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15 Best Things To Do In Madrid 

From shopping to parks, museums to markets. 

The geographical and cultural heart of Spain, Madrid is a worthy capital for the various cultures united under the Spanish flag. Beautiful and grand, it holds many of the institutions you would expect from a former European imperial city. The Royal Palace is the largest in Europe, and the Prado museum is filled with enough great works of art to leave anyone reeling. El Retiro Park (literally “The Retreat”) is at the center of the city, and it’s where locals and tourists alike flock to enjoy a moment’s calm in beguiling surroundings. There’s no shortage of food and music either, with everything from traditional to contemporary restaurants and nightlife shaking up the scene in a city that loves to keep the oil burning all night.

With so much to do, see, and eat, it's hard to know how best to plan out your itinerary for optimal sightseeing—whether it's your first time visiting or your fifth. This list of the best things to do in the Spanish capital is a great place to start.

But remember—no list of things to do can compare to a custom-built itinerary from Journy. Leave it to the experts to build a daily travel plan from scratch just for you—complete not only with activities, but also boutiques, restaurants, dessert spots (for the best churros!), cafés, rooftop bars, flamenco shows, flea markets, transportation, and accommodation.

Heading to Barcelona too? Check out our list of the 28 best things to do there.

1Stroll Through Plaza Mayor 


Plaza Mayor, Madrid, Spain
Plaza Mayor is Madrid’s central square; a reprieve and an open space that’s known for its impressive architecture, interesting history, and electric street life. Beautiful in its own right, it has become an iconic reference point in Madrid. 

Try on a chalupa, dine at one of the many nearby restaurants and cafes, or search for the perfect souvenir.

2Go Shopping at El Corte Ingles


Calle de la Abada, 9, 28013 Madrid, Spain
The largest department store in Madrid, El Corte Inglés is one-stop-shop for fashion lovers. Similar to Nordstrom or Bloomingdales, El Corte carries everything from makeup and cosmetics, to designer purses from brands you love—not to mention one-of-a-kind jewelry and home goods. 

The store is also home to a wealth of great food, with areas dedicated to the legendary Godiva chocolate, fresh coffee, and turron (Spanish nougat candy).
Sounds like something you’d like to experience? Trust the experts at Journy to build an itinerary from scratch just for you with all the must-see sights and hidden gems.

3Explore Puerta del Sol


Puerta del Sol, Madrid, Spain
The saying may go “all roads lead to Rome” but in Spain, they all lead to La Puerta del Sol in Madrid. Well, the six national roads do. 

Madrid’s most famous meeting place, La Puerta del Sol is where you’ll find cafes, street art, and crowds celebrating whatever event happens to be taking place that day (normally, it’s a Real Madrid F.C. win).

4Go Shopping in Salamanca


Salamanca, Madrid, Spain
Salamanca is Madrid’s swankiest shopping district, studded with high-end stores from both internationally renowned and locally regarded designers. Aside from the likes of Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, and YSL, you’ll also encounter Spain-based favorites such as Castañer (for fashionable espadrilles) and One-T's (for leather gloves). For a bit of cultural excitement, check out Justo Algaba; Madrid’s bullfighters’ go-to destination for their head-to-toe suiting. 

5Explore Platea


Calle de Goya, 5, 7, 28001 Madrid, Spain
Platea is a six-story hall of gastronomy situated in an old, 1950s-style cinema. It has a little something for everyone, from reasonably priced tapas prepared by Michelin-starred chefs to cheap drinks, fresh produce stalls, pastry shops, kitchenware, and flowers. While food is an obvious focus here, Platea also hosts live performances on the cinema stage. Cocktail bar El Palco is our preferred watering hole here for excellent drinks with stage views. 

6Visit Palacio de Cristal


Paseo República de Cuba, 4, 28009 Madrid, Spain
The Palacio de Cristal, or Glass Palace, is one of El Retiro's landmark structures. Built in the late 1800s for an exhibition of tropical plants from the Philippines, the building itself was modeled after London’s Crystal Palace. These days, the breathtaking structure exhibits modern art and photography exhibitions. 

7Relax in El Retiro Park


Plaza de la Independencia, 7, 28001 Madrid, Madrid, Spain
Even in a city full of parks, El Retiro is notably enormous. The 125-hectare space is home to 15,000 trees, a lake (with boat rides), the Velazquez and Glass palaces, as well as countless fountains and monuments. As such, the park is popular among locals and visitors alike for a morning jog or afternoon of cultural sights. With its variety of playgrounds, El Retiro is also a family favorite. 

8Visit The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía


Calle de Santa Isabel, 52
The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía is Spain's national museum of 20th-century art. Reina Sofia houses some of the world's most extraordinary contemporary pieces, including Picasso's masterpiece, "Guernica." The large majority of the works exhibited are the creations of Spanish artists, including some of the most famous names of the past century: Juan Gris, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, and Joan Miró, as well as artwork by other famous international artists such as Diego Rivera.

9Wander Through Real Jardín Botánico


Plaza de Murillo, 2, 28014 Madrid, Madrid, Spain
Located just south of the Prado Museum on Paseo del Prado, the Real Jardín Botaníco is a gorgeous plant sanctuary in the heart of Madrid. The gardens were originally created in 1782 for Charles III, and contain over 30,000 types of plants. It's like a museum for live plants, and the garden's caretakers simply ask that you treat it as such. 

10Explore Casa de Campo


Casa de Campo, Madrid, Spain
Casa de Campo is a sprawling park west of the city center. When Spain's capitol moved from Valladolid to Madrid in the late 1500s, Phillip II created the park as a hunting ground. The area was used exclusively by the royal family for hundreds of years, opening to the general public in 1931. 

Today, the park has a lake with boat rentals, a cable car, zoo, outdoor pools, and an amusement park. With its numerous walking trails, simply strolling the greenery is also a popular activity. 

11Grab a Bite at Mercado de San Miguel


Plaza de San Miguel, S/N, 28005 Madrid, Spain
Encased inside one of Madrid’s most historic buildings, Mercado de San Miguel is a hotspot for epicureans from all over the world. At this behemoth food hall you'll find a never-ending selection of regional cuisine to taste. Highlights include exotic goose barnacles (percebes), several types of paella, and a mouth-watering assortment of olives. Cocktails and cavas are also available, as well as an extensive range of chocolates and pastries. 

12Tour Matadero Madrid


Plaza de Legazpi, 8, 28045 Madrid, Spain
Matadero is an arts center located in a former slaughterhouse. The spaces hosts an ever-changing line up of exhibitions and performances, many of which are dedicated to uplifting emerging artists and highlighting global issues. There's also a restaurant and cafe on site. Since it's a bit outside the Madrid's central sights, the crowd is mostly local.

Free guided tours are available with advance reservation. 

13Catch a Show (or a Tour) in Teatro Real


Teatro Real, 28013 Madrid, Spain
Teatro Real is Madrid's storied opera house. Construction began in 1818 and the theater finally opened in 1850. It hosted some of Europe's most prestigious performances until a partial collapse in 1925 closed the building for 41 years. It reopened in 1966 as a concert hall, but it wasn't until 1997 that the Teatro Real returned to its former glory as the city's preeminent opera house. 

Outside performance times, visitors can tour the building with the aid of an audio guide. In addition to the building's notable architectural details, the terrace has a stunning view. 

14Take a Day Trip to Segovia


Segovia, Spain
If you've ever dreamed of being a Disney princess, Segovia is the closest you may get—the Alcazar castle in Segovia is said to have inspired Disneyland's castle design. And when you have a look at Alcazar for yourself, the resemblance is unmistakable.

The castle was originally a military fortress, though it has at other times served as a prison, and even a training academy. Though, to our knowledge, it has never held a Disney princess...Cinderella or otherwise. It is now a museum available to visit for around 12 euros.

While you're enjoying your time in Segovia, have a look at the Gothic-style cathedral in their Plaza Mayor, the Iglesia de Vera Cruz, the Roman aqueducts, and the Royal Palace of La Granja of San Ildefonso. It's definitely a day to take in another piece of history. You'll likely get a bit peckish during your stay, and if you'd like something truly special, stop into Meson de Candido after seeing the aqueducts. Candido offers indoor dining in its arcane 18th-century building as well as outdoor seating, and features such mouth-watering dishes as roast suckling pig and grilled pheasant.

15Tour The Museo Nacional del Prado


Calle Ruiz de Alarcón, 23
The Museo del Prado is arguably the most famous art museum in Spain, housing a rich collection of masterpieces from 16th - 19th century artists—including El Greco, Goya, Titian, Ruben, Hieronymus Bosch, and Velázquez.

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