Madrid, Spain’s epicenter for politics, finance and, the ‘Queen’s Spanish’ so to speak, holds some of the country’s most historical and gastronomical delights. Incredible and historic art line the walls of its art galleries, while the city’s parks are sights in themselves. Both ancient taverns serving traditional fare and contemporary fine dining can be found within a block of each other. Stay in the highest class of luxury boutiques, mid-range palaces or quirky hostels, which are economical for the cash stretched. Casa de Campo park is a vast area of nature a short ride to the west of the centre. This city has everything, except a beach, however it also has that covered with an artificial beach created in the Madrid Rio centre.
Besides the sights and the museums, when in Madrid, two of the top things to do are to try the cocido Madrileño (a hearty stew), and watch the great Real Madrid football team. This multicultural city offers many things originating from other regions of Spain, such as flamenco from Andalusia, pintxos from the Basque Country and paella from Valencia. It also caters to the international community with many varieties of cuisine. Watch the most authentic flamenco shows, tour the tapas bars with a local and buy some funky clothes in the Chueca district.
INSIDR recommendation highlights on our interactive map of Madrid
What you should not miss if you spend 3 days in Madrid
Madrid’s Art galleries
Madrid has been busy collating Spain’s artists’ masterstrokes. In the Prado, delve into the mindsets of Goya and Velázquez, as well respected Flemish painters. Then stand agape at Picasso’s representation of the effects of war time on Guernica in the Reina Sofia. Next it’s off to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, featuring a variety of artworks by an array of Spanish masters.
Legendary bars and restaurants
Madrid boasts the Guinness Book of Records recognized ‘Oldest Restaurant in the World’. The Sobrino de Botin is still going strong today with its staple of roast suckling pig and lamb delicacies. Traditional San Gines, meanwhile is a quintessential Madrileño chocolateria, where you can try thick chocolate and churros (doughnut-style batter sticks). In La Latina you can find tapas bars with lively terraces and spend hours drinking and eating.
Madrid’s parks and gardens
Visitors mostly frequent the Retiro Park, due to its central location. However, with a little more time, you can explore Madrid’s Casa de Campo park too. It takes around one hour to travel from the centre to possibly Spain’s largest park. In its 1,722 hectares, you can enjoy the scenic walks, visit a zoo, take an aerial cable car and paddle on the lake by row boat.
Day one in Madrid
Recommended things to do and see on your first day in Madrid
Take an early, fresh-air filled stroll through the splendid Retiro Park to get the energy flowing and enjoy half an hour paddling around the lake on a row boat. Walk through the themed gardens to find the oldest tree in the city, as well as awe-inspiring sculpted fountains and wrought iron and glass greenhouses. Stop off for a nearby brunch to set you up for the rest of the day.
Next it’s off to the Prado Museum to get your culture fix of Spanish art masters. You can easily take three hours gazing at the phenomenal art here. Admire the natural pigments of Velázquez’s work or the dark depictions of Spain’s struggle against the French by Goya. If you have time afterwards, head to the busy Puerta de Sol and find the stone marking the central most point of the country.
If available, purchase tickets to a Real Madrid football game and the metro to Santiago Bernabeu stadium to see the match. Get ready for chanting, groaning and cheering, when possibly the most successful team in the world performs at home. Visitors can also enjoy a meal with a stadium view or wait until after the game to dine at a local tapas bar.
Where to stay on your first night in Madrid
Recommended activities for your first day in Madrid
Day two in Madrid
Recommended things to do and see on your second day in Madrid
Travel for up to an hour to arrive at possibly the largest park in Spain – Casa de Campo. Originally owned by royalty, this massive open area of nature is open to the public. Take out a boat on the lake or walk through the web of tree-lined paths. Fly above the Manzanares River in a cable car to Parque del Oeste or check out the animals in Madrid’s 20-hectare zoo.
After working up an appetite, you’ll want a substantial lunch. Try the Spanish sharing plates at Airinos de Lugo. If you visit the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum next, you’ll get a wide oversight of European art, including Monet, Degas, Jackson Pollock and Madrid-born Juan Gris. If you have time afterwards, head to nearby Lope de Vega’s house museum from the 1600s.
In the epicentre of Madrid, Sol, and on Gran Via, the Lope de Vega Theatre was opened just after the Second World War. Expect the biggest production names, such as The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast to feature here in its intimate setting. After the performance, why not head to San Gines for the churros con chocolate speciality?
Where to stay on your second night in Madrid
What to eat on your second day in Madrid
Recommended activities for your second day in Madrid
Day three in Madrid
Recommended things to do and see on your third day in Madrid
Get up bright and early to beat the crowds at the Reina Sofia art gallery. Spend a couple of hours here admiring the works by the likes of Picasso, Antoni Tapies and Luis Gordillo. The highly-regarded museum was originally a hospital and was converted to an art gallery in 1986. The collections focus on the experimental artworks of the 20th century.
Ir de tapas (go for tapas) in the La Latina district. Spend the afternoon doing as the locals do – chatting, drinking cañas (small beers) and trying small plates of the local cuisine. If the weather’s good, take a terrace table and watch the world go by as you indulge. Try Casa Mateos or for a Mexican mix or go tor ‘Tacos and Tapas’ Mexican bar.
Catch the sunset at the Egyptian age Temple de Debod. – a popular time to see this historical monument. After a moment of reflection on times past, it’s time to party. Make your way to the Malasaña or Chueca districts for a wild night out (as long as you don’t leave to early next day). Choose from alternative bars with drag queen shows or get crazy in the dance nightclubs.
What to eat on your third day in Madrid
Recommended activities for your third day in Madrid