Things to do in Madrid

Get Your Bearings in Madrid

By Sarah Rogers
Madrid Expert

See & Do

Things to See

Though Madrid is known as a relatively “young” Western European capital, its centuries-old architecture is breathtaking and its arts and culture presence amazing. Here you’ll find beautiful palaces, homes, churches, parks and gardens. The city’s history and architecture is best appreciated in neighborhoods like La Latina and Retiro. Or in Madrid’s museums, which are second to none, like the Prado and Thyssen-Bornemizsa.


Take It or Leave It:

Look up to discover many of the city's interesting architectural details.

Where to Stay

Whether big or small, historic or modern, Madrid’s best hotels can be found in areas like Santa Ana, Chueca and Salamanca (or along Madrid’s main avenue Gran Vía) – all bustling neighborhoods with fascinating personalities. Another key advantage is that there are many restaurants and nightlife options nearby, and you’re within easy walking distance of Madrid’s best attractions.



Inquire about soundproofed rooms or ask for an interior room if you're a light sleeper; the city can be noisy.

What to Eat

Madrid is one of the finest places to eat in Spain with its myriad Spanish and international restaurants. Good options include heading to the Spanish tapas bars and restaurants in La Latina, trying fun and creative cuisines in Chueca or enjoying some upscale places in Madrid’s financial district. Otherwise, the world’s oldest restaurant, Botín, is a unique experience.


Be Sure to Sample:

Spanish tapas, including hams and cheeses, washed down with red wine.

Places to Party

Madrid’s numerous bars, dance clubs, cafes and, on hot summer nights, its plazas are where you’ll see the city truly come alive. Popular areas at night are Sol, Atocha, Santa Ana, Chueca and La Latina. For an extra dose of fun, visit Madrid during one of the city’s special events. Madrid’s calendar is full of parties and fiestas like Carnival, Holy Week and Gay Pride, as well as major performing arts festivals like Villas de Verano and Festival de Otoño.


Hot Tips:

Madrid gets going later than most cities.

Where to Shop

Madrid is a fun shopping capital with lots of options, including pedestrian shopping streets like Fuencarral, Serrano, Preciados and Princesa as well as large malls like ABC Serrano, Príncipe Pío, Fuencarral, Moda Shopping and La Gavia for fashions, furniture and everything in between. Madrid’s renovated markets – San Miguel, San Antón and Isabela – are a mouth-watering must for food lovers.



Eat all the ham you want in Spain, but don't bring it back to the US. It will probably be confiscated.

Best Local Souvenir:

Spanish clothes and shoes. A bottle of Spanish olive oil or red wine.



Things to do in Madrid

Madrid is known for...

Five of Madrid's most unique features and characteristics.

1. Art Museums:

Brimming with quality art museums, the city of Madrid is known as one of the best places – if not simply the best place – in the world to see European art or even art period. This recognition is in large part thanks to what is known as the Golden Triangle of Art. The privileged downtown slice of Madrid includes the Prado Museum, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and Reina Sofia Museum. The Prado’s collections include European art from the 12th to 19th centuries while the Reina Sofia focuses on contemporary Spanish art and the Thyssen on Spanish and European art collections that complement the other two museums.

2. Nightlife:

Despite all the talk about the aging of the Spanish population and the memory of the wild Madrid Movida movement, the party in the Spanish capital has not ended. Not even close! Madrid is still known for its vibrant nightlife, myriad bars and nightclubs, partying in the streets and the number of seemingly constant parties. Visitors are often pleasantly surprised that the city’s bars and nightclubs have their own timetables – closing as early as 2 am or as late as 7 am. 

3. Cafes:

Café culture, while a delicious legacy of the past, is still a strong, modern feature in Madrid. Beautiful cafes are everywhere and Madrid locals love to while away the hours over a cup of coffee and a newspaper or a round of beers in little cups with a group of their friends. The profusion of sidewalk cafes in the summertime especially feels like a blessing to locals and visitors alike. 

4. Street Culture:

People always seem to be out socializing in the streets at all hours in Madrid, especially during the warmer months. From children playing in the squares to young adults hanging out with their friends on street corners to senior citizens busy chatting on the many benches, you will never be alone in Madrid.

5. Late Dining:

The fact is that people just tend to eat late in Madrid. When most people around the world have long finished and forgotten about their meals, Madrid locals are just getting ready to eat. Lunch starts at 2 pm or even 3 pm and dinner at 10 pm. Most restaurants won’t even open for lunch before 1:30 pm or for dinner before 9:00 pm. Visitors to Madrid must be prepared to adjust their stomachs accordingly or keep a stock of their own food on hand.