Why visit Madrid? That is the question! A lot of people prefer to go to some Spanish coast or to the Canary Islands or the Balearic Islands. When it comes to the Spanish capital, it is often its visit that tourists leave “for sometime in the future” or for a long weekend. Here the question arises: how many days do I need to visit Madrid? Two? Or maybe three days? If you want to visit the most important monuments and sites of Madrid, then three days are more than enough. However, if you want to get to know Madrid better and immerse yourself in its secrets, a week is not enough.
What to see in Madrid
The Royal Palace – Palacio Real
The Royal Palace was the residence of the kings of Spain for more than 200 years. It is one of the largest buildings of its kind in Western Europe. Today, the Palace is only used for official acts, receptions and ceremonies, as the kings reside in another building, the so-called Palacio de la Zarzuela. The Royal Palace is surrounded by the Sabatini and Campo del Moro gardens, where it is possible to walk around. The palace is open to the public. Inside are the royal rooms and halls, the armoury and the Royal Pharmacy.
Opposite the Royal Palace is another icon of Madrid, the Almudena Cathedral. It is a magnificent church that was built between the end of the 19th century and the end of the 20th century Its architecture features a mixture of neoclassical, neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque styles. Since Madrid became the capital of Spain in the 16th century, there was a need for such an important monument as a cathedral building. Interestingly, it was only in 1993 that the building was consecrated as a cathedral by Pope John Paul II.
Market Square – Plaza Mayor
The Plaza Mayor is a place where, no matter what time of year or day it is, you will always find plenty of people. The square is rectangular in shape, measuring 129 metres by 94 metres. The square is surrounded by the Casa de la Panadería, the Arco de Cuchilleros and the Statue of Philip III. What can you do here besides sightseeing? You can sit on one of the terraces to enjoy a drink and watch the daily hustle and bustle of tourists, or have a traditional calamari sandwich at the popular La Campana bar. If you’re visiting the city during the festive season, you can’t miss Madrid’s Christmas market.
Puerta del Sol
At the beginning of Calle Alcalá is the Puerta del Sol square. Puerta del Sol is world-famous for being the place from which the so-called campanadas, or ringing of the New Year’s bell, have been emitted since 1962. The clock tower from which the approaching new year can be heard belongs to the Casa de Correos building. If you look carefully, you will see Madrid’s coat of arms – a bear and a strawberry tree. And that’s not the end of the search. On Puerta del Sol is the so-called Kilometer 0, the point from which the main national roads leave.
Parque del Retiro
Park del Retiro, is undoubtedly the lungs of Madrid. There is the Crystal Palace, where you can see various temporary exhibitions, an avenue of sculptures with statues of Spanish monarchs and the famous pond, which you can cross by hired boat. While strolling through its gardens, you can listen to music by street artists or enjoy a coffee on one of the café terraces.
Plaza de Cibeles
Plaza de Cibeles, with its beautiful fountain, is the place where celebrations of significant Real Madrid victories are always held. Without doubt, it is an emblematic place to visit in Madrid. As well as admiring the fountain from afar, or rather the chariot pulled by the lions of the goddess Cibeles, look out for several buildings: Buenavista Palace from 1777, Linares Palace, the Bank of Spain and, above all, the impressive Cibeles Palace, which houses the town hall. The Town Hall has a fantastic vantage point on the terrace, from which you can admire Retiro Park and also Madrid’s distant financial district with its famous skyscrapers.
Puerta de Alcalá
A few metres from Plaza de Cibeles, walking up through Alcalá Street, you will reach Puerta de Alcalá, the most famous of the five ancient royal gates. This neoclassical-style gate is shaped like a triumphal arch and leads to the Plaza de la Independencia.
Plaza de España
The next stop on your route through the most important places to visit in Madrid will be Plaza de España, the starting point of the famous Gran Vía – one of the largest streets in all of Spain.
With the opening of Gran Vía in 1910, urban modernity arrived in Madrid. It is home to theatres, cinemas, hotels, restaurants and the best shops. It is where you will find Madrid’s skyscraper-Capitol and the unique building-Telefónica.
The Parliament, Congreso de los Diputados
Congreso de los Diputados is located close to Carrera de San Jerónimo. The building’s façade, with its 6 Corinthian columns and bronze lions, has become an icon of Madrid. If you want to visit the inside of the building and see the place where Spain’s political life takes place, you can take a guided tour. Unfortunately, the tours are only in Spanish and you need to make an appointment in advance for the tour.
Football fans cannot leave Madrid without seeing this tourist attraction. The Santiago Bernabéu football stadium is also the home of Real Madrid football club. The stadium was inaugurated in 1941, although it has undergone successive reforms, the last of which in 1993 saw the addition of round towers in the corners to serve as ramps. It can hold as many as 81,000 spectators.
La Latina district
La Latina is one of the more favourite parts of Madrid for tourists, but also for the locals themselves. This historic district, especially around the picturesque Cava Baja street, is filled with a good atmosphere at sunset in the many traditional taverns, bars and restaurants. As well as exploring at night, the district is also worth a visit during the day.
This is one of Madrid’s most fashionable neighbourhoods. Chueca is full of beautiful and interesting art galleries, restaurants, bars with drinks, shops. This neighbourhood is heavily trafficked and lively, especially in the evenings and at night. A neighbourhood where the LGBT community leads the way. It is here that the annual Pride parade takes place.
Madrid’s most important museums
Museo del Prado
This is the first art gallery in Spain, and some even claim that it is also the first in the world. The Prado Museum has a collection of more than 8,000 works of art by many artists from all over the world. The museum occupies two buildings: the Juan de Villanueva and the Casón del Buen Retiro. Worth a visit are, of course, the rooms dedicated to the artistic achievements of Goya and Velázquez. It is well worth reserving more time for the tour.
Museo Reina Sofía
If you have already visited the Prado Museum, you might take the opportunity to see the Queen Sofía Museum, a space dedicated to contemporary art where you can admire artists such as Picasso, Dalí and Miró. You will need at least a couple of hours to visit thoroughly and see all the works. The most important of the works that are in this museum is Guernica, painted by Pablo Picasso.
Museo de Thyssen-Bornemisza
The museum is part of a private collection bought by the state from the Thyssen-Bornemisza family. It houses paintings by Van Eyck, Van Gogh, Caravaggio and Edvard Munch, among others.
Madrid, places of interest
Mercado de San Miguel
The town square-Mercado de San Miguel-is the heart of Madrid. Many food lovers meet there, due to the number of good restaurants. The market is covered and is also characterised by stalls and iron architecture. The stalls allow you to taste many Spanish dishes such as Iberian ham, Manchego cheeses or excellent seafood. Not to be missed is enjoying some of Spain’s best wine.
Templo de Debod
Crossing the Sabatini Gardens you will reach the Temple of Debod, a true relic in the middle of the city. The temple is a gift from Egypt to Spain for their cooperation in rebuilding the Nubian temples. After two years of reconstruction, they decided to place the temple in the Parque de la Montaña, surrounded by gardens. Don’t expect the temple to be as well-preserved as those in Egypt (some fragments were lost in transit). Still, it is worth a visit, especially at sunset, where the colours of the sky give it a mysterious charm.
Plaza de la Villa
The square is one of the places where the medieval character has been preserved. In the area there are several more subordinate buildings such as Casa y Torre de Lujanes and Casa de la Villa. Other interesting places worth seeing in the area are Plaza de Santa Cruz, Calle del Espejo and Plaza de San Ginés.
Círculo de Bellas Artes
One of the best viewpoints in Madrid is the terrace of the Círculo de Bellas Artes , which is located at the end of the Gran Vía. In 1880, the terrace was made by several artists on the roof of the building so that people could spend time looking at the magnificent view of the whole of Madrid.
Barrio de las Letras
The Barrio de las Letras is the literary heart of the city of Madrid and the place where great writers such as Cervantes, Quevedo and Lope de Vega lived during Spain’s Golden Age. The route through the district should start in its edgy centre, Plaza de Santa Ana, and from there pass through pedestrianised streets such as Huertas, Cervantes or Lope de Vega, and stop at the most traditional tavernas. Other places of interest in the area include the Monastery of Trinitarias Descalzas de San Ildefonso, where Cervantes was buried.
Plaza de Toros de las Ventas
With a capacity of exactly 23,798 people, the Las Ventas bullfighting arena is the largest of its kind in Spain and the third largest in the world. Its building has been declared a ‘cultural asset with the category of historical-artistic monument’. It is undoubtedly a shrine for all bullfighting fans.
Exotic garden at Atocha train station
If you are planning to travel by train to Madrid or intend to use the AVE, you have the opportunity to visit Atocha station, which is the first railway station Madrid had and the first station to be built in Spain. Even if you are not planning to travel by train, it is worth a trip to Atocha station to visit its impressive exotic garden with large palm trees and other plants.
The old Chamberí metro station
Andén Cero is home to several suburban museums that showcase the history of the Madrid metro. One of them is It is preserved as it was in its heyday. Visiting it will make you feel as if you are travelling into the past.
The panoramic terrace at the RIU Hotel
The 360 Riu Plaza España Terrace, is one of the most famous viewing terraces in Madrid. A glass vantage point suitable only for the brave, it offers panoramic views of the Casa de Campo, the Royal Palace and the Temple of Debod. No booking is necessary to enter the 26th floor of the Hotel Riu. The price to enter the rooftop is €5 per person before 18:00 and if you decide to go up later, the price is €10. If you decide to take advantage of the SkyBar offer, €5 will be deducted from your bill.
San Antonio de los Alemanes
San Antonio de los Alemanes is another of the city’s most unknown gems. A place that often goes unnoticed by visitors, but which is located in a unique church in Madrid. Unique because of its ellipsoidal plan completely covered with frescoes. It is worth taking some time to look at all the details of the decoration.
Where to eat well and cheaply in Madrid?
This is more of a bar than a restaurant. It is located right in the centre of Madrid in Plaza Mayor. It is famous for its sensational sandwiches and calamari. It is worth trying at least once. It is already an iconic establishment in the city.
Museo del Jamón
A chain of restaurant-bars where you can try not only Spanish long-matured hams or cheeses, drink Spanish beer or wine, but also sample typical Spanish tapas dishes.
Taberna de la Daniela, Cocido madrileño
If you want to try a typical dish originating from Madrid, the so-called cocido madrileño, then these restaurants are a must. The cost per person is around €30, but well worth it. Unfortunately the establishments are quite crowded, so it’s worth booking a table in advance.
A Madrid classic. Not much more can be said, that hasn’t been said, about this restaurant where monarchs, presidents from all over the world, artists, athletes and even astronauts have met. The restaurant was reportedly offered a Michelin star, but the owner always turned it down, claiming that the real stars sit at the tables. The restaurant’s speciality is fried eggs. The restaurant is not classed as cheap.
I recommend this establishment to you because of one of the bar’s iconic dishes – cod and croquettes. Anyone who likes fish should definitely have a look here!
Sidrería El Tigre
This is a classic when it comes to tapas bars in Madrid. Here you can try everything from croquettes to patatas bravas and all sorts of tapas sandwiches. The restaurant looks like a typical Spanish bar, which instead of encouraging you to enter it repels you, but it is always full of customers.
Chocolatería San Ginés
Finally, something for the sweet tooth. If you love churros with hot chocolate then this is the place for you! A restaurant with a tradition that celebrities have visited and continue to visit. You order at the bar and the food will be served to your table.
Interesting facts about Madrid
– Madrid is the third largest capital city in Europe in terms of population, with 6.3 million inhabitants. It is only surpassed by London and Berlin.
– The city of Madrid boasts the title of Europe’s sunniest capital. It is trailed by Lisbon and Athens, but Madrid has 250 days of sunshine a year.
– It is difficult to find a street in Madrid that does not have a single tree. The proportion of green areas per inhabitant is 70 m2. I dedicate this curiosity to all Polish local politicians who aim to concretise cities in their modern urbanisation plans.
– Calle de Alcalá is the longest street in the city (it is about 10 km long) and the shortest street is Calle Rompelanzas (only 20 metres).
– Madrid is home to the oldest restaurant in the world! The “Sobrino de Botín” restaurant was founded in 1725 and still offers typical Madrid dishes.
– The Tirso de Molina metro station contains the remains of monks who once lived in the monastery just there. When they died, they were buried in the cemetery left under the metro. They say that at midnight the voices of the monks can be heard. Anyone willing to check it out?
– Madrid has a fountain dedicated to Lucifer. One of six sculptures in honour of the devil found in the world, it is located in Retiro Park. Sculpted in 1878 by Ricardo Belives, the statue is exactly 666 metres above sea level.
– The inhabitants of Madrid are called cats – gato in Spanish. 1083 was the date when the Christian army had a plan to capture the citadel of Magerit. This citadel was surrounded by a 12-metre high wall.One of the Christian soldiers got ahead of the rest and began to climb using a dagger that he drove into the wall. Already at the top, he swapped the Arab flag for a Christian flag and began to capture the city. After this show of dexterity, they began to call the soldier and his kin ‘the cat’. He even changed his name and it is said that those called ‘Gato’ are his descendants.
– Madrid’s metro network is the seventh longest in the world and the third longest in Europe. It has a total of 326 stations.
– The statue of Philip IV located in the centre of the Plaza de Oriente was designed by Galileo Galilei.