20 Best Things to Do in Madrid in 2024 (From Experience!)

A bustling street in Madrid at dusk, with long exposure capturing streaks of light from moving traffic. Historic buildings with intricate facades line the avenue, while the sky above shows a dynamic pattern of clouds illuminated by crepuscular rays.

Buenos dias traveler, and welcome to my ultimate guide on the best things to do in Madrid! I recently stayed in the Spanish capital and am eager to share my experience with you!

Apart from the top attractions, I made sure to include a few hidden gems and the best restaurants. To make things easier, I also recommend places to stay and tips on getting around! All that because I wanted to craft a single most comprehensive article to help you plan your stay!

I know how hectic trip planning can be, so now you finally have all the information you need in one place!

Vamos!

Quick Picks for Your Stay

Here are the main things to book in advance:

And here are the best hotels: Mandarin Oriental Ritz (luxury), The Central House Madrid (mid-range), 2060 The Newton Hostel (budget)

1. Be inspired in Museo Nacional del Prado

Interior of a grand museum gallery in Prado museum with visitors admiring artworks, featuring classical architecture with columns and a vaulted glass ceiling.

So you know how the Louvre is a must-visit when you travel to Paris? Museo Nacional del Prado is the same for Madrid! Embark on an artistic journey through centuries of European art and see the masterpieces of Francisco Goya, El Greco, and many others!

El Prado Museum is enormous! It was established in 1819, and it mostly consists of famous paintings (over 7,500 pieces!). It’s part of the Golden Triangle of Madrid Museums together with Thyssen-Bornemisza and Reina Sofia.

Las Meninas, a 16th-century work by celebrated Velazquez, is the most popular painting here! It shows the Spanish royal family, their servants, and Princess Margarita, who later became Queen of Germany!

This museum is so popular, you’d have to wait in line for hours if you’d visit during the weekend! Luckily, we have a dedicated article on buying tickets to Prado, and you should definitely check it out to avoid long queues during your visit!

PRICE: €15

2. Explore the Royal Palace of Madrid

The majestic Royal Palace of Madrid on a cloudy day, with tourists dotting the expansive plaza in front of the palace's classical architecture.

Welcome to the largest Royal Palace in Western Europe! Yes, the Royal Palace of Madrid covers a whopping 135,000 square meters (equivalent to the size of 26 American football fields!) and has over 3,400 rooms!

Unfortunately, I only got to visit the Palace on the outside, but regardless of that, it was still wonderful! I’ll definitely be heading in on my next trip to Madrid.

Inside, you’ll get to see the stunning royal apartments, the throne room and the banquet hall. The visit also continues with the Royal Collections Gallery art museum!

Now as you plan a visit here, it’s SUPER important you book tickets in advance! When I visited, there was this enormous line of people waiting to get in (down the whole street!)! Luckily, Get Your Guide has an awesome skip-the-line offer with a private tour (check it out here)!

PRICE: From €20

3. Admire the Cathedral de la Almudena

The Almudena Cathedral in Madrid, with its dual spires and domed roof, basking in the golden glow of sunset

Catedral de la Almudena (map) is one of the top sights in Madrid, located just by the Royal Palace. The Cathedral has stunning glasswork on the windows and a chapel for those who want to pray.

I was honestly in awe when I went inside, the reflection from the stained glass windows is so stunning. I’d definitely recommend it for your trip.

Interior view of the Almudena Cathedral in Madrid, featuring the grand pipe organ, soaring arches, and a stunning, vibrantly colored vaulted ceiling with intricate patterns

Almudena Cathedral also hides Spain’s largest crypt, where members of royal families are buried!

The Cathedral wasn’t too busy. There were a few tourists walking around (quietly) and locals sitting in the pews praying or just spending time in the holy place. The Cathedral is so well taken care of and it’s always so great to see these places still fulfilling their original purpose.

You can also light a candle to commemorate someone you’ve lost in the cathedral. It costs money and is a simple LED, but it’s a lovely thought. I saw a couple of people lighting candles when I was there.

Entry to the cathedral is free, but donations of €1 are welcome.

4. Have a picnic in El Retiro Park

Visitors leisurely rowing boats on the peaceful green waters of the Retiro Park lake, with the Monument to Alfonso XII in the background on a sunny day.

Ah, El Retiro! It’s one of my favorite places in Madrid and a beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site. With endless green spaces, restaurants, walking paths, statues, musicians, street performers, playgrounds, fountains, and whatnot, this is the local favorite spot for hanging around and breathing fresh air.

Of course, the central part is the Monument to Alfonso XII (map) that sits just by the small lake, with the Fountain of the Fallen Angel, another hotspot depicting Lucifer falling from heaven, being a bit further South.

The Fountain of the Fallen Angel is the only sculpture in the world that represents the devil!

My brother and I went to the park for a picnic, brought lunch and drinks, and I spent the entire day reading a book while he spent time photographing plants and animals! It’s one of my dearest memories of Madrid!

You can take a boat ride on the pond or visit the beautiful Palacio de Cristal (Glass Palace), a 19th-century conservatory that holds different art exhibitions year-round.

I recommend visiting Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia which is in the park and hosts the largest collection of Spanish 20th-century art, including Salvador Dali, Picasso, and Miro! It’s where you can see Pablo Picasso’s Guernica!

Finally, if you’re in for more immersive sightseeing, I found an awesome 1-hour segway tour of the park for just €30!

5. Treat the foodie in you at Mercado de San Miguel

Bustling indoor market scene at Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid, with colorful fruit stalls and shoppers browsing.

Eating out in Mercado de San Miguel (map) is one of the best Madrid attractions for foodies! This covered market that dates back to around 1916 has dozens of food stalls with dedicated sections for fish, chicken, fruits and veggies, and just about any delicacy you can think of!

It’s a great place to try Jamon, the iconic Spanish dried ham, and handmade pies. The pie place has different designs for each flavor, and they actually stamp the flavor on the pie itself! I tried the pizza one and my brother got the cheese one; both were absolutely delicious!

This place is crowded all day long, and it wasn’t even high season during my trip! So you might not be able to get a table, but you can always grab your food and keep walking around (or even head to Plaza Mayor – more on that up next).

I found this awesome free walking tour of Madrid that also takes you to the San Miguel market, so feel free to sign up!

6. Take a break at Plaza Mayor

The vibrant Plaza Mayor of Madrid, showcasing the richly decorated façade of the Casa de la Panadería and people strolling across the historical square.

Plaza Mayor (map), or Town Square, is the central square of Madrid, and it’s within walking distance from Mercado de San Miguel.

In the center of Plaza Mayor, you’ll find a monument to Philip III, a 16th-century king of Spain, Portugal, Naples, and Sicily, and one of Spain’s most vividly remembered rulers.

Shops, restaurants, and beautiful buildings surround the square, making it ideal for taking a break and people-watching. It’s also a great place to snap some photos.

Be sure to visit the square in December, as this is one of the main venues for the Christmas Market! Also, everyone raves about the calamari sandwich place here, so be sure to give it a try!

7. Have Churros at Chocolateria San Gines

Author of the post enjoying traditional Spanish churros with chocolate at the famed Chocolatería San Ginés in Madrid, with black and white photos of celebrities adorning the tiled wall behind.

A trip to Spain would be incomplete without eating churros! I must say the best churros I had in Madrid were at Chocolateria San Gines (map) a short walk from the Town Square!

This place dates back to 1894, and it’s one of the most popular places in Madrid for churros with chocolate! As the place is quite big, you’ll find sitting spots both indoors and outdoors.

The lines here can get pretty long, so try to avoid the popular times (you can check these on Gmaps). You’ll even find photos inside of famous people who visited the place!

8. Marvel at the Templo de Debod

The ancient Egyptian Temple of Debod in Madrid, illuminated at twilight with a tranquil reflecting pool

This stunning 2nd-century Egyptian temple in Cuartel de la Montana Park (map) was a gift from the Egyptian government to Madrid! It was gifted to protect the temple from floods in Egypt following the construction of a large dam.

I was so excited to finally see Templo de Debod in person, as it looked stunning on Google Images! Unfortunately, at the time of my visit, the water surrounding the monument was drained.

From what I could gather from the internet, apparently, there’s been concern about the temple’s deterioration and that local authorities temporarily drained the water to prevent further damage. Still, this ancient Egyptian temple is well worth seeing!

9. Watch the sunset at the best spot in town

Lush rose garden in Parque del Oeste, Madrid, with tall pine trees and clear blue skies.

Just behind the Temple of Debod, you’ll find a large Western Park (map) with beautiful gardens and a nice outlook. This is an amazing place to catch the sunset and enjoy views of Madrid at night!

You’ll see a beautiful rose garden with small ponds, so the scenery here is super romantic towards the end of the day!

While we were there, tons of locals were sitting in the park, watching the sunset, playing cards, throwing a frisbee and just enjoying life in Madrid.

Oh, and here you’ll also find the burial place of Francisco de Goya (map), Spain’s most important artist of the 18th century!

10. Walk down Gran Via

The bustling Gran Vía street in Madrid, with historic buildings and the Metropolis Building's distinctive dome and statue

Gran Via (map) is the most popular street in Madrid, something like the Champs Elysée of Paris! It’s filled with restaurants, bars, shops, theaters, casinos, I mean, it’s just the center for entertainment!

I stayed very close to Gran Via, and I think this was a great decision! I did find it weird that there were tons of people in costumes posing for photos (for money, of course). I spotted bunnies, lions, Paw Patrol, Mario and Luigi, and many other characters. Upon further exploration of the city, it’s not an uncommon sight at all. Just one of Madrid’s many quirks!

I definitely recommend walking here at night, but a visit at any time of the day is great!

11. Go shopping

Vibrant shopping street in Madrid, Calle Preciados, bustling with pedestrians and decorated with colorful overhead banners.

Calle Preciados (map) and Gran Via are some of the best places to visit in Madrid for fellow shoppers!

I’m a shopaholic, but I must say my Madrid shopping experience was more self-controlled than, say, the one in Barcelona (I went ALL OUT there). I knew exactly what I needed and only visited shops where I knew I could find those things. But I still spent a lot of time browsing the shops.

Overall, you’ll find everything you need in these 2 popular shopping streets in town!

Calle de Preciados is a long pedestrian street filled with shops of most brands you already know. Think Zara, Calzedonia, Stradivarius, Levi’s, and so on. You’ll also find local fashion brands like Sfera.

12. Experience the local football culture

Aerial view of Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid, the home of Real Madrid football club, surrounded by city building

Football is a big deal in Spain! Madrid is home to two of the country’s most popular football teams, Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid.

I visited Madrid with my younger brother, who is obsessed with football. He had the time of his life attending a football match at Civitas Metropolitan Stadium (map) and watching Atlético Madrid play a match. Definitely the highlight of his trip! So, if you’re also a fan of this sport, you’re going to have a great time!

His biggest regret was not visiting Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, which is Real Madrid’s home stadium! So don’t be like him, make sure you go and tour Madrid’s largest stadium! This tour costs around €25 and it’s a best-seller in its category!

Note that the Bernabeu Stadium was under renovation at the time of writing, so select areas may not be available for visits.

PRICE: From €25

13. Go people-watching at Puerta del Sol

High-angle view of Puerta del Sol, a busy central square in Madrid, with buildings, pedestrians, and the famous Tio Pepe sign

This central square in Madrid (map) is jammed with places where you can sit, relax, and people-watch.

What caught my attention (and it turned out to be a pretty popular attraction) is this bear statue, El Oso y el Madroño (map). There was literally a line in front of the statue with people waiting to be photographed holding the bear’s private parts! I remember seeing similar traditions in other European cities, so if you’re a fan, here’s another weird attraction to add to the list!

Also, I saw a lot of people chilling around, eating lunch, or having a smoke break at the square. Overall, it’s a bustling square with things going on at all times!

14. Buy unique souvenirs at the El Rastro flea market

Crowded scene at El Rastro, Madrid's popular outdoor flea market, with rows of stalls under the shade of trees

El Rastro is a fabulous historic flea market and the perfect place to buy clothes and antiques! The market is most frequented on Sundays and on public holidays, but it’s also open on other days of the week, so you can’t miss it!

Most of the action here takes place around Calle de la Ribera de Curtidores (map), but there are also numerous bars, historic sites, and even the Museum of Popular Art nearby!

We weren’t in the city on a Sunday, so I didn’t get to explore El Rastro, but I’ll definitely plan a visit on my next trip to Madrid which is coming soon!

15. Learn new things at Sorolla museum

Visitors observing the art collection inside the Sorolla Museum in Madrid, showcasing paintings with richly colored walls and wood accents.

Here’s a true gem that you MUST visit if you want to explore more than the mainstream venues for art in Madrid. This museum is located in the home of the artist himself, Joaquin Sorolla, and it’s one of the best-preserved artist homes in the entire Europe!

The artist lived here for more than 10 years until his death, and today, you can see his belongings, as well as paintings, sculptures, ceramics, jewelry, and so much more!

Check out his self-portrait that stands out among thousands of artwork stored in his home-museum!

PRICE: €3

16. Catch a flamenco show

Dynamic flamenco performance in Madrid with a female dancer in a colorful dress and a male guitarist on stage under spotlight

One of the most unique things to do in Madrid, and Spain in general, is attending a flamenco show! This Andalusian dance originated from gitano (gypsy) traditions in Southern Spain and is now the most recognizable dance in Spain!

There are plenty of places around town where you can enjoy a live flamenco show. One of the most popular shows, “Emociones,” takes place in the City Center in the world’s first flamenco theater!

You can purchase tickets starting from €14, but top-class shows like this one can cost a bit more. Plus, you also get a complimentary drink!

The artists performing the live shows are super talented, and you can clearly tell they’ve been practicing flamenco since childhood! So, if you have the time, I definitely recommend catching a live performance!

17. Take the family to the Zoo Madrid

Flock of flamingos beside a tranquil pond surrounded by lush greenery at the Madrid Zoo

Visiting Zoo Madrid here is one of the best activities to do with kids in the Spanish capital!

Embark on an immersive tour of the fauna of 5 continents and see over 4,000 animals that call this zoo home!

The Zoo also encompasses a tropical marine aquarium, where you can visit a dolphinarium and aviary! Try to spot the camouflaging Mule Pipefish or enjoy loggerhead turtle sightings!

PRICE: From €19.90

18. Have a blast at the San Fernando market

Local patrons enjoying drinks and conversations at El Cajón de la Tapa bar in the lively atmosphere of San Fernando Market, Madrid

Yes, Madrid is packed with charming markets, each with its unique offer! The Mercado de San Fernando (map) is among the most diverse ones, where you can buy anything from books, veggies, butchered meat, wine, handcrafted goods…you get the idea!

It’s located in the Lavapies area relatively walkable to the City Center attractions like the Royal Garden and Museo Nacional Del Prado, so you can visit on a leisurely stroll anytime!

19. Dine in the world’s oldest restaurant

The entrance of Restaurante Botin in Madrid, recognized as the world's oldest restaurant, with patrons and wooden vintage décor

Now prepare for a very unique thing to do in Madrid – how about dining in the world’s oldest restaurant? Yes, Restaurante Botin is in the Guinness World Record as the oldest continuously running restaurant in the world, established in 1725!

The restaurant is located just steps from the Town Square and is famous for its array of dishes. The most iconic is the roast suckling pig, which goes perfectly with a bottle of light Spanish red wine!

This is kind of a pricey place, so plan around €40-50 per person for a decent meal!

20. Explore Parque Warner Madrid

A view of Parque Warner Madrid, an amusement park with a large lake in the foreground and roller coasters against a clear blue sky.

If you’re an adrenaline junkie like me, you absolutely cannot miss this. Madrid’s largest amusement park, Parque Warner, is located 23 km (14.2 miles) Southeast of the city. A visit here is one of the best things to do in Madrid with kids! I wish I’d had enough time to go (but as soon as I do, I promise to tell you all about it.

Go on numerous Warner-heroes-inspired rides, including Batman, Tom & Jerry, visit the Cartoon Village where all the Warner characters reside, and so much more!

There are restaurants, shops, hotels, cafés, and an ample show program, so you can literally spend days here without running out of things to do!

PRO TIP: Plan your visit ahead of time and arrive before opening to avoid the entrance queues!

🏛️ Best museum:Prado Museum
🎢 Top paid attraction:Royal Palace
🚶🏽‍♂️ Best free activity:El Retiro Park
👧 Best attraction for kids:Parque Warner
🕺 Nightlife:Chueca
🥟 Must try food:Churros

Where to stay in Madrid

Entrance of the Francisco I Hotel in Madrid, adorned with lush greenery and vibrant flowers, creating an inviting atmosphere.

Now that we’ve covered things to do, I want to quickly give you recommendations on where to stay in Madrid! I did the research for you and have cherry-picked the best hotels in the city and sorted them by budget!

But I also have a separate article on where to stay in Madrid, where I reveal its best neighborhoods; check it out for more travel inspiration!

Luxury (€250 and up)

  • Mandarin Oriental Ritz – Splurge in Madrid’s best hotel situated in a Belle Epoque palace, featuring a swimming pool, a spa, and 5 on-site restaurants (Spanish celebrated chef Quique Dacosta is the main chef here!).
  • JW Marriott Hotel Madrid – The newest 5-star hotel just a short walk from Puerta del Sol, has a beautiful spa and wellness center, a gym, and is currently one of the top-rated places to stay in Madrid for couples!

Mid Range (€110 – €250)

  • The Central House Madrid – This chic 4-star hotel has a stunning industrial interior, double rooms with large beds, and an on-site restaurant. The nearest metro station is 200 m (650 feet) away!
  • Chic & Basic Dot – One of my favorite hotels in Madrid with clean rooms and beautiful lighting around the bed! They serve a delicious complimentary breakfast and best of all, the location is perfect: in the middle of a shopping area!

Budget (up to €110)

  • 2060 The Newton Hostel – Madrid’s most iconic hostel offers plenty of room setups, from twin rooms with private bathrooms to 12-bed dorms. They even have a spa on-site and offer free breakfast (serving churros and fruits, yummy!)
  • The Hat Madrid – Stay in the first boutique hotel in the city offering private and shared rooms suitable for solo travelers, families, or groups. Everyone is super friendly here, you’ll have an easy time making friends!

Practical Information

Finally, as promised, here are the tips on how to get around but also where to find a SIM card for a smooth stay in Madrid!

How to get around

Pedestrians entering and exiting the modern glass-and-metal Sol metro station in Madrid, with the bustling city life around

Much like other capital cities in Europe, Madrid has an extensive network of public transportation, but the metro is definitely the most popular one, and I mostly relied on it for commuting. But the city is also pretty walkable if you stay somewhere around Gran Via.

The metro has 12 lines with 300+ stations, it runs daily, and the trains run often (every 2-15 minutes). You’ll most likely need the Zone A ticket, as this one covers the City Center, and the price is around €2 for a single ride. You can also buy a pass for 10 trips, and it costs €12.20.

Buses are convenient for commuting at night after the metro shuts down (the last departures are at 1:30 AM), and the ticket costs €1.50. I also used the bus multiple times during the day, they are safe and reliable!

PRO TIP: Catch a bus line 001 or 002, it’s a free tourist bus that runs between the city’s major attractions!

There’s also Uber, Cabify (for taxi), and a bike sharing system BiciMAD where you can rent electric bikes to get around!

Taxis are widely available, and while most drivers are honest, you also run the risk of getting scammed, so some people recommend noting down the license plate of the car. The ride is metered, and it costs around €30 to get from the airport to the City Center. Apart from Cabify, you can also haul a ride on the street. If the taxi has a green light on the roof, it means they’re free.

I used Bolt to get to the airport and it worked well.

All about SIM cards

Panoramic view of Madrid's skyline at dusk featuring the Almudena Cathedral and Royal Palace amidst residential buildings, seen from a distance through bare trees.

Many tourists go to local phone carrier stores like Vodafone, Movistar, Yoigo, or Orange to get SIM cards. Local providers like Vodafone, which I recommend for the best value for money, charge around €30 for up to 100 GB of data. They can deliver the card to you at the airport or your hotel, which is pretty convenient.

While Vodafone is a good option that most people are used to, I still recommend getting an eSIM with Airalo. I always use Airalo when I travel and it makes a huge difference.

First and foremost, you can get the eSIM prior to departure and be connected to the internet from the moment you land. Quite handy when you want to schedule a taxi ride from the airport, right?

Also, you don’t have to waste precious time looking for phone stores and waiting in line!

Finally, Airalo has super flexible and affordable plans (check them all here), from US$4.50 for 1 GB of data for 7 days up to US$26 for 20 GB of data for 30 days.

FAQs about things to do in Madrid

madrid arc de triomphe

📅 Is 2 days enough for Madrid?

2 days is too little to see all (or even most) of the attractions in Madrid. This is a huge city packed with history and culture, so I’d plan at least 4 days for Madrid.

🎨 What is the number one attraction in Madrid?

The Prado Museum is definitely the number one attraction in Madrid! What the Louvre is for Paris, Prado is for Madrid!

ℹ️ What is worth seeing in Madrid?

Major attractions include the Prado Museum, Royal Palace of Madrid, Plaza Mayor (central square), and El Retiro Park. Every tourist should see them!

✅ What are the best places to visit in Madrid for free?

El Retiro Park, Plaza Mayor, and Mercado San Miguel are my 3 favorite free hotspots in Madrid!

Conclusion

Author of the post with her boyfriend takes a selfie with a serene, treed landscape in the background

That’s it, dear adventurer, you’ve reached the end of my post on things to do in Madrid! I hope you have crafted your own personalized itinerary based on my suggestions and that you’re now ready for an amazing trip to the Spanish capital!

Madrid is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, so I recommend booking your hotel and tours in advance to secure the best deals!

As always, if you have any questions about your stay or would like to recommend other attractions to our readers, drop a comment below!

Hasta Leugo,

Kathryn


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