Spain is a totally gorgeous country to explore, from the stunning beaches, beautiful places in the north to the most epic Spanish cities, you’ll be totally spoilt for choice on where to visit. This is especially true if you’re heading on a city break, like Madrid. You see, there are some many incredible and best things to do in Madrid that it can be mind-boggling when trying to squeeze them all in!
Not only that, then you’ve got the questions on if you should just visit Madrid or actually head to some of the other gorgeous Spanish cities, too. You see, there’s a lot of rivalry between Madrid and its bigger sister, Barcelona.
Whatever you decide; one, two or twenty cities in Spain, just be sure to give yourself enough time to really explore them. Exploring cities on very tight schedules and timeframes can be stressful and feel so rushed.
Anyway, back to Madrid!
Honestly, it’s a perfect place to spend a long weekend exploring some of its stunning parks, guzzling on down at its amazing foodie spots and seeing the epic palaces, too. It’s so impressive.
With that in mind, take a look at some of the best things to do in Madrid when you visit. We’ve totally loved each time we’ve explored Madrid.
1.) Retiro Park
Being one of the largest parks in the city, strolling through Retiro Park is easily one of the best things to do in Madrid if you want to escape the bustle of the city itself. It’s totally huge and well worth a visit on a nice sunny day.
Once here, head on over to see the art within the 19th Century Crystal Palace, which got its influence from the one that used to exist in London.
Afterwards, get your rowing on at Lago Grande which is lovely in the sunshine. Though, be warned, the sun can be really strong in those Spanish summers.
2.) Gran Via
Gran Via is relatively easy to visit if you’re already in Retiro Park or at the Temple of Debod. This makes it a totally easy place to explore between the more ‘concrete’ plans you’ll have for your day.
Now, I always say that Gran Via kinda reminds me of Fifth Avenue in New York. It’s got that kind of vibe and lots of shopping spots, too.
3.) Malasaña district
The Malasaña district is probably one of the coolest neighbourhoods to explore whilst in Madrid. The whole area has a great buzz and is a great place to spend an early evening in all the little bars, cafes and restaurants.
For me, going to the Malasaña district is one of the best things to do in Madrid if you fancy a good night out. Just expect to get back to your room in the wee hours!
Also, for a totally tasty, no-frills and informal eating spot, pop into Casa Macareno that’s lovely. Just be sure to make a reservation as it’s quite a cosy little joint.
4.) Las Ventas
Las Ventas is the largest bullring in all of Spain. It’s totally huge and one of the best things to do in Madrid if you want to explore some of the cities histories.
Now, Bullfighting is something that’s quite polarising if you’re not from Spain and not something I’m personally comfortable with. Maybe, instead of seeing actually bullfighting, you can catch a concert that is sometimes held in the summer months. People from the Beatles to Coldplay have performed here!
5.) See the Temple of Debod
This ancient Egyptian temple was historically within Aswan in Egypt, however, there was a global search for a new site due to the construction of a huge dam that threatened its existence in Egypt. Madrid was gifted the temple by the Egyptian government as a sign of gratitude for helping preserve other significant historical sights in Egypt.
Take a wander through and within this beautiful, slightly eery temple that’ll send you back thousands of years to the time of the Sphinx!
Also, don’t forget to head for a stroll through the inner crypts of the temple itself.
6.) Royal Palace of Madrid
The official residence of the Spanish Royal Family, the Royal Palace of Madrid is a beautiful royal residence that you can actually visit. Not only that, but it’s also one of the largest palaces in all of Europe and one of the best things to do in Madrid if you love a bit of regal history.
Now, there is a small fee to enter but if you’re an EU citizen, you can get in for free between 4-6 pm on a Monday-Thursday. Just be prepared for the lines, it can get busy at these times.
Also, once inside, make sure to see Giaquinto’s fresco on the palace ceilings. It’s stunning.
7.) Explore the markets
The markets in Madrid are amazing, especially if you’re looking for some local foods and dishes that you can nibble!
For instance, the historic Mercado de San Miguel is filled with loads of little stalls and goodies that I promise will leave you stuffed.
Also, for us, Mercado San Antón, it was one of Madrid’s brilliant little surprises.
Take a wander here (after working up an appetite) and gorge yourself silly with lots of fresh fish, olives and tapas.
8.) Stroll through Plaza Mayor
Plaza Mayor is as obvious as it sounds! A big plaza that’s fit for a mayor! 😉
Take a wander through the square and explore some of the many restaurants that are hidden just behind the plaza itself.
It’s a huge space and there are lots of little shops and cafes all around the area.
Though, choose wisely as some can be tourist traps in this area. Oh, and pop on through the Arch of Catlers, too. You’ll find a fair few gems down here.
Also, keep your eyes peeled for the bronze statue of King Philip III. It’s almost 400 years old!
Afterwards, head on over to Rio Jano for some of the tastiest bartolillos. It’s only around a three-minute stroll from the plaza and dates back to the 19th Century.
9.) Stroll the historic centre
Now, this might seem like some generic advice but it’s one of the best things to do in Madrid that we totally loved.
The hundreds of cobbled and windy streets might not be the best place to ‘wear-in’ a new pair of shoes but it sure as heck is the most lovely place to discover an authentic part of Madrid.
Take a wander and discover the many arts, craft and stunning design stores that line many of the city centre streets.
Oh, and be sure to pop into Mistura Ice Cream Parlour that’s tucked away in one of the many side streets!
10.) See the churches and cathedrals
Madrid has an impressive list of cathedrals, churches and many other religious buildings to discover.
Take a wander and discover the likes of Almudena Cathedral, Colegiata de San Isidro el Real and Royal Basilica of San Francisco el Grande.
Just make sure you visit the Royal Basilica of San Francisco el Grande. Inside, it houses one of the largest domes in all of Europe!