Things to do in Madrid

Monika Höfler & Jens Schwarz

Madrid has an easy, unfussy charm that is best appreciated on foot, strolling from one neighborhood to the next and stopping in to interesting shops ... Read More

Madrid has an easy, unfussy charm that is best appreciated on foot, strolling from one neighborhood to the next and stopping in to interesting shops and museums as they pop up. 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 museums is not to be missed. Located in roughly the same area, the Prado, Reina Sofía, and Thyssen-Bornemisza are the core of Spanish art. The Prado specializes in pre-20th-century (think Goya and El Greco) while the Reina Sofía features a wonderful collection of modern works from the 20th century (Picasso, Dali, and Miró). Meanwhile, the Thyssen-Bornemisza displays a mixture of classical and modern artwork, including the old masters Van Eyck and Rubens as well as Impressionists like Van Gogh, Degas, and Renoir. Outside these three museums, those looking for things to do in Madrid will find that the city also 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, check out the city’s massive flea market, known as El Rastro, followed by lunch at El Imparcial or any of the local bars in the tapas-dense neighborhood of La Latina. Sportier sorts will be drawn to Madrid Río, with four miles of jogging and bike paths and ziplines and playgrounds for kids. Or take in a soccer match with one (or both if you’re really lucky) of the city’s rival teams, Real Madrid and Atletico. 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.

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  • Del Diego Bar in Madrid Courtesy of Tu Guía de Madrid
    Del Diego

    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... Read More

  • Monumental Bridge in Madrid Rio Park Getty Images
    Madrid Río

    Once cut off from the city by a major highway, Madrid’s little trickle of a river, the Manzanares, has been reborn as the centerpiece of a massive four... Read More

  • Matadero Madrid Art Center Miquel Gonzalez
    Matadero Madrid

    After sitting derelict for decades on the edge of town, the city’s slaughterhouses, with their stunning early-20th-century neo-Moorish architecture,... Read More

  • Museo del Prado Museum in Madrid Getty Images
    Museo del Prado

    For centuries, Spanish monarchs were among the most acquisitive art patrons in Europe, and the legacy of their prescient collecting hangs on the walls... Read More

  • Museo Naval Museum in Madrid Getty Images
    Museo Naval

    Don't be put off by the building's hideous brown metal facade. Once inside, kids will especially enjoy sailing back in history amid the naval museum's... Read More

  • Museo Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid Miquel Gonzalez
    Museo Reina Sofia

    Set in a massive 18th-century hospital building dramatically expanded by architect Jean Nouvel a decade ago, Spain’s official modern and contemporary... Read More

  • Museo Sorolla Museum in Madrid Getty Images
    Museo Sorolla

    The former home and studio of painter Joaquin Sorolla (1863-1923)—known as the Spanish Sargent for his virtuoso brushwork and shimmering light effects... Read More

  • Museo Thyssen Museum in Madrid Monika Höfler & Jens Schwarz
    Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

    Generally known as the Thyssen, the museum houses two astonishing private collections—those of Baron and Baroness Thyssen-Bornemisza—that provide a... Read More

  • Palacio Real Royal Palace of Madrid Getty Images
    Palacio de Cristal/Retiro Park

    Retiro Park, often referred to as the city's "green lung," is certainly a vital organ for Madrid. Thousands of locals jog its perimeter every day, while... Read More

  • Palacio Real Royal Palace of Madrid Getty Images
    Palacio Real

    For a glimpse of the pomp and grandeur of the Spanish monarchy, stroll through the State Rooms of this monumental palace opposite the Royal Opera on the... Read More

  • Plaza Mayor in Madrid Miquel Gonzalez
    Plaza Mayor

    Begun under the reign of King Felipe II after he established Madrid as the capital of his empire, the Plaza Mayor evolved over the next few centuries to... Read More

  • Rastro Flea Market in Madrid Getty Images
    Rastro Flea Market

    The city's famous Sunday flea market is also open on all holidays, when other shops are closed. Located along the main drag of Calle Ribera de... Read More

  • Real Academia de San Fernando in Madrid Courtesy of Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando
    Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando

    In what was essentially the official academy for Spanish painters and sculptors, these galleries provide a rapid run-through of the history of Spanish... Read More

  • Royal Monastery San Lorenzo de El Escorial in Madrid Getty Images
    Royal Monastery San Lorenzo de El Escorial

    For many centuries, the Spanish kings were a mobile crew who floated between more than a dozen palaces they had built in the region around Madrid. Some... Read More

  • San Antonio de la Florida Church in Madrid Getty Images
    San Antonio de la Florida Chapel

    Though somewhat removed from the city's major tourism stops, this diminutive chapel is beloved by Madrileños and worth seeking out. Built in the 1790s,... Read More

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