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8 Things To Do While You’re In Madrid

8 Things To Do While You’re In Madrid

If you’re looking for your next city break, make Madrid your destination. Spain’s capital is brimming with history, culture and architecture as well as beautiful weather and a vibrant atmosphere. The best time to visit is definitely in spring or fall so you can enjoy the sunshine, but avoid the intense heat of the summer (as well as the tourist crowds). 

1. San Miguel Market 

Mercado de San Miguel is the first stop in Madrid for any food lover! Found in a historic and restored old market building, San Miguel Market is filled with food and drink stalls, all serving delicious gourmet Spanish food. Just a short walk from Plaza Mayor, this market draws nearly 60,000 visitors per week. You can find any kind of tapas you could ever want to try, as well as two bars serving beer, wine and (most importantly) sangria. Be sure to try the white wine sangria for the perfect refreshment to accompany your snacks!

All the food is fresh and local, including red caviar, freshly baked empanadas and pickled olives. If you’re looking for something sweet, try the mango smoothies or the hot churros with dipping chocolate. The food at San Miguel Market is incredible, but the busy and friendly atmosphere also makes it a truly cultural experience. This is one of the world’s most famous gastronomical markets, so you cannot miss it on your trip to Madrid. 


2. Reina Sofia Museum 

The Reina Sofia is Spain’s national museum of 20th century art, and one of the city’s best destinations. Named after Queen Sofia, this museum was opened in 1992 and holds some really interesting pieces. It is located at the Southern end of what is known as the ‘Golden Triangle of Art’ in Madrid. 

You’ll find famous names like Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí in the Reina Sofia, most notably, Picasso’s Guernica. This incredible painting stands at nearly four meters tall and eight metres wide, and is one of Picasso’s most well-known works. 


The museum is filled with contemporary Spanish art, but is also home to some international pieces. The building itself is incredibly unique, having once been a hospital which was closed in 1969. Most of the building has undergone drastic refurbishment, but it retains its historic character. 

The collection is split into three parts and is expansive, so you may not have time to see all of the pieces, but is worth a visit to see as much as you can. 


3. El Retiro Park 

El Retiro Park is one of the best spots in Madrid. There is so much to explore and discover in El Retiro that you could easily spend a whole day there. You’ll almost always enjoy bright and sunny weather in Madrid, so it’s perfect for wandering around and enjoying the greenery. El Retiro features casual open spaces as well as more formal gardens and galleries. In the heart of the park you’ll even find the glass palace; an incredible pavilion made almost entirely of glass. It was once filled with tropical plants, but now displays art work instead – a bizarre bit beautiful greenhouse exhibition. If you visit El Retiro at sunset, make sure to visit the glass palace, as you’ll be able to see the golden light bounce off of the water onto the glass – a really beautiful sight of Madrid that you should not miss. 

You’ll find many other pavilions, fountains and statues in El Retiro, such as the Fountain of the Fallen Angel and Alfonso XII monument. Or, try the  row boats on the lake, where you can appreciate views of the park as you paddle around. 

However, if you’re just looking for somewhere to unwind and relax, you can spread out a blanket and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere and Spanish sun in El Retiro. Even come here for dinner, bringing a picnic to enjoy the evening outside.


4. Royal Palace

The Royal Palace is an incredible piece of architecture in Madrid, and the largest functioning Royal Palace in the whole of Europe. The Royal Family no longer reside in the palace, but it is now used for state ceremonies. 

The outside of the palace is impressive, with its white marble and greenery, which you can appreciate as you stroll through the Jardines de Lepanto alongside the palace. With tickets, you can walk up close to the palace into its courtyard, to fully appreciate its architecture in all its intricate detail. You can also enter into the castle, to see the echoing marble halls. Photos are not permitted past a certain point, so it is definitely worth a visit inside to be able to see the whole palace. 


You can join the audio tour of the palace or guide yourself through the elaborately decorated rooms and hallways. Tickets into the palace cost 1o Euros, but it is definitely worth it to get a glimpse inside. 

5. Eat Tapas

You cannot visit Spain without enjoying some tapas, and the food scene in Madrid is absolutely incredible! Many food markets, like San Miguel, will offer great options for tapas, but Madrid is also filled with restaurants, both casual and formal, where you can find some delicious dishes. Places like Entre Cáceres y Badajoz offer tapa – a small, bitesize item that comes free paired with beer or wine. 

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6. Real Jardin Botanico 

Madrid’s botanical gardens cost only 3 Euros to enter, and allow you to wander around their huge range of trees and flowers in bloom. It is located just next to the Prado museum, and is one of Madrid’s most popular tourist destinations. It was first built in 1755 and now covers eight hectares, divided into seven major outdoor sections, and five greenhouses. The collection includes about 90,000 plants in total and almost 2000 trees. 


7. Plaza Mayor

Madrid is filled with busy and vibrant plaza squares, filled with live music, street performers, restaurants and cafes. Found right in the heart of the city, Plaza Mayor is the biggest of Madrid’s plazas, so it definitely deserves a visit on your trip. Sit on the steps and look out onto the square – it is full of both tourists and locals, so a great spot for people watching! This square is just as lively in the night as it is in the day, filled with people eating, drinking, talking and dancing well into the darkness. 

This is a great place to sit and wind down after a busy day of sightseeing to have a drink al fresco, at one of the many outdoor bars. 


8. Museo Nacional Del Prado 

The Prado is the main art museum in Madrid, regarded to have one of the finest collections of European art. The collection holds thousands of pieces, covering a huge range, so there is something for everyone to enjoy in the Prado. The best known work is Vélazquez’s Las Meninas, but the museum is filled with incredible work worth viewing. 


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