10 things to do and see in Madrid

A complete and detailed guide about 10 things to do and see in Madrid in 1, 2 or 3 days

10 things to do and see in Madrid
10 things to do and see in Madrid

Beyond any  clichés, Madrid is really the city of Movida, a lifestyle made by  entertainment during  night and day.  But  Movida is not just pure fun: people of Madrid love to stay up late, stay on the street, drinking and eating with others. Some of them meet their friends  after work, others end up the nightlife and go back to the office.

With the Movida  are also born some  expressions such as Madrid Me Mata (Madrid kills me) and Madrid nunca duerme (Madrid never sleeps). Here time is considered in a different way but Madrid  is not only a capital made of cafés, small talk and early hours.  Every kind of people finds its own entertainment: art lovers will find three big museums, the Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen museums, and people who don’t like museums can spend their holidays in the Chueca neighborhood. Madrid has many souls, here are 10 things to see and do absolutely during a holiday in Madrid.

If you are looking for a hotel in Madrid, we suggest you to choose among those offered by Booking.com. There are about 800 hotels with prices, pictures  and comments of guests already stayed there. Go to Booking.com

Museo del Prado in Madrid

1

The Prado is one of the most important museums of the world, and it’s worth spending a number of hours to visit it. Caravaggio, Goya, Raphael, Velasquez, the Prado can represent the history of European art of the last five centuries.

Museo del Prado in Madrid
Museo del Prado in Madrid

If you want  to visit it without stress, we suggest you to go to the Prado on weekdays, you will find not so much people. If you have many bags with you, you might wait a while before you can enter: the deposit boxes are not so many. The Prado has an efficient emergency room inside the building de los Jerónimos :it’s a guarantee for those who risk the “Stendhal Syndrome”.

How to get there: Metro Line 2 station Banco de Espana or line 1 Atocha station. Bus: 9, 10, 14, 19, 27, 34, 37, 45.
When – Hours: Tue – Sun and holidays from 9 am  to 8 pm . 24 and December 31, January 6 hours 9 am  to 2 pm
Never: the Monday, December 25, January 1, Good Friday and 1 May
Tickets: Adult 6 €, reduced 3 €, free Tue – Sat 6 to 8 pm  and every Sunday at 5 – 8 pm

Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid

2

The Reina Sofia is the museum with art works from the XX century to the present day.

Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid
Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid

The building that hosts it, was a hospital and has been used as hospital until 1986 when it was opened the Art center of  Reina Sofia. The museum gives particular emphasis to Spanish painters such as Dali, Miro and Picasso. We suggest you to visit the whole museum: not only Guernica with other hundred tourist that arrived before you . The museum has so many beautiful works, and you should  watch Guernica around closing time. You can really enjoy the Master’s masterpiece only at that time.

How to get there: Metro Line 1 station : Atocha
When – Hours:  Mon – Sat 10 am  – 9 pm , Sunday from 10 am 2.30 pm
Never: Tuesdays, 24, 25 and 31 December, 1 and 6 January, 1 May and 9 November
Tickets: Adult 6 €, reduced 3 €, free on Saturday  2:30 – 21:00 pm  and Sunday from 10 am –  2:30 pm

Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid

3

The  paintings  of the  Museum  are from the private collection of the German steel magnate, Thyssen-Bornemisza, who became rich during the Second World War.

Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid
Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid

The Baron Hans Thyssen-Bornemisza put together the huge collection of his father Heinrich, divided among the heirs at his death. Baron regained the works by his relatives, first focusing on the German impressionist works, then on the paintings of Russian avant-garde period, enriching it with the first abstract works. Since 1992, the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum, which includes among others Van Eyck, Caravaggio, Van Gogh, Gauguin and Hopper, is ready to delight the eyes of tourists.

How to get there: Metro Line 1 or Line 2 station Atocha station Banco de Espana. Bus: 1,2,5, 9, 10, 14, 15, 20, 27, 34, 37, 45
When – Hours: Tuesday – Sunday from 10:00 to 19:00
Never: Monday, December 25, January 1 and May 1
Tickets: Adult € 6, reduced € 4

The Royal Palace of Madrid

4

The Royal Palace in Madrid dates  back  to 1764. It’s  located on the ruins of the royal family’s residence destroyed by a terrible fire on Christmas Eve of 1734: the Alcázar, which was home of the Spanish royal family since the XVI century.

The Royal Palace of Madrid
The Royal Palace of Madrid

The façade of the huge building is clearly inspired by the Louvre in Paris and it’s a magnificent example of the late Italian Baroque.  The whole monumental complex covers an area of 135,000 square meters and has more than 3000 rooms, so it’s the biggest royal palace in Europe. Inside there are some enviable collections of great value, such as the string instruments with the signature of Antonio Stradivari preserved in the Capilla Real, or the ancient ceramic vases and cabinets for medicinal plants of the Royal Pharmacy, including prescriptions of the royal family. In the Real Armería, however, there is the collection of arms and armors that once belonged to the King and the royal family since the XIII century.

However, despite the magnificence of the building and its treasures, the sovereigns of Spain don’t stay in these apartments, but their private residence is the Zarzuela Palace, in the wooded area of Monte de El Prado, north of the center of Madrid. The Royal Palace remains, however, the headquarters of the official events and state ceremonies.

Where: Calle de Bailén
How to get there:
Bus 3, 25, 39 e 148
Subway: line 5 e 2 fermata Ópera
When – Hours: From 1 April to 30 September: every day from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm
From October 1 to March 31: daily from 10:00  am to 6:00 pm
Never: 24, 25, 31 December; 1 and 6 January; May 1
Ticket: Full price: € 11, reduced: € 6

The Almudena Cathedral in Madrid

5

Close to Royal Palace, there’s another  story of ruins and reconstructions:  the one of the Almudena Cathedral, a more troubled story than the one of Royal Palace, with the signs of 5 centuries of battles, negotiations between the King and the Catholic bishops of Toledo,  economic and political problems.

The Almudena Cathedral in Madrid
The Almudena Cathedral in Madrid

In 1624, King Philip IV and his wife Isabella of Bourbon decided that Madrid’s cathedral would have been built in the same place where there was once the church of Santa Maria of the Almudena. But the cathedral was built 200 years later because of political unrest and economic problems. The foundation stone of the Almudena Cathedral was laid in 1883, but only in l 1993, it opened its doors to people, and was consecrated by Pope John Paul II.

That is why the appearance of the Cathedral is a real mix of different style : the Romanesque crypt , the neo-Gothic interior, the neo-classical of the external and the dome with a Baroque exterior and the Gothic interior

Inside the dome there is the  statue of Our Lady of the Almudena and a representation of the Via Crucis in 14 images in Gothic style, while the bronze door is decorated with pictures depicting the Spanish Catholic monarchy and the long glass wall 10 meters is enriched by the depiction of the Virgin of Lis.

Where: Calle de Bailén
How to get there:
Subway: Line 2 or 5 ,stop Ópera
Bus: 3, 25, 39 and 148
When – Hours: The cathedral cannot be visited during the liturgical celebrations.
From 1 September to 1 June: every day from 09:00 am to 8:00 pm
From 1 July to 31 August: every day from 10:00 am  to 9:00 pm

Plaza Mayor in Madrid

6

Can you imagine that until 1580 Plaza Mayor has been the city’s market square? It was  the place of executions, popular festivals, bullfights and between ‘600 and ‘700 it was damaged by three huge fires.

Plaza Mayor in Madrid
Plaza Mayor in Madrid

The current appearance of this elegant square, surrounded by buildings with three floors, is the result of the reconstruction of  the old Plaza del Arrabal commissioned by Philip II of Habsburg when, in 1561, he  moved the court to Madrid.

The works were first entrusted to Juan de Herrera, then to the architect Juan Gómez de Mora to continue the reorganization of the square, giving it its characteristic and stylish arcade with café and shops. In the center there is the huge statue of Philip III on a horse. Plaza Mayor has 9 access doors, but the most famous one is the Arco de Cuchilleros leading to the same name street and both take their name from the guild of knife makers who settled here their workshops. Another great building is Casa de la Panaderia with two towers decorated with frescoes that represent an allegory of the zodiac.

How to get there:
Subway: Line 1, 2, 3, 5 stop Puerta del Sol or Line 2 and 5, stop Opera station

Puerta del Sol in Madrid

7

Plaza de la Puerta del Sol is the square of the New Year in Madrid: on top of the Real Casa de Correo, which is the oldest building of the square, a large clock has the task of marking the famous “campanadas”, the 12 chimes that mark the last seconds of the year. The tradition is that the new  year should be celebrated with 12 grapes: one for each campanada and those who finish them in time will have a year full of luck and prosperity.

Puerta del Sol in Madrid
Puerta del Sol in Madrid

Plaza de la Puerta del Sol has also other iconic symbols of capital, such as the famous bear statue biting  a strawberry plant (madroño) and the “kilometer zero”, called Origen de la calles radials because just from this point they calculate the distances in kilometers across the country.

How to get there: Subway Line 1, 2, 3, 5 stop Puerta del Sol

Buen Retiro Park in Madrid

8

Built in 1640, the Buen Retiro Park  opened to the public only after the revolution of 1868, when the gardens became municipal property. In fact, the park was created as a place of escape and entertainment of the monarchy, after the Duke of Olivares gave the king Philip IV 145 many hectares to be used for this purpose.

Buen Retiro Park in Madrid
Buen Retiro Park in Madrid

So there were built the “Teatro del Buen Retiro”, where the most popular  actors of the “golden age” (1500-1600) use to go.  For elegant parties organized for the nobility was built the beautiful ballroom “Cason del Buen Retiro “. For events and outdoor performances were installed two large cages in the beautiful gardens: one to accommodate certain species of exotic birds, the other used as a stage for performances with wild animals.

Over the years, the Buen Retiro Park had several renovations and transformations, and slowly began to accept even ordinary citizens: thanks to King Charles III the people of Madrid could walk  there in  elegant dresses

Today, the symbol of the Park is definitely the wonderful Crystal Palace, built in 1887 to host a huge exhibition of botanical species from the Philippines Islands.  For the occasion an indigenous village was created too, a detailed reconstruction to make even more interesting the discovery of plants and animals of the exotic world.

Where: Plaza de la Independencia
How to get there:
Subway: line 2 station Retiro
Bus: 1, 2, 9, 15, 19, 20, 28, 51, 52, 74 and 146
When – Hours:
Summer: from 06:00 am  to 11:00 pm
From November to March: 07:00 am to 11:00 pm

Things to eat in Madrid

9

Madrid’s cuisine is a successful mix of popular and aristocrat dishes such as the cocido madrileño (potatoes, vegetables, meat, pork bacon and chickpeas) and the famous tortilla (potatoes, eggs, oil and salt).

Things to eat in Madrid
Things to eat in Madrid

Eggs, flour, sugar and almonds are the ingredients of almost all the sweets of Madrid: huesos de santo (potatoes, almonds and cream), the rosquillas de San Isidro (donuts with egg white), churros, fried sweet with  hot chocolate. Remember that in Madrid you’ll eat later than in other European countries: breakfast at 9 am, lunch between 2 and 3 pm , dinner between 9 and 10 pm . A tip: if you need desperately some  coffee, ask for it strictly “espresso” or you’ll taste a black drink with indefinite flavor.

Where to sleep in Madrid

10

It’s quite easy to find a place where to  sleep in Madrid, thanks to the large amount of hotels, guest houses, hostels and rooms.

Where to sleep in Madrid
Where to sleep in Madrid

You can really find what you want, from the ultra-luxury, to the B&Bs making you feel at home for the kindness of the owners. One more thing: remember that in Spanish, the term “hostal” does not indicate the “hostels”, but structures comparable to the Italian small hotels, where you can sleep and have breakfast.

If you are looking for a hotel in Madrid, we suggest you to choose among those offered by Booking.com. There are about 800 hotels with prices, pictures  and comments of guests already stayed there. Go to Booking.com