Heading to Madrid soon? We loved our time in the Spanish capital but with only five days to explore we did not get our through our wishlist, and we can hardly declare expert status 😉 so we asked our fellow Madrid loving bloggers for help.
Today they share their thoughts on the best-known things to do in Madrid with a sprinkle of more obscure choices to keep things interesting for first-time visitors.
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Tom Bartel from Travel Past 50 lets us in on Madrid’s best-known hot chocolate. Charles loved these too, but they were not really my thing. I am neither a doughnut or a chocolate lover.
For your morning coffee or chocolate in Madrid, you can’t do better than Chocolatería San Gines. It’s just off Calle Arenal about halfway between the Puerta del Sol and the Plaza de Ópera.
You’ll probably stand in line for a few minutes to order at the cashier just inside the door. You get your ticket, and then wait a few minutes for a table to open up. When you get a seat, you give your ticket to a waiter, and a short time later, deliciousness appears on your table.
There are four combinations of standard fare. To drink, you can either have coffee with milk (café con leche) or hot chocolate. Then choose either churros or porras, which are basically just bigger churros.
In case you don’t know, churros and porras are the Spanish equivalents of doughnuts. They are dough deep-fried to airy tubes–and are usually sprinkled with powdered sugar–although they are so delicious, you can certainly forego the sweet garnish.
The essence of the Spanish churro breakfast is not the churros; however, it’s the chocolate. Warning: This isn’t the thin beverage that Americans call cocoa or hot chocolate. This is thick, dark, bitter chocolate that comes in a cup, and is too thick to drink. It exists solely for dipping your churros and then using your spoon to get the last bit out of the bottom of the cup.
Where: Pasadizo de San Ginés, 5, 28013 Madrid, Spain
Inma Gregorio from A world to Travel shares one of the best viewpoints in Madrid. We visited in the day time and agree the view is fantastic.
Every time I have the chance to spend a night or more in a new city, one of my biggest hobbies is to climb on a terrace to admire the sunset views.
In Madrid the options are many, one of the best is the Cibeles terrace. It is very busy due to its central location and incredible views. From here you can see the famous Cibeles square and the surrounding streets such as the one that goes towards Paseo de la Castellana on the right side and the one that goes up Alcalá street towards Madrid’s melting pot, Gran Vía, right in front.
This terrace lends more to a coffee or a drink than to snack. On the other hand, its menu is quite expensive by the standards of this country. As a reference, an alcohol-free drink is around €6. In any case, it is possible – if you are lucky and the terrace is open – to simply go up for a while to enjoy the view before continuing your walk through the capital of Spain. Although sometimes, you can find a sign at the entrance of the terrace that specifies that a minimum consumption of €6 is required.
The nearby Circulo de Bellas Artes and City Hall rooftop terraces are also an excellent option to catch a great Madrid sunset.
Where: Plaza Cibeles, 1, 28014 Madrid, Spain
Gwen from Healthy Travel Mom suggests a visit to the museum dedicated to one of Madrid’s most famous authors. We stayed in an apartment in Calle de Cervantes in Barrio de Las Letras and were surrounded by his words on plaques in the footpath. I only wish I had known about this museum.
Alcala de Henares – more commonly referred to simply as Alcala – is a picturesque town located approximately 22 miles east of Madrid and an easy day trip by train. One of the most popular places to visit in Alcala is the Museo Casa Natal de Cervantes (Cervantes Birthplace Museum), where Miguel de Cervantes was born and spent his early years.
Cervantes is considered one of the greatest literary minds in the Spanish language. He was born on September 29, 1547. His most famous work is “Don Quixote.”
The historic two-story house has been restored several times over the centuries. Today it is designed to look much like it did when the Cervantes family lived there in the 16th century. It is a beautiful building with Renaissance-era architecture and an open courtyard in the centre.
Step into the museum, and you will be transported back in time. The museum’s rooms are spread over two floors encircling the interior courtyard. You’ll learn about the iconic author and his life as you meander from room to room. The different rooms recreate the customs and daily activities of the 16th century – including a ladies’ drawing room, dining room and nursery. The museum also has an impressive collection of Cervantes’ works.
In addition to its truly one of a kind exhibits, the museum regularly hosts cultural events for visitors of all ages. If you are planning a visit to Madrid, be sure to add Alcala and the Cervantes Birthplace Museum to your itinerary.
Where: Calle Mayor, 48, 28801 Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, Spain
Maggie Turansky who writes at The World Was Here First has suggested a visit to one of the cities most interesting areas.
While most visitors to Madrid will know to head to the Palacio Real, sample tapas at the Mercado de San Miguel, and enjoy the art in museums like the Prado or Reina Sofia, very few tourists tend to head to the south-of-central Madrid neighbourhood, Lavapiés.
The Lavapiés neighbourhood may well be the coolest barrio in Madrid, home to a multicultural population, hundreds of cool tapas bars and restaurants, authentic local markets, and a great street art scene. As more than 22% of Lavapiés residents are of non-Spanish origin, the neighbourhood’s diversity has led to it being one of the most dynamic and multifaceted barrios in the entirety of Madrid.
While there aren’t a lot of tourist sites in Lavapiés, it is a fantastic place to spend at least part of your Madrid itinerary especially if you want to get away from the major attractions and glimpse a true piece of madrileño life. Make sure to head to the Mercado Antón Martín where you can buy both local Spanish produce and indulge in some international food.
If you’re visiting on a Sunday, then the El Rastro flea market is a great place to browse for a good deal, rifle through antique stalls, and people watch. If you’re interested in street art, make sure to walk up Calle de Embajadores to see some of the most significant murals and art pieces in the city. There are also numerous tapas bars serving both traditional and modern cuisine from all over Spain, and it is a fantastic neighbourhood to explore if you’re looking for a unique night out.
All in all, no trip to Madrid is complete without a visit to multicultural Lavapiés, arguably the coolest neighbourhood in the Spanish capital.
Daniel James from Layerculture shares an area in Madrid that we loved and think you should take the time to explore. We particularly enjoyed the local bars here.
While looking for interesting things to do in Madrid, head over to the Malasaña neighbourhood. Known by many as the city’s bohemian district. You could say that this is one of the liveliest zones and very popular with the younger crowds. The good news is that the Malasaña neighbourhood has something for everybody.
One word to describe the area is authentic. You can find many unpolished streets, and even though the area has become a little more gentrified over the years, it’s still filled with a good selection of underground clubs and bars.
Maybe you’ll need to brush up on your conversational Spanish before you go? The area is home to some tasty fusion restaurants that you’ll find are mainly frequented by locals. There’s also a good selection of coffee shops and if you are visiting during the day, a handful of traditional tapas restaurants for when you get peckish during the early evening.
The zone itself is full of character, and not for the faint-hearted, so be prepared to enjoy a mix of street art, graffiti and if arriving in the evening, loud music and an endless swarm of partygoers. All in all, no matter what time of day you go, expect sheer entertainment as you walk around the streets of Malasaña.
Where: The main square is at Plaza del 2 de Mayo
Helen Rapp from Helen on her Holidays, shares her visit to a popular monthly flea market held in a railway museum.
The Mercado de Motores is Madrid’s take on a flea market, but it’s much more than you might expect. Taking place once a month (apart from in Madrid’s sweltering summer months), the Mercado de Motores is an unmissable mixture of vintage emporium and makers market, with food trucks, music and films to keep you fed and entertained. If that wasn’t enough, it all takes place in Madrid’s Railway Museum in an old railway station, so you’re surrounded by old steam trains.
The Mercado de Motores is a brilliant way to spend an afternoon on a short break to Madrid. I visited on a weekend trip in October and really enjoyed browsing the craft stalls, and vintage furniture stands set up along the old station platforms, before sitting down with a coffee and a brownie and watching an amazing jazz band.
We had a look at the museum exhibits then got a snack of some Mallorcan style potatoes and sat down in the outside cinema to watch Grease in Spanish with a beer and free popcorn. If you’re visiting Madrid and your dates coincide with the Mercado de Motores, I’d recommend going along.
Getting there is really easy as well – it’s just a short walk from the Delicias Metro station. Check the dates of the next market here
Where: Railway Museum, Paseo de las Delicias, 61, 28045 Madrid, Spain
Check out more of Helen’s travels on her Instagram feed.
Sinjana from Backpacknxplore is a history lover and shares one of the less-known museums in the capital.
I think the National Archeological Museum is one of the most underrated destinations in the Spanish capital. We didn’t have it on our planned Madrid itinerary, but I am glad that we went there on our 3-day trip. It has an entry fee of only 3 Euros, which is valid throughout the day for multiple entries. The National Archeological Museum is a massive four-storied building, with each floor dedicated to one era of history – Pre-historic, Ancient, Medieval and Modern History.
It showcases the important part played by Spain in the development of human civilization. You can find the original fossils and remains excavated from sites of Spain and North Africa in the museum’s exhibits. I enjoyed the pre-historic and ancient zone the most and spent more there than any other. Every floor has multiple audio-visual pods that explain the history behind each of the exhibits. It is a great place to visit with kids as it will trigger their curiosity and answer a lot of questions.
The museum is situated at a walkable distance from the Retiro park and the iconic Alcala Gate of Madrid. The three famous art museums in Madrid are located within a walking radius of 4km. There is an android app which you can download on the phone to know more about the exhibits in the museum.
Where: Calle de Serrano, 13, 28001 Madrid, Spain
Chrysoula Manika writes about all things food and culture and today is sharing one of Madrid’s most famous squares.
Madrid’s Plaza Mayor (or Main Square) is a large square in the centre of the city which stretches 129 metres long and 94 metres wide. As is typical with Spanish squares, there are 10 archways around the square which work as entrances, as well as 237 balconies dotted around the square which offer excellent views.
The Plaza Mayor is one of the most picturesque sights in the city thanks to its impressive buildings that grace each side of the square. It boasts a wealth of history, culture and architecture, not least because it was the main square of Old Madrid during the 15th/16th centuries.
There is always something going on in this buzzing square to keep you entertained, and when not enjoying an event or experience you can simply watch the world go by from one of the many alfresco cafes and restaurants. While some of the restaurants here have higher tourist prices, it is still a fun place to enjoy at least one meal or drink during your time in Madrid.
The main sights to spot within the square itself include the statue of Felipe III in the middle of the square and the frescoed facade of Casa de la Panadería. The square is also home to regular Sunday markets as well as Madrid’s famous Christmas market which is a real sight to behold!
Where: 28012 Madrid, Spain
Read more of Chrysoula’s work on Historic European Castles
Abigail from Inside the Travel Lab tells us how to find one of the most famous Spanish artworks. Charles is a big Picasso fan and seeing this made him very happy 🙂
The Reina Sofia is one of the three places that make up the golden art triangle in Madrid. But it is perhaps best known for housing one of Spain’s most famous paintings: Guernica by Pablo Picasso.
Not only is Guernica a striking piece of work in its own right, a twisting mass of limbs and terror, bulls and blood, but the history of its creation and the story behind what happened after that illuminates as much as the artwork itself.
The title, Guernica, refers to the small village in the Basque area of Spain hit by Nazi bombs sent to assist General Franco during the Spanish Civil War. Historians argue that the event was the first known targeting of civilians by military planes.
Picasso decreed that the work should not return to Spain until democracy had been restored. The painting was completed in 1937, Picasso died in 1973, Franco in 1975 and Guernica reached Madrid in 1981.
The surrounding exhibition explores Picasso’s creative process. But there is more to the Reina Sofia than just Guernica.
The entire museum, officially the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, is dedicated to 20th-century art. While Picasso and Salvador Dali are the most famous artists, you’ll also find works by Joan Miro and many other Spanish artists as well as some international contributions.
The museum is located near the Atocha train and metro stations. Admission is currently 10 Euro, although look out for late evening openings and other special events when admission is free. Leave at least half a day to explore fully. During Summer or holiday periods it’s advisable to get your tickets in advance to save time
Where: Calle de Santa Isabel, 52, 28012 Madrid, Spain
Follow Abigail on Instagram for more great finds.
Jo Karnaghan from Frugal First Class Travel is our go-to for planning trips to France; however today she is sharing her love of the Royal Palace. Sadly we only managed to view it from the outside. If only I had known how stunning the interior was.
The Palacio Real (Royal Palace) of Spain is the third largest palace in Europe after Versailles and Schönbrunn. Fortunately, it is far less crowded than both. The current palace was built in the eighteenth century by King Philip V who wanted to create his own version of Versailles (having been born and raised at Versailles) – if you are familiar with Versailles you will see the references when you visit. The Royal Palace is located adjacent to the pretty Plaza de Oriente.
It is worth booking your tickets in advance because while queues are not as extensive as some tourist attractions, there is little shade, and it can be hot in the summer. With our time entry tickets purchased online, we were able to enter immediately.
As you would expect of an eighteenth-century royal palace, the Spanish Royal Palace is a riot of Baroque exuberance. While the grand staircase is impressive, it is the rooms beyond (where unfortunately photography is not permitted) that most truly reflect Baroque influences. The Gasparini Room is certainly not to everyone’s taste, but its cohesive design is admirable for its attention to detail and singular style. My favourite room was the dining room with its impressive scale and opulent styling. This room is still used for important dinners regularly. Music historians shouldn’t miss the Stradivarius Room, featuring the world’s great collection, and only matching quartet, of Stradivarius instruments. Even to the casual visitor, the craftsmanship and detail of these instruments is amazing.
Entry to the Madrid Royal Palace is a modest €11 and is a must-visit for lovers of stately homes.
Where: Calle de Bailén, s/n, 28071 Madrid, Spain
Dave Anderson from Jones Around the World has suggested a great way to see Madrid from above. Somehow we missed this completely.
There really is no shortage of amazing things to do in Madrid, but one of my absolute favourites is enjoying the scenic views on the Teleferico! It’s a quick 10-15-minute cable-car ride that’ll have you flying from the city over to Casa de Campo (the largest public park in Madrid)! It only costs around 6 euro but will provide really stunning city views of the Royal Palace of Madrid, the Temple of Debod, and the Almudena Cathedral!
Once the cable car ride is over, enjoy a leisurely stroll through Casa De Campo (another one of my favourite things to do in Madrid). You can walk through beautiful gardens, grab a snack at one of the cafes, and relax by the scenic lake. Once you’ve had your fix in Casa de Campo, you can either take the Teleferico back the way you came or hop on the metro to drop you off right in the city centre.
Just a fair warning though that during the peak summer season, there can be a decent wait to ride the Teleferico! My advice would be to ride it a bit earlier on in the day, and then spend a few hours exploring Casa de Campo. Whether you’re only spending two days in Madrid, or have a full week in the city – consider this an absolute must!’
Where: Paseo del Pintor Rosales, s/n, 28008 Madrid, Spain
Mark Wyld from Wyld Family Travel arrived in Madrid the day we left; I think we got on the plane the Wyld Family got off lol. Anyway, we both loved this very photogenic spot.
When reading about Madrid, The Temple of De Debod always interested me. An Egyptian temple in Madrid is something right out of left field. After doing a little reading, I discovered the temple was built in Aswan in the 2nd century BC. The temple was dedicated to the God Amun. The temple had a remarkable life. It was an important enough temple that alterations were made to it Pharaohs and Roman emperors Augustus and Tiberius. Anyway fast forward, the temple was to be flooded with the construction of the Aswan dam.
The Egyptian Government allowed the Spanish Government to move the temple. It was taken apart and resembled it brick by brick in The West Park, near the Royal Palace of Madrid. The temple is only open certain times of the year. It is a small but eye-catching temple surrounded by water and trees. The park’s location provides some great views of the Royal Palace and the city.
Mansoureh Farahani who writes at Travel with Manroureh and loves Madrid as much as we do. She thinks a visit to Real Madrid’s home ground is a must. We agree, we watched a game and it was an amazing experience.
Madrid might be famous for its culture, history and arts, but we can’t ignore the fact that this Spanish city is home to one the most successful football clubs in the world, Real Madrid Football team. That is why Madrid could be a dream destination for football lovers and Real Madrid’s fans.
Visiting Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, Real Madrid’s stadium is a fun thing to do when you are in Madrid. It doesn’t matter if you are like me, not a big fan, but let be honest we all heard of the success of the team and its 100 years of history.
You can visit the stadium at any time between 09:30 to 19:00 (Monday to Saturday) and Sunday and bank holidays from 10:00 to 18:30, when there is no game.
You don’t have to book in advance, you can purchase the tickets at the gate and head to the entrance, but it can be a great idea in book in advance during peak season. It is better to go early in the morning to avoid queuing. The ticket for an adult would cost you 25,00 €, for children under 14 would be 18,00€. You can also get your entrance ticket with an audio guide for 31,00 €.
Your tour around the stadium starts as soon as you step in. You can follow the route at your own pace and visit different parts to get familiar with what goes on behind the scenes of each game.
You will visit the museum of the club, where there are all the medals and cups the team won. Then you can walk to the seats where you can have a panoramic view of the stadium. Then you can head to the VIP section and changing room and go through the tunnel onto the pitch.
Keep in your mind to visit all parts of the stadium would take you at least one hour.
Check out Mansoureh’s video on a weekend in Madrid
We decided to celebrate my “big” birthday at the oldest restaurant in Madrid, the legendary Sobrino de Botín
If it was good enough for Hemmingway its good enough for my 50th right. Sobrino de Botin made my shortlist for this special occasion because of it its history but when I found out the signature dish was roast suckling pig we locked it in.
The restaurant opened in 1725 and has operated ever since, which Guinness Book of Records says makes it the oldest in the world. It famously appeared at the end of Hemmingway’s book The Sun Also Rises and apparently he ate here on several occasions.
We ordered the house special cochinillo asado and also the slow-roasted lamb, cordero asado. Both dishes are cooked in an oven that is over 300 years old.
Both dishes melted in the mouth, so tender and it is easy to see why they have stuck to the original recipes with very little change to the menu almost three centuries after opening.
Be sure to book and treat yourself to some of the most expensive croquettes you will find in Madrid while you are there. They are worth it.
Where: 17 Calle de Cuchilleros in Madrid
Amber from Food And Drink Destinations travels the world in search of the best eats across the globe. I highly recommend you give this tip a try!
Spain is a food and drink paradise. In Madrid, there are loads of restaurants and bars to visit and experience the best of Spanish gastronomy. From tapas to incredible Spanish wines, Madrid has it all.
One gastronomic experience that most travellers overlook is drinking vermouth. When it comes to what to eat in Madrid, many people think of tapas, but there is more to food and drink in the city than tapas. An essential part of life in Spain, drinking vermouth at one of the many vermuterias (vermouth bars) found around Madrid is a must for any visitor.
So, what is vermouth? At its simplest, vermouth is a fortified wine, flavoured with herbs and spices. Vermouth can be white or red and is often a blend of bitter and sweet flavours. Served over ice and enjoyed before lunch or dinner, many locals will enjoy a glass of vermouth, alongside a tapa or pincho. It is believed that having vermouth prior to eating opens the appetite. You can find vermouth in just about every bar and restaurant in Madrid.
To truly experience this lesser-known beverage, it’s best to seek out a vermuteria. A vermuteria specializes in selling vermouth, along with beer and simple snacks like chorizo, Jamon and olives. One of the best vermuterias in Madrid is Bodegas Ricla. A five-minute walk from Plaza Mayor, Bodegas Ricla is a tiny old school vermuteria. While it is located on one of the main tourist streets (Calle de Cuchilleros), it is visited by locals and tourists alike.
Most visitors are attracted by the wide range and high-quality vermouth on offer. A glass of vermouth at Bodegas Ricla costs between €1.50 to €3.
Where: Bodegas Ricla Calle de Cuchilleros Madrid
Check out Amanda Madrid food guide for more great advice.
Wendy Werneth is the talented creator behind The Nomadic Vegan and I am pleased to say that vegans won’t have to miss out on tapas tours in Madrid thanks to this great find.
Looking for something a bit different than the usual jamón-filled food tour? Try a vegan tapas tour of Madrid! Madrid Vegan Travel is a new company that offers vegan-friendly experiences in the city, including cooking classes and food tours. Even if you’re not vegan, it’s a great way to experience a different side of Madrid’s culinary scene.
Vegan restaurants have been popping up like mushrooms in Madrid over the past few years. The options run the gamut from vegan doughnuts and other junk food to healthy, whole-foods plant-based dishes. And many traditional local dishes have been veganized as well, including some foods you probably thought could never be made vegan … like calamari!
The vegan calamari I tasted on the vegan tapas tour completely blew me away. It was from an all-vegan food stall in a local market that most tourists don’t know about, and that I never would have come across on my own. The folks there really nailed the taste and texture with their calamari, which would fool any seafood lover.
The tour costs 68 euros and includes stops at four different local eateries. It’s perfect for vegans, vegetarians and people with allergies to animal products, but of course, anyone who is curious about what creative vegan chefs in Madrid are up to is welcome to join!
Follow the Nomadic Vegan on Instagram to stay up to date with Wendy’s finds.
Retiro Park was a short stroll from our apartment and quickly became our favourite spot for a morning walk. We were there in autumn when the colours were particularly spectacular and we managed to snap the shot below.
Parque del Buen Retiro was initially a private area used by royalty as a retreat for seasonal holidays. These days it is a local favourite and well used by everyone.
There are over 15000 trees here and several highlights including the Crystal Palace and the monument Alfonso XII monument where you can rent a rowboat and spent some time out on the manmade lake.
Be sure to check out the rose garden and the Paseo de las Estatuas, or the Statue Walk. If you have time book at a free guided tour.
Where: Plaza de la Independencia, 7, Madrid
We didn’t list all the big-ticket things to do in the city as they will likely be in your guidebook. We wanted to help you choose a couple of local experiences to give your itinerary a good balance.
Just in case you are not sure of the most popular things to do Madrid we have included them below.
There is so much to do in Madrid that your time will fly, so if you are an art lover, try to spend at least four days here. WIthout the museums, you could get by with three days.
Have a question about something here? Want advice for planning your own visit? Head to our Facebook page and we will do our best to help.