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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 10 attractions in Madrid

Prado Museum (Museo del Prado)

Prado Museum (Museo del Prado)

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
Royal Palace of Madrid (Palacio Real de Madrid)

Royal Palace of Madrid (Palacio Real de Madrid)

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
Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor

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
Santiago Bernabéu Stadium (Estadio Santiago Bernabéu)

Santiago Bernabéu Stadium (Estadio Santiago Bernabéu)

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
Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial (El Escorial)

Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial (El Escorial)

Commissioned by King Felipe II as a testament to Spain's devout Catholic faith, the Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial—or just El Escorial—was built in the 16th century after the French were defeated in the Battle of Saint Quentin. The highlights of this immense UNESCO World Heritage Site—considered the most important monument of the Spanish Renaissance—include the elegant basilica; the marble Pantheon de los Reyes, where many kings and their relatives are buried; and the Patio de los Reyes, the entrance to the monument. The site is a must-visit for history buffs and architecture lovers.More
Gran Vía

Gran Vía

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
Plaza de Toros de las Ventas

Plaza de Toros de las Ventas

Plaza de Toros de las Ventas is one of Madrid’s largest public squares, dominated by the iconic Las Ventas bullfighting arena—the largest in the world and one of the city’s top attractions. Even those with no interest in bullfights can learn about the history and heritage of this deeply Spanish tradition.More
Retiro Park (Parque de El Retiro)

Retiro Park (Parque de El Retiro)

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
Puerta del Sol

Puerta del Sol

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

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

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

Trip ideas

Top activities in Madrid

Toledo and Segovia Tour with Alcazar Entrance from Madrid

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Toledo and Segovia Tour with Alcazar Entrance from Madrid

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Madrid City Tour Hop-On Hop-Off

Madrid City Tour Hop-On Hop-Off

Segovia and Toledo Day Trip with Alcazar Ticket and Optional Cathedral
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Three Cities in One Day: Segovia, Ávila & Toledo from Madrid
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Wine Tasting Small Group Tour from Madrid
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El Prado Museum and Madrid Royal Palace Guided Tour (tickets included)
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Skip-the-Line Palacio Real de Madrid Guided Palace Tour - Private Tour
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Guided Tour to Ribera del Duero Winery and Wine Tasting from Madrid
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Avila and Salamanca Tour from Madrid
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Recent reviews from experiences in Madrid

Madrid in moments
Angela_W, Dec 2021
Tour en tuk-tuk electrico por MADRID MODERNO
This is a great way to see the city especially if you are limited on time or just want to see the highlights of Madrid before wandering out on your own.
Great Tour of Highlights!
Olivia_B, Dec 2021
Three Cities in One Day: Segovia, Ávila & Toledo from Madrid
It was a great way to see the highlights just outside Madrid in one day.
A Must Do!
Ronald_B, Nov 2021
Highlights of Madrid by Bike
This was a great way to see the high points of Madrid in 3 hours!
Great tour
Jane_T, Nov 2021
Express Tour of Madrid in a Private Electric Tuk Tuk
Really got to see the best of Madrid.
Great tour guide
JEANNE_C, Oct 2021
Highlights of Madrid by Bike
Wonderful way to see Madrid So many stops And very informative Stopping at market was great also for tapas
Amazing Tour!
Reyn_O, Sep 2021
Toledo and Segovia Tour with Alcazar Entrance from Madrid
It was very convenient and cost effective being able to see a number of the historical sites outside of Madrid in one day!
Such a fun and beautiful...
Josh_P, Sep 2021
Highlights of Madrid by bike - only 3 hours
Such a fun and beautiful way to see the city and get a better understanding of Madrid’s history!
Great day trip from Madrid
TrevorH, Sep 2021
Toledo and Segovia Tour with Alcazar Entrance from Madrid
This tour opportunity is ideal for anyone who wants to see Toledo and Segovia, but has limited time in Madrid.
Linda_K, Sep 2021
The 10 Tastings of Madrid With Locals: Private Food Tour
This was a fun way to see Madrid.
Highly Recomended Tour
BETINA_I, Jul 2021
Express Tour of Madrid in a Private Electric Tuk Tuk
It helped us highlight places we wanted to be sure to visit during thw duration of our trip
Fantastic guide and a beautiful location
Mark_T, Dec 2021
National Park of Guadarrama and Manzanares castle: Daytrip from Madrid
We got to see snow-capped peaks, crossed a dozen brooks, and even viewed the Madrid sky-line from a distance.
Great day trip from Madrid!
Audrey_S, Dec 2021
Full Day Tour Ávila and Segovia from Madrid with Tickets to Monuments Included
You really get a chance to see all the highlights of both cities.
Delicious, recommended
Robert_M, Dec 2021
Iberico Ham & Spanish Wine Small Group - Madrid Food Tour
Pedro was great, doing tours 25 years in Madrid, English excellent, knowledgeable in wine, ham and history and art of Spain.
You don't want to miss seeing Madrid at night with Enrique!
John_P, Dec 2021
4-Hour Private Night Walking Tour of Madrid: Custom Tour
Great way to see Madrid in the evening - we strolled through famous streets, saw gorgeous and historical buildings, palace and so many sites.
Best day with Nando!
Maria_F, Nov 2021
Private tour to Toledo, with or without shuttle from Madrid
So I was very overwhelmed on what tour to take for Toledo - I am SO glad that we picked this tour & got to see Toledo with Fernando.
ELLA_D, Nov 2021
Private Walking Tour of the Barrio de las Letras in Madrid
I definitely recommend her to everybody who is going to visit Madrid.
Quick overview of sites and history
JvL, Oct 2021
Historical Madrid Tour in Private Electric Tuk Tuk
We had just arrived in Madrid and were seeking a quick overview of the important sires and attractions of the area.
Getting to know Museo Del Prado.
Rosalinda_s, Oct 2021
Prado Museum 3-hour Private Tour with Skip-the-line
Fluent in English.
Informative and interesting tour
Ivan_S, Sep 2021
Royal Palace of Madrid Early Access in a Small Group
The tour guide (if I remember correctly he was called Jose, but I'm not sure) spoke good English.
Put this at the top of your list of things to do in Spain!
SydneyAH, Sep 2021
Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Toledo or Segovia with Optional Transport from Madrid
Also, I was the only one who wasn't fluent in Spanish and the tour guides explained things in English in addition to Spanish.

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.

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