Explore the world's artistic heritage in Madrid

  • These two skyscrapers, also called the 'Kio Towers', compose a northern entrance into the city on the Prado Promenade.
    © SEBRelaXimages / age fotostock
    The Gate of Europe

    These two skyscrapers, also called the 'Kio Towers', compose a northern entrance into the city on the Prado Promenade.

Amy Adejokun
Amy Adejokun Expert destination Spain

Capital of Spain, ideally located at the heart of the Iberic peninsula, Madrid is an engaging city which doesn't disclose all its qualities in one go, but once you get to know it, you can't do without it! At every hour of the night and day, its streets are full of life and you loose count of the amount of tapas bars that there are: it is said that this is the city with the most in the world! You just have to wander about its streets to realise it! In the evening, the trendy areas of Chueca and Latina lead you into a whirlwind of crazy antics. Indeed, Madrid has many gems to offer: convents and monasteries, some of the most prestigious museums and, notably, the Prado Museum, the Reina Sophia Art Centre and the Thyssen-Bornemisza, the sumptuous Plaza Mayor and the Royal Palace - so many outstanding sites that can be discovered in calm tranquility, thanks to a reasonably-sized pedestrian centre. Take the time between two visits to relax in the majestic park of Retiro, a haven of peace.
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Madrid: what to do?

Go on a little rowing-boat tour of the lake in Retiro park, in front of the Alphonso XII monument; go out in the trendy district of Chuecas; discover the tapas bars of la Latina; watch a football match in the legendary Santiago Barnabeu, the temple of Real de Madrid; or simply visit the stadium, the changing rooms, the presidential tribune, the rows of benches, the trainers' and substitutes' benches, and the magnificent trophy room. The stadium is the first tourist attraction of the city, ahead of the Prado museum! The Rosales cable-car affords a magnificent view of the Palacio Real and the Almuneda Cathedral. It takes you all the way up to Oeste Park, where there is a lake, a zoo and a theme park. Why not watch a bull fight in the legendary arena of the Plaza del Toro, or wander around the outdoor market of El Rastro on Sunday mornings. Don't hesitate to spend a day or two visiting the towns of Aranjuez and Alcala de Henares, or the village if Chinchon, which are only an hour's drive from Madrid.

The Prado museum, the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum, the Centro del Arte Reina Sofia, the Caixa Forum, the botanical gardens, the Palacio Real, the Opera, the Debod temple brought back from Egypt, the Almuneda cathedral, the plaza mayor, the plaza Santa Ana, the splendid Atocha station and its magnificent tropical glass-house.

  • The sunshine
  • The proximity
  • The numerous tapas bars
  • A moderately-sized city
  • The amazing museums
  • The numerous pedestrian areas
  • The numerous tapas bars
  • A lot of construction work
  • The heat can be particulrly difficult to tolerate in August.
  • The overcrowding of the tourist sites in the summer.
  • The high levels of noise and agitation at certain times of the day.

Madrid: what to visit?


Madrid is the highest capital in Europe, at 2,100 ft in altitude. Nights can be chilly and winters quite harsh, but in the summer, it's like a furnace. If you want to go out for a drink in the evening in the La Latina district, Sunday night is the best time: it is more lively and full of people. On Monday night, however, there will not be a lot of atmosphere. If you opt for the Chueca area, Friday and Saturday night are the most lively nights.

To avoid

Travelling by car in Madrid is not really recommended. Take the bus or the metro and buy ten tickets at a time, it works out cheaper. It is better to discover the city on foot, distances are not too great and it is so much more pleasant! The entire city centre is a pedestrian zone.

Madrid: what to eat?

Iberian ham, picking at tapas dishes in the trendy area of Chueca or sampling bigger portions in the Latin district. When you ask for a "cerveza" (a beer) in a tapas bar, you are brought a small piece of bread spread with anchovy and a piece of cheese or ham, included in the price. In Madrid, as everywhere in Spain, tapas with pre-dinner drinks represents a great gastronomic tradition. At the bar, on the terrace of a café, at the table of a restaurant, you will taste small portions of the most diverse dishes (meat, cheese, shrimps, olives, etc.), served with a glass of wine or beer. The capital brings together culinary specialities from all the regions, but cuisine from Madrid also exists. The cocido madrileno is a hotpot made from chick peas, black pudding rice, beef, poultry and pork, a real delight! The meal generally begins with a dessert or vermicelle soup, in which the stew is cooked. Los callos, tripe is also a firm favourite of the inhabitants. Try the garlic soup and the potato tortilla.
Some delicious tapas bars can be found on Calle de Huertas street, in the heart of las Lettras, but also at La Latina, in Calle Cava Baja and Alta streets. We recommend "La Chata" in Cava Baja: it is one of the most typical tapas bars with a decor of bull-fighting-themed earthenware.

Madrid: what to buy?

The Iberian ham, a scarf or a shirt with the colours of Real Madrid, or a statue of Zinédine Zidane from the official Real Madrid shop in calle del Carmen street. Fabrics at the hat shop, espadrilles and religious objects; it is in the surrounding areas of the Plaza Mayor that you will find traditional items from Spain and Madrid. Fashion and dress designers have their shops in Almirante and Conde de Xiquena street. The area of Salamanca has lots of leather shoe shops. The muséo del Jamón offers a generous choice of hams, sausages and cheeses. Wine can be bought at Mariano Madrueño.

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