Welcome to the first part of a 3-post guide to Madrid. This beautiful European city, is where I (Alba) grew up and I have so much to tell you about it.
Madrid is an exceptionally cultural city. It is full of art & history museums, amazing architecture and a very interesting historical city centre.
In this entry, I’ve laid out all the ‘must see’ places in Madrid if you are visiting for a few days. Keep an eye out for the next two blog entries where you’ll be able to find a detailed list of local restaurant recommendations, the best bars and areas to have a drink, as well as a detailed journey through the cultural visits available in Madrid.
For now, these are the things that you cannot miss if you are visiting Madrid!
Palacio Real, Catedral de la Almudena & Jardines de Sabatini
In front of Plaza de Oriente, you’ll find the Royal Palace – one of the main monuments of Madrid. The Royal Gardens (Jardines de Sabati) are right next to it and are also lovely to walk through. Just behind, is situated the Royal Theater and nearby is the Almudena Cathedral, where you can also visit the Arabic Wall.
Mercado de San Miguel
From Catedral de la Almudena you can walk up Calle Mayor, which is the main street in the city that cuts through the historical centre. At some point on the right, you’ll encounter Plaza de San Miguel, where this famous food market is situated. This spot is perfect for a power lunch, where you can try many different local dishes before you continue your journey through Madrid.
Just behind the market is located Plaza Mayor, which is a central square in Madrid built during Philip III’s reign; surrounded by bars and very old school local cafés. In this area, you can try some of the famous local calamari sandwiches (Bocata de calamares).
Puerta del Sol and Kilometer 0
Just a few squares away from Plaza Mayor is located Puerta del Sol, one of the busiest squares in Madrid. Sol is the literal centre of the radial network of Spanish roads, reason why it is also named ‘Kilometer 0´- You’ll find a plaque on the floor indicating this in the square. Puerta del Sol also contains the famous clock that marks the beginning of a new year in new year’s eve.
Gran Vía & Fuencarral
Just round the corner is situated Gran Vía, the most famous shopping street in Madrid. Here, you can also find a few famous theatres where you can watch the biggest plays live, such as The Lion King. More or less half way through Gran Vía, is located Fuencarral, a walking street also considered a prime shopping location. While it has become more mainstream in the recent years, it was know for its alternative shops and underground culture. This road is still a beautiful, calm location to walk around and do some shopping.
Plaza de Cibeles & Paseo del Prado
The Plaza de Cibeles has become an iconic symbol of madrid with its neo-classical marble sculptures and fountains. It sits at the intersection of three main roads in Madrid, including Paseo del Prado. This voulebard is the oldest historical urban in Madrid and it walks you through multiple cultural spots and museums such as Thyssen Musem (Modern Art) and Museo Nacional del Prado. The latter, is a must see for anyone wanting to visit the most valuable museum in the country. Here, you’ll find a vast collection of art from the 12th to 19th century, including masterpieces from Velazquez, Goya and El Greco.
Travel Tip: Don’t leave Museo del Prado without seeing the following paintings: ‘El jardin de las delicias’, ‘La maja desnuda’ and ‘Las meninas’
El Retiro Park
Behind Museo del Prado is located the biggest park in Madrid: El Retiro. This is also a must-see location. The park offers a beautiful lake where you can even rent mini boats! When you are here, don’t forget to visit Palacio de Cristal, a glasshouse from 1887 that now features contemporary art.
Sunset in Templo de Debod
Something a local would always recommend is to watch the sunset in a good spot. Madrid has a beautiful skyline and very often offers a stunning sunset. In the park Templo de Debod, you’ll have the chance to experience this.
Santiago Bernabeu Stadium
Finally, if you are a football fan, you can’t miss the famous Bernabeu Stadium. There are multiple tours available to visit this and also a museum for the ultimate fans!
Travel Tip: If you would like to experience the Stadium in a more premium way, Bernabeu also has a few restaurants that offer great view of the Stadium. You can book your meal in advance here, where you won’t have to wait any queus.
Thanks for reading! Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions at all about what to see or do in Madrid! I’ll be posting soon a more detailed cultural guide and a list of restaurants and bars.
Special thank you to my friends Gladiadoras, my mum and my aunt Inma for their help and recommendations!