Our choices for the Best places to Visit in Madrid presented below
describe the most popular tourist attractions in the Spanish Capital. Outside of
the Old Town, Madrid is much like other modern cities, so our coverage focuses
on the historic heart of Madrid.
Although there are many wonderful things to see in Madrid, the majority of
tourists visit the Spanish capital to view the outstanding art collections of
its world famous museums. Even if you are not enamored with art, a visit to the
famous museums in Madrid's Golden Triangle (described below) will be well worth
Once you have had your fill of art (for some this may take several days), you
will find that Old Town Madrid is a place made for exploring. While
wandering, stop for refreshments at one the many plazas, or take time to
wander the city's spectacular shopping areas.
When looking for a snack or a meal, try some tapas at a tasca – a small
restaurant focused on serving these tasty mini-meals (see our description of
"tapas" on the right edge of this page). Madrid is known for its
nightlife, including great restaurant, trendy nightclubs and spirited singing
and dancing. Join in, if you can keep pace with the notorious late night
lifestyle of the Madrileños.
Madrid is located in the center of Spain and sits at an elevation 1900’ above
sea level. The population of the central city is 3.1 million. When combined with
the surrounding suburbs, the population mushrooms to approximately 6 million.
Madrid has been an active settlement since prehistoric times. The
forerunner of the modern city's location was established by the Moors, who
sited a fort in this area in the ninth century. Madrid gained stature and
its hold over Spain in 1561 when Felipe (Philip) II melded Castile (and its
capital Toledo) and Aragón (and its capital Barcelona) into the precursor of
modern Spain by establishing Madrid as the seat of his government. Although
growth occurred in fits and starts, the modern city of Madrid came into its
own during the eighteenth century.
If you have a few extra days in this area, consider visiting Toledo or Segovia.
In addition, try to take a day trip to one or more of the many wonderful royal
castles near Madrid, such as the Palacio Real de Aranjuez in Aranjuez,
approximately 30 miles from Madrid.
We have created a detailed city map for Madrid that uses Google maps for the
base display. We layer our recommendations for the Best Places to Visit in
Madrid on the display, which can be viewed on a normal street map, or over a
satellite image of Madrid, or on a Hybrid image that combines the street map and
the satellite image. Remember to zoom in using the controls and you will
be able to see amazing detail on the Hybrid image.
Tapas are the Spanish equivalent of a snack plate and eating tapas is a
social event (they are made for sharing). The servings are small and you should
order two or more plates of tapas per person.
There seem to be as many types of tapas as there are chefs.
You will find vegetable, meat, poultry. seafood and desert tapas.
Some will be fresh, some marinated, others baked and some fried.
Tapas are thought to have originated to tide workers over until the main meal,
which, in Spain, is often served late in the evening. Tapas are not
regarded as a substitute for a meal. but as a bridge to the next meal.
Without a doubt, the leading attractions in Madrid are its superb art
museums, located in an area that is known as "The Golden Triangle". In
the past, travelers would converge on Madrid for the sheer pleasure of
exploring the dramatic art of the Prado. Now, in addition to the Prado,
Madrid provides the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and the Reina Sofia Museum.
The presence of these three art museums has catapulted Madrid in to the
stratosphere of the art world. Each of these museums is a treasure in its
own right and combined they have become a must-see for visitors.
It is unlikely that you could plan a tour of these three art museums that
allowed you to see all the treasures they provide. Instead, we suggest you
do a little homework and focus on the best that each museum has to offer. We
would like to do this planning for you, but we do not know the type of art
that you find attractive.
- If you do a little pre-planning (we provide the information you
need through the museum links below), you will enjoy your tour and
not suffer from “art museum overload”.
- A good alternative to the research is to join a tour at the
museums, or rent an audio-guide, or hire a personal guide who should
be able to show you the highlights of each museum based on your
Details about each museum, its collection, website and hours of operation
and photos can be found by following the links below to the page of our
Madrid Travel Guide describing:
Palacio Real (the Royal Palace of Madrid)
- Although, the residence of Spanish Monarchy until 1931, the Palacio
Real de Madrid is used only for official state ceremonial purposes. The
original building on this site (the Alcázar) was destroyed by fire in
1734 and the "new" palace with 2800 rooms was finished by the
middle of the same century.
The rooms of the Palacio Real are
gorgeous and decorated in style can only be described as striking.
- Be sure to see the Throne Room (preserved intact since the
reign of Charles III), the Kings Chamber, and the Porcelain Room.
- In addition, visit The Royal Armory, as its collection of
medieval armor is world renowned.
- The gardens surrounding the Palace, known as the Campo del Moro
(the Moor's field), are beautiful and worthy of a short stroll.
End your visit at the nearby Plaza de Oriente, so named because it
is located to the east of the Palace.
For the most authoritative information on visiting the Royal Palace in Madrid, see the
official website. (The
link may not always work as there is a technical problem on one of the web
servers hosting their website.
If the link does not work for you, a usually reliable workaround is to try the home page for the
Patrimonio Nacional. At the top of the page that is returned, click "Palacios Reales". On
the Palacio Reales page that results, click "Palacio Real de Madrid").
- From October to March, the Royal Palace is open from Monday
through Saturday from 10:00 to 18:00 and from 0:900 to 14:00 on
Sundays and Holidays.
- Summer hours, from April to September find the Royal Palace open
from 10:00 to 20:00 and from 09:00 to 15:00 on Sundays and holidays.
- The Palace gardens (Campo del Moro) are open Monday through
Saturday from 10:00 to 18:00 from October to March. They are
open April to September from 10:00 to 20:00 on Monday through
Saturday and from 09:00 to 20:00 on Sundays and some holidays.
- Plaza Mayor, located in the heart of Old Town Madrid, is
the grand square of the city. The buildings around the
Plaza have burned several times, the last time in 1790.
Although known for its architecture and vast expanse, the Plaza
is best known as one of the city's most popular meeting places.
- During summer evenings, it is filled with tourists and
Madrileños (Madrid natives), who gather to enjoy the company,
dance, eat, sing and watch performers and merchants showing
Parque del Buen Retiro (Retiro Park)
- When the art junket starts to get old, head for Retiro
Park, just east of the Prado. The 350-acre park, which
dates from the 16th century, once housed a palace and its
royal grounds. The buildings were destroyed during the
Peninsular War (early 19th century) that occurred as part of
the hostilities during the Napoleonic Wars.
Today, the park is an integral part of the lives of
Madrileños. The grounds are attractive, peppered with
many statues and a large lake where you can rent rowboats.
The Crystal Palace (Palacio di Cristal), one of the
exhibition halls for the Reina Sofia Museum, is located here
and deserves a quick look.
- Avoid the park in the later evening hours as it is a
haven for pickpockets and others you should choose to avoid.
- It's said that all of Madrid shops at the El Rastro
Flea Market and it has become a Sunday tradition. The
market opens at 09:00 and closes in the early afternoon
(14:00-14:30). Pickpockets abound, so be careful with
your wallet and belongings (be sure to wear a money
- El Rastro is located near the Plaza de Cascorro
on the east side of La Latina, an area that is at
the heart of the "Old Town" Madrid and known for its
winding streets and numerous tapas restaurants.
- Madrid is a city filled with interesting and scenic
plazas. As you cross the city going from the Prado
to the Palacio Real you will have an opportunity to
visit several plazas that might be of interest to you.
Plaza de la Cibeles
- Considered by many to be the most pleasing of
Madrid's plazas, it features a well known statue of
the Goddess Cibeles. The plaza sits amidst
many of the city's most noteworthy buildings,
including the ostentatious Spanish Royal Mail
Plaza de España
- Another of Madrid's popular squares, the Plaza
de España is located near the Palacio Real and known
for its monument to Cervantes, the author of Don
Plaza de la Independencia
- The main entrance to Retiro Park also houses the
Puerta de Acalá (the Acalá Gate). The gate
looks dramatic at night and is adorned with several
Plaza Santa Ana
- Another of the places to see and be seen in Madrid.
Plaza Santa Ana has a nice selection of restaurants and
bars in a pleasant courtyard-like setting.
La Puerta del Sol
- The Puerta (gate) del Sol marks the center of
Spain's highway system and six of the country's major
roads have their mile-marker set for zero at this point.
However, the surrounding area is also known for its
restaurants and nightlife.
Plaza de Toros de las Ventas
Although bullfighting is not for everyone, Las Ventas
is one of the largest and most famous bullfighting rings
in the world. In addition, it is a popular tourist
attraction due to its unique architecture.
- If you take a city tour you will pass the building
and, if interested, you can arrange to take a tour (the
) when the bullfights are not on. If you
are an aficionado, take in the Las Ventas
official website for its schedule. (The
website is in Spanish, so use the Google translator to
help you navigate the website if you do not speak
The Templo de Debod
- The Debod Temple, dating from the second century BC, is an authentic
Egyptian temple that was donated to Spain by Egypt, as it was in an area
eventually flooded by the Aswan Dam. The structure is now surrounded by
Madrid's striking Parque de la Montaña.
- More information on Debod can be found at the official site of
Municipal Madrid. and
search (buscar) for Templo de Debod. You will need to use
Google Translator, or your preferred approach, as the website is in
- Home of the Real Madrid football (soccer), this is a great place to
enjoy a game, if you can find an available ticket. Accessed by the
Santiago Bernabéu Metro station, the area
surrounding the stadium is quite lively when a game is on.
- Click for the website of
Real Madrid for information on the team. Click on the tab for
Santiago Bernabéu for information on stadium tours.
The official website of the city of Madrid,
esMadrid.com , includes a great section on "what's on" in the city as
well as other valuable information on hotels and other traveler services..
- If you have time for just one day trip or need an afternoon outside
of the city, consider visiting the Royal Seat of San Lorenzo de El
Escorial, which can be reached by bus, train, or car. The Escorial
is located approximately 30 miles northwest of Madrid.
- Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Escorial was the center of
power of the Spanish empire under King Philip II. It is famous for
its monastery and basilica, which contains the Pantheon of the Kings,
where many members of the Spanish royal family are buried.
The architecture, decorations, art and setting are spectacular and
here for a description of the El Escorial from the official site of the Patrimonio Nacional.
The website is in Spanish, so use
Google's Translate tool if you need help.
- The Palacio website has a server problem and the link to the page link above
may not always work. If this happens to you, a reliable workaround is to
start at the homepage for
and click on the top menu for
"Palacios Reales." The Palacios Reales page will have a link (on the
left) to information on San Lorenzo de El Escorial.
- If you do not have access to Google Translate, we suggest using this
website on El
Escorial. Although it is not associated with the palace, provides good quality information in
English about El Escorial.
MADid about you website of the Society for Public Tourism in Madrid is
also an excellent reference for anyone planning on visiting this vibrant
For country facts on Spain, as well as information of value to travelers
(visas, traffic safety and road conditions, medical facilities and health
information), see the U.S. State Department's page on
If you need information about another travel destination, try our
Destination Guide Index
or Googling ThereArePlaces.
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