A powerhouse of Spanish life and culture, Madrid is not the kind of city that immediately grabs you as beautiful or spectacular as many other European capitals. But after a few days in Madrid, you will appreciate the sophisticated, fun, and impressive culture of Spain’s capital city.
And between these exciting experiences is one of Spain’s greatest pleasures – eating! Madrid has inexpensive and plentiful restaurants where tapas-hopping is a fun start to your night. Seafood is everywhere and bars and nightclubs are just as ubiquitous.
As a large and dense city, it’s best to get your bearings by starting at the heart of the city, Puerta del Sol, and exploring outwards, visiting the main Plazas such as Plaza de las Descalazas, Plaza Mayor, Plaza de la Villa, and the Plaza de Oriente.
Along the way, you’ll pass historical churches (Iglesias), palaces, the Town Hall, magnificent buildings from the Middle Ages, an aqueduct, and wonderful markets.
Then it’s time to hit the museums, the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, the Museo del Prado, or for modern art lovers, the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia.
The parks and markets, including the weekly flea market, and the spectacular and very very late nightlife, together make Madrid a whirlwind of all-day and frenetic all-night activities that delight all the senses!
Spain has a reputation for partying late into the night, and it’s easy to see why: the city is packed with bars, clubs and live music venues that stay open until dawn. The capital’s club scene is centred on Calle Tetuán, which runs from Plaza de España in the south of the city right up to Plaza Mayor.
While Seville might be the home of Flamenco, Madrid offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy the national dance from getting involved and hitting the dance floor to watching the professional in action.
Madrid also offers some of Spain’s best eating with dinner at 9 pm is the norm. Enjoy streets lined with tapas bars like Calle de Jesus and Calle Cava Baja perfect for a tapas crawl or if you prefer a more traditional dining affair, head to the world’s oldest restaurant, Botin, where the likes of Hemmingway dined and Goya supposedly worked.
For those ready to big splurge, Madrid’s only 3 Michelin star restaurant DiverXO, is a gastronomy experience you will likely never forget.
Madrid offers accommodation for every budget, from luxury hotels to fun modern hostels. There are also plenty of apartments available if you want to live like a local.
You’ll find at all price ranges that many of the best places to stay in Madrid are within walking distance of Plaza Mayor. There are also plenty of good choices close to the Puerta de Alcalá. Some of the most luxurious hotels in Madrid are found in the area around the Prado Museum.
Madrid’s best neighborhoods for travelers on a budget include Chueca, Lavapiés, and Malasana. The city center has some great options too, including the area surrounding Atocha Station and Plaza del Oriente.
Getting around Madrid is easy with the city center served by 3 metro lines and local buses. An electric bus that runs between the airport and Atocha and Toledo. Tickets are €1.50, you can also buy a 10-ride ticket.
An airport transfer can be the best choice after a long flight, alternatively, there is a flat rate for taxis from the airport (€30).
The average time travelers spend in Madrid is between two days and one week, and you will find the best Madrid itineraries on this page. The city also makes a great base for day trips to the surrounding regions with fast intercity trains making travel times short.
Where to go next
Continue your holiday travels in Spain. After Madrid, the most popular destinations are Barcelona, Granada, and Córdoba.