If you’re planning to go to Madrid, there’s tons to do there, so much so that it might feel a little overwhelming. Here are some of the things I enjoyed in Madrid, in order of my favorite to least favorite (although they were all great!).
1. El Mercado de San Miguel
If you do anything in Madrid, you have to go to El Mercado de San Miguel! Described as a gourmet tapas market, this place has everything – empanadas, jamón Ibérico, croquetas, Madrid’s famous bocadillos de calamares, French pastries, sangria and more. This place seems to be busy at all hours of the day (Note: the hours are Sun-Wed, 10 a.m. to midnight; Thurs-Sat, 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.). It’s a great place to try all sorts of different Spanish foods and for a good price too. If you’re in Madrid, I’d check this place out for lunch every day! You’ll find this market right next to the Western side of the Plaza Mayor along Calle Mayor.
2. El Corral de la Morería
Many consider El Corral de la Morería to show the best flamenco performances in all of Spain. At this venue in Madrid, located just south of the Palacio Real and the Catedral de la Aludena, you can enjoy dinner and a show or drinks and a show.
I very much enjoyed our dinner – it was just as much fun as the show itself. The staff was nice – I enjoyed practicing my Spanish with the waiter, and he enjoyed practicing his English with my father, and the food was delicious. But what made the dinner so nice was that the tables were seated fairly close to one another, so my dad and I made friends with some other travelers. We met a couple from Mexico who had been to El Corral de la Morería twice before and came back for a third time they loved it so much. We also met some people who had lived all over – Mexico, Texas, Switzerland.
And then the show itself was of course fantastic. Within minutes of the start of the show is the moment that I really started to fall in love with Spain. I had loved practicing my Spanish (not at first, but after a few days, I got used to it and more comfortable with my speaking), and I had loved exploring the beautiful Madrid. Seeing the culture and passion in the excellent flamenco singers and dancers was just the icing on the cake.
If you plan to see a show – I highly recommend it – it’s just south of the palace and cathedral.
3. El Palacio Real y los Jardines de Sabatini
I absolutely loved exploring this royal palace – it’s not like us Americans have those back at home. All throughout the palace, every room was so incredibly elaborate and jaw dropping. Seeing the crown and the throne was so interesting. It was just great to be able to step inside the palace, as the royal family still lives there. I was surprised that they let people in at all (I mean just look at the White House, where they built a second fence to keep people off the first one.). Also, the student discount was great – 5 euros with a student ID (compared to 10). Find the palace by walking west on Calle Mayor until you reach Calle Bailén.
The gardens were also just as incredible as the palace. Note: that if you’re trying to enter the main part of the gardens, you’ll need to enter through the northern side, closer to the east side of the gardens, as the other gates are closed to tourists.
4. La Chocolatería de San Gínes
La Chocolatería de San Gínes has been around since 1894, and since then has been a favorite among locals, who claim it to be the best place for Madrid’s classic chocolate con churros. To find it, walk along Calle Mayor towards the Plaza Mayor and turn north down Calle Coloreros, right across from the Plaza Mayor. You’ll see a glowing sign with the name of the chocolatería.
5. El Parque del Buen Retiro
This expansive park was one of my favorite parts of Madrid. You can row boats in a large pond, explore a crystal palace, or just wander through the many trails and gardens. You’ll see many tourists here but also many Spaniards working out or taking siestas!
6. La Catedral de la Aludena
This large cathedral is right next to the palace and is a great place to check out. Personally, my favorite parts were the elaborate ceilings!
7. Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor
There are always people in both of these plazas, both located along Calle Mayor. Puerta del Sol is home to the famous Oso y Modroño (Bear and the Strawberry Tree). The plaza definitely has a sort of Time’s Square feel. Plaza Mayor is a neat plaza in that it’s inside a square of buildings, closed off from the rest of the city. Note: Plaza Mayor is just East of El Mercado de San Miguel.
8. Una corrida de toros
This isn’t something that you necessarily have to see in Madrid, but it’s definitely something that you should see while in Spain. The bullring in Madrid is about a 30 minute walk east of El Parque del Retiro if you follow along Calle de Alcalá. You can find cheap or expensive tickets, depending where you want to sit (might I recommend el sombra – the shade). The nice thing is that the Madrid bullring has fights over the summer during times where many bullrings take time off (They know they’ll make some money off the tourists.).
9. Un partido de fútbol
Watching Real Madrid play would definitely be a great Madrid experience. The stadium is located north of El Parque del Retiro along Paseo de la Castellana.
10. Temple of Debod
This temple is located just north of the palace and is an interesting piece of Egyptian culture in the middle of this huge Spanish city. The temple was originally built in Egypt but was later gifted to Spain and rebuilt in Madrid.
There are tons of museums in Madrid that are cool to check out. My dad and I enjoyed walking around the Museo de Reina Sofia and seeing Picasso’s famous Guernica. Another renowned art museum is the Prado.
What are your favorite things to do in Madrid? I’d love to hear in the comments below!