As Spain’s capital and largest city, Madrid is steeped in cultural and artistic heritage, offering a vast array of things to do and sights to see. It can be difficult to know where to start in such a vibrant city, but here’s a list of the top 20 attractions you just can’t miss when paying a visit to the Spanish capital.
Puerta del Sol
One of the best known and busiest locations in Spain, this public square is the perfect meeting place to start exploring Madrid. With the famous Tio Pepe sign, the emblematic bear statue and a beautiful clocktower, this plaza – originally one of the gates in the city wall during the 15th century – is not to be missed.
One of the most breathtaking sites in Spain, this plaza has 237 balconies facing the centre of the square where a statue of King Felipe III sits on his horse. Dating back to the 1600s, today the Plaza Mayor is a site of outdoor cafes and restaurants where wandering tourists can relax, enjoy a drink and soak up the atmosphere.
Mercado de San Miguel
Market, Spanish, Street Food
Mercado de San Miguel
Famous for its cast iron columns and many market stalls featuring Spanish culinary delights, the Mercado de San Miguel is a dream for visiting foodies. Sample Iberian ham, Manchego cheese or simply wander past the stalls and admire the huge range of delicious food on display.
Plaza de San Miguel, s/n, 28005 Madrid, Spain
While the first stone of this enormous church was laid in 1883, the construction of the Almudena Cathedral wasn’t finished until until a century later in 1993. Today, visitors can admire the church from both inside and out.
The Almudena Cathedral in Madrid | © Luis Garcia/Wikipedia | © Luis Garcia/Wikipedia
Spain’s Royal Palace is one of the largest in Europe, and visitors are sure to be in awe of the regal columns, gold decor and extensive number of statues outside. The interior is equally impressive, with a collection of court paintings, frescoes and even a Stradivarius collection.
Palacio Real de Madrid, Calle Bailén, Madrid, Spain
Jardines de Sabatini
Located directly outside of the Palacio Real, these maze-like gardens are free to the public and feature impeccably trimmed bushes and trees set in small labyrinths. Little ponds of water and majestic views of the palace complete the park’s charming atmosphere.
Famous for its statue of Miguel Cervantes, the Plaza España is located just off the famous Gran Vía street and near the Royal Palace. Built in the early 1900s, the city of Madrid has recently voted on reforming the Plaza, which will soon include even more trees and flowers for city-dwellers and tourists to enjoy.
Parque del Buen Retiro
Madrid’s most well-known park, the Retiro has it all. There’s green, grassy areas for a picnic, plenty of trees and flowers, a rose garden, and even a lake where you can rent your own boat. It’s also home to the famous Palacio de Cristal – a building made almost entirely of glass.
Calle Gran Vía
Known for its bright lights and shopping, Calle Gran Vía is one of Madrid’s most famous streets. The Fifth Avenue of the city, you’ll be able to find anything you need here: restaurants, stores and many of the city’s renowned theatres.
Templo de Debod
Although this temple dates back to the 2nd century BC, it was given to Spain as a gift and moved to its current location in Madrid in 1968. While it may seem odd to see an Egyptian statue in the middle of a European city, the Templo de Debod is one of Madrid’s most beloved attractions.
Casa de Campo
One of the largest green spaces in Madrid, this enormous park – complete with a zoo, hiking trails, restaurants and picnic areas – is one of the city’s largest parks, boasting a beautiful lake that covers around 80,000 square metres.
Built in 1969, Madrid’s cable car, the teleférico, has 80 cabins and runs for almost 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles), with a max height of 40 metere (130 feet). An ideal activity for the whole family, you can take the cable car one-way or round trip, starting from either the Casa de Campo, or from Pintor Rosales closer to the city centre.
Paseo del Prado
Perfect for strolling, the Paseo del Prado is one of the loveliest boulevards in Madrid. On Sundays, the street is closed to car traffic so pedrestrians, bikers and skaters can enjoy the street at leisure.
Puerta de Alcalá
One of the five doors that were once used to enter the walled city of Madrid, the Puerta de Alcalá is still admired today, although the walls have long since disappeared. The neoclassical monument actually has marks from shrapnel dating back to the Spanish Civil War.
Círculo de Bellas Artes Rooftop
This cultural centre’s rooftop features one of the very best views of the entire city. Spot the Retiro Park, four skyscrapers, Casa de Campo and many other landmarks from the Círculo de Bellas Artes roof all while sipping a cocktail.
Make sure to pull out your camera to snap the magnificent Palacio de Cibeles and the beautiful Cibeles fountain, both located in the Cibeles Plaza. The Cibeles Palace also has a great rooftop terrace to check out Madrid’s rooftops from up above.
The Reina Sofía museum was made for modern art lovers. With an impressive collection of Salvador Dali’s work as well as one of Picasso’s most famous paintings, La Guernica, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía is not to be missed.
Museo Reina Sofía, Calle de Santa Isabel, 52, Madrid, Spain
Restaurant, Spanish, $$$
Museo del Prado
Art Gallery, Museum
Calle de Cava Baja
One of Madrid’s most typical streets, the Calle Cava Baja is a charming walkway lined with Spanish bars and restaurants where you can have drinks and tapas. Stroll the street and bar hop, sampling traditional Spanish food and drinks along the way.