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.
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.
Having started in the Middle Ages, El Rastro is a rambling 3,500-vendor market in the old streets of Madrid. The market begins at 9 a.m. on Sundays and holidays, but gets busiest by 11 a.m.
Spanish pop, rock, and jazz performers, from the truly local to national favorites, take the stage every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night at this two-level bar-lounge and concert venue, possibly the coolest thing downtown.
Located off the typical tourist route in Salamanca, the little-known Museo Lázaro Galdiano displays more than 12,000 works of art formerly owned by the eponymous Spanish collector José Lázaro Galdiano.
A sprawling duty-free emporium, Les Boutiques stocks watches and jewelry from Cartier and Bulgari; Ferragamo purses and leather goods; and signature tartan-print totes, scarves, and umbrellas from Burberry.
Additional Locations in the Madrid Barajas International Airport:
Madrid’s Barajas Airport’s 2006 Terminal 4, by Richard Rogers of Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners, is like an extra-long cathedral, an unending vault supported by a colorful procession of buttresses.
This collection of fantastic, if occasionally brutally themed, religious art, including pieces by Peter Paul Rubens, is in an appropriately creaky and forbidding 16th-century working convent smack in the heart of Madrid’s central district.
Located a 20-minute drive east of the city, Madrid Barajas International Airport is the busiest in Spain. There is free wireless Internet throughout the airport, as well as business centers, VIP lounges, and currency exchanges.
Madrid is known for its children's clothing shops, like this Castellana neighborhood boutique that stocks brand-name garments for babies and children up to age six. The stone-and-brick building is located on a tree-lined street.
The shop stocks a range of dresses in amazing prints.
The windows are filled with candy and shaded under a wide, striped awning at Caramelos Paco, which opened as a grocery shop in 1934. Two years on, owner D. Francisco Moreno Redondo started specializing in chocolates and candies.