A beguiling and golden metropolis in the colorful nation of Spain, Madrid is a city that really knows how to live. It’s the sheer energy of the city’s atmosphere that keeps avid visitors coming back for more of this breathtaking destination.
1. Museo Nacional del Prado
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Easily making the list for the world’s top and most popular art museums, the Museo Nacional del Prado is, without a doubt, a must-see when exploring the best that Madrid has to offer. The museum is home to a staggering number of masterpieces by baroque and renaissance masters. Some of the names that grace their overwhelming collection of art include Velázquez, El Greco, Breughel, Rembrandt, Rubens, and van Dyck. The museum even boasts of works like Caravaggio’s David with Head of Goliath and the Garden of Earthly Delights by Bosch. Trust us, you don’t have to be an art aficionado to fully appreciate the greatness of this world class museum.
23 Calle Ruiz de Alarcon, Madrid, Spain 28014, Phone: +3-49-02-10-70-77
2.Buen Retiro Park
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Looking for a change of pace after your trip to the Museum del Prado? Just a short walk to the east will bring you to Buen Retiro Park, a wonderland of gorgeous, elegant gardens, and greenery in the heart of Madrid. Before being opened to the public at the end of the 19th century, Buen Retiro Park was property of Spain’s royal family. As such, a visit to the park guarantees impeccable taste and sophistication. Some of the must-see areas of the park include the iron and glass pavilion, the iron fence-guarded Montezuma Cypress planted in 1633, and the monument of Alfonso XII. You can even take a paddle boat out to the center of the Grand Pond for a leisurely afternoon.
7 Plaza de la Independencia, Madrid, Spain 28001, Phone: +3-49-14-00-87-40
3.Royal Palace of Madrid
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When in Madrid, there’s no place more opulent or more luxurious to visit than the Royal Palace. The largest royal palace in western Europe, the Royal Palace of Madrid was built during the mid-1700s to replace the Moorish Alcázar fortress-palace after it burned down in the fire of 1734. Built for the use of King Philip V, the best way to fully appreciate the palace is to step into its halls. Royal collections and frescoes adorning the palace walls are nothing short of sublime, and works by geniuses like Caravaggio, Goya and Velázquez can also be found there. The palace is also the only place in the world to see a string quartet of Stradivarius instruments in addition to a spectacular display of tapestries, porcelain, watches, and silverware. You can even gaze upon the Royal Armory, which houses Charles V’s personal weapons.
Calle Bailen, Madrid, Spain 28071, Phone: +3-49-14-54-88-00
4. National Archaeological Museum of Spain
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Take a trip through Spain’s magnificent and rich history at the Museo Arquelógico Nacional. Home to invaluable pieces of Spain’s heritage, the items on display at the museum have been gathered from all over the nation to present visitors with the most complete picture of the country’s history possible. Many of the museum’s main draws are over 2,500 years old and yet have been kept so well and restored so fantastically that they look almost brand new. Predating the Roman period, these Iberian treasures and sculptures are bound to draw a gasp of amazement from all those who see them. Make sure to see the Lady of Elche, a beautiful bust that features a detailed headdress and coils, and the Treasure of Guarrazar, an incredible Visigothic set of votive crowns and crosses that date back to the 600s.
13 Calle Serrano, Madrid, Spain 28001, Phone: +3-49-15-77-79-12
5.Puerta del Sol
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Undoubtedly the most famous and central of all of Madrid’s squares, the Puerta del Sol is just a short walk away from the Plaza Mayor. It was named after the city gate that previously stood at the location, which had the image of the sun on it. Aside from being a popular meeting point in the city, the grand square holds a special place in the heart of locals due to its rich history and heritage. Some of the must-see landmarks of the square include the Casa de Correos, the main post office building in the city, and the Casa de Correos clock tower. Another huge draw at the Puerto del Sol is the El Oso y El Madroño statue, which has been a symbol of Madrid since the Middle Ages.
Calle Mayor and Calle Alcala, Madrid, Spain 28013, Phone: +3-49-15-32-64-90
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Handsome, colorful, and absolutely breathtaking, the Plaza Mayor is a lovely renaissance square and another one of Madrid’s huge tourist draws. Conceived and laid out in the early years of the 1600s, the Plaza Mayor is fully sequestered by famous and opulent three-story residential buildings. Soak up the stunning architecture of the square as you check out the nine entrances to the squares and explore the buildings’ porticoes or simply sit and people watch for a while at one of the square’s quaint outdoor cafes. When you’ve had your fill of people watching or simply enjoying the lively atmosphere that the Plaza Mayor has to offer, make sure to get an up close look at the awe-inspiring 400-year-old statue of King Philip III.
4 Calle Gerona, Madrid, Spain 38012
7. Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum of Art
© Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum of Art
If you’ve already stopped by the Museo Nacional del Prado but still have an appetite for more of Madrid’s fantastic art, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum of Art is arguably the only logical choice to see next. The museum is known for being a stop in the “Golden Triangle of Art” of Madrid and features artwork and objects that actually complement other museums like the Prado. Since the Thyssen-Bornemisza covers periods and schools of art that are not featured in the Prado, you can rest assured that you will see pieces that are unique. Some of the artists featured in this museum included English and German masters like Albrect Dürer, Hans Holbein and Hans Baldung Grien. You can also look forward to finding pieces by renaissance masters such as Rembrandt, Tintoretto, and van Dyck.
8 Paseo Prado, Madrid, Spain 28014, Phone: +3-49-17-91-13-70
8. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia
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The third museum of Madrid’s “Golden Triangle of Art” is the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (or the Queen Reina Museum for short). The Reina’s main focus is showcasing Spanish art, and it delves more into modern art than the Thyssen-Normisza and the Prado. What makes the Reina Sofia so special is that it proudly showcases fantastic pieces by the 20th-century artists Dalí and Picasso. While many may think that three art museums in one trip is probably overkill, we assure you that the Reina isn’t to be missed as it showcases gorgeous masterpieces like Picasso’s Guernica. Visitors can also look forward to examining works by the famed abstract sculptor Eduardo Chillida and other Spanish greats like Juan Gris and Joan Miró.
52 Calle Santa Isabel, Madrid, Spain, Phone: +3-49-17-74-10-00
9.Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales
© Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales
The Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, or the Mueum of Natural Sciences, is a popular destination for local families and touring families alike. Some of the features of the museum’s permanent exhibit include ever-popular dinosaur skeletons, fossils of an array of animals both large and small, as well as beautiful rocks and minerals. Exhibits on the wonders of human evolution as well as biodiversity are also on display at the museum, making it both an inspiring and educational visit for all those who enter. What’s amazing about the collection at the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales is that it has actually existed for over 200 years. As such, this collection is the oldest in the world for natural history.
2 Calle de José Gutierrez Abascal, Madrid, Spain, Phone: +3-19-14-11-13-28
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A landmark of Madrid and a colossal architectural beauty, the Cybele Palace is a must visit for true traveling enthusiasts. This former communications palace was designed and built by Joaquin Otamendi and Antonio Palacios and was used as the headquarters of the Spanish Post Office and Telegraphic Company upon its inauguration in 1909. Today, it’s the home of the Madric City Council’s offices. Visitors can enjoy the Gothic Revival architectural style of the building alongside regional styles of Spanish architecture. There is also a large courtyard that leads to the palace for public enjoyment and consumption. Truly, the Cibeles Palace, or Cybele Palaca, is a sight that must be seen in person.
1 Plaza de la Cibeles, Madrid, Spain 28014, Phone: +3-49-14-80-00-08
11.Monasterio de El Escorial
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Steeped in history and an absolutely breathtaking place to behold, the Monasterio de El Escorial, known more commonly as El Escorial, is one of the King of Spain’s historical residences. Located in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is comprised of two complexes, both saturated with cultural and historical significance. The first is the monastery itself while the second is the La Granjilla de La Fresneda, a monastic retreat and royal hunting lodge that is located just five kilometers away. It’s best to set half a day or a full day aside to explore El Escorial with over 10 sections to explore, including the Pantheon of the Kings, the Couryard of the Kings, the Palace of Philip II and the Gardens of the Friars.
San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Juan de Boron and Battemberg Avenue, Madrid Spain, Phone: +3-49-18-90-50-11
12.Map of Juan de la Cosa
© Map of Juan de la Cosa
In all of his years sailing the open seas and exploring the various continents of the globe, the one thing that Christopher Columbus seemingly forgot to leave behind was a map of his explorations. Fortunately for history buffs and passionate cartographers around the globe, Juan de la Cosa did. Sailing with Columbus on three of his journeys, Juan de la Cosa left the world with the oldest known map that shows the Americas. The Map of Juan de la Cosa has been dated to the year 1500 and even includes information from the then recent voyages of Vasco de Gama to India in 1498. The map is drawn on ox-hide and can be admired at the Naval Museum of Madrid.
Museum Naval, 5 Paseo del Prado, Madrid, Spain 28014, Phone: +3-49-13-79-50-56
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13.Incio Museo Naval Madrid
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There are few countries in the world with a naval history as rich as that of Spain. At the Incio Museo Naval Madrid, or the Naval Museum of Madrid, visitors can step into the world of Spain’s maritime prowess at the Spanish Armada’s Naval Headquarters in the city. All in all, the museum features 24 rooms that house chronological exhibits starting from the 15th Century, moving to the era of the Catholic monarchs, and all the up to the innovating advancements in the modern Spanish fleet. Of all the exhibits, however, the most popular item in the entire museum and one you simply must see is undoubtedly the Mappa Mundi of Juan de la Cosa.
5 Paseo del Prado, Madrid, Spain 28014, Phone: +3-49-13-79-50-56
14.La Tabacalera de Lavapies
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Once a decrepit industrial wasteland, the La Tabacalera de Lavapies is now one of the most popular places to visit in the heart of Madrid. Today, the La Tabacalera is an eye-catching and beautiful collection of murals painted on the multi-storied walls of what was once an old tobacco factory. A social and cultural space frequented by Madrid’s hippest locals, the La Tabacalera features a community space for people to gather, some patio space, a library, a bar, and even a kitchen. Extraordinarily, the conception of the space was actually more of a way to emphasize participatory democracy more than anything else. As such, the space often plays host to debates, lectures, exhibits, and galleries in addition to being a space for individual expression.
51 Calle de Embajadores, Madrid, Spain 28012
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There’s no denying that Madrid is known across the globe for many things like its enigmatic people and a stupendously rich history. However, its river isn’t one of them. Well, at least, not until now. Opened in April 2011, Madrid Rio is a new and expansive recreational park sitting right along the banks of the Mardid River. Apart from enjoying all that the river has to offer, Madrid Rio is a fantastic place for cycling enthusiasts to visit if they’re looking to enjoy a scenic and leisurely bike ride in the city. There are also several sports facilities open to the public, including the popular Vicente Calderon Stadium – home of the Atletico de Madrid soccer team.
Puente de Toledo, Madrid, Spain 28019, Phone: +3-49-15-29-82-10
© Museo Geominero
One thing is for sure when it comes to the Museo Geominero: rarely has the earth’s rock glittered quite as brightly as it does in this popular Spanish museum. While Madrid certainly has no shortage of museums, the Museo Geominero stands out for its beautiful and massive collection of literal and figurative gems. The collection’s roots date back to 1849 when the nation’s geologists took on the massive undertaking of mapping Spain’s unique and beautiful geology. The entire collection is housed in a four-story glass and marble building, which is a tourist draw in its own right due to its beaux-art style architecture and lovely ornamentation.
23 Rios Rosas, Madrid, Spain 28003, Phone: +3-49-13-49-57-00
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© Museum Cerralbo
Although it’s not one of the more well-known museums in the city, the Museum Cerralbo is a world-class museum that draws tourists to its doorsteps thanks to its unique exhibits. The museum is housed in an old mansion that was once the home of the 17th Marqués de Cerralbo. Today, the museum showcases how wealthy madrilenos once lived during the height of 19th century opulence. From religious paintings to Moroccan kilims to an 18th-century Japanese suit of armor, there is an eclectic array of items to behold in the museum. In fact, the entire collection displayed was collected by the marqués himself.
17 Calle Ventura Rodriquez, Madrid, Spain 28008, Phone: +3-49-15-47-36-46
18.Palacio de Cristal
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Sitting in the middle of the lovely Buen Retiro Park, the Palacio de Cristal is an imposing glass palace built just 36 years after its counterpart, London’s Crystal Palace. The palace was designed by Ricardo Velazquez Bosco and is one of the landmarks and icons of the park. Built almost entirely out of glass, the palace’s façade is set in an iron framework while sitting on a brick base. The structure is decorated with ceramics and is topped with a gorgeous glass domed roof. In its entirety, the Palacio de Cristal is shaped like a Greek cross. Originally created in 1887, the palace was actually part of an exhibition in the Philippines, back when the country was still a Spanish colony.
4 Paseo Republica de Cuba, Madrid, Spain 28009, Phone: +3-49-17-74-10-00
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19.Plaza de Oriente
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Located in front of the Royal Palace of Madrid, the Plaza Oriente is a popular location for locals to take an afternoon walk or people watch at the square. Despite the large number of people that pay a visit to the plaza, the Plaza de Oriente is a safehaven for those seeking peace and tranquility in the midst of Madrid’s hustle and bustle. Apart from enjoying the colorful architecture or stopping by the lovely cafés around the square, among which the Café de Oriente is a clear favorite, visitors can enjoy a walk along the square to admire the 44 statues of Spanish monarchs.
17 Calle de Bailen, Madrid, Spain 28013
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20.Puerta de Alcala
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Completed in 1769 and inaugurated in 1778, the Puerta de Alcalá is one of Madrid’s iconic structures. The grand gate sits in the Plaza de la Independencia and was commissioned by Carlos the III when he came to the throne in 1759. The best way to get to the gate and to enjoy it in all of its architectural magnificence is definitely by foot. Walk around the structure at Calle de Alcalá and admire the gate’s large central semicircular arch. This arch is flanked by two similar arches and is lined by two square gates. Make sure to gaze upon the ornamental statues that sit atop the gate. There are six of them altogether and were sculpted by Roberto Michel and Francisco Gutierrez.
1 Plaza de la Independencia, Madrid, Spain 28001
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21.Real Jardin Botanico
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Nestled within 20 acres of lush terrain, the Real Jardin Botanico is an over two-and-a-half-century old botanical garden that was founded by King Ferdinand IV. Upon its conception, the Real Jardin was populated with over 2,000 species of flora sourced from all the Iberian Peninsula. Despite centuries of international and civil wars, the Real Jardin survived and even thrived. Today it is home to over 90,000 different types of plants and flowers in addition to an herbarium that boasts millions of specimens. Let’s not forget the roughly 1,500 trees that have grown all over the grounds. Guests at the gardens can expect to explore seven outdoor gardens as well as five indoor greenhouses for the full experience.
2 Plaza Murillo, Madrid, Spain 28014
22.Sobino de Botin
© Sobino de Botin
Established in 1725, the Sobino de Botin is quite literally the oldest restaurant in the world, and it offers perhaps the most unique dining experience you can have in Madrid. How can a restaurant survive for so long? Well, for the Sobino de Botin, the secret lies within its cuisine or, more specifically, their conchinillo asado, or roast suckling pig, and the cordero asado, a spectacular roast lamb. Both of these signature dishes are cooked in wood-fired ovens, providing unparalleled flavor in every bite. While the restaurant is unsurprisingly filled with tourists, it’s definitely worth the visit. Make sure to eat in the wine cellar for an exceptional and one-of-a-kind experience.
13 Calle Cuchilleros 17, Madrid, Spain 28005, Phone: +3-49-13-66-42-17
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© Sorolla Museum
There’s no shortage of fantastic museums to visit when it comes to the city of Madrid and the Sorolla Museum, or El Museo Sorolla as is it locally known, is no exception. The museum is dedicated to the works of Joaquin Sorolla, an impressionist hailing from the city of Valencia. The museum itself is housed in what used to be Sorolla’s studio-mansion, which was built in the early 1900s. In fact, when Joaquin Sorolla died in 1923, the house was preserved to remain as it was at the time, from the paintings that he had chosen to display inside to the unfinished painting he was working on and the positioning of his brushes. Additionally, visitors can enjoy gazing upon his masterful worked, which he painted in several styles.
37 Paseo del General Martinez Campos, Madrid, Spain 28010, Phone: +3-49-13-10-15-84
24.Temple of Debod
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Who would have thought that you could experience a small bit of Egyptian culture and architecture in the middle of Madrid? Well, suffice it to say that not many did, and yet the Temple of Debod provides just that. The Temple of Debod is an authentic ancient Egyptian temple that was originally built in the 2nd century BC. It was used as a religious center and was dedicated to the Egyptian goddess Isis. Visitors can explore the temple and the long processional walkway that leads to the stone built structure for an educational, cultural, and one-of-a-kind afternoon. Nestled in the heart of West Park, guests can enjoy the temple and the rest of the parks amenities for free.
1 Calle Ferraz, Madrid, Spain 28008, Phone: +3-49-13-66-74-15
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25.Zoo Aquarium de Madrid
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A treat for kids and adults alike, the Zoo Aquarium de Madrid is a fun destination to visit for animal lovers. Located in Casa de Campo, the zoo is home to 3,000 animals from all over the world. Some animals calling the zoo home include white Siberian tigers, Atlas lions, flamingos, giraffes, and even pandas. The zoo is boasts an aquarium with playful dolphins and other sea mammals. Not to be missed is the 3,000-square-meter aviary, which houses over 60 species of eagles, vultures, and condors. Make sure to visit during a weekday to avoid the weekend crowd and to check out the feeding schedules ahead of time to enjoy the animals in action.
Casa de Campo, Madrid, Spain 28011, Phone: +3-49-12-34-50-14
25 Best Things to Do in Madrid
- Museo Nacional del Prado, Photo: Courtesy of Karol Kozlowski - Fotolia.com
- Buen Retiro Park, Photo: Courtesy of borisb17 - Fotolia.com
- Royal Palace of Madrid, Photo: Courtesy of andrii_lutsyk - Fotolia.com
- National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Photo: Courtesy of Renáta Sedmakova - Fotolia.com
- Puerta del Sol, Photo: Courtesy of neirfy - Fotolia.com
- Plaza Mayor, Photo: Courtesy of andrii_lutsyk - Fotolia.com
- Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum of Art, Photo: Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum of Art
- Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Photo: Courtesy of imaginaria - Fotolia.com
- Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, Photo: Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales
- Cybele Palace, Photo: Courtesy of efired - Fotolia.com
- Monasterio de El Escorial, Photo: Courtesy of JackF - Fotolia.com
- Map of Juan de la Cosa, Photo: Map of Juan de la Cosa
- Incio Museo Naval Madrid, Photo: Courtesy of Photos by L - Fotolia.com
- La Tabacalera de Lavapies, Photo: Courtesy of saquizeta - Fotolia.com
- Madrid Rio, Photo: Courtesy of ginette laffargue - Fotolia.com
- Museo Geominero, Photo: Museo Geominero
- Museum Cerralbo, Photo: Museum Cerralbo
- Palacio de Cristal, Photo: Courtesy of sanguer - Fotolia.com
- Plaza de Oriente, Photo: Courtesy of maylat - Fotolia.com
- Puerta de Alcala, Photo: Courtesy of Hect - Fotolia.com
- Real Jardin Botanico, Photo: Courtesy of nayinubro - Fotolia.com
- Sobino de Botin, Photo: Sobino de Botin
- Sorolla Museum, Photo: Sorolla Museum
- Temple of Debod, Photo: Courtesy of ekaterina_belova - Fotolia.com
- Zoo Aquarium de Madrid, Photo: Courtesy of siempreverde22 - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of robert cicchetti - Fotolia.com