I lived in Madrid on 2 separate occasions for 6 months each time. I am still absolutely in love with this city and always fighting in my head if I prefer it to Palma de Mallorca where I am currently living. Madrid is so alive, so cosmopolitan, so diverse and there is so much to do! If you’re only staying for a short time it can be a little overwhelming deciding exactly what you should do whilst you’re there, not to miss anything important! So I’ve come up with a list of the 13 things I feel you absolutely must-do whilst in Madrid!
1. Visit the Royal Palace
Closest Metro: Opera
The royal palace in Madrid is absolutely incredible! It’s so grand and the surrounding park and gardens are also gorgeous. Even before I went inside for the first time, I enjoyed simply strolling around the area where it was near to Opera metro station. It’s also on top of a hill where you can see the rest of the city and the famous casa de campo park in the distance. To go inside it costs around 11€ and you can buy tickets on the door. Inside the rooms are very grand and beautiful.
2. Watch the Sunset at Temple de Debod
Closest metro: Plaza de España
Temple de Debod is basically an ancient Egyptian structure which has been rebuilt in Madrid on top of a hill overlooking the city. From here you can also get a great view of the Palace, and many come here to enjoy the sunset in the evenings. You’ll find people with a picnic or some beers sitting on the grass and enjoying the evenings with their friends. The Temple de Debod is surrounded by water which creates a beautiful reflection when the sun is setting. You can also go inside for free check here for opening times for temple de Debod!
3. Eat the best Tapas in Madrid in San Miguel Food Market
Closest metro: Sol
San Miguel is an indoor food market with so many different types of tapas, drinks and deserts to try! It’s great to come here with some friends and try a little bit of everything whilst having some drinks and enjoying the great atmosphere. It’s usually very busy at meal times so it could be hard to find a seat, you may have to stand or sit outside, but that’s all part of the fun! I would recommend the Paella!
4. Stroll around Plaza Mayor
Closest Metro: Sol
Just around the corner from the San Miguel market (I recommend you do them at the same time) is the famous Plaza Mayor! It’s basically a huge square with amazing architecture and 9 entrances. Inside you can find street artists, Christmas markets, exhibitions, shops and restaurants. Back in the day it was a place to make punishments for all those to watch!
5. Skate around Retiro Park
Closest Metro: Retiro, Ibiza, Atocha
Well you don’t have to skate, you could also rollerblade, cycle or walk! This park comes alive in the afternoons/evenings, especially in spring or autumn. There are loads of people all doing their sports around each other and you can see some pretty talented skaters too! I’d recommend you just have a walk around the lake and the monuments, it’s a nice way to relax and get away from the crowds in the centre. There are also cafes, bars and kiosks where you can eat some churros, ice cream or lunch!
6. Go shopping in Gran Via
Closest Metro: Gran Via, Callao, Santo Domingo
And if you don’t want to go shopping, you should have a walk down the avenue to see the buildings and theatres scattered all along. Around Christmas time, the lights are really pretty! You can find some big famous shops here if you like shopping or even sit in a bar on the main street and watch the crazy world go by!
7. Take in some culture in Reina Sofia
Closest Metro: Atocha
Reina Sofia is personally my favourite museum/gallery in Madrid. It’s absolutely humongous and sometimes it’s really interesting just to look at the architecture. They have something for everyone, photography, modern art, Salvador Dali and Picasso’s famous Gurnica from the civil war. You probably won’t even be able to get around all of the artwork in one day unless you have a break in between. It’s usually 8€ but free if you go Mon-Sat between 7pm and 9pm (excluding Tuesdays) or Sunday from 1.30 to 7pm!
8. Cycle along the river
Closest Metro: Principe pio
The area around the river in Madrid has recently been renovated and there’s a really smooth path all along from principe pio to the Athletico stadium. There are also some lovely parks, swings, grass and areas to relax. You could end your walk or cycle with a trip to casa de campo, which is Madrid’s very wild park. If you like mountain biking, you can head in there for some fun slopes, or stay along the roads in the park. I used to work in this area so I enjoyed a walk to casa de campo and around the lake on my lunch break. You could also have your lunch in one of the restaurants dotted around the park.
9. Eat and Drink in Malasaña
Closest Metro: Tribunal
Malasaña is the most happening neighbourhood in Madrid in my opinion. I absolutely love it, although it might be getting a bit TOO hipster now. There are just so many bars with so much amazing food, drinks and good music. If you’re into indie, electronic or alternative music, Malasaña is your place. You could head to La via lactea or Tupperware if you want to experience some of this music and lifestyle. They also have a place similar to San Miguel in Plaza Mayor, San Ildefonso which is even bigger with more seating areas. During the daytime, you can find some great shops in Malasaña which are more independent and unique than those in Gran via!
10. Browse El Rastro in La Latina
Closest Metro: La Latina
El Rastro is the biggest open air flea market in Spain! Every Sunday from about 9 until 3pm you can come and find some bargains, eat some lunch and enjoy the atmosphere. You can find some real treats in the market, they sell both new and old products and it’s a great place to find typical gifts from Spain. La Latina is another really cool neighbourhood in Madrid full of amazing bars and restaurants, I’d recommend you stop and enjoy some lunch in a terrace afterwards! Beware of pickpockets though!
11. Go to Puerta Del Sol, The centre of Spain!
Closest Metro: Sol
Well I couldn’t miss out the most famous part of Madrid/Spain now could I? Puerta del Sol is the place in Spain where all the 6 main roads in the country begin from. You can see this point on the pavement, km0! Opposite this and on the main square you will see the famous bear statue and official symbol of Madrid. We think that it is because in the past there used to be a lot of bears around the countryside of Madrid. There are many streets coming off of this famous square, full of shops, restaurants and people!
12. Explore Plaza de Cibeles
Closest Metro: Banco de España
Plaza de Cibeles is basically another grand square in the centre of Madrid. There’s a famous statue of the greek goddess Cybele on her carriage of wild lions. You can also go inside the Palace of Cibeles which has since become a post office and now where Madrid’s counsil is based. The palace was built by Antonio Palacios and Joaquín Otamendi in 1909. It’s free to enter the building now but to go up to the roof terrace it will cost just 2€ and you’ll get a great view!
13. Go to Chueca, Madrid’s Gaybourhood
Closest Metro: Chueca
Just around the corner from Malasaña you will find Chueca, which is Madrid’s gay town. It’s really nice to wander through the streets and see the rainbow flags, happy locals and also great bars! Try Taberna Ángel Sierra which is a really old traditional bar where people even throw their olive seeds on the floor! Visit another food market, Mercado de San Antón to enjoy some great food. If you’re lucky enough to be here during gay pride in the summertime, you absolutely must head to Chueca!
Bearing in mind I’ve missed off some other amazing things like El Prado Museum, Thyssen Museum, The Bernabau football stadium, or even Plaza de España… But I had to choose my favourites and so I did. If you have more than just a weekend I would certainly recommend you visit these other’s too or even take a day trip from Madrid as there are some lovely surroundings!
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