There is a wide variety of things to do in Madrid, depending on the district and the lifestyle: from tapas tours for the most demanding palates to must-see museums like El Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza or Reina Sofía to impressive buildings to legendary bars where Spanish-speaking poets used to come together… Travelling with kids can be fun too: Casa de Campo, the Madrid Amusement Park, Warner Park, workshops at CaixaForum, the Raton Pérez House Museum (adjoining Plaza Mayor), and many other attractions.
What to do and see in central Madrid
- Royal Palace: An icon of the city and a spectacular building, the Royal Palace sits in an area blessed with magical sunsets in the heart of a district filled with history: Habsburg Madrid. The Sabatini Gardens next to it are worth a visit too.
- Gran Vía and Callao: In addition to being two of the most crowded streets in Madrid, Gran Vía and Callao are peppered with amazing monuments, like the Carrión building – crowned by the huge Schweppes neon sign –, Cybele’s Fountain, the Stock Exchange Palace, the Círculo de Bellas Artes or La Unión y El Fénix building. An area with more than 100 years of history, plus the largest theatre and movie district in town.
- Madrid’s Plaza Mayor is one of Spain’s most beautiful squares. It is austere, large, bright and functional, hosting bars with terraces open all year round, street artists and mimes, special events and even a highly popular Christmas market.
- Madrid Río: This recently developed park along the banks of the river Manzanares is perfect for an afternoon in the open air with children. There are zip wires, bungee jumping, treetop houses, hanging bridges, slides, tree trunk slings… As many as 17 different playgrounds and lots of plants and trees to get away from the city and be in contact with nature without leaving central Madrid.
- Art Triangle: This is a triangle whose points are Madrid’s three major museums: the Thyssen-Bornemisza and Cibeles, El Prado and the Reina Sofía contemporary art centre. It also includes the recently opened CaixaForum, smaller art galleries and additional venues like the Glass Hall at El Retiro Park, managed by the Reina Sofía Museum.
- Puerta de Alcalá: The theme of one of the most popular songs ever dedicated to Madrid, this gate is perhaps the city’s best-known icon. It stands facing Cibeles and Gran Vía, by El Retiro Park and marking the beginning of Barrio de Salamanca. Built during the reign of Charles III by architect Francesco Sabatini, it is one of Madrid’s most impressive and best located architectural landmarks.
- Almudena Cathedral: The most outstanding religious building in central Madrid, the Cathedral sits next to the Royal Palace and its gardens. It was chosen by King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia for their wedding ceremony. It is a fine, well-preserved church, designed by Francisco de Cubas. The museum housed inside and the dome can be visited for an admission fee.