In recent years, Spain’s capital has cleaned its gritty edges, replacing old slaughterhouses with edgy arts districts, and shoe repair shops with tapas bars. But not all of Madrid’s past is disappearing. You can still see masterpieces by famed Spanish artists including Picasso and Dalí, and the city’s facades are a blend of medieval manses and Baroque.
When you arrive, you won’t have any trouble finding fun things to do in Madrid. It’s a wonderful shopping city, and you can spend as much time (and money) as you’d like exploring the Gran Via—the city’s main shopping and tourist artery—which runs more than a kilometer in length from the Metrópolis building to the Plaza de España. Look for upscale men’s footwear at Albaladejo, and browse Aristocrazy’s contemporary jewelry (chain-link necklaces in yellow gold, moonstone pendants).
On a clear day, what to do in Madrid is spend an afternoon enjoying the view from the Tartan Roof at the Círculo de Bellas Artes: you’ll see the angel perched atop the neighboring Metropolis building, as well as the Telefónica building and the Palacio de Comunicaciones. If weather doesn’t permit your visit to the rooftop terrace, the Círculo de Bellas Artes (a non-profit culture and arts organization) also boasts an exhibition hall and movie theater.
Now’s the perfect time to grab a drink. We recommend ordering a sip at the Museo Chicote, Spain’s oldest cocktail bar, which dates back to 1931. Greats including Ernest Hemingway, Ava Gardner, and Frank Sinatra have imbibed at the Art Deco-style bar. Cozy up in one of the circular booths and try one of the bar’s gin & tonics. Late-night dining is a big thing in Madrid, and you won’t have any trouble finding a cool new place to eat.
After you’ve recovered from your night out, check out one of the most iconic Madrid attractions: the Plaza de Cibeles. It’s one of the city’s most recognizable spaces, with an 18th-century fountain featuring the Roman goddess Cybele. She represents earth, agriculture, and fertility. It’s not uncommon to find her wrapped in the soccer team’s flag.
Next up on your to-do list in Madrid watching an authentic flamenco performance. Cardamomo Tablao Flamenco is the place to see some of the world’s most prominent dancers.
Before you take your leave of Madrid, pick up souvenirs and keepsakes at the city’s last-remaining iron market hall, Mercado de San Minguel, in the old quarter of Madrileños. Antiques can also be sourced from the oldest flea market in town, El Rastro.