Spain’s capital city of Madrid has such a rich culture. From the beautifully manicured public parks to the national art museums and the endless amounts of bars and restaurants; there’s so much to love about this European city. To ensure that you make the best use of your time while you’re there, I’ve rounded up a list of the best things to do in Madrid.
How to Get To Madrid:
You can find direct flights to Madrid from most major airports. From New York City’s JFK airport, it’s about a 7 hour flight, which typically averages $400-500 per round trip ticket.
Getting Around Madrid
Madrid is best enjoyed by foot or via public transportation, aka the Metro. While it may seem daunting, with the use of Google Maps, the Metro is extremely easy to navigate and costs just 1,50€ per journey. Alternately, Uber is also available in Madrid.
Where to Stay in Madrid
Each Madrid neighborhood has its own unique vibe. Depending on what you’re planning to do while you’re there, it may be more convenient to stay in one area over another. If you’re looking to explore the city as a whole, I recommend choosing the neighborhood that best fits your interests.
We especially love the Malasaña neighborhood. It’s home to some of the city’s trendiest cafes, bars and restaurants so it’s a great place to stay if you’re looking to enjoy Madrid’s food culture and nightlife.
During our initial one night stay in Madrid en route to Mallorca, we stayed at the INNSIDE by Meliá Madrid Gran Vía, which we enjoyed. On our way back from Mallorca, we opted for an Airbnb to get a more local experience of the city. We choose this one with beautiful rooftop views.
If it’s your first time in the city, a hotel might be the best route, but if you’re planning for a longer stay or are familiar with the city, I’d choose an Airbnb.
What to Do in Madrid:
Wander through El Retrio Park.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site located right at the edge of Madrid’s city cetnter, El Retiro Park is one of the largest parks in the city of Madrid. In addition to the vast 350 acres of greenery, lakes, fountains and sculptures, El Retiro Park is also home to some of the city’s most beautiful sites like the Palacio de Cristal and the Monumento a Alfonso XII.
Explore Plaza Mayor.
Plazas in Madrid are known as large main squares and are often gathering places home to marketplaces or government buildings. Plaza Mayor is located in the Centro neighborhood of Madrid and was once known as the center of the city. In Plaza Mayor today, you’ll find beautiful, ornate buildings filled with restaurants, bars and shops.
Soak Up all of the Art at The Prado Museum.
Spain’s main national art museum, The Prado Museum is located in Central Madrid and is a must-see stop on your Madrid tour. It’s said to house one of the world’s finest collections of European Art so there’s no shortage of beautiful artwork to see. I recommend heading there on the early side to avoid crowds and easily buy your tickets on site.
Enjoy the local cuisines.
From local haunts to under-the-radar establishments and trendy favorites, Madrid’s food scene has so much to offer. While there are a number of mid to top-tier restaurants, don’t overlook the local bars when it comes to food. Some of our favorite dishes were had grabbing tapas or a Pollo Asado at an outdoor bar. Here were a few of our favorite spots:
Masticar Cafe – A small cafe in the center of Madrid, Masticar is a great place for coffee and pastries
Taberna la Dichosa – A tasty, unique menu that changes daily, this is a great spot if you’re looking to venture outside of the typical Spanish food scene. It’s a small space so I recommend making a reservation.
Bodega de la Ardosa – A popular tapas bar serving up local delicacies, you’re lucky if you’re able to snag a spot at one of their few tables. Their daily specials are all communicated verbally so be prepared with some knowledge of Spanish if you’re planning on stopping by!
Madam – Set in an Instagram-worthy space, Madam is a trendy Parisian restaurant with a Spanish flair. Expect dishes like duck eggrolls, cheese plates and uniquely flavored croquetas.
La Templadera – A local establishment serving up some great lunch specials at reasonable prices, this is the ideal place to go to fill up after a morning exploring.
La Quintina – Located just off of Gran Via, if you’re looking for traditional Spanish food, this is a great place to get it. Croquetas, Iberian Ham and Calamari are all dishes that you’ll find here.
Hit Up a Rooftop Bar for Sunset.
One of Madrid’s best kept secrets is its rooftop bar scene. They’re the ideal place to take in the views of the city and enjoy a good cocktail while you’re at it.
Grab a Bite at One of the Mercados.
Madrid’s mercados are full of delicious food vendors; everything ranging from sweet treats to fresh oysters. A few noteworthy mercados to visit include Mercado de San Miguel, Mercado de la Cebada, Mercado de San Antón and Mercado de San Fernando.
Watch the Sunset at Temple of Debod.
An Egyptian temple dating back to the 2nd century BC that was transported and rebuilt in Madrid’s City Center, the Temple of Debod is one of Madrid’s top sites. Free to visitors, you can easily enjoy the Temple of Debod at any time of day. Depending on the time of year you visit, you can see the sunset perfectly through the temple. If you actually want to walk through the temple, you may have to wait in line depending on the crowds.
Take in the Beauty of the Palacio.
The 18th century Royal Palace of Madrid is one of the largest in the world. While you can pay to walk through it, we were just as impressed taking its grandeur from the outside.
Shop, Eat & Drink on Gran Via
One of Madrid’s most famous streets, Gran Via is known best for its shops, restaurants and bustling nightlife. Just under a mile long, there’s no shortage of things to do and see here.6