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10 things to do in Madrid

I love Madrid’s beauty, style and spirit! It’s a grand city that has plenty to offer from amazing galleries, stunning architecture, stylish bars to charming flea markets and quirky and more alternative neighbourhoods. 

Although I visited Spanish capital twice already, I could jump on a plane to go there again. Each time Madrid delivered on fantastic experiences, surprising encounters (yes, it’s possible to bump unexpectedly into friends) and creative inspiration. If you’re looking to explore Madrid in the near future, here are my ten recommendations. Feel free to also share some of yours as I’m always looking for new places to visit.

Relax in Retiro Park

El Retiro Park is one of the largest parks of Madrid and a stunning green corner of the city. Prior to becoming a public space, it used to belong to the Spanish Monarchy until the late 19th century. Relax among its statues, fountains, floral features and the Retiro Pond. Last but not least, make sure you visit the Crystal Palace!

Retiro Park in Madrid
Retiro Park in Madrid

Visit Plaza Mayor

Most of the cities in Spain have their Plaza Mayor, the main square. What makes the Madrid’s one so special is the fact that it was once the center of the Old City and the place to see bullfights and carnivals.

Feel the buzz at Puerta del Sol

Just round the corner from the Plaza Mayor is another famous public square – Puerta del Sol. It’s one of the best known and busiest places in Madrid and the centre of the radial network of Spanish roads. You do get the feeling like all the streets lead to Puerta del Sol. 

Head to Madrid’s famous museums

If like me you get a bit unlucky with rainy weather, keep in mind that Madrid’s art scene is very impressive. Prado Museum and the Reina Sofia Museum would be my top recommendations. If traditional art is more your thing, the Museo del Prado is a perfect choice for you. It’s a home to the world’s most extensive collection of Spanish art from the 12th to19th centuries.

The Reina Sofía Museum of Modern Art is one of my favourite museums in Madrid. I love the building and its collection of 20th and 21st century Spanish art is truly impressive. Picasso’s Guernica is definitely a highlight but there is plenty of other masterpieces to discover.

Reina Sofia Museum

Admire the Royal Palace

The Royal Palace is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family in Madrid. These days mainly used for state ceremonies. It’s the largest functioning Royal Palace with 3,418 rooms and the largest by floor area in Europe that reaches 135,000 square metres. Just crazy! The parks and gardens around it are also very impressive. Make sure you book your ticket in advance and allow yourself enough time to explore it.

Stroll down the Gran Via

When I think of a typical postcard-like photo of Madrid, I think of Gran Via! This impressive and extremely energetic street  is also the pulse of Madrid’s nightlife. For sure one of the most famous places and a must to see. 

Big city life in Madrid
Big city life in Madrid

Enjoy delicious food 

Navigating the food scene in Madrid isn’t always easy. There are many great restaurants that are worthy of a separate blog post. Mercado de San Miguel is definitely for those who appreciate not only food but also elegant ambiance. For more authentic food experience I recommend places near Puerta del Sol including colourful Rosi La Loca and Taberna Malaspina or old-style taverns in Malasaña. 

Rioja fans should look into wine tasting options – many bars in the city offer them! Anyone with a sweet tooth should indulge in a sweet taste of chocolate and churros. Visiting famous chocolateria San Gines is a must!

Visit Madrid’s famous flea market

El Rastro is a famous flea market that takes place every Sunday. It’s packed with various stalls and cheerful vendors. You can find there anything from antique and vintage pieces to new and trendy t-shirts or bags. Located along Plaza de Cascorro and Ribera de Curtidores is a great place to visit when walking around the city.

Explore Madrid’s charming neighbourhoods

Malasaña is by far my favourite neighbourhood in Madrid. It’s hip but with a good mix of locals, tourists and foreigners, who live in the city. It was the centre of a countercultural movement that developed after the death of dictator Francisco Franco, called the Movida Madrileña

In the 80s, Malasaña was a rather a rough area but these days it’s a different story. There are plenty of laid-back bars and restaurants with a really cool vibe.

Lavapiés is Madrid’s most diverse and multicultural neighbourhood. I personally love it for its street art. You can just walk around to see some great pieces or visit the Tabacalera. That former tobacco factory hosts some of the most exciting and boundary-pushing art.

Appreciate panoramic views of the city

Treat yourself to a drink (or two!) at one of Madrid’s rooftop bars. My recommendation would be to head to Círculo Bellas Artes. That  rooftop has some of the best views in the city! There is a small entrance fee but it’s worth paying to get in. There are two bars, tables and comfy reclining beds where you can chill out while watching the sunset.

Madrid
Madrid

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