Essential Things to See & Do in Madrid

Madrid offers such a rich diversity of attractions and activities that there is no end to the ways you could enjoy yourself on a visit to this sparkling city. But there are a few signature experiences that every visitor should make a point of including in their trip to Madrid, to really see the heart of the city and explore Spanish culture. Here are the Madrid experiences you don’t want to miss:

Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor is a key historic site in the old center of Madrid. For centuries, it was a public square and meeting place, at the intersection of private and civic life. Today, this incredible square is still one of Madrid’s most popular meeting and social spaces, host to cafes, bars, markets, and surrounded by the unique architecture and design that make Madrid special. Every visitor should visit Plaza Mayor at least once, any time of year, and have a drink or a cup of coffee, browse the shops, and enjoy this  perspective of Madrid.

Prado Museum

The Prado Museum is one of the best and biggest art museums in the world, with a collection of Spanish and Western art that goes back centuries. It houses some of the most famous and important works of European art ever created. It’s an unmissable part of a visit to Madrid, because of its importance in the history of the city, the expanse of the art collection, and the spectacular setting, architecture, and grounds of the museum. Even better, admission is free in the evenings every day, as the museum furthers its mission to engage and educate everyone about art and history.

Buen Retiro Park

The “Park of the Pleasant Retreat” is one of Madrid’s largest parks, and the most important socially and culturally. Once the private grounds of the Spanish Monarchy, it became a public park in the late 19th century, and offers an oasis of tranquility just off the city center. The park contains many gardens, sculptures, monuments, and landscapes, and is host to a variety of activities. Within the park, the diverse botanical gardens house special collections, including a 400 year old cypress believed to be the oldest tree in Madrid. Former royal buildings now house art exhibitions and exotic plants, and people rent boats to row on the beautiful artificial lake. While there are a number of green spaces in Madrid, Retiro Park is one of the most beautiful, most historic, and offers a wealth of things to do and see.

Gran Via

The Gran Via is known as the “Broadway” of Spain, and this centrally-located broad boulevard bustles day and night. During the day, it’s one of the city’s premiere shopping destinations, lined with boutiques, stores, and cafes where people can rest and consider their purchases. In the evenings. the theaters and hotels come alive, and at night partygoers visit the many popular nightclubs and dance until dawn. Gran Via is a showplace of late 19th and early 20th century architecture, with a spectacular assortment of architectural styles and notable buildings that make it worth a stroll even if you aren’t in the mood to browse. For more insight into the history of the architecture and design of Gran Via, consider taking a walking tour. Or just let your eyes guide you.

Puerta del Sol

Puerta del Sol is one of the busiest and best known squares in Madrid. It is the center from which Madrid’s streets radiate outward, and therefore one of the most important meeting places, transit hubs, and historic sites in the city. In Google maps, the pin for Madrid is in Puerta del Sol, and the square contains a plaque designating the symbolic center of Spain. Facing the square are a number of important buildings in Madrid’s public and cultural life, including government offices and historic buildings, including the stairs to the Church of Saint Phillip. Within the square, the statue of the bear and strawberry tree represents the heraldic symbol of Madrid, and it contains other landmarks and statues. Beneath the square is a primary Madrid transit hub, connecting the Atocha and Chamartin railway stations. Puerta del Sol is the literal and symbolic center of Spain and of Madrid, a meeting place and transport hub, a place for commerce and recreation, the site of civic demonstrations and public speeches, and bustles day and night.

Mercado de San Miguel

The historic wrought-iron-and-glass Mercado de San Miguel, just off Plaza Mayor, has become one of the liveliest culinary spots in the city since it reopened in 2009 after a nearly six-year restoration. Prices are higher than Madrid’s more traditional markets, but neither the atmosphere nor the food at the market’s 33 stalls disappoints.

Bull fights

Madrid’s monumental bullring Plaza de Toros de las Ventas is one of the world’s most  important and prestigious bullring. It is the dream of any bullfighter to fight in this  arena, it attracts the best bullfighters and the best bulls and the most demanding crowd. The season runs typically from March-October, with the most important fair of the bullfighting season the Feria de San Isidro taking place for over a month during May June with a bullfight almost every day.


Flamenco has 3 main elements: dancing, singing and instrumental. Madrid is home to some of the best flamenco clubs in Spain—and the world—where shows take place most nights and where you can have a meal or a drink while enjoying this unique experience. In the flamenco clubs, there are usually dancers accompanied by guitarists, typical percussion instruments, hand claps and singers. Flamenco’s biggest stars regularly perform in the capital’s theaters to packed audiences, flamenco is enjoyed with passion in Spain and it is considered a high art form, if you go to a show you will immediately understand why, even if you have never heard or seen flamenco before you are sure to be swept away. It is an experience you will never forget.

Real Madrid game

Real Madrid is the one of the most famous soccer clubs in the world. In 2000, soccer’s international governing body, FIFA, selected Real Madrid the best football team of the 20th century. Real Madrid has won a record of ten European championships, two European Super Cups, seven Spanish Super Cups, thirty-two National Leagues, nineteen King’s Cup and three world championships among other trophies.

No visit to Madrid could be complete without at least taking some time at these historic sites and landmarks, many of them not only important to Spain and to Madrid, but important to Europe and the world at large. Make the most out of your time in this incredible city by including these destinations.

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