Madrid Travel Guide
Madrid, the city that never sleeps, where culture and world-renowned architecture reigns supreme! It is the capital of Spain and consequently the biggest out of all its five major cities, with a population of 3 million. This makes it the third most populated city in Europe after Berlin and London.
It was once called Majerit by Emir Muhammed in the 9th century and under Arab occupation for centuries until the re-conquest of Spain by Christians. Eventually, in 1085, King Alfonso I gave the city a new name and ordered the removal of all Islamic symbols. However it was not until 1978 after the death of the military dictator, General Franco, that Madrid was given capital status.
Clearly, Madrid has had its fair share of turmoil and history, but for now let’s stick to the present where there are tons of things to do and see, and you’ll need more than just a weekend to do it!
10 things you absolutely have to do in Madrid!
1- The Plaza Mayor: Situated in the heart of the city, the Plaza Mayor was built during Philip III’s reign. It measures 129 by 94 meters and is circled by three story residential buildings, and a total of 237 balconies. This makes it the architectural enthusiast’s dream! Better yet, just a few blocks away is the Puerta del Sol which is another famous plaza based in Madrid.
2- The Royal Basilica of San Francisco el Grande: It might not be on par with The Vatican’s St Peter’s Cathedral, but it is still a sight you do not want to miss in Madrid. Based in the corner of La Latina (which is also a popular place to socialize, eat and drink!), the Royal Basilica of San Francisco is one of the largest churches in Spain and the fourth largest in the world! Step into a little piece of history and gorge on the beauty of its architecture.
3- Watch a football game at the Read Madrid Bernabeu Stadium: It’s no secret that the Spanish love football just as much as the Brits or the Portuguese. The Real Madrid Bernabeu Stadium is iconic, considering the phenomenal talent that has walked its floors and the compelling football games played throughout its history. Be sure to grab yourself a ticket and enjoy a game of proper Spanish football, just like millions have done before you. Or, if that’s not possible then get yourself a tour instead! Tour tickets cost €24 adults, €18 under-14s, free for under-5s.
4- Visit the renowned Prado Museum: A trip to Madrid is not complete without visiting at least one museum! So, why not make it to one of the best museums in the world! It offers the finest collection of fine art by some of the greatest artists in the world. These include Goya, Velazquez, El Greco, Raphael, Titian and Tintoretto, Rubens and Bosch which have influenced art and design through the ages. For art buffs, the Prado Museum is a historical gold mine fueled with creativity and paint! Tickets cost €15 to see permanent and temporary collections.
5- Grab a bite at Sobrino de Botin: Situated near the Plaza Mayor, it is the oldest restaurant in the world! In fact, it’s been serving since 1725 and has been mentioned in literature by several notable authors such as Ernest Hemingway in The Sun Always Rises. Fill your bellies with traditional Spanish cuisine and fine wine within the walls of antiquity. Tours of the restaurant cost €75 and run for a total of 45 minutes between 12:15 pm and 7 pm.
6- Explore authenticity through the Rastro de Madrid: You can just about find everything from tapas to crafted clay mugs here! The Rastro flea market offers travelers a unique experience of Madrid through arts, crafts, and traditional cuisine.
7- Enjoy scenic views on Cerror del Tio Pio: Sometimes known as the Parque de las 7 tetas, this park is famous for its glorious views of the city. It offers a picturesque view of Madrid in all of its glory, perfect for the visual traveler and all selfie stick experts!
8- Take a stroll down Gran Via: For the urban explorer who finds solace in bustling metropolis areas and gigantic shopping centers. Take a walk down Gran Via where you will find a vigorous nightlife and a wide array of restaurants. Also considered the Spanish Broadway due to the countless ongoing theater productions!
9- La Latina for the night owl: Considered one of the oldest areas of Madrid, La Latina is an explosive mixture of colors and cultures. The streets are filled with people scattered around on tables, or simply lounging around and soaking up some midday sun. It has a huge nightlife that is popular among both locals and visitors.
10- The Royal Palace of Madrid: Opened in 1755, the Royal Palace has been a classic icon for Madrid. Of course, the royal family no longer lives there but visitors are welcome to roam the halls and decadent rooms as they please. It is surrounded by lush greenery for a scenic backdrop.
Although we’ve condensed our list down to 10 top things to do and see, Madrid is incredibly rich and diverse! That means there is plenty more to see and do. So, for the hungry traveler that is keen on visiting a lively city rich in history and drowned in culture and architecture, Madrid is the city for you. Just remember to pack plenty of sunscreen, for those summer months when it can get seriously hot, with lots of positive vibes!
Recommended Places to Stay
- TOC Hostels : This very social, super snazzy and modernly decorated and very well equipped hostel has an outstanding location in Madrid within a 5 minute walk to Puerta Del Sol. Very friendly, professional and accommodating staff who are ready to help out in any way possible. Great new kitchen facilities, a chill-out room with a TV, and an absolutely outstanding buffet breakfast. Would recommend this place to anyone looking to have the full-on Madridian experience…
- Mad 4 You Hostel : Conveniently located in the outskirts on the city, this wonderful and cozy hostel has friendly helpful staff who will go out of their way to accommodate and insure a comfortable and memorable stay. Impeccable cleanliness. Cozy rooms and a delightful relaxing courtyard. Would recommend this place o anyone looking for a relaxing yet eventful stay in Madrid.
- Huertas Neighborhood Food & Market Tour: Devour Tours is an intimate experience is limited to a handful of people. Wander through Madrid’s vibrant culinary scene on a couple of hour food and market tour. Stroll through the narrow cobble stone streets with an experienced guide and sample delicious tapas in a few handpicked local eateries while learning about the local ingredients. Treat yourself to some delicious Spanish wines paired Iberian ham, salted cod, delicious local olives and more.
- Madrid Wine Tour with Gourmet Madrid: Guided by a team of wine experts, explore the gourmet side of Madrid with its countryside and surrounding charming villages. Visit local family-run wineries, interact and learn about the wines first hand from the makers themselves. Sample some excellent wine with various colors and consistencies, some seriously delicious local nibbles, all coupled with plenty of history and lots of fun.
- Pub Crawl with The Pub Crawl Company: If you’re looking for a good night out but don’t wanna have to plan yourself, get on this diverse and pretty well organized tour. Experience a darker side of Madrid with friendly accommodating and enthusiastic guides, it’s a great way to interact with people, make new friends and have a great night.