Top Things to Do in Madrid

Madrid is not a city of half-measures: Europe’s highest, youngest, sunniest capital likes to boast Desde Madrid al Cielo ('from Madrid to Heaven'), with a matter-of-fact assumption that when you’ve seen Madrid, the only place left is Heaven.

The city is as famous for what it lacks as for what it boasts – there’s no great river, no architectural marvels, no immediate picture-postcard charm. But what it does have, it has in spades: a fabulous collection of western art held in the Prado, the Thyssen and the Reina Sofía; a crooked old centre where almost every alley is stuffed with excellent tapas bars and restaurants; a famously intense blue sky; and an even more intense nightlife that makes most other cities look positively staid. The city is busy, but there are plenty of ways to take a deep breath and relax, with views from the Teleferico, and enviable array of green spaces including Parque del Retiro

You want more? Well, you can now go and discover Madrid's passionate flamenco and soccer scenes, which is where you'll get to the heart of the city.

Museo del Prado

The Prado houses one of the world’s greatest art collections, a dazzling display of European art spanning seven centuries. When opened in 1819, it was one of the very first public art museums – apparently Queen Isabel of Braganza had been impressed with the Louvre and wanted one for Spain.

El Rastro

South of Plaza Mayor, Madrid’s famous flea market, El Rastro, takes place every Sunday morning. Stalls wind all the way up Calle Ribera de Curtidores and sell everything from tacky clothes and souvenirs to leather goods, underwear, arts and crafts and kites.

Palacio Real

In 1734, after a fire destroyed the original Moorish alcázar, Felipe V commissioned the most prestigious architects to create this monumental palace.

Santiago Bernabéu Stadium

Known simply as 'the Bernabeu', this is the home ground of the famous Real Madrid football club – one of the best in the world – with capacity of 81,000. There are regular league matches usually from Friday to Sunday eve.

Teleferico de Madrid

Panoramic views of the city in this cable car journey, which travels up to Casa de Campo park. You’ll travel over the city’s parks, with views of the Manzanares River, Palacio Real and Almudena Catedral. Each journey takes just over 10 minutes. Please check for times (varies according to month).

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

Housed in a former hospital, Reina Sofia has been beautifully remodelled to hold the nation’s collection of 20th-century art. A stunning extension with glossy red curves by Jean Nouvel houses a library and a superb café-restaurant.

Casa Patas

Aficionados of the flamenco scene rate this venue as one of the most authentic venues—rather than the events put on for tourists. It’s also a bar and restaurant, where you can also enjoy lunch and dinner. Performances most Thurs-Sat night. Venue open daily 8pm-2.30 am.

Parque del Retiro

This dreamy expanse of manicured gardens, lakes, shady woods and pavilions was once the garden of the Palacio Real del Buen Retiro, and is a locals’ favourite for an escape from the city. At its centre is a vast lake (estanque), with a sprinkling of kiosks and boats for hire.

La Casa del Abuelo

A traditional tavern since 1906, this much-loved venue is still run by the same family. With dark wood and marble decor, its walls covered with famous past diners, choose wholesome, flavor-packed tapas including garlicky chili prawns. A real gem. Open Mon-Thurs & Sun noon-midnight; Fri, Sat noon-1am. 

Catedral de Santa Maria la Real de la Almudena

Construction began in 1883 yet was not completed until 1993 for this landmark cathedral, built on the site of the old Santa Maria la Mayor church which in turn was on the site of Madrid’s first mosque.