Madrid is a cosmopolitan city where culture and fun are equally shared.
There are many things that can be done in Madrid. In this post we are going to talk about activities related to wine and gastronomy, but we will cover other essential things in Madrid for you to enjoy your stay.
There are few people from Madrid who really consider themselves from Madrid. Being called a “gato” (cat in Spanish) is a person from Madrid whose 3 generations of relatives, on maternal and paternal side, were born in Madrid. Spain’s capital is a host city for a huge part of its population, which has established itself in Madrid over the years. Not infrequently, a brief initial stay has turned into a permanent. This reality has made people strive to integrate with the locals, and the city itself makes it easy for you to do that and enjoy it.
So let’s move on to the things we recommend you do during your days in Madrid.
Table of Contents
We had to start this list of recommendations with wine and, by extension, tapas. Tapas are not a Madrid creation, but of Andalusia. Nevertheless, Madrid welcomed them with enormous taste and diversity.
The kingdom’s capital was full of taverns. They mainly served Valdepeñas wines. All the Royal Courts of Europe have always consumed wine, and in Madrid it was drunk in large quantities. The past has not just disappeared, but today many of those taverns remain standing. The wines are better, the hairstyles and the clothes have changed, but its walls and bars keep many secrets that make them special places.
Our favorite places to enjoy wine in Madrid? In this link you will find a selection with our favorite spots. Make sure you stop by the neighborhoods of La Latina (La Cava Alta and Cava Baja). If you are looking for a modern version of town and full of venues you can find plenty of options near the Parque del Retiro (Menorca street) and the Ponzano area. A highly recommended option to enjoy tapas in Madrid in a simple way is to join one of the walking tours that are organized throughout the city. There are many, and not all will offer you the best quality, so be careful when choosing. We propose these options that may interest you.
Madrid hosts three of the most important art galleries in the world (The Prado Museum, the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum, and the Reina Sofía Museum). However, there are other museums, smaller and less known, offering enormous artistic value and very interesting collections.
They are less popular than the “big ones”, but their visits are highly recommended. We’ll share with you three of these museums: El Sorolla, el Lázaro Galdiano, and the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando. The first of them is the beautiful Sorolla museum, located in the palace in which the artist lived. If you have never heard of Sorolla we are sure that his art will surprise you, especially if you like paintings depicting traditional scenes. The second of these museums is the Lázaro Galdiano museum, not well-known to the general public, but it exhibits works by Goya, El Bosco, or El Greco. Just to admire Goya’s impressive work, “El akelarre de las brujas” is worth the visit.
The last of these three, the Royal Academy of San Fernando, is one of the biggest surprises that Madrid offers. 1,500 framed paintings, 1,500 sculptures, 15,000 drawings, 2,000 photographs, porcelain and silverware. In others cities, this museum would be more than a must. In Madrid it almost goes unnoticed in the shadow of the three giants.
We saved for last this little-known gem: Goya’s frescoes in the chapel of San Antonio de la Florida. A masterpiece.
Madrid hosts three of the most important art galleries in the world.
The Prado Museum (web) is one of the best art galleries in the world. Touring the Prado is to recap Spain’s history through its painting. The imperial past is present in all of Velázquez’s works, and the great number of Flemish artists are witness to the power of the Spanish Empire at the time. The museum boasts a fantastic location and this district is one of the best areas to stay in Madrid in style. Check out here the best hotels near the Prado museum.
The two most important and best represented artists are Velazquez and Goya. But you will find works by many other Spanish artists; works by El Greco, Italian and Flemish artists, etc. The museum has over 7,000 works, although around 1,700 are on display. Since touring the entire museum could be overwhelming, we recommend the following 10 artworks:
- Las Meninas from Veláquez
- Veláquez’s Las Lanzas (surrender of Breda)
- Goya’s Black Paintings
- Goya’s The Shootings of May 2nd and 3rd
- Las Majas (naked and dressed).
- El Bosco: The Garden of Earthly Delights.
- The Three Graces, from Rubens
- David Defeating Goliath (from Caravaggio)
- Artemis (from Rembrandt)
- The Trinity (by El Greco)
The second of the Great Museums is very close to the Prado. The Thyssen-Bornemisza is one of the most important private art collections in the world. It does not focus on a particular group of artists (such as the Prado with Goya and Velázquez, or the Reina Sofía with Picasso and Dalí) but there are works of great value and it is a tour of the history of first-rate art. Our favorite section is on the first floor, with works ranging from Van Gogh to Renoir. Manet, Monet, Cezanne, Gauguin, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, Pizarro, Picasso, Kandisnky, Hopper, and Juan Gris… among others. Simply spectacular.
The Reina Sofía is the third of the iconic museums in Madrid. The museum is located in two very different buildings. An old hospital structure houses the central part of the museum collections. The extension that was built in 2005 was the work of the French architect, Jean Nouvel. The building is impressive, and the space welcomes the temporary exhibitions, the administration area and cinemas, library, etc.
The most important piece of the museum is Picasso’s Guernica. This fundamental work of the Andalusian painter, of enormous dimensions and a tragic content, shows what cannot happen again.
The Museum offers in its collection other pieces of enormous value,including Picasso, Dalí (Girl At The Window, The Great Masturbator) and works by many other artists such as Miró, Braque, Barceló, Chillida or Tapies.
Madrid is one of the few cities in the world that can boast of having 5 destinations that are Unesco heritage sites less than a 2-hour drive away. Each one of these places deserve an excursion to know them, but time is scarce. In addition to these options with the endorsement of Unesco, the outskirts of Madrid also offer the opportunity to get closer to the wine country and enjoy fantastic wineries, vineyards, and wines.
We begin this brief review of the wine tours (after all, it is our passion!) and we will continue briefly with the Unesco heritage sites.
Wine tours near Madrid
The former capital of the most important empire of the world in its time, Madrid consumed a lot of wine and has an important wine region. This wine arrived in Madrid from vineyards located mainly in the Castilla La Mancha area, but also in areas closer to Madrid and Castilla León. Currently, the vineyard areas that can be visited for a wine tour departing from Madrid. Some of these tours can also be combined with the visit to Unesco heritage sites in the same excursion.
1) Aranjuez Palace and its gardens (summer palace of the royal family), 2) El Escorial Monastery (monastery, palace, museum and mausoleum of the kings of Spain), 3) Toledo: the city of the 3 cultures, old capital of the kingdom, and a museum in open air and a day tour to Toledo should be among your top priorities during your stay in Madrid . 4) Segovia: with its Roman aqueduct, one of the best-preserved in the world, its beautiful palace and its cathedral, it has been for decades Madrid’s favorite town to eat on weekends. Find more things to do in Segovia in one day here. 5) Ávila: its impressive wall captivates all visitors and 6) Cuenca: its iconic cliff-hanging houses, a perfect and precious example of architectural ingenuity.
Madrid is home of the most important soccer club in the world. The Real Madrid. It is the club that has accumulated more awards in the sport’s history, and a legend for soccer fans.
Real Madrid’s stadium, Santiago Bernabeu, is located in the financial district of the city and it is a must-see for any sports lover. It has a museum area that has been transformed with many technical innovations and the visit is very interesting, specially fun for kids. Within the stadium itself there are several restaurants, so after a guided tour you can eat at the stadium facilities overlooking the playing field.
Atlético de Madrid is the other great club in the city, and its stadium is the Wanda Metropolitano, an architectural gem. Atlético does not have the number of trophies that Real Madrid has, but its story is full of great moments and the fans are its most valuable asset. The club has moved out from the legendary Vicente Calderón stadium, located in the Madrid Río area, to the modern and awesome Metropolitan Wanda field. The visit includes passing through the benches, the lawn and a tour of the history and legends of the club.
A very interesting and well-know fact about Madrid is that it is the capital of Europe with most trees. Madrid has large parks and, among them, the most important is the Retiro, right in the center of the capital. El Retiro was a park for the royal family until it opened its doors to all Madrid residents. In those days it had a zoo on its premises. It is a perfect place to take a breath and stroll through it after a day of visiting the city. It is also a perfect place to do a little exercise.
Among the most outstanding attractions of park we should mention its pond (you can rent rowing boats, a great activity with children), the Crystal Palace; a beautiful art-deco style construction used as an open-sky art collection showing the Fallen Angel statue; the rose garden, or the Forest of Memories; a spot that holds a special meaning for the city, as it was built as tribute to those killed in the brutal attack in March 2003 at the Atocha station in Madrid.
El Retiro is one of the 10 essential things to do in Madrid, but outdoors enthusiasts can find more interesting options. La Casa de Campo is a huge forest located on the edge of Madrid. It can be accessed from the cable car close to the Temple of Debod. It is one of the favorite activities for children in Madrid.
Other parks of interest are the Berlin Park, very close to the Santiago Bernabeu. The Oeste Park, near Moncloa and where the temple of Debod is, or the Parque del Capricho, a beautiful park near the airport. Its romantic style and decoration explains its name: the whim. The King Juan Carlos Park is huge and full of surprises, like the statue of a hand coming out of the ground. It is located on the outskirts of Madrid, as well as the new forest park Felipe VI.
A tour of Madrid always includes its squares, or plazas. The most famous are the Plaza Mayor, the Plaza de Oriente, and Puerta del Sol, but there are many more.
The urban squares in most of Castilla (Madrid was part of Castilla) show arcades in their architectural design, with arches holding the structure. The roofed-arcades surrounding the squares allow pedestrians to walk under when it rains . The origin of these plazas was mainly to be used as market places, but this is not the case for all of them. Older people in Spain still call them “market square” sometimes. The main square (Plaza Mayor) is a huge plaza in the center of Madrid. A view from the air clearly shows us how the city grew outward from its main square.
The Plaza de Oriente is an elegant square between the Royal Palace and the Opera Palace. Sol, on the other hand, is the busiest: a meeting point that connects very commercial streets of the center of Madrid.
But as we say, there are many more places in Madrid. The Plaza de España, at the end of Gran Vía is where we find the statue of Don Quixote and Sancho, along with some of the old skyscrapers from the city. The Plaza de la Independencia, next to the Retiro park, has in its center the famous Puerta de Alcalá. Plaza de Santa Ana, humming with activity, is a key gathering place for neighbors and tourists alike, looking for a free table to sit down and enjoy its terraces. The list goes on
and on. Some of our favorites are not even that famous: Plaza de la Paja, in Madrid’s Austrias district, which was the place where straw was delivered by the peasants for the horses of the clergy. The square of the Villa de Paris, elegant and close to the Paseo de Recoletos. And last but not least, the Villa square, the oldest in the city and which still preserves its medieval character, very close to the Palacio de Oriente.
The Royal Palace, despite its name, is not the palace where the kings of Spain live. The royal family lives in the Zarzuela Palace, while the Royal palace is used for events and ceremonies. The Royal Palace is one of the largest in the world. It has “only” about 3,400 rooms. The Palace is located in a privileged location in Madrid: opposite to the Plaza de Oriente, and surrounded by the Campo del Moro, and the Sabatini gardens. Monday is possibly the least suitable day to visit the Palace, as many places close on Mondays in Madrid, there are lots of people opting to visit the Palace that day and, as expected, the queues are very long.
Like any large city, Madrid is an important center for shopping. A lot of tourists who come to the city dedicate an entire day to this activity. Apparently, compared to others big cities, the prices of established brands are somewhat more reasonable in Madrid.
The shopping street for high-end brands par excellence is Calle de Serrano. In this street you can find a good number of prestigious brands. Its surrounding streets are also a zone where major brands gather up. Calle de Goya, square angle to Serrano, is a highly commercial street, although with more generalist brands and franchises of great volume. You can still find some authentic shops scattered around the neighborhood of Salamanca and other districts further away from the city center. Departing from Madrid there are daily tours to shopping centers specialized in luxury brands with great discounts.
Some city spots and buildings offer exceptional viewpoints of Spain’s capital. One of the best views of Madrid and the Casa de Campo is in the temple of Debod. The views of the Royal Palace and the Almudena Cathedral are fantastic from here, especially at sunset. The Madrid City Council (Ayuntamiento de Madrid), located in Plaza de Cibeles, has a terrace on the top floor with fantastic views of the city center. You’ll find even better sights from the terrace of the Center of Fine Arts, and those from the Ático restaurant, in the Principal Madrid Hotel. In Plaza de España there is another hotel, Ríu, with unbeatable views from its rooftop lounge bar. The views from the terrace of the Corte Inglés mall in Callao are also fantastic. Hopefully this guide will be of help when you are preparing your trip to Madrid.
Three of the best art museums in the world are in Madrid. This is called the Golden Triangle due to their proximity:
MUSEO DEL PRADO
MUSEO REINA SOFIA (Contemporary Art)
PALACIO REAL DE MADRID (Royal Palace of Madrid): You can also see the Changing of the Guard every Wednesday except during winter. The biggest one is held the first Wednesday of every month.
MUSEO ARQUEOLÓGICO NACIONAL (National Archaeological Museum of Spain)
MUSEO SOROLLA: featuring works by the famous painter Joaquín Sorolla
We suggest you visit one of these museums to see how the aristocracy of Madrid lived during the 19th century:
MUSEO LÁZARO GALDIANO
MUSEO DEL ROMANTICISMO (Museum of Romanticism)
Depending on your interests, we suggest visiting one of these museums:
MUSEO NAVAL (Museum of the Spanish Navy)
MUSEO DE AMÉRICA (Museum of the Americas, pre-Columbian and during colonization)
MUSEO NACIONAL DE ANTROPOLOGÍA (National Museum of Anthropology)
If you like soccer or sports in general, do not miss REAL MADRID STADIUM or ATLÉTICO DE MADRID STADIUM
CATEDRAL DE LA ALMUDENA (Almudena Cathedral): It is just in front of the Royal Palace. Do not miss the crypt!
IGLESIA DE SAN ANTONIO DE LOS ALEMANES (Church of St. Anthony of the Germans): Amazing oval church very close to Gran Via
SAN JERÓNIMO EL REAL (St. Jerome the Royal): Also called ‘LOS JERÓNIMOS’. It is behind the Prado Museum. Traditional meeting point for the Spanish Monarchy’s events.
REAL BASÍLICA DE SAN FRANCISCO EL GRANDE (Royal Basilica of St. Francis the Great): Largest dome in Spain.
REAL ERMITA DE SAN ANTONIO DE LA FLORIDA (Royal Chapel of St. Anthony of La Florida): Ceiling and dome frescoes by Goya.
COLEGIATA DE SAN ISIDRO EL REAL (Baroque Church of San Isidro el Real): Isidore the Laborer is the patron saint of the City of Madrid.
TEMPLO DE DEBOD (Egyptian Temple of Debod): Located near Plaza de España. This 2nd century BC temple was donated to Spain in 1968 as a sign of gratitude for the help provided by Spain in saving the temples of Abu Simbel.
PUERTA DE ALCALÁ: A Neo-classical monument that looks like an Arch of Triumph. In fact, it could be considered the first Arch of Triumph built in Europe after the Roman Empire.
PALACIO DE CIBELES (Cibeles Palace and former Communications Palace): There is a restaurant and a rooftop terrace with nice views of the Plaza de Cibeles.
TEATRO REAL (Royal Theatre opera house): This wonderful theater facing the Royal Palace will turn 200 years old in 2018.
REAL CASA DE CORREOS: It is the oldest building in Puerta del Sol. The clock tower is very well-known for the Spanish New Year’s tradition. People across Spain eat one grape (12 total) at each chime of the clock tower’s bell for good luck.
PANTEÓN DE HOMBRES ILUSTRES (Pantheon of Illustrious Men): It is located within the Basilica of Nuestra Señora de Atocha and houses the sculpted tombs of a number of famous Spaniards.
CASÓN DEL BUEN RETIRO: Do not miss the amazing painting on the ceiling, ‘The Allegory of the Golden Fleece’ by Luca Giordano.
PLAZA DE TOROS DE LAS VENTAS (Madrid’s famous bullring): Since 1929, this Neo-Mudejar style building is one of the most important bullrings in the world.
PUERTA DE EUROPA-TORRES KIO (Gate of Europe-Kio Towers)
TORRES BLANCAS (White towers)
CUATRO TORRES (Four Towers Business Area)
PLAZA DE ESPAÑA – TORRE DE MADRID & EDIFICIO ESPAÑA (Madrid Tower & Spain Building)
TORRE PICASSO & AZCA (Picasso Tower & Azca Complex)
TORRE DE VALENCIA
ESPACIO FUNDACIÓN TELEFÓNICA
CÍRCULO DE BELLAS ARTES
CASA DE AMÉRICA
CENTRO DE EXPOSICIONES ARTE CANAL
LA CASA ENCENDIDA
FARO DE MONCLOA
TELEFÉRICO DE MADRID (cable car)
PARQUE DEL RETIRO (Retiro Park): This is the main park in the city centre.
MADRID RÍO: It is a new park with many architecture awards because it has changed the whole neighbourhood’s way of life by setting the highways underground.
PARQUE JUAN CARLOS I
PARQUE DEL CAPRICHO
CASA DE CAMPO
PARQUE DEL OESTE: The cable car runs from here.
More information on best parks in Madrid in this link
PARQUE DE ATRACCIONES
PARQUE WARNER MADRID: There is a train to reach it because it is located 30km outside the city.
ZOO AQUARIUM DE MADRID
FAUNIA (zoo and botanical garden)
CASA MUSEO RATÓN PÉREZ (Museum of Perez the Mouse, the Spanish version of the tooth fairy)
MUSEO DEL FERROCARRIL & TREN DE LA FRESA (Madrid Railway Museum & Strawberry Train to Aranjuez)
MUSEO NACIONAL DE CIENCIAS NATURALES (National Museum of Natural History of Spain)
MUSEO DE CERA (Madrid Wax Museum)
PLANETARIO DE MADRID (Madrid Planetarium)
CALLE SERRANO + CALLE DE CLAUDIO COELLO + CALLE GOYA
GRAN VIA + CALLE PRECIADOS + CALLE DE LA PRINCESA
CALLE DE ORENSE + AV. DEL GENERAL PERÓN + CALLE DE RAIMUNDO FERNANDEZ VILLAVERDE
EL CORTE INGLÉS (department stores)
LA VAGUADA / PLENILUNIO / GRAN PLAZA (malls)
JUST WALK AROUND…
CALLE DE LAS HUERTAS & PLAZA DE SANTA ANA
PLAZA MAYOR & CALLE CAVA BAJA & CALLE CAVA ALTA & PLAZA DE LA PAJA
PLAZA CHUECA & CALLE FUENCARRAL
CORRAL DE LA MORERÍA
CABALGATA DE LOS REYES MAGOS (Three Kings Parade)– JAN 5TH
MADRID CARNIVAL – MID-FEBRUARY
EASTER PARADES – MARCH OR APRIL
SAN ISIDRO FESTIVAL – MAY 15TH
FIESTA NACIONAL DE ESPAÑA (National Day of Spain & Day of the Armed Forces) – OCT 12TH, celebrated with a military parade
DÍA DE LA VIRGEN DE LA ALMUDENA (Feast of Our Lady of Almudena)– NOV 9TH
FIESTA DE LA TRASHUMANCIA (sheep crossing through the city center) – FIRST SUNDAY OF NOVEMBER
MICHELIN STAR RESTAURANTS:
More information on Michelin restaurants in Madrid in this link
Diverxo*** / El Club de Allard** / La Terraza del Casino** / Ramón Freixa** / Santceloni** / Sergi Arola Gastro** / Álbora* / DSTAgE* / Kabuki* / La Cabra* / Lúa* / Punto MX*
MADRID TRADITIONAL CUISINE:
La Bola / Malacatín / El Landó / Lhardy / Casa Lucio / Sobrinos de Botín
García de la Navarra / El Ten con Ten / Lavinia / Laredo / Zalacain
Las tortillas de Gabino (Spanish omelettes) / Poncelet Cheese Bar / La Gastrocroquetería de Chema / El 17 de Moreto / Diurno / La Mucca del Prado / La Gloria de Montera / Bazaar / Maceiras / Cornucopia / Viva la vida (vegetarian)
VEGETARIAN RESTAURANTS IN MADRID:
La huerta de Tudela (this has meat & fish also) / El Vegetariano de Teresa / La Isla del Tesoro / El pequeño vegetariano. You can find more information on vegetarian restaurants in Madridin this link.
Galician & Seafood: O Grelo / Combarro / O’Pazo
Asturian & Seafood: El Oso / Teitu / Viavélez
Valencian (Paella): El pato mudo / Casa Benigna
Catalan: La huerta de Lleida
Basque:Dantxari / Txistu
RESTAURANT WITH BEST VIEWS OF MADRID:
Volvoreta Restaurant at the top of the Eurostars Madrid Tower Hotel
Mercadeo de San Miguel / Platea / StreetXO (Gourmet Experience of Serrano) / Mercado de San Antón / Mercado de San Ildefonso
One of the best ways to enjoy the Tapas culture is to join a tapas tour in Madrid.
PALACIO DE CIBELES – Plaza Cibeles, 1 (area: Cibeles)
CIRCULO DE BELLAS ARTES – Calle de Alcalá, 42 (area: Cibeles)
HOTEL ME MADRID REINA VICTORIA – Plaza de Santa Ana, 14 (area: Plaza Santa Ana)
MERCADO SAN ANTÓN – Calle de Augusto Figueroa, 24 (area: Chueca)
GOURMET EXPERIENCE GRAN VÍA – Plaza de Callao, 2 (area: Gran Vía)
GOURMET EXPERIENCE SERRANO – Calle Serrano, 52 (area: Colon)
THE PRINCIPAL MADRID HOTEL – Calle de Marqués de Valdeiglesias, 1 (area: Gran Vía)
You can also find our complete list with a map in this post with traditional bars in Madrid
La Chula de Chamberí – Fernando El Santo, 11 (area: Plaza de Colón)
Orio – Fuencarral, 49 (area: Plaza de Chueca)
Juana la Loca – Plaza Puerta de Moros, 4 (area: La Latina)
Taberna del Chato – Calle de la Cruz, 35 (area: Plaza Santa Ana)
Vadebaco – Campomanes, 6 (area: Ópera)
TRADITIONAL (Some of them are also restaurants)
Stop Madrid – Hortaleza, 11 (area: Chueca)
La Ardosa – Colón, 13 (area: Chueca)
Antigua Casa Angel Sierra – Gravina, 11 (area: Chueca)
Tempranillo – Cava Baja 38 (area: La Latina)
Matritum – Cava Alta, 16 (area: La Latina)
El Aloque – Torrecilla del Leal, 20 (area: Reina Sofía Museum)
La Venencia – Sherry wines – Echegaray, 7 (area: Plaza Santa Ana)
Vinícola Mentridana – San Eugenio, 9 (area: Reina Sofía Museum)
Bodegas Rosell – General Lacy, 14 (area: Reina Sofía Museum)
Fábrica Maravillas Microbrewery – Valverde St, 29.
La Tape – San Bernardo St, 88
Irreale – Manuela Malasaña St, 20.
Vailima, Tea Place – Salustiano Olózaga St, 18 (area: Cibeles)
Sandwicheria Magasand – Columela St, 4 (area: Retiro)
Mamá Framboise Pastisserie – Fernando VI, 23 St (area: Chueca)
Café Gijón – Paseo de Recoletos, 21 (area: Cibeles)
Café del Espejo Terrace – Paseo de Recoletos, 31 (area: Colon)
Café de Oriente – Plaza Oriente, 2 (area: Royal Palace)
Café Jazz Populart – Huertas St, 22 (area: Plaza Santa Ana)
San Ginés – Pasadizo San Ginés, 5 – Chocolate con churros (area: Plaza Mayor)
Valor – Postigo de San Martin St, 7 – Chocolate con churros (area: Puerta del Sol)
El Madroño – Latoneros St, 10 & Plaza Puerta Cerrada, 7 – Taste or buy licor de madroño (strawberry tree liqueur typical from Madrid)
Juicy Avenue – Preciados St, 33 & Plaza Alonso Martinez, 7 & Fuencarral St, 93 – Juices, Smoothies and Cakes
Acquolina – Velarde St, 17 – Icecream & Horchata
Alboraya – Alcalá St, 125, & Felipe II Av, 26 – Horchata & Agua de Cebada (barley water)
Our list of some of our favorite traditional wine bars in the center of Madrid. Enjoy a glass of wine and some tapas at these local bars for an authentic Spanish experience.
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