- Vibrant city
- Get to know the the culture and visit different Museums
- Try Spanish tapas and typical food
- Street Art
- Visit local markets
“From Madrid to the Heaven”, that what locals say. Once you have been in this city, you have seen one of the best places in the world, as good as Heaven. Said that, the city definitely worth a visit! Its different neighborhoods, old buildings, art, and amazing food won’t disappoint anyone. From historic buildings, museums, and emblematic streets to a stroll surrounded by nature in The Retiro and of course, a lot of tapas, Madrid has something to offer to everyone regardless of the different likes or holiday style.
Madrid is the perfect place for history and architecture lovers, foodies or markets, and street art fans. Vibrant streets full of history and contrast, museums, bars, markets, and plenty of tapas can be found all over the city. The capital of Spain will keep you busy for a few days. Here you have some of the unmissable things that the city has to offer.
Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor
Puerta del Sol is one of the most emblematic places in Madrid. The main star is the Clock Tower, the one that welcomes the New Year every 31st of December with everyone celebrating around the square. At the entrance of the Tower, you will find the 0 KM, a stone that marks the geographical center of Spain from where distances are measured.
In the square, you can get entertain with the numerous people dressing up or doing magic tricks, buy a lottery and have a sweet treat in ‘La Mallorquina’, one of the best bakeries in the city. Around the square you will find some of the most famous streets like Preciados, perfect for shopping lovers or Montera, where you can find from tapas and beers to tattoos and piercings.
Going down Calle Mayor we reach Plaza Mayor. On the way, we will find tradition and present mixed seeing old shops with antiques, stamps, books or sewing material and also trendy shops or restaurants.
In Plaza Mayor, you will find artists displaying their job and different narrow entrances that lead to some of the oldest streets of the city. The square has terraces all around to have a drink. It is highly recommended while being here to try one of the most typical dishes in Madrid, the ‘Bocata de Calamares’ a baguette with fried squids and mayonnaise. The bar ‘La Campana’ is a great place to give it a try, you shouldn’t leave without paying a visit!
After a little walk from Plaza Mayor, we find The Royal Palace, one of the biggest in Europe. It is the Royal Family Official residence, although they don’t live there anymore. The place is now used for official acts and is open to the public. You can walk through the Royal family history and visit some of the 3000 rooms, the Chemist, the Chapel, and the Armoury room.
Surrounding the Palace we find the Sabatini Gardens and The Campo del Moro park, two beautiful green spaces free to visit. It’s highly recommended to have a stroll around these tranquil places surrounded by nature, sculptures, and fountains and to enjoy the views of the palace and the city. A great spot to enjoy the sunset.
Next to the Royal Palace, we find The Almudena Cathedral, the most emblematic religious building in the capital. It has a museum dedicated to religious art and the patron Saints of Madrid, San Isidro, and to the Virgin Mary of la Almudena. The Cathedral is free to visit but the visit to the museum and the Dome has an entry fee.
Gran Via and Debod Temple
A stroll up and down Gran Via is a must if you visit, especially if you like shopping or Teachers. The long street is full of the best plays, old cinemas, restaurants, and shops. In the middle of the street, we have ‘Callao’ Square, with its old Cinema and the emblematic Sweeps building. If we go down Gran Via we will reach Plaza de España, a square famous for The Cervantes Monument and the building around it: Torre de Madrid and Edificio España.
Next to the square, hidden in a park we find one of the most beautiful spots of the city, The Temple of Debod. The Temple is Madrid’s oldest monument and it was a present from Egypt to the King of Spain as a thank you for his help to save the Abu Simbel Temples. The Temple was built in Egypt at the beginning of the 2nd Century BC and it was sent to Madrid in 1968 and rebuilt stone by stone. Just behind the temple you will find a nice lookout from where you will enjoy great views of Madrid. Another perfect spot for sunset. Definitely, an unmissable place while visiting the city.
Retiro is the most famous park in Madrid and the most important as it’s the lung of the city. It is a nice and wide park with plenty of things to do. Sportive activities are organizing weekly, with spots for skaters, runners, or cyclists. There are also areas for children and as many paths as you want to enjoy nature and relax. One of the main points is the lake, a nice spot to sit for a while and listen to music or even rent a boat to make the visit a different experience. Around the park, you can find different monuments like the Velazquez Palace or The Glass Palace, build by glass and metal back in 1887, one of the most beautiful spots in the park. The favorite place of the photo lovers. It’s free to visit and sometimes you can find exhibitions.
The art in the city
Whether you like museums or street art, Madrid has it all!
For those who like walking around the street admiring the urban art it is highly recommended a stroll around Malasaña, a trendy area full of street art, little coffee shops, and second-hand clothes shops that coexist with the family business. The best place for hipsters.
Lavapies is also a really good option to admire street art. An old neighborhood where you can find different cultures, with ethnic restaurants and shops that get mixed with modern bars and locals that have arrived to the place during the last few years and made a bohemian and trendy place. Street art can be found all around the walls and shops in Lavapies, but the unmissable place is ‘La Tabacalera’ an old tobacco factory that has become an underground place where different events take place and where you find murals and paintings all around.
Barrio de las Letras (Literary Quarter) is an amazing place to wander around going back to the Golden Age when extraordinary artists like Quevedo, Lope de Vega, or Cervantes used to live in the capital. While strolling around these streets you will see under your feet quotes from the writers who used to walk around the place. This area is a tribute to all those artists and the Spanish culture and art.
For those who are into the museums, spending a morning around the Art Walk is mandatory. You can start visiting El Prado and travel from the 11th Century to the Gothic art and the Renaissance and witness masterpieces from notable artists like El Greco, Velazquez or Goya. A few minutes from there, we find the Reina Sofia Museum which contains art pieces from the 20th Century. One of the most popular is The Guernica from Picasso, alongside paintings from Joan Miro and Salvador Dali. To finish our Art Walk and get immerse in other European artworks, we can visit the Thyssen Museum, which holds pieces of artists like Monet and Rubens among many others.
Trying tapas and typical Spanish food
Food is one of the major attractions in Spain and Madrid invites you to try numerous local dishes and enjoy new flavors and tasty food made from local products. It is a tradition at the bars to offer tapas, small plates with food alongside with drinks. Enjoy yourself trying papatas bravas, potatoes with a spicy homemade sauce, croquetas, Iberic ham with tomato and olive oil and so much more accompanied by a beer or a glass of sangria.
La Latina is one of the most popular areas to go for tapas and beers. It is quite popular to spend Sunday with friends in places like ‘Juana la Loca’ or ‘Cerveceria San Miguel’. But typical tapas can be found all around the city.
If you feel more like having a meal you can also find traditional restaurants that have been opened for more than 100 years as Casa Paco, where people like Ava Gardner or Hemingway tried the local food. This place is famous for the tapas and the ‘Cocido Madrileño’, a traditional stew made with chickpeas, meat, and vegetables, truly tasty.
If you feel like enjoying local food in a more fancy way you should head to Casa Lucio, an emblematic restaurant really famous for its ‘huevos rotos’, fried eggs on a bed of potatoes and ham, and the Madrid style ‘callos’, stewed tripe. The place is so renowned for the good food that so many notorious people like politicians or the King had enjoyed the typical food from Madrid here.
People who enjoy food markets and try small bits and pieces of different food should visit San Miguel Market is the most popular food market with contemporary cuisine from all over the country. With more than 30 stands you will enjoy the favors of Galicia or the Basque Country or the best Iberian Ham. If this place left you hungry, you can head to Chueca and visit San Anton Market, a modern place with three floors where you can buy ready-to-eat food from different styles or you can buy fresh ingredients and have them cooked right there.
As you can see Madrid has so much to offer, you can visit it for a weekend or even longer as I’m sure you won’t get tired of it 😉.