The capital of Spain and a city full of cultural attractions and fantastic parks, Madrid has definitely plenty to offer when it comes to sightseeing. This is my personal travel list of places to see and things to do while staying in this modern and vibrant metropolis.
Check out the awesome parks in Madrid
While I was staying in Madrid for the first time back in 2009, a friend suggested to check out the largest park in Madrid called Casa de Campo. I had no clue that this place was so huge. It’s a lot bigger than Central Park in New York and includes a big lake with small boats. You can also check out the Madrid Zoo, several sports facilities, a couple of open spaces for events and gigs, and a fun fair.
I also like El Retiro Park, also known as Parque del Buen Retiro, which is located close to the city center. . There is a pond, some fountains, and several monuments including the statue of the fallen angel and one statue dedicated to Alfonso XII. You will also see a small space where puppet shows are held regularly.
If you are into jogging in the morning, love to skate, or just want to walk your dog, take a stroll along the promenade of Madrid Río. This is a favorite place among many locals who come here to take hikes and relax over the weekends.
Madrid is famous for its museums and galleries
I like that Madrid is one of those cities where you can check out all the big and famous museums with superb contemporary art, but at the same time, it has a bunch of small galleries where urban art prevails. The Madrid’s Art Triangle consists of Thyssen-Bornemisza, Museo del Prado, and Reina Sofía.
If you still have time to check out small galleries, I suggest going to Elena Ochoa’s Ivorypress, BoaMistura, and Suso33. Here you will find exhibitions from young local painters, but make sure to check for working hours beforehand.
Spend one Sunday morning at the oldest flea market in the city
Located in the Embajadores neighborhood, El Rastro is the oldest and probably the most popular market in Madrid. If you are wondering where local residents go on Sunday mornings, El Rastro is the answer. I like vinyl records and second-hand clothes, so visiting this cool market was a fabulous experience for me.
There are dozens of stalls where you will find all kinds of antiquates, jewelry, and souvenirs. The good news is that after all the shopping you can visit some of the nearby bars and cafes. Visit the market early in the morning to beat the large crowds of visitors.
Enjoy panoramic views of the city
I am a sucker for panoramic views of cities and it’s kind of a tradition for me to go and explore places that feature breathtaking views. This usually involves some research, but luckily I have a good friend who is from Madrid and already knows where to go. A perfect Madrid skyline can be seen from Círculo de Bellas Artes in C/ Alcalá rooftop terrace. It has a giant patio and you can basically see the whole city including its monuments, parks, and avenues.
Of course, there are other places in Madrid that offer spectacular city views. One of them is Gau&Café, where you can have a delicious lunch or dinner. Third on my list of places that offer panoramic views of the city is the Hotel de las Letras that is located within walking distance from Puerta del Sol. For even more city views go to Basílica de San Francisco el Grande and Teleférico de la Casa de Campo.
See the Royal Palace
There are a lot of things to see in Madrid and the Royal Palace is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the city and a place worth checking out. Yes, there are a lot of tourists here, but once you see the entrance hallway, apartments from King Charles III, and Salon de Gasparini, you will understand what the fuss is all about. There are many paintings at the Royal Palace from artists such as El Greco, Goya, Rubens, and many others. Those who love history will want to check out the Royal Armory that houses over 3000 exhibits.
Head out to Puerta del Sol
A large town square and the hub of public transportation, Puerta del Sol is one of those places that everyone who is in Madrid needs to check out. I mean, this place has seen some serious historic events such as the proclamation of the Second Republic and the resistance of the people to Napoleon. Today, this square is full of shops, restaurants, cafes and plenty of shopping options including the biggest department store in the El Corte Inglés.
Take a pic with the Bear and the Strawberry Tree
Not every city in the world has a giant 4 meter-high bronze statue of a bear,
but apparently, Madrid does. El Oso y el Madroño as locals like to call it is also a meeting point for many visitors and those who like to travel due to its central location. This cool statue was first located right in front of del Carmen, but they moved it for some reason to Carrera de San Jerónim. Keep in mind that a lot of tourists want to take a picture with the bear statue, so you’ll probably have to wait for a bit.
See a bullfight and eat a kilo of tapas
In my country and also in many other cities in Europe, you really can’t go out and say “I’m going to see a bullfight today”. Madrid is not one of those places, and Las Ventas and San Isidro are the best places to see a bull fight, but only if you are in the city in early summer.
If you get hungry after the event, find a nice place to eat genuine Spanish tapas. I bet you it’s 10 times better than all those imitations of Spanish restaurants back home. The good news is that tapas can be found in Madrid on every corner and they are usually quite cheap.
Go for a drink or two
Madrid is full of areas where people go out to socialize and have a couple of drinks and I am not just talking about overcrowded bars for tourists that charge 15 euro for a beer. There are so many cool bars in the city, especially during the summer season when they open their terraces. My favorite area is Plaza de la Cebada, where a lot of young people love to hang out. You can also try streets such as Cava Baja, but they are super crowded and the prices are not budget-friendly.
If you are into modern coffee shops and hipster bars, go to Malasaña. In Malasaña you will find many local students, while Chueca is reserved for those who love the gay nightlife. Madrid is a city with a vibrant nightlife and residents have a kind of culture where it’s okay to party during the day and late at night, so it’s no wonder why all the party people love to hang out in Madrid.
I fell in love with Madrid after just a couple of hours spent in the city. I don’t know if it’s the culture, vibrant atmosphere, or beautiful parks that made me go crazy over the capital of Spain, but I know that Madrid is definitely a place worth visiting.