What should everyone know about Madrid
Madrid: The most beautiful sights and our best tips
Magnificent house facades, monuments, wide streets and lots of people streaming across the plazas from right to left: this is Madrid! We'll show you which sights Madrid has to offer and give you our best tips for the Spanish capital.
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Madrid is the third largest capital of the European Union after London and Berlin. Almost 3.2 million people live here, 7 million in the entire metropolitan region.
Madrid is a great way to explore by strolling the streets and drifting. The historic city center is manageable despite the size of Madrid.
Of course, it is still worthwhile to have an overview of the most important sights in Madrid beforehand and you can get it here!
In addition to the most important sights in Madrid, we will of course also give you our best, practical tips for your city trip!
Also read our other articles about Spain
We recommend buying tickets for the main sights and museums online in advance. This saves you queuing at the ticket counters.
Due to the current Corona situation, advance booking is the best option anyway, as capacities are limited at all attractions.
In the following table we have clearly put together all the options for purchasing tickets and linked directly to them:
Gran Vía is a 1.5 km long boulevard that runs straight through Madrid's old town. It was built on the Parisian model in the 1920s when attempts were made to make Madrid a modern and sophisticated city. If you stroll along Gran Vía, you will quickly notice that the urban planners of the time did very well!
You have the absolute metropolitan flair here, it's loud, colorful and hectic. The street is full of shops, theaters, cinemas and restaurants, and magnificent facades line Gran Vía to the left and right.
Most tourists land on Gran Vía first, also because there are many hotels here. That means it is actually always full.
Our tip: From time to time turn into one of the small side streets. There are just as many shopping opportunities there, but a little less crowded than on Gran Vía.
Triangula del Arte: Top museums in Madrid
Madrid not only has a lot to offer in the open air, but also some very special museums.
There are officially 72 museums in Madrid and that doesn't include the many private collections and exhibitions.
Three of the museums are among the absolute highlights in Madrid. They are therefore also referred to as the three corner points of the golden triangle "Triangulo del Arte".
Located in the Paseo del Prado area, the triangle is one of the main attractions of Madrid.
All three museums are world class and if you are interested in art then you should visit at least one of these museums!
# 1 Prado Museum
Let's start with a heavyweight: The Museo del Prado is one of the most important and largest art museums in the world.
There are around 8,000 different works of art in the form of sculptures, paintings, art prints and coins. Although only a third of them are on display, you still need a lot of time to look at everything.
Entrance to the Museo del Prado costs 15 euros. Admission is free for students between 18 and 25 years of age and young people under 18! Admission is free from 6 p.m. or 5 p.m. on Sunday.
Skip-the-line tickets: The Museu del Prado is very popular and it sometimes happens that you actually have to wait in line for several hours for a ticket. We therefore strongly recommend that you buy your ticket online beforehand.
Mon-Sat: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sun: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Paseo del Prado, s / n, 28014 Madrid
# 2 Museo Reina Sofia
Everything at Reina Sofia revolves around modern art: It starts with works of art from the second half of the 19th century and ends with sculptures and multimedia projects from the 21st century.
Among other things, you can see paintings by Dalì, Mirò and Picasso, including perhaps his most famous work “Guernica”.
The visit is worth it for this gigantic picture alone.
Note: Guernica is the only work that is not allowed to be photographed. The museum staff is also very careful!
Entrance to the museum costs 10 euros. All under 18 and over 65 years, as well as students between 18 and 25 years, get free entry. In addition, admission is free from 7:00 p.m. and on Sundays from 1:30 p.m.
Skip-the-line tickets: The Museo Reina Sofia is also very popular, which is why it is best to buy your tickets online in advance.
Closed on Tuesdays
Mon / Wed-Sat: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Sun: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Calle de Santa Isabel, 52, 28012 Madrid
# 3 Thyssen Museum - Bornemisza
Many think that the Thyssen-Bornemisza is the most beautiful of the three museums. It's kind of a combination of the other two, with around 1,000 works of art from the 13th to 20th centuries.
Among them are 800 paintings from the private Thyssen collection, which is why the museum bears the name.
You practically take a chronological walk through art history. It starts on the 2nd floor with pictures from the late Italian and Dutch Middle Ages and ends on the ground floor with Cubism, Surrealism and Pop Art.
You should also have enough time for this museum - if you want to see everything without running through the halls, you will need at least half a day.
Admission costs 9 euros, reduced 6 euros. Admission is free on Mondays between 12:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.
Skip-the-line tickets: The queues at the Museu Thyssen are also very long and the waiting time can be an hour or more. We therefore recommend that you buy your ticket online beforehand.
Mon: 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Tue-Sun: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
6 EUR reduced
Paseo del Prado, 8, 28014 Madrid
Palacio Real & Almudena Cathedral
The Royal Palace of Madrid and the Almudena Cathedral are directly opposite each other, which is why you can visit both very well together. Between the two very impressive and magnificent buildings is the huge Plaza de la Armerìa, next to it beautiful parks.
The royal family will want for nothing here! In reality, she doesn't live here at all, but in the Palacio de la Zarzuela, outside the city. Nevertheless, the king uses the Palacio Real for state visits and other public events.
The building is almost 135,000 square meters with a total of more than 2,000 halls and salons. This makes it one of the largest castles in the world.
You can visit almost 50 rooms and admire the fine furniture, paintings, tapestries, armor, rifles and whatever else there is in a royal castle. Entry costs 10 euros per person.
Our tip: It is essential to order the tickets online, so you can save yourself the waiting at the cash desk on site.
April to September: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
October to March: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
5 EUR reduced
Calle de Bailén, s / n, 28071 Madrid
If you have your back to the Palacio Real, you have the Almudena Cathedral at the other end of the square right in front of you.
This is also very impressive and artistically designed, but compared to other buildings in Madrid it is quite new - it was only completed in 1993. If you don't look at it from the outside, you can see it inside.
By the way, from the forecourt of the cathedral you have a great view over the lower districts of Madrid. Admission is free, but is only possible outside of the service.
Mon-Sun: 9 a.m. to 8.30 p.m.
July / August: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Museum: 6 EUR
Calle de Bailén, 10, 28013 Madrid
Our photo tip: If you visit the Palacio Real in the afternoon and the cathedral in the late afternoon, you will have great light for photographing both buildings towards sunset.
The plazas are part of the general cityscape of every city in Spain. Of course, Madrid is no exception. For the Spaniards, they are the “alma”, the soul of every quarter where people meet, where there are bars and cafes, where markets and public events take place.
No matter where you are in the city, the next plaza is definitely not far. The following are the main plazas of Madrid.
If you travel to Madrid, sooner or later you will pass the Plaza Mayor. The main square of Madrid is a large square in the heart of the old town and completely surrounded by buildings.
There is one café next to the other and all kinds of street artists play, paint or dance across the square.
The prices for a beer or a coffee are quite high, but it is still worthwhile to sit here for a while and soak up the atmosphere of the square.
We recommend a visit especially at sunset or in the evening: Then it is particularly lively and really Spanish!
Puerta del Sol
The Puerta del Sol square is also such a square with lots of cafes and boutiques that everyone in downtown Madrid passes by.
However, the Puerta del Sol is not a place where you spend an afternoon relaxing, but rather one of those places where you meet someone and then move on.
Nevertheless, there are also many street artists here and there is always something going on around the clock. This is partly due to the central location and also to the subway station that is under the square.
Our tip: You should definitely try the historic Café Mallorquina here, a traditional pastry shop that has been selling coffee and delicious pastries since 1894.
Plaza de Colón
The Plaza de Colón is a large and very noisy square where important roads in Madrid intersect.
The square is particularly interesting because it is dedicated to Christopher Columbus, whose statue protrudes from the center of a fountain on a high column. Unfortunately, the traffic circles around the fountain, which we think is a bit of a shame.
The square also includes the Jardines del Descubrimiento, the Gardens of Discovery, with various sculptures dedicated to the discovery of America.
Plaza de Oriente
The Plaza de Oriente is again a very splendid and very elegant square in Madrid and is located in the immediate vicinity of the royal palace.
A total of 20 statues of Spanish kings stand on the square and there are two public, art-historical gardens: The Cabo Noval Gardens and the Lepanto Gardens.
Both are beautiful and very well-kept and are perfect for a break. The Plaza de Oriente also includes various historical cafés and restaurants, including the literary Café de Oriente.
Prices are higher here than in the rest of the city, but are justified by the location and monumental value.
Puerta de Alcalá on Plaza de la Independencia
The Puerta de Alcalá is a monument in the Plaza de la Independencia. It is a large stone gate with five openings and about 45 meters wide.
The city limits of Madrid used to be here and this is where the road to Alcalá de Henares began, hence the name.
The monument is a great photo opportunity, especially at sunset. Unfortunately, here too, the traffic circles around the square, as with many other monuments in Madrid.
The visit is worthwhile if, for example, you are on the way to Retiro Park and you are in the Plaza de Cibeles, which is only 200 meters away.
Plaza de Cibeles
And another beautiful, monumental square that is unfortunately criss-crossed by traffic.
The twelve-lane Calle de Alcalá, the twelve-lane Paseo de Recoletos and the Paseo del Prado meet in the Plaza de Cibeles. It is correspondingly loud there.
The square is still worth a visit, especially for photo enthusiasts, with the monumental Fuente de la Cibeles fountain and the magnificent Palacio de Comunicaciones.
If you are good, you will also get the Puerta de Alcalá on the picture.
Interesting for football fans: The Plaza de Cibeles is the hotspot when Real Madrid celebrates its victories.
Markets in Madrid
We think that a visit to the market should not be missing to really immerse yourself in the life of a city. Fresh food, cackling people, colors and smells - you will experience the people of Madrid in their element in the markets!
Madrid offers a whole range of markets and, in fact, it is market day somewhere on almost every day of the week. Of course, we couldn't visit all of them - but the two following are located in the city center and are real gourmet temples.
Mercado San Anton
This market is located very close to the Plaza de Cibeles, a modern building with three floors.
On the ground floor you can buy groceries: fruits, vegetables, sausages and the whole range of Spanish specialties. Just market.
The first floor is where the interesting part is: tapas bars, wine bars, show cooking, confectionery shops - a real oasis of gourmet food!
On the roof there is the restaurant La Cocina de San Antón, where you can have the ingredients that you bought on the ground floor prepared for a fee of 4 euros.
But there is also a completely normal menu with typical Spanish food. You also have a nice view over the Chueca district.
The ground floor is open from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., the 2nd and 3rd floors are open until midnight.
10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
(2nd and 3rd floor: until midnight
Calle de Augusto Figueroa, 24B, 28004 Madrid
Mercado San Miguel
The Mercado San Miguel is located in a listed market hall. Everything here revolves around Spanish food. Of course we couldn't say no!
There are a total of 33 stalls where you can get fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and cheese from all corners of the country, plus several standing bars and cafés where you can also feast in the evening.
The Mercado San Miguel is open until midnight and, in addition to oysters and tapas, there are also cocktails and paella to go.
The Mercado is right next to the Plaza Mayor and is therefore always full, quite touristy and not exactly cheap.
But if you want to eat something really fresh or are looking for an alternative to the hotel breakfast, then it is worth spending a few euros more here.
Sun-Thu: 10 a.m. to midnight
Fri / Sat: 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Plaza de San Miguel, s / n, 28005 Madrid
El Rastro flea market in Madrid
Madrid's most famous flea market takes place every Sunday in Plaza de Cascorro. It's actually not a classic flea market, because there really is everything: new, old, modern, trendy.
The prices are good, but the quality is not always great. Nevertheless, it is worth a detour, because there is really a lot to see!
Our tip: Best to come in the morning around 10:00 a.m. Then all the stands are already set up, but it's not that full yet. At 3 p.m. it will be dismantled.
Daily: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Calle de la Ribera de Curtidores, 28005 Madrid
Parks & Gardens
Actually every quarter of Madrid has a more or less large, green spot where you can relax from your stroll through the city.
The parks in the city center are nicely maintained, with lots of meadows and benches, some even with magnificent monuments, turtle ponds and small cafes.
El Retiro Park
The Retiro Park is probably the most famous city park in Madrid and is located in the center of the city.
It is 125 hectares and has over 15,000 trees. Among other things, the oldest tree in Madrid, a 400-year-old cypress, is located here.
There is a large lake with boat rentals, various statues and fountains, as well as the Velázquez and Glass Palaces.
The Retiro Park is very close to the museum triangle. So after you have been wandering through the Prado for hours, this is a great place to recharge your batteries.
Main entrance: Plaza de la Independencia, 7, 28001 Madrid
Casa de Campo
This park is a bit out of the way, but can be easily reached with the cable car from the city center. It's quite big and spacious, and overall the largest park in Madrid.
The park used to be a hunting ground for the royal family, today there is an amusement park, a large lake, a zoo, as well as the cable car, sports facilities and part of the IFEMA exhibition center.
So if you want to switch off from the hustle and bustle of Madrid, the Casa de Campo is a great choice.
Our photo tip: We recommend a visit especially in autumn - then the park really shines with autumn leaves. Best photo opportunities! In the summer, on the other hand, it can be quite parched.
Paseo Puerta del Angel, 1, 28011 Madrid
Right next to the Prado Museum is the Madrid Botanical Garden. It's been around since the end of the 18th century and it's really an eye-catcher.
Not only can you relax here wonderfully, but you can also look at plants of all shapes and sizes.
You can take guided tours through the garden and have everything explained to you about the history, use and care of different plant species, or you can just stroll alone through the grounds.
Our tip: In summer the garden is not so great because by then many flowers have already faded and the plants are generally more yellow than green. The best time to visit is in spring!
Admission costs 4 euros, with a student ID it costs only half.
Daily: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
2 EUR reduced
Plaza de Murillo, 2, 28014 Madrid
Atocha train station
Huh, a train station among the best Madrid sights? Yes!
The Atocha train station is not just a train station, but consists of two parts: a new station, from which trains actually run, and an old part entirely in Art Nouveau style, much more beautiful and splendid.
Here is a tropical garden, in which over 7,000 plants of different species grow. You feel like you are in a jungle under a glass roof. There is also a pond with turtles and fish.
Admission is of course free, it's still a train station.
Real Madrid Bernabeu stadium
The Estadio Santiago Bernebéu is an absolute must-see for football fans. With more than 81,000 seats, it is one of the largest stadiums in Europe and home to one of the most famous clubs in the world: Real Madrid.
You can visit this outside of game days. You can look down into the huge circle from the very top and you are even allowed to step onto the sacred lawn.
You can also take a look at the VIP boxes, the players tunnel and the Real Madrid trophy collection.
It is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience for football fans. Admission, however, is not cheap and costs 44 euros.
Buy tickets for the Estadio Santiago Bernebéu
Av. de Concha Espina, 1, 28036 Madrid
Must-see neighborhoods in Madrid
In addition to the typical sights in Madrid, the individual districts are also very worthwhile.
There aren't the big highlights here, but it's great fun to walk through the streets and enjoy the little beauties of this city.
This is where one of Madrid's literary celebrities met, hence the name “Barrio de las Letras”. The letter quarter is a colorful maze of alleys with quotes from various poets embedded in the floor around the Plaza de Santa Ana.
It's one of Madrid's most popular nightlife areas, full of bars, restaurants and nightclubs. The mail goes off here until 6 or 7 a.m.
Madrid has a lot of nightlife areas, but Malasana is probably the most popular. It is full of bars, cafes and restaurants and is worth a visit both during the day and in the evening to party.
The area is very alternative and very bohemian, with a lot of street art, small boutiques and artist studios. Great for shopping, eating and going out. And of course for taking photos!
Salesas & Chueca
If you want to shop for fashion in Madrid, then you have come to the right place in these two barrios.
Salesas and Chueca are right next to each other along Calle Barquillo and house a wide range of shops from avant-garde fashion designers and boutiques from international labels.
The prices are of course not as cheap as at Zara & Co., but there are also sustainable products and fashion made from recycled materials. We think it's good!
Our tip: The Salesas Village, a fashion market for independent labels, takes place several times a year in the Plaza de las Salesas. The best way to find out online is when the next one takes place!
Our hotel tips for Madrid
In Madrid you will find a huge selection of hotels in all price categories.
We recommend that you live right in the center. It's a bit more expensive than a hotel just outside, but that's the best way to experience Madrid.
The city is really exciting, especially in the evening, when the restaurants and bars are full and the streets are really busy. It would be a shame not to be in the thick of it.
As always, we have a selection of recommended hotels for you. There is the right accommodation for every budget.
These were our tips and the best sights in Madrid. Even if we liked Barcelona even better, Madrid is definitely worth a trip.
Do you have any questions or do you have a great tip for us about what we absolutely have to see next time? Then we look forward to your comment!
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