Madrid as the Spanish capital offers many Madrid sightseeing and is considered a top travel location for a city break in Europe. Even though Madrid is not located by the sea, you can experience some travel tips and Madrid sightseeing as a vacationer. Madrid sightseeing is best experienced in autumn and spring.
Madrid facts and travel tips
The metropolis of Madrid is the largest European metropolis with about seven million inhabitants. With about three million inhabitants, the city of Madrid is behind London and Berlin. I have also compiled my top travel tips of London sightseeing and Berlin sightseeing for you. Madrileneans love your city with all your squares, museums, streets and Madrid sightseeing at any time of the year.
The easiest connection to Madrid for a city trip is of course the plane. With just two hours of flight time, the route is also good for a long weekend. Many airlines fly the route several times a day, from all major German airports. Cheap flights to Madrid can often be found with Iberia and Vueling, with a little luck now and then also with Lufthansa.
Personally, when I think back to Madrid, the first thing that comes to mind is tapas. You can get the little appetizers in Spain in every tapas bar and next to wine in bodegas. Especially in Madrid I ate many different tapas and also found my personal favorites as a recommendation.
I’ll come back to the best tapas in Madrid later, but first I’ll tell you my top 10 travel tips and Madrid sightseeing in Spain. The next city trip and weekend trip, as well as city break may already be waiting for you.
Top 10 Madrid sightseeing attractions
The Royal Palace is the residence of the Spanish royal family and successor palace to the Real Sitio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial, which was opened back in 1584 and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the 18th century, a Moorish Alcazar castle stood on the site of the Palacio Real in Madrid. In 1739 this burned down, so that a new building was necessary for the Spanish kings. In 1764, the new palace was ready for occupation. Today, the Spanish royal family lives in the more modest Zarzuela Palace in Madrid. The ceremonial halls of the Palacio Real are now only used for representational purposes and state receptions. In the Madrid City Palace there is a chapel with an organ.
In front of the palace is a courtyard of honor. The square courtyard can be seen through the Puerta del Príncipe. Parts of the city castle can be visited for an entrance fee of EUR 10,00. The castle is surrounded by a beautiful green area – the baroque “Jardines del Campo del Moro” with the “Sabatini Gardens”. One of the most important Madrid sightseeing of the Spanish capital.
Plaza Mayor Madrid
In the 15th century the main market was held at the Plaza Mayor. In 1619 the square was finished but there were three big fires. In 1848 an equestrian statue was erected in honor of Philip III in the center of the square. During its existence, the rectangular square (129 meters x 94 meters) hosted markets, bullfights, soccer matches, theater performances and public exhibitions.
From 237 balconies of the four-story building had a perfect view of the action. In the arcade, many stores have settled. A Christmas market has been held here since 1860. A place with great tradition and therefore a place among my top 10 Madrid sightseeing.
Puerta del Sol
One of the most famous squares is Puerta del Sol in Madrid. Not far from the Plaza Mayor, you can find this eye-catching semi-circular square. The old post office “Casa de Correos” now houses the seat of government of the “Comunidad de Madrid” (Autonomous Community of Madrid).
On the ground in front of the building is the zero kilometer stone. It symbolizes the six main national roads that run from this point throughout Spain. The statue “Oso y el Madroño”, showing a bear and a strawberry tree (Antonio Navarro Santa Fe) can be found next to King Charles III as a statue in the square.
The clock tower of the Casa de Correos becomes especially important on New Year’s Eve. Here the Madrileneans gather to traditionally eat “las 12 uvas” 12 lucky grapes – one at each stroke of the bell. Since 1962, this place has been televised on New Year’s Eve.
Plaza de Cibeles
A square in the Madrid sightseeing that many may know more from the championship celebrations of soccer club Real Madrid. On the square stands since 1782 the fountain “Fuente de Cibeles” (named after goddess Kybele for agriculture and fertility). The streets Calle Alcalá, Paseo de Recoletos and Paseo del Prado meet at this square. Until 1900 the square was called Plaza de Madrid, then Plaza de Castelar.
Gran Via Madrid
Near Plaza de Cibeles begins one of the most important streets of Madrid – Gran Via. Besides many stores, you can find on it the Metropolis House, the Telefónica Tower, the Plaza del Callao and a little downhill the Plaza de España. Although the street has had many different names since 1910, it has now been called “Gran Via”, which means “big street”, since 1981.
The Metropolis House with its dome is striking. It was built in 1910 as the headquarters of a Spanish insurance company (La Unión y el Fénix). At that time, there was a statue of a phoenix on the dome. In 1972, another insurance company acquired the building and placed a statue of Victoria on the dome.
Telefónica Building (Edificio Telefónica)
The Telefónica Building (Edificio Telefónica) has a prominent spire and was inspired by the architectural style in Manhattan. In 1930, the 89 meter high building was opened. The clock on the building is blue because of the Telefonica color.
Plaza del Callao
In the Plaza del Callao you can find the Capitol Cinema on Gran Via. Behind the famous Schweppes advertisement is now the Vincci Hotel. From the roof terrace you have a fantastic view over the Gran Via and the Madrid sightseeing.
Plaza de España
On the Plaza de España stands a striking monument, the Cervantes Monument. To the north of Gran Via. “Edificio España” (opened in 1953, 117 meters high) and the “Torre de Madrid” (opened in 1957, 142 meters high) stands right here.
So if you like shopping, you’ll want to check out Gran Via. Opening hours are Mon-Sat from 10.00-22.00 (in summer only until 21.00) – every first Sunday of the month the stores are also open, often generally on Sunday.
The most famous department store chain in Madrid is called “El Corte Inglés”. Zara and Mango are usually cheaper in Spain than in Germany. The Gran Via is for me one of the top 10 Madrid sightseeing. Perfect for a city trip with shopping.
Mercado de San Miguel
A covered Spanish market next to the Plaza Mayor that invites you to eat the fresh produce directly. In 1916, the market hall was completed with a lot of iron, following the example of the Halles de Paris at that time. Today, it is modeled on “La Boqueria in Barcelona” and offers delicacies and seasonal dishes.
Only through high-quality products can one prevail against the supermarket chains. The market is open from 10-24 o’clock – Thu, Fri and Sat even until 2 o’clock at night. One of the most interesting markets in Madrid and therefore in my top 10 Madrid sightseeing and travel tips. Tip: if you want to use the public toilets here, you must be able to show your receipt from market shopping.
Estadio Santiago Bernabeu
On the Paseo de la Castellana just before the eye-catching Puerta de Europa towers (bank building and real estate building) you will find the famous Estadio Santiago Bernabeu. The home stadium of the Real Madrid soccer team seats 81,044 spectators. Named after Santiago Bernabeu, who played soccer for Real Madrid as a 14 year old boy and later was the coach and president of Real Madrid. In 1947 the stadium was opened as “Nuevo Estadio Chamartín”.
In 1998, before the start of the UEFA Champions League semifinal match (Real Madrid vs. Borussia Dortmund), a goal broke down. A 70-minute delay went down in television history. On non-match days, you can visit the stadium, walk through the dressing rooms and even take a seat on the coaches’ benches (Tour Bernabeu entrance fee EUR 19.00).
By 2018, the stadium will be transformed. A closable roof, a 360-degree video screen and an LED shell according to the Allianz Arena in Munich is to be created. For soccer fans a top sightseeing in Madrid and a popular travel tip for city trips to Madrid.
The “Santa María la Real de La Almudena” is a Roman Catholic cathedral located at the Palacio Real. It was not until 1993 that this citadel was completed according to original plans from the 16th century. Pope John Paul II consecrated the church, which is also the Episcopal Church of the Archdiocese of Madrid. The external appearance of the church is neoclassical and baroque. The interior is neo-Gothic. In 2004, the then Crown Prince Felipe (now King of Spain and Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano were married here.
Madrid Museum – Madrid sightseeing
In Madrid there are not only many sightseeing to see in the city and on the way during the city trip, but also in many different museums. Especially in rainy weather in Madrid or even if it is too hot in the summer, a museum is a great change. With pleasure I show you a selection of the interesting museums in Madrid.
Museo del Prado
An art museum – opened in 1818 on the model of the Louvre it contains today 3,000 paintings (among others Botticelli, Caravaggio, Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt), 5,000 drawings, 2,000 prints, 1,000 coins and medals, 2,000 art objects and 700 sculptures. (Entrance fee EUR 14,00)
Museo Reina Sofia
An art museum, art gallery and library – inaugurated by Queen Sofia in 1992 – works by Joan Miró, Juan Gris, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, among others – highlight is Picasso’s “Guernica”. It shows a German air raid of 1937 (entrance fee EUR 8,00).
An art museum – in 1992 the exhibition of the painting collection was opened. It shows the art collection of Heinrich Thyssen and son Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon. (Entrance fee EUR 10,00 or EUR 18,00). Another museum with paintings from the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection can also be found in Malaga, Andalusia.
An art collection – in 1932, the museum of the works of painter Joaquín Sorolla was opened in his former villa as a Madrid sightseeing option. (entrance fee EUR 3,00)
Museo Arqueologico Nacional Madrid (MAN)
An archeology museum – opened in 1867, it features historical finds from the Iberian Peninsula. Here you can also find an Egyptian, Roman, Islamic and Greek collection, the famous sculpture “Dama de Elche” (Iberian bust), a replica of the Altamira cave (rock painting), a total of 13,000 exhibits with numismatics section where 300,000 coins can be seen. (entrance fee EUR 3,00)
Former private collection of art and artifacts – collected by Enrique de Aguilera y Gamboa – in 1944 the pompous museum was opened, which has similarities with Museo Lázaro Galdiano. (entrance fee EUR 3,00)
Museo de America
A Museum of America – In 1941 opened the museum with archaeology and ethnography of the American continent. 25,000 objects await the visitor. (entrance fee EUR 3,00) Of course, there are many more museums in Madrid and there is no museum you should not visit. If time permits during your city break, feel free to include a museum in your Madrid sightseeing to be visited.
Madrid Parks – Madrid Sightseeing
Especially in the summer, sometimes you long for the green spaces in Madrid. Madrid has some beautiful gardens and parks that can be considered Madrid sightseeing and Madrid travel tips.
Parque del Retiro (Jardines del Buen Retiro)
At the Plaza de la Independencia is the Puerta de Alcalá – here begins the park, on whose lake you can go boating. At the Glass Palace you can often listen to a guitar player.
Jardines de Sabatini
A baroque garden at the royal palace from which one has a view to the park Casa de Campo up to the mountains of the Guadarrama mountains.
Real Jardin Botanico (Royal Botanical Garden)
For an entrance fee of EUR 3.00 you can visit the botanical garden of Madrid. Created since 1744, the garden has more than 30,000 plants and a bonsai collection worth seeing.
Madrid Zoo Aquarium
In 1770 the zoo of Madrid opened. For an entrance fee of this Madrid sightseeing of EUR 22.90 you can observe today 6,000 animals and 500 different species.
Parque Warner Madrid
In 2002, the Warner Brothers theme park opened with many roller coasters. The entrance fee to the park, located just outside Madrid, is EUR 39.00.
Besides the parks, many fountains in the city offer a refreshing feeling. If you don’t want to party with Real Madrid at the fountain, you might like the Fuente de Neptuno (Neptune Fountain) at the Plaza de Canovas del Castillo better. This fountain was built at the end of the 18th century and is considered a meeting place for the supporters of the soccer club Atletico Madrid.
Conclusion – Madrid sightseeing top 10
The Spanish capital offers with its Madrid sightseeing and many shopping opportunities everything you could wish for a city weekend and a city break in a Spanish city. Maybe my travel tips will help a little to get an impression of the beautiful Spanish city in advance. Of course, you can also just drift through the city.
After a busy day, you can relax in a traditional Arab hammam, such as the Hammam El Andalus (entrance fee € 30.00). Alternatively, you can simply drink a hot chocolate and eat churros with it – Madrileneans prefer to eat churros at “Chocolateria San Gines” in Pasadizo San Ginés, 5. You can get the oldest sweets at “La Violeta” in Plaza de Canalejas, 6.
At Christmas time in Madrid you will not only notice beautiful lighting, but also like Christmas lottery. This is a tradition that is best explained to you by a local Madrilenian. I would travel to Madrid again at any time and like to revisit my Madrid sightseeing. Especially the markets of Madrid have done it to me.
Last but not least, my promised favorite tapas place in Madrid – “Mallorca” at C. Velázquez, 57 – fair prices and really delicious. You can also find delicious souvenirs here. Traditionally, you bring home turron (a sweet honey-almond dish). I look forward to your additions and travel tips for me and my next city trip to Madrid. Maybe I don’t know all the important Madrid sightseeing yet.