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Things to do in Madrid

Things to do in  Madrid

Welcome to Madrid

From its royal palace to art museums to tapas bars, Madrid offers plenty to discover while wandering its boulevards. Sitting near the geographic center of the Iberian Peninsula, the Spanish capital is the seat of not only the country’s government, but also of much of its culture, food, history, and art. With so much to do, it can be hard to exhaust Madrid’s many attractions, ranging from Buen Retiro Park to the Prado museum. But make sure to leave time to explore farther afield, where historic sights including El Escorial, Toledo, and Segovia make for perfect day trips.

Top 10 attractions in Madrid

Royal Palace of Madrid (Palacio Real de Madrid)

Royal Palace of Madrid (Palacio Real de Madrid)

Madrid's Royal Palace (also known as the Palacio Real or Palacio de Oriente) is a beautiful baroque structure with some 3,000 rooms, making it one of Europe's largest castles. Although the royal family no longer lives here, the Palacio Real still serves as the king and queen's official residence, a venue for state ceremonies, and a place for tourists to get a peek into the royal history of Spain.More
Prado Museum (Museo del Prado)

Prado Museum (Museo del Prado)

The Prado Museum (Museo del Prado) houses one of the finest art collections in the world, specializing in European art from the 12th to 19th centuries. Thousands of European paintings, sculptures, and other works of art are on display throughout its halls, and they represent merely a fraction of the total collection. Highlights include works by Francisco Goya, Diego Velázquez, and El Greco. Perhaps the most famous paintings are “Las Meninas” (The Maids of Honor), an inventive self-portrait by Velázquez, and The Garden of Earthly Delights, a triptych from Hieronymus Bosch.More
Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor

Today this central square is a popular meeting place for tourists and locals, but Plaza Mayor’s history goes back to the early 17th century during King Felipe III's reign. The central statue is a nod to the king’s role in overseeing the project's completion. Forming the outer walls are a series of 3-story buildings with balconies overlooking the center.More
Plaza de Cibeles

Plaza de Cibeles

One of Madrid’s most splendid, iconic views is from Plaza de Cibeles at the end of tree-lined Paseo del Prado. Fuente de la Cibeles, the fountain at the center of the grand roundabout, depicts Cybele, Greek goddess of nature and fertility, steering a lion-drawn chariot. The fountain was built in 1780 and has since become a symbol of the city. The fountain has also become a rallying point for fans of the soccer team Real Madrid whenever the team wins a major tournament.Surrounding the plaza sit some of Madrid’s grandest buildings, including the ornate Cybele Palace, red brick Buenavista Palace, the Palace of Linares and the dignified Bank of Spain building.More
Puerta del Sol

Puerta del Sol

It’s fitting that the name Puerta del Sol (“gate of the sun” in English) evokes light and warmth, because this central Madrid square is an energetic hub. A must for first-time visitors to Madrid, the area is packed with hotels, cafés, souvenir-selling vendors, and barhopping locals.More
Alcalá Gate (Puerta de Alcalá)

Alcalá Gate (Puerta de Alcalá)

The neoclassical Alcalá Gate (Puerta de Alcalá), in Plaza de la Independencia, is one of Madrid’s most recognizable monuments. Designed by Italian architect Francesco Sabatini and erected in 1778, the triumphal granite gate once served as one of five main entrances to the city. The statues on top represent the cardinal virtues.More
Reina Sofia Museum (Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia)

Reina Sofia Museum (Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia)

The Reina Sofia Museum (Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia) is Madrid's premier modern art gallery featuring mostly works by Spanish artists. Among them isGuernica, a political statement on the Spanish Civil War by Pablo Picasso, as well as a room devoted to Joan Miró's paintings and a collection of about 20 Salvador Dalí pieces.More
Santiago Bernabéu Stadium (Estadio Santiago Bernabéu)

Santiago Bernabéu Stadium (Estadio Santiago Bernabéu)

Football fans won’t want to miss a visit to the magnificent Santiago Bernabéu Stadium (Estadio Santiago Bernabéu) , home to the legendary Real Madrid football team. Despite boasting a capacity of 81,000 spectators and reaching a 5-star rating as a UEFA-classified Elite Stadium, Santiago Bernabéu is actually Spain’s second-largest football stadium, after Barcelona’s Camp Nou.More
Valley of the Fallen (Valle de los Caídos)

Valley of the Fallen (Valle de los Caídos)

Built into the mountains north of Madrid, Spain's Valley of the Fallen (Valle de los Caídos) is a memorial to those who died in the Spanish Civil War. Erected by Nationalist leader Francisco Franco, the sight has been steeped in controversy. The somber attraction is known for its ziggurat-like facade, vaulted crypt, and granite cross.More
Almudena Cathedral (Catedral de la Almudena)

Almudena Cathedral (Catedral de la Almudena)

King Alfonso XII laid the first stone of the Almudena Cathedral (Catedral de la Almudena) in 1883, yet the neoclassical structure, built atop an old church that itself was built atop the city’s first mosque, wasn’t consecrated until 1993. Compared to Europe’s other major cathedrals, this one is uniquely modern, with touches like pop art–stained glass windows.More

Trip ideas

Top activities in Madrid

Recent reviews from experiences in Madrid

Highly Recomended Tour
TinanT, Jul 2021
Express tour in Madrid by electric tuk-tuk
It helped us highlight places we wanted to be sure to visit during thw duration of our trip
Nice way to see interesting hotspots!
Mariska_D, Jul 2021
Highlights of Madrid by Bike
The tour was a great way to see a few nice spots of Madrid.
Great overall experience
Ryan_L, Jul 2021
Madrid Tapas and Wine Tasting Tour
Carlos additionally had great recommendations for what to do in our days to come in Madrid.
Jessica_M, Jul 2021
Avila and Salamanca Tour from Madrid
This was a wonderful day trip from Madrid with enough to see to leave you wondering at the beauty just outside of the city.
Great way to see Madrid. Phenomenal Frank!
Kunal_T, Jun 2021
Highlights of Madrid by Bike
What a fantastic way to see Madrid!
A great way to see Madrid
Karoline, Jul 2021
Treasure Hunt, Madrid Urban Adventure
This was a great and innovative way to really get to see Madrid in our own pace.
Excellent short trip
Sue, Mar 2020
Segovia and Toledo Day Trip with Alcazar Ticket and Optional Cathedral & Lunch
our English tour guide Danny was so helpful.
Antique ride through Madrid
Benjamin_J, Mar 2020
Historic Madrid + Modern
While in Madrid my wife and I wanted to see Madrid under our own terms with out huge crowd and this is the perfect way to do it.
Kelli_M, Mar 2020
Private 3 Hour Tour Madrid (Tuk-Tuk / Golf Cart)
He was good at navigating the streets of Madrid and had great recommendations for dinners/activities/plazas.
We got more than we thought
Laura_B, Feb 2020
Private Tour Prado Museum + Reina Sofía
We explore Velázquez, Goya and then Picasso with all the connections they’ve got and our friendly and easy-going guide (who speaks a perfect English) provided tons of information not only about both museums, but also about Madrid.
Must do this
Susie, Feb 2020
Madrid Segway Tour
Great way to see the center of Madrid and learn about the culture!
A must do
Midsguy, Feb 2020
Madrid Tapas & Flamenco Tour
We got to see the real side of Spain and Madrid through food, music, dance and song.
drtovaavrech, Feb 2020
Madrid Tapas and Wine Tasting Tour
A good way to see the inner Madrid!
Interesting tour
jamehar, Feb 2020
El Escorial, Valley of the Fallen & Segovia day tour from Madrid
Very nice tour (Escorial, Valley of Fallen and Segovia).
Insights into Spain
Kenneth G, Nov 2019
El Escorial Monastery and the Valley of the Fallen from Madrid
The tour provides an excellent way to visit sites otherwise difficult to reach from Madrid.
Fantastic tour, highly recommend to any body who wants to explore Madrid by bike
Jindong, Jul 2021
Highlights of Madrid by Bike
Although he gave the tour in Spanish and English, he made the transition seamless and very natural.
Madrid Hop on Hop Off
Charlie B, Nov 2019
Madrid City Tour Hop-On Hop-Off
Then go to the various attractions that we want to see.
Good for Limited time
DottyK, Nov 2019
Madrid City Sightseeing and Skip the Line Royal Palace Guided Tour
We had limited time and wanted to see the city.
Great Segway city tour
mkndv, Oct 2019
Emblematic Madrid Segway Tour: City Center and Retiro Park
It’s a great way to see lots of places in a short amount of time.
marktippie, Oct 2019
Segovia and Toledo Day Trip with Alcazar Ticket and Optional Cathedral & Lunch
Our group was split into two groups - Spanish & English.

All about Madrid

When to visit

Spring kicks off in Madrid with the Festival of San Isidro, but it’s World Pride week in June that draws the biggest—and most colorful—crowds. Balmy summer nights mean plenty of options for alfresco dining and entertainment, but be aware that many businesses close down in August as locals escape the city's heat for the coast.

A local’s pocket guide to Madrid

Lara Sanchez

Lara was born and raised in Madrid. You’ll find her exploring the world, tasting all sorts of local food, and playing with clay in her spare time.

The first thing you should do in Madrid is...

hit the bars (or San Miguel Market) and try some tapas. Start with patatas bravas at Las Bravas, then head to Plaza Mayor for the best squid sandwich in La Campana.

A perfect Saturday in Madrid...

starts with churros and chocolate for breakfast at San Ginés, includes a museum (both the Prado and Reina Sofia are fantastic), and ends with some shopping in the Salamanca neighborhood.

One touristy thing that lives up to the hype is...

renting a rowing boat at the lake in Retiro Park.

To discover the "real" Madrid...

take a walking tour to learn about the most historic neighborhood, Madrid de los Austrias. Then, recharge your batteries with tapas in the La Latina neighborhood.

For the best view of the city...

head to the Faro de Moncloa Observation Deck, or catch the sunset on either the Círculo de Bellas Artes or Cibeles Palace terrace.

One thing people get wrong...

is that paella is not the official dish in Madrid. Two authentic Madrid dishes are cocido (the best version of this garbanzo-based meal is served at Malacatín) and callos, a traditional beef tripe stew.

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