What to see in Madrid: the 15 best attractions and things to do

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Martí Micolau

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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If you want to visit a European capital and are looking for a city full of day and night entertainment and attractions, go to Madrid. Really the city of nightlife, active and lively night and day! Here is the origin of some sayings related to the city, such as Madrid me mata (Madrid kills me) and Madrid nunca duerme (Madrid never sleeps)! The city is not just lightheartedness and dilated rhythms, but rather it also houses precious masterpieces of art and architecture.

If you are planning your visit to the Spanish capital, let's find out together what to see in Madrid, what are the best attractions and things to do to feel like a local!


  1. Museo del Prado
  2. Reina Sofia Museum
  3. Santiago Bernabeu Stadium
  4. Retiro Park
  5. Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum
  6. Royal Palace
  7. Almudena Cathedral
  8. Plaza Mayor
  9. Puerta del Sol
  10. Gran Via
  11. Debod Temple
  12. San Miguel market
  13. Plaza de Cibeles
  14. Royal Botanical Garden of Madrid
  15. Sales
  16. Other attractions to visit
  17. 10 things to do in Madrid
  18. User questions and comments

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1 - Prado Museum

It is one of the most important museums in the city and also one of the most important and visited in the world: we are talking about the very famous Prado Museum in Madrid. If you intend to visit it, plan to dedicate a certain number of hours to it.

Inside are numerous masterpieces by illustrious artists are exhibited, among these Caravaggio, Goya, Raphael and Velasquez, to name but a few. The Prado Museum is a real treasure trove of evidence of the history of art of our continent of the last five centuries. It is recommended that you go to the Prado during the week, to avoid the big weekend crowds.

Plan the visit: to make sure you don't waste hours in line and discover all the most important masterpieces, we recommend that you take part in a guided tour with priority access

  • on Calle de Ruiz de Alarcón 23, in the center of Madrid. Reachable by metro line 2, Banco de Espana stop or line 1, Atocha stop. Bus 9, 10, 14, 19, 27, 34, 37, 45 stop nearby - Get directions
  • Mon-Sat 10: 00-20: 00, Sun and holidays 10: 00-19: 00
  • full € 15,00, reduced € 7,50, admission + ejemplar La Guía del Prado € 24,00

2 - Reina Sofia Museum

If you are interested in the works of art made from the early twentieth century to today, the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid is a must-see for you. It is also about one of the most important museums in Madrid and is spread over 4 floors.

The peculiarity is that the building inside which the museum is located served as a hospital until 1986. Today it houses numerous works by artists such as Picasso, Dalì, Kandinsky and many others. The most famous work preserved in the Museum is undoubtedly the Guernica by Picasso, but it's also the most watched, so visit around closing time when there are fewer people.

Buy the skip the line: The Reina Sofia Museum is also very popular, with consequent queues at the entrance, so don't forget to buy your priority entrance ticket in advance

  • on Calle de Santa Isabel, in the center of Madrid, 13 min walk from the Prado Museum. Reachable by metro line 1, Atocha stop - Get directions
  • Mon and Wed-Sat 10: 00-21: 00, Sun 10: 00-14: 30, closed Mon
  • full € 5,00, reduced online € 4,00

3 - Santiago Bernabeu Stadium

The Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid is a real temple of football, where the important victories of Real Madrid, one of the most successful and famous teams of all time, were celebrated. The great names of Spanish football have passed through this field and today it can be considered a real pilgrimage destination for football lovers!

But that's not all: it is also a visit suitable for those who don't know about football! The stadium, inaugurated in 1947, can accommodate over 81.000 spectators and also consists of a museum that preserves the many trophies won from the merengues. Obviously, the interiors can only be visited on a guided tour, which will also take you to discover the changing rooms, the presidential box, you can reach the playing field and sit on the bench.

  • 6 km north of Madrid city center. Reachable by metro line 10, Santiago Bernabeu stop. Bus 14, 27, 40, 43, 120, 147 and 150 for the center-stadium route (on average 20 min) - Get directions
  • guided tours Mon-Sat 9: 30-19: 00, Sun and holidays 10: 00-18: 30. Times may vary on match days or official matches
  • classic tour € 25,00, flexible tour € 28,00. To attend the matches consult the calendar and costs on the official website

4 - Retiro Park

Simply called El Retiro, Madrid's Retiro Park is a recommended stop especially for families with children. It is about a green area of ​​118 hectares where it is possible to indulge in various activities: stroll here and there, stop to observe the performances of street artists with more or less improvised shows, have a refreshing drink in one of the many cafes surrounded by greenery or take a boat ride in the lake.

Along the street of the Statues, in Spanish Paseo de la Argentina, they are present sculptures portraying the various rulers of Spain and a fountain dedicated even to the Devil! To discover all its hidden corners, we recommend that you take part in a walking tour of the park or, alternatively, a fun Segway tour of the center and the park!

Attend one of the cultural events: from the end of June to mid-July the long tree-lined avenues are filled with book stalls on the occasion of the Book Fair; instead every week you can attend one of the shows of the Teatro de Titeres, or the Marionette Theater

  • 10 entrances distributed on the 4 sides of the park, the most famous entrance is the Puerta de Indipendencia. Accessible by metro line L2, Retiro stop, or line L9, Ibiza stop. Numerous buses stop nearby - Get directions
  • from April to September 6: 00-24: 00, from October to March 6: 00-22: 00
  • free

5 - Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

Let's go back to talking about art with the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid, an important museum in the city it preserves the paintings belonging to the private collection of the German steel magnate, Thyssen-Bornemisza, from which the entire collection takes its name. Enriched during the Second World War, Baron Hans Thyssen-Bornemisza gave shape to the collection that his father had divided among the various heirs.

The museum is spread over 4 floors and has about 800 works, highlighting the history of European painting from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century, with masterpieces ranging from the German Renaissance to Mannerism, from Impressionism to Baroque and Rococo to the wonders of the Italian fourteenth century. You can admire paintings by Van Eyck, Gauguin and Hopper, Caravaggio and Van Gogh. Due to the large turnout, we recommend that you buy tickets for the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum online to avoid queues at the ticket offices.

Coffee break among the greenery: once the visit is over, we advise you to stop for a drink in the museum café, the Las Terrazas del Thyssen, completely surrounded by greenery and with a beautiful view of the nearby Jardines del Thyssen

  • in Paseo del Prado 8, in the center of Madrid, 5 min from the Prado Museum. Reachable by metro line 1, Atocha stop or line 2, Banco de Espana stop. Bus 1,2,5, 9, 10, 14, 15, 20, 27, 34, 37 and 45 - Get directions
  • lun 12:00-16:00, mar-dom 10:00-19:00
  • full € 9,00, reduced € 6,00

6 - Royal Palace

Don't miss the marvelous Royal Palace of Madrid during a trip to the capital! The current building is the result of the reconstruction, which took place in 1764, of the ruins of what was once there residence of the Spanish royal family. The ancient palace was in fact destroyed during a fire in 1734. It is possible to notice, admiring the facade, the similarity with the Louvre palace in Paris.

The palace is the largest in Europe, with its 135.000 square meters of surface and over 3.000 rooms! It also houses some precious collections, including that of Stradivari stringed instruments or that of weapons and armor that belonged to the royal family since the thirteenth century. To date, however, the Spanish royals do not stay here but at the Zarzuela Palace.

The Royal Palace is rich in history and wonderful areas, such as the Throne Room, the Royal Armory and the apartments are unmissable. To learn about the history and not miss any of the Palace's highlights, we recommend that you take part in a priority guided tour!

Watch the changing of the guard: if you visit the Royal Palace on a Wednesday, from November to June, don't miss the traditional Changing of the Royal Guard in the Plaza de l'Armeria.

  • on Calle de Bailén, in the center of Madrid, next to the Cathedral. Reachable by metro lines 5 and 2, stop Ópera. Buses 3, 25, 39 and 148 - Get directions
  • every day 10 am-00pm, from April to September until 18pm
  • full € 6,50, reduced € 3,50

7 - Almudena Cathedral

Near the Royal Palace there is another building that was destroyed and then rebuilt, we are talking about the wonderful Almudena Cathedral. Dedicated to the Madonna of the Almudena, patron saint of Madrid, you absolutely cannot miss it.

Its history begins in 1624, when King Philip IV and his wife Isabella di Borbone decide to build the city cathedral right where the Church of Santa Maria dell'Almudena once stood. However, over 200 years passed from the project to the actual construction of the structure, due to continuous political uprisings but also to huge economic problems. The works began in 1883 and only after a century the faithful were able to pray inside, when Pope John Paul II consecrated it. Given the long period between the project, the beginning of the works and the realization, the cathedral looks like comes with a mix of different styles, each one to witness the various stages of construction

  • in Calle de Bailén 10, in the center of Madrid, next to the Royal Palace. Reachable by metro line 2 or 5, Ópera stop. Buses 3, 25, 39 and 148 - Get directions
  • from September to June every day 9: 00-20: 30, July and August every day 10: 00-21: 00. Limited tourist visits during the celebration of Holy Mass and religious events
  • free offer

8 - Plaza Mayor

One would never say that this square, until 1580, is was the seat of the city market but not only. Here were also held executions, popular festivals and the most famous of the Spanish events, the Corrida. Furthermore, between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries it suffered three major fires.

Currently, however, it has the appearance of an elegant square which measures 129 m in length and 100 m in width. It is a closed square, or rather, surrounded by three-storey buildings, thanks to the renovation commissioned by Philip II of Habsburg in 1561.

It is located in the heart of the historic center and can be accessed from one of the 9 gates, the most famous of which is undoubtedly the Arco de Cuchilleros. Accessible by metro lines 1, 2, 3 and 5, Puerta del Sol stop or lines 2 and 5, Opera stop - Get directions

Live it in every season: it is animated by spectacular events in every season. Here the Tamborrada is held, the final event of the Semana Santa which sees 50 participants with drums parade. At Christmas instead, it hosts the wonderful Marcatini

9 - Puerta del Sol

Puerta del Sol is a square that rivals Plaza Mayor for the recognition of main square of Madrid. This is where the madrid new year takes place and it is here that, at the Real Casa de Correo the seat of the presidency of the community of Madrid.

The palace also houses a post office and a massive clock that marks the "campanadas", that is the 12 strokes that signal the last seconds of the year which is coming to an end and the beginning of the new year. The Spaniards underline the 12 strokes by eating 12 grapes, it is in fact a widespread belief that those who manage to follow the rhythm will have a particularly lucky year.

In the historic center of Madrid, just min from Plaza Mayor. Accessible by metro lines 1, 2, 3 and 5, Puerta del Sol stop - Get directions

Look closely at the clock: if you look carefully at the famous clock in the square, you will notice that the number four is written in Roman numerals, but instead of being written IV, it has instead been written in this way: IIII.

10 - Gran Via

A destination dedicated to shopping lovers is the Gran Via, which starts from Alcalá street and ends at the Spanish Steps.
Finished in the early twentieth century, it was created taking inspiration from the skylines of New York and Chicago, two of the most famous American cities. Among the most emblematic structures we mention the Telephone Building and the Metrópolis Building.

Today it is the most fashionable shopping street from all over Madrid and is invaded by citizens, tourists from all over the world and those who want to spend time looking at the splendid shop windows and making purchases of all kinds.
Not only: here there are several musical theaters, so much so that the course got the nickname "Broadway of Madrid". Walking along the street you will immediately notice its lively character and you can give yourself an afternoon of relaxation and shopping, stopping for an aperitif in one of the many bars present.

The Gran Via runs through the historic center and can be reached by metro lines 1 and 5, Gran Via stop and line 3, Callao stop. There are also numerous buses that run throughout the area - Get directions

11 - Temple of Debod

In the neighborhood of Argüelles, practically northwest of the city center, stands the Templo de Debod, certainly one of the best known but above all unusual monuments of the Madrid city. This splendid Egyptian temple is located on a small hill a short distance from Plaza de España and probably dates back to 200 BC

It will seem really strange, you will think that it is an imitation, but it is not so: in 1907 in Egypt, on the occasion of the works for the Aswan Dam, some monuments were made safe and among them was precisely this Temple. Spain was one of those countries that welcomed UNESCO's call for help and, as a thank you, together with the USA, Italy and the Netherlands, received as a "gift" one of the 4 saved and restored temples and that today we can admire inside the Parque del Oeste.

Visit at sunset: we advise you to go to the Temple during sunset time, when the colors of the sky are reflected on the water, creating a wonderful play of reflections

  • in Calle de Ferraz 1, north of the center, 15 minutes from the Royal Palace. Reachable by metro lines 3 and 10 Plaza de España stop. Bus 25, 33, 39, 46, 74, 75 and 148 - Get directions
  • Tue-Sun 10 am-00pm, closed Mon
  • free

12 - San Miguel Market

The Mercato de San Miguel is one of the main food markets in the world, and its importance is given by the fact that it allows the tourist to do a real tour of the typical flavors and smells of Spain!

It was inaugurated more than 100 years ago and truly offers numerous and exquisite delicacies: from the seafood that is brought every day from the Galicia region, to Mediterranean rice dishes, to the delicious Iberian ham, or to the most special cheeses from Castile, the Basque Country or Asturias. A part is dedicated to Spanish gastronomy: more than 20 stalls every day offer tourists and locals some exquisite quality tapas.

  • in Plaza de San Miguel, in the center of Madrid, one min walk from Plaza Mayor. Reachable by metro lines 2 and 5, Ópera stop, and lines 1, 2 and 3 stop Sol. Bus Lines 3 and N16 - Get directions
  • every day 11: 00-22: 00, Fri and Sat until 00:00
  • free

13 - Plaza de Cibeles

Famous among football fans for the famous victory celebrations, Plaza de Cibeles is one of the symbols of Madrid and enchants tourists with its beauty!

E' characterized by splendid and imposing buildings such as the Palacio de Comunicaciones, now home to the offices of the Municipality, Palacio de Buenavista with the headquarters of the Army Headquarters, the Banco de España, or the headquarters of the Bank of Spain, whose interiors are enriched by Goya's paintings, Mengs, Maella and Vicente López. Finally, there is the Palacio de Linares, much more recent than the others and created to accommodate the Casa de América, the institution that wants to encourage cultural exchange between Spain and Latin America. But the fulcrum of the whole square is certainly the splendid fountain which depicts the goddess Cibeles on a chariot drawn by lions.

It is located in the historic center, a 4-minute walk from the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. Reachable by metro line 2 Banco de España stop. Bus lines 1, 2, 9, 10, 15, 20, 34, 51, 52, 53, 74, 146, 202 and 203 - Get directions

14 - Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid

The Royal Botanical Garden of Madrid was founded together with the Manzanares in 1755 by order of King Fernando VI; at the beginning it collected only two thousand plant species, but today there are a total of 30,000 plants and flowers, as well as 1.500 trees of various species.

The splendid and lush botanical garden of the Madrid city boasts terraced outdoor sections rich in ornamental, aromatic, medical plants and orchards, e two large greenhouses; among the "special collections" are the bonsai received as a gift from Felipe González. Everything that is kept inside is the result of painstaking and continuous scientific expeditions that have affected all of Europe.

  • in Plaza de Murillo 2, near the Prado Museum, the Reina Sofia Museum and El Retiro Park. Reachable by metro line 1 stop Atocha and metro line 2 stop Banco de España (line 2) - Get directions
  • every day from November to December 10: 00-18: 00, March and October until 10: 00-19: 00, April and September 10: 00-20: 00, from May to August 10: 00-21: 00
  • full € 6,00, reduced € 4,00

15 - Las Ventas

Here, in Las Ventas, the best matadors in the world showcase their skills at bullfights, for this reason it is a place very dear to the people of Madrid; even the bullring itself in Las Ventas is considered the most important bullring in the world.

The "Mecca of bullfighting" was built in 1929 and was designed entirely in the Neomudéjar style, with exposed red bricks and a track extending for 61 m. To know more about the history of Las Ventas is possible to take a guided tour precisely called Las Ventas tour which includes a visit to the Bullfighting Museum of the Community of Madrid, the Puerta de Cuadrillas, the Chapel, the pasillo de Enfermería, the Callejón and the Ruedo.

Get to know the world of bullfighting up close: if you participate in the Las Ventas Tour, you will have the opportunity to see a demonstration of Bullfighting up close; in practice it consists in simulating the bullfight of a bull with students from the Madrid Taurine School.

  • in Calle de Alcalá 237, in the frame of Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas, north east of the center of Madrid. Reachable by metro lines 2 and 5 Ventas stop (lines 2 and 5) - Get directions
  • from October to May 10: 00-18: 00, from June to September 10: 00-19: 00. Times vary according to the bullfights, consult the official website
  • bullfight from € 9,00, see all the options on the official website

Other attractions to visit

If you have more time, there are other places to visit in Madrid! Starting from wonderful squares, such as Plaza de Oriente (free), located east of the Royal Palace, and the Plaza de Santa Ana, the square that houses the Teatro Español, the oldest in the Spanish capital. Stop to admire also the Puerta de Alcalá and stroll through the La Latina district, one of the most characteristic of Madrid, stopping for a drink in the many outdoor bars, taken by storm on sunny days!

If you are traveling with children, do not miss the Zoo Aquarium (from € 18,00) or the Museum of Illusions and the Museum of Waxes. Self you are art lovers, in addition to the numerous museums already mentioned, you can visit the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando (€ 8,00), the Artistic Center of Matadero and the neighborhoods of street art: Lavapiés, Embajadores and the already mentioned La Latina.

If you love football, visit also after Benabeu the Wanda Metropolitano, the brand new stadium of Atletico Madrid (combined visit with the Atletico Museum available).

10 things to do in Madrid

/ 10
  1. Attend a flamenco show: must be seen at least once in a lifetime and in Madrid there are many clubs where one is held almost every night. Info and costs here
  2. Shop at the flea market: For over 400 years now, El Rastro, the most important flea market in Madrid, has been held every Sunday in Plaza Cascorrosi. Here you can mingle with the locals and maybe even do some business
  3. Taste the chocolate con churros: it is a typically Spanish delicacy and the locals consume them daily for breakfast, to try
  4. Search for km 0: this is the point from which the six radial roads of Spain start! Located in the Plaza del Sol on the floor, good looking
  5. Discover the city by bike: if you have little time available, jump on your bike and explore Madrid far and wide, always accompanied by a local guide who will allow you to move in total safety. Info and costs here
  6. Take a photo at Atocha Station: this is the most beautiful station in the city, which has now become a real attraction! In fact, in the center there is a beautiful tropical garden with many plants
  7. Stroll to Madrid Rio: this park was created from the burying of a stretch of highway! Today it is a real asset for the city and is frequented by many tourists, as well as locals
  8. See a match at the Santiago Bernabeu: plan your trip taking care of the football season, so that you can visit the stadium from the stands of the Madrid fans, a real experience
  9. Discover the surroundings of Madrid: Set out to discover places like Toledo, Ávila, Segovia and Escorial on an organized excursion from Madrid, including transport. The surroundings of the capital are truly wonderful. Info and costs here
  10. Go tapear: during your stay you will have to spend at least one evening jumping from one place to another enjoying the tapas, or small portions and appetizers that will make you discover the different flavors of Spanish cuisine

Plan your stay in Madrid: flights and hotels

Madrid is connected to Italy by daily flights offered by the main low cost airlines (compare flights). The perfect times to visit Madrid are spring and autumn: pleasant temperatures and extremely affordable accommodation prices.

Choose to stay overnight in the central districts (accommodations from € 30,00 per night on booking), such as Sol, Gran Via and Opera. In Madrid you will travel using "El Metro" which offers 12 lines, while you can move easily on foot to visit the historic center. The nightlife area popular with tourists and students is the downtown area, which is around the Puerta del Sol (calle Huertas, calle Cruz and Plaza Santa Ana).

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