All Things To Do in Madrid: A Complete Sightseeing Guide
Madrid is one of our favorite cities in the world. We’ve been there many times and know the city quite well. Joop studied for a semester in Madrid and last year we lived there together for two months. Besides that, we’ve visited the city on multiple occasions for a few days. It’s safe to say we know Madrid very well. This is our complete sightseeing guide full of all the things to do in Madrid, filled with photos of the amazing sightseeing spots. We hope to inspire you to plan a trip to Madrid!
Parque del Buen Retiro, or Retiro Park, is Madrid’s huge city park. Retiro used to be the private park of the Spanish royal family, but it was opened to the public in 1767. We love strolling around Retiro and we make sure to go there every time we’re in Madrid. Besides enjoying the nature, Retiro has many things to see and activities to do.
Opening hours Retiro Park
Winter: daily from 07.00-22.00
Summer: daily from 07.00-00.00
Click here to read our complete sightseeing guide to Retiro Park in Madrid
Royal Botanical Garden
Close to Retiro Park, you’ll find the Royal Botanical Garden. The Garden features 5000 different species of plants, varying by month and season. It’s a nice garden to walk around and explore all the different kinds of plants and flowers. We really loved the greenhouses in the Garden. There are 3 different kinds of subtropical and tropical sections, that all house different kinds of plants. We especially loved taking photos in the greenhouses, the different kinds of tropical plants make for a good looking backdrop. The greenhouses alone make a visit to the Botanical Garden worth it already.
General ticket price: € 6
Every Tuesday after 17.00 the entrance to the Royal Botanical Garden is free.
Atocha is Madrid’s main train station. There’s a reason this station is worth visiting even if you’re not taking the train: the huge tropical garden inside the main hall. You’ll see many people sitting and waiting on the benches in the garden. Because of the tropical plants, the atmosphere is amazing and refreshing and it feels a bit like you’re in a jungle. We’d really recommend checking this place out, even if you don’t have to be at Atocha train station. The huge palm trees are very impressive. There’s a platform overlooking the garden as well, so go there for a nice vantage point. If you want to take photos inside the garden, make sure to go early as there are always many people relaxing on the benches even in the early morning.
There’s no entrance fee.
Royal Palace of Madrid
The Royal Palace of Madrid (or Palacio Real) is a huge palace in the middle of the city center. The Royal Palace is the official residence of the Spanish royal family, however, the palace is now only used for state ceremonies and the royal family doesn’t actually live there. It’s the largest functioning royal palace in Europe, with a floor space of 135000 square meters and 3418 rooms. Imagine living in a place with 3418 rooms!
A part of the palace is open to visitors. You can walk around the rooms and admire all the beautiful royal interiors. Unfortunately, you aren’t allowed to take any photos in the rooms. Visiting the Royal Palace is a fun thing to do when you’re in Madrid and it’s not every day that you can have a look inside a royal palace.
Every Monday to Thursday from 16.00-18.00 in October until March and from 18.00-20.00 in April until September, the admission to the Royal Palace is free for EU citizens. We can really recommend doing this if this applies to you, as it’ll save you a lot of money. The line to enter can get quite long, so make sure you arrive in time. Don’t forget to bring your national identification card or passport, because they will check it.
Basic admission: €13
The Almudena Cathedral (or Santa María la Real de La Almudena is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Madrid. It’s also known as the Cathedral of Madrid. When Spain’s capital moved from Toledo to Madrid in 1561, the seat of the Spanish Church remained in Toledo. There were plans to build a cathedral in Madrid but the constructions of Almudena Cathedral only started in 1879. It was important to make it the largest cathedral the world had ever seen. As the constructions were not completed until 1993, the Cathedral is relatively modern. The cathedral houses a museum, which we visited many years ago. The museum leads you to the balcony, where you have a beautiful view over the Royal Palace, and to the top of the cathedral, which offers a stunning view over the city.
Opening hours museum
Closed on Sundays.
Admission fee: €6 (adult)
Plaza de Oriente
Plaza de Oriente is the square right next to the Royal Palace on the eastern side. It’s a beautiful square with lots of green, flowers and statues. The square is divided into three parts by pathways: the Central Gardens, the Cabo Nobal Gardens and the Lepanto Gardens. There’s a monument to King Philip IV located in the Central Gardens and some more statues. The statues are known as the Gothic Kings and represent twenty rulers of both Visigoth and early Christian kingdoms in the Reconquista (from 711-1492). You can pay and have your photo taken in traditional Spanish clothes near the Philip IV monument if you’re interested in that. Regardless, it’s a lovely square to walk around and it offers a nice background for photos.
The Sabatini Gardens (or Jardines de Sabatini) are located right behind the palace. The Gardens are named after Sabatini (obviously) who designed various works at the palace. There are always a few street musicians playing which makes a stroll through the gardens feel like you’re going back in time. . Except when they’re playing Despacito, which they do every now and then, haha. There’s a pond in the garden and when the fountains are off, the water perfectly reflects the palace. Fountains on or off, it’s always a beautiful photo spot!
Parque del Oeste
Temple of Debod
Temple of Debod (or Templo de Debod) is located in Parque del Oeste (Western Park). It’s an Egyptian temple built in the early 2nd century. The temple is dedicated to the god Amun. The Egyptian state donated the temple to Spain as a sign of gratitude for their help in saving the Abu Simbel temples. The Temple of Debod was rebuilt in Madrid and opened to the public in 1972. The Temple is one of the few ancient Egyptian architectural works outside of Egypt and it’s the only one in Spain, which makes it a unique sightseeing spot. There’s a pond around the temple, which isn’t always filled with water, but if it is, it creates a beautiful reflection. Especially during sunset, the Temple of Debod is a beautiful spot for photos.
Mirador del Templo de Debod
There’s a viewpoint (Mirador) next to the Temple of Debod overlooking the Royal Palace, the Almudena Cathedral and the city. It’s a beautiful spot to watch the sunset, but that’s also when it’s the most crowded. Because of the crowds, we weren’t able to take a photo of us with the tripod, but we asked someone to take our photo together. Parque del Oeste itself is a popular place for locals to relax. Especially in the summer evenings, the park gets very crowded. If you like people-watching there’s lots to see, from people dancing and doing yoga, to bands playing music.
Cable Car Madrid
The Cable Car (or Teleférico) is a lesser known, but very fun, thing to do in Madrid. The Cable Car stop is located near the Temple of Debod in Parque del Oeste and takes you to Casa de Campo in 11 minutes. The 11-minute cable car ride offers a beautiful view over the city. You can choose to go back to Parque del Oeste straight away or to explore the grounds of Casa de Campo. There’s a theme park and a zoo in Casa de Campo, so you won’t get bored. Besides that, Casa de Campo is a perfect recreational area tor cycling and to enjoy a picnic in nature. However, even if you decide to go back to Parque del Oeste straight away, the cable car ride is really worth it!
Check this website for current opening hours. In winter, the cable car is only opened in the weekends.
One-way ticket: €4,50
Return ticket: €6
Madrid Rio is a park along the Manzanares river in Madrid. The park is located a little outside the city center and is mostly popular among locals. It’s a nice park to walk, cycle, and run around in or to do other physical activities. In summer you’ll see locals sunbathing in Madrid Rio Beach. The Bridge of Toledo (or Puente de Toledo) is a perfect spot to watch the sunset. If you’re in for a relaxing and green place, you should go to Madrid Rio.
Every Sunday morning, there’s a large flea market selling a variety of stuff, such as antiques, vintage goods, clothes, books and more. You can find the market along Plaza de Cascorro and Ribera de Curtidores, between Calle Embajadores and Ronda de Toledo in the neighborhoods La Latina and Lavapiés, just south of metro station La Latina. If you’re in Madrid on a Sunday, it’s worth checking out El Rastro. There is even a square (Plaza del Campillo del Mundo Nuevo) filled with people selling trading cards, magazines and stamps. It’s really fun to walk around and see everything that’s being offered.
Madrid’s most famous square is Plaza Mayor. You can’t visit Madrid without going here. The construction of Plaza Mayor finished in 1619 and it used to be the center of Old Madrid. The center of the square features a statue of King Philip III. We really love the architecture of the building around the square. There are many restaurants with outdoor seating areas on Plaza Mayor. We wouldn’t recommend eating there as it’s very pricey for the quality, but it can be a nice spot to have a few drinks and watch people passing by.
Puerta del Sol
Puerta del Sol is a huge square in the middle of the city center in Madrid. Next to Plaza Mayor, it’s another well-known square and a very busy one. Here you can find a few famous buildings and landmarks. Make sure you don’t miss the old Post Office (currently the office of the President of Madrid), a statue of Charles III, the famous Tío Pepe sign and the Bear and the Strawberry Tree Statue. The Bear and the Strawberry Tree Statue represents the coat of arms of Madrid, and is always surrounded by a group of people taking photos. The statue itself isn’t very tall, which makes it easy to miss. It’s located on the east side of Puerta del Sol, just look for a group of people surrounding something and you’ll probably find it.
Puerta del Sol is the center of Madrid and it’s the kilometer zero from which all radial roads in Spain are measured. The exact kilometer zero point is marked with a tile. Puerta del Sol is also the center of the shopping area in Madrid and is entirely surrounded by shopping streets. If you feel like shopping, this is the place to be!
Circulo de Bellas Artes de Madrid
Circulo de Bellas Artes is a museum in the city center of Madrid. The exhibitions are always changing and they offer a few different ones. A few years ago, we visited to the World Press Photo exhibition, which was very interesting. If you’re into fine arts and there are interesting exhibitions, it’s really worth checking out the museum.
Azotea del Circulo de Bellas Artes
The top level of the museum features a huge open-air rooftop with a bar and a restaurant. The rooftop is very nice and is loved by both locals and tourists. It’s always very crowded on warm summer nights. If you want to have dinner at the rooftop’s restaurant, you have to make a reservation beforehand. It’s also possible to have lunch at the restaurant and the bar is open the entire day. You don’t need to make a reservation for drinks at the bar. We’d absolutely recommend going up the rooftop and having a drink. The view is beautiful and the vibes are great!
Opening hours exposition rooms:
Tuesday-Sunday: from 11.00-14.00 and from 17.00-21.00
Opening hours rooftop:
General entrance ticket: €5 (admission to expositions and rooftop)
Rooftop Corte Ingles Callao
There’s a Gourmet Experience on the top floor of the Corte Ingles at Callao with different places to eat. It’s somewhat comparable to a food court, which are very common in Asia but not so much in Europe. Besides having a good bite at one of the food stalls, the Gourmet Experience has an outdoor seating area overlooking the city as well as huge windows overlooking Callao. We can really recommend the burger place at the Gourmet Experience. The burgers they serve are delicious. We also love going up there for a coffee in the morning and a delicious ice cream macaron. Getting to the top floor of the Corte Ingles is really worth it for the view, even if you don’t want to eat something. You can always go up there just to admire and take photos of the view. Be aware that it’s very crowded during lunch time, so if you only want to take photos, avoid that time of the day.
Chocolateria San Gines
Eating churros at Chocolateria San Gines is a must during your visit in Madrid. San Gines is serving churros since 1894 and is one of the oldest chocolatiers in Madrid. We love having our churros with hot chocolate and a cup of coffee. San Gines is open 24 hours a day, so you can go whenever you feel like, even after going out. We love the stylish interior with lots of dark green and marble. It makes for a perfect photo spot as well!
Mercado de San Miguel
Mercado de San Miguel is a very popular tourist spot where you can try all kinds of Spanish tapas. It’s the perfect place to indulge into the Spanish cuisine. We’re not big fans of the food hall because of the crowds, but it’s a very nice way to taste different kinds of tapas. When it’s your first time in Spain, it’s a good way to get familiar with typical Spanish tapas. There are different stands where you can order tapas and have a drink.
Monday-Thursday and Sunday: 10.00-00.00
Friday and Saturday: 10.00-01.00
Cybele Palace (or Palacio de Cibeles) use to be Madrid’s main post office and telegraph and telephone headquarters, also formally known as Palace of Communications (Palacio de Communicaciones). Currently, it houses the City Council and serves as the city hall. Construction of the building ended in 1919 and the building has become known as one of the first examples of modern Spanish architecture. The building is beautiful and attracts many tourists. Inside the Cybele Palace you can find an art gallery, a café, a tourist information office and a restaurant. The Cybele Palace also has a rooftop bar called Terraza Cibeles. We still haven’t been there, but we will definitely check it out during our next visit in Madrid. We bet the view over the fountain and Madrid is amazing, and would love to see the sunset from the rooftop.
Opening hours Terrazza Cibeles
Museums in Madrid
Madrid offers a wide variety of museums. Three of Madrid’s most famous museums are Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo Reina Sofia and Museo de Arte Thyssen-Bornemisza. Prado and the Thyssen museum are both located in the same street, Paseo del Prado. The Reina Sofia museum is located at the southern end of Paseo del Prado at Calle Santa Isabel. As the museums are close to each other, you could easily plan a museum day and visit them all. We’re not big fans of museums, so we haven’t been to them, but we felt the need to share them in this Madrid guide as they are so famous.
Getting around Madrid
Many places in Madrid are in the city center or located at a walkable distance from the city center. We always love to walk everywhere, but if it’s too far for you, you can get nearly anywhere by metro.
The metro is very easy to use, with a tap card called the Multi card. You can buy the Multi card at ticket machines in the metro stations. The price of a Multi card is €2,50. After buying the card you need to load your preferred product on it. The products offered are a single ticket, a 10-journey ticket or tourist tickets. With a tourist ticket, you can use the public transport unlimited for 1 to 7 consecutive days. If you buy a tourist ticket together with a Multi card, the price of the card is included in the tourist ticket. Check this website for more information and current rates of the tourist tickets.
We always use Google Maps for metro timetables and route directions, and it’s always accurate.
It’s also possible to get around Madrid by taxi. All official taxis in Madrid are white with a diagonal red band on their front door with the city emblem. Ride-hailing companies like Uber and Cabify are also operating in Madrid. Usually, these are a bit less expensive than regular taxis, but both are the most expensive way to get around Madrid.
Getting from the airport to Madrid
The airport of Madrid is well-connected to the city center by metro. This is also the cheapest way to get in the city center. Depending on the number of stations involved, the price of a single ticket is €1,50 to €2. There is an airport surcharge of €3 if you take the metro from or to the airport. Traveling by metro to or from the airport will cost you between €4,50 and €5. With the metro network in Madrid you can get basically everywhere in the city. It takes around 30 minutes to get from the airport to Puerta del Sol by metro. If you have to transfer trains, it might take a bit longer than going by car, but it will save a lot of money.
Taxis charge a fixed rate of €30 between the airport and the center of Madrid. It’s also possible to hail a ride which might be cheaper than a regular taxi. It takes around 20 minutes to get from the airport to Puerta del Sol by car. Taking a taxi is a bit quicker than the metro, but also more expensive.
Have you ever been to Madrid or would you love to visit this amazing city? Let us know in the comments below!
Be sure to check out more of our visual experiences on Instagram!
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