The stunning capital of Spain, Madrid is a city with plenty to do! If you’re short on time or just wanting to make sure you catch all the essentials, this must do in Madrid guide is perfect for you. I had an amazing time in Madrid (despite the unseasonably crappy weather I had!), and with this guide you will too. Here are 12 essential things you must do in Madrid!
1. Explore the Magic of Palacio Real
The Palacio Real (or Royal Palace) was my very first stop in Madrid, and I very quickly fell in love with the place! The official residence of the Spanish Royal Family, the Palace is luxurious and beautifully decorated. The rooms can be mind-bogglingly beautiful, and as you wander through them your eyes will be darting everywhere as you take in all the magic. I loved visiting the Palacio Real so much, hence it’s my #1 must do in Madrid!
2. Wander Around the Prado Museum
The main national art museum of Spain, the Prado Museum is considered to have one of the best collections of fine art in the world. Works by Goya, Bosch, Greco, Titian and Velazquez feature extensively in the collection, which has works dating back to the 12th century. The museum is massive, so you could easily spend an entire day here!
3. Eat & Drink at Mercado de San Miguel
Mercado de San Miguel is a relatively small indoor market with delicious food & drinks on offer, and is absolutely a must do in Madrid. More upmarket than somewhere like Mercado de la Boqueria in Barcelona, it is often slightly more expensive as well. There’s plenty of classic Spanish cuisine on offer, including paella and sangria. The shared seating spaces inside also make a great place to interact with other travellers!
4. Stuff Yourself Silly at Chocolateria San Gines
Chocolateria San Gines is a Madrid institution that everyone should experience at least once! Located a short walk from Plaza Mayor, and open 24 hours, stop in for the classic churros & chocolate. Surprisingly inexpensive for a popular foody tourist attraction, it makes a great breakfast stop before heading off to explore more Madrid.
5. People Watch at Plaza Mayor
Once used for the executions of heretics sentenced to death during the Spanish Inquisition, the Plaza Mayor is now a bustling part of Madrid surrounded by shops and cafes. The equestrian statue of King Phillip III stands in the centre of the Plaza. The Plaza makes a great place to stop and people watch, or just look at all the surrounding buildings.
6. Marvel at the Works of Museo Reina Sofia
Another feature of Madrid’s trifecta of art museums, the Reina Sofia is a short walk from the Prado Museum and equally worth a visit. Exclusively featuring 20th century art, its commonly featured artists include Dali and Picasso. The most famous work in the collection is Picasso’s iconic Guernica, currently shown in the “Pity and Terror” exhibition on the 2nd floor (until September 2017).
7. Relax in El Retiro Park
One of the largest parks in Madrid, El Retiro is a great place to soak up the sunshine or relax after a long day of exploring. Bring a book, bring a picnic and just chill out for a while.
8. Find the Palacio Cristal
While you’re in El Retiro Park, make sure you wander through to the Crystal Palace, modelled after the one that used to stand in London. A glass pavilion built at the end of the 19th century, it is by far El Retiro’s most stunning monument. Once used as a greenhouse, it is now home to art exhibits.
9. Catch the Sunset at the Temple of Debod
An Egyptian temple in the middle of Spain? Yep. Located in Parque del Oeste, you can find a genuine Egyptian temple from 200 BC, which was donated to Spain as a sign of gratitude in 1968. The Temple of Debod makes a fantastic place to watch the sunset, though the best photos usually come shortly after the sun has gone down.
10. Watch a Flamenco Show
While flamenco’s true home is in Andalusia, you can find excellent flamenco shows in Madrid. Simply ask the concierge (or any locals you know!) where the best performances can be found, grab yourself some tickets and enjoy the show!
11. Gaze at the Ceilings of the Catedral de la Almudena
Next door to the Palacio Real you find the Almudena Cathedral, which was built from 1883. While both the exterior architecture and the interior nave are beautiful, the real highlight is the colourful ceilings. All throughout the Cathedral, you’ll find yourself constantly looking up at the stunning patterns that decorate the interior.
12. Enjoy the Fountain at the Plaza de Cibeles
Another of Madrid’s main squares, the Plaza de Cibeles is home to several monuments. The most popular is the Palacio de Cibeles, and the stunning fountain that sits in front of it.
Do you know anywhere else that’s a must do in Madrid? Share in the comments below!