Madrid City Guide (by Helene Choo)
Living in Madrid can certainly be said to feel very different from what you would expect. Even though it’s a very Spanish city, it doesn’t have a beach, so you can’t spend your days sipping sangrias by the sea.
Nevertheless, Madrid offers many lovely things that make up for the lack of seaside, such as beautiful parks, culture, architecture, food, and much more.
Here are my favourite things to do (and therefore must-dos if you’re visiting) in Madrid:
1. Plaza del Sol and Plaza Mayor
Plaza del Sol and Plaza Mayor are the two main squares in the city centre that you absolutely have to see. Sol (for short) is a very instagrammable spot. It is home to “kilometre zero”, the very centre of the radial network of roads in Spain. Take a photo of the plaque on the ground, and be sure to include your foot in it, so that you can claim that you’ve stood on the most central point of Spain (kind of)! In addition, Sol has a statue of a bear with a strawberry tree, the symbol of Madrid.
Plaza Mayor is Madrid’s main square and dates back to around 1600. This square has witnessed a large amount of history, including many executions performed during the Spanish Inquisition. Nowadays, you won’t find any executions being carried out here anymore, but it’s a good spot to grab a coffee.
Other notable squares include Plaza de España, where you can admire a large monument to Cervantes, and Plaza de Santa Ana, where you can relax with a drink and some food.
2. Templo de Debod
A short walk away from Plaza de España, you can find the originally Egyptian Debod Temple. It’s wonderfully lit in the evening, and located in Parque del Oeste, a nice park where many people meet, especially in the summer, for a stroll and to relax. When it’s warm outside, many buskers will come here and play. You’ll also be able to get a beautiful panoramic view, including the Royal Palace, from this area, so it’s a good place for a romantic evening walk.
3. Royal Palace and Museums
The impressive Royal Palace is a must-see, at least from the outside. If you’re interested in the royal history of Spain, you can go inside too, but I would recommend booking tickets online in advance, because there is often a massive queue to get in. The tickets cost around 15 euros each. The Royal Gardens are very beautiful and well-maintained, so you can walk around there if you enjoy gardens.
If you like art, I highly recommend the Museo Nacional Del Prado (or just Prado) and the Museo Reina Sofia. The Prado is the national gallery, displaying many notable works by famous international and Spanish artists e.g. Goya. The Museo Reina Sofia is a modern art museum and has a few works by Picasso on display, as well as many other famous pieces of art. Again, my pro tip is to book these tickets online in advance so you don’t end up waiting in line for ages.
4. Retiro Park
The Retiro park is a famous park in Madrid. It is very well maintained and contains beautiful attractions like a lake, a rose garden, a glass house (called The Crystal Palace), an art gallery, and various sculptures and fountains. Retiro is the perfect place for a relaxed afternoon.
5. Shopping and Food
There are many places to shop in Madrid. Gran Vía, the city’s main street, has all the well-known brands. It can get very crowded during the weekends and holidays, though. If you visit the El Corte Inglés (shopping centre) in Callao, you’ll find “Gourmet Experience” on the top floor with great views of Gran Vía and most of Madrid centre, as well as restaurants and a deli shop for edible souvenirs.
Calle Serrano is the best place to shop high-end, luxury brands, as well as the more mainstream ones. This street also has a El Corte Inglés with a Gourmet Experience floor, as well as an amazing frozen yoghurt place.
Do as the locals do and eat churros con chocolate at Chocolatería San Ginés, the oldest churro cafe in Madrid.
If you like Spanish food, try La Fragua de Vulcano near Sol. They serve authentic tapas from a very central location at reasonable prices.
Madrid has a lot to offer in terms of food, catering to all tastes and all budgets. To find out more, check out this guide to the 18 awesome places for food in Madrid, and part 2 with a few more great spots for eating.
I hope you enjoyed this short guide with all the things you have to do in Madrid!
I’m Helene, the creator of the HC Lifestyle Blog, where I share the life experiences I enjoy the most. My posts are about travel, food, fitness, and many other things. I love dancing and seeing as much of the World as I can. You can follow me at any of the social media sites below.