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21 Remarkable Things to Do in Madrid Spain

Visiting Madrid? If it’s your first time, don’t miss these things to do in Madrid Spain.

Madrid is the second-largest city in the EU (London Brexited, so Berlin is now first). Whether you want to eat your way through town, enjoy the culture and museums, or admire the beautiful architecture and parks, the city has something for almost everyone.

If this is your first trip, we’ve put together a great list of things to do in Madrid, Spain.

21 Spain Madrid Attractions You Can't MissPin

Thank you Contiki for hosting our trip. See our 15 day trip itinerary here. All opinions are always our own. This post may contain affiliate links, where we receive a small commission on sales of the products that are linked at no additional cost to you. Read our full disclosure for more info. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Local Adventurer possible.

Last Updated: March 14, 2024

21 Remarkable Things to Do in Madrid Spain

1. People Watch at Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor, 28012, map

Plaza Mayor, the main square in Madrid, is an excellent place to people watch. Grab a seat at one of the restaurants and enjoy a glass of wine and tapas.

Here, you can also check out Torre del Oro, a small bar with an array of memorabilia that is often referred to as “The Revenge of the Bulls,” with photos of gruesome gorings lining the wall.

Fun Fact: The equestrian statue in the center once omitted a terrible odor. After further investigation, they discovered hundreds of skeletons of small birds crawled into the horse’s mouth and couldn’t get out. They have since sealed the mouth.

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2. Eat your way through Mercado de San Miguel →

Plaza de San Miguel, 5, 28005, map

Mercado de San Miguel is one of Madrid’s oldest and most beautiful markets; this is a food lover’s dream. Try a bite of local delicacies or just people-watch. Click through to see our full post with more photos and details.

Local Tip: If you’re like us and don’t want to risk wasting a single meal in Madrid, check out Devour Madrid—their curated food and wine experiences are led by local Madrid experts who love to eat!

See More: What to Eat in Spain – the Best Spanish Foods

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3. Have lunch with a view at the Gourmet Experience

Centro Comercial El Corte Inglés, Plaza del Callao, 2, 28013, map

Climb to the 9th story of the El Corte Ingles Shopping Center for the best free view of Madrid. You’ll be able to see the Royal Palace and Catedral de la Almundena. Grab a snack or lunch at the food hall (it reminds us of Eataly, which opened two years prior) to eat while enjoying the view.

Photo Tip: If you’re here to take photos, they have glass all around, so there’s some glare.

gourmet experience madridPin

4. Hang out at the rooftop bar of Circulo de Bellas Artes

Calle de Alcalá, 42, 28014, map

Many say this is the best view of Madrid, but it requires you to pay 4 euros to get access to the top. When we went, the view was ruined by scaffolding and a giant advertisement, but I did enjoy the vibe of the rooftop bar.

If you’re going just for the view, we personally think the Gourmet Experience has a better view of the city, and this one is not worth the price. However, this is an excellent spot to relax and grab a few drinks with a view.

circulo de bellas artes rooftopPin

5. Relax at Retiro Park (Parque del Retiro)

Plaza de la Independencia, 7, 28001, map

This is one of the most popular parks in the city with 350 acres to explore. You can rent a boat and take a romantic paddle around the pond with a partner or solo. Also, stop at the Crystal Palace where they have free exhibits and beautiful architecture.

Local Tip: Right outside of the NorthWest corner of the park, you’ll find Puerta de Alcalá, which is a grand gateway that is worth checking out.

retiro park in madridPin

6. Shop at the Biggest Open-Air Flea Market

Calle de la Ribera de Curtidores, 28005, map

Held every Sunday from 9 AM to 3 PM, the El Rastro Market is the biggest, most famous open-air flea market in Spain. With roughly 3,500 stalls filled with handicrafts, culinary delights, apparel, home essentials, vintage treasures, and eclectic novelties. If you’re done shopping, you can enjoy the street artists or duck into one of the restaurants or cafes lining the streets to have a beer and tapas.

See More: 25 Amazing Markets in the World to Put on Your Bucket List

7. Gaze at the artwork at Museo Reina Sofia →

Calle de Santa Isabel, 52, 28012, map

Formerly a hospital, this modern art museum displays works by Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. Picasso’s Guernica is the most famous piece and is much larger than we imagined! Sometimes it’s hard to comprehend the scale of these paintings. Get tickets here.

Local Tip: Admission is free Mon, Wed-Sat 7-9 PM, Sun 12:30-2:30. Certain exhibits do not allow photography.

museo reina sofia madridPin

8. Take a stroll along Madrid Rio’s Riverside Walk

Paseo de la Ermita del Santo, 14, 16, 28011, map

This was the one thing we regret not making time for. Enjoy the sights, sounds, and fresh air walking or biking along the Manzanares River. There are several park areas, playgrounds, and small bridges.

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9. Plaza de Cibeles

40.419346, -3.693092, map

The Cibeles Fountain is an icon in Madrid. While you are here, be sure to take note of the Palacio de Comunicaciones. It was built in 1917 originally as the postal service headquarters. Now, it’s Madrid City Hall and one of the city’s most beautiful buildings.

Fun Fact: The fountain is an unofficial meeting place for Real Madrid fans and players to celebrate big wins. It gets crazy!

palacio de cibeles madridPin

10. Bernabeu Stadium Tour (Estadio Santiago Bernabeu) →

Av. de Concha Espina, 1, 28036, map

Step foot in over 100 years of Real Madrid history at this legendary stadium. It’s the first stadium in Europe to host both the UEFA Euro final and FIFA World Cup final. Catch a game if you can.

If you can’t, take the behind-the-scenes tour. Even if you’re not a soccer or Real Madrid fan, this is still worth the experience since Madrid is hardcore about its team. Are there any Ronaldo fans out there?

We didn’t go because Esther is so anti-sports, but our friend, John Caro, snapped this photo for us on his tour.

Get tickets here.

Note: It has gone through a $1 billion+ renovation to become the best stadium in the world. It was supposed to reopen in late 2023, but is now slated to open sometime in 2024. Here’s hoping!

santiago bernabéu stadium tourPin

11. Shop and admire the architecture along Gran Vía

Calle Gran Vía, map

Take a walk down one of the most famous streets in Madrid and enjoy the shops, cafés, restaurants, historical theaters, and architecture. The main portion runs from the Metrópolis building to the Plaza de España.

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12. Prado Museum (Museo Nacional Del Prado) →

Calle de Ruiz de Alarcon, 23, 28014, map

The Prado Museum, opened in 1819, is home to over 9,000 art pieces and is renowned as the world’s largest art gallery. The museum offers free educational activities (in Spanish) and holds temporary exhibits showcasing amazing artists and pieces from around the world. Get tickets here.

the prado museum in madridPin

13. See a flamenco show at Corral De La Moreria →

Calle de la Moreria, 17, 28005, map

Flamenco is a beautifully passionate style of dance and music. Although there are plenty of places to catch a show, Corral de la Moreria is the oldest flamenco house in the world and is considered the “cathedral of flamenco.”

Photo Tip: Depending on the venue, some shows don’t allow photography until the very end.

best things to do in madrid spainPin

14. Take in the massive Royal Palace of Madrid (Palacio Real)

Calle de Bailén, s/n, 28071, map

The Royal Palace is Madrid’s largest building and the largest royal palace in Western Europe. It is next to Plaza de Oriente square, which you should also explore! As you can see in the photo, it’s a popular stop on all tours, including Segway tours.

royal palace of madridPin

15. Stand at Kilometer Zero at the Gateway of the Sun (La Puerta Del Sol)

Plaza de la Puerta del Sol, s/n, 28013, map

La Puerta del Sol is the most central square in Madrid. You will find a semi-circle marking on the ground that marks km0, which is the location from where distances are traditionally measured. 

You’ll also find a statue of “The Bear and the Strawberry Tree” which is a Madrid symbol.

Local Tip: The emblem of Madrid is a bear swiping at a small tree called a madrono. It is similar to a strawberry bush and when the fruits get too ripe, they ferment, so bears would get drunk from eating the fruits.

la puerta del sol madrid bear and the strawberry treePin

16. Catedral De La Almundena

Calle de Bailén, 10, 28013, map

The Catedral de Santa María la Real de la Almudena is right next to the Royal Palace. There is an entrance through the Plaza de la Armería, a spacious square between the Catedral and Palace, and a second entrance with impressive bronze doors by the sculptor Sanguino.

catedral de la almudenaPin

17. See a show at Teatro Compac Gran Via

Calle Gran Vía, 66, 28013, map

Gran Via has been known as the Broadway of Madrid because of all the cinemas and theaters. Many have closed down since then, but there are still a few iconic theaters.

Teatro Compac Gran Via is one of the oldest theaters, dating back to 1944, and hosts all kinds of shows and musicals.

18. Try a Bocadillos de Calamares

Plaza del Emperador Carlos V, 8, 28012, map

One of the local favorites, the bocadillos de calamares is a baguette filled with fried squid rings. You can get them at a lot of different places.

We tried it at one at a recommended spot called El Brillante right outside the Museo Reina Sofia, but Plaza Mayor is also a popular area to get them. I always have my sriracha2go handy.

bocadillo de calamares madridPin

19. See the Egyptian Temple of Debod

Calle de Ferraz, 1, 28008, map

You may be surprised to learn that an authentic Egyptian temple dating from the 2nd Century BC is in Madrid. Dedicated to the gods Amon and Isis, it was donated to the Spanish people in 1968 as a thank-you for helping to save sacred buildings. 

It was dismantled stone by stone, shipped, reconstructed, and opened to the public in 1972.

Temple of Debod + 21 Remarkable Things to Do in Madrid SpainPin

20. Enjoy Churros and Chocolate at San Ginés

Pasadizo de San Ginés, 5, 28013, map

San Ginés opened in 1894 and serves the most famous churros in Madrid. Here, you dip warm churros in melted chocolate for a tasty snack. It is open 24 hours a day and a staple of Madrid. 

It’s a tourist spot and can be very crowded. Although they weren’t the best churros we’ve ever had, it’s an iconic spot worth trying once.

Local Tip: If you’re sharing your churros, a fun phrase to know is “la de la vergüenza” translated as the one that brings shame. It’s the last piece that no one wants to take! If you want to learn some Spanish before your trip, here are the best language apps we’ve tested for travel.

See More: The Best Language Apps for Travel

madrid churros san ginesPin

21. Eat at the Oldest Restaurant in the World

Calle de Cuchilleros, 17, 28005, map

Dating back to 1725, Sobrino de Botin Restaurant holds the Guinness World Record for being the oldest restaurant in the world. It has four floors and is frequented by tourists and locals. Ernest Hemingway frequented this restaurant, which he mentions in The Sun Also Rises.

We didn’t get a chance to try it, but if you do, let us know if you think it’s worth it!

sobrino de botin restaurant madridPin

Map of Things to Do in Madrid Spain

Essential Tips for Visiting Madrid Spain

  • The Metro is a great way to get around the city. It is the 2nd largest Metro in Europe (after Paris) and costs 1-3 euros per ticket.
  • Save money and skip lines by picking up a Madrid GoCity here.
  • La Latina is a great area for tapas. It’s full of tapas bars, so you can try multiple. If you’re there early in the day, grab breakfast at Gelateria 4D. They have delicious coffees and pastries.
  • Luggage weighing you down? Find a secure and convenient spot to store your luggage at Luggage Hero.
  • Las Ventas Bullring in Madrid is popular, but Seville has a more iconic Bullring. We opted not to do this, but you let your own moral compass guide you. Some believe it’s an important cultural tradition steeped in history, while others find it cruel that bulls are subject to stress, violence, and, ultimately, death.
  • If you’re looking for diversity, Lavapiés’ population is over 50% non-Spanish, with plenty of cuisine options, including Chinese, Moroccan, Thai, Indian Senegalese, Greek, and Cuban.
  • Want to know what to wear to the airport? These are our ideal airport outfits.
  • Carry on essentials to improve your next flight.

Best Places to Stay in Madrid Spain

Planning Checklist

What do you like exploring in new cities (viewpoints, museums, architecture, food)? Is there anything we’re missing that is a must-do in Madrid?

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“Discovery consists not of seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes” – M. Proust

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Esther + Jacob

Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.

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This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. Raul Martinez

    The pic you have at the top is not from Madrid, is actually Seville.

  2. Belinda

    mking a trip to Spain , tbankyou flying to Madrid, train to Barcelona, a cruise to Greek islands and bsck to Barcelona and crusing to Puerto Rico..

  3. Cassie

    I lived in Madrid briefly (near Parque Rio de Manzanores, so I am real glad to see that included!). I wanted to recommend the Teleferico, a cable car that goes between Rosales and Casa de Campo (a huge park on the SE side of town). It gives a GREAT view of the nice areas of the park and the city looking back toward the palace, and it’s just a nice chill experience.

    Also, you mention the Oso y Madrono statue. There is also a bar near Sol that sells a liquor made from the madrono fruit. It’s overly sweet to me, but it’s sort of a cool experience considering how iconic the bear and tree symbol is (the statue is a favourite meeting spot for young expats starting out their bar hopping etc.).

    1. Esther JuLee

      Thanks for the recommendations, Cassie. We can’t wait to go back and explore more!

  4. Jossu

    I hope to visit Madrid some day, it looks so beautiful.

  5. Jenifer grey

    This is really informative and giving an amazing ideas for first time travelers. Museums, Stadiums, Food markets and performing arts. Madrid is truly amazing and thanks for sharing!

  6. Amelia

    Thank you for sharing your experience we know lot of the things about Madrid we love this place

    1. Esther JuLee

      Thank you for reading, Amelia! If you have any other tips on places to go, I’d love to hear them. :)

  7. Christine

    I really loved and appreciated this article. It was really nice that you included pro tips and fun facts in this that no one else would even think to mention. I’m hoping I will get to go to Madrid in the near future and I will definitely be referring back to this!!

    1. Esther JuLee

      Thank you, Christine. I really hope the trip to Madrid happens sooner than later!

  8. Patricia

    Madrid is my favorite european city as it is the home of my in-laws. Not to be missed is a visit to Parque Juan Carlos I. This park was built by the former King over a twenty year period and it is a gorgeous, modern, outdoor space. It features many sculptures, play spaces and diverse activities. If you are a fan of art and design, this park is not to be missed.

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