Our team fell in love with Madrid at first sight. If our opinion is not enough, we should mention that the capital of Spain is the fourth most popular tourist destination in the world. The people here smile, the sun shines and happiness is in the air! Scroll through our must visit list, get inspired by insiders’ tips and save the interactive map at the end of the article
- Transport: you can go from the airport (0) to the central station Sol (Puerta del Sol square) on the underground. Buy a roundtrip ticket near the exit from the airport so you can get back on the last day without any complications. The app Madrid Metro or a regular online map will help you find the right station. Personally, we didn’t need any additional trips around the city, everything can be explored on foot. On the flight back you should expect to pay 3€ per person at the entrance to the airport as a service charge.
- Major attractions: Royal Palace (1), Prado museum (2), Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas arena (3) where the corridas take place, Madrid Cathedral (4), the main squares Plaza Mayor (5) and Puerta del Sol (6), Real Madrid football stadium (7), Cervantes street (19) (the author of Don Quixote who lived in Madrid and is a source of pride for the locals).
- Drinking water: you can drink tap water in Madrid.
What to do in Madrid
All of the places mentioned in the text can be found in the map at the end of the article, which you’re welcome to download and use during your travels.
The food in Spain is amazing! The most popular dishes are paella and gazpacho. The prices in Madrid are rather high, but many establishments have special offers from 13:00 to 16:00 — there are daily menues (menu del dia) that cost up to 12€. In comparison, the average price of one paella in the city is exactly 12€. The menu usually includes two warm dishes, a glass of local wine or another drink, a breadbasket and a dessert. A few cafés that have daily menus are La Caserola (8) (the reviews on Tripadvisor are unfavourable due to poor service, but there are still a lot of locals, great house wine and paella), Toro Tapas (9) and Restaurante Rías Atlas (10) (a bottle of wine is included in every menu).
Apart from restaurants and eateries, Madrid is famous for its markets. The most popular one is the indoor Mercado San Miguel (11) where you can try a lot of interesting delicacies or drink a glass of sangria. Order churros if you’d like something sweet. They are served with a cup of hot chocolate as a dip for the sweet sticks. Take a cup of coffee though, because it might be too sweet. One of the most famous places that serve churros is the Chocolatería San Gines (12), but they are generally sold in almost every cafe. In the morning you can go into a tapas bar (for example, the Museo del Jamón (13-17)) and order a complete breakfast: a baguette with slices of jamón, a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and coffee or tea. While walking around the city you can purchase freshly squeezed orange juice in supermarkets, there are vending machines that make it fresh for you on the spot. A 0.5 litre bottle costs only 2€.
Explore the old city and catch sight of the flamenco
Walking around the old city streets is our favourite part of travelling. If you love it as much as we do, start at the Puerta del Sol square and move in the direction where there’s more cobblestones and less people. Here you’ll find some minuscule picturesque stalls (for example, the Real Fabrica (19) with local food and all sorts of bric-a-brac produced by Spanish manufacturers on the incredible Cervantes street, and Toni Pons (20) with a huge choice of espadrilles) and cool cafes to take a break. Here you can even discover a flamenco theatre (this one (21), for example). If you’re interested, then reserve tickets for the evening performance immediately. It will amount to approximately 40€ with a welcome drink. After walking around the Puerta del Sol move towards the other part of the city, the Plaza Mayor square, and explore the surroundings. If you want to go shopping, head over to the Gran Vía (22) avenue. Whereas if you’re interested in the corrida, you can easily find it on the Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas from March to October.
Madrilenians suggested that we walk to the best-known gay district in Europe, the Chueca (23), which boasts some of the best restaurants in the city, that we pop into the main railway station Atocha (24) with its genuine indoor tropical garden, and that on Sunday morning we should enjoy the flea markets (for example, El Rastro (25)). Madrid is also the educational centre of Spain. You can find the Universidad Complutense (26), which was founded in the year 1293 and walk around the district, observing Spanish student life.
View the works of art in the Prado museum
First, allow us to clarify — Prado is not the brand ‘Prada’, it’s a museum. It should be mentioned that it ranks second after the Louvre based on the amount of artworks. The museum is very large, so we would recommend you to grab a map and deliberately explore whatever interests you. For instance, we viewed Raphael, Bosch, Goya and an entire hall dedicated to his Black paintings, Rogier van der Weyden, Rubens and Dürer. Admission is free for students who have a student ID and for everyone else from Monday to Saturday from 18:00 to 20:00 and on Sunday from 17:00 to 19:00. There is always a massive queue in front of the main entrance but few know that if you go around the museum from the end of the line and get to the second entrance then you can stand in the second line, which is exactly three times shorter than the first.
The Prado Museum is located on the Arts Boulevard (Paseo del Arte), which gets its name from the three large museums: the Prado, the Thyssen-Bornemisza (27) (which has Renoir and Van Eyck artworks) and the Queen Sofía Museum (28) (with Spanish XX century artworks). The Queen Sofía Museum can be visited free of charge on Monday and from Wednesday to Saturday from 19:00 to 21:00, and on Sunday from 15:00 to 19:00. At the beginning of the boulevard you will find the fountain of goddess Cybele (Cibeles), which is considered to be one of the symbols of Madrid, whereas there is a large green square around the museums.
Exploring the historical monuments and promenading through the parks
The park Retiro (29) left a most vivid impression on us. For starters, it’s beautiful. Secondly, there is a small lake where you can ride a boat (a boat for four people will cost 6€ for 45 minutes). Thirdly, in the middle of the park there is an incredible glass palace in the form of a crystal (30), which is open to the public and has yet another, smaller lake in front of it. There are ducks and small turtles. Besides, if you stand with your back to the palace entrance and move forwards then you can find a secret passage to the garden of peacocks, which walk right in front of the visitors. Needless to say, it’s quite a sight! If you’re looking for an alternative, you might like the Casa del Campo park (31), which, besides a lake, has a zoo, an attraction park and a cable car. If you have a map of the park, find the slide inhabited by rabbits.
Many tourists like to visit the Royal Palace of Madrid. The form of government of Spain is a constitutional monarchy. The palace is the official residence of the reigning monarch. Around the marvellous building there is a flowering garden with labyrinths, fountains and sculptures. This royal palace is considered to be the largest in the world. Entrance is free from Monday to Thursday from 18:00 to 20:00 (in the season from April to September) and from 16:00 to 18:00 (in the period from October to March). If you’re keen on architecture, you’ll like the Cathedral of Madrid and the Temple of Debod (32). The latter is very unusual for Europe, because it was a gift from Egypt to Spain.
Visit the Real Madrid stadium
Football fans have probably travelled to Madrid only for the Real Madrid football stadium, the richest and the most expensive football club in the world. The Santiago Bernabéu stadium offers special excursions and features a shop selling fan merchandise.
What to bring home from Madrid
- Shoes (espadrilles cost from 5€ and leather sandals from 20€, which you can find in Cremades).
- Chocolate for churros, which can be used as hot chocolate (sold in Chocolatería San Gines).
- Small violet sweets with flower essence (they can be purchased in La Violeta (33)).
- Wine (bottled sangria or wine from the wine regions of Spain, for example, from Toledo) or strawberry tree liquor (Madrono).
- Paella ingredients (for example, a special type of rice called Arroz, which soaks in the taste of the broth as it is cooked. It’s sold in every supermarket).
- Packaged boxes of jamón.
- Postcards (for example, the designer series ‘Mi Madrid para ti’ (My Madrid for you) which consists of 15 postcards designed in the form of a book with a fabric binding. The set was created by a Brazilian artist and illustrator. It can be bought in El Moderno).
Pocket map for the road
TEXT: LIKBEZ MEDIA
TRANSLATION: DASHA EVSINA
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