Madrid, the sunny capital of Spain, has the right blend of heritage and modernity to cater to diverse tastes. You could walk through the busy streets, party through the night, splurge at the world-class shopping destinations, visit exquisite art museums, or simply relax in a lush green park. Needless to say, there's lots of things to do!
Just like the evergreen Ireland, most of Madrid’s attractions are available all year round. However, the temperatures during the fall are considered particularly comfortable for those coming from colder countries. Since it is a predominantly warm city with the sun out most of the time, do come prepared with airy clothes, shades, and hats.
Now let’s discuss a few activities that Madrid is best known for. This will help you plan your trip efficiently.
Important Places To See In Madrid
Palacio Real or Royal Palace of Madrid
Don’t miss your chance to visit one of the largest palaces of Europe, spread over one million square feet in floor space and boasting of 3000 rooms! Having housed Spanish royalty from the mid-1700s to the 1900s, it overflows with grandeur and beauty.
The Throne Room is quite the sight, adorned with magnificent chandeliers, luxurious velvet floors, and walls and ceilings painted by Tiepolo. The main staircase, the armory room, and the royal pharmacy are popular attractions. For those who prefer the outdoors, the beautiful Sabatini gardens on the palace grounds are perfect for a stroll.
If you are really looking forward to the palace tour, you should know that it is infamous for long queues. You could try reaching early or plan ahead so that you can get the special access pass that allows you to skip waiting in lines.
Golden Triangle of Art in Madrid
The rich art history of Spain needs no separate introduction. And there’s no better way to immerse yourself in a place’s culture and heritage than by visiting its museums. Your Madrid trip must include a thorough exploration of the three museums making up the ‘Golden Triangle of Art’:
One of the most popular art museums in the world, Prado presents a stunning display of culturally-significant masterpieces by celebrated renaissance and baroque artists. Keep an eye out for the paintings by the Spanish Romantic artist Goya, Caravaggio’s ‘David with Head of Goliath’, and Bosch’s ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’.
This will be the highlight of your trip if you are into modern art. Fill your soul to its brim, looking at the famous works of Picasso and Dali. Picasso’s Guernica is one of the major attractions here, and you simply cannot afford to miss the chance to see it.
This museum focuses more on the artwork from the English and German schools, best represented by the works of Albrecht Dürer, Hans Holbein, and Hans Baldung Grien. You will also find works by artists following other styles, some of the famous names being Tintoretto, Veronese, Rembrandt, van Dyck, Monet, Renoir, and Degas.
National Archaeological Museum
Another important museum with priceless archaeological artefacts from all over Spain on display, most of them at least 2,500 years old. The Treasure of Guarrazar and The Lady of Elche are two of the most famous exhibits at the National Archaeological Museum.
If you have walked for a long time, this is the perfect place to visit. It’s located in the heart of Madrid and features the famous statue of Philip III riding on horseback. It is dotted with cafes and bars where you can relax, observe the bustling square, and enjoy robust street performances. However, the place is really popular among tourists, and it might be slightly pricey.
Plaza de Cibeles
This plaza ranks high in popularity. At the centre stands a statue of the Roman goddess Cybele, the mother goddess of fertility and protection. Whenever the Real Madrid team wins a title, a parade is held leading up to this plaza, where a player ceremoniously ties the flag to the statue of Cybele. The place is stunning during the daytime, but the night view is especially spectacular because of the lighting that accentuates the intricate architecture.
El Retiro Park
The former residence of Felipe IV, the El Retiro Park takes up over 300 acres. Make the most of its gardens, playgrounds, cafes, and lakes. If you worry that the cafes might be too expensive, you can carry your own food. Don’t forget to take a boat ride to the Crystal Palace and attend the art exhibition. You can also check out the Rose Garden and catch a puppet show at Teatro de Titeres.
Casa de Campo
The largest public park in Madrid, Casa de Campo has almost seven square miles of natural space. It used to serve as the royal family’s hunting grounds. You will find several peaceful spots to relax or even have a picnic. There are many attractions located within the park, such as an amusement park, an outdoor pool, and also the Zoo Aquarium de Madrid. If you are feeling the adrenaline, you could go boating or kayaking, or even ride the cable car.
Gateway of the Sun
Gateway of the Sun or Puerta del Sol marks the true centre of Madrid, and it is the best place to get a taste of the city’s vibrant nightlife. It is decorated with fountains and frequented by street performers. It is always busy with people heading towards Sol’s famous bars to party. Save this for a day when you are rather high on energy and don’t mind letting off some steam!
Bernabéu Stadium and Museum: Home of Real Madrid
The famous Bernabéu Stadium where legends were made! Take a tour of the vast stadium that’s almost a shrine to football fanatics. Be careful about the tour timings, though; they usually vary depending on the team’s schedule. Oh, don’t forget to put on your most comfortable pair of shoes!
Temple of Debod
This is going to be slightly different from the other places on the list. The Temple of Debod is an Egyptian temple dating back to the 2nd Century BC. In the 20th Century, the Egyptian government gifted this temple to the city of Madrid, and there it was reconstructed true to its original appearance. You can gain an appreciation of the motifs and history through videos and other audio-visual content projected on the walls.
Best activities in Madrid for foodies
They say that you have to experience a place through the eyes as well as the taste buds. This is especially true in the case of Madrid. You can sign up for wine and tapas tours to explore diverse local delicacies.
There are also chocolate tours that are more popular in the colder months, when nothing can beat a rich cup of hot chocolate and some fresh churros on the side. During the warmer months, you will notice how bars expand onto the pavements to make space for a huge wave of customers stopping for a chilled drink. Bar terraces also have a charm of their own and offer excellent views of the city while you sip on a drink of your choice.
Mercado de San Miguel is a name that cannot be missed when it comes to food. It’s a beautiful market built out of cast iron and glass where you can stop to purchase some wine, tapas, beverages, or even fresh produce. It’s definitely worth a visit.
The Madrid Shopping Culture
You can’t skip shopping when you are in Madrid! Be it high-end stores or quirky marketplaces, Madrid has something for everyone. Barrio de Salamanca, Gran Via, and El Rastro Market are some of the most popular shopping destinations that you could check out. You could also sign up for the Las Rozas Shopping Tour, which will lead you through boutiques selling branded clothes with heavy discounts.
Unforgettable Madrid Experiences
If visiting the Golden Triangle of Art got you in the mood for more, hop by Matadero Madrid to see the creativity of artists using the vast space to install or perform their art. You might also want to visit one of Madrid’s famous tablaos to watch professional dancers perform the Flamenco as you sit at a table enjoying a candle-lit dinner.
The hop on hop off bus is a convenient and fun way to go around the city at your own will and pace. A night walking tour is also recommended to truly enjoy the nightlife that Madrid is known for. Hot air balloon rides, Segway tours, and Vespa tours are a few other ways to have fun in this lively Spanish city.
Ready to start planning your trip to Madrid?
While a place like Madrid is best explored over several days and preferably with an exhaustive itinerary, 3-day weekend getaways can be exactly as thrilling.
All you need to do is sit down with your travel buddies and shortlist the places that suit the interests of all members. Once you are done with that, just make sure you stick to the schedule. Does it sound difficult? It’s really not! Just use Pilot’s social trip planner!