Last updated on December 24th, 2018 at 12:06 pm
Perhaps one of the most famous city in Spain, Europe and the entire world is Madrid, an amazing cultural hub with the most beautiful attractions. A trip to the continent will not be complete without it, while many consider visiting the city as one of the items in their bucket list. You can find many things to do in Madrid like museums, plazas, music, dance, food and art that have shaped the very definition of these things. Madrid can also be your gateway to other cities in the country and the beginning of an awesome Eurotrip. Or maybe you’d fall in love with the places to visit in Madrid so bad, you’d just want to live there forever.
In this post, we’ll let you in on the things to do in Madrid that will make your travels more colorful and memorable than anything you’ve done before. Prepare to be amazed and to fall in love with this European treasure.
How to get to Madrid
Madrid has one of the biggest airports in Europe. Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport has 4 terminals and is only 13 km away from Madrid’s center. A 7-hour flight from New York to Madrid can cost as low as $175 USD. Check Skyscanner.com for the best prices!
From the airport, there are also plenty of ways to reach the city’s downtown area, financial district and pretty much everywhere else through the Metro. A ride costs €4 for those heading to Nuevos Ministerios station. Those taking the Cercanias commuter train can reach Atocha and Chamartin stations for €2.60 EUR each trip. Other ways to go from the airport to the city is to ride the express bus service, take a taxi or rent a car.
Read our full blog post: how to get to Madrid city center from the airport for more information.
The train company Renfe operates train rides to and from Madrid. You can visit the city from other wonderful destinations like Barcelona, Seville, Lisbon, Milan and Paris through these trains. Madrid has two main train stations. Atocha is located on the southern side and has trains coming from places like Barcelona and caters long-distance travels. On the other hand, Chamartin has 10 Metro lines and receives visitors from the northern area.
With 8 intercity and international bus stations, Madrid is very accessible via bus as well. The 2 main bus stations, Estación Sur de Autobuses and Avenida de América, can easily be accessed through the train so travelers can just go from one mode of transportation to another. A bus to Madrid from Barcelona costs around €33 and the trip will last 7 hours.
Transportation around Madrid
Madrid’s Subway is the second largest in the world next to the one in London. The city has a sophisticated network that covers all parts of the city including the airport. Commuting is no hassle in Madrid, for sure! A single ticket can be used for five stations for €1.50-2, while a ten-trip ticket costs around €12. There are also unlimited passes that can be availed daily €8, for 2 days €13.4 , 3 days €17.40 , 5 days €25.50, or even for an entire week €33.40.
Another system of trains is called Cercanias, a local line that connects Madrid’s suburbs to the metropolitan area. It is perfect for visiting historic sites outside the city center.
Buses are also a convenient way for those who want to travel all around Madrid above ground. These buses run with free Wi-Fi and are available even late at night. The primary bus station is Plaza de Cibeles where you can take buses to almost anywhere in the city. Prices go around €1-2.
Like any other metropolitan, there are plenty of taxis available all over Madrid. However, many of the drivers do not speak English so make sure to write down your destination in Spanish. Taxis are easy to spot with their green light on top, green signs that say “libre” (free/available) on the windshields, white exteriors, and the flag of Madrid on their front doors.
Best Time to visit Madrid
Madrid is a city with four lovely seasons, loveliest of which are spring and fall. These periods are considered the best time to visit Madrid since summers might get too hot while winters can be pretty gray here. Spring lasts from March to May, though the last month may sometimes be much warmer than the first two. On the other hand, fall lands on September to November. While spring and fall are definitely the best time to visit Madrid the months between these two seasons are filled with sunshine and will be a delight for most tourists, too.
ATMs and Currency in Madrid
The Euro is one of the most important currencies all over the world. Not only is it high in value, it is also a unifying factor to the varied countries of Europe. €1 is equivalent to $1.16. Since Madrid utilizes such an important currency, ATMs abound in this modern city. In fact, Spain is the country with the biggest number of ATMs per person.
Swipe cards are accepted all over the country even if chip-and-PIN cards are the ones commonly used here. As always, try to use the ATMs inside banks or other safe establishments as an added security measure. There are money exchange places in Madrid too, but travelers are advised to exchange money beforehand or to use ATMs and credit cards instead. Click here to know the exchange rate between the Euro and your currency!
Daily Budget in Madrid
There are many budget options in Madrid for accommodation. You can sleep in a dorm or a room from €15-30. There are also Airbnb for €20-40 and you can get $30 USD off your first booking with AirBnB when you sign up with us!
You can spend from €5-10 in a meal also going for beer and tapas. In transportation you can spend around €5 per day. You also have to add entrance fees for museums or any attractions in Madrid. You can go the budget looking for free days to visit the museums in Madrid. You can mange with €30-40 per day and you will have amazing time exploring the city.
Things to do in Madrid and Places to Visit in Madrid
Visit Museums for free in Madrid
Madrid is a city full of museums and most offer a day or several afternoons where you can enter free. Here’s a list of the free days at some of the most popular museums.
Museo del Prado: Free from Monday to Saturday 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm and on Sundays and holidays from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm.
Museo Reina Sofia: Free on Monday and Wednesday to Saturday from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Free on Sundays from 1:30 to 7:00 pm.
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza: Free on Mondays between 12:00 and 4:00 pm.
Walk around Gran Via
A trip to Madrid will not be complete without going to Gran Via, the city’s shopping and nightlife hub. Those who came to Madrid to party will definitely love this busy street where you can go shopping or even just go people watching for those traveling on a budget. No matter what your purpose may be, Gran Via is a street with a lot to offer. The street is always crowded and full of life.
Enjoy Madrid’s rooftop views
From cafes and markets to bars and gourmet restaurants, it’s pretty impossible not to find spots in Madrid to enjoy good food and a couple of drinks in the city’s rooftops. Hotel Silken has the tallest rooftop terrace in Madrid while the purple tower at ME Madrid is one of the city’s hotspots for exciting events and breathtaking views. A perfect time to visit the rooftops is a sunset and you will get a nice view of the lights after the sunset.
Try all sorts of tapas
Madrid’s local cuisine is best represented with tapas, the bite-sized dishes enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. A great way to explore this Spanish symbol is to go to different tapas bars, ask for the best one they have, pair it with a good drink and do the same in all the other bars you visit. Most of the most popular bars are Museo del Jamon and Bar El Tigre. You will find generous tapas and beers for an affordable price.
Spend an afternoon at Retiro Park
If you want to learn about Madrid’s culture and history in one bright, sunny location, Retiro Park is a place you should visit. There are statues, art galleries and museums in the park, as well as a garden, a pond and a lake. It is a park families will enjoy and is close to other tourist attractions. You can even rent a boat inside the small lake, rent a bicycle to go around. It´s located in the city center of Mdrid.
Enjoy the zoo and amusement park inside Casa de Campo
What was once a royal hunting estate is now home to Parque de Atracciones de Madrid and the Zoo Aquarium de Madrid. The amusement park is 49 acres big and is one of the oldest in Spain. The Madrid Zoo Aquarium is the same size as Parque de Atracciones and has rare giant pandas as one of its main attractions.
Make the most out of your Euros at El Rastro
If you’re looking to buy something from Madrid on a bargain, you should definitely come by El Rastro. It is Madrid’s spectacular flea market where you can find plenty of products, both old and new, like leather goods and souvenirs–all at cheaper prices! El Rastro opens every Sunday and on public holidays as well. It is one of the best flea markets in Europe and has a truly eclectic vibe.
Visit Plaza de Cibeles
This iconic plaza is one of the many must-sees in Madrid. Plaza de Cibeles houses the famous Cybeles Palace and its fountain, Palacio de Buenavista, Palacio de Linares and the Bank of Spain. The neo-classical architecture in the plaza’s buildings, sculptures and fountains attract visitors from all over the world.
Get to know Madrid at Puerta del Sol
Another busy yet stunning place to visit in Madrid is Puerta del Sol. The crowd, the colors and the music in this square reveal the magic of Spain and its wonderful culture. Literally “Gate of the Sun,” Puerta del Sol is Madrid’s Km 0 and is perfectly situated at the heart of the city. Always busy and perfect meeting point to visit the city!
Indulge with chocolate con churros
Looking for the perfect breakfast in Madrid? Nothing beats chocolate con churros! This tasty delight is simply fried dough dipped in hot chocolate. It’s a real classic! In fact, a cafe called Chocolatería San Ginés has been serving them since 1894. The cafe is close to Puerta del Sol and is one of the many places in Madrid to get your churros craving satisfied.
Enjoy Madrid’s exciting nightlife
Clubs, bars and pubs in Madrid are open daily and you’re sure to find a place that suits your mood. Want to listen to some local pop rock bands? Head to ThunderCat Club. Want to show off your moves on the dance floor? Head on out to Kapital. Want to chill somewhere eclectic? Tupperware is the place for you. Options abound all around the city that, like New York, seems to never sleep. Plaza Santa Ana and Huertas are full of bars and you will find peopel everywhere walking around them.
Stroll along Preciados Street
Those who love to shop will also enjoy looking around Preciados Street in Madrid. There are plenty of international brands like H&M, Mango and Zara, as well as a department store. However, there are also shops dedicated to selling local goods like fans, guitars and embroidered shawls. If you like shopping you will find everythign that you need in Preciados street.
Take a tour of Plaza Mayor
Just a few blocks away from Puerta del Sol is Plaza Mayor, another iconic square in the city. It is the home of Madrid’s famous Casa de la Panadería and is as historical as the city itself. The plaza was completed in 1619 and is surrounded by 3 residential buildings and 9 entryways. After walking around Plaza Mayor would be awesome to eat a calamari sandwich.
Visit the Royal Palace of Madrid
Another beautiful and historical site in Madrid is the Royal Palace, the official residence of the royal family. Though no royalty lives in the palace right now, everyone else who has inhabited this building can be learned about in the many tours offered to this Spanish landmark. It is an attractive Rococo palace with over 3,000 rooms and is a masterpiece that is worth waiting in line for. After the visit enjoy the vies of Madrid, the best panoramic of the city.
Watch the sunset at Templo de Debod
Sunset chasing has always been part of our travels, and we just love the one at Templo de Debod. This particular temple is actually an ancient Egyptian relic and can be found at the heart of Madrid. Admission to Templo de Debod is free, you guys! Take advantage of this opportunity. You won’t regret watching day turn into night in this ancient beauty. At sunset is full of people sitting down around the gardens and checking the views of the sunset and Almudena Cathedral.
Learn about history at Museo del Prado
Located in central Madrid is the country’s national museum, Museo del Prado. Here you can see thousands of drawings, paintings, sculptures and other important works by artists like Raphael, Caravaggio, Titian, El Greco, Goya and Rembrandt. The museum opens from 10 AM to 8 PM on Monday until Saturday and at 10 AM to 7 PM on Sundays and holidays.
Eat your heart out at San Miguel Market
San Miguel Market is not difficult to find as it is located in the heart of the city, just a few steps away from Plaza Mayor. This iron structure is Madrid’s first gastronomy market and accepts as much as 10 million visitors each year. This is the place to find authentic Spanish cuisine not just from Madrid but from all over the country. From excellent wine to Iberian ham, San Miguel Market is a delight to the palate. You can find tapas starting from €1 and all of them are delicious!
Take a tour of Santiago Bernabéu Stadium
Real Madrid die-hards and all solid sports fans wouldn’t miss out on the opportunity to visit Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, the home of Spain’s elite football team. You can book a sightseeing tour to learn about all the historic events that took place in this iconic location.
See the distinct features of the Almudena Cathedral
Members of the Roman Catholic faith will surely love visiting Almudena Cathedral, a church that has been consecrated by the well-loved Pope John Paul II. It is a building that seems to have been built from a medieval mosque and has a Neo-Gothic interior and pop art decor that is uncommon in most churches.
Visit the Sabatini Gardens at dusk
It’s always nice to visit landscaped gardens in European countries. Sabatini Gardens is located by the Royal Palace’s front facade, making the building more beautiful than ever. A rectangular pond can be found at the center, with fountains, sculptures and trees all around. Nice place to walk around and very quiet. The views from above Sabatini Gardens are very beautiful.
Take a ride on Mi Teleférico
Another fun way to explore a city is through the air. By this we mean riding Madrid’s cable cars known as Mi Teleférico. This transportation system consists of 80 cabins that hold 6 passengers each ride. Traveling from one station to the other takes 11 minutes to complete so you’ll have plenty of time to take in the sights from a bird’s eye view.
Visit Puerta de Alcala
One of the most iconic monuments in Spain and the first modern post-Roman triumphal arch is Puerta de Alcala in Madrid. It is a historic site in both ancient and modern times as it is a place where victories, an assassination, MTV performances and a concert have all occurred here. And after taking pictures in Puerta de Alcala it would be nice walking around Retiro Park.
Walk along Calle Cava Baja in La Latina
A great area for to taste some tapas and have some drinks is Calle Cava Baja. It is a colorful street that’s perfect for dates and other intimate, relaxing moments. You can also buy traditional clothes called chulos and chapas in this charming area that has its own train station and several bus stops. On weekends is full of people inside and outside the bars.
Watch a Flamenco Show
Flamenco is a dance that knows no boundaries. You can watch it in a prestigious dance hall or in an intimate bar and it will be just as thrilling. The intensity of its performers is what attracts people to this dance and it’s something you shouldn’t miss in Madrid. Each show costs around 15 to 45 EUR.
Dine at Sobrino Botin
Known as the oldest restaurant in the world, Sobrino de Botín is a culturally significant establishment in Spain. It is a place where the renowned artist Francisco Goya once worked and it was mentioned in one of Ernest Hemingway’s works. Some must-tries include the roasted suckling pig and their egg, chicken broth and sherry soup.
Take a free walking tour of Madrid
Did you know that you can actually get a free walking tour of Madrid for 2-3 hours? You can learn about Madrid from the 9th century with its Muslim origins and 16th-17th Century with the Asturias dynasty. These tours usually make stops in Madrid’s most important places like Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, Cuchilleros Street, San Miguel Market, Mayor Street and the Royal Palace. They last around 2-3 hours and it is necessary to book them in advance.
Go to Europe Park in Torrejon de Ardoz
Though Europe Park is a little bit far from Madrid at around 25 kms away, you can always go by train, bus or by car. In this site alone, there are already 17 landmarks with small replicas of Europe’s top destinations. Honestly, not everyone in Madrid knows about this place so you’re in for a real treat! The park opens everyday at 11 AM to 12 AM from Sunday to Thursday and 11 AM to 2 AM on Fridays and Saturdays. There is no entrance fee for this park.
Try the Windobona Indoor Skydiving
Madrid has a 4,000 meter indoor skydiving site that can be tried by people of all ages, starting at 4 years old. Now that’s one of the things to do in Madrid that you shouldn’t miss! The management provides all the things that you need: helmet, protection glasses and clothes for diving. Just bring comfortable clothes and sneakers and they recommend light meal before going there. It costs €39 and can be enjoyed from Wednesday to Friday at 1 to 9 PM, Saturdays at 9 AM to 10 PM, and Sundays at 9 AM to 9 PM.
Visit Matadero de Madrid
I especially loved the entrance to this famous Slaughterhouse. The reception area is very cool and well decorated. It has really unique and eccentric style that is inviting and intriguing. The space has been remodeled and promotes some of the greatest things that the people of Madrid value: art, modernity, expression, leisure and culture.
Go Skiing in Xanadu
Xanadu is one of the grandest and newest shopping malls in Madrid. If you love to ski, you can enjoy the sport inside this mall all year round! No need to bring any equipment or clothes since you can rent them on the site. 4 hours in the ski site in Xanadu costs €30. However, if you choose to bring your own equipment, you can pay as low as €16!
Have a drink at an Ice Bar
As we all know, Spain has really nice weather that allows tourists to explore plazas and palaces while basking in the sun. However, an ice bar does the opposite and gives you a cool minus 6 to 8 degrees! Upon entering the bar, you will be given a thermal poncho to keep yourself warm. All of the ice comes from Canada and is dry since there is absolutely no humidity here. The ice bar in Madrid is located in the city center, at Plaza Tirso de Molina. The bar is open from Sunday to Thursday at 5 PM until 11 PM and on Friday and Saturday from 5 PM to 2 AM. The entrance here costs €15 and comes with a free drink.
There is a small Chinatown in Leganitos Street, very close to Plaza España. There are several shops and restaurants in the area, most of which are owned and run by the Chinese. A great place to eat is actually inside the Plaza España parking lot. The restaurant is very affordable and the food is really delicious. The place is quite small so you will have to wait in line to be seated, but you can always place an order in advance so that when you get to your table, the food will be ready. Each meal will go for around €5-7.
Best food to try in Madrid
One of Rachel´s favorite best food to try in Madrid. Fried, salty and with lemon and it´s perfect if you share with cold beer. Prices are around €3-4.
The best place to try cochinillo is in Segovia. After visiting the city, there are many bars in city center. Prices are €16 for a dish one person and €110 for the whole cochinillo.
The most popular food to try in Madrid and Spain. Our favorite is with toast bread, tomato, olive oil and garlic. For breakfast or in the afternoon with beer or wine is the best way.
Patatas Bravas (Brave Potatoes)
It can served as a tapa fried potatoes with spicy sauce called bravas or with mayonnaise. Rachel loved it so much!
A popular tapa in the bars, you can order anytime of the day. It´s made of fried potatoes and onions mixed with eggs. Locals eat with bread and cold beer.
Drinking Tinto de Verano and Sangria
Sangria and Tinto de Verano are perfect for refreshment after walking around the city. They are made of wine, ice, mixing fruits and lemon soda and liquor. Prices are starting from €2-3.
Going out for a beer with friends and locals. In summer is the best time to do it sitting down while having tapas. You can find beer from €2-3 depending on the size.
Road trips outside Madrid
Just a little over an hour from Madrid is Toledo, a city that overlooks the beautiful Río Tajo and combines three different cultures (Catholic, Muslim and Jewish) in one unique place. It is one of the most visited spots in Spain. Here’s a travel tip: With €9, you can purchase the Pulsera Turística (or Tourist Bracelet) that allows access to 6 tourist destinations in the city with no time limit. This places include Sinagoga de Santa María La Blanca, Iglesia San Ildefonso and many more. A train ride from Madrid last 35 minutes and costs less than €22 for a same-day round trip ticket.
If you’re looking for a quick escape from the hustle and bustle of Madrid, Aranjuez is a wonderful place to visit. A trip to this Spanish municipality only takes around 50 minutes by train from Atocha, Chamartin or Sol stations. Here, you can visit the Royal Palace of Aranjuez, Jardin del Principe and Bull Ring, the first ever Plaza del Toros in Spain.
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site is the city of Segovia, just 80 km outside of Madrid. This city is famous for its Aqueduct and Alcázar, and for how it perfectly blends ancient Roman and modern Spanish aesthetics. A high speed train from Madrid to Segovia only takes 30 minutes and is only an hour away by bus.
Navacerrada is a municipality of only 2,500 residents. The community lies majestically at 1,894 m above sea level and is a wonderful skiing spot for those visiting Madrid in the winter. It has 13 km of easy runs perfect for a relaxing getaway, and is less than an hour away from Madrid.
San Lorenzo de El Escorial
A town just 45 km outside of Spain is home to another UNESCO World Heritage site in the country. San Lorenzo de El Escorial is a mountainous area that’s part of the community of Madrid. Though perfect for a day trip, it can be explored for 2 to 3 days if you want to visit other sites apart from the famous monastery like Valle de los Caidos and the town’s surrounding countryside.
If you’re looking for authentic Medieval buildings in Spain, Avila is the place to explore. There are plenty of beautiful convents and churches to visit. One of them is the cathedral that has actually been built into the city walls. The walls themselves are a sight to behold in this Spanish masterpiece of a city.
Festivals in Madrid
San Isidro Festival
Honoring the patron saint of Madrid, San Isidro Festival is the city’s most important annual celebration. As with any religious festival, there are processions down the street for locals and tourists to join or watch. Aside from the many religious activities and as a modern city, Madrid’s festival is also the perfect time for parties and picnics. There are lots of activities for all ages all around the city. A major event is bullfighting, a tradition deeply embedded in Spanish culture. If you’re not into the sport, seeing Madrileños dress up in traditional garments and dance the chotis is surely enough to bring you much joy and excitement. The festival is celebrated in the middle of May.
Orgullo Gay de Madrid
Madrid’s take on Gay Pride parades is held the weekend after June 28, the International Day of LGBT Pride. Equal marriage was approved in Spain in 2005 and has made the Orgullo Gay de Madrid even bigger than when it started in the late ‘70s with 2 million in attendance. In fact, the city is now the European capital of Pride. Members of the LGBT and those in support of their causes will definitely enjoy attending this progressive festival of love and freedom.
After visiting Madrid we can recommend you to visit Seville, read here our things to do in Seville. More destinations to visit in Europe, check our things to do in Nice and our travel guide to Marseille!