Last update: October, 2019.

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10 places to visit in Madrid

Tourist Itinerary in Madrid: where to go and what to see in 1, 2, 3 or 4 days.

Main Square (Plaza Mayor) in Madrid, Spain

Madrid is a city in perpetual motion, characterized by an irrepressible and surprising energy. The inhabitants of the place are hospitable beyond every expectation and the local life style is oriented to entertainment both day and night. Normally, the residents of Madrid go to bed very late at night: they often see friends at lunch and dinner and some of them, at the end of the night life, go straight into the office without going home first.

You can hear many interesting sayings about the Spanish capital such as “Madrid kills me” and “Madrid never sleeps”. It is the largest European megalopolis, where the dancing is engaging, and you will enjoy delicious meals and appetizers. So, what can a tourist do in Madrid? Everyone can find the entertainment that best suits him here: art lovers can visit three major museums (The Prado, Regina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza), while those who do not enjoy museums can spend the holiday in the Chueca district. Madrid is a city of variety! We are going to discover 10 places to visit during a trip to Madrid.

At the bottom of the page you will find the map of the city.

Looking for accommodation in Madrid? Use the convenient search system of booking.com. To save money, compare the prices of more than 50 sites on hotelscombined.com: you will find the lowest price for the room you select.

The Royal Palace in Madrid

1

The Royal Palace of Madrid was built in 1764. It stands on the ruins of the royal family’s former residence, destroyed by a terrible fire on Christmas Eve 1734. This fortress has been the residence of the Spanish royal family since the 16th century.

Royal Palace in Madrid, Spain
Royal Palace in Madrid

The facade of the huge building was built in late Italian Baroque style. The whole monumental complex spreads over an area of 135,000 square meters and has more than 3,000 rooms. These features define it as the largest royal palace in Europe. Inside the palace some enviable collections that have great historical value are conserved (for example, string instruments with the signature of Antonio Stradivari, kept in the chapel, or the ancient ceramic vases and shelves for the conservation of medicinal plants of the Royal pharmacy, among which those prescribed to the Royal family itself). There is also a collection of weapons and armor in the palace that belonged to the royals, starting from the XIII century.

Despite the vastness of the building and its treasure, the current Spanish rulers do not live in these apartments. Their private residence, Zarzuela Palace, is located in the forest of Monte de El Pardo, north of the center of Madrid. The Royal Palace, however, remains the place in which all official ceremonies and important public events take place.

How to get there: Metro lines 5 or 2, “Opera” station.

Plaza Mayor in Madrid

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Imagine that the Plaza Mayor was not the market square until 1580! Prior to that it was the site of executions, popular festivals and bullfighting. Between 1600 and 1800 the area of the square was damaged by three great fires.

Main Square (Plaza Mayor) in Madrid, Spain
Main Square (Plaza Mayor) in Madrid

The current appearance of this elegant square surrounded by three-storey buildings, is the result of the reconstruction of the old Plaza del Arrabal ordered by Philip II of Habsburg, who moved into the royal palace in Madrid in 1561.

The first works were entrusted to Juan de Herrera, then to the architect Gomez de Mora who continued to rebuild the plaza and give it the style we see today with the bars and shops. The huge statue of King Philip III on horseback is located in the center of the square.

Nine streets lead to Plaza Mayor through nine entrances, the most famous of them being the Arco de Cuchillera (literally Arch of the Cutlers) that leads its homonymous street. The Arch owes its name to the knife manufacturers who opened their shops here. In the square there is a large building, La Casa de la Panadería, which has two towers decorated with frescoes.

How to get there: Metro lines 1, 2, 3, 5, to “Puerta del Sol” or lines 2 and 5, to “Opera”.

Puerta del Sol in Madrid

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Puerta del Sol is the central square of Madrid, and is among the most popular attractions of the Spanish capital. One of the oldest buildings, Real Casa de Correos, is found here; its large clocks ring in the New Year with twelve chimes.

Puerta del Sol in Madrid, Spain
Puerta del Sol in Madrid

According to tradition, each chime of the bells brings good luck and success in the New Year. In Puerta del Sol you will find other famous monuments of the capital:

  • “The statue of the bear and the arbutus”, a symbolic meeting place for lovers.
  • The statue of King Carlos III on horseback, made of bronze.
  • The “kilometer zero”, or the place from which the distances of all Spanish roads are calculated. There is a legend that if you express a wish while treading on this point which is located on the sidewalk and marked “0 km.” your wish comes true.

How to get there: Metro lines 1, 2, 3, 5 to “Puerta del Sol”.

Buen Retiro Park in Madrid

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Although the Buen Retiro Park was built in 1640, it was opened to the public only after the revolution, in 1868, when it became the property of the city council. The park was actually created as place of leisure for the monarchy, after Duke Olivares donated 145 hectares of land to King Philip IV just for this purpose.

Buen Retiro Park in Madrid, Spain
Buen Retiro Park in Madrid

The Buen Retiro Theater was built here, where the most famous artists of the “Golden Century” (1500 - 1600) exhibited their work. A beautiful banquet room called “Casón del Buen Retiro” was built for the nobility as a place to hold elegant parties. For outdoor events and performances two large cages were installed in the beautiful parkland: one for the exhibition of several species of exotic birds, the other for use as a stage for showing wild animals.

Throughout its history, Park Buen Retiro has been the subject of various reconstructions and restructuring, and slowly began to welcome even the common people: thanks to King Charles III, the elegantly attired inhabitants of Madrid can promenade here.

Today the symbol of the park is the wonderful Crystal Palace, located on the bank of the artificial pond with fountain. It was built in 1887 to host a huge fair which displayed the fauna and flora of the Philippine Islands. The building was constructed entirely in metal with glass panels. In 1936 the election of the President (won by Manuel Azaña) took place here.

The location: Plaza Mayor.

How to get there: Metro line 2 to “Retiro”.

The Prado Museum in Madrid

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The Prado is one of the most important museums in the world and it is worthwhile dedicating several hours to visit it. The museum was opened in 1819. At the Prado Museum these days, the history of European art over the last five hundred years is displayed, a collection of more than 9000 paintings.

Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain
Prado Museum in Madrid

There are some unique works on its walls:

  • Caravaggio
  • Titian
  • Velazquez
  • Bosch
  • Goya
  • Raffaello and many other famous painters

If you want to visit the museum without dealing with the stress of masses of people and over-crowded rooms, we recommend a visit to the Prado on weekdays when there are less people, or you can buy your ticket first and visit the Museum without queueing up. There is an emergency room in the museum to treat people affected by “Stendhal Syndrome”.

How to get there: Metro line 2 to “Banco de España” station or line 1 to “Atocha” station.

The Queen Sofia Museum in Madrid

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In this Museum there are works of art which date from the beginning of the XX century to today. It was previously a hospital, and was used as such until 1986 when the Queen Sofia art center was opened on this site.

Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, Spain
Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid

Special attention is given in this museum to the Spanish painters such as Salvador Dali, Joan Miró and Picasso. The main exhibit of the museum, its “jewel in the crown”, is the famous “Guernica” painting by Pablo Picasso dated 1937. This painting is very large and occupies virtually all of the first floor. When you have seen “Guernica” we recommend you also take a look at the artist’s other works. There are 16,000 works in the collection of this museum (paintings, photographs, sculptures).

How to get there: Metro line 1 to “Atocha” station.

The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid

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The paintings in this museum were purchased from the private collection of the German steel magnate, Thyssen-Bornemisza, who made his fortune during the Second World War. Baron Hans Thyssen inherited a huge part of his father’s collection, Heinrich, which was later split up among the heirs after his death.

Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid, Spain
Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid

The Baron retrieved many works that had been assigned to his relatives, focusing primarily on the works of German impressionism. He later added paintings from the Renaissance to his collection, which enhanced the earlier abstract works.

The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, which includes works by Van Dyck, Caravaggio, Titian and Claude Monet, has delighted the eyes of tourists since 1992. It is located opposite the Prado Museum and constitutes a logical complement to it.

How to get there: Metro line 1 (Puerta del Sol station) or line 2 (Banco de España station).

The Almudena Cathedral in Madrid

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There is another building near the Royal Palace that has undergone destruction and reconstruction many times. It is the Almudena Cathedral that has an even more unsettled history than the Royal Palace. The vestiges of 500 years of battles are preserved here, talks between the king and the Catholic episcopate of Toledo on economic and political problems.

Almudena Cathedral in Madrid, Spain
Almudena Cathedral in Madrid

In 1624 King Philip IV and his wife Elizabeth of France decided that the Madrid Cathedral was to be built in the same place where there was once the Church of Santa Maria de la Almudena. But the cathedral was built 200 years later than foreseen, due to the political instability and economic problems. The first foundation stone was laid in 1883, but it was only in 1993 that it opened its doors to the public and was consecrated by Pope John Paul II.

Due to the slow construction, the appearance of the cathedral embodies various styles: the romanesque bell tower, neo-gothic interiors, the neoclassic exteriors and the dome in the baroque style. Inside the dome is the statue of Our Lady of Almudena and the Via Crucis, exemplified with 14 scenes in the neo-gothic style. The bronze door of the cathedral is decorated with figures that represent the Catholic monarchy and the 10-meter / 33 ft. high stained-glass window portrays the Virgin of the Lily.

How to get there: subway line 5 or 2, station “Ópera”.

What to eat in Madrid?

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The national cuisine of Madrid has a century-old tradition. Its main peculiarity is the combination of the best dishes of the various Spanish regions. Among the most famous dishes the following stand out:

Local food: Cocido Madrileño in Madrid, Spain
Local food: Cocido Madrileño in Madrid
  • Cocido Madrileño (hot soup composed of various ingredients: potatoes, vegetables, pork and other types of meat, bacon and chickpeas);
  • The famous “tortillas” (potato omelet with oil and salt);
  • Callos Madrileňo style (steamed intestine of beef);
  • Tapas (small appetizers of vegetables, fish and seafood served as an accompaniment to wine or beer).

Flour, eggs, sugar and almonds are the main ingredients of almost all desserts of Madrid:

  • Huesos de Santo (small custard horns of potatoes, almonds and cream);
  • Rosquillas de San Isidro (a kind of fried bombolone with egg white);
  • Churros (sweet fried donuts of donut pastry served with hot chocolate).

Remember that in Madrid you eat later than people do in other European countries: breakfast is at 9 in the morning, lunch from 2 pm to 3 pm and dinner between 9 pm and 10 pm.

Tip: If you want to have a coffee, ask the waiter for an “espresso”. Otherwise they’ll bring you a black drink of an undefined taste and aroma.

Where to sleep in Madrid?

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In Madrid it is very easy to find somewhere to sleep, thanks to the numerous hotels, bed and breakfasts, hostels and boarding houses.

You really can find whatever you want in Madrid: from expensive extra luxurious hotel rooms, to B&Bs where you can feel right at home, thanks to the kindness and hospitality of the owners.

Looking for accommodation in Madrid? Use the convenient search system of booking.com. To save money, compare the prices of more than 50 sites on hotelscombined.com: you will find the lowest price for the room you select.

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