Madrid

Things to do in Madrid

In a city as culturally rich and undeniably exciting as Madrid, there is no shortage of fascinating things to do. If you’re interested in history and art, the Golden Triangle of Art is not to be missed. Located in roughly the same area, the Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza Museums are the core of Spanish art. The Prado specializes in pre-20th century art (think Goya and El Greco) while the Reina Sofia features a wonderful collection of modern art from the 20th century and later (see: Picasso, Dali and Miró). Meanwhile, the Thyssen-Bornemisza displays a mixture of classical and modern artwork from classical artists like Van Eyck and Rubens as well as famed Impressionists like Van Gogh, Degas and Renoir. Outside these three museums, those looking for things to do in Madrid will also find that the city has a naval museum, a museum of natural history, a museum of the Americas and other fantastic galleries.

Another great way to experience the city and find things to do in Madrid is to simply walk around. The city is filled to the brim with wonderful classical architecture and well-manicured parks and plazas. On a Sunday, be sure to stroll through the neighborhood of Embajadores, home to El Rastro, a massive flea market featuring all kinds of goods. By night, head to Chueca, Madrid’s LGBT-friendly district, or the Malasaña neighborhood to experience Madrid’s raucous nightlife. And don’t leave Madrid without climbing to the top of the Circulo de Bellas Artes for an unrivaled view of Madrid’s skyline.

An ongoing exhibition of children’s artwork is displayed throughout all the airport’s terminals (the airport hosted more than 150 visits last year from schools and kids’ cultural centers).

The six million specimens at the National Museum of Natural Sciences range from dinosaurs to Mediterranean flora. Founded by Carlos III in 1771, the original collections were displayed in the Royal Cabinet of Natural History.

An eclectic crowd, including pilgrims bound for Compostela, visits this L-shaped bar for irresistible matrimonio sandwiches: roasted peppers, salted anchovy, and anchovy in vinegar on a cottony soft bun ($2.20).

At The Showroom, interior architect Isabel López-Quesada designs sophisticated rooms using neutral tones, bold patterns, and metallic accents. Her studio, a two-story building that’s behind plant-covered garden walls, is located on a one-way street in the Salamanca district.

Handmade espadrilles are stacked floor to ceiling by size in this simple shop, a Madrid mainstay since 1863. The rainbow of colors, materials, and designs range from plebian day wear to delicate white lace-up-the-leg versions fit for royalty (the princess wears them).

A relatively new gallery on the local art scene, Travesia Cuatro moved to its current address in the Justicia neighborhood in 2008, four years after its founding.

Behind its impressive neoclassical façade with the stone busts of playwrights, the Teatro Español stages Spanish and international dramatic works in a grand hall filled with royal-red seats and gilt trim.

An impressive menu of rejuvenating treatments is offered at this full-service sanctuary (an outpost of an upscale Spanish spa chain).

Madrid’s answer to New York’s Central Park is a warren of paths carved in green with a large, central man-made lake and plenty of space (330 acres) for lolling about. Originally conceived as a royal garden, Retiro has been a public park for 300 years.

Postmodern bar in the corner of a small casino that pours wonderfully acidic Viña Soledad 2005, a white from Bodegas Franco-Españolas ($1.95); the wine is the ideal complement to embuchados with caramelized onion ($4.30).

On Sunday, as the hordes weave their way through the Rastro Flea Market, the savviest of shoppers flock instead to Alonso Ojeda for the collection of antique lithographs and maps, but especially for the frame-worthy hand-painted 1930s–1950s antique advertisements (35 euros, or about $45, each).

Just a two-minute walk from the Museo Reina Sofía (Queen Sofia Museum), this three-room art gallery stages contemporary photography, video, and installation exhibits with an emphasis on the avant-garde.

The shop is known for its colorful leather purses, designed by one of the owners.

The biggest of the airport’s nine VIP lounges (it sprawls over 21,000 square feet) is also the biggest in Spain.