31 Incredible Things to Do in Madrid (Don’t Miss Out!)

written by local expert Jane Elmets

Jane always knew she wasn't destined for a desk job... She has travelled all over the world and is passionate about noodles, sloths and her hiking boots! When she isn't busy adventuring around the world, you can find her reviewing travel gear and dishing out travel tips to all the places she's visited.

Sitting right smack in the center of the country, you’ll find that there is an endless amount to do in Spain’s capital city, Madrid. 

A hub for art, culture, food, shopping, and nightlife, there’s something for everyone in this insanely amazing city. You’ll be able to dive deep into the city and country’s past in between bites of tapas and glasses of sangria. Then, go on to partake in some of the many activities in the city or sprawl out in the parks for an afternoon siesta. 

To give you an idea of all that this city holds, here’s a list of 31 things to do in Madrid. Whether you’re visiting for a few days, a couple of weeks, or an entire month, you’ll find that the possibilities are endless in the Spanish capital.

view from above of downtown madrid spain

Madrid Things to Do Highlights

  • Unspoiled Spain for Foodies and Nature Lovers: If you’re looking to see the real Spain, book this local tour where a guide takes you an hour away from Madrid to see Moorish castles, as well as private food tasting of local Spanish delicacies. This tour is highly rated!
  • Secrets of Madrid: Even those who aren’t normally history buffs can appreciate this tour, which explores both well-known sites and hidden gems that have defined Spanish heritage, character, literature, and culture.

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Marvel at the Royal Palace

One of the most famous sites in Madrid, the Royal Palace formerly housed Spanish royalty and held historical events in its gorgeous halls.

Today, you don’t need to be royalty to visit the palace. It’s the largest royal palace in Western Europe, with an astounding 2,800 rooms. Spend a few hours wandering around the rooms that are open to the public and marvel at the different artworks and furniture that are so luxurious your head is sure to start spinning. 

View of the large royal palace madrid from the plaza

Besides the lavish rooms filled with precious artifacts, the Royal Armory is one of the best places to visit in the palace. Its expansive collection of weapons and armor used during Spanish reign is sure to wow!

You should also be sure to snap a few pictures at the Main Staircase and make your way to the Hall of Columns to really round out the tour. 

As this is one of the most popular places to visit in Madrid, you should consider buying a skip-the-line guided tour so that you get easy access to the palace as well as learn more about its history.

Have a Coffee at Plaza Mayor

A landmark dating back to the Renaissance Era, a trip to Plaza Mayor is a must while in Madrid. This plaza is brimming with historical monuments and statues, the most notable being the one of King Philip III right in the center of the square.

If you’re seeking more than history on your trip to Plaza Mayor, this is a great place to stop for a coffee at one of the many cafes in the square. Take the chance to rest your feet while sipping on Spanish espresso while locals and tourists alike bustle through.

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Explore Art History at the Prado Museum

It wouldn’t be a trip to Madrid without spending some time at the world-famous Prado Museum. The Prado is a renowned museum filled to the brim with historical artwork. With more than 7,000 paintings to see, you should start with the greats — unless you plan on spending your entire Spanish vacation within these walls.

There are some stunning works by Velazquez (stop by Las Meninas!) and El Greco as well as art by Bosch (namely Garden of Earthly Delights), all of which are immediately recognizable by the art lovers of the world. Here, you’ll also find paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens, Caravaggio, Botticelli and Goya!

Art lovers, you can buy your ticket online to save some time.

If some of the world’s finest masterpieces aren’t enough to entice you on a visit, you should also know that the Prado is free Tuesday through Sunday from 5pm to 8pm. What a deal!

Dig Deep into the Past at the National Archaeological Museum

If you want to learn a thing or two about history that dates even further back than the Old Masters, take a trip to the National Archaeological Museum. This museum is filled with Spanish treasures dating back more than 2,500 years!

On a trip to the National Archaeological Museum, you’re going to want to stop to marvel at the Lady of Elche bust which has more detail than you could ever imagine. Another must-see is the Treasure of Guarrazar, a set of crosses and crowns that date all the way back to the 600s.

Visit the Masters at the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum

While we’re on this whole museum kick, there are a couple more worth mentioning, one being the Thyssen Bornemisza which takes you on a trip through Spanish history. There are more than 1,000 pieces of art on exhibition, and you’re sure to run into familiar names like Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Manet, and Raphael.

What’s more, the building that holds all of this artwork is beyond gorgeous and runs frequent programing for visitors. You can often find concerts and film screenings at this hip museum amid the priceless artwork on display.

pink museum in madrid

Complete the Golden Triangle at the Reina Sofia Museum

If you’ve had enough of the Old Masters but still have an art itch to scratch, the Reina Sofia Museum has one of the loveliest contemporary collections in the world. It’s also the third of the Golden Triangle of Arts in Madrid that’s made up from the Thyssen Bornemisza, the Prado, and of course these modern galleries.

The main draw here is, of course, Picasso, with more than 100 sketches and paintings displayed. One of the most famous, Guernica, is sure to dazzle, so don’t miss it on a trip here!

Besides Picasso, this museum houses paintings by the surrealist Salvador Dali, the most recognizable being the Cubist Self-Portrait from 1923. Even if you aren’t an art lover, you’re bound to find something that tickles your fancy at this gem of Madrid!

Insider’s Tip: If you’re keen to complete the Golden Triangle, save some time and money with a combination ticket that provides access to all three museums. You can save up to 20% on entrance fees (and put that money towards tapas instead)!

Discover Spanish Street Art

One of the coolest things about Madrid is that the city’s art isn’t only confined to gallery walls. In fact, Madrid has some of the coolest street art in the world, with entire district walls covered in colorful paintings and vibrant scenes.

You can take a tour of Madrid’s street art with a local graffiti hunter who knows all of the best spots. You’ll visit places like the Lavapies, Embajadores, and La Latina neighborhoods, all of which encapsulate Madrid’s insane underground street art culture. 

Travel Back in Time With a Spanish Inquisition Walking Tour

Keen on learning a bit about Spain’s dark history? A tour of another kind, take a guided walk around Madrid to learn all there is to know about the Spanish Inquisition.

A landmark period in Spanish history, the Inquisition showcases some of Spain’s darker sides and a true trip to the country isn’t complete without this brief trip back in time.

On this walking tour, you’ll learn not only about the history of the Inquisition but about how it impacted Madrid and key sites that make up the setting for some of Spain’s most chilling days.

Eat Your Heart Out on a Tapas Tour

Okay, so you’ve done all the art and culture, now what? Well, if we’re being honest, we all know you’re in Spain for one reason, and one reason only: the food.

To soak it all in, take a full tapas tour of Madrid, where you’ll visit some of the best tapas restaurants in the city and try their house specialties. It’s a good thing this is a walking tour so you’re able to free up room in your belly in between succulent bites.

I can guarantee that after this tour, you’ll be full-on Spanish delicacies and a little tipsy from the drinks. But there’s no reason to stop once the tour is finished! Carry on on your own by seeking out little nooks in Madrid that serve up some of the most delicious tapas on the planet.

Other than the tapas tour listed above, here are a few of our other top picks

tapas in spain

Uncover Spanish Delicacies at Mercado San Miguel

Since we’re riding the food train, you may as well stop at Mercado San Miguel on the way. This lavish market is one of the most popular in Madrid, and it’s the best place to find Spanish delicacies in abundance. 

Eat your way through the market with paella, grilled shrimp and shaved yam, all paired with the finest Spanish wines. It’s going to be hard to pull yourself away from this market when you see all that it holds. If you’re not sure about what to eat, check out our guide to Spanish food.

My only suggestion? Put on stretchy pants!

Learn to Make Spanish Dishes in a Cooking Class

Interested in learning to cook some Spanish delicacies on your own? There’s no better way than to take a cooking class while in Madrid!

Depending on the class, you’ll have an experienced chef as your teacher who will walk you through the steps of creating an edible Spanish masterpiece. Think paella, tortilla, sangria and more! The possibilities here are endless. 

Plus, a cooking class is a gift that keeps on giving because once you return home, you’ll have some delicious recipes in your back pocket for the next time you’re entertaining. Talk about impressive!

Go Treasure Hunting at El Rastro

Another market but of a different kind, El Rastro is an awesome place to spend a Sunday morning treasure hunting. This crazy flea market has pretty much everything you could ever dream of. There’s an insane amount of stalls that sell t-shirts, handbags, jewelry trinkets, a little bit of this, and a little bit of that.

It’ll probably be overwhelming with so much to see, but take your time wandering from stall to stall, discovering what each one has to offer. You never know what you’ll find!

Note: El Rastro only happens on Sunday from 9am to 3pm. Be sure to arrive early as it gets crowded after 11am! It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on your bag and belongings as pickpockets do operate in this area. 

Stand in the Center of Spain at Puerta del Sol

Another famous square in Madrid is the Puerta del Sol, also known as the Gateway of the Sun.

This is a common gathering place right next to the Post Office Building (Casa Correos) that has an instantly recognizable clock tower right on top. This clock is not only used for telling time, but also for counting down to the New Year on December 31 every year. 

statue of a bear eating out of a tree in madrid spain

Besides the clock tower, there are other important landmarks in the square like El Oso y El Madrono statue depicting a bear eating something out of a tree, which has been a symbol of Madrid since the middle ages.

Something that can’t be missed while meandering through the Puerta del Sol is the Kilometre Zero Stone Slab which marks the official starting point for the six national roads that run through Spain. Locals think of this point as the exact center of the country, so take your turn standing on it to say you’ve been there! 

Wander along Gran Via

Don’t leave Madrid without visiting its most famous boulevard! For a true taste of Madrid in all of its glory, take a stroll down Gran Via for chic shopping, bites of culture, and endless entertainment. 

On the Gran Via, you can also find things like the cinema or theater, as well as some of the hottest nightclubs in Madrid that come alive when the sun goes down.

Shop Till You Drop at Las Rozas

For even more shopping, a visit to Las Rozas Village is a must. There are more than 100 stores in this area, all boasting brand names and great deals. 

But the best part? Most of the shops are brand discount outlets meaning you can get top of the line clothing, bags and more for a fraction of the price. Ladies, are you screaming internally at the thought of this? Because I sure am. 

It still counts as a cultural experience because tons of Spanish brands can be found here, in addition to international names like Gucci and Bulgari. One last thing to keep in mind, those who aren’t citizens of the EU can enjoy shopping (drum roll please) TAX-FREE!

Get Out of the City for Some Rock Climbing

If you’re looking for something a little more active than walking around Madrid, there’s plenty of insane rock climbing in the area for a little bit of adventure.

In this climbing excursion, you’ll head out to the green area of Sierra de Guadarrama with a professional guide for some fresh air and plenty of rock faces to traverse. Here you’ll learn the basics of how to climb outdoors (forget those smelly climbing gyms), belay others, and then spend the rest of the day scaling natural walls for some beautiful Spanish views below.

Feast on Some Churros

A Spanish snack that’s made its way around the world and back: churros! These long, crispy, doughy, cinnamon and sugar delights are the perfect afternoon treat after a long day on your feet. 

cup of chocolate with churros in the background

Good thing they’re served pretty much everywhere! Find an awesome little hole in the wall, order some churros, and don’t forget the chocolate sauce. You’ll be refueled for more Madrid exploring in no time.  

Tip: If you’re in the city center, we suggest seeking out Chocolatería San Ginés, the most famous chocolate shop in Madrid. Just a five-minute walk from Puerta del Sol, this old-style cafe has been serving churros con chocolate for over a century!

Indulge at a Pub Crawl

One of the best parts about Madrid is the insane nightlife. Seriously, they say that New York is the city that never sleeps but have they ever been here? 

Take it all in with a pub crawl that takes you on a five-hour tour of Madrid’s best bars, with several beers (or mixed drinks) in between. On a pub crawl in Madrid, you’re sure to meet locals and foreigners alike, all coming together to get their drink on. 

Plus, a free shot is included at every bar, you get free entry, and discounted drinks. Where can I sign up?

Enjoy a Flamenco Show

Originating in Spain, flamenco is an incredibly beautiful solo dance accompanied by a singer and guitarist. It’s an incredibly lively and upbeat experience, with lots of hand clapping, twirling, and, of course, castanets. 

Madrid is one of the best places to catch a flamenco show, whether you’re looking for just the show or dinner as well. There are lots of places to go, but you can also book ahead to guarantee a place, especially if it includes a meal.

Learn to Dance in a Flamenco Class

If you’re feeling inspired after watching flamenco dancers twirl about, go ahead and sign up for a flamenco class so you can learn the moves yourself! Immerse yourself in local culture with a professional dancer as a teacher.

You’ll get the rhythm in no time! 

view of a woman's feet and bottom of her red and yellow dress as she dances flamenco

Get an Adrenaline Rush Paragliding

If adrenaline is what you’re seeking on your visit to Spain, take this opportunity to have a paragliding adventure in Madrid

You’ll travel to the outskirts of the city to meet your guides. Then after a safety briefing, you’ll be good to go! Enjoy soaring through the Spanish skies while an experienced professional takes care of the rest. 

The best part is you don’t need any previous experience. This is an awesome way to take in the sights from above, and get your blood pumping during your holiday!

Admire the Lavish Teatro Royal

In terms of sheer beauty, nothing really compares to the Teatro Royal, which is why it’s a must-see when visiting Madrid. This lavishly-decorated theater has been around since the mid-1800s and after undergoing several renovations, it still maintains its original charm with some updated features. 

The theater itself holds nearly 1,800 people across 6 floors and in 28 private boxes. The best part about seeing a show here, however, is that the theater is outfitted with technology that allows you to see and hear the stage as if it were in high definition, no matter how far back you’re sitting.

Tour the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium

Even if you aren’t a soccer (football?) fan, a visit to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium should certainly make your itinerary. While you may not be crazy about Real Madrid (although don’t divulge this information to any locals), this stadium has hosted the best soccer teams in the world and gives awesome tours to interested visitors.

The stadium itself can fit more than 80,000 (!!!!!) people, and the stands offer an unreal view of the field from anywhere you’re sitting. It’s super easy to get to as this site has its own metro stop. 

Plus, after a visit here, you can brag that you’ve stood on the same field as Messi and Ronaldo have. 

Relax at Retiro Park

Sitting right in the heart of Madrid is this picture-perfect park, filled with lush greenery, a giant lake, and locals soaking in the sun. Retiro is a lovely oasis in the middle of the big city, and is a great place to come for an afternoon picnic with goodies from the market.

If you’re looking to get your splash on, you can even rent a boat right at the lake to spend the day cruising around in!

view of the crystal palace in madrid at sundown

Once you’re finished at the lake, take a quick ten-minute walk to the Crystal Palace, a gorgeous glass structure that refracts light to create endless rainbows when the sun is in the right position! Just imagine how gorgeous your photos will turn out. 

Find the Egyptian Temple at Parque del Oeste

Another stunning park hidden away in Madrid holds more than just grass and trees. While it’s a lovely place to enjoy nature, you’ll also discover this park is home to the Temple of Debod, a gift from the Egyptian government to Spain. The structure dates all the way back to 2nd century BCE, so be sure to catch a glimpse of it while passing through.

Besides the temple, Parque del Oeste has more than 100 hectares for enjoyment complete with a rose garden. Does it get any more perfect than that?

Feel Like a Kid Again at Parque Warner

Basically Disneyland but for Warner Brothers, Parque Warner provides fun for all ages outside of the typical sightseeing and city touring while in Madrid. It’s a theme park filled with the usual suspects: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tom & Jerry, and more! 

You’ll have the time of your life spending the day eating junk food, taking pictures with the characters, riding the many roller coasters, and wandering between attractions.

For an easy day out, check out this ticket package which includes round-trip transfer from the Madrid city center.

Hike up Faro de Moncloa

If you’re looking for one of the best views found on foot in Madrid, climb the 367 feet up Faro de Moncloa for the lookout of a lifetime. You’ll be greeted by panoramic views of the city once you reach the top, and famous monuments are even visible as well! 

Keep your eyes out for the Royal Palace and financial center, and on a clear day, you’ll even be able to see mountains in the distance! This is the best place to catch a sunset in Madrid, but it’s enjoyable all-day (and year) long.

Catch a Sunset at Plaza de Cibeles

A last plaza for you to visit, and the most famous in all of Madrid, is Plaza de Cibeles. Home to Madrid’s City Hall, this square draws people in from far and wide to ogle at the show-stopping architecture and toss a coin in the fountain. 

Between the spewing water, you’ll see Cybele in the fountain, a Roman goddess representing fertility, who has become the unofficial mascot for Real Madrid. Every time the team wins a title, the parade ends at Cibeles so one of the players can tie a team flag onto the statue. 

Cibeles plaza madrid at sunset

There’s also an insane rooftop bar called Terraza Cibeles in the plaza with awesome views of the city. It’s one of the best places to catch a sunset in Madrid, especially over drinks!

Soar Over Madrid in a Hot Air Balloon

For views even higher than from Faro de Moncloa, step into a hot air balloon and enjoy flying over the Spanish countryside in style.

From up high, you’ll have a bird’s eye view of everything below: the sprawling countryside, small towns, plus the surrounding natural areas and mountains. Romantic, exhilarating, and the most memorable experience, there’s no better way to see Spain’s beauty than from a hot air balloon.

Spend a Rainy Day Indoor Skydiving

One activity you may find yourself reaching for on a rainy day in Madrid is indoor skydiving!

While it’s way less scary than the real thing, indoor skydiving is a real hoot. You get to dress up in full diving suits and then are put in a large tube filled with rushing air. You’ll shoot up and down the tube, stimulating real skydiving, giving you a huge adrenaline rush and fun for all. 

As far as activities in Madrid goes, this one may be the most fun.

Take a Day Trip to Another Spanish Destination

Finally, one of the best parts of Madrid is it’s right in the center of Spain, making it easy to get to other destinations for a quick day trip. 

Visit different cities like Toledo and Barcelona; fairy-tale towns like Segovia and Avila, and important Spanish monuments like El Escorial and the Valley of the Fallen, all of which are easily accessible from Madrid by train! 

Check out our guide to the best day trips from Madrid to learn more.

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Buildings in Madrid at sunrise

From the museums holding priceless works of art, to the parks, plazas and walking streets filled with Spanish delicacies, I can promise that you’ll never be bored on a trip to Madrid. If you’re not sure how to plan your stay, read our Madrid itinerary which lays out the perfect three-day stay in Spain’s capital.

PS: Need help figuring out where to stay? We’ve got you covered with our picks for the best places to stay in Madrid.

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Things to Do in Madrid | Taking a trip to Spain's capital city? Here are 31 things to do in Madrid that you'll absolutely love!
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