There are many great things to do in Madrid.
Whenever I think of an awesome getaway for a few days or even longer, Madrid city breaks are the way to go for me. Spain’s capital city is beautiful and interesting: the perfect combination for both relaxation and sightseeing!
Bustling with shows, exhibitions, galleries, museums and night life, Madrid offers a huge selection of things to see and do. So if you are looking for the best things to do in Madrid, you have come to the right place. Continue reading this post for the best Madrid attractions and all the things to see in Madrid that you can’t miss.
35 Great Things To Do In Madrid
Get your art introduction at Paseo del Arte
Taking a walk on the Paseo del Arte — English for “Art Walk” — is a must for art lovers. This area of Madrid boasts some of the most famous art galleries in Spain, including the Prado Museum, the Royal Botanical Gardens and the Reina Sofía Museum. With at least 15 museums and galleries in a one-kilometer stretch of the city, you will have plenty to pick from.
The expression “Golden Triangle of Art” is used to refer to the three most important museums in Madrid, which are close to each other – the Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum of Art.
If you are planning on visiting more than two museums, it may be a good idea to get a city card. You can get it here.
Visit the Prado Museum
Without the shadow of a doubt, this is the best art museum in Spain, with a great concentration of masterpieces – paintings, sculptures and even Spanish Romanesque murals. You will find works of Italian Renaissance artists and 15th century Flemish paintings.
The highlight of the museum are the Velázquez Rooms, where you can admire state portraits of Felipe IV, as well as “La Meninas,” Velázquez most famous and complex painting.
Other must-see are the rooms dedicated to Goya.
The Prado Museum is open Monday to Saturday from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm and on Sundays from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Tickets cost €10. Access is free after 6:00 pm Monday to Saturday and after 3:00 pm on Sunday.
You may want to consider joining a guided tour for your visit, to make the most of this vast museum. You can book your guided tour here. For an early visit, click here.
GOOD TO KNOW: Mapfre Foundation on 23 Paseo de Recoletos is another great place for art. There is a permanent exhibit of the works of Joan Miró.
And the National Archaeological Museum
This museum allows you to get a better understanding of Spain’s complex past. There are many items from the Roman period. The most notable pieces in the collection include the statue of a bust known as Lady of Elche and the Treasure of Guarrazar, a set of Visigothic crosses and crowns.
The National Archaeological Museum of Madrid is open Tuesday to Saturday from 9:30 am to 8:00 pm and on Sundays from 9:30 am to 3:00 pm. At the time of writing, tickets cost only €3.
Browse around Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum of Art
The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum of Art is one of the places to visit in Madrid. The private collection of Baron Hans-Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, it is thought to be one of the most important art collection in the world. The exhibit consists of 775 paintings that were originally loaned and finally bought in 1993. Among the most notable pieces there are “Woman in Bath” and paintings by Van Gogh, Durero, Hopper, and Caravaggio.
The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum of Art is open Mondays from 12:00 to 4:00 pm and Tuesday to Sunday from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm. Admission is €9. You can get your ticket here. Admission is free on Mondays.
If you intend to visit Reina Sofia (more about it below), this guided tour takes you to both museums on the same day.
And Reina Sofia Museum
Reina Sofia Museum is one of the most famous attractions in Madrid – it received a whopping 3.8 million visitors in 2017! Opened in 1992 in Madrid’s former General Hospital, and having seen a new wing added in 2005 with the Nouvel building, there are many reasons why visiting is one of the unmissable things to do in Madrid.
First of all, it houses “Guernica” – Picasso’s most famous painting, and easily the most famous Spanish painting of the 20th century. But that’s not the only reason to visit. The permanent collection includes the works of Spanish artists from the last 100 years, and there are regular temporary exhibits that are also worth visiting.
Reina Sofia is open on Mondays from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm; Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm and on Sundays from 10:00 am to 2:30 pm. Admission is €5. You can get your skip-the-line ticket here. Entrance is free after 7:00 during the week and after 1:30 on Sundays.
Should you want to join a guided tour, you may want to check this Reina Sofia Museum tour – it costs €27 and you get a bilingual guide.
Enjoy more art
La Tabacalera, in Lavapiés, is a fantastic place for urban art; whereas La Neomudéjar, in Pacifico and located in an old building where train cars used to be stored, is the best place for avant-garde performances and exhibits. Finally, the Masaveu Foundation is one of the biggest private art collections in the country and home to the famous statue by Jaume Plensa.
Other places to visit for art lovers are CaixaForum, in the Barrio de las Letras, whose entrance is a 24-meter-high vertical garden and where you will find interesting exhibits and cultural events; and Marlborough Art Gallery, which has a strong focus on contemporary art.
Are you a fan of street art? Consider joining a guided tour such as this one or this one.
Visit the Royal Palace
If you want to soak in some of Spain’s history, make sure to visit the Royal Palace – the largest royal palace in Europe. Still the official residence of Spain’s royal family today, the palace is beautiful, with 3000 rooms, opulent decor and iconic artworks.
The Palace was built where Madrid’s Moorish Alcázar fortress-palace, which burned down in 1734, used to be. Construction begun in the mid-1700s for King Philip V It’s the largest royal palace in western Europe, and has a blend of baroque and neoclassical styles.
Inside, you will find an paintings’s gallery with the works by Goya, Caravaggio and Velázquez; the only string quartet of Stradivarius instruments in the world; as well as Royal Armoury which displays weapons used by Charles V in the 16th Century.
The Royal Palace is open Monday to Saturday from 10:00 am to 6:00 or 7:00 pm depending on the season, and on Sundays from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. At the time of writing, tickets cost €6,50.
To make the most of your time at the Royal Palace, you may want to consider a guided tour. You can book it here or here.
Visit the Catedral de Almudena
Founded in 1993 and consecrated by Pope John Paul II, Almudena Cathedral is one of the nicest places to visit in Madrid. It has a baroque exterior, in style with the Royal Palace which is right nearby. It’s where the Felipe and Letizia, currently King and Queen of Spain, got married.
Pass by the Puerta del Sol
This is one of Madrid’s most popular meeting places, so you surely can’t miss it! It’s located next to the Casa de Correos (the main Post Office) and where celebrations for New Year’s Eve take place. It’s also where the statue of El Oso y El Madroño, Madrid’s symbol since the Middle Ages, is located.
And Plaza Mayor
Another of Madrid attractions, Plaza Mayor was build in the early 1600s in Renaissance style and is surrounded by beautiful buildings. At the center of the square there’s the 400-year-old bronze statue of King Philip III. The square has 9 entrances and under the porticoes there are many lovely (yet overpriced) cafés where you can catch a drink while observing a bit of local action.
Be mesmerized at the Museum of Illusions
Visiting this newly opened museum is surely one of the best things to do in Madrid, and a perfect place to visit for families with kids. It’s packed with tricks to keep you entertained, some more famous, others completely unknown (yet) but a lot of fun.
The Museum of Illusions is open Wednesday to Friday from 12:00 to 10:00 pm; Saturdays from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm and Sundays from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm. Admission is €12. You can get your ticket here.
Explore the Matadero
Located along the Manzanares river, this former slaughterhouse (matadero) was converted in an art center in the early 2000s and started hosting exhibits, performances and more. There is a cinema and there often is a food market. Visiting is one of the most fun things to do in Madrid for art lovers.
Matadero is open daily from 9:00 am to 10:00 pm. Admission is free, and so are guided tours which – however -must be booked in advance. Check out the official website here for more information.
Enjoy a free art show
For more (free) art shows, check out Juan March Foundation, where you will be able to see pieces by lesser known artists; Canal de Isabel II Foundation, which regularly holds photo exhibits and competitions; and La Casa Encendida, where you will find great exhibits of various kinds of arts by new artists as well as concerts, performances, movie showings and other activities. Finally, check out the Conde Duque Cultural Center.
Have fun at Ikono
One of the most fun things to do in Madrid – especially if you have kids – is visiting this gallery where you can literally jump into a pool of blue balls, explore a mirror room, visit one with neon lights and another one with pink bubbles. It’s a fun place to take photos too!
Ikono is open Monday to Wednesday from 3:00 to 10:00 pm and Thursday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm. Admission is €12,50.
Take in the views from Circulo de Bellas Artes
Among the things to do in Madrid there’s taking in the impressive panoramic views from the Circulo de Bellas Artes. There, not only you will find workshops, concerts and exhibits, but also one of the best rooftop bars in town, and a perfect sunset spot.
The gallery is open Tuesday to Sunday from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm and from 5:00 to 9:00 pm. Admission is €5. Cafeteria La Pecera is open daily from 9:00 am to 1:00 am (3:00 am on Friday, Saturday and Sunday).
For more views, go to the City Hall
For more impressive views of Madrid, head to the City Hall (Ayuntamiento de Madrid). Not only it is an impressive building that regularly hosts events and exhibits: its Terraza Cibeles on the sixth floor and the Mirador Madrid on the eight offer stunning panoramas.
If you are in search of the best views of Madrid you may want to consider this guided tour.
Catch the sunset views from Cerro del Tio Pio
Located in Puente de Vallecas, this hill is one of the best places to visit in Madrid to catch a beautiful sunset. It used to be a dump, but now it is a lovely park.
Pass by the Templo de Debod
One of the most unique things to do in Madrid is visiting its only Egyptian temple. Located in the Parque del Oeste, the Templo de Debod dates to more than 2200 years ago and is dedicated to the gods Amon and Isis.
The temple was sent to Spain in bricks by the Egyptian government back in 1968, as a thank you gesture for the country’s help in preserving the monuments threatened by the construction of the Aswan Dam.
You can also visit the inside of the temple.
Debod Temple is open Tuesday to Friday from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm and Saturday and Sundays from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm. Admission is free.
Soak up the nightlife in Malasaña
Madrid has a well-deserved reputation for lively night life, so it goes without saying that one of the things to do in Madrid is enjoying its nightlife. The Malasaña neighborhood is one of the best places to visit in Madrid for a fun night out. With a huge range of established bars and clubs, visitors to Madrid should give this a try: go there, get a drink and dance until the sun rises! There’s a huge range of music styles to suit all tastes.
Make sue not to miss Plaza Dos de Mayo, in the heart of the neighborhood.
This pub crawl is one of the most fun nightlife tours of Madrid.
Take a walk along La Gran Via
A walk along La Gran Via is one of the nicest things to do in Madrid to get a proper sense of the city. It’s a lively avenue packed with shops and malls – from high street to luxury – and you’ll find a couple of movie theaters too. It’s also a nightlife hub.
Make sure to look for the Telefónica Building, a skyscraper built in 1928.
If you are a fan of skyscrapers, head to the Financial District to admire the Kio Towers – the first ever leaning skyscrapers.
Visit a Market
Food lovers should definitely visit Mercado San Miguel. The beautiful 1916 iron building was completely restored and opened again in 2009 to become a local hub for all sorts of food. It’s Europe’s largest municipal market, at a stone’s throw from Plaza Mayor.
Others cool market to sample all sorts of food are Anton Martin Market and the Mercado de Vallehermoso. Make sure to also check out San Fernando Market.
Shop at El Rastro
Madrid’s most famous street market, the Rastro has been a shopping area since the medieval era. It’s open on Sundays and public holidays from 9:00 am until 3:00 am. There’s just about anything for sale: from household items to clothes, through to antiques and jewelry.
The Rastro is located in La Latina district, and it’s full of locals and tourists all mingled together.
Take a walk in Retiro Park
Walking around Retiro Park is one of the nicest things to do in Madrid. The park measures 118 hectares and is a great place for a run, a picnic and a walk with your dog. Among the must-see there are the Fallen Angel (Ángel Caído) – one of the statues dedicated to the devil; the monument to Alfonso XII; the Casón del Buen Retiro, a ballroom which is actually managed by the Museo del Prado; and the Palacio de Cristal, built to commemorate the 1887 Philippine Exposition.
There also is a rose garden, fountains and the Casa de Vacas cultural center.
For guided tours of Retiro Park, click here or here.
Visit another city park
Madrid is a very green city, with lots of public parks. One of the finest is the Quinta de Los Molinos: 21.5 hectares full of trees, fountains and a lake. The pink and white flowers of its almond trees are a well-kept secret.
Another park is El Capricho (“the whim”), located in Alameda de Osuna in the district of Barajas. The park, designed by Jean-Baptiste Mulot (Marie Antoinette’s gardener) measures 14 hectares and features an artificial river and lakes. Most of it is in English gardens style.
Pop into Atocha train station
You’d never guess, but Atocha train station actually is one of the coolest places to visit in Madrid! Inside, you will find a miniature jungle complete with tropical trees and a turtle pond. If you are spending a few days in town, you will certainly go by it on your way out of the city to explore nearby places such as Alcala de Henares (Cervantes’ hometown) or El Escorial (home to a beautiful monastery and which used to be the residence of the Royal Family).
Visit Santiago Bernabéu Stadium
With Spain’s love of soccer, you really shouldn’t skip a trip to Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. Capable of accommodating 85000 fans, Real Madrid’s Stadium is quite a sight, whether you are into soccer or not. Just so you know, the team holds the record of the best European team, having won a whopping 13 Champions’ League cups.
If you can’t attend a game (that would be quite the treat!) opt for a guided tour such as this one. It goes into the stadium for panoramic views, as well as the dressing room, the press room, the presidential box etc.
Take the kids to Espacio Abierto
One of the best things to do in Madrid for families with children is visiting the Espacio Abierto, located in Quinta de los Molinos park. Kids will find all sorts of entertainment with games, shows, workshops and music.
Make sure to check the website for the program and special events.
Visit the Casa de América
One of the coolest places to visit in Madrid, Casa de América is located in Palacio de Linares and a great place for cultural events of all sorts, such as photography exhibits, movie showings and more. It’s also a conference avenue – so if you are interested in topics such as environmental protection, world politics, economics and even literature make sure to pop by.
Gorge on churros at San Ginés
Open around the clock since 1884, San Ginés is synonymous with churros. Go at any time of day and night to have the perfect churro or porras. Dunk it in a cup of hot chocolate for perfection. Expect lines at the counter depending on the time of day – it’s a popular spot at the end of a night of partying.
Want to learn more about Churros? Consider taking this guided tour.
Eat in one of Madrid’s fine restaurants and tapas bars
Food in Spain is truly delicious (says the most picky eater) so one of the top things to do in Madrid is tasting all sorts of food. I have already told you about the various food markets where you can taste food from all over the world, but you surely should not skip Madrid’s finest restaurants and tapas bars.
Among the must-visit there are DSTAgE, which has two Michelin stars and is run by chef Diego Guerrero, who’s masterly been able to put together a blend of Spanish, Mexican and Japanese flavors.
Sobrino de Botin is thought to be the oldest restaurant in the world, first opened in 1725. Its signature dish is the roast suckling pig. Ernest Hemingway mentions the Sobrino de Botin in his book The Sun Also Rises.
For dinner with a view, consider eating at Dani Garcia’s restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel.
Even Italians like myself must admit that there are good Italian restaurants in Madrid. Check out Fokacha and Bel Mondo if you are curious.
If you fancy Spanish Tapas, head to La Latina for the best tapas bars or Calle de Cava Baja, the city’s most famous tapas street.
La Fabrica is one of the best coffee places in Madrid. It makes great coffee and its located in Paseo El Prado, close to many museums. Another great place for coffee is Misión Café in Malasaña.
To make the most of Madrid’s incredible food scene, you may want to join a guided food tour such as this one or this one.
Enjoy a good drink
There are about a million good places to grab a good drink in Madrid, whatever your taste or budget.
Among the best bars in Madrid there are Sala Equis, a former adult cinema. There still is a small theater inside, along with benches and various places to eat.
Salmón Gurú makes the best cocktails in town – in fact, it is known to be one of the best bars in the world.
For drinks with a view, The Hat Madrid – a rooftop bar (belonging to one of the best places to stay in town) with great views near Plaza Mayor – is just about perfect.
Attend a Flamenco show
Flamenco is actually from Andalusia, Murcia and Extremadura, but there are a few places in Madrid where you can catch a show so I thought I’d mention it. Most places – such as this one at Corral de la Moreira – will include a drink with the show.
Go to the theater
For more dance and theater, check out the shows at Teatros del Gran Canal and at Maria Guerrero, a beautiful theater inaugurated in 1885 (when it was named Teatro La Princesa), which has been declared a Bien de Interés Cultural on the Spanish heritage registry and hosts shoes by the Centro Dramático Nacional. Finally, for truly avant-garde shows check out Teatro Pavón and its Kamikaze Productions.
For classic movies, make sure to go to Cine Doré Filmoteca Española, located in a beautiful art nouveau building.
And Opera at Teatro Real
Located in Plaza de Oriente and built more than 200 years ago, in 1818, the beautiful Teatro Real is a prime venue for opera, zarzuela and ballet. You can either visit during the day on a guided tour, or attend a show. Make sure to check the program on the official site here.
Learn Spanish at the Cervantes Institute
Quite obviously, one of the best things to do in Madrid would be learning Spanish. The Cervantes Institutes is – naturally -the best place to go. It’s located in a gorgeous venue that holds regular events, seminars, conferences and exhibits, other than Spanish language classes.
Guided Tours Of Madrid
Check out these guided tours of Madrid – they will definitely help you make the most of the city:
- Hop-on hop-off bus tour of Madrid – a very classic tour that takes you to the most famous attractions. Admission to the attractions is not included but you get a commentary while on the bus.
- Genuine Segway 12 Experience – one of the most popular tours in the city.
- The Spanish Inquisition walking tour – focussed on the darkest history of the city, it’s incredibly well reviewed.
- 3-hour guided bike tour in small groups – a fun way to explore the city. You may also want to consider this electric bike tour.
- Private customized walking tour with a local host – perfect if you’d rather decide what to see and what to skip.
- Tour of the historic city center – a classic tour that goes to a handful of Madrid attractions.
Make sure to check out my other posts about Spain:
- Seven Great Reasons To Visit The Basque Country
- Five Reasons To Love Cantabria
- 10 Gorgeous Places To Visit In Asturias, Spain
- Five Gorgeous Places To Visit In Galicia In Just Three Days
- Where To Find The Most Amazing Hikes In Spain
- The Best Places To Visit In Northern Spain
- 10 Fabulous Places To Go Hiking In Malaga And Its Province
- Hiking In Sierra Nevada: The Best Trails
- The Most Amazing Hiking In The Pyrenees