Madrid Travel Guide

Madrid, the capital of Spain and its largest city, is a must. The city is just magical. There’s a electric energy running through the city and everyone seems to be living their best life. And like its rival city Barcelona, this is a city that starts late — dinner doesn’t happen until 9 or 10 pm at night!

Though slightly sprawling place, the tiny neighborhoods are a great place to get lost in, eat tapas, and drink sangria. The warmth of the locals and the slowness of the meals will keep you out late. Don’t keep here trying to get to bed early. The best of Madrid happens after 9pm.

This travel guide to Madrid can give you everything you need to know to eat well, save money, and see the best sights the city has to offer.

1. Check out Puerta del Sol

This is Madrid’s most famous and central square. Originally, it was the site of one of the east facing city gates and was adorned with an image of the sun, hence the square’s name (the “sun gate”). The square is actually almost semi-circular in shape and owes its current form to the major renovation work carried out between 1854 and 1860.

3. National Archaeological Museum

This well-designed museum houses an incredible collection of archaeological finds from across the Iberian peninsula from the Greek and Roman periods, along with artefacts from Egypt and Mesopotamia. See the famous La Dama de Elche, the bust of a 5th century Iberian woman and the Altamira pre-historic cave paintings.

4. Explore the Naval Museum of Madrid

When you think back on the world’s historical naval powers, the Spanish Armada is sure to come to mind. You can come here to learn about the nation’s rich naval history through historic maps from the 1500s and an impressive display showcasing Spain’s impressive maritime history from the 15th to 18th centuries.

5. Go on a free walking tour

Free walking tours are one of my favorite activities to do in a city. You get to fill your morning, find your way around, and learn about the place you’re visiting – without spending a fortune. New Madrid Walking Tours and Cat’s Hostel Walking Tours are the two best free tours in the city.

6. Admire some modern art

The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía offers a fantastic collection of modern art with some big names: works by Picasso’s, Miró, Kandinsky, Dalí, and Bacon can be found here. The centerpiece of the exhibit is Picasso’s famous Guernica painting.

7. Shop at the Mercado de San Miguel

This iconic indoor market is a fun spot to do your grocery shopping. It’s the oldest covered food market in the city with beautiful 20th-century architecture and a fantastic spot to eat some cheap tapas, pick up ingredients for supper, or to just take in the people. Open seven days a week, the market is a five-minute walk from Plaza Mayor and attracts the after-work drinks crowd in the evenings.

8. Temple of Debod

The Temple of Debod is an Egyptian temple from the 2nd century BC. It was given as gift to Spain from the Egyptian government as a thank you for helping them relocate monuments from the Aswan Dam site. The temple can now be found in Madrid’s Cuartel de la Montaña Park. Although the inside of the temple is off limits, you can still walk along the outside.

9. Spend time in the Barrio de La Latina

Get out on foot and explore the upbeat La Latina neighborhood and its maze of narrow lanes and streets lined with tapas bars, restaurants, and cantinas. If you’re here on a Sunday, peruse the offerings at the El Rastro flea market, and stuff your face at one of the many food stall. Be sure to step inside the San Francisco el Grand Basilica or the Moorish San Pedro el Real church.

10. See the Plaza de Cibeles

Plaza de Cibeles is a famous plaza in Madrid, located along the central Calle de Alcalá and adjacent to Paseo del Prado. Here you’ll find the Palace of Communications, the city’s mayor’s office, and a fountain dedicated to the Roman goddess Cybele. There is an observation deck at the mayor’s office as well.

11. Take a food tour

Learn about the culinary culture of Spain by taking a food walking tour or cooking class in Madrid. Take the three-hour Madrid Gourmet Tapas and Tasting tour with Devour Madrid and sample authentic tapas at three different bars.

12. Do a free walking tour

Free Walking Tours Madrid offers up a 2.5-hour walking tour at most cost which hits all the main sites of Madrid like Plaza Mayor, Puerta Del Sol and La Opera while explaining the complicated history of Spain. It departs Plaza de Callao every weekday at 11am, in addition to a Friday and Saturday tour at 3:30pm.