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Best things to do in Madrid

Best Things to do in Madrid

The best things to do in Madrid depend on personal preference, but there are no shortage of attractions to fill your trip to Madrid while you are here. Madrid is a bustling city in Spain and offers a blend of history, culture, outdoor spaces and great food. Here, in Madrid, you can experience world-class art museums, the grandeur of the Royal Palace, many plazas and incredible parks like El Ritero Park. Whether you’re traveling here solo, as a couple, with friends, or as a family, there are many great things to do in Madrid. From the Royal Palace of Madrid, to El Ritero Park to the plazas and more, here are the best things to do in Madrid.

Madrid Quick Links

Things to do in Madrid: Tips and Advice

  • One or two days: Walk to the Royal Palace of Madrid if your hotel is within a 30 minute walk and walk through Plaza del Sol and Plaza Mayor on the way over. After Royal Palace of Madrid, stroll through Plaza de Espana Templo de Debod and grab a bite to eat at Mercado de San Miguel after. The next day, stroll around El Retiro Park and rent a row boat, and shop around Plaza de Isabel II.
  • Three days: Add museums like the Reina Sofia Museum or Prado Museum, a soccer game or a concert.
  • Four or more days: Consider adding half day trips to Toledo or Segovia, which are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites offering rich history and stunning architecture.
  • The best tour/ excursions: Royal Palace of Madrid (tickets only, no tour)
  • Most important tip: There are a lot of great, free things to do in Madrid. If you don’t like a very scheduled trip, Madrid is an excellent city for you to visit. Though, it’s important to be aware that shops do close for siesta and are closed on certain days of the week so you do need to plan a little. It’s free to walk around the Plazas, the Mercado de San Miguel and El Retiro Park. Madrid is also very family friendly, and has multiple beautiful playgrounds in the parks for kids to play in.

Royal Palace of Madrid

Royal Palace of Madrid Throne Room

The Royal Palace of Madrid was the only thing to do in Madrid that we bought tickets in advance for, and it did not disappoint. It is a stunningly beautiful palace, and we wish we did a tour to better understand the significance of every room. The Royal Palace of Madrid was built in the 18th century and has over 3,000 lavishly decorated rooms. Our favorite room was the throne room, but every room has an impressive amount of detail. As you walk around, don’t just admire the beautiful artwork on the walls but look up and see the incredible artwork and details on the ceilings too. It’s not just the palace rooms that are beautiful either. You’ll enter into a large courtyard that is gorgeous in it of itself, and also has beautiful views of the Madrid. Since we purchased tickets ahead of time, we were able to walk right in. Though the Royal Palace of Madrid does offer ticket sales in person, the line looked incredibly long and we were glad to skip that. The Royal Palace of Madrid is one of the best things to do in Madrid, and should be at the top of your list if you’re going for the first time.

Egyptian Ruins of Madrid/ Templo de Debod

Templo de Debod Madrid, Egyptian Ruins of Madrid

The Egyptian Ruins, known as the Templo de Debod is less than a 10 minute walk from the Royal Palace of Madrid. It is in the middle of a park and is easy to walk around and take pictures of. If you want to take pictures in the ruins, you are able to but there was a decent line when we were there to do so.

Eat at Mercado de San Miguel

Mercado de San Miguel, best things to do in Madrid

The Mercado de San Miguel is the most famous market in Madrid. Though we personally preferred the market in Barcelona, it was still worth checking out the Mercado de San Miguel. Here, you can find stands to buy fruit and jamon, cheese, empanadas and more. There are also several restaurants within the market that offer more of a sit down experience where you eat at the counter. It is centrally located, near Plaza Mayor, and is nice to stop by and walk around, even if you decide not to eat there.

Puerta del Sol

Puerta del Sol Madrid, best things to do in Madrid

In Madrid, there are a few plazas you can stroll around and one of those plazas / squares is Puerta del Sol. Puerta del Sol is lined with historic buildings, shops and cafes. In the center you’ll see the statue of the Bear and the Strawberry Tree. This statue represents Madrid’s coat of arms.

Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor Madrid

Plaza Mayor is another plaza you can stroll around in Madrid. Here, you can get food and snacks typical of Spanish cuisine though it is mostly a tourist trap at the cafes and shops. If you want the best food, it is best to eat elsewhere. If you want to sit down and enjoy a drink in the plaza and enjoying people walk by, it’s a good place to grab a drink. In the center of Plaza Mayor there is the statue of King Philip III.

Plaza de Isabel II

Plaza de Isabel II is also known as Plaza de la Opera and can be found in the heart of Madrid’s historic district. This plaza was named after Queen Isabel II and has a central fountain surrounded by greenery. In the square you’ll find Teatro Real, which is Madrid’s opera house. Plaza de Isabel II is a popular meeting spot and a nice plaza to stroll along in Madrid.

Plaza de Espana

Plaza de Espana Madrid

Plaza de Espana is another plaza located in the heart of Madrid, and the closest plaza to the Royal Palace of Madrid and the Egyptian Ruins of Madrid / Templo de Debod. Due to proximity, it’s best to group the Plaza de Espana with these other two Madrid attractions. Here, you can find the grand monument to Miguel de Cervantes, who is an iconic Spanish writer. There are sculptures depicting characters from his books “Don Quixote” and “Sancho Panza.” Here, you can also find street performances, outdoor events and festivals.

Stroll Around El Ritero Park and Rent a Row Boat

best things to do in Madrid El Ritero Park rent a row boat

El Ritero Park was one of our favorite things to do in Madrid. It is like Central Park in NYC, and here you can find the Palacio de Cristal, the Falling Angel Fountain, lush gardens, and a pond to rent a boat for 45 minutes. It is a beautiful place to leisurely stroll around, ride a bike, or relax at one of the cafes and enjoy the beautiful scenery. One of our favorite parts of the park was renting a boat for 45 minutes, which was very cheap at only 6 euros during the week, and rowing around the pond in the center. You can spend a quick 45 minutes here to see the top sites or spend several hours here relaxing. No tickets are needed to enter El Ritero Park. You can reserve a boat ahead of time but there are so many boats available it’s very easy to just wait in line for a few minutes when you feel like going.

Shop for Leather Goods

Madrid Shopping,  Salvador Bachiller

While not as famous as shopping for leather goods in Paris or Florence, there is still a good selection of leather goods in Madrid. And, it’s cheaper than the designer bags you will find in Paris. One place we shopped for leather purses was at Salvador Bachiller. Salvador Bachiller is a Spanish brand that was founded in Madrid in 1880. The flagship store is located in the heart of Madrid. It is multi-level and also has a cute rooftop café up top and on the patio, though you must eat food. You cannot get a table outside for just a drink.

El Rastro Market

If you enjoy flea markets, El Rastro Market should be on your things to do in Madrid list. El Rastro Market is only on Sundays and is a big flea market in Palaza de Cascorro. It is one of the largest and most popular flea markets in Europe and also has street performers, live music and cafes.

Experience a Flamenco Show

A flamenco show is one of the best things to do in Madrid when you want to include unforgettable cultural experiences. Flamenco venues are scattered throughout the city, and you can choose from historic theaters to cozy taverns. While we unfortunately didn’t get to experience a flamenco show during our trip to Madrid, our friends did and recommended La Quimera Tablao to see a flamenco show. One of the most esteemed flamenco shows in Madrid is “Cardamomo Tablao Flamenco” which is located in the heart of Madrid.

Museum National Centro de Arte Reina Sofia / Reina Sofia Museum

If you love art, the Museum National Centro de Arte Reina Sofia will be one of the best things to do in Madrid during your trip. Here, you will find a collection of contemporary and modern art, including iconic works by Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, and Joan Miro. One of the most famous exhibits you will find at the Reina Sofia Museum is Picasso’s masterpiece “Guernica” which shows the horrors of war. The museum is housed in a former hospital building, which also makes it a unique museum to visit.

Prado Museum

best things to do in Madrid, Prado Museum

If you are an art lover, the Prado Museum is another art museum in Madrid to visit. The Prado Museum is considered one of the world’s premier art galleries, and has a collection of masterpieces from the Spanish Golden Age, including works by artists such as  Diego Velázquez, Francisco Goya, and El Greco. Visitors can see artwork like Velázquez’s “Las Meninas” and Goya’s “The Third of May 1808,” which vividly depict pivotal moments in Spanish history and society. In addition to Spanish art, you can also find an array of European paintings, sculptures and decorative arts dating from the medieval period to the 19th century at the Prado Museum.

Attend a Soccer / Football Game

Football game / soccer game in Madrid, best things to do in Madrid

Madrid is home to two of Europe’s most iconic soccer / football clubs: Real Madrid and Atlético de Madrid. Both stadiums are legendary venues and attending a soccer / football game while you are in Madrid is an electrifying experience. You can find Real Madrid’s schedule here.

See a Concert

Bruce Springsteen concert in Madrid

Madrid is a city frequently on international tour schedules. If your favorite artist is on tour this year, check to see if they have any stops in Madrid. Concert tickets abroad are sometimes cheaper than in the US so if you’re already planning a trip to Madrid, why not add seeing your favorite artist while you’re over there?

Best Things to do in Madrid Conclusion

In conclusion, the best things to do in Madrid depend on personal preference, and there is plenty to do during your trip to Madrid. You can explore iconic landmarks like the Plaza Mayor, stroll around El Retiro Park for the afternoon, spend the morning in awe of the grander at the Royal Palace of Madrid, go shopping and much more. Madrid promises to be a great trip no matter what things you decide to do.


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