Walk around the Royal Palace
The royal palace, Palacio Real de Madrid, completed in 1755, is the largest royal palace in western Europe. Despite its name, the royal family doesn’t live there anymore, and the palace is now only used for ceremonial occasions. Only parts of the castle are open to the public and you are not allowed to take any pictures of the interior. On the inside, however, you will find plenty of antique furniture, wallpaper and art. Very beautiful and stylish, with lots of gold and crystal. And don’t miss a look at all the magnificent chandeliers. To make the most of the visit, it is best to rent an audio guide, which is available in English. There are also informative signs to show you where you are. The exterior of the castle is also very grand, and you can stroll around the huge park or visit the cathedral nearby.
Experience Spain's most famous dance on a Flamenco evening
For a visit to Madrid, a flamenco evening is a must on the list of activities. This dance is typical of Andalusia, in the south of Spain, but most likely originated from the Roma, or Gitanos as they are called in Spain. The flamenco is a stunning combination of dance, guitar and handclapping. Women twirl their colorful skirts and shawls. Many times, they also have castanets in their hands. There are several places to visit in Madrid, including the Taberna Flamenca El Cortijo. Here you will first be served a good dinner, and then you can enjoy the show. It takes commitment and passion to be able to dance flamenco and in Madrid you have the chance to see it performed as it should be.
Visit the genuine Egyptian temple of Templo de Debod
Templo de Debod is an ancient Egyptian temple originally built in Aswan in the time before the birth of Christ. When constructing the Aswan Dam in the 1960s, many ancient buildings and monuments were threatened. So, UNESCO asked for help from the rest of the world to save these treasures, and Spain helped save the temples of Abu Simbel. As a sign of gratitude, the Debod temple was later moved to Madrid, near the Royal Palace. It was opened to the public in 1972. This temple is one of the few Egyptian monuments that one can see outside Egypt, and the only of its kind in Spain. Many visitors arrive at the temple in the late afternoon and wait until the sun begins to set to see how the red-colored light illuminates the historic building in a way that can only be described as magical. Being able to see a carefully rebuilt Egyptian temple on European soil is completely unique experience and spending a few hours at Templo de Debod especially at dusk will give you a sense of its millennial history. Don't forget to bring the camera!
Enjoy a picnic in the greenery of Parque del Buen Retiro
Parque del Buen Retiro, or simply El Retiro, in the heart of Madrid is the city's largest park with an area of 130 hectares. The park began as a royal hunting park in the early 17th century. Ever since the time of Queen Isabella II in the late 19th century, the park has been open to the public and it has become a favorite for Madrid residents and visitors alike who are looking for a moment of relaxation among the trees and gardens. The park is a mix of different styles and here you will find gardens in French style but also areas that are lusher and wilder. There are plenty of activities and besides strolling around you can rent a rowing boat for a romantic tour on the pond or relax with a picnic on the green fields. There are also several cozy cafes and restaurants to choose from.
Shop at Gran Via
Gran Via is Madrid's largest and most exclusive shopping street. Here you will find all the major brands, all in a row. But there are also many nightclubs, cinemas and hotels. This is the street that never sleeps, and a given starting point for anyone who wants to experience Madrid's nightlife. However, several of the cinemas and theatres have been converted to shopping centers; here you can find most of everything you need and more. The sidewalks are wide, so it is pleasant to walk along the street even though there can be a lot of people. The street itself is over 100 years old and many of the buildings have very beautiful architecture. Gran Via No. 28 is the old headquarters of the Spanish telecom agency Telefónica. The Telefónica building, when it was built in 1929, was one of Europe's first skyscrapers and, with its 88 meters was also, for a long time, Madrid's tallest building.
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Visit vibrant Puerta del Sol
Puerta del Sol or the Gate of the Sun is a very large square full of life and activity. It is a natural gathering place for people, both tourists and locals. In the middle of the square is a metro station, and around it you will find many activities. You can have your picture taken with various dressed-up cartoon characters, such as Mickey Mouse or Bart Simpson, much like in Disneyland. Other than that, there are various street performances, and simply a lot of life, energy and a metropolitan pulse. A place full of life and movement. Surrounding the square are several fast food chains, shopping streets and ordinary restaurants. This square is a hub, where lots of people pass through on their way somewhere else. This is also where people gather for political speeches and demonstrations. When something happens in Madrid, it often happens in the area around Puerta del Sol.
Bargain at El Rastro flea market in La Latina
El Rastro flea market in La Latina can be really fun to visit, especially if you enjoy watching crowds or love to bargain. However, the flea market is only open on Sundays. While the flea market is on, it can be really crowded, but the crowd is part of the charm of El Rastro. Here you will find hundreds of small stalls selling everything under the sun, everything you can find at a regular flea market, but just more of everything. One can find used clothes for 1 euro, various kinds of leather goods, knick-knacks, shawls, and much more. But there's also a lot of new stuff on the market, it really is a mix. To be able to find the real bargains you have to be there early and have plenty of patience. However, many come here only to experience the mood and people-watch. On the streets around the flea market, there are also several good smaller shops selling furniture and antique items, these are open during the weekdays as well.
Discover Medieval Art at the Lázaro Galdiano Museum
The Lázaro Galdiano Museum is a museum composed of the art collector Lazaro Galdiano's private collection in his old home. Here you will find paintings by several famous European artists such as Bosch, Goya and El Greco. The emphasis is on art and artifacts from the middle ages and renaissance. It is a smaller and not as well-visited museum so you can wander around in peace and quiet. In addition to paintings, there are several other items in the collection, such as jewelry and sculptures. Even the furniture in the museum is worth looking at, as well as the ceiling paintings. Thanks to the wide variety, this is a place for all tastes. You can also see how the rooms were used when it was a residential home, a very rich home. In fact, the building itself is also very nice, an old mansion. This museum is located a little outside the city center, but it's easy to get here by public transport.
Drink in art history at the Prado Museum
The Prado is Spain's National Museum of art and is one of the main attractions in Madrid for those with an interest in art. Like several other of Europe's larger art museums, it can be almost overwhelming to take in everything that can be seen at Prado and if you have the opportunity to do so, it can be a good idea to split your visit into two days. For those who want to see as much as possible in a short time, you can employ the help of a guide. The guide will help you find your way around and guarantee you won't miss any of the great masters' works hanging on the walls of Prado. Here you will find paintings from the big names such as Rubens, Goya and Tintoretto to name just a few. After visiting, there is also a well-stocked gift shop with a large selection of replicas, books and souvenirs. For those who have visited the museum before, the many temporary exhibitions guarantee that there is always something new to see at Prado.
Be amazed by the Royal Basilica of San Francisco el Grande
The Royal Basilica of San Francisco el Grande is a very beautiful Catholic Church from the 18th century. The gorgeous dome of the church alone makes the visit well worth it for many. It is 33 meters in diameter and 58 meters high and resembles the dome of the Pantheon in Rome. In Spain, it is the largest of its kind and strikes visitors with awe. Inside the church there are is plenty of fine art to look at, including paintings by Goya and Zurbaran. For those who really want to learn about the history of the church and its cultural value, there are guided tours with knowledgeable guides for you to book. You aren't allowed to take pictures inside the cathedral, and you must pay a small entrance fee.
Have fun with the whole family at Parque de Atracciones de Madrid
Parque de Atracciones de Madrid is an amusement park suitable for the whole family. There are over 40 different rides and they have been spread out into five areas with different themes. On the one hand, you can find the usual rides, such as roller coasters, the Viking ship, swing rides and water splash. But there are also unique attractions you will not find anywhere else. Among other things, an area entirely dedicated to children's favorite characters from Nickelodeon. For smaller children, there is also plenty to do with bumper cars, carousels and a mini roller coaster. If you pay a little extra, you can cut in line to avoid the long queues. You can easily get here by Metro; the park is right next to Batan station. In the park you will also find everything you'd expect when it comes to restaurants and cafes.
Enjoy greenery and beautiful flowers in the Royal Botanical Garden
The Royal Botanical Garden (Real Jardin Botánico) is located not far from the Prado Museum. The garden was moved to its current location in 1781 and has since then created one of Europe's most impressive collections of different plants and flowers. The park itself is more than 8 hectares, and there are about 5,000 different plant species here. The Botanical Garden of Madrid was instrumental in introducing the flower Dahlia to Europe after it was exported from its homeland Mexico. From here, seeds were sent to England, France and Italy in the early 19th century and ever since then, the Dahlia has been one of our most popular ornamental plants. The Botanical Garden of Madrid has been central to spreading knowledge and teaching about plants, including supporting expeditions to discover new species. Inside the park you can see a triumphal arch erected in the honor of Charles III.
Feel the pulse of history at Plaza Mayor
The Plaza Mayor is a large square surrounded by beautiful buildings with balconies. The square originates from the 17th century and has a straight and clean symmetry. It is 100 x 200 meters in size and is restricted from traffic. To enter the square, one must go through one of nine arched gates. The central square was a former natural gathering point and there used to be markets, trials, bullfights and much more held here. But the square also has a darker history as, during the Spanish inquisition, this was the scene of many public executions. The people that lived in the surrounding buildings used to sell tickets to their balconies; there are 400 in total, so it is possible to get a good view of the whole square. It is a beautiful sight and you can easily imagine what it was like to watch everything that has happened on this square over the past 400 years.
See the Modern Masters at the Queen Sofía Museum
The Queen Sofía Museum, or Museo Reina Sofía, has lovely, bright rooms full of art. Primarily, the museum is dedicated to modern and contemporary Spanish art. Spain has been one of Europe's most important countries in modern art. The main attraction at the museum is Picasso's famous painting Guernica. This painting hangs in its own room, and for many Spaniards it's almost like a pilgrimage to go and see it. But the museum contains so much more, and they have organized it all very well. It might be a good idea to take one room at a time, preferably with a guide, to really look at the artworks. Salvador Dali is another famous artist who is represented here, as well as many other paintings by Picasso. In addition to that, there is a smaller but exciting collection of international art with several famous names. There is also a nice cafeteria where you can take a break. Otherwise you can leave and come back again with the same ticket so it's easy to take a break and have lunch outside the museum.
Enjoy the best of Spanish sweets at Chocolateria San Gines
The Chocolateria San Gines has served hot chocolate and churros to visitors with a sweet tooth since 1894. They still attract quite the crowd. You can also drink delicious coffee here and they serve a wide range of delicious cakes. But the vast majority of visitors come here for the chocolate, and to experience a part of history. No matter what you choose, it's an experience to have coffee at a cafe with such a huge turnover of customers. The waiters are both quick as lightning and very skilled, which is needed. The chocolate is typically Spanish, thick and dark. Churros are a kind of deep-fried dough cakes, much like oblong Donuts. You will enjoy them the most by dipping them in the chocolate. It's quite a lot for one person, so if you're not that hungry, you can always order one serving and share with a friend.
Photograph the beautiful Puerta de Alcalá
The Puerta de Alcalá is an ancient monument that stands near the entrance of El Retiro Park, at the Plaza de la Independencia square. Originally it was a city gate built in the late 18th century, this was the road to the street named Alcalá. Previously, there was a smaller gate here that King Charles III replaced with the current one. It is a lovely monument with three larger arches and two smaller gates. If you can plan a visit in the evening, the monument will show its full splendor as it's illuminated in a beautiful way that lets you take beautiful pictures and enjoy the lovely atmosphere. Otherwise, there are several nice cafes nearby around the park. And nearby, there are also several opportunities to rent a bicycle and explore the area around the park from the bike seat.
Learn all about Spain's seafarer heritage at the Naval Museum
For those who are interested in sea vessels and naval history, the Naval Museum can be a real highlight during a visit to Madrid. Spain is an old seafarer nation and their history has been intimately linked with the sea in the form of trade, explorations and wars and naval battles. Since the Naval Museum is connected to the Spanish Navy, you must present your passport at the entrance. There's no entry fee, but you have to pay if you want the small brochure about the museum, but it doesn't cost much. You can also rent an audio guide that will help you understand everything about the numerous exhibitions. Here you will mind many different models of ships through the ages. You can also look at interesting old sea charts, some nearly 1,000 years old. There are also many weapons and cannons that were used in battle and a collection of art with marine motifs.
See the city from above with Teleférico de Madrid
Teleférico de Madrid is the name of the city's cable car where you ride in a comfortable cabin between the Paseo del Pintor Rosales Street near Argüelles metro station all the way to the Casa de Campo Park. It is a unique way of getting to see many of the other sights in Madrid from a new perspective, and it’s an excellent opportunity to take some beautiful panoramic pictures. It is possible to purchase both one-way or round-trip tickets, and the journey one way takes about 10 minutes. At its highest, you are about 40 meters above the ground. Once in the park you can enjoy a nice view and eat or drink something delicious at one of the restaurants near to the cable car station.
See the Spanish countryside, painted at the Sorolla Museum
The Sorolla Museum was the home of the famous artist Joaquin Sorolla up until his death in 1923, and after the death of his widow in 1932, the home became a museum. Sorolla was primarily known for portraits and landscapes, and he is known for his skill of capturing the light of the sun in his paintings. He also painted several motifs from Spanish history and society. His style of painting has been likened to the Scandinavian group the Skagen Painters. The house itself is beautiful, with a nice garden outside where you can sit down for a while. You can also bring a picnic and eat it there. This is not a very large museum, but very nice and personal. It can be a quiet oasis in the city especially for those who want to see the Spanish countryside captured by a real master. You can easily get here by metro; the stop is called Iglesias.
Eat like Ernest Hemingway at Sobrino de Botín
Sobrino de Botín is one of the world's oldest restaurants. It was opened in 1725 and is a very popular place for fine dining in Madrid. The food has a good reputation, their most famous specialty is roasted suckling pig. It is said that this was Ernest Hemingway's favorite dish, and he mentions it in his book "The sun also rises". Other celebrities who used to eat here include Goya who worked as a waiter here before his breakthrough and Graham Greene. You get a full dinner for two for around 100 euros, which is not bad at all. This is, however, a place to go primarily for the experience of eating in a restaurant with such a history. It can often be crowded, and you should book a table well in advance if you want to be sure not to miss out on Sobrino de Botín during your Madrid visit.
Visit "the Jungle" at Madrid Train station
A train station is usually not considered a tourist sight in itself. But at the central station Atocha in Madrid you can see something you will be guaranteed not to have seen at any other station. Here you will find a whole jungle! The architect Rafael Moneo decided, when it was time to renovate the station, to decorate it with a huge greenhouse of 4000 square meters. In this artificial indoor jungle, you will find a large amount of plant species and even fish and turtles. This makes the train station well worth a visit even if you are not coming or going by train. If you have a train to catch, just make sure not lose track of time and get lost in the jungle.
Look out over Madrid from Círculo de Bellas Artes
The Círculo de Bellas Artes is an Art Center in a beautiful building located in the heart of Madrid since 1926. Here there is plenty to see for the art lover as there are plenty of exhibitions, activities and a cinema. Both famous and well-established names and younger upcoming names are represented. However, the main reason why most tourists visit Círculo de Bellas Artes is their roof space complete with a bar and plenty of seating areas. The view of the skyline of Madrid offered from their roof is considered one of the very best and if you find yourself nearby it really is the perfect place to relax with a drink in the evening.
Have a seat in a Hop-On Hop-Off bus
As in many major cities, Madrid gives you the opportunity to quickly get an overview of the city's sights by taking a Hop-On Hop-Off bus. For many people this seems like a very superficial and touristy way of exploring the city but for those who don't have a lot of time, it is a great way to quickly see most of the sights and then decide what you want to spend more time on. In Madrid, there are several different routes, and one can as the name suggests, hop on and off anywhere along these routes. On the bus you can get additional information about the various sights by listening to the free audio guides available in several languages.
Take a day trip to the castle El Escorial
About 45 km northwest of Madrid you will find the magnificent Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial which is one of the most popular day trips you can take during a visit to Madrid. The castle was built during the reign of King Philip II and was completed in 1584. Exactly 400 years later in 1984, the castle was designed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Here you can wander through several large halls, and a mausoleum where many Spanish monarchs are buried. There are also a beautiful library and a large garden. This is one of Europe's most impressive castles, fully comparable to the Palace of Versailles and one should definitely spend a full day on a visit to El Escorial. You can book buses or private cars to get there from Madrid.
Visit the Museum of Ham
Museo del Jamón (Carrera de San Jerónimo 6) is perhaps not so much a museum as it is a tribute to all sorts of hams, cheeses and sausages that Madrid has to offer. Everything hangs on hooks on the walls and from ceilings or rests high on the shelves. The Museo del Jamón is a classic bar and shop in the old-fashioned setting that simply specializes in ham. If you love cold cuts, sausages and cheese, you cannot miss out on this ham paradise. And whatever you do, don't leave the Museo del Jamón without having tried the world famous Spanish air-dried ham - jamon serrano.
Go Skiing in Valdesquí
Alpine skiing is perhaps not the first thing you think of when you think about Madrid but in the mountains surrounding the city there are several places where you can ski, and the nearest ski resort is called Valdesquí. When the season is right, you can ski or snowboard at a complete facility with 27 different slopes with different levels of difficulty. Here you will find everything else that belongs to a ski resort such as hotels, restaurants and bars. For those who want to visit Valdesquí, you can get there by car or you can go by train to nearby Cotos and then take the bus the last bit to Valdesquí.
Flea market in a unique train environment
Walk to Mercado de Motores the second weekend of the month (if you happen to be in Madrid at that time). Here you will find a huge flea market in the middle of Madrid's historic railway museum with beautiful locomotives and train wagons from the beginning of the 20th century. If you like vintage and shopping, you will not be disappointed. At Mercado de Motores everything from clothing to furniture, antiques, decoration, jewelry and even tapas can be bought. Every now and then they even offer entertainment like concerts. Admission is free! The market is open between 11 and 20, Friday to Sunday, only during the second weekend of every month.
Visit a cafe in a convent
If you are looking for a different experience during your stay in Madrid, we warmly recommend a visit to the wonderful convent "Las Descalzas Reales". The nuns of this historic convent not only engage in godly activities but also happen to be awesome at baking cakes and pastries that taste absolutely divine. Take a break from the big city noise, beer and the tapas plate and enjoy the tranquility of a lush little convent right in the middle of Madrid. Many locals do not even know that the convent is open to the public and few tourists have ever set foot in the flowering garden so here you are guaranteed to be left alone.
Have a drink at the Plaza de Olavide
Even during the holidays, it's important to hold on to your money. While most tourists are sitting at some café on Plaza Mayor sipping away at their incredibly expensive drinks, you can sit at the pleasant Plaza de Olavide just a stone's throw away, in a far more local setting, enjoying the same drink but at a cheaper price. Here you will find a plethora of bars and restaurants, playgrounds, beautiful fountains and nice benches to sit on if you'd rather just enjoy the picturesque setting around Plaza de Olavide.
Enjoy a walk in Parque de El Capricho
Thanks to the park being slightly outside the city center, it is not that common for tourists to visit the beautiful Parque de El Capricho. This is undoubtedly one of the finest parks in Madrid, with a combination of French, Italian and English architectural styles. Take a stroll among Greek columns and ruins, a large lake with black swans, a palace, a rose garden and a labyrinth created by well-groomed trees and shrubs. The Parque de El Capricho was built in the 19th century by Duke Pedro Téllez-Girón as a gift to his wife, the Duchess of Osuna. Unfortunately, the Duchess died before the gardens were completed. The park is open all year round and during the summer there are concerts and theatrical performances.
Eat well at Mercado de la Cebada
Markets have become the latest and hippest eateries in Madrid, and some have become more popular with tourists than others. If you are looking for a place where the Madrid locals are gathering you should make your way to the Mercado de La Cebada in La Latina district. Here the food stalls are crowded side by side in a delightfully noisy market environment. Have a taste of the best Madrid has to offer in the way of food while walking among exhibitions of modern street art from local artists. Sometimes you can also enjoy a theatrical performance or an impromptu street concert.
Get a good rest in a real 16th-century Turkish Bath
Give your muscles a bit of rest in a lovely warm water pool, take a steam or enjoy a relaxing massage at Hammam Al Andalus. Here you will experience a real Arabic spa built on top of the ruins of a 16th-century hammam. The place is visited frequently by Madrid residents and is therefore relatively inexpensive. Take the opportunity of pampering yourself for a couple of hours, especially after a long day of shopping and sightseeing. Best is to make an appointment in advance via hammamalandalus.com. It's best to visit the place during holidays, so you can avoid the largest crowds. You will find the Hammam Al Ándalus on Calle de Atocha in central Madrid.
Take a bike ride in Madrid Río
Madrid Rio was initially a huge construction project intended to turn the area around the Manzanares river into a more updated and integral part of the city. Over the past 10 years, the river area has slowly but surely become a popular area for leisure activities inside the city center. Here you can enjoy sporty activities such as cycling, basketball, skateboarding and running in the huge open-air park. There is also an art beach with three different pool zones where you can cool off when it's at its warmest outside. The huge Madrid Rio park is close to Casa de Campo and is just a short walk from the Principe Pio metro station.
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