Madrid is Spain’s vibrant, diverse and beautiful capital city and located right in the heart of the country. For centuries, Madrid was the epicentre of Spain’s global might as a colonial superpower and remnants of this era are still visible all over the city. Madrid is in fact home to a large array of pompous palaces, cultural institutions but also many parks and other recreational areas.
There is certainly no shortage of activities in the Spanish capital, here are 10 of the best choices for a short stay in Madrid.
- Change your viewpoint
There are quite a few good places to catch a panoramic view of Madrid. To see the central area surrounding Gran Vía (Madrid’s main street) from above, and even get a glimpse of the Royal Palace, go to the top floor of El Corte Inglés shopping centre next to Callao square (Plaza del Callao, 2). At the so-called “Gourmet Experience”, you will find a few restaurants and bars, as well as a deli shop.
Another popular place with a rooftop view is the Circulo de Bellas Artes (Calle de Alcalá, 42). There is moreover a bar located on the rooftop which will enable you to enjoy a drink while soaking it all in.
You can also get a rooftop view of Madrid from the Palacio de Cibeles, another option worth considering is the Mercado San Antón in Chueca.
- Feel royal at the Royal Palace
The Royal Palace is an impressive building and a must-see in Madrid. It was constructed in 1735 and it is the largest royal palace in Europe, according to Wikipedia. You can visit the interior but it is best to book the tickets online beforehand, as the queues can get quite long. The palace is located opposite the Almudena Cathedral, which you can also visit through ticket purchase. If you enjoy a nice stroll, you should walk around the beautiful Sabatini Gardens by the palace.
- Go museum-crazy
Madrid is home to the Museo Nacional Del Prado (or Prado, for short) and the Museo Reina Sofia (Calle de Santa Isabel, 52). The Prado has many classic works of art by well-known international and Spanish painters, while the Reina Sofia is more focused on 20th-century art.
Other museums in Madrid include the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum (Paseo del Prado, the third part of Madrid’s “Golden Triangle of Art” along with the Prado and Reina Sofia), Caixa Forum, the Naval Museum, the Museo Del Ferrocarril (Railway Museum), the Planetarium, and many more.
- Get your churro and chocolate fix
You can’t visit Madrid without ordering churros and chocolate from the Chocolatería San Ginés (Pasadizo de San Gines, 5), the oldest churro cafe in the city.
- Eat your heart out on Spanish food
Spain is famous for its food. Madrid, as the capital city, boasts innumerable amazing food places offering different cuisines ranging from Thai to Ethiopian, and of course, Spanish. For an authentic tapas place right in the heart of the city, check out La Fragua de Vulcano (Calle Álvarez Gato, 9).
- Relax at Retiro Park
The famous Retiro Park is the best place to relax after some intense sightseeing. It boasts a beautiful lake, a glass house (the Crystal Palace), a rose garden and many fountains and sculptures.
- Shop ‘til you drop
Go to Gran Vía or to Calle Serrano for mainstream and upscale shopping. If you’re more into trendy, hipster stuff, Chueca is the area for you. Every Sunday, La Latina hosts a huge open-air market with clothes, antiques and a whole load of other things, called the “Rastro”. Beware of large crowds when the weather is nice though.
- Stay up all night
The area of Malasaña is widely known for its variety of bars and pubs. Or head to La Latina, specifically the Calle Cava Baja area. In terms of clubbing, try Teatro Barceló (Calle Barcelo, 11) or Kapital (Calle Atocha) for some mainstream and Latin music. Just remember that the nightlife in Spain starts late (around 2.30 am) and finishes early (in the morning, around 6.30-7 am).
- Check out Real Madrid’s fabled football temple
Yes, dear Americans, we call it football and Real Madrid is one of the most successful football clubs ever. Even if you are not into football and have never even heard of Cristiano Ronaldo or Zinédine Zidane (an unforgivable sin in Madrid), you should still go to a game or if that’s impossible at least visit Madrid’s famous Santiago Bernabeu Stadium (Av. Concha Espina, 1).
It is one of the largest and most breathtaking stadiums in all of Europe and it has been the stage of many great matches and heartbreaking moments. The tour includes the trophy cabinet, the players’ locker rooms, massage rooms and of course the main coaching bench right next to the pitch.
- Day trip it
If you’ve already done all of the abovementioned activities, and you feel like you’ve seen enough of Madrid, you can travel to a few other places for the day. San Lorenzo de El Escorial is only a 30-minute train journey away, as is Toledo. Segovia can be reached within the hour.