What to do in Madrid? (with city map and tips)
Madrid is the capital of Spain and the third most populous city in Europe. It has more than 3 million people residing in the center and more than 6 million in its metropolitan area. We have already visited this city for 3 times. The first one was for five days in the summer in a campsite and we went by bus to the center – the campsite was nice, with a good pool and barbecue area, we advise anyone who goes by motorhome or look for a stay in account if it is for a week or more (park site); the second was in transit, when we were returning from Barcelona and now, we went a third time, by bus, from Lisbon – Oriente.
In this last one, we bought the tickets on Flixbus (official website) in a promotional campaign that lasted for 3 hours and where we managed to buy the tickets for 2 € round trip, (yes read well, there is no missing a zero) was even incredibly cheap and at this price we could not fail to go spend the weekend away. We arrived at 5am on Saturday morning and returned at 3am on Monday morning. It was a trip lived intensely, because as it was only 2 days we wanted to make the most of it, to see everything and we were always pacing. This time we did not use public transport, that is, we always walked and made a total of 52 km.
We always visited the city in the summer and there were already local people who had warned us that the city is a bit seasonal. As Madrid is inland and is too hot in the summer, people tend to find themselves more on the coast and in cities like Barcelona.
This last time, we went in January, full winter and we were with a perspective of Madrid, completely different. The high population is felt in all the avenues, streets and alleys. There are lots of restaurants, cafes, taverns, places to eat tapas .. the city has a lot of life itself. To visit as a European city, we prefer this time, although it is a little cold. The temperatures we collected were minimum 0º and maximum 10º.
Madrid is not the city with the most stunning monuments .. but its life, architecture and variety of environments make it an ideal place to live a capital and be happy during a 2 or 3 day getaway.
However, we found that most museums have a free time , for all your visitors, whether they are Spanish or of any other nationality. Let us then leave a short list of things to do and visit in Madrid.
What to do/see in Madrid
#1 – Plaza Mayor
This square measures 129 meters long by 94 meters wide and is located in the heart of Madrid, being the most emblematic of the city and a must visit. Here you can find the statue of Philip III created in 1616, having been an offering to the Spanish king.
Also held every year for almost 150 years, a Christmas market in this square, with several booths with Christmas products.
#2 – Real Palace
The Royal Palace, also known as ”Palacio de Oriente’‘, was built in the 18th century and is the official residence of the Spanish royal family.
#3 – Park De El Retiro
The Retiro Park of Madrid was created between 1630 and 1640 and has an area of 118 hectares. It is not the largest park in the city, but it is the most central and with a large green area where you can go for a walk or picnic.
#4 – Door of Alcalá
The ”Puerta de Alcalá” is one of the most representative monuments of Madrid. It was inaugurated in 1778 by Francisco Sabatini, an Italian architect who worked most of his life in Spain. Previously, there was another Puerta de Alcala of brick, but Carlos III had it toppled and rebuilt.
#5 – Puerta del Sol (Royal post house and equestrian statue)
This is probably the most well known square in Madrid, where you can find some of the most significant points of the city. The construction took place in several stages: it began with the construction of the Post Office in the middle of the eighteenth century and a century later, between 1857 and 1862, it gained its final form thanks to the architects Lucio del Valle, Juan Rivera and José Morer. In the twentieth century were included the gardens, the fountain and the pedestrian zone was enlarged.
#6 – Cathedral of Santa Maria a Real de Almudena
The Cathedral of Santa Maria a Real de Almudena is the most important religious building in Madrid. On June 15, 1993, it was consecrated by Pope John Paul II, being the first cathedral consecrated outside Rome. It is 102 meters long and 73 meters high.
The interior of the Almudena is surprising to have completely different details of other cathedrals: the ceiling and the stained glass give way to the classic style to give way to bright colors and straight lines.
#7 -The Prado Museum
This museum was built by Dom Carlos III, but was only inaugurated in 1819 by Ferdinand VII. This is the most important museum in Spain and deserves a visit, inside it is possible to see the most varied paintings, going through all the stages of modern Spain.
Subway Bank of Spain or Atocha
#8 – Reina Sofia Museum
The Centro de Arte Urbana Reina Sofia was inaugurated on 10 September 1992 and its name pays homage to Queen Sofia, Queen Consort of Spain. The museum is considered one of the best museums of modern art in Europe, hosting excellent collections of the twentieth century.
Subway Bank of Spain or Atocha
#9- Market of San Miguel
We were strolling through the streets of Madrid when we came across the Mercado de San Miguel. This market is a maximum, with many stands, selling fruit, tapas, ham cones..well, there is a bit of everything. It is a very characteristic market, with strong colors and many flavors. The food is a bit pricey, but worth it, even if it’s to go and drink some juice and feel the life of the market.
#10 – Square and Fountain of Cibeles
Located in the center of the city, at the crossroads between Paseo del Prado and Calle Alcalá, Plaza de Cibeles is one of the most well-known spaces in Madrid. The beautiful fountain is the highlight of the square. Around it are imposing buildings built between the late eighteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Subway Banco de España
#11 – Plaza de Lavapiés
Lavapiés is a vibrant and multicultural neighborhood that stretches along steep medieval streets filled with lively Indian restaurants and old Spanish taverns. Through these streets to a little of everything. The neighborhood is located in the south zone of the city center and is not far from Puerta del Sol.
#12 – Eat a ”Bocadilh0” of Calamares or Jamón
The “Bocadillos” are a mandatory meal for those who visit Spain and especially Madrid. The most famous are Jamon (ham) or calamares, which are fried squid rings, inside a mini baguette. We tasted both and the one of squid is very soft, to eat and to crypor mais. The price is between 3€ and 4€.
#13 – Temple of Debod
The temple, originating in ancient Egypt and with 2,200 years of history, was a gift from Egypt to Spain for its collaboration in the rescue of the temples of Nubia. Thanks to international aid, Egypt managed to save, among others, the Temple of Abu Simbel, which was buried in the construction of the Great Dam of Assouan.
Subway Plaza de España
#14 – Walking on Gran Vía
This is the best known avenue of Madrid, was built between 1910 and 1929 to connect the district of Salamanca with the one of Argüelles. Here is where are the main street stores of great brands, is like ours the Avenida da Liberdade, but with a slightly larger dimensions.
Subway Gran Vía
#15- Street market “Rastro”
Rastro is an outdoor market that takes place on Sundays and holidays in the historic center of Madrid, in the popular neighborhood of La Latina. The name of the fair comes from the fact that formerly the zone that occupied the Rastro was the place where the leather factories were located, very close to the slaughterhouses. During the journey of the animals to the factories was a trail ( rastro in spanish) of blood that was what gave rise to the name of the famous market.
Subway La Latinas
#16 – Stadium Santiago de Barnabéu
For football lovers you can always hop on the famous stadium of Real Madrid, Santiago de Barnabéu Stadium. The stadium was inaugurated in 1947 with the name of New Stadium Chamartín. The current name was given in honor of Santiago Bernabéu, who was president of the club for 35 years.
Subway Santiago Barnabéu
Map of the city
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