Madrid is the capital city of Spain, the largest city in the country, and the 3rd largest city in the European Union. It is jam-packed with architecture, history, business and commerce, world-class museums, cafes and restaurants, pubs and clubs, and lots and lots of park space. There is so much to see and do during the day, you’ll have to take a siesta just to get geared back up for the legendary nightlife. Trust us- you’ll definitely want to...
- Take in the scene in the Puerto del Sol- This large plaza is THE heart of Madrid. It is always bustling with locals and tourists alike, hurrying to make it to work or catch up with a tour group. The plaza is also packed with vendors and street performers, all trying to cash in on the constant flow of humanity. Make sure you see the famous Bear and Madroño Tree statue on the east side of the plaza- this statue is the symbol of Madrid, a testament to the locals’ ability to bounce back from anything- even massive hangovers...
- Check out Plaza Mayor- Another major plaza in Madrid, this square is a popular place for open-air markets, especially around Christmas. It has been host to bullfights, concerts, demonstrations- even executions. The plaza is lined with cafes and shops- all tourist traps. Unless you’re desperate, you’ll be better off waiting to find a place to nosh somewhere else. You will find a tourism information office here, if you have any questions about your visit to Madrid.
- Stroll through Parque Retiro & the Botanic Gardens- Located on the east side of town, these parks are really one and the same, though you have to pay a small fee to go into the Botanic Gardens portion. Parque Retiro is HUGE, with loads of walkways to stroll along and plenty of green spaces to relax in on a sunny afternoon. There is a large pond where you can rent a paddleboat, and often you’ll find musicians playing along the water’s edge.
- Peruse the Mercado de San Miguel- A large market near the Plaza Mayor, the Mercado de San Miguel houses countless stalls filled with fresh produce, cured meats, fine wines, and all kinds of delicacies. If you’re looking for a quick, cheap bite, you’re sure to find something here.
- Visit the Royal Palace- Palacio Real is a massive palace that has housed the Spanish monarchs for centuries. It is a beautiful building, and one of the icons of Madrid. You can take a tour through the interior, which includes a collection of medieval arms and armor. Lines are usually long, especially on Wednesdays when the tours are free. Go early!
- Window shop along the Gran Via- The ‘Broadway’ of Madrid, this stretch of road between Plaza de España to the west to Plaza de Cibeles in the east is well-known for its theaters, malls, and upscale designer shops. It is always buzzing, at all hours of the day.
- Get some culture in the Museum Triangle- This area on the east side of town is named for the three major art museums in the area: the Museo del Prado (a world-class fine art museum), the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum (a classical/impressionist art museum), and the Reina Sofia (Madrid’s modern art museum). The Naval Museum is also in the area- an interesting look into Spain’s sailing explorers and it’s naval history.
- Eat- The food in Madrid is just like it is everywhere else in Spain- DELICIOUS. Tapas restaurants, paella restaurants, traditional cervecerías- anything and everything. Take note that many restaurants will close mid-afternoon between lunch (typically served between 1-330p) and dinner services (starting around 8-9pm). Also, if there is a touristy-looking ‘billboard’ outside the door advertising how great the paella is, keep moving...
- Party- Madrid is legendary for its nightlife- the parties are plentiful, and go on all night long. On weekend, the clubs don’t start hopping until 2 or 3am, so if you’re not on the ‘Spanish Schedule’ yet, take it easy early on to ensure that you’re still around when the real party starts.