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Things to do in Madrid

Things to do in  Madrid

Welcome to Madrid

From its royal palace to art museums to tapas bars, Madrid offers plenty to discover while wandering its boulevards. Sitting near the geographic center of the Iberian Peninsula, the Spanish capital is the seat of not only the country’s government, but also of much of its culture, food, history, and art. With so much to do, it can be hard to exhaust Madrid’s many attractions, ranging from Buen Retiro Park to the Prado museum. But make sure to leave time to explore farther afield, where historic sights including El Escorial, Toledo, and Segovia make for perfect day trips.

Top 15 attractions in Madrid

#1
Royal Palace of Madrid (Palacio Real de Madrid)

Royal Palace of Madrid (Palacio Real de Madrid)

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Madrid's Royal Palace (also known as the Palacio Real or Palacio de Oriente) is a beautiful baroque structure with some 3,000 rooms, making it one of Europe's largest castles. Although the royal family no longer lives here, the Palacio Real still serves as the king and queen's official residence, a venue for state ceremonies, and a place for tourists to get a peek into the royal history of Spain.More
#2
Prado Museum (Museo del Prado)

Prado Museum (Museo del Prado)

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The Prado Museum (Museo del Prado) houses one of the finest art collections in the world, specializing in European art from the 12th to 19th centuries. Thousands of European paintings, sculptures, and other works of art are on display throughout its halls, and they represent merely a fraction of the total collection. Highlights include works by Francisco Goya, Diego Velázquez, and El Greco. Perhaps the most famous paintings are “Las Meninas” (The Maids of Honor), an inventive self-portrait by Velázquez, and The Garden of Earthly Delights, a triptych from Hieronymus Bosch.More
#3
Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor

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Today this central square is a popular meeting place for tourists and locals, but Plaza Mayor’s history goes back to the early 17th century during King Felipe III's reign. The central statue is a nod to the king’s role in overseeing the project's completion. Forming the outer walls are a series of 3-story buildings with balconies overlooking the center.More
#4
Puerta del Sol

Puerta del Sol

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It’s fitting that the name Puerta del Sol (“gate of the sun” in English) evokes light and warmth, because this central Madrid square is an energetic hub. A must for first-time visitors to Madrid, the area is packed with hotels, cafés, souvenir-selling vendors, and barhopping locals.More
#5
Santiago Bernabéu Stadium (Estadio Santiago Bernabéu)

Santiago Bernabéu Stadium (Estadio Santiago Bernabéu)

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Football fans won’t want to miss a visit to the magnificent Santiago Bernabéu Stadium (Estadio Santiago Bernabéu) , home to the legendary Real Madrid football team. Despite boasting a capacity of 81,000 spectators and reaching a 5-star rating as a UEFA-classified Elite Stadium, Santiago Bernabéu is actually Spain’s second-largest football stadium, after Barcelona’s Camp Nou.More
#6
Almudena Cathedral (Catedral de la Almudena)

Almudena Cathedral (Catedral de la Almudena)

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King Alfonso XII laid the first stone of the Almudena Cathedral (Catedral de la Almudena) in 1883, yet the neoclassical structure, built atop an old church that itself was built atop the city’s first mosque, wasn’t consecrated until 1993. Compared to Europe’s other major cathedrals, this one is uniquely modern, with touches like pop art–stained glass windows.More
#7
Corral de la Morería

Corral de la Morería

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Although southern Spain is known as the hub of flamenco performance, Madrid visitors can still find traditional venues—called tablaos—to see this timeless art. Corral de la Morería is one of the best. With more than six decades of history, this restaurant and venue is known for its flamboyant, energetic shows from world-renowned dancers.More
#8
Cibeles Fountain (Fuente de Cibeles)

Cibeles Fountain (Fuente de Cibeles)

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The Cibeles Fountain is one of Madrid’s most famous monuments. Crowning the end of the Paseo del Prado in the middle of the city it’s a landmark for locals and a must-see for visitors.More
#9
Alcalá Gate (Puerta de Alcalá)

Alcalá Gate (Puerta de Alcalá)

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The neoclassical Alcalá Gate (Puerta de Alcalá), in Plaza de la Independencia, is one of Madrid’s most recognizable monuments. Designed by Italian architect Francesco Sabatini and erected in 1778, the triumphal granite gate once served as one of five main entrances to the city. The statues on top represent the cardinal virtues.More
#10
San Miguel Market (Mercado de San Miguel)

San Miguel Market (Mercado de San Miguel)

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One of Madrid’s most picturesque and popular markets, San Miguel Market (Mercado de San Miguel) is also the city’s oldest. Built in 1916 and recognizable for its wrought-iron and glass facade, the market now houses tapas restaurants, wine bars, bakeries, and other tempting eateries.More
#11
Retiro Park (Parque de El Retiro)

Retiro Park (Parque de El Retiro)

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Retiro Park (Parque de El Retiro), often referred to simply as El Retiro, serves as the Spanish capital’s green lung. Dotted with ornate fountains, formal gardens, marble monuments, and plenty of space to relax, these former grounds of the Spanish monarchy became public in 1868 and have become a beloved spot for Madrilenos.More
#12
Gran Vía

Gran Vía

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Lined with high-end shops, restaurants, and bars of all types, Gran Via cuts through the heart of Madrid. The bustling street comes alive at night when locals eat, drink, and mingle into the wee hours. Gran Via is also known for its 20th-century architecture, including the Edificio Metropolis, which stands at the head of the thoroughfare and boasts a magnificent rooftop statue of Winged Victory.More
#13
Reina Sofia Museum (Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia)

Reina Sofia Museum (Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia)

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The Reina Sofia Museum (Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia) is Madrid's premier modern art gallery featuring mostly works by Spanish artists. Among them isGuernica, a political statement on the Spanish Civil War by Pablo Picasso, as well as a room devoted to Joan Miró's paintings and a collection of about 20 Salvador Dalí pieces.More
#14
Madrid Plaza de la Villa

Madrid Plaza de la Villa

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Situated within strolling distance of Plaza Mayor, tranquil Plaza de la Villa is a prime example of a medieval Madrid square, circled with many of the city’s oldest buildings, including Casa de la Villa. Formerly a prison and the city’s Town Hall, Casa de la Villa is a delight both inside and out, decorated with frescoes and enhanced by stained-glass windows.More
#15
Temple of Debod (Templo de Debod)

Temple of Debod (Templo de Debod)

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The Temple of Debod (Templo de Debod), an Egyptian temple built in the fourth century BC, stands in Madrid’s Parque de la Montaña near Plaza de España. While it may seem out of place in the middle of the modern city, the temple was dismantled, shipped, and carefully reconstructed here in 1972 to protect it from flooding caused by the construction of the Aswan Dam. Spain received the temple as a thank you for helping to save Abu Simbel, another archaeological site that was threatened by flooding in Egypt.More

Trip ideas

Top activities in Madrid

Full Day Tour Ávila and Segovia from Madrid with Tickets to Monuments Included
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Flamenco Show & Special Menu at Torres Bermejas in Madrid
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Madrid City Tour Hop-On Hop-Off

Madrid City Tour Hop-On Hop-Off

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Three Cities in One Day: Segovia, Ávila & Toledo from Madrid
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Full Toledo with 7 Monuments and Optional Cathedral Access
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El Prado Museum and Madrid Royal Palace Guided Tour (tickets included)
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Skip-The-Line Early Entrance Tour of the Royal Palace of Madrid

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Skip-The-Line Early Entrance Tour of the Royal Palace of Madrid

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Things to do in Madrid this...

Recent reviews from experiences in Madrid

star-5
Madrid bike tour! The only way to do it!
Suzanne_J, May 2022
3 hrs highlights bike tour Madrid
What a great way to see Madrid!
star-5
Fantastic
Latena_L, May 2022
Welcome Tour to Madrid in Private Electric Tuk Tuk
Great way to see Madrid.
star-5
Good way to see the city & identify sites to visit.
MaryM_H, May 2022
Madrid City Tour Hop-On Hop-Off
Liked the ease of hopping on & off at sites we wanted to visit.
star-5
Amazing tour of Madrid!!!
Monica_B, May 2022
Highlights of Madrid by Bike
We got to see so many important parts of Madrid in one morning and our tour guide was brilliant!
star-5
Maria is a fabulous tour guide!
Jim_B, May 2022
Highlights & Hidden Gems With Locals: Best of Madrid Private Tour
As Americans on our first trip to Spain, we appreciated that she was engaging and informative, and that her English was impeccable.
star-5
Great City
Francisco_A, May 2022
Madrid City Tour Hop-On Hop-Off
Madrid is a great place to visit and enjoy !
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Great Intro to Spain Food & History
Patrick_E, May 2022
Madrid Historical Walking Tour with Food Tasting and Dinner
Pablo’s English skills are great, and his personality brings the rich elements of Madrid to life.
star-5
A Great Introduction to Madrid
John_W, May 2022
Highlights & Hidden Gems With Locals: Best of Madrid Private Tour
We had one day in Madrid, and so we wanted to see as much as possible.
star-5
Loved it!
Christine_P, May 2022
Highlights of Madrid by Bike
Perfect way to see Madrid when you don’t have much time in the city or you want to learn of some interesting locations to investigate in depth.
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Enjoyable and informative palace tour
Karen_L, May 2022
Madrid Walking Tour and The Royal Palace with Skip the Line Tickets
His English is great.
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Tuk Tuk with Pablo - outstanding!
Susan_M, Apr 2022
Historical Madrid Tour in Private Electric Tuk Tuk
We had arrived that morning and while we were a little tired it was a good way to see some of the sights and get a introduction to Madrid.
star-5
Awesome way to experience Madrid
Yasser_S, Apr 2022
Welcome Tour to Madrid in Private Electric Tuk Tuk
We really enjoyed this way to see this incredible city.
star-5
Best way to tour Madrid
Rori_O, Apr 2022
Historical Madrid Tour in Private Electric Tuk Tuk
Great way to see Madrid!
star-5
Great family experience!!!
David_F, Apr 2022
3 hrs highlights bike tour Madrid
Great way to see Madrid!!!
star-5
Great way to get to know Madrid
Petr_M, Mar 2022
Expert PLUS Tour of Madrid in a Private Electric Tuk Tuk
We got to see all the highlights of Madrid with enough facts thrown in to keep us entertained.
star-5
The tour was Amazing....
Edward_C, Mar 2022
Full Day Tour Ávila and Segovia from Madrid with Tickets to Monuments Included
It's nice to see old avenues as well as buildings so preserved in perfect condition.
star-5
Fun 20th birthday party
Eleanor_V, Mar 2022
Madrid Tapas and Wine Tasting Tour
We came to Madrid with our college kids for spring break.
star-5
Great Way to See and Experience Madrid
Bernard_D, May 2022
Madrid City Tour Hop-On Hop-Off
Using the Madrid Hop-On/Hop-Off Tour we were able to see much of older Madrid and the first stop was very near to our hotel and the Prado.
star-5
Best Tuk Tuk Experience
elsa212000, Jan 2022
Madrid Expert Tour in Private Electric Tuk Tuk
I love this trip, the best way to see everything about Madrid in few hours.
star-5
Awesome tour guide
Jason_G, Jan 2022
Express Tour of Madrid in a Private Electric Tuk Tuk
It was impressive how much we learned from him in just this 1 hour go around of Madrid’s main places to visit and see.

All about Madrid

When to visit

Spring kicks off in Madrid with the Festival of San Isidro, but it’s World Pride week in June that draws the biggest—and most colorful—crowds. Balmy summer nights mean plenty of options for alfresco dining and entertainment, but be aware that many businesses close down in August as locals escape the city's heat for the coast.

A local’s pocket guide to Madrid

Lara Sanchez

Lara was born and raised in Madrid. You’ll find her exploring the world, tasting all sorts of local food, and playing with clay in her spare time.

The first thing you should do in Madrid is...

hit the bars (or San Miguel Market) and try some tapas. Start with patatas bravas at Las Bravas, then head to Plaza Mayor for the best squid sandwich in La Campana.

A perfect Saturday in Madrid...

starts with churros and chocolate for breakfast at San Ginés, includes a museum (both the Prado and Reina Sofia are fantastic), and ends with some shopping in the Salamanca neighborhood.

One touristy thing that lives up to the hype is...

renting a rowing boat at the lake in Retiro Park.

To discover the "real" Madrid...

take a walking tour to learn about the most historic neighborhood, Madrid de los Austrias. Then, recharge your batteries with tapas in the La Latina neighborhood.

For the best view of the city...

head to the Faro de Moncloa Observation Deck, or catch the sunset on either the Círculo de Bellas Artes or Cibeles Palace terrace.

One thing people get wrong...

is that paella is not the official dish in Madrid. Two authentic Madrid dishes are cocido (the best version of this garbanzo-based meal is served at Malacatín) and callos, a traditional beef tripe stew.

People Also Ask

What is Madrid known for?

Madrid is known for its art galleries, architecture, royal palaces, buzzing nightlife, and its famous fried calamari sandwiches. People often flock to see the Golden Triangle of Art—an area that’s home to three art museums; the Prado Museum, Reina Sofia, and Thyssen-Bornemisza.

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Is 2 days enough in Madrid?

Yes, a 2-day trip is a perfect introduction to Madrid. Take a stroll through Plaza Mayor; visit Mercado de San Miguel to feast on tapas and wine; admire artistic masterpieces at the Prado Museum; and if the weather’s nice, visit Retiro Park or Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid.

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What food is famous in Madrid?

Madrid is famous for its bocadillo de calamares, or calamari sandwiches, made with deep-fried squid in a crusty baguette. It’s also known for cocido madrileño (a traditional chickpea-based stew), decadent donut-like churros with chocolate sauce, and its tapas scene as a whole. Be sure to visit Cava Baja—Madrid’s tapas street.

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What do locals do for fun in Madrid?

Madrid’s continental Mediterranean climate means a lot of favorite local activities center around spending time outdoors; such as meeting up at Retiro Park. Madrileños (Madrid locals) also live and breathe tapas culture, and it’s perfectly acceptable to sit outside and enjoy tapas and drinks at pretty much any time of day.

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What is the most visited place in Madrid?

The most visited attraction in Madrid is the Prado Museum, a world-renowned art museum that’s home to paintings and sculptures by European artists such as Botticelli and Bosch. Puerta del Sol—one of Madrid’s most famous squares—is one of the most visited outdoor spaces and a popular meeting point.

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Is Madrid dangerous?

No, Madrid isn’t dangerous. It’s seen as a safe city, but just like other European capital cities, pickpockets operate in crowded and touristy areas. Be sure to keep your belongings close to you and watch out for pickpockets in busy areas such as Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol, and Gran Via.

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