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Madrid Travel Guide

Updated: Feb 24

In this article, you will find the best places to see and visit in Madrid, as well as the top 10 food and cocktail places.

Madrid truly represents everything a capital city should be! Impressive buildings lined up throughout the whole city center of Madrid. World-class museums, cultural events, and historical sights, which take your breath away. Madrid offers it all, a busy city buzz whilst at the same time offering many wonderful and huge parks where to find peace in the middle of the city.

I have personally been to Madrid many times and love this city more each time I visit. This is why I really wanted to put this blog together offering you all the best places to see and visit in Madrid.

As an extra, I teamed up with my friend Vips who lives in Madrid permanently and she showed me some other extra-special places I didn’t know about. I will list all of them below in this article.

  1. Top sights to see in Madrid

  2. Museums in Madrid

  3. Top food and cocktail places in Madrid

  4. How to get around and where to stay in Madrid

  5. Day trip from Madrid

  6. Video

Top sights to see in Madrid

Puerta del Sol is one of the busiest squares in Madrid. You will find the famous statue ‘The bear and the strawberry tree’ there as well as the statue of Charles III of Spain. This square is a very popular place where to celebrate New Year as the clock in Puerta del Sol is the main one that indicates the New Year has started. Usually, the New Years celebration in Spain is broadcast from there.

Plaza Mayor is the 2nd busiest place in Madrid. It is historically the center of Old Madrid. It is a unique square as it is fully enclosed. There are 9 gates through which you can enter and once inside you will find 237 balconies and the bronze statue of King Philip III.

Retiro Park, my personal favorite, is an incredibly beautiful park where you can go for walks or runs, have a coffee by the pond or even take a boat ride through the pond. Retiro Park has many sculptures and fountains to explore. You will also find ‘Crystal Palace,’ which is a beautiful winter garden hosting different exhibitions all year round. By the pond, you will see the Alfonso XII monument which is quite impressive.

Retiro Park is just one of many parks you will find in Madrid. The biggest one is ‘Casa de Campo.’ It is so big you can even take a cable car there to explore the park from above.

Gran Via is the main and most famous street in Madrid. Historically it was like a little Broadway, full of theatres, musicals, and concert halls. These days the street is full of shopping centers, but still extremely beautiful and surrounded by impressive buildings. The famous Metropolis building is on the Gran Via too.

My special tip: Find this specific Corte Ingles - El Corte Inglés Callao (Pl. del Callao, 2, 28013 Madrid, Spain) and if you go up to the 9th floor you'll get an amazing view to Gran Via. The whole floor is full of many small gourmet places so you can eat and drink there too. There is even a little outside terrace.

At the end of the Gran Via, you will find Plaza de Espana. Which to my surprise isn’t as impressive as in other Spanish cities (there is Plaza de Espana in every big Spanish city), but still, you can add it to your checklist.

Puerta de Alcalá is simply "must see." It is a gate located in the Independence Square of Madrid.

Plaza de Cibeles is another place you simply have to visit. You will find the fountain there, one of Madrid's main symbols these days and the Cibeles Palace, another spectacular architectural example in Madrid.

The Royal Palace of Madrid is actually still inhabited by the royal family. Although they do not live there permanently they still use it as one of their residences, that is why not all the palace is available for viewing, but the part that is, is absolutely incredible. It is impressive how well they have kept the rooms and all the small details about them. I was only allowed to film 5% of the inside of the Royal Palace, so you won’t see much of that in my video, but trust me, it is so worth the visit.

Next to the Royal Palace, you will find Sabatini Gardens which is a part of the Palace but do not worry, they are not technically connected with the palace so you can enter them for free. Same with Oriente Square. It is on the side of the Royal Palace but you are free to wander around there.

On the other side of the Royal Palace, you will find Almudena Cathedral, which you can visit only for 1 EUR. The inside is very remarkable and the square in front of it usually have street artists playing music which creates a very special atmosphere.

Historically a local food market, San Miguel Market is now a trendy cool place for food lovers. The building itself is worth the visit and definitely gives a historic Madrid life vibe. There you will find all the finest Spanish foods and delicacies which you can take on the go, or enjoy with a social buzz.

All the above are my top pics, but here are some other sights, buildings, places you can add to your travel itinerary:

  • National Library of Spain

  • Temple of Debod and surrounding area (I recommend visiting it in the evening)

  • Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas (The biggest bullring in Spain)

  • Madrid Botanical Garden (Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid)

  • Opera House El Real

  • Toledo’s Gate

  • Roman Catholic Church - Saint Jerome the Royals

Extra: If you are a football fan, you have to check out Santiago Bernabéu Stadium which is the home stadium for Real Madrid. Either for a game or you can actually have an excursion around the stadium. Here are all the tour and ticket options.

Extra: If you travelling with kids then Madrid has several theme parks and waterparks. You will also find a Zoo and a little bit outside the city even a safari.

Museums in Madrid

I feel like I have to make a special section for this, as there are so many amazing museums in Madrid. To no surprise, Spain has so many incredible artists.

I have to start with the Prado Museum which is the biggest art museum in Spain. It displays all the significant Spanish art and also the rest of the world. During Covid, it is harder to get tickets because of the limited capacity, so I recommend booking them a week or more in advance.

As the second one I have to highlight ‘The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía’ which focuses more on the Spanish artists and includes some of the best Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí works.

To finish off my top 3 is The Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum, which is part of the "Golden Triangle of Art” in Madrid together with the previous two. Another art museum.

Moving away from art, I have to mention National Archaeological Museum. It is the main Archaeology museum in Spain. A museum focused more on history, specifically of the military and navy part, is the Naval Museum. An art museum spectacular itself is CaixaForum Madrid, which is also a cultural centre. It is quite new and was rebuilt from a power station. Design work was done by Swiss Architects. Another great one on the list is The National Museum of Natural Sciences. If you want to find out more about the history of Spain, then Madrid History Museum is the choice for you.

Apart from these main ones, there are many other art museums dedicated to special artists.

Top food and cocktail places in Madrid by Vips

Sala Equis - originally an old movie theatre, it is now turned into a bar, but still keeping the old movie theatre vibe. You can actually watch old movies there, but it's mostly you will go for after-work drinks.

El Perro y Galleta - a great place for breakfast as they have a special breakfast menu. They also do lunch and dinner. Dog friendly! They have 3 locations in Madrid, we visited the one by Retiro Park.

Salvador Bachiller: Gran Vía - This place is actually a shop on the ground floor, that has a ‘secret’ pathway to the bar. If you don’t know about this place you could easily pass it. It is like a secret oasis in the center of Madrid. The whole interior is lovely and you feel like on a different planet. Great for food and cocktails. They have a very special cocktail menu.

Salvador Bachiller: Alberto Aguilera - It has a similar concept, but the interior is completely different. A flower paradise, a perfect place for a girls night out!

Superchulo - one of the best vegan restaurants in Madrid. The interior is lovely and the food is excellent!

Sky bar Ginkgo - is a great rooftop bar, because it offers an outside terrace and an inside bar with glass windows, creating an indoor terrace feel. Madrid can get chilly during the winter so it is lovely to have the alternative. From this bar, you can see the Royal Palace of Madrid and Plaza de Espana.

Terraza de Sabatini - An amazing rooftop terrace during the summer.

Inclan Brutal Bar - A great restaurant with a modern take on tapas and fun cocktails.

Salmon Guru - a funky cocktail spot with neon lights and fun decorations.

Yatai Market - An Asian food market.

More about life in Madrid and other interesting travel recommendations from Vips you can find on her blog:

How to get around and where to stay in Madrid

Although Madrid is massive all the central main sights are located very centrally. If you need to get from A to B then you might want to take a taxi, metro or bus, but if you are planning to wander around and check all the sights one by one then you easily can get around by walking. I actually recommend doing that because you will see so many beautiful buildings on your way, because I promise, literally every building in Madrid center is so, so pretty. Also, this way you will truly experience the city vibe and if you do get tired there are so many cute cafes and coffee shops on your way.

Regarding accommodations, you will find all sorts and price range varies a lot. I must admit, although Madrid is not more expensive than the rest of Spain, the accommodations are a bit more than what I am used to. So for example, usually decent bed in a 4-bed women dormitory in Spain you can find for around 18 EUR, in Madrid it costs around 30 EUR. A hotel room in Spain you can get for 30 EUR per night per person (if booking double for 2 people), but prices started from 50 EUR per night per person in Madrid. This was in Autumn, so not even summer when more tourists come around. On the positive side, the restaurants and bars are priced decent, like the rest of Spain.

I recommend staying around the ‘Plaza de Mayor’ area, as it is a very central location and from there you can get to all popular locations by walking. Also, all the nightlife and popular restaurants are nearby so you won’t need to take a taxi.

Day trip from Madrid

If you do happen to have an extra day in Madrid and you wish to explore the surrounding area, I definitely recommend visiting the Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial which is the historic residence of the Spanish Monarchy thought-out many years. It is only a half an hour ride outside Madrid (around 45km). The easiest way to get there will be by train from the main Madrid train station Atocha because once you get out of the train it is only 10 min walk away. You have to take the local train C8a to the city called San Lorenzo de El Escorial. You can take a bus too, but that will require changing buses, so I recommend taking the train. Also, I personally use the train a lot when my travels in Spain involve Madrid, because Atocha station is very good and convenient. The whole sight is massive and consists of many components not only the palace, like, library, museum, basilica, university and even hospital. You can easily spend the whole day there!

As always, here is the Madrid Travel Blog in a video version:

If you are looking to move to Madrid, check out these residency options in Spain!


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