The capital of Spain, Madrid, offers infinite activities. Great wine and tapas, a vibrant nightlife, traditions, and friendly locals are just some of the things that Madrid offers the many people who visit the city throughout the year. To make sure you have an unforgettable experience, I’ve put all of my local knowledge into this guide on the top things to see and do in Madrid.
The Best Things to See and Do in Madrid
When people think of Spain, they often think of Barcelona. This is mostly because of the beaches, and I get it! But the capital, Madrid, is rich in culture and has a lot to offer visitors. One of the city’s advantages is its central location, which also makes it a great base for traveling to other top destinations in Spain, like Seville and Granada in the south, the Rioja wine region in the north, or even Barcelona in the east. And when you’re in Madrid, don’t miss out on these top things to see and do in the city (and nearby!) that you’ll want to add to your itinerary for a memorable trip in Spain.
16. Have lunch in Casa de Campo
Casa de Campo is the largest public park in Madrid with over 1530 hectares. Initially, the park was a private estate created for the Royal Family. It was officially opened to the public in the 1930s.
This is the perfect place to escape urban life and, even though it’s in the city, you will have the chance to go hiking or biking in nature. Locals and tourists alike usually sit by the lake to have lunch in the serene natural setting. You can bring your own picnic or savour the Spanish cuisine from Urogallo, a restaurant located by the lake.
Address: Casa de Campo
15. Visit the National Archaeological Museum
If you are a history lover, the National Archaeological Museum of Spain is the place to go to get a masterclass in Spain’s history without leaving Madrid. Located next to the district of Serrano, near Retiro, the recently renovated museum houses treasures and artworks from different parts of the world.
The museum narrates Spain’s history and presence in the Iberian Peninsula and beyond. You will have the chance to contemplate famous Iberian sculptures, Egyptian mummies, Roman mosaics found all over Spain, Greek vases, Visigoth votive crowns, and Islamic ivories—it’s a cultural treasure trove!
Address: Calle de Serrano, 13
14. Swim in a Pool with City Views
A very typical activity from May to September is sunbathing on roof terraces around Madrid. One of the most exclusive terraces is located in Gran Vía at the Hotel Emperador, where you can socialize at the cocktail bar, enjoy a meal at the restaurant, and relax in the large pool.
The highlight, though, is the unparalleled views of the famous Gran Vía. I highly recommend visiting at sunset to take in the spectacular views of this part of the city. It also makes for a great photo opportunity!
13. Visit Segovia
A trip to Segovia is perfect for anyone wanting to explore Spain more deeply. The city is about 70 km to the north of Madrid and is famous for its three main touristic attractions. One of the most impressive is the fully-preserved Roman aqueduct.
Contemplating this monument, you will learn how the Romans mastered engineering and architecture. Segovia’s Gothic cathedral and medieval castle will make you feel like the main character of a historic tale.
No visit to Segovia can end without tasting the most traditional meal in the city: cochinillo asado or suckling pig. I highly recommend stopping by José María Restaurant and trying the variety they have on offer.
12. Visit Toledo
Madrid is very close to one of the most historical cities in Spain, Toledo. I highly recommend setting a day aside to get lost in its narrow streets. The Romans conquered the city, which later became the capital of the Visigoths in the Iberian Peninsula.
Today, Toledo shows the imprints of the Arab, Jewish, and Christian communities that inhabited it from the Middle Ages until the capital was transferred to Madrid. Visiting the city will take you back to a period where cathedrals, castles, synagogues, and mosques shaped the identity of this ancient city.
11. Sunset with the Pharaohs
The Temple of Debod is an original Egyptian building dating back to the second century BC. It is located in the Cuartel de la Montaña Park, between Plaza de España and Parque del Oeste. The temple was donated to Spain in 1969 by the Egyptian authorities, who saved it from flooding after the construction of the Aswan Dam.
A visit to this spot will take you on a magical journey through Egyptian art and architecture. I recommend visiting the park in the afternoon just before sunset and enjoying the viewpoints behind the temple. From there, you will experience an unforgettable sunset, with views of the Royal Palace and part of Madrid’s city center.
Address: C. de Ferraz, 1
10. Touch Madrid’s Skies
Those who know Madrid intimately know this: De Madrid al cielo. When visiting Madrid, don’t forget to appreciate the unique skyscapes of the city throughout the year. The Azotea del Círculo is one of the best places to experience a complete 360-degree view of the city.
Visitors will have the chance to explore a different Madrid, observing the contrast between the skies and infinite rooftops while enjoying a refreshing cocktail or exquisite meal in one of the private cultural centers of Europe.
If you want to go higher, then visit the Rooftop Bar 360º at Hotel RIU, in Plaza España. Hotel RIU’s glass walkaway at the top of the building has recently become one of the main attractions in the city.
9. Have the Best Madrid Stew
If you want to taste something that’s not only Spanish but also a must-try from the history of Madrid, don’t leave without eating cocido madrileño. The origins of this traditional stew date back to the Middle Ages, when it was mainly eaten by humble people.
However, over time, this dish has become very popular in all social classes. I highly recommend trying the cocido from Lhardy, a restaurant that opened in 1839 and is known for its madrileño stew.
You will experience the cocido madrileño in the traditional way, that is, in two vuelcos—or in two parts. The first vuelco consists of the stock of the stew, with noodles, whilst the second vuelco contains chickpeas, vegetables, and meat. Lhardy restaurant has conquered thousands of hearts across three centuries, standing as one of the most historical and preferred options of locals and tourists alike.
Where to get it: Lhardy Restaurante
8. Enjoy Churros with Chocolate
You cannot stroll through the Madrid city center without tasting the famous churros con chocolate from San Ginés. This bar is the most traditional stall selling churros in the city and dates back to 1894.
The interior of the bar has been maintained in the characteristic style of the late 19th century. I highly recommend taking a walk in Puerta del Sol, stopping by San Ginés, and continuing up to Plaza Mayor.
Where to get it: San Ginés
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7. Go out in Chueca
Madrid is a very gay-friendly city, and the traditional neighborhood of Chueca is the epicenter of the LGBTQ+ community. Once a marginal district with a reputation for drugs and prostitutes, the area has since taken on a new lease on life. It has a vibrant reputation that can be found nowhere else in the city.
This cosmopolitan neighborhood was named after the Spanish composer Federico Chueca. Tons of rainbow flags welcome visitors to a lively, safe space where you can enjoy art, restaurants, and clubs. Don’t forget to queue at La Pollería and taste its perfectly-sized and delicious desserts.
6. Try the Most Popular Tortilla in Madrid
Spain is known worldwide for its omelet or, as we locals call it, tortilla de patatas. For the best one in Madrid, go to Casa Dani. This family-owned restaurant opened in 1991 in the heart of the Salamanca neighborhood and it is famous for having the best tortilla in the capital.
This restaurant has a variety of dishes from traditional Spanish gastronomy at very affordable prices. So, no matter how long your stay in Madrid, you’ll be able to eat here. This is a perfect choice for lunch or tapas, especially when visiting the nearby park of El Retiro.
Where to get it: Casa Dani
5. Drink and Eat at Mercado de San Miguel
One of the most popular gastronomic markets in the city is the Mercado de San Miguel. It is located just a stone’s throw from Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol, inside of an elegant building.
The market is home to more than twenty stands offering visitors an authentic taste of Spanish flavors. For an authentic and unforgettable gastro-tour, I highly recommend tasting its unique wines, Iberian ham, and fresh fish.
Address: Pl. de San Miguel
4. Shop at El Rastro Flea Sunday Market in Madrid
Sundays and public holidays are famous in Madrid for the El Rastro flea market. The market is located along the Plaza de Cascorro and Ribera de Curtidores, in the city centre. El Rastro means “the trail” and is named after the medieval tanneries located in this area.
Thousands of stands offer visitors an infinite variety of products from antiques to clothing, artworks, photography, and more. After El Rastro, if it’s tapas you’re after, I recommend having a wander around the nearby neighborhoods of Lavapiés and La Latina.
If you love collecting coins and stamps, head to Plaza Mayor. The principal square of Madrid is well-known for its philately and numismatic businesses. On Sundays, these shops set up stands to display and sell numerous bargains to curious visitors and antique lovers.
Address: Pl. de Cascorro, 13
3. Discover the Reina Sofía Museum
The Museum Reina Sofía is located next to Atocha Train Station. It opened in 1990 and, since then, holds the largest modern and contemporary art collection of Spain. The recently rearranged exhibition offers a new, curated tour from the origin of the vanguards in 1881 to the present.
Additionally, you will experience how art has been an active contributing factor in social issues and global challenges. Also, this museum exhibits part of its collection in El Retiro Park, so make sure you have a stroll through there!
Address: C. de Sta. Isabel, 52
2. Relax in El Retiro Park
El Retiro Park is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the busy city. Situated in the heart of Madrid next to Puerta de Alcalá, the park spans more than 125 hectares and is home to thousands of trees and plants. Its diversity allows visitors to experience nature in personalized and unique ways.
From running to mindfulness activities, boating in the vast lake, and enjoying art exhibitions, El Retiro Park has everything you need. Also, you may not know that one of the only statues of the Fallen Angel in the world can be found in the park.
Address: Plaza de la Independencia, 7
1. Visit Prado Museum
A trip to Madrid cannot end without a visit to the Prado Museum. It is the most famous museum in Spain and has one of the finest collections of European art in the world. Its artworks date principally from the 12th to the early 20th century. However, the museum also houses sculptures from Greece and Rome.
The building, designed by the architect Juan de Villanueva in 1785, was finally opened as the National Museum of Paintings and Sculptures in 1819. The museum’s thousands of paintings and permanent exhibition guarantee a visual journey like no other, taking you through European and Spanish history.
Among the artworks, you will encounter the style and personality of artists such as Francisco Goya, Diego Velázquez, El Greco, Hieronymus Bosch, and many others.
Address: C. de Ruiz de Alarcón, 23