17 must-do things to do in Madrid

Visiter Madrid

Visiting Madrid: what are the best things to see and do in the Spanish capital?

Visiting Madrid over a 2 or 3-day weekend is ideal. The Spanish capital is well served by low-cost flights, the weather is fine all year round or almost, and your wallet won’t suffer too much. For a first-time visitor to Madrid, a long weekend is the perfect length of time to discover the must-see sights (including a host of museums), and the many things to do to soak up Madrid’s culture and rhythm of life.

To help you organize your stay, we’ve put together a list of the best things to do in Madrid for a weekend or longer stay.

1. Museums in Madrid

Musée El Prado, Madrid

Photo credit: Flickr – Joan

The Prado Museum is one of the most important museums in the world, and undoubtedly the pride of Madrid. It was inaugurated in 1819 and boasts over 9,000 works of art. In this museum, you’ll find the world’s largest collection of Spanish paintings. If you’re interested in art, this is an absolute must-see, with a guided tour for example. If you have time, don’t forget to visit the nearby Thyssen Museum, the Reina Sofía Museum and the archaeological museums.

2. Journey to the heart of the Templo de Debod

Templo de Debod, Madrid

Photo credit: Flickr – Rubén Nadador

A gift toSpain in 1968, this 2,200-year-old Egyptian temple, dedicated to Amun and Isis, sits on a hill overlooking the Casa de Campo (park) and is, without doubt, one of Madrid’s most beautiful sights. The magnificent sunsets behind the illuminated temple reflected in the water make it a perfect spot for photos. During the day, the view of the Royal Palace and Madrid Cathedral on one side, and Casa de Campo and the mountains on the other, are also worth a visit. A perfect spot for a picnic.

3. Explore El Palacio Real

Palais Royal, Madrid

Photo credit: Flickr – Joan

The Royal Palace is a beautiful and very important site in Madrid. It is the largest royal palace in Western Europe. Unless there’s an official event in the square, the Royal Palace is open to the public to explore on a guided tour. Don’t forget to pass through its magnificent gardens while you’re there. The Palace is located on the Plaza de Oriente, where the Teatro Real is also situated.

4. Enjoy tapas

La Latina is a great place to try tapas in Madrid. People love to go around bars, looking for the best of them (and there are many). In Madrid, and you’ll see this everywhere you go during your stay in Spain, tapas are offered with your drinks. So, with a few drinks, you can eat before going out in Madrid, for example. Spain’s most famous specialty is excellent and, above all, ubiquitous. You’ll find it all over the old town. For those with a sweet tooth, there’s no doubt that you’ll want to take a taste tour!

5. Puerta Del Sol

You should start your visit to Madrid here. Puerta del Sol is the center of everything. It’s from here that all the main streets begin. In the square, you’ll find the famous statue of the bear and the arbutus tree by sculptor Antonio Navarro Santafe, inspired by the coat of arms of the city of Madrid.

6. Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor, Madrid

Photo credit: Flickr – Lorenmart

After the Puerta del Sol, walk to the Plaza Mayor, which is a wonderful historical site to see. In the center of the square stands the statue of Philip III on horseback. The square is entirely pedestrianized. It is surrounded by arches and buildings of remarkable architecture.

7. Stop off at the Mercado de San Miguel

Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid

Photo credit: Flickr – Edu Blanco

An old traditional market transformed into a modern gastronomic experience, the San Miguel market lets you taste food samples for less than €1, sometimes even free, before deciding whether to buy this or that. You’ll find a wide variety of foods: cold meats, cheeses, fruit, vegetables, sushi, seafood, chocolates, ice creams, fruit juices, sangria, wines… all deliciously fresh and tasty. The smells and flavors are mouth-watering, and the glass structure of the building is enhanced by the daylight streaming through it, making it an excellent place to have lunch, right next to Plaza Mayor. If you’ve opted for the segway ride, there’s also a « Chocolate con Churros » stopover scheduled right here!

8. Pass through the library of the Athenaeum in Madrid

Virtually unknown to the general public, Spaniards included, this hidden gem is an ideal place to read, study and relax in Madrid. « Hidden », because the entrance usually goes unnoticed by passers-by. Founded in 1835, this institution boasts the second largest library in Spain (the National Library is the first) and has witnessed many historic events, as it was the cradle of liberal movements and Masonic meetings. Inside, you can immediately smell the old books, wood and paintings. A must-see if you have the time. TheAteneo is located at 21 Calle del Prado.

9. Treat yourself to a shopping spree

Madrid is a city that will delight all shopping enthusiasts! Not only because prices are affordable, but also because it’s very popular during the sales season. Gran Vía is packed with popular addresses, Calle Serrano is home to the most luxurious boutiques and Fuencarral is home to a host of small, typically Madrid-style stores. Let yourself wander, there’s a surprise around every corner!

10. Escape to Del Retiro Park

Parc El Retiro, Madrid

Photo credit: Flickr – Joan

If you need a little break or a moment to enjoy the fine weather, take a stroll through Del Retiro and its gardens. On foot(see route), by bike or even by segway, you’ll enjoy discovering the Palacio de Cristal and the wide open spaces where you can sit on the grass or a bench and watch the pond and the people. The palace organizes modern art exhibitions that are well worth seeing.

11. Attend a soccer match

If you’re a Real Madrid fan, the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium is another must-see attraction. You might even be able to watch the world’s best players kick the ball around before your very eyes. For an immersive experience alongside motivated fans, join the Colchoneros at the Stade de La Peineta (Wanda Metropolitano), Atlético Madrid’s new stadium since 2017. Both teams compete in the European championships every year.

12. Enjoy a chocolate con Churros

Churros, Chocolateria San Gines, Madrid.

Photo credit: Flickr – Daniel Mitsuo

Founded in 1894, the San Ginés chocolate factory is the ideal place to enjoy Madrid’s famous breakfast: chocolate with churros. Open 24 hours a day, this place is well worth a visit, even if it’s almost always full. If you’re patient, you’ll find a seat sooner or later. Also try La Mallorquina pastry shop, a few blocks away, for Napolitanas.

13. Diving into the heart of the Zoo Aquarium

Zoo Aquarium, Madrid

Photo credit: Flickr – LWYang

It’s a place that’s sure to delight young and old alike! In the heart of the Casa de Campo, Madrid’s Zoo Aquarium has made its home, defying the odds since 1770. An institution, a DNA that has earned it a place among the oldest zoos in the world. To discover it, simply take a ticket and let yourself be carried away by the magic of the place. From land to sea to sky, numerous species and exhibits await you, promising an experience of discovery in its own right.

15. Family fun at Parque Warner

Parc Warner, Madrid

Photo credit: Flickr – iñaki lopez

Like Port Aventura, the Warner Madrid theme park is a very popular attraction. Whether with family or friends, visitors love to be entertained by thrills and shows. These include the famous Superman roller coaster and the « Batman Begins » show in tribute to the superhero!

16. Getaway to Segovia

Unique and above all historic, Segovia is a must-see during your stay in Madrid. Home to an exclusive heritage, the city is renowned above all for its famous Roman aqueduct, which, as if frozen in time, is in an exceptional state of preservation. Segovia also bears witness to a cosmopolitan Spain: that of the 3 religions. With its medieval remains, the Alcazar, the cathedral, the Jewish quarter and the Antonio Machado Museum, the city offers a sumptuous cultural mix that has earned it UNESCO World Heritage status.

A full day is required to fully enjoy this excursion, which is undoubtedly well worth the detour!

17. Madrid and surroundings

Flamenco, Madrid

Photo credit: Flickr – Flavio~

  • Madrid Cathedral
  • Plaza de la Villa
  • Puerta de Alcalá
  • Plaza de Cibeles
  • Take a ride on Madrid’s cable car
  • Attend a flamenco show or concert
  • Visit the Las Ventas bullring
  • Go to the Rastro flea market on Sunday mornings, in the Lavapiés district.
  • CaixaForum Museum
  • The Goya Museum
  • Spend a day in Toledo

How to get to Madrid

Fly to Madrid on low-cost or classic flights from Paris, Toulouse, Marseille, Brussels, Mulhouse and many other cities. Find a cheap flight to Madrid on the website of our partner Ulysses.

Where to stay in Madrid

Madrid is a big city, and it’s important to choose accommodation in the right neighborhood, so as to be close to the center and the must-see monuments. To find a cheap hotel in Madrid, do a search on this Madrid hotel comparator. The city is full of youth hostels, small boutique hotels and luxury hotels, all at the best prices.

Have you visited Madrid? Do you know of other things to do in the Spanish capital?

Map of hotels and accommodation – Madrid,es