Top 10 Things To Do In Madrid

Madrid, the capital city of Spain is rich in art and culture. With its popular art museums and vibrant plazas and parks, Madrid never fails to impress its visitors. Before we get into the attractions, here are some details that may come handy while you plan your trip to Madrid. 

When to travel?

Although, any time of the year is good to be in the city, I personally feel that particularly during Christmas and New Year, the streets and plazas come alive. There is a general happy ambience around the city during this time.  

How many Days?

I believe that to understand a city and then like it, one must spend a considerable amount of time living there. The more time you spend strolling along the streets; lazing around in cafés, observing people, the better you are able to understand the soul of any city. But if you do not have enough time in hand and are looking for a limited duration to spend in Madrid, I would recommend not less than three days. In three days, you can have a relaxed tour of the main attractions and also get a lot of time to walk around the city. 

Traveling around Madrid 

The best way to explore the city is by metro and by foot. If you will be staying in Madrid for a couple of days (3 or more), it would be a good idea to buy a metro card that is valid for 10 travels. 

Top 10 things to do in Madrid 

I truly enjoyed my stay in Madrid. I found the people to be exceptionally friendly and the atmosphere during Christmas was joyful and pleasant. Of course it is always difficult to pick a limited number of attractions from a city as lively and vibrant as Madrid but, here you are - a list of 10 things you can do while you are in the city.

1. Plaza Mayor

This 16th century Renaissance Square is popular for its impressive architecture and the array of shops and restaurants. There are nine entrances to the plaza. One of the best times to visit here is during Christmas. The entire plaza comes alive with stalls and activities. At the center of the square stands the bronze statue of King Philip III.

2. Visit The World Famous Museums 

Paseo del arte or Art walk is an area filled with art museums. Some of the major ones that are worth a visit are listed below. 

Museo del Prado is undoubtedly one of the best and popular art museums in the world. This vast space houses the finest collection of European art, dating from 12th Century to early 20th Century. A day spent here will take you into a magical world of Renaissance, Baroque and Romantic artists like Francisco Goya, Paul Rubens, Titian and Velázquez, to name a few. Personally, I am a fan of Goya and it was a treat to find his collection of dark paintings and my favourite painting of his – The witches in the air. 

The Reina Sofia museum focuses mainly on modern paintings. Ensure a visit here to find the paintings by Dalí and Picasso. 

Thyssen-Bornemisza art museum has a wide collection of paintings by English and German artists like Hans Holbein, Hans Baldung Grien and Albrecht Dürer. Paintings of Renaissance masters like Tintoretto, Veronese, Rembrandt, Van Dyck and many others are among the collection.

3. Plaza De Cibeles 

This square, located at the intersection of the Paseo del Prado and Calle Alcalá, with its neo-classical complex of marble sculptures and fountains is one of the most emblematic symbols of Madrid. 

4. Royal Palace

This magnificent palace with a blend of Baroque and Neoclassical styles was built in mid-1700s for King Philip V. Take a tour to view the richness of art and creativity. Among the collections are some of the works of Goya, Caravaggio and Velázquez. 

5. Almudena Cathedral

Situated exactly opposite the Royal palace is this catholic church consecrated by Pope John Paul in 1993.  The Neo-Gothic interiors of the cathedral are uniquely modern with works from contemporary artists. 

6. El Retiro Park

El Retiro park covers about 125 hectares of land in the center of the city. Of the many features, Rose Garden, Fountain of the Fallen angel, Casita del Pescador and Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) are a few notable ones. A man-made lake in the middle of the park is a good place to relax. 

7. Templo De Debod

Photo by Paula Carrasco on Unsplash

How about an Egyptian temple in the middle of Madrid? This 2nd century temple of Egyptian God Amun was transported from Egypt to Madrid in 1968. The temple was donated by Egypt for the aid provided by Spain to save the Abu Simbel temples which was in danger due to the construction of Awsan dam. The best time to visit the temple is during sunset to view the magnificent lighting. 

8. Gran Vía 

Photo by Florian Wehde on Unsplash

Gran Via is the most popular avenue in Madrid, known for its cinemas, theatres, restaurants, bars and shopping complexes selling high-end brands. The streets in this area are full of life until dawn. Therefore, it is the best place to get a feel for Madrid’s nightlife. It is also commonly referred to as the street that never sleeps.  

9. Watch A Flamenco Performance

Leaving Madrid or Spain without watching a show of Flamenco dance would be no less than a sin. This power packed music and dance performance will leave you spellbound. There is something very interesting about a Flamenco performance. The artists are having a good time cheering each other, all through the performance. This creates a casual and lively atmosphere. Cardamomo Tablao Flamenco is one of the popular flamenco theaters in the city. Also, many restaurants have live Flamenco performances.

10. Try The Tapas

The best way to experience a city is by enjoying its cuisine. Spain is popular for its small bars and Tapas. Tapas are appetizers or snacks. They are basically small portions of any kind of Spanish cuisine. In small bars the drinks are normally accompanied by Tapas. It is interesting to note that there are several vegetarian options among the spread. 

Of course there are many other attractions in the city that did not find a place in my list. If you are spending a lot of time in Madrid and would like to explore the city in detail, here are a few other attractions that might interest you - Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, National Archaeological Museum, Puerta del Sol, Mercado San Miguel.