Let’s embark again for Spain and discover its capital, Madrid. After having made you travel to Andalusia, let’s leave today for the Spanish capital to visit Madrid and discover the essentials of Madrid.
Madrid is the largest city in Spain with nearly 3 million inhabitants. Madrid is an atypical city on many levels. Did you know that Madrid is the highest capital in Europe? Indeed, Madrid culminates at more than 650 meters above sea level. Let’s discover Madrid with these must-see places but also tips for visiting Madrid.
What to do and see in Madrid?
Now let’s move on to the countless things to do and see in Madrid. A capital which conceals interesting places, museums, palaces or even gardens and parks without forgetting the two impressive football stadiums of the city.
The Royal Palace
Wondering what to do in Madrid? The Palacio Real, or royal palace, is the stop not to be missed. Built in the 18th century during the reign of King Philip V, and considered one of the most beautiful palaces in Europe, the residence of the Spanish royal family is now used for the reception of the great heads of state and signing official documents. A guided tour is a must in Madrid but above all the opportunity to discover a place steeped in history through the hall of the Halberdiers, the hall of the Columns, the bedroom of King Charles III and many other rooms decorated with extravagant frescoes, marble floors and solid gold decorations. A walk in the gardens of the palace is essential to relax in a perfectly maintained green setting.
Visit Madrid, its main square: The Plaza Mayor
A few meters from the Royal Palace is the pedestrianized Plaza Mayor, built in the heart of the old town in the 17th century under Philip III, as evidenced by the bronze statue that sits in its center. Surrounded by arcades and three-storey ocher buildings with typical Castilian architecture, it has many restaurants, bars and craft shops. It is in this exceptional setting that the people of Madrid like to stroll and meet up for a drink on the terrace. In winter, the entertainment continues to be in full swing, thanks in particular to its Christmas market which remains a must in Madrid. The colorful stalls, filled with nativity figurines, traditional musical instruments and toys, will instantly take you back to childhood.
The royal theater
When visiting Madrid, it would be a shame to miss the Teatro Real located in Plaza Oriente, opposite the Royal Palace. Its construction was ordered in 1817 by Queen Isabella II and since its inauguration in 1850, this historic monument has been an opera hall popular with the most famous opera singers, as the acoustics are remarkable. Thanks to a renovation undertaken during the 1990s, the Royal Theater has preserved its former glory and its reputation.
The Prado Museum
This museum is one of the largest art galleries in the world and will seduce all art lovers. It opened its doors in 1819 in order to exhibit to visitors from all over the world, a collection made up of more than 9,000 works of art produced between the 14th and 19th centuries. In particular, you can admire paintings by Diego Velázquez, Francisco Goya, Pierre Paul Rubens, Nicolas Poussin, Jérôme Bosch and Rembrandt. How not to remain captivated by the meticulous details of the drawings, engravings, sketches and sculptures whose value is simply inestimable? This museum is, of course, one of the must-sees in Madrid for all art lovers.
The Reina Sofía Art Center
This must-see museum in Madrid stands out for the works it contains. The visitor has the privilege of contemplating a vast collection of international art from the 19th century to today. It is also in these places that the very famous Guernica painting by Pablo Picasso is exhibited, as well as the paintings of Dali. The building of the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía itself surprises with its imposing architecture. By going to the top floor, you will enjoy a spectacular panorama of the whole city, in particular of the Atocha station, which is the largest in Spain.
Impossible to visit Madrid without noticing the cathedral of Santa María La Real de La Almudena, built opposite the royal palace in the 20th century. Its facade will impress you with its neoclassical style and you will not be able to take your eyes off the dome, whose cross culminates at a hundred meters. It is decorated with twelve statues representing the apostles and surrounded by two towers. The one overlooking Calle de Bailén hides the carillon. Then, by pushing the doors of the cathedral, you will remain amazed by the neo-Gothic style, until you are dizzy at the crossroads of the transept when you find yourself under the dome decorated with modern frescoes. The result is an unusual monument, not to be missed under any circumstances during your visit to Madrid.
A sunset at Parque del Oeste
The Parque del Oeste, or West Park, is a place not to be missed in Madrid, especially at sunset. This large park, particularly appreciated by the inhabitants of Madrid, is located not far from the Royal Palace and extends to the Moncloa district.
In this park you will find some places of interest such as the famous Egyptian temple of Debod, which can be visited, as well as the rose garden of the West Park.
From this elevated place, you can contemplate a magnificent view of the royal palace.
The Palacio de Cibeles, once called the Palace of Communications, dazzles with its incredible architecture. An emblem of historic Madrid located in the lively Plaza de Cybèle, it was inaugurated in 1919 to serve as the central headquarters of the Post Office. Now it serves as a town hall and hosts a cultural center that offers free exhibitions. Don’t miss the crystal gallery, a room topped by a large glazed vault, or the 360° view of the capital from its belvedere and the restaurant terrace!
Take a walk in Retiro Park
Visiting Madrid also means discovering its many parks and gardens. Retiro Park is a calm and peaceful place that brings travelers and locals together. It is an ideal place to enjoy the outdoors, run, cycle or simply spend pleasant moments with the family. There are many interesting corners within the park. It has many fountains, lakes, palaces like the Palacio de Cristal, outdoor gymnasiums, puppet theatres, an old zoo, a bandstand and even Roman ruins. Otherwise, you can have a small picnic with the family or simply take advantage of this magnificent place for a walk or to relax.
Climb to the top of Faro de Moncloa
Created in 1992 by Salvador Pérez Arroyo, el Faro de Moncloa or the Moncloa lighthouse, is an observation tower from which you can enjoy a magnificent view of Madrid.
With a height of 110 meters, created on the occasion of the nomination of Madrid as European Capital of Culture, the tower hosts telecommunications antennas. For a few euros you can take the elevator that will take you to the observation platform.
Discover the Mercado de San Miguel
San Miguel Market is definitely one of the things to do in Madrid. Located a stone’s throw from the Plaza Major, this small covered market is full of good things to eat and drink. At any time of the day, from morning to evening, passing by midday, you can stop there and buy some of the local specialities. On the spot or to take away, the many dishes offered by this market are a real treat.
Casa de Campo, the great park of Madrid
Located in the west of the city, this immense park, the largest in Madrid, extends over more than 1,700 hectares.
A former hunting reserve, it is now home to many monuments as well as small bars and restaurants. There is the lake of the casa de campo but also the amusement park of Madrid or the Zoo Aquarium of Madrid.
Visit the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium
Another must-see in Madrid, the emblematic Santiago Bernabeu stadium!
To see this famous stadium up close, take a complete guided tour while having the opportunity to go into the boxes, the locker rooms and find the press and trophy rooms. You will be amazed to be in this great stadium where the Real Madrid team is used to playing. You can also enrich your knowledge with a bit of history about the famous team. Remember to take photos to treasure a memory of your visit to this mythical stadium.
Madrid Wax Museum
The Madrid Wax Museum is a unique place to be able to spend a pleasant afternoon. This museum exhibits more than 450 figurines of stars, famous people, actors, singers and sportsmen, which your children will surely recognize. This museum particularly attracts the attention of children, in particular thanks to the presence of The Simpsons, Harry Potter and Snow White. As for football and sports fans in general, they will easily recognize Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi or even Rafael Nadal. In addition, three attractions are offered during the visit, including a multivision video, the fear train and the simulator.
Visit the National Museum of Natural Sciences of Spain
Another essential museum to see during your visit to Madrid: the National Museum of Natural Sciences. The National Museum of Natural Sciences of Spain is an interesting place that especially fascinates children. You will be able to find thousands of species there as well as a dinosaur exhibition. As for the permanent exhibitions, they are grouped into three themes including natural history, the Mediterranean Sea and historical pieces. Otherwise, other rather ordinary species are exhibited there, such as birds, invertebrates, reptiles and amphibians.
Visit the Madrid Railway Museum
Located south of the city center, the Madrid Railway Museum is a place that displays a collection of locomotive cars. The place shows the illustration of rail transport in Spain. You can also see old locomotives and carriages here. Throughout the visit, explanations on the operation of the railway as well as on the maintenance of the electrified network will be given to you. At the end of your visit, you can have a drink in an old restaurant car which is offered at a fair price.
Visit the Naval Museum of Madrid
The Naval Museum of Madrid offers a variety of collections of paintings, navigational instruments, weapons as well as reconstructions of both military and merchant ships. The exhibition spaces are spread over 24 rooms. Thus, the adults will be able to learn a little more about history while the youngest will be amazed by the originality of the collections on display.
Visit Madrid: The Botanical Garden
Treat yourself to an exotic break in the heart of the capital in the Royal Botanical Garden of Madrid! While the first collections were put together in the middle of the 18th century, this green setting was restored in 1974 to regain its charm of yesteryear. You will be able to discover more than 5,000 species of flowers and trees, but also new plant species from all over the world. The greenhouse is really worth a visit, for the rare and exotic plants it houses. During the circuit, you will have the opportunity to expand your botanical knowledge and learn more about the medicinal properties of plants.
Madrid Zoo Aquarium
Looking for an activity to do with the family? An afternoon at the zoo will leave lasting memories for children and parents alike. Committed to the conservation of endangered species, it presents dozens of animals from across the globe, including the giant panda and the Bornean orangutan. The animations are numerous and you will be able to attend the care or the meals of the animals. Between the shows of free-flying birds, dolphins and sea lions, the aquarium, hidden under a 3,000 m2 glass pyramid, the Mysterious Nature pavilion where you can dive into the jungle alongside reptiles, amphibians, parrots and invertebrates, you will be amazed. The Zoo Aquarium is one of Madrid’s must-do family activities.
Have fun at the Madrid amusement park
The Madrid amusement park attracts over a million visitors a year. Inaugurated in 1969, the place has already undergone a major renovation to allow young and old to have fun and spend sensational moments. The park has areas dedicated to children, but also offers thrilling attractions such as the roller coaster or the typhoon. You can also attend shows or go shopping in the shops that are present on site. An original attraction that will suit everyone during a long stay in Madrid.
Visit Faunia Zoo
Zoo Faunia in Madrid is a unique place that will change you from traditional zoos. Visiting a zoo without a cage or bars, does that seem impossible to you? At the Faunia zoo, the animals roam freely in the middle of nature to the delight of children. It is home to over 700 animals and hundreds of plants which are spread over several areas. You can walk there for several hours and find animals in unique habitats depending on their origin.
Discover Madrid Rio Park
It is a vast space specially dedicated to leisure and culture. Composed of 17 playgrounds, it is the ideal place to spend great moments with the family. Each area of the park is dedicated to a very specific age group. Whether your children are young or a little older, they won’t be bored. Adults will enjoy the various cultural offerings available on site or take a walk on the park’s magnificent bridges.
Shopping at El Rastro Market
Visiting Madrid also means visiting its market: El Rastro, the largest market in Madrid. It is held in the La Latina neighborhood every Sunday and on holidays. Even if the place is often crowded with people, it is still pleasant to stroll through this vast market. You can take the opportunity to do your shopping as well as short breaks to enjoy the neighborhood tapas.