Madrid is sometimes referred to as the New York City of Spain, which as you might imagine means it’s an exciting place to visit, with countless things to do. Of course, a city of this size can be a bit overwhelming to some first-time visitors though, which is why we’ve put together the list below! If you’re faced with more options than you know what to do with when you touch down in this wonderful Spanish city, focusing on the following “musts” will get you off to a great start.
Tapas are a Spanish culinary tradition comprised of small plates meant to be shared with whomever you’re dining with. This style of eating is a common substitute for dinner in Madrid, and is often accompanied by wine or cocktails. In fact, some places will even have special promotions offering a free tapa with the purchase of a drink. Cava Baja is a great street to stroll through if you’re looking for tapas bars, and Casa Lucas is one spot in particular to keep an eye out for. It’s a little on the upscale side, but if you do stop by, we’d recommend trying the oxtail. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a more casual, wallet-friendly option, we might suggest El Tigre, where the tapas are cheap and the drinks are gigantic!
Tapas are a Spanish culinary tradition comprised of small plates meant to be shared with whomever you’re dining with.
One of our favorite ways to explore a new city is through its markets. In Madrid, San Miguel is the most famous one to visit. It’s also the one that attracts the most tourists, however, so if you’re looking for a more authentic Spanish experience we’d recommend heading for San Anton. This will be a great place to buy unique souvenirs for your friends and family back home, as well as just to hang out for a few hours.
In addition to its delicious dining options, Madrid is also known for its lively nightlife. Many bars and clubs are open until sunrise, with nearby late-night (or early-morning) snack spots staying open just as late. For example, right around the corner from the club Joy Eslava is Madrid’s oldest chocolateria, where you can get churros and rich hot chocolate 24 hours a day. Another can’t-miss spot during a night out in Madrid is El Kapital, which boasts an impressive nine floors‘ worth of bars and dancing.
Football is the most popular sport in Madrid, and by a fairly wide margin (though basketball has caught on). Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid are two of the best teams in Europe on a consistent basis, with the matches between them marking some of the biggest events of each season. If at all possible, try to coordinate your time in Madrid such that you can see one or both of these teams in action. Even if you can’t attend a live match though, it’s worth finding ways to take in Madrid’s football culture. In this city, fans watch matches and track the scores online with borderline religious fervor; people dress up in team kits on match days, meet at pubs to cheer on their clubs, and so on. For anyone with the slightest sporting interest, this can all make for one of the most charming aspects of Madrid.
Madrid is also home to some truly spectacular collections of art. For classically Spanish paintings and Renaissance works, you can spend an afternoon casually wandering through the El Prado museum; work from the 19th and 20th centuries, meanwhile, can be found in Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum; and modern art is housed at Reina Sofia. The latter museum boasts works by world-famous artists like Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali – two artists who, all things considered, may be the most famous Spanish masters in history.
Historical Monuments and Parks
One of the best ways to get to know Madrid is to explore the outdoors and walk amongst stunning historical monuments and green spaces.
If you happen to catch nice weather, one of the best ways to get to know Madrid is to explore the outdoors and walk amongst stunning historical monuments and green spaces. The Royal Palace and City Hall are probably the two most important buildings to see, with stunning, intricate architecture you’re likely to have seen showcased on social media by someone or other. Near the Royal Palace is a true can’t-miss sight: the Temple of Debod, a piece of Ancient Egypt that was actually transported to Spain and opened to the public in 1972. And as far as parks go, you won’t want to miss Parque Retiro, the Central Park of Madrid. It’s the perfect green space in which to relax and take a breath away from the pace and crowds of the surrounding city.