10 things to do in Madrid

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.

Plaza Mayor en Madrid
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 Via Street

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.

El Rastro

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.

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

Art Tour of Madrid

Popular among many types of travelers around the globe, Madrid is certainly one of the most popular destinations for all of those art lovers who cannot imagine a trip without visiting some museums, galleries and monuments that can provide a perfect glimpse into the culture of a country and the civilization that has been settled there. Besides getting to know the culture, one also gets to learn about the time that has produced the art work, and how different art movements affected artists throughout the centuries.

Madrid, the capital city of Spain, is located in the central position of the country and it has always been the place where different cultures meet and intertwine. It has also been a place where influential art movements originated, together with the painters, sculptures and architects that are now globally famous for their art works. Hence, a visit to Madrid is an amazing opportunity to see the roots of the city that nurtured the art movements from the past centuries, which is why we will suggest you several art tours of Madrid.

Huertas or the Barrio de las Letras

Known as the center of intellectual and literary life, Huertas neighborhood is a vibrant part of the city located in the central area, near the Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol. If you decide to stay in this part of the city and rent an apartment in the center of Madrid, you will love this neighborhood as it is considered to be the Heart of Golden Age of Madrid. Important figures of Spanish art and literature, such as Cervantes, Quevedo, and Góngora called this part of the city their home, which is why the neighborhood is often referred to as the neighborhood of literacy – the Barrio de las Letras. Today the district is the heart of the city’s cultural life, with lots of theatres, art exhibitions and bohemian cafes, and as you enjoy a nice stroll down the streets and pedestrian areas you will get to experience Madrid as it was in the eyes of the great names of literature and culture who have defined intellectual life of Madrid.


Huertas neighborhood in Madrid

Huertas neighborhood in Madrid
Image source: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Neighborhood-g187514-n7249719-Huertas-Madrid.html#photos

Francisco Goya and the 18th century Madrid

If you want to get acquainted with the life in Madrid during the 18th century, while enjoying the art works of one of the most influential Spanish artist, Franicsco de Goya, we suggest visiting several landmarks where you will get in touch with the amazing master pieces produced by Goya. Baroque church of San Francisco el Grande has an altarpiece produced by Goya, as well as San Antonio de la Florida, a small oratory, which has been decorated by this artist. Of course, the Prado Museums holds some of the major Goya’s masterpieces, so a tour around the museum is perhaps the best way to complete the tour of the exhibits that were produced by Goya. As you explore the works of Goya in Madrid, you will definitely get the idea of life and culture of the period which he managed to capture in his art works.


Goya’s painting The Third of May 1808, (1814) stored in the Prado Museum, Madrid

Goya’s painting The Third of May 1808, (1814) stored in the Prado Museum, Madrid
Image source: http://www.franciscodegoya.net/May-3–1808.html

A Royal Tour of Madrid

Private collections of Spanish monarch are available in some of the museum in the city, so if you are interested in seeing the life through the eyes of royals who once represented the kingdom of Spain, this type of tour will be perfectly suited for you. We start with the Prado Museum, as the most important one in the Golden Triangle of Art, and the one that preserves some of the most famous masterpieces. Walking along the museum allows you to trace Spanish history and how it affected the art collected and preserved by the members of Spanish royal family. After the tour around the Prado Museum, we suggest visiting the Royal Palace of Madrid, the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family. Today this building is used for the state ceremonies and it is open for visitors. The Royal tour of Madrid is not complete without visiting the Royal Botanical Garden of Madrid, located in the Paseo del Prado, next to the Prado Museum. Designed by Francesco Sabatini and Juan de Villanueva in the 18th century, the garden represents a massive collection of thousands of plants and numerous statues and monuments placed around the garden.

 Hall of the Prado Museum

Hall of the Prado Museum
Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Grand_hall_d%27exposition_au_Mus%C3%A9e_du_Prado.JPG

The 20th Century Art in Madrid

The best place to visit in Madrid if you are interested in the 20th century art is the Reina Sofía Museum, located along the Paseo del Prado, very near the Prado Museum. The impressiveness of the collections is mirrored in the number of masterpieces produced by some of the most influential artists of the 20th century, with Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí, being certainly two most famous. Other art works stored in this museum are produced by Juan Gris, Joan Miró, Pablo Gargallo, Pablo Serrano and many others Spanish and international artists. The most famous masterpiece and the highlight of every visit is certainly Picasso’s Guernica, which is stored in the Reina Sofía Museum. Through this visit you get to experience the art as it developed throughout the 20th century, the period of huge changes and rapid development of the civilization, which ultimately left its trace on the art movements as well.

Picasso’s Guernica stored in the Reina Sofía Museum in Madrid

Picasso’s Guernica stored in the Reina Sofía Museum in Madrid
Image source: http://www.pablopicasso.org/guernica.jsp

Private Collection Tour in Madrid

The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum is known as having the second largest private collection in the world, after the British Royal Collection. Over 1600 paintings are enough for the art lovers out there to want to visit this amazing museum, the final one in the Golden Triangle of Art, also located in the Paseo del Prado. The museum combines the art works from different time periods, so you can see a large collection of old art works, as well as some modern paintings, with masterpieces ranging between the 14th century and the 20th century modern art. The diversity of the collection comes from the fact that there have been three generations collecting the art works, that today make an impressive collection of art works exploring expressionism, cubism, baroque, impressionism, and post-impressionism. Visiting this museum shows how the collection of paintings has grown overtime and how passionate art connoisseurs managed to gather some of the most famous art works around the world.

 View of Vessenots, Auvers, by Vincent Van Gogh is stored in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

View of Vessenots, Auvers, by Vincent Van Gogh is stored in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum
Image source: http://www.museothyssen.org/en/thyssen/ficha_obra/395

Tour to The City of Toledo

Toledo is a small town around 70 kilometers of Madrid and it dates centuries back, with its winding cobbled streets of old town, which preserve the spirit of the past and the culture of people who settled throughout the centuries. It is often considered as a monument to the art and culture starting from the Roman’s settlement to the Renaissance. During that period, Toledo was under Visigoth and Muslim rule as well, and all of these cultures influence the landscape and the buildings which are preserved as a unique attraction. The impressive Gothic Cathedral located on the top of the hill is certainly worth visiting, as besides the baroque style that adorns the altar, the Cathedral also has an art gallery, featuring Rubens, Goya, and El Greco’s art works. The Museo Victorio Macho should be your next stop in the sightseeing of Toledo, as it is a small museum devoted to the local sculptor, Victorio Macho. The Alcazar, a large square building in the outskirts of Toledo, displays the presence of Roman camp. Walking around Toledo’s streets is a perfect way to get lost in the medieval culture and art, and enjoy the beautiful landscape off the city that has such a long history.

 View of Toledo’s landcapse

View of Toledo’s landcapse
Image source: http://wikitravel.org/en/File:Toledo_spain.jpg

As you explore the city of Madrid and how it has changed and developed through the centuries, you will be able to learn so much about the circumstances that lead to the city becoming what it is today, a huge metropolitan city, full of diversity and yet build upon such a strong cultural heritage that is still shaping the generations of people. And if you are still having doubts about how to organize your art tour of Madrid, we suggest combining the things you would like to see the most, with your schedule and the time period you are going to spend in the city, so that you have enough time to enjoy and admire the art works.