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   Best Places to Visit in Madrid

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                                  Overview     Best Places to Visit    Detailed City Map  Additional Resources

 

Overview      

Madrid Weather

Click here for a climate chart of the annual ranges in precipitation and temperature in Madrid

 

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 your time.

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.

        

Paella, fideua, tapas -  good food abounds in Madrid

 

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.

 

 
Best Places to visit  in Madrid, Spain Top of Page  


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Golden Triangle

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 preferences.

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)

       The elegant Royal Palace (Palacio Real) in Madrid, Spain

  • 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.

        

         The Plaza Mayor, the place to be in Old Town Madrid

Plaza Mayor 

  • 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 their wares.

Parque del Buen Retiro (Retiro Park)

                  The lake in Retiro Park is a natural gathering place for Madrilenos

  • 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.

El Rastro

  • 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 belt). 
    • 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.

Other Plazas

  • 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 Office.

  • The Plaza Cibeles. its fountain and the glamorous post office building

  • 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 Quixote.


  • 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 interesting sculptures.

            The Alacala Gate in Madrid, Spain,  is particulary beautiful at night

     

  • 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  Las Ventas, one of the world most famous bullfigting rings.

    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 Tauro Tour )  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 Spanish.)

The Templo de Debod

The Egyptian Temple de Debod in Madrid.

  • 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 Spanish.

 

Santiago Bernabéu

  • 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.

El Escorial

  • 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 beautiful.


  • Click 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 Patrimonial Nacional 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.

Additional Resources

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..

The MADid about you website of the Society for Public Tourism in Madrid is also an excellent reference for anyone planning on visiting this vibrant city,

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 Spain.

If you need information about another travel destination, try our Destination Guide Index or Googling ThereArePlaces.


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Statue of Goya in front of the Prado Art Museum

 

 

 

 

 

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Madrid City Hop-on Hop-off Tour

From Viator Tours

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
El Escorial Monastery and the Valley of the Fallen from Madrid

From Viator Tours

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Madrid City Sightseeing and Royal Palace Tour

From Viator Tours

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