I like to consider myself a localist when it comes to Madrid — half local, half tourist. I’ve been living in a suburb of madrid for over a month now and while I’m no expert, I definitely have some favorite spots in this Spanish capital. Take a look at some of my favorite things to do in Madrid.
1. Get lost at El Rastro flea market
Every Sunday, the streets of the La Latina neighborhood are flooded with local vendors selling their vintage wares.This flea market winds around the neighborhood and doesn’t really seem to have a start or end. Pick up some antique furniture, collectibles, or clothes — or just let yourself get lost in the streets for awhile.
2. Experience the life of royalty at Madrid’s Royal Palace
Although the current Royal Family doesn’t live there, the Royal Palace of Madrid is technically their official residence. The residence is open to the public daily for a small fee and even has some free hours throughout the week. Don’t forget to look up — there are beautiful works of art on almost every ceiling in the palace.
3. Stroll around Buen Retiro Park
Buen Retiro Park is packed with locals and tourists alike on the weekends. Take a stroll through this giant green space and you’ll see people strolling, children playing, and plenty of musicians, magicians, and street artists performing. Take a boat ride in the pond or check out the art exhibit at the Palacio de Cristal (Glass Palace). There’s so much to do and see in Buen Retiro, making it one of my favorite things to do in Madrid.
4. Get cultured at one of Madrid’s famous museums
Madrid has three main museums, the most famous being the Museo Nacional del Prado. The museum contains over 8,000 paintings and sculptures from artists such as Goya, El Greco, and Velázquez.
5. Watch the sun set over the city
Another one of my favorite things to do in Madrid — visit one of Madrid’s rooftop bars for sunset.
The rooftop terrace at the Circulo de las Bellas Artes is one of the most famous spots to do this. It offers 360 degree views of the city and plenty of spots to sit or sprawl out with a glass of rosé when the weather is nice. Another rooftop view can be found at the terrace of the Mercado San Antón in the Cuenca neighborhood.
6. Shop the Rebajas on Gran Via
Gran Via is one of the city’s most famous shopping areas. Shop in the giant stores, grab a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants, and admire the city’s first skyscrapers. If you’re lucky enough to visit during January you’ll get to experience the rebajas — giant country-wide sales. Like Black Friday, but for a whole month.
7. Take a trip to Egypt at the Temple of Debod
The Temple of Debod is definitely one of the most unique things to do in Madrid. Madrid was gifted this ancient Egyptian temple as a token of gratitude for helping preserve other significant historical sites in Egypt. Walking through the inner crypts of the temple is free but unfortunately it was closed during our visit.
8. Soak up the local flavor in one of Madrid’s surrounding cities
If you have time and need some extra things to do in Madrid, make sure you visit some of the surrounding cities in the Community of Madrid. The historic cities of Alcala de Henares, Toledo, and Salamanca all make wonderful day trips from the city.
Salamanca is home to the oldest university in Spain. Alcala de Henares is most famous as the birthplace of celebrated Spanish Author Miguel Cervantes, the author behind Don Quixote. Toledo boasts beautiful hilltop views and a unique cultural experience.
9. Eat your weight in tapas at one of the city’s markets
If there’s one word that’s synonymous with Spain it’s tapas. Madrid is one of the last big cities in Spain where you can (usually) get free tapas with your beer or wine.
A trendy place to grab a bite is one of Madrid’s trendy food markets. San Miguel Market is located in the center of the city and is the place to go to sample some of Madrid’s traditional food and drink offerings. For a less touristy market, head over to the San Antón Market. After you’ve wandered the stalls, grab some tapas on the first floor and end with a glass of wine on the rooftop terrace.
10. Marvel at one of Madrid’s beautiful churches
Madrid is home to a number of significant churches and cathedrals. Right next to the Royal Palace you can find the catholic Almudena Cathedral. In the La Latina neighborhood you can enter the Roman Catholic Basilica of San Francisco, home to one of the largest domes in the world.
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