Welcome to Madrid!
Get to know the most important places you can’t miss when visiting Madrid
I made up a list of the things that I liked to see and do in Madrid, and the essential places of interest that you must visit in the Spanish capital.
Below you will find a list of places and their location in the Madrid map. They are not necessarily ordered by importance but rather organized in a round way to could traverse in a clockwise direction.
To better know what things you should prioritize, basically it depends upon how many days you’re going to visit it. Madrid is a large city and it makes no sense to be running from place to place, because after all, we travel to enjoy and learn about the culture of the place and not to get stressed.
Puerta del Sol
La Puerta del Sol in Madrid is a square located at the heart of the city and is undoubtedly one of the most famous places to visit.
If you look on the map you will see that it is right in the center, and you will surely realize you are in there because it’s going to be full of tourists, street shows and it’s going to get really noisy 😁.
Some interesting facts about the place:
- The image above shows one of the most important buildings in this place: the Royal Post Office. This emblematic building has the most famous clock in all of Spain, since it is responsible for ringing the 12 chimes that mark the arrival of the New Year in front of thousands of people who enjoy the twelve traditional grapes and is seen by millions of viewers across the world.
- Several historical streets of the capital depart from this square, such as Calle Mayor or Calle de Alcalá.
- In front of the Post Office, there is the Zero Kilometer Plate, which indicates the origin of the national radial highways.
- In addition, in the square there is also the statue of the Bear and the Madroño, symbol of the city of Madrid (and if you like football, you will surely have noticed that it is on the Atlético de Madrid shield)
- You can also see the statues of the Mariblanca, King Carlos III and a fountain in the center of the square
- Surrounding all these monuments, there are several hotels and places where to eat delicacies from the city, and the luminous sign of the famous ‘Tío Pepe’ that is always present in the photographs of the place.
Please note: If you are going to eat, take a few steps away from the center because this place is usually the center of the ‘tourist traps’ that are usually more expensive than normal.
El Oso y el Madroño
This image shows the statue of the El Oso y el Madroño, and in the background the poster of Uncle Pepe.
Zero Kilometer Plate
Main Square (Plaza Mayor)
A few meters away from Puerta del Sol is the Plaza Mayor in Madrid. It is a rectangular space of about 120 x 90 meters, which has picturesque balconies in its surroundings (237 to be precise), in the center the statue of King Felipe III, and in one of its vertices, the Arco de Cuchilleros.
This place hosts multiple events, such as art shows, performances, Christmas markets, lights and decorations.
Madrid’s Royal Palace
The Royal Palace, or also known as the Palacio de Oriente due to its location adjacent to the Plaza de Oriente, constitutes the official residence of the King of Spain (although today the kings do not live there).
The entrance costs about € 10, although you can enter for free from Monday to Thursday in the last 2 hours that the venue is open to the public. If you are interested in entering the Palace you can check the times and prices of the tickets on the official website of the National Heritage
The Almudena Cathedral is located next to the Royal Palace. It is a neo-Gothic style building, and its complete visit comprises 3 parts:
- the interior of the cathedral,
- the museum and dome,
- and the crypt.
The entrance to the temple is free, but not the access to the museum, dome and crypt.
Also next to the Royal Palace, you can find the Sabatini Gardens (free entry) which houses symmetrically trimmed hedges, ponds, fountains and statues. An ideal place to take a few photos 📷
In front of the Royal Palace is the Royal Theater, which currently hosts cultural events such as operas, dances, and concerts. It is possible to make various types of visits and buy tickets on the official website of the Teatro Real.
If you like taking photos, this is the best place! It is one of the points that I like the most in Madrid!
It is located on the Montaña de Príncipe Pío, opposite the Plaza de España and a few meters away from the Sabatini Gardens, and consists of an Egyptian temple, a pond and arches. If you continue walking towards the viewpoint of the mountain, you can also find a very beautiful water fountain.
The temple itself is an ancient Egyptian building that was transferred to Spain as a gift from Egypt in 1968.
Admission is free, although you have to go early because the lines can be quite long.
In the evening and at night, the lighting and the reflection of the temple in the water, make this monument the perfect place to take photographs and immortalize the view on a postcard.
Visit the official website of the City Council to see information about the Temple of Debod
Principe Pio Mountain Lookout
If you continue walking towards the back of the Debod Temple, you will find the Mirador de la Montaña de Príncipe Pío. The orientation is towards the Manzanares river, and from there you can see the Royal Palace and the western part of the city of Madrid.
In the afternoon this is a great place to view the sunset and take pictures
The Plaza de España is also one of the essential places to visit in Madrid.
On its center you can find the monument to Miguel de Cervantes, where the most famous writer in Spain can be seen immortalized in a statue, and at his feet, the sculptures of the most famous characters: Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.
Without a doubt, you should take a picture with them.
This square has several places of interest around it, such as the Senate building, the Edificio España, Plaza de Oriente and Debod Park. In addition, the square is where Calle Gran Vía ends and Calle de la Princesa begins.
In the image you can see Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. Also, you can see Miguel de Cervantes sitting on a pedestal, and several of his characters.
If we walk by Gran Vía Street from Plaza de España, we will get to Plaza del Callao, a place that houses the Callao Cinema (as can be seen in the photo), the Press Palace and the El Corte Inglés group building, between others.
To take into account, from the bar on the top floor of El Corte Inglés you can enjoy one of the best views of the city, and the best thing, access to that place is free.
Other important streets start in Plaza del Callao, such as Calle Preciados and Calle del Carmen, both famous and full of shops.
An interesting fact, Calle Preciados is in the first places of the ranking of streets where rent is more expensive.
This is the Palacio de Cibeles, also known as the Palacio de Comunicaciones or Palacio de Telecomunicaciones (as it was previously called).
Originally this building was used as a central office for the distribution of mail, telegraphs and telephones, although it currently houses municipal offices of the Madrid City Council and an area of culture called CentroCentro.
Perhaps Cibeles sounds familiar to you because when Real Madrid CF wins a football titl, the celebrations take place in there
This fountain is in front of the Communications Palace and at its center it holds the statue of the Goddess Cibeles in her carriage that is dragged by two lions.
As mentioned previously, this is the place that brings together supporters of Real Madrid, one of the teams from the Madrid capital, to celebrate when they win a championship.
As its name implies, the Plaza de Colón was named in this way after Christopher Columbus. A statue that represents it is erected in the roundabout that gives rise to the streets of Recoletos and La Castellana, while in the center of the square is the largest Spanish flag in the world: it measures 14 x 21 meters and is in a mast 50 meters high. Being there and seeing how the wind waves the flag is impressive due to its dimensions.
On one side of the square, the one closest to the roundabout, is the Villa Fernán Gómez Cultural Center, and across the avenue is the Casino Gran Madrid Colón and the Madrid Wax Museum.
On Goya Street, we can find the Gardens of Discovery or Gardens of Plaza Colón, while on Calle Serrano the Monument to the Discovery of America is located, made up of four large concrete blocks with inscriptions and engravings of the history of the America Discovery.
Monument to the Discovery of America
Puerta de Alcalá
In the center of the roundabout in Plaza Independencia is one of the old access doors to Madrid: the Puerta de Alcalá. This gate is one of the most important in the city, so remember to take a photo.
When walking down the Gran Vía street, remember to look up, as you will find several sculptures on the roofs of buildings. In this case you can see the Victoria Alada at the top of the Metropolis building.
It is generally considered that the Gran Vía street begins in this building, but really it is the building that is behind on the right, the Grassy building, in which this beautiful Vía starts.
If you walk around this area in the evening or at night, prepare the camera, because the lighting on these buildings and streets are gorgeous.
Another great meeting point for the second half of soccer supporters from Madrid, since this is the place where the other main team in the city celebrates its triumphs: Atlético de Madrid.
The Neptune Fountain shows the Roman mythology God standing on his carriage, holding his powerful trident and two water pillars rising on his sides.
El Retiro Park
The Retiro Park, Buen Retiro Park or simply El Retiro, is one of the public parks that should be included in your tour, not only for the historical value of the garden, but also for the beauty of the parks and ponds that you can find there.
It is an ideal place to relax and enjoy the gardens, plants, fountains and ponds, as well as to enjoy works of art, music and shows that take place throughout the year.
This is a list of the best places inside El Retiro Park:
- Palacio de Cristal
- Estanque Grande
- Monumento a Alfonso XII
- Jardines de Cecilio Rodriguez
- Palacio de Velazquez
- Monumento al Angel Caido
- Fuente de los Galapagos
- Paseo de las Estatuas
- Montaña Artificial
- Casita del Pescador
You can take a look at the map with the details of the park on the official website of the town hall.
In this image you can see the entrance to the El Retiro Park through the entrance next to the Puerta de Alcalá
El Retiro large pond
The photograph shows the Great Pond of Buen Retiro, along with the monument to Alfonso XII in the background, and dozens of people enjoying a boat ride in the small lake.
Viewpoint of the Monument to Alfonso XII
Behind and surrounding the statue of King Alfonso XII you can see this series of columns. It is a nice place to see the pond from the other side.
Palacio de Cristal
Undoubtedly one of the places where most people visit at the park. The architecture comprises iron and glass, and was originally created to maintain different species of vegetables brought from the Philippines. Currently, in the Crystal Palace exhibitions of the Reina Sofía Museum are shown.
This park stands out for the symmetry of the trees and bushes.
Fallen Angel Fountain
Another fountain that is considered of great importance in the park, and holds the Fallen Angel from heaven at the top and dragons at the bottom
Cecilio Rodríguez Gardens
Another of the most spectacular spots in El Retiro are the Cecilio Rodríguez Gardens. Here you can find sculptures, fountains, ponds, vines and peacocks strolling from side to side and monopolizing the attentive gaze of people when they unfurl their feathers.
Prado National Museum
If you have to choose one, and only one of the many museums in Madrid, the Prado Museum is undoubtedly the one to see, it is one of the most important and visited in the world. Inside you can find works by Goya and Velázquez to Rembrandt, Rubens and El Bosco. If you visit only one museum, it should be this one.
Antiguo Banco de Bilbao, Alcalá 16
Just like on Gran Vía street, pay close attention when you walk down Calle de Alcalá. On the old Bank of Bilbao (Alcalá 16) you will see 2 carriages drawn by 4 horses each that made the beautiful facade of this building.
You may be wondering why I included a train station in this list. Not only because it is the station with the most passenger traffic in the country, but within it you can find a tropical garden inaugurated along with AVE high-speed trains.
It is something you don’t often see inside a railway station, so if you arrive in Madrid at the Atocha station, or if you are nearby, take a few minutes to walk and take photos inside.
Day and Night Art Work – Antonio López
In another of the entrances to the railway station, you can find one of Antonio López’s best-known works, this sculpture inspired by his granddaughter who exposes the Day with our eyes open, and shows us Night with our eyes closed.
En otra de las entradas a la estación ferroviaria, se encuentra una de las obras más conocidas de Antonio López, esta escultura inspirada en su nieta que nos deja ver el Día con los ojos abiertos, y nos muestra la Noche con los ojos cerrados.
Reina Sofía National Art Museum
One of the most important museums in the city is the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, which has works by Dalí, Miró and Juan Gris, and stands out with Pablo Picasso’s masterpiece El Guernica.
Otro de los museos más importantes de la ciudad es el Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía que cuenta con obras de Dalí, Miró y Juan Gris, y se destaca con la obra maestra El Guernica de Pablo Picasso.
If you want to see more information you can visit the official website of the Reina Sofía Museum
The Moncloa lighthouse is the ideal place to see Madrid from above. At 110 meters high and for only € 3 entry fee, it let us appreciate a panoramic view of the city like no other place.
Museum of America
Beneath the Moncloa Lighthouse is the Museum of America, which houses an extensive collection of pre-Columbian, ethnographic, and colonial pieces from America.
In front of the museum, and inside the Parque del Oeste, is the monument to General Don José de San Martín, Liberator of America, and that if you are Argentine will make you feel at home for a few seconds seeing the sculpture of the Father of the Homeland that is present in so many places in Argentina.
St. Vincent Gate
The Puerta de San Vicente is a monumental door located in the Glorieta de San Vicente in Madrid, it is located under the Principe Pio Mountain and next to the train station that has the same name
Casa de Campo
Este parque enorme (más de 1700 hectáreas) está a unos pasos del centro de This huge park (more than 1700 hectares) is a few steps from the center of Madrid and inside you can find:
– Theme Park,
– Cableway (it connects Casa de Campo to Parque del Oeste),
– Sports facilities
In the image you can see the lake that allows you to canoe or rent a boat and explore its waters.
Madrid Río stretches along the Manzanares River, and offers a multitude of activities that can be done on this tour. It has a bike path that runs along the promenade: you will see many people on bikes enjoying the tour.
The ones who will undoubtedly enjoy it are the kids, since in Madrid Río there are 17 play areas for children where they can have fun playing with hammocks, slides, bridges, mazes.
Throughout Madrid Rio you can find monuments and sculptures, but as far as architecture is concerned, the Puente de Toledo (Toledo Bridge) and the Puente Pasarela de Arganzuela (Arganzuela Bridge) stand out, letting us witness the contrast between history and modernism, respectively.
The Arganzuela Bridge has become an icon of Madrid Río, and a beautiful place to take a photos. This bridge crosses the Manzanares River, is made up of 2 sections and stands out for its modern appearance.
This baroque style pedestrian bridge allows passage over the Manzanares river and is a very interesting architectural work to see. Its granite and stone structure, statues, coats of arms, fountains, ornaments and monuments, including those of the saint of Madrid, San Isidro Labrador, and his wife, Santa María de la Cabeza, make this bridge an open-air gallery.
If we cross the Toledo bridge and head towards the center of Madrid (close to the La Latina neighborhood), you will find the Puerta de Toledo.
Along with the Puerta de Alcalá, they are the arches that stand out the most in the city.
Paseo de La Castellana
The Paseo de la Castellana is an avenue in Madrid that stretches from Plaza de Colón to the Nudo Norte.
Along with the Paseo del Prado and the Paseo de Recoletos, the Castellana crosses Madrid from north to south. Along its route there are very interesting places to visit, such as the Puerta de Europa, the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium or the Cuatro Torres Business Area
The Puerta de Europa, is the place known for these two skyscrapers leaning over the Plaza de Castilla.
They are inclined about 14.3 degrees, measure about 114 meters and include 26 floors
They are popularly called Torres KIO, being promoted by the Kuwaiti company KIO. The left tower belongs to Bankia, while the right tower belongs to Realia real estate.
The Paseo de la Castellana runs under the two towers and there you can find the Plaza de Castilla transport interchange. Also on this area there are the Obelisk of La Caja or Obelisk of Calatrava and the Monument to José Calvo Sotelo
Located on the Paseo de la Castellana in the Chanmartín District, is the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, owned by Real Madrid Club de Fútbol. This stadium has received the highest distinction from UEFA. The name of the stadium was adopted in honor of the club president and architect of the stadium: Santiago Bernabéu
If you want to get to know the playing field and take a guided tour, you can take the Bernabéu Tour.
Cuatro Torres Business Area (CTBA)
Cuatro Torres Business Area (CTBA) is a business park located on Paseo de la Castellana, and currently consists of four skyscrapers that are the tallest buildings in Madrid and Spain
In the image, the Crystal Tower on the left and the Space Tower on the right.
From left to right you can see the Cespa Tower, the PwC Tower, the Crystal Tower and the Space Tower
What to do in Madrid?
Here are a series of locations where you’ll get great views of the city and an emblematic street of the capital: La Gran Vía
View from the terrace of Calle de Alcalá
Seeing Madrid from this terrace is impressive. I took this image from the roof of the Círculo de Bellas Artes and you can see the Metropolis building and the Hotel Principal in Madrid. Gran Vía street extends towards the background.
Access to this terrace costs € 4 (€ 3 if you have a youth card) and has a restaurant. The updated prices and schedules can be found on the page of the Círculo de Bellas Artes
Walk down Gran Vía street
Without a doubt, the best street to walk in Madrid. With hundreds of businesses and great commercial activity, as well as cinemas and theaters and illuminated in all its extension, you have to walk along this avenue both day and night.
If you visit the city during the holidays, you will see the street lit up and adorned with Christmas lights and signs.
View from El Corte Inglés in Callao
On the upper floor of the Shopping there are a series of bars and restaurants, some with terraces and others with panoramic views that allow you to see the city from the top. The best thing is that access to this area is free, so going up here is almost a must if you go to Madrid
New Year in Puerta del Sol
If you are in Madrid on December 31st, you must celebrate the New Year Eve at Puerta del Sol.
Make sure you get there early because when the quota of people who can access is completed, they cut off access to the Plaza
At the square you will see people wearing hats, scarves and colored lights, waiting for the chimes to sound and the clock in the square to strike 12 at night.
What to eat in Madrid?
There are a lot of places to eat in Madrid, but I would like to include some places that I liked (I’m not promoting them, I just want to recommend the ones that seemed suitable for a budget traveler).
Note: DO NOT eat Paella in the city center!, unless you want some microwave reheated rice.
San Miguel Market
The Mercado de San Miguel has an interesting amount of Spanish products and you can choose from the variety of options.
It is the Spanish McDonnals! This place specializes in offering montaditos, which are like small sandwiches, and as the name suggests, they have 100 varieties of montaditos. Something to keep in mind is that on Wednesdays and Sundays, the entire menu (all mini-sandwiches) costs 1 euro.
Going for tapas: Sidrería El Tigre
Going for some cañas and tapas is an activity that cannot be missed on your visit to the Spanish Capital. And the place I liked the most for that is ‘El Tigre’. By buying a beer they give you a plate of tapas, something common in cities like Granada, but not seen too often in Madrid, so take advantage!
And here ends the list of places to visit, what to do, what to see and where to eat something fast in Madrid. If you got till this point, it is because you are really interested in getting to know the city and I hope you can do it very soon. I can assure you that in this city you will spend some wonderful days and whatever your tastes are, you will find in Madrid what you are looking for. So, are you ready to discover Madrid? Where is the first place you dream to visit in Madrid? If you’ve been already in Madrid… what other place would you recommend to visit? Leave your comment below.