7 Awesome Things To Do in Madrid

Although many people think of Barcelona as THE city to visit in Spain, the country’s capital of Madrid is pretty amazing. Madrid is the third largest city in Europe. The city boasts modern infrastructure but also an expansive old district. In Madrid, you’ll find endless plazas, gardens, museums, shops, and restaurants. Here are some of my favorite things to do in Madrid.

7. Bargain Hunt at The Rastro Flea Market

You can find the largest flea market in Europe, the Rastro Flea Market in Madrid. Every Sunday from 9 to 3 pm the Embajadores neighborhood transforms into an endless open market. Wander here and discover a never-ending array of vintage and antique goods. Here you’ll find everything from vintage soviet medals, old cameras, to antique furniture and art.

Travel Tip:

Get here early! By 11 am the place is packed and its difficult to move. Access the market by metro or a 10-minute walk from Plaza Mayor.

6. Stroll at the El Retiro

El Retiro, Madrid’s answer to Central Park. Many locals consider El Retiro the lungs of the city. Once you get here you’ll see the charm. At the lake, you can rent a boat. Inside the glass palace, tour the romantic pavilion created to house exotic plants. All throught the park, you’ll find statues and fountains and well-maintained pathways

5. Dine well at Restaurante Botin

The world’s oldest operating restaurant, the Botin, is well known for its history and its delectable cuisine. Although the history of the restaurant can “only” be traced back to the 1700s, the history of the inn that stood here, can be traced all the way back to 1500s. I was exceptionally lucky to get a tour from the owner, a charming Spanish gentleman who’s family (the Gonzalez – Martin clan) has owned the restaurant since the 1930’s and is responsible for its current success. Here is one of the stories he told me;

Back in the early 1500s, Madrid was just a sleepy little outpost, a halfway point between some major towns on the Iberian peninsula. Then King Phillip II picked Madrid as his capital and the city’s history was forever changed. Back then most people who travelled were escaping the law. Suddenly the law was everywhere – the king was in town! When the police came knocking the Inn’s door there was no escape for the trapped criminal – until some unsavory inn owners began to dig out tunnels under the city, connecting the houses and creating escape routes. Eventually, the tunnels became used less and less and disappeared altogether. Except here, at the Botin.

Travel Tip:

The Botin gets very busy! Be sure to make reservations at least a few days in advance. While you are here, ask to take a look at the cellar and the secret door.

weekend in madrid - things to do - visit botin
Botin’s old wine cellar used to be a passage for running criminals.

4. Witness a wedding in Basilica San Miguel

Basilica De San Miguel is a small but architecturally significant church in the center of Madrid. Build in the 18th century, the basilica is an example of Spanish baroque style and is famous for its unusual façade. The façade of this church has a “half circle” or a convex shape, practically unseen in Spain and found nowhere else in Madrid. In 1984 this church was declared a national historical monument by a Royal Decree. Its interior is as breathtaking as its exterior is unique, and the church makes a quick but beautiful stop on your walk through the center of Madrid.

Travel Tip:

Come inside on the weekends. The church remains open even while there is a wedding.  You too can have the unusual pleasure of listening to Ave Maria in this living, breathing work of art.

 3. Visit The Royal Palace of Madrid

The Royal Palace of Madrid traces its history back to the 9th century. At the time of the crusades, on this site stood a Muslim era fortress. Madrid fell to the Catholics in the 1500s and the new government rarely put the old edifice to use.  However, everything changed in 1561, when Phillip II moved his court to Madrid. Here Phillip transformed the old building into his new palace.

Today, the Royal Palace of Madrid functions as both a working palace and a museum. Its usually open from 10 am to 8 pm. However, before you visit, check the official website. Sometimes the Museum closes due to royal events.

things to do in Madrid, Spain - The royal Palace
Things to do in Madrid – The Royal Palace

2. Check out the historic Plaza Mayor 

Plaza Mayor is the central plaza of Madrid.  Here lies the heart of its tourist district and the ancient soul of this city. The Square was originally constructed around the 16th century.  The plaza has a rich, and bloody history. During the inquisition, countless supposed heretics suffered auto de fe here (a trial of faith) and many were put to death.

Travel Tip:

Visit Plaza Mayor early in the morning.  Crowds pack the plaza by 10 am, especially on weekends.

Plaza Mayor

1. Take a day trip to El Escorial

The Escorial Monastery is located a couple of hours outside the city and is easily accessible by public transport. This huge palace is reminiscent of Hogwarts and even hosts an on-premise elementary school. Wander the grand halls and gardens to witness the place that was a seat of power and glory during the Spanish Renaissance.

The library at El Escorial boasts 4,700 manuscripts and 40,000 printed books. When you walk downstairs watch out for the ghosts – many famous notables rest here, and some, it’s so told, wander the halls. 🙂

I hope you have enjoyed this article and some of my favorite thing to do in Madrid. Please don’t forget to share on social,

See you on the road!

Viktoria aka Traveltipster

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3 Responses

  1. I was reluctant when thinking to visit Madrid but your post completely changed my mind. I will plan to visit it this summer, thank you so much for sharing your experience with this old city.

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