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DESTINATION GUIDES & ITINERARIES / EUROPE

11 Top Attractions and Things to Do in Madrid, Spain

Madrid Palacio de Comunicaciones

As the capital city of Europe’s second-most visited country, there’s no shortage of things to do in Madrid. Unlike Barcelona, which often feels suffocated by tourists, Madrid feels livable while still remaining entertaining. Between its lively atmosphere, delicious foods, and comfortable weather, I’m sure Madrid will win you over.

Buen Retiro Park & the Glass Palace

Buen Retiro Park in Madrid with people in rowboats on lake

Buen Retiro Park (also simply called El Retiro) is one of Madrid’s largest parks. It sits right in the center of the city and is a popular place for locals and tourists alike. El Retiro is the perfect spot in Madrid to workout, relax with friends, or rent a rowboat out on the artificial lake. I highly recommend renting a boat and getting out on the lake, which should set you back €6 on weekdays and €8 on weekends. Also, try to find the gigantic greenhouse in the middle of the park called Palacio de Cristal, or Glass Palace.

Plaza Mayor

Plaza Major and Phillip III statue in Madrid with lots of people

Plaza Mayor, which translates into “Main Square,” is a large public space located in the heart of Madrid. A statue of Philip III, during whose reign the Plaza Mayor was built, stands tall in the center of the square. This plaza is a very lively and popular spot, lined with porticos and cafes on all sides.

Puerta del Sol

Puerta del Sol in Madrid

Puerta del Sol is another famous plaza in Madrid, and it’s just a few blocks away from Plaza Mayor. This bustling plaza is the junction point of many of Madrid’s busiest streets. It holds the Casa de Correos building, whose famous clock ushers in each New Year with twelve chimes at midnight. It’s a Spanish tradition to eat twelve lucky grapes to these twelve chimes!

Palacio Real de Madrid & Gardens

Madrid Royal Palace and gardens

The Palace of Versailles in Paris might be the largest palace complex in Europe due to its gardens, but Madrid’s Royal Palace is actually Europe’s largest palace itself. It’s the Spanish royal family’s official residence, though they don’t actually live there. You can enter the beautiful palace by purchasing tickets for €13, which you can do on the official site. If you can time your visit to be the first Wednesday of the month (except January, August, and September), you can experience the Solemn Changing of the Guard ceremony outside the palace. Otherwise, the normal Changing of the Guard is every Wednesday and Saturday between 11:00am and 2:00pm.

El Oso y el Madroño

Girl standing near El Oso y el Madroño statue in Madrid

This famous statue of The Bear and the Strawberry Tree is a symbol of Madrid. It is located in the Puerta del Sol, but is so iconic that it deserves its own spot on this list of Madrid things to do!


Related Reading: Best Things to Do in Barcelona


Plaza de Cibeles

Palacia de Comunicaciones in Madrid with Spanish flags

The Plaza de Cibeles houses the Fuente de Cibeles and Palacia de Comunicaciones. Since watching the Spanish national football team drive between this iconic fountain and beautiful building during their 2010 victory parade when I was a teenager, this has always been the most emblematic symbol of Madrid to me, personally.

Gran Via

This busy street runs from close to the Plaza de Cibeles all the way to the Plaza de España. It’s name translates to “Great Way,” and it’s home to several shops, restaurants, bars, and more. The most recognizable building on Gran Via is the Edificio Metrópolis, so make sure to keep an eye out for that.

Templo de Debod

Temple of Debod in Madrid

This ancient Egyptian temple, dating back to around 200 BC, was dismantled, brought to Madrid, and rebuilt there. Entry is free, so all you have to do is wait in the line outside the temple before stepping back into ancient Egypt.

Plaza de España

Plaza de España in Madrid

This popular square is one of the largest in all of Spain. It’s got gardens, fountains, and plenty of restaurants nearby. It’s located in between the Madrid Royal Palace and Temple of Debod.

Puerta de Alcalá

Puerta de Alcalá in Madrid's Plaza de la Independencia with girl in front

The Puerta de Alcalá in Plaza de la Independencia stands nearby the entrance to Buen Retiro Park. It’s one of Madrid’s well-known monuments and sits in a circle of pretty landscaping.

Mercado de San Miguel

Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid

Make sure to stop by this indoor food and drink market in the heart of Madrid on an empty stomach! You’ll find lots of local goodies in a bit more elegant of an atmosphere than your typical food market.

Prado Museum

The Prado Museum houses an impressive collection of Spanish paintings. Tickets will set you back €7.50, and you can purchase them in advance from the official site.

What Do You Think?

Any cool things to do in Madrid that I should visit next time? I’m actually planning to move there soon, so let me know in the comments section below!

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Madrid travel plans soon? This Madrid Spain travel guide walks you through the best things to do in Madrid Spain. From Plaza Mayor to Palacio Real, you'll know exactly what to do in Madrid.

10 Comments

  • Farrah
    February 15, 2021 at 9:45 AM

    I’ve never been to Madrid but you’re making me really want to visit! I’d love to try out the food there + check out the museums! <3

    Reply
    • That Travelista
      February 21, 2021 at 3:04 PM

      I hope you love it when you do go!

      Reply
  • Pink Luggage Abroad
    February 11, 2021 at 1:18 PM

    Oh I miss Spain so much. The people, the food – it’s definitely #1 on my list when the pandemic is over.

    Reply
    • That Travelista
      February 21, 2021 at 3:03 PM

      Me too! I definitely need to see more of Spain!

      Reply
  • Sarah Arnstein
    February 11, 2021 at 9:23 AM

    This post makes me miss Europe so much! I can’t wait to go back and explore Spain – thank you for sharing!

    Reply
    • That Travelista
      February 21, 2021 at 3:02 PM

      I miss Europe so much too! 🙁

      Reply
  • kwarren29
    February 10, 2021 at 7:20 PM

    I enjoyed seeing all the plazas I missed when I visited Madrid in your photos. I loved the museums–especially on the free nights. My favorite was Reina Sofia.

    Reply
    • That Travelista
      February 21, 2021 at 3:01 PM

      Ah that’s good to know! I didn’t make it there on my visit, but I am trying to move to Madrid so I’ll have to check it out.

      Reply
  • Daphna
    February 10, 2021 at 3:20 PM

    Your pictures are gorgeous! This is a great list of things to do in Madrid- saving for when we make it to Europe!

    Reply
    • That Travelista
      February 21, 2021 at 3:00 PM

      Aw, thanks so much, Daphna!

      Reply

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