Here are five of Madrid's most interesting sights that we recommend you visit.
Madrid can not be called a quiet place. You can not compare it with the respectable and prim European capitals. This city is the focus of energy, fiery passion. It is the capital of art and music, excitement and epicurean pleasures. The public on the streets of the Spanish capital is diverse and motley - from reckless students - to dignitaries. Romantic boulevards and parks, ancient architecture and the richest museums have earned Madrid the fame of a holiday city that you can’t visit.
Each square of Madrid, each quarter or street carries a unique local flavor. Here traditions and customs are honored and sacred. Check out my detailed Madrid guide on → this page.
The streets of this city are full of hospitable restaurants and bars on summer nights. On weekends, you can sit with friends on one of the open verandas with a glass of wine. In the cool winter time, there are also enough places where you can go for a walk.
1. Free museums.
The two most famous museums of the capital are open for free on certain hours and days. If you come from 18 to 20 from Tuesday to Saturday in Prado Museum (or visit it on Sunday, from 17 to 20) - admission will be free. You will see paintings by Velazquez and Goya, paintings by El Greco and Pablo Picasso, other Spanish painters, Italian masters.
Reina Sofia Museum also works free of charge from 17 to 21 on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays. On Saturday, you can arrive at 14.30 to 21, on Sunday, free admission from 10 to 14.30.
There are a few days a year when all museums in Madrid the entrance is free. This is the national holiday of Spain - October 12 (Día de la Hispanidad), Constitution Day - December 6 and International Museum Day, which takes place on May 18. You can always go for free to Corrida Museum.
2. Madrid parks.
Buen Retiro - A park located near the Prado Museum. This is a quiet corner in the very center of Madrid. Here you can not hear the noise of the big city. You can ride a boat on the mirror surface of the pond Estanc del Retiro with a monumental colonnade on the shore. Buen Retiro has a magnificent rose garden. Along the paths of the park dozens of statues of the kings of Spain are installed. Book fairs are held here every year. In the summer, the park hosts puppet shows, concerts.
Near Buen Retiro in 2004 another small park was set up - "Forest of the Dead". This is a monument to the 192 victims of the Atocha Madrid train station.
In the north-eastern part of Madrid is located Park Juan Carlos I. It has playgrounds and bike paths, paths for pedestrians. Bike rental is free! This park is decorated with many modern sculptures.
In the west of the Spanish capital is Casa de Campo. Once this forest was the hunting ground of kings. Now it is a huge park. It has the Madrid Zoo and an amusement park.
3. The Planetarium of Madrid. (Freebie ended :-(
Another completely free pleasure. In this "star center" that is located in Park Enrique Thierno GalvanThere are dozens of interactive exhibits. You will see “black holes”, comets, exploding stars, learn all about the history of astronomy. Enrique Thierno Galvan grows a wonderful rare flora, it has a large pond, playgrounds, an IMAX cinema.
4. The Royal Palace.
The largest palace in all of Western Europe is the official residence of the King of Spain. A masterpiece of baroque architecture. On Wednesdays and on May 18, admission is free. It houses collections of ancient weapons and armor, paintings by Goya, Caravaggio, Velazquez. The priceless pearl of the royal collection is the Stradivarius String Quartet. This is the only fully completed Stradivari quartet in the world.
5. Free guided tours by Sandemans.
Every day this organization conducts free tours from the square Plaza Mayor. The event starts at 11:00. The program includes a visit to the Royal Theater and Almuden Cathedral, as well as places related to the history of the Spanish Inquisition and the Civil War.
This excursion does not need to reserve places. It is enough to come to the square on time and find there guides with umbrellas in red t-shirts.
Start from scratch
Puerta del Sol ("The Gate of the Sun") is named for good reason. It used to be the eastern entrance to the city, now from here the most interesting streets diverge. In the center stands the equestrian statue of Charles III, here is the emblem of Madrid - “The Bear and the Strawberry Tree” - and zero kilometer of Spain. Puerta del Sol is a favorite meeting place for locals in the very heart of the capital, and to start exploring the city here is a worthy start.
Have breakfast in madrid
If you want to celebrate a new day as a true Madrid - go to the chocolateria San Ginés, which for more than 120 years has been famous for the best churros in the capital, if not throughout Spain. Appetizing “lasso” from custard dough is usually broken in half and dipped in hot chocolate - by the way, any liqueur to your taste can add to it. Do not forget to ask for a glass of water so that life does not seem too sweet.
Pour into the beat of Gran Via
More than a kilometer of fashion boutiques, jewelry stores, bars and casinos - this is what is Madrid's main street, which stretches from the Beau-ar Metropolis building to Plaza de España. Be sure to check out the Museo Chicote cocktail bar, created by the renowned collector of rare spirits, Pedro Chicote. Ernest Hemingway, Salvador Dali, Liz Taylor and Frank Sinatra are among the celebrity stars of this place, and world celebrities can be found to this day.
In Plaza Espanya, take a closer look at the monument to Miguel Cervantes and try not to pull the donkey Sancho Panza by the tail. By the way, in the centuries-old history of Gran Via there was a short time when it was called Avenida de Rusia (“Prospect of Russia”) and Avenida de la Union Sovietica (“Prospect of the Soviet Union”) - accept this as an additional invitation.
Visit the Art Triangle
All museums and galleries of Madrid in one trip and you can not get around. The Golden Triangle of Arts is a minimum program. The Prado Museum houses more than 2,000 paintings by artists such as Bosch, El Greco, Velazquez, Goya and Rubens. Admission is free for visitors under the age of 18, as for everyone from 18:00 to 20:00 from Monday to Saturday, from 17:00 to 19:00 on Sundays and holidays, as well as on International Museum Day (May 18) and on the birthday of Prado (November 19).
We do not recommend going to the Thyssen-Bornemisza gallery immediately after the Prado: a museum with the masterpieces of Monet, Van Gogh, Renoir, Chagall, Picasso, Pollock and Russian avant-garde artists is worth uncomplicated attention. On Mondays, from 12:00 to 16:00, the permanent exhibition can be viewed for free.
And finally, the last peak of the “art triangle” is the Reina Sofia Museum with works by contemporary Spanish and foreign artists. This art center has four exhibition halls: the old Sabatini building (Edificio Sabatini), the new building (Edificio Nouvel) and two sites in Retiro Park - the Crystal Palace (Palacio de Cristal) and the Palace of Velazquez (Palacio de Velázquez). The work schedule is different for everyone, but in the last couple of hours, admission is free.
If you add another bright point - the Royal Palace of Madrid with frescoes by Caravaggio, the “Porcelain Hall”, the Armory and the collection of Stradivarius violins - the “Golden Triangle” turns into the “Golden Circle of Arts”.
Try Madrid to taste
You won’t be full of spiritual food alone, so the next item of the compulsory program in the capital of Spain is the Jamon Museum, where you can eat the best serrano (jerky white meat) and Iberico (made from more expensive black pork).
For the most delicious squid sandwiches, stop by at the cozy Bar Postas or El Brilliante Café. The gastronomic pride of Madrid - thick pea soup with smoked cosido madrileno - should be tasted in the tavern Malacatín: the atmosphere of this place acts as a secret ingredient and natural flavor enhancer.
Relax in city parks
If you feel the hot breath of the stone jungles of Madrid warmed up by the sun - it's time to take refuge in the greenery of city parks. The most spacious - Casa de Campo with a lake, funicular, attractions and a zoo - is 5 times larger than the Central Park of New York.
Retiro Park is closer to the center, it is more modest in size, but no less picturesque. It is nice to see a puppet show, swim in a boat, freshen up at the fountains, but do not occupy the sights of the park either. By the way, here is a unique monument to the Fallen Angel - not to be confused with an angel who fell on the roof of the house at 3 Calle Milaneses (look for wings and heels).
On the banks of the Manzanares River, at the Royal Palace, the Campo del Moro gardens, created for romantic walks, are green, and with growing superheroes it's great to go to the Warner Brothers park in the suburbs of Madrid.
Go to places of football glory
The victories of the Atletico Madrid Club are traditionally celebrated at the Neptune Fountain, and the Cibeles Fountain is the place of triumphal bathing for Real Madrid fans. The Royal Football Club is training at the legendary Santiago Bernabeu Arena. If you are not lucky enough to get to the match, go on a tour: you can step on the same lawn with Zidane, Beckham and Ronaldo, go to the locker room and the presidential box, and also buy uniforms, pajamas or even diapers with the Real Madrid logo.
Dine at the oldest restaurant in the world.
And again about food - it's Spain, after all! "The oldest restaurant in the world" - with this description Botin entered the Guinness Book of Records. For almost three centuries - since 1725 - Castilian meat is baked here in an old wood-burning oven. In this restaurant, many European monarchs dined, washed the dishes of Goya, and sought the inspiration of Hemingway. Feel part of the story at a delicious dinner - is this not the highlight of the trip?
Pack your suitcase with local treasures
You can add glamor to your wardrobe at Madrid's Golden Mile: Serrano Street is full of boutiques Prada, Loewe, Armani, Roberto Verino, Adolfo Domínguez and other designer showrooms. Shopping at the Las Rozas Village Outlet Center is more economical, while Madrid's hipsters dress in the Fuencarral market, which is crowded with designer shops. For truly Spanish finds, you need to dive into the abyss of the El Rastro Sunday flea market, where from 9:00 to 15:00 you can find everything in the world - from antique caskets and vinyl to vintage jewelry and shawls for flamenco. By the way, if you puzzle over an unusual souvenir, candied violets in a gift box are sold in La Violeta's shop.
Enjoy live music
Music lovers in Madrid do not have to look for concert halls: the city is full of music, and it's not just about techno-vibrations of nightclubs. For passionate flamenco rhythms, come to Chinitas Cafe. Jazz fans will have a wonderful evening at Café Populart or Café Central. If you appreciate the blues, welcome to La Coquette, La Boca del Lobo rhymes with a funky mood, and if you hit the rock and roll hour, Gruta 77 has already opened its doors for you.
Join the Madrid Festivals
On Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, the people of Madrid bury the sardine with pomp, cleansing themselves of the past, celebrate St. Isidore’s bullfight and Chotis dancing in mid-May, and ride horses through fires on June 13 and bless pets in honor of St. Anthony of Florida, the patron saint animals. Join the Spanish madness!