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.

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.

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.

In 1798 Francisco José de Goya painted the frescos in the Church of San Antonio de la Florida. The painter was later buried here, his remains moved from a grave in Bordeaux, France. The 1792 church is the third built on the site.

This capacious corner bar is named for Spain’s famous black-hoofed pigs, so don’t miss a crunchy, salty, and delicious toasted sandwich of jamón serrano, fresh tomato, and anchovy ($2.95), accompanied by Bodegas Bretón Dominio de Conte 2001.

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

Opened in 2009 on Picasso’s 128th birthday, this contemporary art gallery presents temporary exhibitions of work by masters like Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí.

At Madrid’s best cocktail bar, tuxedoed bartenders wield wooden batons to crack the ice that chills your martini glass, and the devilishly sweet vodka fizz veritably buzzes in your hand.

Originally an art school established under royal decree in 1744, the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando (Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando) is now home to a collection of work by some of Spain’s most famous artists.

You can find everything from silk handkerchiefs to cotton bandannas mixed in with clothes from the 40’s to the 70’s.

Though there's not yet a tourism infrastructure for hiking with the transhumancia herds in Spain, you can respectfully explore on your own the country's 77,500 miles of transhumance trails through the often-remote Iberian countryside.

Opened in February 2008, the long-awaited Caixa Forum cultural center is an architectural tour de force, created by Swiss Pritzker Prize–winning firm Herzog & de Meuron.

Workaholics want for nothing at this comprehensive business hub—which offers private meeting rooms, computer stations, copy and fax services, and even A/V equipment for rehearsing presentations. A $42 fee buys you full use of the facility for up to four hours.