Madrid is not only the capital of Spain, but also, the largest city in the country and the third-largest in the European Union. Needless to say, this means that there is a host of things to do in Madrid for every type of traveller, budget and preference. If you have a limited time, planning and finding the best things to do in Madrid can feel like an overwhelming task. So we have taken the liberty to do the job for you. Without further ado, here is our round-up of some of the most important things to do in Madrid.
Madrid sightseeing is at the top of the list, because there are simply so many magnificent monuments and attractions to visit during your time in the capital. Notable landmarks include The Royal Palace of Madrid – an 18th century marvel that is still used for official state ceremonies till this very date – and the Prado Museum, which is considered to be one of the best in the world for its collection of European art. We would also recommend a visit to Plaza Mayor, which is the most popular square in the heart of the city and what was once Old Madrid.
For a natural escape within the big city, spend an afternoon at El Retiro Park; better yet, have a picnic by the large lake and take a breather from the buzz of the city.
Exploring the markets is one of the top things to do in Madrid. Mercado de San Miguel is one of the most famous food markets in all of Spain, and is known for the small stalls that sell restaurant-quality tapas and other food items.
If you have a more than a couple of days in the capital of Spain, you may want to consider heading out of town for a day trip to one of the many beautiful locations nearby. Toledo is a very popular day trip destination for tourists in Madrid, who are attracted by the town’s old-world charm, that is enhanced with its winding, cobble-stoned paths and antiquated architecture. Make sure to visit the Alcazar fortress while you are there – it is truly a site to see!
Segovia is another hot spot for those in Madrid. It exudes a strong medieval atmosphere in everything from the layout to the buildings to the store fronts. The Jewish Quarter in Segovia is a must-do, as is the Segovia Cathedral.
Other excellent day trips from Madrid include Aranjuez, which is a World Heritage Site; La Sierra de Guadarrama which is a mountain range featuring world-class hiking trails; and Chinchón which is a charming old town. When it comes to day trips in Madrid, many small towns are connected to the capital by bus, but we highly recommend renting a car and driving down on your own – it’s a completely different experience!
It’s clear that there are an endless number of things to do in Madrid for all types of tourists and travellers. To make the most of your time in the city and ensure that you do not miss out on any of its wonderful experiences, it is important to plan out your tour in advance. SOTC has some excellent Madrid tour packages and Spain holiday packages for you to choose from.
Spain is known for its vibrant culinary scene and cuisine, and one of the best ways to experience this – especially if you have a limited amount of time – is to opt for a food tour. Madrid is the heartland for traditional and experimental Spanish cuisine, and there are a wide range of local food tours that take place around the city. These are usually run by local foodies who know some of the best spots to get traditional Spanish food in the city. Through these tours, you can also explore the city on foot as you walk from place to place, and mingle with fellow tourists from around the world.
Along with food, Spain has a vibrant wine culture and wine is an important accompaniment to most meals. One of the best ways to understand and appreciate wine in Spain is to experience a wine tasting. Madrid Uncorked is one of the most popular tasting companies and favoured by tourists from around the world. Their tastings are in English so it’s easy to follow and pick up information, and each tasting has its own unique theme.
Not only can you sample some of the best wine from around the country; you can also enjoy meeting locals and tourists in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Many wine stores in Madrid also offer wine tasting sessions every fortnight or every month – some good ones include Vino y Cata and Reserve y Cata. Most wine tastings are also accompanied with delicious tapas and snacks, so you can get a sense of the right food pairings as well.
If you’re looking to pick up some unique fashion items and accessories, vintage records or vibrant and one-of-a-kind homeware, head of to El Rastro, Madrid’s biggest and most popular flea market which takes place every Sunday. It gets really busy at and around noon, so it’s best to reach a few hours early to do some serious shopping and score the best items. Once you’re tired of shopping and bargaining, you can grab a cold beer with tapas, just like a local!