The capital of Spain belongs to the most popular travel destinations in Europe with nearly 7 million people visiting yearly. Its vibrant city life is especially attracting young travelers and if you have a few days of spare time, this is definitely a place to consider. However, you should have some idea of the city in advance to make the most of your trip. To give you a headstart, dive into this guide to get an overview of the best things to do in Madrid!
1. Plaza de Cibeles
The Plaza de Cibeles is Madrid’s essence on which a major fountain sets the scene. You can see Cybele, the Greek goddess of fertility and nature, being pulled by two lions on top of the fountain. However, you might also know the square around the fountain because Real Madrid celebrates its victories here. Behind it, there’s the Palacio de Comunicaciones and you might think it is a royal palace – but it is (just) the former main post office of Madrid. However, it is very impressive and makes the Plaza de Cibeles with its other monuments one of the best things to do in Madrid.
2. Retiro Park
Often referred to as the most beautiful park in Madrid, you will find big crowds to occupy the Retiro Park with its magnificent gardens, archways and small Palacios. If your feet hurt after days of walking, this place is ideal to relax among magicians, street musicians and sunbathing people who enjoy life with ice cream and a milk coffee!
3. Circulo de Bellas Artes
The roof terrace of the Círculo de Bellas Artes cultural centre is a popular place to go for a great panoramic view. From here you can see over the city and beyond on a clear day. There is also a lot to see inside the house: changing exhibitions, lectures, readings, concerts, plays and films in the in-house cinema.
4. Taste Tapas
Tapas are small portions of various dishes and are usually ordered with a beer. A famous tourist spot for Tapas is “El Tigre” in Chueca. But there are small tapas bars at almost every corner, in which you can have some bites. You should also try the famous Churros con Chocolate, which are fried pastries that you normally have for breakfast.
5. The District of Lavapiés
Lavapiés is the scene area for young people and street artists. Locals and tourists from all over the world come here to throw themselves into the mixed turmoil of old Spanish ladies, stylish shops and art on every corner. Whoever comes here discovers a very uncommon side of Madrid.
6. Bullring Las Ventas
The Spanish variant of bullfighting is something many people argue about – either you love it or you hate it. The view from the stands of the Arena Las Ventas in the east of Madrid is impressive. After the show the dead bulls are shown on stage and horses drag them once around the ring before they land on the plates of rich people as a delicacy in the evening. So it is not surprising that there has been a lively discussion as to whether bullfighting should be abolished. The annual highlight of the spectacle is the Fiesta de San Isidro in the Semana Santa.
7. Puerta del Sol
The Puerta del Sol is the actual core of Madrid. Here, the narrow oldtown touches on the spacious Gran Via and tourists meet in the small side street “Calle de la Montera”. Originally, the Puerta del Sol belonged to a fortification ring that included the outer parts of the city that were not inside the actual city wall. Today, the life of Madrid pulsates here. Until a few years ago, the square was closed partially, because a new line of local trains was built but now the Puerta del Sol can be used in its entirety again.
8. Palacio Real & Almudena Cathedral
A beautiful building with a large square in front of it, the Palacio Real is the official residence of the Spanish royal family. However, the family does not really live here as the palace is only used for official occasions. The building has 3,418 rooms and a floor space of 135,000 square metres – that makes it the largest palace in Europe when it comes to space! On the opposite side you will find the Almudena Cathedral which is even younger than the palace. The first royal wedding of Felipe and Letizia took place in this church in 2004 and if you go to the city, this is definitely one of the best things to do in Madrid!
9. El Rastro
Rastro is Madrid’s biggest, most popular and most worthwhile flea market. In addition to used items, a lot of new goods are sold here and a beer cups are emptied already in the early morning hours. It is best to go before 11 am, because the market fills up quickly and getting through can be difficult. Pickpockets are a very common problem so better take some safe bag and take care of your belongings.
10. Mercado de San Miguel
The Mercado de San Miguel is a very stylish and historic market hall that is completely made of iron. You might have heard of Spanish market halls in other cities that all have a great variety of food and this one is definitely one of the best ones to see with Tapas, Paella, Ham, Fish, Wine and many more things in the highest quality. Often referred to as Spain’s center for culinary experiences, you will find both good food but also high prices – however it is definitely worth a visit and belongs to the best things to do in Madrid!
Get ready for your trip to Madrid
Europe has a lot of beautiful cities and Madrid is certainly among the top ones to see. If you like Mediterranean culture, we hope this guide gave you some inspirations but there are many other secret spots that you can best discover by yourself – take this as a compass with you, be open for other impressions and experience the best things to do in Madrid!