Madrid, Spain’s capital and largest city, has won the hearts of people across the world and centuries with its tremendous culture, art and history. It is one of the culinary capitals of the world and the center for international business in Spain. Dotted with beautiful parks, medieval mansions, royal palaces, renowned museums and galleries, and much more, Madrid has something for everyone.
With so much to see and do in Madrid, it’s hard to know where to start with your Madrid itinerary. We’ve listed a few ideas for you to consider below.
Start your tour of Madrid with a Paseo del Arte, or Art Walk. There is so much art to see in Madrid, this is an official art itinerary that covers a good number of must-see locations and pieces. Of course it starts at the Prado Museum and its masterpieces, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum is also on the list, along wtih the Reina Sofía Art Center and twelve other iconic places.
The Royal Palace of Madrid is stunning, the largest royal palace in Europe. It lies in front of the Teatro Real (Royal Theatre) and Opera House.
Walk around the Plaza de Cibeles (Cibeles Palace plaza) and Fountain, the monument symbol of Madrid. Take an afternoon to enjoy Retiro Park (Parque del Retiro), which dates back to 1631 and is filled with beautiful sculptures and monuments along its gardens and galleries.
Other places to see are Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol, Puerta de Alcalá, and the Temple of Debod.
Foods to Try in Madrid
You’re in Madrid; start one day with tapas and wine! A simple tapas platter to start can include local cheeses, croquetas, Iberico ham, albondigas (meatballs) and patatas bravas al estilo madrileño (potatoes à la Madrid). Also trip to Madrid is not the same without sharing a pitcher of Sangria among friends - particularly in the summer. Every local has its own, unique Sangria recipe, and be prepared for them to tell you theirs is the best in the city.
The Spanish love to eat and drink, so much so that the entire day is organized around either food or drinks. Lunch will typically take place during a long break called a siesta, from 2-4pm. Although it is said that siestas may no longer exist in the near future, this tradition comes from long ago. Try to find a lunch place that serves a menú del día, or menu of the day. It’s a cheap way to taste some of the best and most traditional foods in Madrid.
Between meals, order a cortada like a local. This is strong coffee with a splash of milk and sugar. For dessert, try the torrijas, a Spanish version of french-toast.
Since the Spanish lunch break is 2-hours long, the work day doesn’t end until late. That means people don’t typically start sitting down for dinner at least until 9-10pm. The great thing about walking around Madrid at night is that the streets will always be filled with the warmth of people enjoying the city until late hours.
Do stop by Mercado San Miguel, one of Madrid's oldest and most prestigious food markets. Finally, don’t leave Madrid without trying a traditional Paella.
Shopping and Nightlife in Madrid
It’s not surprising that Madrid is a shopper’s paradise, not to mention its reputation for incredible and non-stop nightlife.
Sure, Madrid is world-famous for major fashion brands like Zara and Mango, but it also is filled with boutique shops unique to Madrid in places like Chueca (the bohemian neighborhood), Calle Serrano and Salamanca. Check out Calle Toledo and Calle Fuencarral for additional shops. One central shopping area is around Puerta del Sol, and you can also shop at Princesa and Cuatro Caminos. Do you get the point? You can shop in most neighborhoods! For shoe lovers, check out Calle Augusto Figueroa.
Madrid is called the city that never sleeps for a reason. That includes having unmatched nightlife that never stops. You won’t have a problem finding the perfect venue for your taste, whether you are looking for classical music, live music, a mellow Spanish guitar night, a Flamenco club, or the latest electronic music. Start the evening at the theater, then head to a Terraza (a café-terrace lounge) to start the night.
Flights to Madrid
The Madrid Airport, a.k.a. Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport (MAD) is the main international airport in Madrid, serving over 47 million passengers per year. It is Europe’s sixth busiest airport, and the largest in Europe in physical size (along with the Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport). It lies 8 miles from Puerta del Sol.
Both Iberia and Air Europa have hubs in MAD, and Madrid is also the focus city for other airlines, like Ryanair, Vueling, and Norwegian Air Shuttle. The busiest domestic routes from the Madrid Airport include to Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca and Gran Canaria. Busiest European routes include London, Lisbon, Paris and Rome. As for international routes, the busiest are to Buenos Aires, New York, São Paulo and Miami.
Needing to find an airfare deal? Flying to Madrid is simple, and finding cheap flights to Madrid is even easier. No single airline always has the best prices, so your best bet for finding an airfare deal is to compare prices. Use FareCompare’s search site to compare and save on your flight. You can also set a FareCompare airfare alert for your route and you will start receiving the deals straight to your inbox!
When it comes to travel planning, a little inconvenience can mean great savings. Always check flights departing from airports a bit farther away from your home city, because you could just find a deal that makes the drive worthwhile. Choose a connecting flight versus non-stop, and use the extra money saved on what really counts (your Madrid vacation!). Adding a stop (or two) could save as much as 50%. Don’t forget to check bigger airports (particularly hubs), which often have cheaper airfare options.
If you are traveling with a group, try booking just one ticket at a time (versus everyone’s at the same time). That’s because reservation systems typically require all of the seats to be at the same price when purchased in a single transaction. If an airline has only one ticket for $50 and the rest are $100, and you shop for all-tickets-at-once, you’ll end up paying $100 for all of the tickets versus saving on the cheaper available fare.