The Ultimate Travel Guide to Madrid

Madrid is Spain’s vibrant capital. The city pulses with life and is a favorite with visitors from around the world, and it’s easy to see why!

We have world-class museums, super explorable neighborhoods, a palace, great parks and tons of delicious food. And with so much to do and see all year long, Madrid is an amazing European capital to visit. Whether you’re planning a quick stopover, an urban weekend escape or a longer trip, you’ll surely enjoy this buzzing city! Read on for the ultimate travel guide to Madrid and get ready for your adventure!

With so much to do and see all year long, Madrid is an amazing European capital to visit. Whether you're planning a quick stopover, an urban weekend escape or a longer trip, you'll surely enjoy this buzzing city! Read on for the ultimate travel guide to Madrid and get ready for your adventure!

Photo credit: Jim Anzalone 

Top things to do in Madrid

Visit the Prado Museum

With countless works of art including classics by Goya, Velazquez, and Bosch, the Prado Museum is a global art destination. Buy your tickets online to avoid long lines to get in. Grab a map and wind your way through this incredible collection!

Read more: Must-visit museums in Madrid

Visit with us! We offer a best-seller experience in the Prado Museum– an exclusive Prado Museum Tour with VIP Tour and Lunch at Botin — the oldest restaurant IN THE WORLD!

The Prado Museum in Madrid houses amazing works of art and is located in the city center. The must visit museum is one of our tips from our Ultimate guide to Madrid
No trip to Madrid is complete without a visit to the Prado Museum! Photo credit: BOMBMAN

Immerse yourself in grandeur at the Royal Palace

The Royal Palace is a grandiose feast for the senses. While the king and queen don’t live there, it’s still the largest palace in Europe! There are art collections, tapestries, gold, silver, and marble galore plus incredible musical instruments on display.

The Royal Palace in Madrid is included in our must visit places in our Ultimate Travel Guide to Madrid
Feel like royalty as you wander through the halls and galleries of the Royal Palace in Madrid! Photo credit: Felipe Gabaldón

Eat a calamari sandwich in the Plaza Mayor

The Plaza Mayor is one of Madrid’s great squares. It has been the site of historic events in Madrid for over 500 years! One of our favorite things to do is take in the beautiful buildings then head down a side street to indulge in a Madrid treat, a bocadillo de calamares (fried calamari tucked into a crunchy baguette). Our favorite one is from Bar La Campana. For a few euros taste Madrid’s famous “fast food” like a local (Calle de Botoneras, 6).

Eat with us! The calamari sandwich is often a taste on our Ultimate Spanish Cuisine Tour!

The Plaza Mayor in Madrid is lined with beautiful buildings and outdoor cafés. A visit to the square is one of our recommendations in our Ultimate Guide to Madrid.
The Plaza Mayor is truly a must-see in Madrid! Photo credit: FaceMePLS

Spend a morning in Madrid’s best park! Rent a paddleboat and cross the pond, check out an exhibit at the glass palace (Palacio de Cristal), and wander through the manicured gardens and grassy fields. There’s always something going on at the Retiro from street performances to puppet shows for the kids!

Discover more parks in Madrid: 10 Best Parks in Madrid

Connect with Picasso’s Guernica painting at the Reina Sofia Museum

Pablo Picasso’s most famous painting is a massive testament to the suffering of the Spanish civil war. The sheer size and intensity of the piece make a visit to the Reina Sofia museum a must-experience part of any trip to Madrid. If you are interested in modern art, the rest of the museum showcases painting, sculpture, video and more from Spanish and international artists.

Picasso's massive black and white homage to the suffering of the Spanish Civil War. Seeing the Guernica painting is one of our tips included in our Ultimate Guide to Madrid
Picasso’s formidable homage to the Spanish Civil War hangs in the Reina Sofia Museum and is truly a sight to be seen. Photo credit: jazzlah

Non-Touristy things to do in Madrid

Go to a dive tapas bar

Madrid is filled with small, hole in the wall places with no frills, great food. You’ll be able to identify one of these gems by the piles of napkins thrown on the floor and the brightly lit dining areas. One of our favorites is Das Meigas (Calle Barbieri, 6) in the Chueca neighborhood just north of Puerta del Sol. You’ll get a generous free tapa with each drink at the bar or sit down to northern Spanish specialties in abundant quantities in the dining room.

Parque el Capricho

Spend a morning or afternoon in one of Madrid’s most beautiful hidden treasures. This 18th-century garden has winding paths, fountains, ponds and more! Outside the city center, the park is a feast for the senses. You can easily get there by metro (line 5) from downtown Madrid.

Step into another time at the beautifully cared for El Capricho park, a hidden treasure in Madrid!
Step into another time at the beautifully cared for El Capricho park, a hidden treasure in Madrid!

Explore the Salamanca neighborhood

Just east of the city center, the Salamanca neighborhood is a shopping paradise. There are wide streets with lovely buildings and some of the finest shops in Spain from international luxury brands to small curated boutiques.

Visit one of Madrid’s many off-the-beaten-path art museums and galleries

If you’re looking for great art in a smaller venue, Madrid has amazing options. From painting and sculpture to history, there’s something for everyone. The Joquin Sorolla Museum is one of our favorites. The artist’s sun-dappled landscapes are displayed in his former residence, a grand mansion complete with original tiles and a breathtaking garden.

Find out more: 5 Unkown Museums and Galleries in Madrid

Dreamy seascapes in blues and pasteles make a visit to the Joaquin Sorolla museum a memorable part of a trip to Madrid. The museum is part of our Ultimate Guide to Madrid
Transport yourself to the Mediterranean coast with Joaquin Sorolla’s dreamy landscapes. Photo credit: Irina

Foodie things to do in Madrid

Spend a morning at a market

Markets in Madrid are neighborhood staples. Young and old alike do their shopping at the many fruit, vegetable, meat, cheese and fish stands. A great new addition to Madrid’s markets is the rising trend of small eateries featuring market fresh ingredients.

One of our favorite central Madrid markets that houses a mix of traditional and modern stands in Mercado Antón Martin (Calle Santa Isabel, 5). Visit Jesús the ham slicer or Juanjo the olive seller plus a variety of great little stands selling everything from perfect pizzas, croquettes, Spanish omelets to sushi!

Read more: Top 5 Markets in Madrid

Visit with us! We visit the Mercado Antón Martín on our Huertas Neighborhood Food & Market Tour. Discover its gems with us!

Fruits and vegetable elegantly displayed in a market in Madrid. A visit to a market is one of our tips from our Ultimate travel guide to Madrid
Beautifully displayed fruit is just one of the amazing parts of visiting a market in Madrid.

Take a cooking class

Want to learn how to make some of the delicious dishes you’ll try in Madrid? How about a cooking class? There are a number of options for cooking classes in English where you can learn how to make a paella or other typical Spanish foods! Cooking Point is centrally located and offers a variety of classes throughout the week and weekend (Calle Moratin, 11).

What to eat in Madrid

People have been coming to Madrid from all over Spain for generations. Beyond Madrid classics like cocido (Madrid’s hearty meat and vegetable stew) and calamari sandwiches, some of the best regional Spanish cuisine can be found in the capital. Take a trip around Spain with great restaurants featuring the typical dishes from north to south.

calamari sandwich is a must try Madrid snack. We think it's so typical, we've included it in our Ultimate Guide to Madrid
Crunchy bread stuffed with crisp calamari is a typical Madrid bite and a perfect pick-me-up during a day of sightseeing!

Read more: Top 7 must-try dishes in Madrid

Start your journey through Spanish regional cuisine with these tips for restaurants featuring the local flavors of Spain’s diverse culinary landscape!

Basque Cuisine

The north of Spain is famous for generous cuts of meat, great cheeses, tart cider and hearty stews. Sidrerías or cider houses are staples of Basque family dining. Get a taste of Basque flavors at a typical Basque Sidrería in central Madrid at Zerain (Calle Quevedo, 3). Be sure to try the tortilla de bacalao (cod omelet) and the grilled steaks.

Asturian Cuisine

Another northern region of Spain famous for seafood, bean stews and a delicious stuffed then fried steak called cachopo. One of our favorite places for Asturian flavors in Madrid is El Cogollo (Calle Lechuga, 3). Share generous portions of their traditional dishes and walk away happily full!

Fabada, Asturias' signature dish is one of the regional Spanish dishes you can try in Madrid. A visit to an Asturian restaurant is one of the recommendations in our Ultimate Travel Guide to Madrid
There’s so much more than paella in Spain! Sample traditional Asturian bean dishes at one of Madrid’s many restaurants featuring regional Spanish cuisine.

Andalusian Cuisine 

For a taste of the south, pop into Sanlúcar (Calle San Isidro Labrador, 14) for Andalucían specialties like fried fish, grilled meats and refreshing salads. Make sure you try the cazón en adobo (marinated and breaded fish) and if you’re feeling adventurous, try the ortiguillas, breaded and fried sea anemone. Wash everything down with a crisp white wine!

Find out more: 7 Bizarre foods you can try in Madrid

Where to Eat in Madrid

From centuries-old restaurants, or hole in the wall cafés, to chic modern tapas bars, Madrid is truly becoming a food destination. While you’re here be sure to try something old, something new, something tried and something true with our recommendations for restaurants and bars throughout the city.

Discover some of our favorites: Devour Madrid’s guide to where to eat in Madrid 

Where to stay in Madrid

Making the decision on where to stay in Madrid is an important one! There are great choices for classic luxury, modern charm or neighborhood color, here are a few tools to help you make the right choice!

One of the most beautiful luxury hotels in Madrid is the Westin Palace one of the recommendations included in our Ultimate Travel Guide to Madrid.
The Westin Palace Hotel is a favorite for visitors to Madrid! It’s elegant, close to all the sights and the perfect place to relax after a day exploring the city. Photo credit: Tomás Fano

How to get around Madrid

Madrid has great public transportation with a clean, modern and easy to use metro system, buses, and inter-urban light rail. For riding the metro, get a 10 ride pass for 12.20 euros at any metro station– and you can also use this pass for buses. Metro Madrid has a great trip planner on their website to help you find the best way from point A to point B.

For coming into the city center from the airport, taxis have a 30 euro flat rate. This is the perfect option for getting to your hotel after a long flight! For short trips within the city, taxis are plentiful and easy to catch!

Shopping in Madrid

A shopping day in Madrid is a real treat! We have everything from a whole street of shoe outlets to one of the biggest flea markets in Europe to luxury boutique galore!

Shoes

 Need some new kicks? Head to Calle Agosto Figueroa in the Chueca neighborhood for a shoe lover’s paradise. The street is lined on both sides with outlet shops selling espadrilles, leather pumps, stylish ballet flats and more!

The Rastro

Every Sunday morning, locals and visitors alike descend on the Rastro Flea Market in La Latina to scope antiques, catch up with friends and grab a drink at one of the many bars catering to the shoppers. We love looking through the stands in Plaza Vara del Rey then heading down Calle Santa Ana to check out the many vintage furniture shops! One of our favorite places for atmospheric Sunday morning drink and snack is Museo de la Radio Bar (Calle Santa Ana, 8).

Want to know more? Here are some of the most bizarre items you might find at the quirky and truly memorable outdoor market extravaganza.

Treasure hunting at the Rastro market is one of the tips we've included in out Ultimate Travel Guide to Madrid
Search for treasures at the massive Rastro flea market. Photo credit: Juan Antonio F. Segal

El Corte Inglés

El Corte Inglés chain of department stores are a Spanish staple. With locations throughout the city, the multi-story retail centers have everything from gourmet supermarkets to high-end handbags. Broken wheel on your suitcase? Get a new one at El Corte Inglés! Looking for that perfect silk scarf for your mother-in-law? No problem! El Corte Inglés has tons.

Shop til you drop! For more information about where to shop take a look at our complete Madrid shopping guide.

Day trips from Madrid

Toledo

Only 30 minutes from Madrid on the high-speed train, Toledo is an amazing place to spend the day. Perched high on a hilltop, explore the medieval streets, cathedrals, and monuments to Jewish, Muslim and Christian Spain.

Find out more: For more information about a visit to Toledo check out our guide for a Culture packed day trip to Toledo.

Amazing views over the medieval center of Toledo, a daytrip to this lovely city is one of our tips in our Ultimate Travel Guide to Madrid
Winding lanes, great museums, an impressive cathedral and amazing views, Toledo has it all! Photo credit: Jude Lee

El Escorial

Easily accessible via light rail, this village in the north of Madrid is home to a hugely impressive 16th-century monastery. Spend the day exploring the spectacular complex, taking in the mountain views and enjoy a hearty meal at one of the many charming local restaurants.

Segovia

With postcard beautiful castles, churches and monuments at practically every turn, Segovia is a feast for the senses. Plus there’s an awe-inspiring Roman-era aqueduct at the entrance to the old quarter of the city. Take the high-speed train and enjoy stepping back in time in this truly picturesque town.

The Alcazar in Segovia, a great place to visit as a day trip from Madrid and one of the tips included in our Ultimate Travel Guide to Madrid
The storybook Alcázar castle in Segovia was supposedly one of the inspirations for the castle in Disneyland! Photo credit: Boris Kasimov

Aranjuez

Spring is the perfect time to visit the manicured gardens and the royal palace of Aranjuez. There is also a great market and tons of little restaurants serving hearty regional dishes. The town is easily accessible by bus and light rail.

Fun fact about Madrid

Madrid wasn’t always Spain’s capital. In 1561 King Phillip II moved the capital to Madrid from Toledo. Madrid is perfectly located in the center of Spain so it makes perfect sense why King Phillip II chose to bring his court to Madrid, and the rest is history!

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As the daughter of a barbecue master and a pseudo-vegetarian, Amy’s culinary obsessions run deep. She spent time in Galicia before settling down in Madrid, where you’ll usually find her browsing the bottles of a local bodega or ogling the produce at the weekend farmer’s market.

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