Best things to do in Madrid on a short visit
The political and cultural center of Spain – Madrid – makes a great first impression. A stroll around its elegant boulevards and you’ll find yourself admiring the beautifully preserved medieval buildings at every nook and cranny. The heart of Madrid is undoubtedly teeming with tourists, but this is where you’ll want to be – from Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol to Gran Via. Don’t be surprised if you are drawn to countless tapas bars or tabernas to indulge in the local delights of Croquetas de jamon (ham croquettes), Gambas al ajillo (garlic prawns), Chorizo al vino ( red wine sausage) and pitchers of sangria. This is just the beginning; you have yet to explore lavish palaces, cathedrals, immaculately manicured parks, a host of art museums called the Golden Triangle of Art, charming neighborhoods, Michelin-starred restaurants, pub crawls , maybe a flamenco lesson… the list goes on!
The best things to do in Madrid in 2022
You do not know where to start ? We’re here to make it easy for you by listing the best things to do in Madrid for a weekend or short break:
1. Start at the Plaza Mayor
A great way to start is to be in the middle of it all. Head to the center of old Madrid – the Plaza Mayor, a 17th-century monument that was once the site of ceremonies, bullfights and executions. The three-storey buildings enclose a plaza with a statue of King Philip III standing in the center (it was during his reign that the Plaza Mayor was built). Endless restaurants dot the area and are a good place to explore the place at leisure while sipping wine. Before you go, stop at a no-frills tavern called La Campana that serves up a perfect take-out treat – Bocadillos de Calamares (calamari sandwich). Or for those who like it sweet, the Chocolateria San Ginés is where you can taste the best churros.
2. Paseo del Prado
One of Madrid’s main boulevards, this is where you should head if your itinerary includes museum visits. Three important art museums which are collectively called the Golden Triangle of Art are located here. This includes the Prado Museum, the Reina Sofia Museum and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. The Museo del Prado is considered one of the greatest art museums in the world, with works by renowned artists such as Francisco Goya, Hieronymus Bosch, El Greco, Peter Paul Rubens, Titian and Diego Velazquez to no to name a few. While the Museo del Prado houses pre-20th century art, the other two museums are devoted to modern art and contemporary 20th century art.
3. Buen Retiro Park and Crystal Palace
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Buen Retiro Park once belonged to the Spanish monarchy, but is now a public park that allows for a pleasant walk in the very center of Madrid. If you need an oasis of calm after all the sightseeing, this is the perfect place to rest your weary feet amidst lush green gardens or enjoy a boat ride. There are many beautiful places, although a must-see is the Crystal Palace, which is remarkable. As this park hosts many exhibitions, book fairs, concerts and events, there is indeed a lot to do and see.
4. Royal Palace of Madrid
A short walk from the center will take you to the Royal Palace of Madrid, which is another must visit in the capital. The large monument is the official residence of the King of Spain although the royal family does not live here. Sections of it are open to the public, giving you the opportunity to explore the palace and marvel at the grand classical-style facade with statues of Spanish kings and saints, colorful frescoes and paintings adorning the interiors, the grand staircase crafted from a single piece of San Agustin marble or take a leisurely stroll through the Royal Gardens. Be sure to visit the Royal Armory and the Royal Carriage Museum. The Royal Church and the Jardines de Sabatini are located next to the palace and are also worth a visit.
5. San Fernando Market
Back in the center, near the Plaza Mayor, is the Mercado De San Fernando, which is sure to delight foodies. Once a local food market, it has now transformed into a cool, urban food hub. It holds great symbolic importance and is always filled with people who come to discover high quality products or treat their taste buds with a wide range of local specialties – from chorizo, seafood, paella to Iberian ham and more. more tapas.
6. Book a flamenco show
If you thought that flamenco only referred to traditional dance, you will be surprised. This Spanish art form consists of three parts – playing the guitar, singing and dancing. And if you’re looking for a memorable evening to soak up Spanish culture and arts, there’s no better experience than a live flamenco show. There’s a range of tablaos that host flamenco shows – Cardamomo, Villa Rosa, Las Tablas – but you can also combine it with a sumptuous dinner at Corral de la Moreria which serves inventive Spanish cuisine.
7. Puerta Del Sol-Gran Via
Puerta del Sol and Gran Via are both prime locations in Madrid and are surrounded by shops, restaurants and bars. Talk about feeling the pulse of the city and that’s it. It is said that all roads in Spain lead to Puerta del Sol, known as kilometer zero. It houses monuments such as the Casa de Correos clock, the statue of the bear and the strawberry tree and the statue of Mariblanca. Gran Via is the commercial center of Madrid and charming with its neo-20th century architecture.
8. Neighborhoods – Malasana and Salamanca
Close to Gran Via is the lively Malasana district, also known as the best party or nightlife spot in Madrid. You’ll find plenty of bars here (modern to old and traditional, some dating back to the 80s), making it a good starting point for bar hopping. Salamanca, on the other hand, is synonymous with glamor and glitz. So if you prefer to spend your time shopping in luxury fashion stores, you can head for a memorable dining experience at a stylish restaurant in the neighborhood like La Rodaja, Horcher, Beker 6 and more.
Even if 1-2 days isn’t enough to explore all of Madrid, you can still make the most of your time and experience this city in a way that suits your interests.