If you are in the process of planning a trip, we have a perfect guide that features 10 things to do in Madrid. We all know that organizing a trip on your own can be a bit challenging, as you have to make sure that the process of booking tickets and finding accommodation, such as apartments to rent in Madrid, goes as planned. You must not leave anything to chance, and you have to be certain that everything is ready for you to embark on your travel.
Here comes the part where you actually start thinking about spending your time in Madrid. Once you get to the city and feel comfortable in your cozy apartment in Madrid, you are ready to experience all of those amazing things Madrid is famous for. Whether you are in town for two days or for two weeks, here are some things you simply must do while in Madrid.
1. Visit the Plaza Mayor
The Plaza Mayor is one of the most famous squares in the historic center of Madrid. The square was built in the 17th century on the old square the Plaza del Arrabal, where once stood the most popular market in Madrid. Favorite meeting point of the locals for centuries, this square has become one of the most famous landmarks of Madrid, with its impressive design and three-storey buildings surrounding the square completely. You can use one of the nine entrances to enter the square and then find a great spot to have coffee in one of the cafes scattered around the square. The equestrian statue of Felipe III is placed in the center of the Plaza Mayor square.
The statue of Felipe III located in the center of the Plaza Mayor in Madrid
2. Walk along the Gran Vía Street
Walking along the most famous boulevard in Madrid is a great place to meet the center of this urban city and explore the busy life of the locals. The Gran Vía Street is famous for shops, bars and restaurants located along this wide, more than a kilometer long avenue. The architecture is just as impressive, as the street is said to best showcase the movements from the early 20th century, including Art Deco, Vienna Secession style, Neo-Mudéjar and others. The street has often been compared to New York’s Broadway, as it was home to many old cinemas, most of which are now closed or turned into shops. Starting from Metrópolis building, a walk will take you down to the street’s end between the Torre de Madrid and the Edificio España, where you will reach the monument to Miguel de Cervantes.
The Gran Vía Street during the night
3. Spend morning at El Rastro
One of the favorite meeting place of the locals is the most famous flea market in Madrid – El Rastro de Madrid. The market is located in the center of the city, which is why a lot of tourists include this sight into one of the things to visit in Madrid. The market is open from 9 am until 3 pm, but the best atmosphere is to be found in the morning, when most people arrive to sell the things they no longer need, and many more come to find perfect items to bargain for. If you are interested in antique items and rare pieces missing in your collections, this might just be a perfect place to find them, as the variety of items for sale is so diverse that you can pretty much find anything.
A photo of the atmosphere at the Rastro flea market
4. Stop by the Retiro Park
One of those places Madrid is recognizable for would certainly have to be the Retiro Park, the largest park in Madrid occupying 1.4 square kilometers filled with gardens, monuments, historic buildings, and a lake. Suitable for visitors of all age, the Retiro Park is a perfect place to stop by and relax in the place so secluded from the city noise and hustle, even though the park is actually in the center of Madrid. Offering an opportunity to visit exhibitions, fairs, firework shows, street performances or simply have a picnic under the shade of a tree, the Retiro Park is one of the best rated landmarks of Madrid.
Monument to Alfonso XII of Spain located next to the lake at the Retiro Park
5. Visit a museum
Exploring the art in Madrid is one of the best ways to learn about the city’s history and get to see in person some of the most impressive pieces of world’s art. The Museo del Prado, the Reina Sofía and the Thyssen-Bornemisza, collectively known as the Golden Triangle of Art, are certainly most famous museums in the city and the ones that most visitors choose when it comes to visiting museums in Madrid. However, the city has many smaller museums, specializing in various different fields, including the aviation museum, fashion museum, etc. In fact, you can even organize your own art tour of Madrid. Therefore, if you are fond of art, you should be aware that when it comes to visiting Madrid, you will always have some interesting places to visit or exhibitions to attend, in one of the city’s museums or numerous art galleries.
The front view of the Prado Museum
6. Watch flamenco
Internationally widespread dance, flamenco has its roots in Spain, especially Madrid, which has nurtured some of the most successful artists specialized in this type of dance. Therefore, if you are a tourist, this would be an attraction you would not want to say no to. An evening out with dinner and flamenco show in one of the local taverns and bars is a perfect way to plan your evening in Madrid. As you enjoy wonderful local food, you will get to enjoy local music and artistic expertise of flamenco dancers. With their colorful outfits, loud, cheerful music and swift movements, flamenco has been known to charm everyone. As you watch an impressive performance, you will be transfixed with the dance skills displayed by the dancers on stage.
A glimpse of the flamenco performance
7. Eat churros con chocolate
There is no one able to resist a mug of warm dripping chocolate with churros, a type of tasty fried bread. This delicious treat is one of the best known in the Spanish cuisine and your trip to Madrid will not be complete without enjoying one of this delicious treats. Available in many areas around the city, churros con chocolate are a perfect snack for you during your day of sightseeing. If you do happen to be near the Sol central station and near the Plaza Mayor, there is a place serving churros for over one hundred years. Chocolatería San Ginés is the one of the most popular places to visit if you want to taste the traditional recipes based on which the churros are made.
Having churros con chocolate in one of the oldest chocolatería in Madrid
8. Shop at the Market of San Miguel
A historic and monumental market located in the center of Madrid is one of the best places to shop in Madrid, as the area combines the genuine local spirit, cultural surrounding, decades of tradition with endless shops where enthusiastic locals greating you cheerfully as you browse through the displayed goods. This is also a must see place for all the gourmands around the world, as the market is considered to be the center of culinary culture, where shopping is mixed with restaurants and freshly prepared food around the market. The Market of San Miguel is opened every day from 10 am until midnight or 2 am on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The busiest time is usually around the lunch time.
Visiting the Market of San Miguel in Madrid
9. Enjoy a walk along the Paseo de la Castellana
Paseo de la Castellana is the longest and widest avenue in Madrid. Starting at Plaza de Colón, the avenue goes through several districts until its end at North Junction. For travelers interested in enjoying a walk along the city, this place is perfect, as it showcases some of the most remarkable buildings, including Torre Europa, Puerta de Europa and Estadio Santiago Bernabéu. The modern design of the street has been the product of recent renovations and new constructions that have taken place along the street in the past few decades. The Paseo de la Castellana is also a great place to go shopping. Starting from ABC Serrano shopping mall, there are plenty of opportunities to shop, both international and domestic brands. Apart from the shopping mall, where a great variety of products can be found, there are other shops, scattered along the avenue. This is also a great place to have lunch, as some of the best restaurants in the city are located along in the Paseo de la Castellana.
An evening view of the Paseo de la Castellana with La Puerta de Europa (The Gate of Europe) in the background
10. Plan a trip to Toledo
Even though most tourists tend to stay around the city center when visiting Madrid, one should definitely go out and explore the outskirts of Madrid. Located around 70 kilometers south of Madrid, Toledo has been declared a World Heritage Site due to its cultural and monumental heritage. The town is an amazing example of coexistence of several cultures including Christian, Muslim and Jewish. The cultural and historic importance of Toledo has long been neglected, but this greatly changed over the past few decades. With many interesting sights, including castles, churches, museums, monasteries and bridges, the town preserves a lot of the time during which the constructions where built, as well as a trace of the cultures that had major impact on the town’s faith at that point in history. As such, this place treasures the ancient spirit and represents a place stuck in past, away from all the urbanization plans and modernization. The town can be reached by car using the freeway, while there are also buses and trains that regularly go to the town and back. One of the fastest ways to get there is using AVE high-speed train, which usually takes around half an hour from Madrid’s Atocha station to the town of Toledo.
A view of Toledo town near Madrid