We stopped for a few days in Madrid on our 10-day trip through northern Spain. The weather at the end of March was perfect: warm sunny days and cooler nights. We had a lot of fun exploring central Madrid, meandering through the beautiful parks, and enjoying loads of tapas, jamón, Spanish wine, and fresh churros. The city is very walkable, so we recommend staying somewhere central so you can easily get around! Some of the highlights from Madrid were the Royal Palace of Madrid, the Mercado de San Miguel, and happening upon a Sunday flea market in Plaza Mayor. You can read more about our 10-day trip (and get a copy of our itinerary) here.
Top Things to do in Madrid
Catedral de la Almudena
The Catedral de la Almudena is a Baroque style cathedral with beautifully ornate chapels and a colorful geometric ceiling. The cathedral was completed in and consecrated by Pope John Paul II in 1993.
Tips: On your way to or from the cathedral, stop at the El Jardín del Príncipe de Anglona in the Barrio de la Latina.
Palacio Real de Madrid
Located adjacent to Catedral de la Almudena, and offering equally unobstructed views of the city, the Palacio Real de Madrid is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family and dates back to the 18th century.
Tips: You can purchase tickets in advance on the official website here and avoid any queues.
Jardines de Sabatini
The Jardines de Sabatini are the gardens of the Royal Palace of Madrid comprised of fountains, statues, and terraced landscaping. The views of the Royal Palace from the gardens are stunning and worth a photo op.
Tips: Check out the Terraza de Sabatini for drinks overlooking the Sabatini Gardens.
Templo de Debod
Located about 10 minutes walk from the Royal Palace of Madrid, there is an ancient Egyptian temple called Temple of Debod. The temple, dating back to 200 BC, was dismantled and rebuilt in Madrid in the early 1970’s. Egypt donated it to Spain in 1968 as a sign of gratitude for Spain’s help in saving two of Egypt’s Abu Simbel temples.
Tips: There are a limited number of visitors allowed to visit the temple at any one time, so it is likely there will be a line throughout the day (especially on weekends).
Mirador de la Montaña de Príncipe Pío
Surrounding the Templo de Debod is a lovely park with a lookout called Mirador de la Montaña de Príncipe Pío with amazing views of Madrid and the surrounding area. This lookout is a local favorite to watch the sunset, so make sure to arrive early on nice nights.
Puerta de Alcalá
The Puerta de Alcalá is a 5-arched triumphal monument located near the Parque del Buen Retiro. The monument was completed in 1778 as a gate in the city wall where the road was to the city of Alcalá was to pass.
Tips: Try the rooftop bar at Círculo de Bellas Artes for afternoon drinks. There is a 4€ entrance fee, but most say it is worth it for the ambiance.
Parque del Buen Retiro (El Retiro Park)
Parque del Buen Retiro means “Park of the Pleasant Retreat”, which is a perfect way to describe this expansive 350 acre park. The park is full of green space, fountains, statues, a boating pond, botanical gardens, and the Palacio de Cristal.
Tips: On a nice day, rent boats at the pond (Estanque grande del Retiro).
Palacio de Cristal
Located in the Parque del Buen Retiro, Palacio de Cristal is a conservatory turned art venue for various exhibitions. It is situated on a lake giving it a very picturesque setting. It looks very similar to London’s Crystal Palace.
Plaza Mayor is Madrid’s vibrant main square, with various restaurants and shops in the uniform buildings lining the expansive open space. Plaza Mayor dates back to 1561, but was reconstructed several times after multiple fires. There is a statue of King Philip III in the center and nine gates to enter or exit the plaza from.
Tips: We stumbled upon a neat flea market on a Sunday in the plaza, where various locals were selling old coins, stamps, maps and other trinquets. We also recommend grabbing a fresh jamón bocadillo sandwich at Bartolomé gourmet right outside one of the Plaza Mayor gates.
Puerta del Sol
Puerta del Sol is another lively plaza in central Madrid, only a few minutes walk from Plaza Mayor. It is the intersection of various shopping streets, including Calle del Arenal and Calle Mayor.
Tips: La Mallorquina is a pastry shop located at Puerta del Sol, where you can enjoy pastries and sweets. There is a small coffee bar area downstairs or seating upstairs.
Mercado Antón Martin
Mercado Antón Martin is an indoor market selling fresh food and prepared tapas. You can find produce, meat, seafood, flowers, an olive bar, a beer tasting counter, and much more.
Tips: Walk through the nearby neighborhood called Cortes, where we admired the colorful architecture and narrow streets.
Tribunal is a very lively and happening area, with various shopping streets and restaurants. This is a great area to walk around and see how locals like to enjoy their weekends. You will probably stumble upon small plazas like Plaza de San Ildefonso or Plaza Juan Pujol.
Tips: Stop into the butcher shop called Tienda Degustación R. García for a made-to-order jamón y queso bocadillo (ham and cheese sandwich) on a warm baguette.
Mercado de San Ildefonso
Located in Madrid’s Tribunal area, Mercado de San Ildefonso is a tri-level international food market with indoor and outdoor seating and a few cocktail bars. A fun stop for lunch or an afternoon tapas snack.
Museo Nacional del Prado
Museo Nacional del Prado is a famous Spanish art museum in the heart of Madrid. It houses various collections of European art ranging from the 12th to 20th century, including extensive works by Francisco Goya.
Tips: Next to Museo Nacional del Prado is the botanical garden called Real Jardín Botánico. We recommend visiting when the flowers are in bloom. Entry tickets are around 4€.
Cuesta de Moyano
Just south of the Museo Nacional del Prado and Real Jardín Botánico, is the Cuesta de Moyano where various vendors sell secondhand books and maps from wooden shops on the pedestrian-only street called Calle Claudio Moyano.
Food and Drink in Madrid
Mercado de San Miguel
Mercado de San Miguel is a covered food market located a stone’s throw from Plaza Mayor. In this beautiful market, you can find everything from paella to cheese and meat boards to pinchos to ice cream. A must-do in Madrid!
Chocolatería San Ginés
Chocolatería San Ginés is famous for its fresh churros with a side of warm chocolate sauce. This establishment opened in 1894 and is now open 24 hours; due to its popularity, you may encounter crowds during peak hours on the weekends.
Calle de la Cava Baja
In the Barrio de La Latina, this narrow street is lined with restaurants and bar, a great area to spend a night on a tapas bar crawl.
On Calle de la Cava Baja, Esteban is a traditional, family-run Spanish restaurant that specializes in grilled meats and vegetables. The atmosphere is warm and cozy and the service is great.
Sobrino de Botín
Known as the world’s oldest continuously operating restaurant, Sobrino de Botín was opened in 1725 and is famous for its cochinillo asado (roast suckling pig) dish. The dish is mentioned in Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises, and some claim he also dined here.
Other Places to Eat in Madrid
- La Sanabresa
- Bodega de la Ardosa
- Casa Revuelta
- Restaurant Clos
- Casa Dani
- La Terraza del Casino
Flamenco in Madrid
Some of Madrid’s best places to see a Flamenco show (you can dine at most, by purchasing a dinner+show ticket). Make sure to get tickets in advance: