Visiting a city as big as Madrid and managing to see and do all it has
to offer is no easy task. From sprawling museums to traditional
restaurants and bars, every corner you turn uncovers a spot that draws
in tourists and locals alike. To make the choices a bit easier and to
make sure you experience as much as you can, we've picked 20 essential
things to do when you're in Madrid. If you can't fit them all in, don't
worry, you can always come back.
1. Walk along the Gran Vía
The city's main tourist artery runs the famous Metrópolis building to the Plaza de España. Shops, bars line this wide street that stretches for more than a kilometre. If you start walking at the Metrópolis building, with its stunning dome crowned by a bronze statue, the next landmark you'll come to is at Gran Vía 1, the address for Grassy jewellers since 1952. A bit further on, the Hotel de las Letras deserves a peek inside before you're wowed by the window display at the Loewe shop or stop to have a drink in the legendary Museo Chicote, which, despite its name, isn't a museum at all, though there is some art on the walls in the form of photos of celebrities who have passed through the swinging doors.
The impressive Telefónica building kicks off the next leg, where clothing shops compete with each other to grab the eye, and the euros, of a wide variety of clientele. Look carefully - some of the shops are inside old cinemas that have long had to close their doors. Still showing films on the big screen, however, are the Palacio de la Prensa, Capitol and Callao cinemas, in the square that divides this celebrated street. From here to Plaza de España theatres such as the Lope de Vega and the Compac update their programming every season with major works. Gran Vía comes to an end between the Torre de Madrid and the Edificio España, facing the monument to Miguel de Cervantes that's in the centre of the grand square.
2. Visit big museums and small galleriesMuseo del Prado, the Reina Sofía and the Thyssen-Bornemisza are the three vertices that make up this traingle that is right on the Paseo del Prado, but they're not the only places where you can see art in the area: Madrid's CaixaForum and its vertical garden are also great places to contemplate beauty.
Exploring the area known as Madrid's Art Triangle is compulsory for any visitor to the city. The
But you don't have to walk the hallowed halls of the grandest museums and galleries to admire the all the art Madrid has to offer. Small galleries like Elena Ochoa's Ivorypress, urban art created at the hand of the likes of Suso33 and collectives such as BoaMistura, along with temporary exhibitions by young painters in bars and restaurants round out Madrid's cultural panorama.
3. Tour the city’s parks
You might not realise it, but Madrid has a lot of green spaces. The biggest one is the Casa de Campo, with 1,700 hectares (6.6 sq mi) - five times bigger than New York's Central Park. The interior features a large lake where you'll find small boats and where schools practice kayaking for competitions.
A bit smaller but more central is the Parque del Buen Retiro, also known simply as 'El Retiro', with a pond, tree-linded walks, fountains, monuments such as those to Alfonso XII and the statue of the Fallen Angel, and there's even a space for puppet shows.
You'll also find find a lot of the city's residents out for a jog, skating or walking their dogs along Madrid Río, the green promenade that's a happy result of the excavation of ring road M-30. The Jardines de Sabatini, near the Palacio Real, are a bit more off the beaten path, but definitely worth a visit.
4. Essential sights to see
Whether you're in town for three days or three weeks, you must visit at least three essential spots before you leave. The first is Plaza Mayor, where you can relax with an expensive cup of 'café con leche', study the equestrian statue of Felipe III is in the centre of the square and do some pretty good people watching around the Tourist information Centre.
With its own song and everything, the Puerta de Alcalá is another must on your list of sights to see. In Plaza de la Independencia, next to El Retiro park, this ancient neoclassical-style gateway to Madrid is at its best at dusk, when lights shine on its arches. You'll also want to have a look at the Royal Palace, next to the Catedral de la Almudena, the official residence of the Spanish royal family, although they now live in the Zarzuela Palace. Die-hard football fans will want to check out the Plaza de Cibeles, where Real Madrid fans celebrate their team's wins, or Plaza de Neptune, territory of Atlético Madrid followers.
5. Puerta del Sol
The "Puerta del Sol" is one of the busiest squares in Madrid. The name comes from a former 15th century city gate that was decorated with a symbolic sun. According to ancient tradition, Madrilenes gather around the clocktower of Puerta del Sol on New Year`s Eve and eat a grape at each toll of the 12 p.m., which is supposed to bring good luck for the new year.
Other features of the Puerta del Sol is the statue of "Oso y el Madroño" ("the bear and the strawberry tree", after a spanish folk tale), the monument of King Charles III. and the 0 km-marker for the six main trans-spanish roads that start here.
6. Puerta de Alcalá
The Puerta de Alcalá ("Alcalá Gate") is a Neo-classical monument in the Plaza de la Independencia ("Independence Square") in Madrid, Spain. It stands near the city center and several meters away from the main entrance to the Parque del Buen Retiro.
The square is bisected by Alcalá Street, although the street does not cross through the monument, and it is the origin of the Alfonso XII, Serrano and Olózaga streets. Its name originates from the old path from Madrid to the nearby town of Alcalá de Henares.
Madrid in the late 18th century, still remained a somewhat drab villa in appearance, surrounded by medieval walls. Around the year 1774, king Charles III commissioned Francesco Sabatini to construct a monumental gate in the city wall through which an expanded road to the city of Alcalá was to pass, replacing an older, smaller, gate which stood nearby. It was inaugurated in 1778.
The Plaza de Cibeles is probably the most iconic place in Madrid: you probably know it from TV reports where spanish soccer supporters celebrate the victories of their local or national teams while bathing in the fountain. The Plaza is dominated by the Cibeles Fountain.
The legend is that these lions are the lovers Hippomenes and Atalanta, who had been brought together by Aphrodite. Apparently, they upset Cybele, presumably 'going a bit too far' in her Temple, so she had them changed into lions and made to pull her chariot. Aphrodite had engineered this, as she was slighted by the lovers ingratitude to her!
Created by Ventura Rodriguez between 1777 and 1782. The Plaza Cibeles is surrounded by four remarkable buildings: The Bank of Spain, the Palacio de Buenavista, the Palacio de Linares and the Palacio de Cibeles (formely: Palacio de Communicacion).
The Plaza is where Real Madrid fans celebrate their teams big wins, (Athletico Madrid fans head to the nearby Neptune fountain for their big celebrations) also a site for political demos.
8.The Temple of Debod
The Temple of Debod (Spanish: Templo de Debod) is an ancient Egyptian temple which was dismantled and rebuilt in Madrid, Spain.
The temple was built originally 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) south of Aswan in southern Egypt very close to the first cataract of the Nile and to the great religious center dedicated to the goddess Isis, in Philae. In the early 2nd century BC, Adikhalamani (Tabriqo), the Kushite king of Meroë, started its construction by building a small single room chapel dedicated to the god Amun.
It was built and decorated on a similar design to the later Meroitic chapel on which the Temple of Dakka is based. Later, during the reigns of Ptolemy VI, Ptolemy VIII and Ptolemy XII of the Ptolemaic dynasty, it was extended on all four sides to form a small temple, 12 by 15 metres (39 ft × 49 ft), which was dedicated to Isis of Philae. The Roman emperors Augustus and Tiberius completed its decorations.
From the quay there is a long processional way leading to the stone-built enclosure wall, through three stone pylon gateways and finally to the temple itself. The pronaos, which had four columns with composite capitals collapsed in 1868, and is now lost. Behind it lay the original sanctuary of Amun, the offering table room and a later sanctuary with several side-rooms and stairs to the roof.
In 1960, due to the construction of the Aswan High Dam and the consequent threat posed by its reservoir to numerous monuments and archeological sites, UNESCO made an international call to save this rich historical legacy. As a sign of gratitude for the help provided by Spain in saving the temples of Abu Simbel, the Egyptian state donated the temple of Debod to Spain in 1968.
The temple was rebuilt in one of Madrid's parks, the Parque del Oeste, near the Royal Palace of Madrid, and opened to the public in 1972. The reassembled gateways appear to have been placed in a different order than when originally erected. Compared to a photo of the original site, the gateway topped by a serpent flanked sun appears not to have been the closest gateway to the temple proper.
It constitutes one of the few works of ancient Egyptian architecture which can be seen outside Egypt and the only one of its kind in Spain.
9. Visit the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium the home of Real Madrid and its Museum
10. M-30 Mosque
The Centro Cultural Islámico (Islamic Cultural Center) in Madrid, popularly known as the Mezquita M.30 ("M-30 mosque") because it stands beside the motorway, is the largest mosque in Europe.
The mosque complex was designed by three Polish architects and financed by Saudi Arabia. King Juan Carlos I and Prince Salman ben Abdelaziz attended the opening ceremony in 1992.
What to See at M-30 Mosque
The mosque is mostly modern in design, but with traditional elements such as a minaret with balcony. Made of fine white marble, it includes a college, ritual bath house, gymnasium, cafe and an Arabian restaurant called Zahara.