Welcome to Madrid, the Spanish capital known for its impressive museums, historical monuments, colorful food markets, and vibrant nightlife. Founded by the Moors during their occupation of the Iberian Peninsula, Madrid has blossomed into a bustling metropolis that steers the nation's rapid growth.
This article celebrates Madrid's tourist hot spots, highlighting our top must-see attractions. The city of the "bear and the strawberry tree" awaits, so make your journey unforgettable with GoWithGuide's customizable tours handled by our expert local guides. Vamos!
Palacio Real De Madrid
Our first stop is the structure most synonymous with Spain, the Palacio Real De Madrid, or the Royal Palace. Think of this as the Versailles or Buckingham Palace of Spain. It is ornate, glamorous, highly detailed, and full of European history. The Royal Palace is one of the largest in Western Europe thanks to its staggering 134,999 meters squared of floor space, not to mention the 3,418 rooms.
With over 2 million visitors yearly, it acts as a museum and residence of King Felipe VI. The Salon Del Trono, or throne room, is particularly breathtaking. Completed in 1772, it's full of rich red velvet furniture, polished gold statues, intricate carpets, and of course, the thrones of the Spanish Monarchy.
El Retiro Park
Next is El Retiro, the lively, spacious park where greenery meets glamorous galleries and crystal palaces. Also known as Parque Del Buen Retiro, it's one of the most important parks in the city. Constructed in the 17th century as a gift to King Felipe IV, it has evolved into a public space with attractions such as the Crystal Palace, which holds several exhibitions annually.
It's constantly buzzing with tourists, but the park is so large that you barely notice the crowds. There are many activities to choose from, with boat rides on the lake, strolls along the statue promenade, and tours of the Velázquez Palace art gallery topping the list.
Barrio de Las Letras
Are you a foodie on a culinary quest? Then head to Barrio de Las Letras, also known as Madrid's gastronomy hub. Every few steps, you will run into a tapas bar or terraced restaurant serving Spanish finger foods and assortments of beer and wine. The progressive foodie has much to choose from as new modern restaurants pop up daily to share their take on Spanish and international foods.
TriCiclo is one example of the current haute cuisine craze, so talk to your guide about early reservations so that you don't miss out. Beyond food, this barrio hosts Madrid's lively literature and art scene. In fact, it was home to Spain's literary giants, such as Miguel De Cervantes and Francisco de Quevedo.
The Temple of Debod
Egyptian temples are probably the last thing on your mind when it comes to Spanish monuments, but this next attraction is a rare glimpse into Egyptian-European history. The temple dates back to the 2nd century BCE, starting out as a tribute to the god Amun and goddess Isis under King Adijalamani. It was further expanded during the Roman Empire when Tiberius and Augustus made the final major modifications.
The temple remained dormant until the 20th century when Egypt gave it to Spain as a thank-you for the Aswan Dam construction. This extravagant gift was transported brick by brick and reassembled into what we see today. As you walk along the grounds, helpful videos and scale models make for an immersive tour.
Museo Nacional Del Prado
Located in central Madrid, this next attraction is Spain's most artistically relevant museum, housing over 8,600 paintings and 700 sculptures. The Prado Museum has stood for over 200 years with pieces from Spain, Italy, and Belgium, specifically Flemish works. It's the perfect starting point for art buffs looking to soak in Madrid's artistic Golden Age.
Look out for works from Dutch genius Hieronymus Bosch and El Bosco's Garden of Earthly Delights. Given the size of the collection, this museum can be overwhelming, so we recommend linking up with a guide who can break down the tour so it's not an overload of information.
Watched over by an equestrian sculpture of King Felipe III, this attraction provides much-needed breathing space in a tightly packed neighborhood. It was designed in 1619 by architect Juan Gomez de Mora, and since then it's been the subject of some strange controversies. For the longest time, extravagant and violent bullfights were held at the square as a source of entertainment during royal events.
The 17th century brought on the Spanish Inquisition and its infamous Heretic trials and executions, but things turned around after a massive fire destroyed the square. Juan de Villanueva rebuilt it, giving us the social hub we see today.
Puerta Del Sol
Just 300 meters from the Plaza Mayor, this next attraction is a meeting point for busy streets such as Arenal, Alcalá, and Preciados. Also known as the Gate of the Sun, Puerta Del Sol has a reputation for large crowds of locals and tourists buzzing from one part of the city to the next. Look out for the Old Post Office, which currently acts as the office of the President of Madrid.
It'll be hard to miss the beloved clock at the Casa De Correos, where a nationwide New Year's countdown takes place every December 31st. If you're in the mood for a little retail therapy, the square has El Corte Inglés department stores, and if you get hungry, there are several restaurants to choose from.
Palacio De Cibeles
Next is an architectural feat of stained glass ceilings, carved stone, and molded iron. The Palacio de Cibeles, or Cybele Palace, is the perfect blend of modern architecture and traditionalism. Completed in 1919 by Antonio Palacios and Joaquín Otamendi, it served as the Spanish Post Office Headquarters.
Over time, the building was expanded with additional floors, and the current 30,000 square meters were more than enough to house the Madrid City Council. The palace is free and open to the public, with the Caja de Música Auditorium hosting concerts, conferences, and monthly exhibitions.
If you think Times Square is magnificent, wait until you see the following location. The Gran Via is Madrid's most famous street for a reason. For over 100 years, it's stood as an entertainment hub and a structural blend of modernity, style, and traditional Spanish architecture. If you're looking to experience Madrid's famous nightlife, you have a variety of bars and tapas stops to choose from.
Broadway fans are in luck. Weekly showings of theater classics such as Les Miserables, The Lion King, and Cirque Du Soleil will keep you entertained, while flamenco shows throw you into Spain's long-honored love of dance.
The Real Madrid Stadium
There's no way we'd break down Madrid's iconic hotspots without mentioning the legendary Real Madrid football club and its stadium. Whether or not you're a sports lover, the infectious energy from witnessing a game played on home turf is unmatched. Also known as the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, it was completed in 1947 and has undergone several renovations as different owners took over.
The stadium holds over 80,000 spectators, and if you want to enhance your viewing experience, book one of the 245 VIP boxes. Fans can still enjoy the venue when games aren't on by dining at one of the many restaurants or touring the team's trophy collection.
We're at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Madrid's shining attractions. If you're convinced and want a breakdown of your future adventures in the city of clear blue skies, get in touch with a GoWithGuide expert and create the ultimate tour!