As the capital of Spain and one of the largest cities in Europe, you can expect that Madrid has a lot to offer. It's well-known for its sports teams and for having expansive, green spaces. It's also a city of partying and great food (tapas, anyone?). When you walk along the elegant boulevards of Madrid, you'll be impressed by the quaint neighborhoods, friendly locals, rich history of war and royalty, elaborate churches and entertaining plazas. We can't forget to mention the art, either! Although the beautiful buildings in the city can be considered art, there is more than meets the eye. Many people are not aware that Madrid has some of the world's best art collections. In fact, quite a few attractions in the city may pleasantly surprise you.
There's no doubt that your itinerary will be packed when you're visiting Madrid. You'll want to make the most of your trip, after all. But, it may be difficult to decide what things you absolutely must do and see if you had only one week in this lively city. That's why we've narrowed it down for you! Here are 21 things you'll be excited to see and do in Madrid.
21 Tour Europe Without Leaving The City
There's no denying that Europe is a beautiful continent, filled with historic landmarks and priceless artworks. If you'd like to visit all the major landmarks in Europe, but only have enough funds to visit one city, Parque Europa is the place to go. This park, located in Torrejón de Ardoz, has replicas of 18 famous structures from across Europe.
These include Paris' Eiffel Tower, London's Tower Bridge, Rome's Trevi Fountain and Florence's Statue of David by Michelangelo.
The park stretches over 233,000 square meters and is free to enter! You can rent out a boat to navigate the lagoon and view the landmarks. But, you'll definitely want to walk around, too, because there are so many photo ops!
20 Try These Famous Churros And Chocolate
Churros have become a trendy dessert over the past few years. Just search "#churros" on Instagram and you'll see churros dipped in icing and cereal, churro sundaes, Nutella-stuffed churros and many other delicious varieties. The fried pastry actually originated in Spain, so you'll definitely have to try the delicious, classic churro when you're in Madrid. There are numerous shops that sell them, but the most famous one is Chocolatería San Gínés. Since 1894, it has been the spot in Madrid to grab churros and hot chocolate for dipping—any time you'd like. Yes, this café is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It's no wonder that it's been popular enough to remain in business for so long, and attracts countless celebrities!
19 Peak Some Picasso At Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
There are certain artists whose names come to mind when you hear the word "art." For most people, Pablo Picasso happens to be one such name. The Spanish painter made his mark on the world as the co-founder of Cubism and the creator of pieces such as Blue Nude and Seated Woman. One of his most well-known works is Guernica, an oil painting in which he expressed his outrage towards the Nazi's bombing of the town of Guernica. The huge mural can be found in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, along with thousands of other artworks.
18 Watch The Sunset From The Circulo De Bellas Artes
Madrid is a beautiful city and other than walking around to explore, you'll probably want to get a good bird's eye view of it, too. Well, there's no better place to do so than the rooftop bar on the seventh floor of the Círculo de Bellas Artes, which offers a 360-degree view of Madrid.
From there, you can see the dome of the Edificio Metrópolis, Cibeles Palace, Gran Via and even the mountains.
The building is also a cultural hotspot, featuring exhibition rooms, a theater, a library, café and more. It's the perfect spot to grab a bite or a drink, relax and capture gorgeous photos of the sunset over the city.
17 Visit The Royal Palace Of Madrid
If you've been to Paris or have seen pictures of the city's iconic landmarks, the Royal Palace of Madrid may look familiar to you. Inspired by Bernini's sketches for the Louvre, the Royal Palace was once home to Spain's kings—from Charles III to Alfonso XIII.
While it's still the official residence of the Spanish royal family, it's now only used for state ceremonies and official banquets.
The extravagant palace consists of over 3000 rooms, painted ceilings and the royal armoury. It even has a painting gallery, which houses masterpieces by Caravaggio, Goya and Morales. On certain days of the week, you can also view the changing of the guard ceremony. The entire experience of seeing the ceremony and stepping foot in this opulent residence will definitely leave you in awe.
16 Eat At The World's Oldest Restaurant
If you're a foodie, you'll definitely want to hit up the world's oldest active restaurant, Botin. Since 1725, Botin has served roast suckling pig and roast lamb. Today, the lamb and pig are still being roasted in the original wood-fired oven, which is made of cast iron. The four-floor restaurant also offers egg dishes and grilled filet mignon with potatoes.
The restaurant has a significant history with artists, too. Painter Francisco Goya worked as a waiter at the restaurant. And even the renowned novelist, Ernest Hemingway, raved about the restaurant in The Sun Also Rises. He wrote: "We lunched upstairs at Botin's. It is one of the best restaurants in the world." We'll take his word for it!
15 Visit An Ancient Egyptian Temple
You might not expect to see an ancient Egyptian temple out in the open in any city other than those in Egypt. But, Madrid's Parque del Oeste (West Park) is home to the Temple of Debod, which dates back to the second century BC. The temple was presented in 1968 as a gift of gratitude to Spain for their help in saving the Abu Simbel temples, which were in danger of being destroyed due to the construction of a dam. On the temple, you may spot some carved reliefs and upstairs in its small museum, there are photographs depicting the monument's history. Other than the fact that this temple is super interesting, it's also stunning to see at sunset, when it reflects over the water.
14 Admire The Palace Made Of Glass
We can't get over how beautiful the Palacio De Cristal is, with its fairytale-like vibes. Built in 1887 from iron and glass, Madrid's Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) was originally meant to be a giant greenhouse exhibiting tropical plants from the Philippines. Today, it is used mainly for modern art exhibitions and is a popular tourist attraction.
The structure is located in Retiro park and reflects onto a lake filled with ducks and geese. Its beauty makes it a work of art in its own right.
While you're in the park, you may also want to check out the controversial statue of the Fallen Angel, which is the only public statue of the devil in the world.
13 Tour The Santiago Bernabeu Stadium
If you're a football (or soccer) fan, you have to visit the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. And if you're not a die-hard fan, we can bet that you'll still admire this attraction. With a seating capacity of over 81,000, it's one of the world's most prestigious venues and is the home stadium of Real Madrid. There are stadium tours available, during which you can view the impressive trophy room and explore the on-site museum depicting the team's history. You can even go inside the changing rooms used by players such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos. This is also the place to purchase Real Madrid gear for yourself or your friends who support the team.
12 Stroll The Plaza De Cibeles
Madrid is a city of magnificent squares. But, the most famous is the Plaza de Cibeles, with its famous fountain and iconic buildings. The Fountain of Cibeles represents the Greek goddess, Cybele, sitting on a lion-drawn carriage. You might recognize it if you're a sports fan, as
it's where Real Madrid celebrates their victories.
Also located within the square is Buenavista Palace, Linares Palace, the Bank of Spain and Cybele Palace (now Madrid City Hall), which has a rooftop terrace with a bar and restaurant. With all of these architectural wonders in one spot, there shall be no shortage of perfect photos!
11 Go Shopping At El Rastro
Sure, you can go to the extravagant malls in Spain. But, if you would like a unique shopping experience, you should visit Spain's most popular open-air flea market. It's called El Rastro and it's located in Madrid, south of La Latina metro station. This flea market is held every Sunday and public holiday. You can find a variety of both new and used products at El Rastro, including handbags, figurines, clothes, jewelry, photography devices and antique books. These are all sold at discounted prices, but you can always bargain to get an even better deal! You never know what you can find at El Rastro!
10 Rent A Boat in The Retiro
The Retiro Park is Madrid's most famous park. As mentioned previously, it is the location of the beautiful Crystal Palace. But, there are lots of other things to see and do in Retiro Park. For example, the park is known for its stunning gardens. The Jardines de Cecilio Rodriguez (Cecilio Rodriguez Gardens) is one you won't want to miss, as it is filled with peacocks! La Rosaleda (the Rose Garden), on the other hand, features over 4000 blooming roses fountains and an ivy-covered archway that belongs in a movie.
The park also has a man-made lake, occupied by fish and ducks. You can rent out rowboats to peacefully navigate the waters and take in the view of the sunset and massive Alfonso XII monument.
9 View The City By Riding A Cable Car
The Madrid Cable Car (or Teleférico) transports passengers along a 2457-meter long line, from the edge of West Park to the center of Casa de Campo Park (Country House Park). During your 10-minute ride in one of the six-seat cable cars, a running commentary will describe exactly what you are seeing below.
Many of Madrid's famous sights can be viewed from the cable cars,
including the Temple of Debod, the Royal Palace and the biggest river in the city (the Manzanares). Reaching a height of about 40 meters, the cable cars are undoubtedly one of the best ways to see the beautiful city.
8 Visit The Basilica De San Francisco El Grande
With one of the largest painted domes (measuring 108 feet in diameter) in the world, the Basilica de San Francisco El Grande should be on your list of must-see places in Madrid. It was built between 1761 and 1768 and contains seven chapels. The basilica also displays paintings by Goya and Zurbaran, as well as intricate statutes. There is also a peaceful garden, where you can relax and enjoy the view. If you're visiting the basilica outside of mass services, there is an entrance fee. However, you will receive a guided tour with this fee.
7 Party In Puerto Del Sol
Puerto Del Sol is the location of Kilometer Zero—the starting point for Spain's six radiating roads. You'll find a stone slab marking this precious spot just outside the Casa de Correos. It's in this square that you'll also find three statues, including The Bear and the Strawberry Tree.
This square especially draws people in for its party venues. Considering that many call it the Times Square of Madrid, this is no surprise.
There are many nightclubs and cocktail bars nearby, where you can dance the night away or watch live musical performances. You definitely won't be bored in this neighborhood!
6 Visit the Museo Del Prado
It's clear that Madrid has no shortage of spectacular art. The Museo del Prado adds to Madrid's pride by housing some of the finest European art and the best Spanish art collection. There are over 7000 pieces in the museum, including works by Rembrandt, Goya, Raphael, Ribera and Velázquez. It can take a few days to cover all the pieces in this museum so if you don't have that much time to spare, it's recommended that you buy tickets in advance and have a plan regarding which pieces you simply can't afford to skip. The lines can get pretty long, especially during the museum's free hours!
5 Be A Typical Tourist In Plaza Mayor
Plaza Mayor is located only a few blocks away from Puerto del Sol. This square is marked by a large bronze statue of King Philips III, prominently on display in its center. In this square, you can be a typical tourist by shopping for Real Madrid gear or Flamenco figurines at the countless souvenir stores, trying a calamari sandwich or joining a free tour of the city. If you visit during the winter holidays, you'll notice the square transforms into a festive Christmas market, complete with lights, rides and vendors selling all sorts of products. If you'd rather not spend any money, you may be content just walking around and admiring the amazing architecture of the buildings and arches in the square.
4 Tour The National Library
Book lovers, we've found your paradise and it's located in Madrid. The National Library is one of the largest libraries in the world, containing over 15 million books! You can explore manuscripts, drawings, music and encyclopaedias to your heart's content. Even if you're not a complete bookworm,
visiting the library is worth it because the building itself is beautiful, too, with three arches and iron gates making up the entrance.
And don't get us started on the reading room! It's literally the perfect spot to get away from the bustle of the city and read a book (not that you'd want to get away for too long, though).
3 Watch A Classic Film In Cine Dore
Going to the cinema is always fun, but Madrid knows how to kick the movie-goer experience up a few notches. One of its cinemas, Cine Doré, was built in 1923 and stands out with its orange exterior and columns. Not only does the theater look cool, but it also has three parts to it. First, there's the original retro theater, which will make you feel like you stepped back in time. Then, there's the modern traditional theater and finally, the open air theater. The latter is great in warmer months because there are tables and bar service! There are different movies every day at Cine Doré and the tickets are ridiculously cheap!
2 Eat Tapas In La Latina
How can you go to Spain and not eat some tapas? These delicious appetizers come in a variety of flavors, from sweet to spicy. They can also be served hot or cold. Different types of tapas are more popular in some regions than others. For example, some regions favor tapas made of fried potatoes and tomato sauce. From coast to coast, fried baby squid and garlic shrimp seem to be a top choice.
In Madrid, La Latina is a neighbourhood known for tapas.
There is one street called Cava Bajais, which has a collection of restaurants and bars dedicated to serving tapas. If you'd like cheap, tasty tapas, Sanluncar is the place to go. If you'd like to sit in a stylish spot, try La Concha. There are so many options in La Latina, you can probably visit once a day to get your fix.