Updated on January 22, 2024 by Axel Hernborg

Axel Hernborg

Madrid, the beating heart of Spain, has an irresistible rhythm. It’s a city where centuries-old architecture tells stories of Habsburg splendour and trendy barrios are alive with infectious energy. Whether you’re an art lover drawn to the Prado’s masterpieces, a foodie enticed by tapas-laden mesas, or a history buff fascinated by conquistador echoes, Madrid has something to spark your interest.

As you can probably guess, there are plenty of things to do in Madrid, Spain! There are many cool places, like old and contemporary art museums, historic buildings, botanical gardens, restaurants, cafes, and more. Here are some of our suggestions that will make it possible to learn about Spanish life and culture and have a great time!

1- Walk Around the Royal Palace

The Royal Palace

The royal palace, Palacio Real de Madrid, completed in 1755, is the largest royal palace in Western Europe. Despite its name, the Spanish royal family does not live there anymore, and the palace is now just an official residence used for ceremonial occasions. Only parts of the castle are open to the public, and you are not allowed to take any pictures of the interior.

On the inside, however, you will find plenty of antique furniture, wallpaper, and art. Very beautiful and stylish, with lots of gold and crystal. And don’t miss a look at all the magnificent chandeliers. To make the most of the visit, it is best to rent an audio guide, which is also available in English. There are also informative signs to show you where you are, so you won’t get lost. The exterior of the castle is also really grand, and you can stroll around the huge park or visit the cathedral nearby.

2- Visit the Genuine Egyptian Temple of Templo de Debod

Templo de Debod

“Templo de Debod” is an ancient Egyptian temple originally built in Aswan before the birth of Christ. When constructing the Aswan Dam in the 1960s, many ancient buildings and monuments were threatened. So, UNESCO asked for help from the rest of the world to save these treasures, and Spain helped save the temples of Abu Simbel. As a sign of gratitude, the Egyptian government agreed to move the Debod temple to Madrid, near the Royal Palace. It was opened to the public in 1972.

This temple is one of the few Egyptian monuments that one can see outside Egypt and the only of its kind in Spain. Many visitors arrive at the temple in the late afternoon or early evening and wait until the sun begins to set to see how the red-coloured light illuminates the historic building in a way that can only be described as magical. Being able to see a carefully rebuilt Egyptian temple in one of the biggest European cities is a unique experience, and spending a few hours at the Templo de Debod (especially at dusk) will give you a sense of its millennial history. Don’t forget to bring the camera!

3- Enjoy a Picnic in the Greenery of Parque del Buen Retiro

El Retiro

Parque del Buen Retiro, or simply El Retiro Park, in the heart of Madrid, is the city’s largest park, covering an area of 118 hectares. This place was initially a royal hunting park in the early 17th century. Since the time of Queen Isabella II in the late 19th century, the park has been open to the public, and it has become a favourite for Madrid residents and visitors alike who are looking for a moment of relaxation among the trees and gardens.

The park is a mix of different styles, and here you will find gardens in the French style but also areas that are lusher and wilder. There are plenty of activities, and besides strolling around, you can rent a rowing boat for a romantic tour of the pond or relax with a picnic on the green fields. It is also worth visiting a beautiful conservatory called the Palacio de Cristal (the Crystal Palace). There are also several cosy cafes and restaurants to choose from, and you should try at least a few when in Madrid!

4- Shop at Gran Vía

Gran Via

Gran Vía is Madrid’s largest and most exclusive shopping street. Here, you will find all the major brands lined up in a row. But there are also many nightclubs, cinemas, and hotels. This is the street that never sleeps and a good starting point for anyone who wants to experience Madrid’s nightlife. Several of the cinemas and theatres have been converted into shopping centres; here you can find most of everything you need and more. The sidewalks are wide, so it is pleasant to have a walking tour along the street, even though there can be a lot of people.

The street itself is over 100 years old, and many of the buildings have truly stunning architecture. Gran Vía No. 28 is the old headquarters of the Spanish telecom agency Telefónica. The Telefónica building, when it was built in 1929, was one of Europe’s first skyscrapers, and, with its 88 metres, it was also Madrid’s tallest building for a long time.

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5- Visit the Vibrant Puerta del Sol

Puerta del Sol

Puerta del Sol, or the Gate of the Sun, is a very large square full of life and activity. It is a natural gathering place for people, both tourists and locals. In the middle of the square, there is a metro station, and around it, you can get involved in many activities. You can have your picture taken with various dressed-up cartoon characters, such as Mickey Mouse or Bart Simpson, much like in Disneyland. Other than that, there are various street performances and simply a lot of life, energy, and a metropolitan pulse.

It is a place full of life and movement. Surrounding the square are several fast-food chains, shopping streets, and ordinary restaurants. This square is a hub where lots of people pass through on their way somewhere else. This is also where people gather for political speeches and demonstrations. When something happens in the Spanish capital, it often happens in the area around Puerta del Sol.

6- Bargain at El Rastro Flea Market in La Latina

El Rastro

El Rastro flea market in La Latina can be really fun to visit, especially if you enjoy watching crowds or love to bargain. However, it is only open on Sundays, and it is most recommended to go there on Sunday mornings. While the market is on, it can be crowded, but the crowd is part of the charm of El Rastro. Here you will find hundreds of small stalls selling everything under the sun—everything you can find at a regular market of this kind, but just more of everything.

One can find used clothes for 1 euro, various kinds of leather goods, knick-knacks, shawls, and much more. But there’s also a lot of new stuff on the market. It really is a mix. To find the real bargains, you have to be there early and have plenty of patience. However, many come here only to experience the mood and people-watch. On the streets around the market, there are also several good, smaller shops selling furniture and antique items. These are open during the weekdays as well.

7- Be Amazed by the Royal Basilica of San Francisco el Grande

Real Basilica de San Francisco el Grande

The Royal Basilica of San Francisco el Grande is a stunning Catholic church that was built in the 18th century. The church’s dome is particularly noteworthy and often draws visitors due to its exceptional beauty. The dome is 33 meters in diameter and 58 meters high, resembling the dome of the Pantheon in Rome. It is the largest dome of its kind in Spain and never fails to impress visitors with its grandeur.

There is a wide range of fine art inside the church, including paintings by Goya and Zurbaran. Those who wish to learn more about the history and cultural significance of the church can book guided tours with knowledgeable guides. Please keep in mind that photography is prohibited inside the cathedral, and a small entrance fee must be paid.

8- Have Fun with Your Family at Parque de Atracciones de Madrid

Parque de Atracciones de Madrid

Parque de Atracciones de Madrid is an amusement park suitable for the whole family. There are over 40 different rides, and they have been spread out into five areas with different themes. On the one hand, you can find the usual rides, such as roller coasters, the Viking ship, swing rides, and water splash. But there are also unique attractions you will not find anywhere else. Among other things, there is an area entirely dedicated to children’s favourite characters from Nickelodeon.

For smaller children, there is also plenty to do with bumper cars, merry-go-rounds, and a mini roller coaster. If you pay a little extra, you can cut in line to avoid the long lines. You can easily get here by Metro; the park is right next to Batan station. In the park, you will also find everything you’d expect when it comes to restaurants and cafes.

9- Enjoy the Greenery and Beautiful Flowers in the Royal Botanical Garden

Botaniska trädgården i Madrid

The Royal Botanical Garden (Real Jardín Botánico) is located quite close to the Prado Museum. The garden was moved to its current location in 1781, and since then, one of Europe’s most impressive collections of different plants and flowers has been created there. The park itself is more than 8 hectares, and there are about 5,000 different plant species here.

The Botanical Garden of Madrid was instrumental in introducing the flower Dahlia to Europe after it was exported from its homeland, Mexico. From here, seeds were sent to England, France, and Italy in the early 19th century, and ever since then, the Dahlia has been one of our most popular ornamental plants. The Botanical Garden of Madrid has been central to spreading knowledge and teaching about plants, including supporting expeditions to discover new species. Inside the park, you can see a triumphal arch erected in honour of Charles III.

10- Enjoy the Best of Spanish Sweets at Chocolatería San Ginés

Chocolateria San Gines

The Chocolatería San Ginés has served hot chocolate and churros to visitors with a sweet tooth since 1894. They still attract quite a crowd. You can also drink delicious coffee here and try a wide range of delicious cakes. But the vast majority of visitors come here for the chocolate and to experience a part of Spanish history. No matter what you choose, it’s an unforgettable experience to have coffee at a cafe with such a huge turnover of customers.

The waiters are both quick as lightning and very skilled, which is truly needed there. The chocolate is typically Spanish, thick, and dark. Churros are a kind of deep-fried dough cake, much like oblong doughnuts. You will enjoy them the most by dipping them in the chocolate. The portion can be quite big for one person, so if you’re not that hungry, you can always order one serving and share it with a friend.

11- Photograph the Beautiful Puerta de Alcalá

Puerta de Alcala

The Puerta de Alcalá is an ancient monument that stands near the entrance of El Retiro Park at the Plaza de la Independencia square. Originally, it was a city gate built in the late 18th century, and this was the road to the street named Alcalá. Previously, there was a smaller gate here that King Charles III replaced with the current one. It is a lovely monument with three larger arches and two smaller gates.

If you can plan a visit in the evening, the monument will show its full splendour, as it’s illuminated in a beautiful way that lets you take impressive pictures and enjoy the lovely atmosphere. Apart from that, there are several nice cafes around the park. Nearby, there are also several opportunities to rent a bicycle and explore the area around the park from the bike seat.

12- Unveil the treasures of Prado Museum

Museo del Prado

Adapted from: britannica.com

Step into the heart of Madrid and prepare to be transported through centuries of artistic mastery. The Prado Museum, a majestic neoclassical edifice, beckons art lovers with the promise of an unparalleled experience. Within its hallowed halls, masterpieces whisper tales of Spanish and European history, each brushstroke a testament to the human spirit’s capacity for creativity and emotion.

Lose yourself in the Prado’s labyrinthine halls, where titans like Goya, Velázquez, and El Greco reign supreme. Witness the haunting intensity of Goya’s “Maja desnuda,” her enigmatic gaze captivating for centuries. Bask in the sun-drenched splendour of Velázquez’s “Las Meninas,” a masterpiece of light and composition. Stand awestruck before El Greco’s “The Burial of the Count of Orgaz,” a swirling vortex of colour and drama that transcends the canvas

13- See the City From Above with Teleférico de Madrid

Teleférico de Madrid

Experience Madrid from a breathtaking new perspective with a ride on the Teleférico de Madrid. Glide effortlessly over rooftops and monuments, feeling the wind in your hair and the city unfold beneath your feet. Teleférico de Madrid is the name of the city’s cable car, where you ride in a comfortable cabin between Paseo del Pintor Rosales Street and Argüelles metro station to Casa de Campo Park. It is a unique way of getting to see many of the other sights in Madrid from a new perspective, and it’s an excellent opportunity to enjoy stunning panoramic views and take amazing pictures.

It is possible to purchase both one-way and round-trip tickets, and the journey one way takes about 10 minutes. At its highest, you are about 40 metres above the ground. Once in the park, you can enjoy a nice view and eat or drink something delicious at one of the restaurants near the cable car station.

14- Eat Like Ernest Hemingway at Sobrino de Botín

Sobrino de Botín

Sobrino de Botín is one of the world’s oldest restaurants. It was opened in 1725 and is a very popular place for fine dining in Madrid. The food has a good reputation, and their most famous speciality is the roasted suckling pig. It is said that this was Ernest Hemingway’s favourite dish, and he mentions it in his book “The Sun Also Rises.” Other celebrities who used to eat here include Goya, who worked as a waiter before his breakthrough, and Graham Greene.

You get a full dinner for two for around 100 euros, which is not bad at all. However, this is a place to go primarily for the experience of eating in a restaurant with such a history. It can often be crowded, and you should book a table well in advance if you want to be sure not to miss out on Sobrino de Botín during your Madrid visit.

15- Ignite Your Soul with the Passion of Flamenco

Adapted from esmadrid.com

Madrid nights come alive with the fiery passion of flamenco. Beyond the tourist traps, intimate tablaos (flamenco performance venues) pulsate with the rhythm of castanets, the haunting melodies of flamenco singers, and the mesmerising footwork of dancers expressing a raw, emotional depth.

A flamenco experience is more than just the show. Many tablaos offer tapas and drinks, creating a social ambience where you can savour the flavours of Spain while revelling in the artistic expression unfolding before you. Some even offer flamenco classes, allowing you to delve deeper into this passionate art form. So, open your heart to the rhythm and let the fire of flamenco ignite your spirit in the captivating city of Madrid.

16- Visit “the Jungle” at Madrid Train Station

Djungeln på Madrids tågstation

A railway station is usually not considered a tourist attraction in itself. However, at the central station Atocha in Madrid, you can witness something you are guaranteed not to have seen at any other station. Here, you will find a whole jungle! The architect Rafael Moneo decided when it was time to renovate the station, to adorn it with a vast greenhouse of 4000 square metres.

In this artificial indoor jungle, you will encounter a large number of plant species and even fish and turtles. This makes the railway station well worth a visit even if you are not coming or going by train. If you have a train to catch, just make sure not to lose track of time and get lost in the jungle.

17- Take a Day Trip to the Castle El Escorial

Slottet El Escorial

About 45 km northwest of Madrid, you will find the magnificent Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, one of the most popular day trips you can take during a visit to Madrid. The palace was constructed during the reign of King Philip II and was completed in 1584. Exactly 400 years later, in 1984, the palace was designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Here, you can wander through several large halls and a mausoleum where many Spanish monarchs are buried. There is also a beautiful library and a spacious garden. This is one of Europe’s most impressive palaces, fully comparable to the Palace of Versailles, and one should definitely spend a full day on a visit to El Escorial. You can book buses or private cars to get there from Madrid..

18- Visit the Museum of Ham

Museo del Jamón (Carrera de San Jerónimo 6) may not resemble a traditional museum but is more of a homage to the variety of hams, cheeses, and sausages that Madrid has to offer. Everything is displayed hanging from hooks on the walls, from ceilings, or resting on high shelves.

The Museo del Jamón is a classic bar and shop in an old-fashioned setting that specialises in ham. If you have a penchant for cold cuts, sausages, and cheese, a visit to this ham paradise is a must. And, under no circumstances, should you depart from the Museo del Jamón without sampling the world-famous Spanish air-dried ham – jamón serrano.

19- Go Skiing in Valdesquí


While Madrid is renowned for its tapas, flamenco, and vibrant cultural scene, it might surprise you to learn that it also boasts a hidden gem for winter sports enthusiasts: Valdesquí. Nestled in the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range, just an hour’s drive from the city centre, Valdesquí transforms into a winter wonderland when the snow falls, offering an escape from the urban bustle and a chance to carve up some fresh powder.

Alpine skiing may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Madrid, but in the mountains surrounding the city, there are several places where you can ski, with the nearest ski resort being called Valdesquí. During the appropriate season, you can enjoy skiing or snowboarding at a comprehensive facility offering 27 different slopes of varying difficulty levels.

Here, you will find all the amenities typical of a ski resort, including hotels, restaurants, and bars. For those planning to visit Valdesquí, you can either drive there or take a train to nearby Cotos and then catch a bus for the final stretch to Valdesquí.

20- Visit a Cafe in a Convent

Las Descalzas Reales

If you’re seeking a unique experience during your stay in Madrid, we highly recommend visiting the delightful convent, “Las Descalzas Reales.” The nuns of this historic convent not only devote themselves to religious activities but also happen to excel at baking cakes and pastries that taste absolutely divine.

Take a respite from the hustle and bustle of the big city noise, beer, and tapas plates, and relish in the tranquillity of this lush little convent situated right in the heart of Madrid. Many locals are unaware that the convent is open to the public, and few tourists have ever set foot in the flourishing garden. Here, you are guaranteed to find solitude.

21- Enjoy a Walk in Parque de El Capricho

Parque de El Capricho

Thanks to its location slightly outside the city centre, it is not as common for tourists to explore the beautiful Parque de El Capricho. Undoubtedly, this park is one of the finest in Madrid, featuring a blend of French, Italian, and English architectural styles. Take a stroll among Greek columns and ruins, a large lake with black swans, a palace, a rose garden, and a labyrinth created by well-groomed trees and shrubs.

It was constructed in the 19th century by Duke Pedro Téllez-Girón as a gift to his wife, the Duchess of Osuna, but unfortunately, the Duchess passed away before the gardens were completed. The park remains open all year round, and during the summer, it hosts concerts and theatrical performances.

22- Get a Good Rest in a Real 16th-century Turkish Bath


Indulge your muscles in a delightful warm water pool, unwind in a steam room, or treat yourself to a relaxing massage at Hammam Al Andalus. Here, you can experience an authentic Arabic spa situated atop the ruins of a 16th-century hammam. Frequented by Madrid residents, the spa is relatively inexpensive. Take the opportunity to pamper yourself for a couple of hours, especially after a long day of shopping and sightseeing.

The best approach is to schedule an appointment in advance via hammamalandalus.com. It’s advisable to visit the place during off-peak times to avoid the largest crowds. Hammam Al Ándalus is located on Calle de Atocha in central Madrid..

23- Walk Around the Famous Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor

A visit to the renowned Plaza Mayor must feature on the list of the best things to do in Madrid! Situated in the oldest part of the city (Hapsburg, Madrid), it stands as the city’s main square. Plaza Mayor, with its rich history and perpetual vitality, serves as an excellent starting point for your walking tour around one of the city’s most beautiful districts.

While there, you can enjoy watching street musicians and artists deliver impressive performances, dine or have a drink at multiple restaurants and cafes, purchase souvenirs at time-honoured shops, and even take a picture with the famous statue of King Philip III. Moreover, the Plaza Mayor hosts various events, including outdoor concerts, a Christmas market in December, or a drum parade on Easter. Be sure to check the calendar when planning your visit!

24- See the Home Stadium of Real Madrid – Estadio Santiago Bernabéu

Estadio Santiago Bernabéu

For football fans, especially Real Madrid supporters, the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu is a must on your list of things to do in Madrid. It has been the home stadium of this team since it was built in 1947. What’s more, this is the second-largest stadium in the whole of Spain (with the first one being Camp Nou in Barcelona). It is located in the city centre, about 4 kilometres north of Plaza de Cibeles. Its capacity is really impressive; as many as 81,044 people can sit there and watch the game.

Things to Do in Madrid, Spain – Conclusion

As you can see, there are many things to do in Madrid. You can visit lots of places, such as Buen Retiro Park, Chocolatería San Ginés, the Royal Basilica of San Francisco el Grande, or the Palacio de Cristal. These are just a few selected examples, and the list could go on with other notable mentions such as Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid’s City Hall, or Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum.

Whether you’re an art aficionado seeking avant-garde exhibits, a panorama hunter drawn to breathtaking vistas, or a soul yearning for leisurely café culture and local delights, Madrid’s tapestry has a thread woven just for you. From Reina Sofía’s vibrant canvases to the sun-kissed terraces overlooking Gran Vía, this city pulsates with possibilities, beckoning you to explore its vibrant heart. So, pack your curiosity, lace up your walking shoes, and prepare to be enchanted by the magic of Madrid—a destination that promises to leave you breathless with wonder.

No matter if you are into modern art exhibitions, stunning views, or just sitting in cafes and enjoying local foods and drinks, you will certainly find something to do in Madrid. A place worth taking into consideration in your travelling plans at discounted rates!


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