What to Do in Madrid

The Spanish capital will not disappoint—with knock-out museums like the Prado and Reina Sofia, art galleries, historic sites, busy and colorful markets, green spaces like Retiro Park—even if you just linger in the Plaza Mayor and people-watch, the city will win you over.

Plaza de la Independencia, 7, 28001 Madrid, Spain
Don’t miss Parque del Retiro—a stunning area complete with a lake, playgrounds, gardens, and fountains. It’s the perfect public space where anyone can enjoy the day by taking a walk, playing a game, going on a boat ride, or exploring to your heart’s content.
Paseo de Moret, 2, 28008 Madrid, Spain
Parque de Oueste is a shady park toward the north of the city. The park is known for its rose gardens, as well as being home to the Temple of Debod, a gift for the Egyptian state in 1968. The overlook of the park offers beautiful views of the Royal Palace and the larger Casa Del Campo. It’s an ideal spot to split a bottle of wine with friends and watch the sunset after a long day of exploring Madrid.
Moncloa, 28008 Madrid, Spain
A locals-only sunset spot just outside the exit of Metro Moncloa is wonderful vista of the golden hour in Madrid. Many people, young and old, bring beers to enjoy while chatting with friends and waiting for the street lights to flicker to life. Beer-can stacks grow taller and the laughter louder as the sun drops behind the trees. If it’s a warm night, the party is only beginning…
Calle de Bailén, 10, 28013 Madrid, Spain
After paying your patriotic fee of 10 Euro to enter the Royal Palace, you will notice the Almudena Cathedral beyond the courtyards gates. While I was too late in the day to be graced with the inner divinities of this structure I did in fact, get into its reticent crypt. This Church intially desired by King Philip II in 1561, didn’t not receive approval for building until 1868. Yes, obviously King Philip never saw his desires come to fruition but I am almost positive he would have been happy with the outcome. In 1883 construction for the church had finally began but one year later Madrid becomes a diocese thanks to Pope Leo XIII and a-not-so-simple church was transformed into a cathedral. Construction, still staggering in its progress, came to a halt in the 30’s during Spain‘s civil war. Then in 1944 they had to stop construction altogether as the cathedral’s neo-gothic style clashed with its neighbor, the royal palace’s soon to be neo-classical design. Only 383 years in the making at this point anyhow. Consecrated by John-Paul II in 1993 the cathedral was finally considered complete after its redesign. Its crypt however still displays unearthed Moorish and medieval city walls.
Glorieta Sar Don Juan de Borbon y Battermberg, 5, 28042 Madrid, Spain
Madrid’s largest park, named after King Juan Carlos I, is a short metro ride from downtown, but from the moment you leave the station you feel as though you’ve been transported to a faraway land of fairy tales. Giant sculptures decorate the massive grounds, with dedications to Galileo, victims of the Holocaust, and world peace, respectively. If the weather is fair, there is a free train which offers rides every hour on the hour around the entire park—the only way you can see the whole place in a day!
Paseo del Prado, s/n, 28014 Madrid, Spain
Madrid’s Prado Museum, home to Goya, Velazquez, Murillo, El Greco, and numerous other greats, has so much to see that just one visit isn’t enough! If you have a few days in Madrid, drop into the museum in the afternoons (after 5pm) when there is no charge, rather than attempting to see the entire collection in one visit. If you only have time for one trip to the museum, stop by the gift shop to pick up a mini guide, which serves as cheat cheat to the museum’s highlights. Photo by vanOrt/Flickr.
Paseo del Prado, 36, 28014 Madrid, Spain
Anyone with an iota of interest in art will certainly visit the Prado while in Madrid. But be sure to save some time to visit another nearby museum, where there’s something wonderful to see before you even get inside. Just a 5-minute walk down Paseo del Prado you’ll find the CaixaForum Madrid, with its awe-inspiring vertical garden. From a distance, you might even think you’re looking at a mural there on the wall, but as you approach, the lush greens and earth tones come to life with varying textures that are luscious and welcoming. A masterpiece where nature is the medium!
Calle de Martín de Vargas, 40, 28005 Madrid, Spain
Over the last several years, Madrid‘s river redevelopment has really come together. What used to be sludgy is now sparkling, with walkways and bridges intertwined along the river, with kids playing, people jogging and chatting. A great place to get away from the crowds, even in the winter. Tourists don’t really know about it, which makes it even better. Go at sunset so you can watch the lights of the city come on and the moon rise. Start on the south side, by the new Matedero arts center and move your way up north to the Royal Palace. Delightful way to spend an early evening.
Paseo de Cuba, 4, 28009 Madrid, Spain
No matter what the season, it’s worthwhile to wander through the exquisite Retiro Park when you’re in Madrid. Here you can find a tranquil escape from crowded streets and museums. The unrivaled architecture of Madrid is echoed here in the wonderful monuments, statues, and buildings. Be sure to visit the gorgeous Crystal Palace (Palacio de Cristal), originally a greenhouse and now used for art exhibitions. Look for the beautiful black swans in the lake.
Calle de Santa Isabel, 52, 28012 Madrid, Spain
Life reflects art? The Reina Sofia museum in Madrid is home to Picasso’s famous Guernica, and many works by other Spanish artists, including Miro and Dali. A fabulous place to discover the art, artists, and ideas of the 20th century.
Plaza Mayor, Madrid, Spain
The landscape of Plaza Mayor’s artists—performers and painters—is ever-changing. New life is breathed into the corners by dancing goats, mimes, pianists, and the occasional traveling circus, but you can count on one thing: Madari will be there, somewhere. Madari leaves his number on his easel and his work laid against a random pillar. He then wanders the square, catching up with friends and waiting for someone to track him down to buy a painting.
Paseo de la Chopera, 10, 28045 Madrid, Spain
There’s no shortage of architecturally-interesting museums and performance spaces in Spain but few come by their intrigue as honestly as Matadero Madrid (which was once the city’s abattoir). Built in a neo-Moorish style, the sprawling center hosts all kinds of creative endeavors today, from a Bicycle Film Festival to concerts to design exhibitions.
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