayor of Madrid might be the most emblematic place in the capital, justifiably. Most of the old Spanish cities have a Plaza Mayor, but the one in Madrid is especially beautiful. Dominated by an equestrian statue and the hundreds of tourists accumulating next to it, the colors, the beauty and the constant movement year after year, give a special value to the square.It is the ideal place to go have tapas or a beer, as well as one of the traditional "bocadillos de calamares" (fried octopus sandwich). I highly recommend this place that you can't miss out on if you visit Madrid.
Palaces in Madrid
Royal Palace
Heading around the corner from Mayor Street toward Bailén Street and walking in the direction of Plaza de Espana, we pass the Almudena Cathedral on our left. Further ahead is the Royal Palace of Madrid, also known as the Palacio de Oriente. To the right are the Palace are its gardens and the statue of Felipe IV. I sincerely believe this to be one of the most beautiful buildings here in Spain, as well as the most beautiful palace in all of Europe, and possibly the world! Here’s a little information from the 16th century. The Muslim kings from Toledo built a defensive fortress that was later occupied by the Christian kings until the 16th century, when they constructed a palace. The Spanish monarchs lived there until the 18th century when, on Christmas Eve of 1734, it was destroyed by a fire. Felipe V ordered Filippo Juvara to construct the Royal Palace of Madrid that currently stands over the ruins of the previously destroyed palace. The construction was continued by Juan Bautista Sachetti and later finished by Francesco Sabatini. For 17 years Carlos III was the palace’s first occupant. Its interior decoration is magnificent. It emphasizes the most famous artists of its age: Tiepolo, Mengs, Bayeu, Maella, etc. The gardens will move you. To the west is the Campo del Moro (Moorish Gardens), to the north the Sabatini gardens, to the east the plaza del Cabo Noval, the Plaza de Oriente and the massively impressive Lepanto gardens, the stately trademark of the Palace. The palace’s interior is majestic, but it’s the Salon del Trono (Throne Chamber) and the Royals Arms Collection that truly stand out. Leaving the palace and crossing the plaza de Oriente you’ll find the Teatro Royal (Royal Theater) right in front of you. To the left is the Real Monasterio de la Encarnacion (Royal Monastery). If you continue forward towards Bola Street, you’ll find a tavern with the same name, Taberna La Bola. They have a good cocido (Madrilenian stew) and a great atmosphere. It’s been there serving food since 1870.
Stadiums in Madrid
Santiago Bernabéu Stadium
Let me tell you about my experience taking a tour of the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. It is, without a doubt, one of the best stadiums in the world. The views from the highest seats, as you can see in the photos, are excellent. The tour begins exactly there, above everything, where you can take some panoramic photos before heading down to the museum. There, you get audioguides that explain the history of the Real Madrid team from its founding to the present day. You can see the original shirts, the membership cards of celebrities, and an interminable collection of trophies. Among these, of course, you’ll find the Champions League trophies, which have a special multimedia presentation. After, we continued our descent down the bleachers until we finally arrived at the field and the benches, both of which make a great photo opportunity. Later, we headed up the tunnel where the players come out and entered into the locker room. Afterwards, we headed to the press room, where you can get a photo like one of the players you see on TV. Finally, we arrived at the stadium’s shop where you can get everything from official Real Madrid suits to golf balls emblazoned with the RM logo. If you’re a Real Madrid fan, don’t forget to bring a lot of cash because I’m sure you’ll want to get a souvenir and it isn’t cheap. The entry costs five euros. The nighttime photo that you can see is the view from the stadium’s bar that we visited at night. The bar has a five euro cover and it isn’t cheap once you’re inside. But, if you’re a die-hard fan, it’s a good place to have a drink and enjoy the views of the stadium.
Gardens in Madrid
El Capricho Park
El Parque del Capricho (Capricho Park) is located in the Alamedia de Osuna neighborhood, in the Northwest of Madrid, right next to Juan Carlos I park. It’s the most unknown of all Madrid’s parks, despite being the only Romantic garden in Madrid. It’s a very beautiful and remote park, which explains its limited visiting hours, which are reduced to weekends and holidays. It is prohibited to enter the park with food, drink, pets, bicycles, etc. (park entrance is controlled by turnstiles). It’s an absolute delight to visit this park, as it’s so isolated, pure and gorgeous. The plant life is abundant and is perfectly maintained, thanks to the army of gardeners that work there. Among the many exemplary attractions, my favorites are the trees of love, whose leaves form a heart. The best time of the year to visit the park is in the spring, when the lilacs are in full bloom. Although, the fall also offers spectacular scenery, especially if it’s a shady, damp day where you can really smell the outdoors. The Capricho Park houses many neat and interesting places to discover, such as: a labyrinth, flower beds, beautiful buildings like the Palace, the Casino de Baile (Dance Casino), a lake with swans, ducks, and a small wharf that connects the canal running throughout the park to the Casino de Baile. Each path offers something new and breathtaking to see. What are my favorite places in the park? The Plaza de los Emperadores (Emperors Square) and the hermit’s dwelling, where a hermit used to live under contract of the Duchess of Osuna. Stunning, remarkable views in a place worth spending countless hours while in Madrid.
Of Cultural Interest in Madrid
Roof of the Círculo de Bellas Artes
It has always been said that one of the most amazing places to enjoy dusk in Madrid is the Círculo de Bellas Artes. I had never been up there, and to be honest I wish I had gone before. Yes it is amazing. Going up there right at the time when the sun turns orange and goes down progressively until it disappears, giving way to what in photography is called "the magical hour", is a feeling all photography fans know you cannot put into words. It is a huge terrace roof where, even if there are many people, there is always a good spot to admire the horizon or take some unforgettable pictures. You shouldn't miss out on visiting it.
Palaces in Madrid
Palacio de Cristal
I’m not the only one who thinks the Crystal Palace in Madrid’s grand Parque del Retiro is the most beautiful place in the city. This little nook in the Retiro is one of the most popular places for visitors of the park, both tourists and madrileños alike. It is perfect for a stroll or simply for sitting down and taking in all the surrounding beauty. A pond surrounded by lush trees and a powerful water fountain lays in the center. There’s a small cave on one side, but the Crystal Palace is the main attraction. It was built by the architect Ricardo González Bosco. It was built in 1887, as one of the pavilions for the Philippian Island Exposition, with the purpose of being a greenhouse for a variety of plants and flowers from the then Spanish colony. It was built following the architectural tendencies of the time, combining iron and glass. Today, the Crystal Palace building is one of the branches of the Reina Sofía Art Museum. When you venture inside, you’ll be surprised by the seasonal exhibitions that are sure to wow you. To fully enjoy the Crystal Palace, I recommend that you take advantage of the natural morning light. Make sure to sit on the stairway overlooking the calm pond and take a moment to reflect upon the tranquility that offers a breath of fresh air from the surrounding hustle and bustle of the Spanish capital.
Historical Monuments in Madrid
Puerta de Alcala
Yes, it’s true that us Madrileños have seen it time and time again. But…have you? You can’t come to Madrid and not see it! The Puerta de Alcalá (Alcalá Gate) is one of the emblematic images of the capital and although we that live here see it from a distance almost every day, we still hold a special love for this historical arch. As a matter of fact, the last few times that I stopped by to see it, I felt nostalgia akin to how you feel when seeing your own city after being away for a lengthy period of time. I recommend that everyone sees the Puerta de Alcalá on special occasions such as the Noche en Blanco (White Night), where it has a special charm being lit up all night. Also, you should read about its history on Wikipedia or another similar website. You’ll love it. The best photo of the Puerta de Alcalá has yet to be taken. Maybe it’ll be yours! Marvelous corner of Madrid. A must see, you can’t miss it. And if this isn’t convincing enough, you have four other places of interest in the area (look at the map)
Cathedrals in Madrid
Almudena Cathedral
Highly criticized and reviled, the Cathedral of Santa Maria la Real de la Almudena (Saint Maria the Royal) is the perfect complement to the Palacio de Oriente (Royal Palace of Madrid). They are found right next door to each other. The final design included a series of arches on each side that would unite it with the Royal Palace with the Cathedral, creating a majestic, unified “Palace-Cathedral” structure, but this was never fully carried out, as the two buildings remain separate. The true secret of the cathedral is found in its crypt, with the magnificent 19th century “neo-traditional” chapels decorated with stain glass, mosaics, altarpieces, etc., worthy of being considered obligatory sights in any tourist visit to the cathedral. We can list the Chapel of the Marquis of Urquijo or the medieval image of the Virgin de la Flor de lis as highlights, although I’d encourage you to visit the cathedral and find out what you like best about it. The Cathedral’s entrance lies at the beginning of Calle Mayor. It is closed to the public during mass. I would recommend going during the afternoon so you can see the sunlight enter through the stain glass windows. The mixture of colors is incredible. A quick anecdote, the driving force behind the cathedral was Maria de las Mercedes but, upon her death, it was her husband who continued on with the project. Although Maria wasn’t the mother of any king, she was buried in the mausoleum of the monastery of El Escorial as a special exception due the high regard the town held for her.
Flea Markets in Madrid
El Rastro
The traditional Rastro market (located between Lavapiés and La Latina) has changed over the years, it nevertheless keeps having a unique flavor, especially in the streets around Ribera de los Curtidores, where most of the stands are and where you can find almost everything. The most "genuine" part of El Rastro is located in in General Vara del Rey square, in Mira el Río Alta and Baja, Miral el Sol, El Carnero, El Mellizo, Carlos Arniches, El Bastero streets. There you have furniture and antiques, books and fabric remnants, the extraordinary olives of Casa Jiménez to eat on the way, the sardines, peppers and octopus, which you eat standing (there are no chairs) in the popular and always packed Santurce bar, the snails in sauce of Caracoles bar, all the "characters" still present there who could perfectly have escaped from one of Pérez Galdos' novels.
Museums in Madrid
Prado Museum
This museum is known for having one of the best art collections in the world. It has an important collection of Spanish paintings: for example, there are 140 paintings of Goya and 50 of Velázquez. Among the masterpieces the following stand out: Velázquez' "Las Meninas" (Room 12) and "Las hilanderas" (Room 15A), Goya's "La familia de Carlos IV" (Room 32) and his famous "Maja desnuda" (Room 36), Rubens' "Las tres gracias" (Room 9), El Bosco's "El jardín de las delicias" (Room 56A), El Greco's "El caballero de la mano en el pecho" (Room 10A), among many others. The permanent collection consists of Spanish painting between 1100 and 1850, Flemish painting between 1450 and 1800, British painting of the 18th and 19th centuries, sculpture, drawings and illustrations and decorative arts. For art fans it is an ideal place and if you want to spend an entire day visiting it, there is a cafeteria and a restaurant. If you want to visit, apart from the Prado, other art museums in Madrid, you can buy the ticket called "Paseo del Arte" for 14.40€ and you can also visit the Reina Sofía and Thyssen museums. If you do not choose to buy it, the entrance fee is 6€ (3€ with discount). But there are times when the entrance is free of charge, like from Tuesday to Saturday between 6 pm and 8 pm or Sunday between 5 pm and 8 pm. The opening hours are from 9 am to 8 pm, from Tuesday to Sunday including holidays, except on December 24th and 31st and January 6th when it closes at 2 pm. Apart from the incredible permanent collection, they usually have temporary exhibitions.
Palaces in Madrid
Palacio de Cibeles
In my opinion, it is the loveliest building in Madrid. It is worth going through all the floors and spots, it is a magnificent building. Inside, on each floor, there are many surprises. If you start with floor 0, where there is a space dedicated to reading or relaxing, right next to desks with tactile screens to play and learn with information and pictures of "before" and "after" the renovation Palace. Further the old postal service stands (the Spanish Correos), exactly as it was at the time, which gives way to the glamor of other times. We can go up the lift or the fabulous stairs to other floors (there are eight of them, including the tower and two lower floors). These stairs are decorated with spectacular glazed tile. On each floor, you discover something new, the glass floor, the very worked roofs, the painted glass and the huge exterior glass dome. The renovation will take place in two phases, the first one is already finished. During the second phase there will be exhibitions, concerts and special events, what I guess will make the building very lively. To go up to the terrace roof and have some unique views of Madrid, you have to get a ticket at the entrance, which is not an easy task because of the queue... I did not manage to get one: the number of tickets is limited and at 5.30 pm they were already sold out, but I was very jealous of the people who could go up... It is a visit you cannot skip, I recommend it. I was truly amazed at the beauty of Cibeles Palace!
Train Stations in Madrid
Madrid Atocha Railway Station
I remember the first time I went to Atocha during a school trip to Madrid, we went to the station only to see the lovely garden in the center of the building. It is very relaxing, with the water almost like foam and falling from the roof every now and then to keep a given level of humidity for the plants. It was incredible how quiet the station was compared to the other big railway stations in European capitals. Atocha Railway station is Madrid's main station. It is now divided in three parts: one for the suburban trains (cercanías in Spanish), the Puerta de Atocha station (from where the fast trains go) and the Atocha Renfe one for the other trains. The original building is the one in the front, recently restored. A fire destroyed it partially. The new station was built by Alberto de Palacio, inspired by Gustave Eiffel. One can still see the iron structure of the greenhouse. Now for security reasons you have to put your bags in an X-ray machine, so I recommend you arrive early if you do not want to miss the train.
Gardens in Madrid
Madrid Río
Without a doubt, Madrid Río is one of the places where the people of Madrid go every day to do sports: ride a bike, run, skate or walk. The great length of the route (when finished it will be 10 kilometers long) makes it ideal for the number of paths: you can go on a different one every time. It is also very nice to relax in front of the fountains that are next to Segovia bridge, where you can have the best panorama since you can see the Royal Palace and the Almudena Cathedral. There are now a great number of bridges, allowing one to cross from one side of the river to the other, like the famous Cáscaras or Gemelos, where there are pictures of citizens, recreated with mosaic stones. On Sunday, people go in masses to Madrid Río to spend the day with the children, for whom there are slides, swings and even a zip-line, one of the most popular among kids. The whole environment is very clean, since the cleaning services go every morning along the whole route, even though you can also notice people respect it. If you want something more quiet, next to the Paseo de Virgen del Puerto there are some green areas where to sit down and read or sunbath.