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Lying in the heart of Spain, Madrid is not only the second largest city in Europe but also a vibrant cultural center hosting state-of-the-art museums, a place of local culinary delicacies such as the famous tapas or sweet churros, the epicenter for the fiery flamenco and an inviting urban playground that won’t let you get bored for a minute.

Deciding the best things to do in Madrid may certainly be a challenge as you have so many to choose from. But don’t worry, we are here to help. 

Here are the 30 best things to do in Madrid and to spice it up, we also added in a few more elusive spots for the experienced traveler. 

1. Roam the halls of the Royal Palace

Royal Palace

Visit the impressive and grandiose Royal Palace. The 18th-century building was inspired by Bernini’s sketches for the Louvre and has over 3000 rooms. Explore the royal art collections, the throne room, and the royal armory, then walk around the Campo Del Moro Gardens just next to the palace.

2. Cheer for your favorite football team at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium 

Santiago Bernabéu Stadium

Spain is the home of some of the best football teams in the world. Even those not really into the sport must have heard at least a few times about Spain’s Real Madrid and Barcelona. But, careful there not to ruffle some feathers – these two are actually arch rivals and their supporters might get you into some heated arguments.

The Bernabéu Stadium, the second largest in Spain – with a seating capacity of just over 81,000, it’s actually the home of Real Madrid football club. If you are a football fan or if you are visiting with one, make sure not to miss a game in this great venue.

3. Get to check all your pit stops with hop-on hop-off bus tours

If you are keen to visit all the spots on your very long attractions list, the hop-on hop-off tours will come in handy. Book a ticket and get on this sightseeing express. The cheapest ticket covers over 35 stops with an audio guide in 14 languages.

4. Quench your thirst for art at Prado Museum

Prado National Museum

Prado Museum, which opened its doors for the first time in 1819, is home to almost 20,000 artworks signed by names such as Goya, El Greco, and Titian. The collections at Prado are not only the finest in Spain but among the best in Europe, including the best works from Spanish, Italian, and Flemish artists from the 14th to the late 19th century.

Good to know: Before visiting the museum, remember to book a skip-the-line ticket online to save some time and avoid the long queues. Once inside you can benefit from the guided tours as most of them are included in the price of the skip-the-line ticket.

5. Sightsee on a Bike

Who said sightseeing should wear your feet out? Rent a bike for the price of as little as 5 euros and make your way around the city. Either by yourself, with friends, or on a guided bike tour, this is a great way to have a memorable experience.

6. Take a selfie with top celebrities at the Wax Museum

Photobomb Brad Pitt or sit next to Cervantes in Madrid’s Wax Museum. It hosts over 450 figures from historical to fictional, contemporary personalities or famous athletes, sprawled over two floors totaling 2,000 square meters surface. They have even added a Train of terror and a 3D projection of the history of Spain. Such a rich and diverse visit will have something in store for the whole family.

7. Have a coffee in Madrid Rio Park

Río Park

Stroll around the alleys of Rio Park. If you come with the kids they will get to explore 17 play areas here with swings made from natural materials. It is also a place grown-ups may equally enjoy as it usually hosts exhibitions, music festivals or theater plays. 

Good to know: You can have a drink at the new and colorful Café Naves and enjoy the live musical performance.

8. Visit the Naval Museum 

Naval Museum

Spain is a country with a long and rich naval history, that dominated the seas for three centuries until losing its empire at the beginning of the 19th century. Discover the extensive ethnographic collections including artifacts from the 15th century to the present day and dive deep into the history of the Spanish Empire and the vessels that helped bring it to the peak of its might.

9. Be amazed by the unusual Atocha train station 

Atocha Station

Atocha train station is the first major train station built in Madrid. It is also the largest train station in the country, its beautiful glass and steel structure sheltering inside a beautiful tropical garden. Madrid’s ‘Iron Heart’ dates back to the 19th century and it’s probably one of (if not the) most beautiful railway stations.

Good to know: From Atocha, you can jump on the Cervantes train and follow in the footsteps of the author of Don Quixote, to Alcalá de Henares where he was born.

10. See Madrid from above in a hot air balloon 

Give yourself a most exhilarating experience and look down on Madrid from sky high. Hop in a hot air balloon and enjoy the bird-eye view during an over 3-hour ride. This adventure might be a bit pricey but it will definitely be one you will unlikely forget. 

11. Wander through Guadarrama National Park on horseback

Sierra de Guadarrama is just 30 minutes away from Madrid. Located in the center of the Iberian Peninsula, it offers a spectacular display of natural beauty. Here you can take guided tours on the saddle and horse ride through astonishing mountain scenery.

12. Delight your palette at a Tapas and wine tour

Starting out as a most successful marketing trick to drive alcohol sales, the tapas themselves became a successful icon for Spain. 

Fun fact: The word ‘tapas’ comes from the Spanish word meaning ‘to cover.’ The first tapas were just thin bread slices used to cover the sherry glasses to protect their content from the stray insect. Soon bartenders realized that coupled with some chorizo, the snack made their clients thirsty and ready to drink some more. And that’s how the tapas were born. Or so the story goes.

Discover one of the staple dishes of Spanish cuisine and taste delicious tapas like the Madrileños. Book a tour and let your guide take you to the most popular restaurants where you’ll learn about local ingredients over a glass of wine.

13. Take pictures from the Faro de Moncloa

Faro de Moncloa

Previously a transmission tower, Faro de Moncloa serves now as an observation tower that offers the best panoramic views over Madrid. It was designed in 1992, by Salvador Pérez on the occasion of Madrid’s designation as the European Capital of Culture.

Take in the city’s skyline from 92 meters high. Even taking the elevator is quite the experience as the lift rises to the top in just 50 seconds. 

14. Question your perception at the Museum of Illusions

Nothing is what it seems at the Museum of Illusions. 

Enter a space that plays tricks on your senses and teaches you that sometimes you shouldn’t believe your eyes. Have fun in the Rotated Room or the Vortex Tunnel and see yourself for the first time as others see you in the True Mirror.

15. Enjoy a Flamenco Show

Fundación Juan March

Where else to enjoy the fiery dance of flamenco if not in the heart of Spain? Madrid offers excellent flamenco shows, so save a seat at one of the Tablaos and don’t miss an evening of music and dance.

16. Visit the Zoo Aquarium

For adults and children alike the Zoo Aquarium promises to keep you busy for at least a few hours. The Zoo takes up over 22 acres of land and is the home of 4,000 animals of 500 different species from all over the world. So whether you want to see the giant pandas or the scary sharks or just admire the birds, you will not be disappointed.

17. Let go down a waterslide in Aquopolis water park

Don’t sizzle in the sun on a hot day in Madrid! Take the bus and make a splash in the pools at Aquopolis. One of the largest water parks in Madrid, only 40 km away from the city it’s the best way to have some fun and cool down.

18. Shop away in Las Rozas Village

Save more than a few cents on the buck in this very chic commercial center. Here you will find clothing and décor items by top international brands at excellent discount prices. Las Rozas Village offers a lovely shopping experience, with plenty of spots where you can stop and rest, over 20 restaurants and playgrounds for the younger shoppers. 

19. Dive into nature at Faunia Nature Park

Faunia Nature Park

Immerse yourself in nature at Faunia Nature Park. Home to thousands of species, this biodiversity park is split into 15 themed indoor and outdoor areas, ready for you to explore. Remember to wear comfy shoes – the huge nature park covers 14 hectares and easily houses over 4,000 animals on its grounds.

20. Stroll around Plaza Mayor 

Plaza Mayor, once the center of the old town, is one of the staple squares of Madrid. Dating to the 17th century, its cobblestones were witness to a rich history – it served as a marketplace, a bullfighting ring, a space for public executions and trials during the Inquisition, and also a setting for crowning ceremonies. Its building survived three fires and was rebuilt and brought to its present form during the 19th century.

Walk around the wide square and you might come across open air performances and human statues. 

21. Discover the tastes of Madrid in San Miguel Market

Now over 100 years old and one of the most popular markets in the world, San Miguel is an exquisite gourmet market where you can enjoy a wide range of fresh tapas as well as ingredients from across the Iberic Peninsula. 

The market was closed for 9 months during the pandemic, but now is open again to visitors and added four new stands offering local specialty meats, tortillas, and various cheeses.

22. Visit a piece of Egypt at the Temple of Debod

Temple of Debod

The Temple of Debod is probably the most unlikely venue you would expect to find in Madrid – a real Egyptian temple. Dismantled and rebuilt in the center of Madrid, it dates to the 2nd century BC and was gifted to Spain by the Egyptian government. 

23. An evening of music at the National Music Auditorium

For the music aficionados, booking a ticket at the Music Auditorium should make for a charming evening. Home to the Spanish National Orchestra and Choir, the auditorium has two concert rooms – a symphonic hall and a chamber music hall.

Take your seat and have an enchanting musical siesta.

24. Travel through history at the Railway Museum

Let yourself be taken through the history of train travel in Madrid. The Railway Museum hosts one of the largest railroad collections in Europe. With its beautiful examples of old trains and carriages, it is a must-see for all train enthusiasts.

25. Have a great day in the park with Picnic Madrid

You just want to enjoy the sun in the park and a picnic might be in order, but can’t bother with all the prepping? There is Picnic-Madrid! Just order a picnic to your taste and they will deliver it wherever you want. Now all you have to do is pick your spot and enjoy the beautiful Madrid setting.

26. Delight your taste buds with chocolate churros at Chocolatería San Ginés

Churros are another delicious Spanish treat you should not miss and San Ginés is probably the best place to try them. San Ginés is famous for its creamy hot chocolate paired with fresh churros. Make sure you don’t miss this decadent delight.

27. Stop at Plaza de Cibeles

Plaza de Cibeles is one of the most iconic sites in Madrid, guarded by the magnificent Palacio de Cibeles which now serves as the Town hall. At its center lies a beautiful neo-classical marble sculpture in the middle of a fountain that is now one of the symbols of Madrid. 

28. Enjoy the view from the rooftop terrace at the Círculo de Bellas Artes

Walking down Alcalá street in Madrid near Círculo de Bellas Artes

The terrace at the top of Círculo de Bellas Artes offers a spectacular view over the city. The Círculo de Bellas Artes is an important center for the protection of the Fine Arts. To go to the terrace, just take the lift at the building’s reception. 

29. Explore a world of imagination at Ikono

Immerse yourself in the interactive gallery at Ikono. This journey through the hands-on gallery will take you through modern art decorated rooms that will stimulate your sight, touch, and smell. This Instagram-worthy location is just what you need to brighten up your posts and escape from the mundane.

Good to know: They even offer professional photographs included in the price of your ticket. 

The gallery can be found near the Reina Sofia Museum. Remember to make online reservations in order to skip the line. 

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

30. Get you espadrilles at Casa Hernanz

Espadrilles are not the only shoes you will find here. Casa Hernanz opened shop in mid 19th century and since then, has been making traditionally crafted shoes and other home items. This lovely family business, now carried on for 6 generations, will greet you in their crafty, DIY-looking shop close to Plaza de Puerta Cerrada. Stop by for some authentic local gifts for friends and family or a comfy souvenir for yourself.

Curious about some hidden gems?

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Check out the five surprise locations below, recommended by Framey: