Madrid is a city full of culture, action and the occasional relaxing moment. It always seems a little more formal than Barcelona but that’s probably fitting for a capital city, and it’s still one of the best European cities to visit. Art-lovers certainly shouldn’t miss Madrid but that’s certainly not the only reason to go there. Here are our tips on ten things to do in Madrid.
Easily the most famous attraction of Madrid, the Museo del Prado is one of the most well-known art galleries in the world and features numerous must-see paintings from Bosch, Brueghel, Rubens, Goya, and, well, the list goes on! When you’ve had enough of the art inside the Paseo del Prado is a leafy pedestrian walkway nearby.
Goya at the Prado by MamboZ
One of Europe’s largest palaces, the Palacio Real (Royal Palace) is no longer home to the actual Spanish royal family but that means you can tour throughout it – except when a special ceremony is held, since the royals do actually use their palace from time to time.
Palacio Real by alreza
Bullfighting at Las Ventas
I’ve heard you shouldn’t judge bullfighting until you’ve seen it. You still might hate it then, but at least you’ll be informed! The Las Ventas Bull Ring is one of the most popular bullfighting spots of all, so you if you’re going to do it, you might as well watch it here.
Bullfighting at Las Ventas by Jorge-11
Reina Sofia Art Centre
This is the modern art centre of Madrid and is home to a particularly large collection of Picasso’s works. You can also see paintings from Dali, Kandinsky, Miro, Yves Klein and Francis Bacon, to name but a few.
Reina Sofia museum by Shadowgate
The main square of Madrid may have seen bullfights in the past, and executions during the Spanish Inquisition, but now it’s still busy but more peaceful. The impressive Casa de la Panaderia municipal building is the major construction on the square.
Plaza Mayor Madrid by librarygroover
National Archaelogical Museum
Home to exhibits from eras ranging from prehistoric times through to Celtic, Iberian, Greek and Roman, the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid is a particularly interesting one, even to those not normally drawn to “old” history. Worth a look.
Mosaic in the National Archaeological Museum by Zaqarbal
Puerta del Sol
Another main square of Madrid, the Puerta del Sol is home to two important icons: the “Kilometer Zero” plaque where the national highways officially begin, and the famous bear statue, the symbol of Madrid. Many would say it’s the heart of Madrid and you can’t say you’ve seen the city until you’ve strolled through Puerta del Sol.
Puerta del Sol by multisanti
Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum of Art
Along with the Prado and the Reina Sofia, the Thyssen-Bornemisza galleries form what some call a “golden triangle” of art museums in Madrid, as they are all very close by each other. Its difficult name comes from a wealthy man who had collected a large number of paintings, and the collection today includes Renoir, Van Gogh, Monet and Picasso.
Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum by voces
Museo de America
Given Spain’s extensive history in South America, this museum is important as well as enjoyable, and contains artifacts from all over the Americas, ranging from pre-colonial times to the modern day. The only catch is that most of the exhibits are Spanish-only so take your phrase book or a Spanish-speaking friend.
Figurine from Museo de America by Zaqarbal
Close to the Prado, this perfectly-named park is a place to stroll and relax without leaving the centre of Madrid. El Retiro covers 350 acres and includes a lake, fountains, old buildings and, sadly, a memorial to the victims of the 2004 terrorist attacks in Madrid.
El Retiro park by jandiano
More Madrid Tips
Rachel suggested that buying a Madrid Card could save you time and money – it gets you into a number of museums and provides some transport as well. Alternatively, as Andy suggests, you could check for free opening times at the museums – some have free days, or are free in the evenings.
If you would like to escape the city, why not look into day tours from Madrid.
Find Great Deals on Madrid Hotels
If you’re planning a trip to the Spanish capital, find the best deals on Madrid hotels on the HotelsCombined price comparison site.
Museums in Madrid
Read our Madrid Museums post.
Guides to More Spanish Cities
We’ve Europe city guides to the following cities in Spain on Europe a la Carte.