Destination guide: Madrid, Spain

Madrid is the capital of Spain (Europe) and is in the middle of the Iberian Peninsula.

To get to know this city, you can visit El Retiro Park, the Temple of Debod, the Sabatini Gardens, the Capricho Park, the Main Square, the Royal Palace (a baroque castle made of stone and strategically located on the top of a cliff) and the Cibeles Fountain (a sculpture representing the Romen goddess Cibeles), as well as many other attractions.

Purchase your flights to Madrid and discover all of Spain’s culture, history and traditions.

  • Madrid - Things to do

    Sights

    Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

    Home to Picasso’s Guernica, arguably Spain’s single-most famous artwork, and a host of other important Spanish artists, the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía is Madrid’s premier collection of contemporary art. The collection principally spans the 20th century up to the 1980s. In addition to Picasso’s Guernica, which is worth the admission fee on its own, the work of the Madrid-born Juan Gris (1887–1927) or Georges Braque (1882–1963) may appeal.

    The work of Joan Miró (1893–1983) is defined by often delightfully bright primary colours, but watch out also for a handful of his equally odd sculptures; his paintings became a symbol of the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. The Reina Sofía is also home to 20 or so canvases by Salvador Dalí, of which the most famous is perhaps the surrealist extravaganza that is El Gran Masturbador (1929).

    If you can tear yourself away from the big names, the Reina Sofía offers a terrific opportunity to learn more about sometimes lesser-known 20th-century Spanish artists. Of the sculptors, watch in particular for Pablo Gargallo (1881–1934), whose work in bronze includes a bust of Picasso, and the renowned Basque sculptors Jorge Oteiza (1908–2003) and Eduardo Chillida (1924–2002).

    Latitude: 40.4081162400000 / Longitude: -3.6945026140000
    Sub-Type: Art Gallery
    Telephone Number: +34 91 774 10 00
    Opening Hours: 10am-9pm Mon & Wed-Sat, 10am-2.30pm Sun
    Pricing: adult/student, under 18yr & over 65yr €6/free, free to all Sun, 7-9pm Mon & Wed-Fri, 2.30-9pm Sat, audioguide adult/student €4/3
    Address: Calle de Santa Isabel 52
    Transportation Type: underground rail
    Details: Atocha
    Website: www.museoreinasofia.es

    Museo del Prado

    This is one of the premier art galleries in the world. The more than 7000 paintings held in the Museo del Prado’s collection (although only around 1500 are currently on display) are like a window on the historical vagaries of the Spanish soul, at once grand and imperious in the royal paintings of Velázquez, darkly tumultuous in Las Pinturas Negras (the Black Paintings) of Goya and outward-looking with sophisticated works of art from all across Europe.

    Spend as long as you can at the Prado or, better still, plan to make a couple of visits – it can be a little overwhelming if you try to absorb it all at once.

    Entrance to the Prado is via the eastern Puerta de los Jerónimos or northern Puerta de Goya. Either way tickets must first be purchased from the ticket office at the northern end of the building.

    Latitude: 40.4137220100000 / Longitude: -3.6924127080000
    Sub-Type: Art Gallery
    Telephone Number: +34 91 330 28 00
    Opening Hours: 9am-8pm Tue-Sun
    Pricing: adult/under 18yr & EU senior over 65yr €8/free, free to all 6-8pm Tue-Sat & 5-8pm Sun, audioguide €3.50
    Address: Paseo del Prado
    Transportation
    Type: underground rail
    Details
    : Banco de España
    Email: museo.nacional@prado.mcu.es
    Website: www.museodelprado.es

    Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

    One of the most extraordinary private collections of predominantly European art in the world, the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza is a worthy member of Madrid’s ‘Golden Triangle’ of art. Where the Museo del Prado or Centro de Arte Reina Sofía enable you to study the body of work of a particular artist in depth, the Thyssen is a place to immerse yourself in a breathtaking breadth of artistic styles.

    Most of the big names are here, sometimes with just a single painting, but the Thyssens’ gift to Madrid and the art-loving public is to have them all under one roof. Not surprisingly, it often ends up being many visitors’ favourite Madrid art gallery.

    Latitude: 40.4159874800000 / Longitude: -3.6950325970000
    Sub-Type: Art Gallery
    Telephone Number: +34 91 369 01 51
    Opening Hours: 10am-7pm Tue-Sun
    Pricing: adult/under 12yr €8/free, audioguide €5
    Address: Paseo del Prado 8
    Transportation Type: underground rail
    Details: Banco de España
    Website: www.museothyssen.org

    Parque del Buen Retiro

    The splendid gardens of El Retiro are littered with marble monuments, landscaped lawns, the occasional elegant building and abundant greenery. It’s quiet and contemplative during the week, but comes to life on weekends. Put simply, this is one of our favourite places in Madrid. Laid out in the 17th century by Felipe IV as the preserve of kings, queens and their intimates, the park was opened to the public in 1868 and ever since, whenever the weather’s fine and on weekends in particular, madrileños from all across the city gather here to stroll, read the Sunday papers in the shade, take a boat ride or nurse a cool drink at the numerous outdoor terrazas.

    Latitude: 40.4144443600000 / Longitude: -3.6881814090000
    Sub-Type: Public Gardens
    Opening Hours: 6am-midnight May-Sep, 6am-11pm Oct-Apr
    Transportation Type: underground rail
    Details: Retiro, Príncipe de Vergara, Ibiza or Atocha

    Plaza Mayor

    Designed in 1619 by Juan Gómez de Mora, the stunningly beautiful Plaza Mayor is a highlight of any visit to Madrid. The grandeur of its buildings is one thing, but this is a living, breathing entity, from the outdoor tables of the terrazas to the students strewn across the cobblestones on a sunny day. The plaza’s first public ceremony was the beatification of San Isidro Labrador, Madrid’s patron saint.

    Thereafter, bullfights watched by 50,000 spectators were a recurring spectacle until 1878, while the autos-da-fé (the ritual condemnation of heretics) of the Spanish Inquisition also took place here. Fire largely destroyed the square in 1790, but it was rebuilt and became an important market and hub of city life. Today, the uniformly ochre-tinted apartments with wrought-iron balconies are offset by the exquisite frescoes of the 17th-century Real Casa de la Panadería (Royal Bakery); the present frescoes were added in 1992.

    Latitude: 40.4155790600000 / Longitude: -3.7072420120000
    Sub-Type: Square
    Transportation Type: underground rail Details: Sol

    Shop

    Antigua Casa Talavera

    The extraordinary tiled facade of this wonderful old shop conceals an Aladdin’s cave of ceramics from all over Spain. This is not the mass-produced stuff aimed at the tourist market, but comes from the small family potters of Andalucía and Toledo, and ranges from the decorative (tiles) to the useful (plates, jugs and other kitchen items).

    Latitude: 40.4208813800000 / Longitude: -3.7088222080000
    Sub-Type: Traditional ceramics
    Telephone Number: +34 91 547 34 17
    Opening Hours: 10am-1.30pm & 5-8pm Mon-Fri, 10am-1.30pm Sat
    Address: Calle de Isabel la Católica 2
    Transportation Type: underground rail
    Details: Santo Domingo

    El Rastro

    El Rastro, Europe’s largest flea market, is a Madrid institution. It’s been an open-air market for half a millennium. The madness begins at Plaza de Cascorro and the maze of streets branching off it. Cheap clothes, luggage, antiques, old photos of Madrid, old flamenco records, faux designer purses, grungy T-shirts, household goods and electronics are the main fare, but for every 10 pieces of junk, there’s a real gem waiting to be found. A word of warning: pickpockets love El Rastro as much as everyone else.

    Latitude: 40.4090194100000 / Longitude: -3.7065768240000
    Sub-Type
    : Flea Market
    Opening Hours: 8am-3pm Sun
    Address: Calle de la Ribera de Curtidores
    Transportation Type: underground rail
    Details: La Latina

    Mercado de Fuencarral

    Madrid’s home of alternative club-cool is still going strong, revelling in its reverse snobbery. With shops like Fuck, Ugly Shop and Black Kiss, it’s funky, grungy and filled to the rafters with torn T-shirts and more black leather and silver studs than you’ll ever need. This is a Madrid icon and when it was threatened with closure in 2008, there was nearly an uprising.

    Latitude: 40.4234043700000 / Longitude: -3.7008656450000
    Sub-Type: Clothing
    Telephone Number: +34 91 521 41 52
    Opening Hours: 11am-9pm Mon-Sat
    Address: Calle de Fuencarral 45
    Transportation Type: underground rail
    Details: Tribunal

    Eat

    Almendro 13

    Almendro 13 is famous for quality rather than frilly elaborations, with cured meats, cheeses, tortillas and huevos rotos (literally, ‘broken eggs’) the house specialties.

    Latitude: 40.4126259000000 / Longitude: -3.7099130400000
    Sub-Type: Tapas
    Telephone Number: +34 91 365 42 52
    Opening Hours: 1-4pm & 7.30pm-12.30am Mon-Fri, 1-5pm & 8pm-1am Sat & Sun
    Pricing
    : meals €15-20
    Price Range: Moderate
    Address: Calle del Almendro 13
    Transportation Type: underground rail
    Details
    : La Latina

    Restaurante Sobrino de Botín

    This is the oldest restaurant in the world (1725), which also appears in many novels about Madrid, most notably Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. The secret of its staying power is fine cochinillo (suckling pig; €22.90) and cordero asado (roast lamb; €22.90) cooked in wood-fired ovens. Eating in the vaulted cellar is a treat.

    Latitude: 40.4140847600000 / Longitude: -3.7080145700000
    Sub-Type: Roast Meats
    Telephone Number: +34 91 366 42 17
    Opening Hours: 1-4pm & 8pm-midnight
    Pricing: meals €40-45
    Price Range: Moderate
    Address
    : Calle de los Cuchilleros 17
    Transportation Type: underground rail
    Details: La Latina or Sol
    Website: www.botin.es

    Santceloni

    The Michelin-starred Santceloni is one of Madrid’s best restaurants, with luxury decor that’s the work of star interior designer Pascual Ortega, and nouvelle cuisine from the kitchen of master Catalan chef Santi Santamaría. Each dish is an exquisite work of art and the menu changes with the seasons, but we’d recommend one of the set menús gastronómicos to really sample the breadth of surprising tastes on offer.

    Latitude: 40.4387909900000 / Longitude: -3.6916741010000
    Sub-Type:
    Catalan
    Telephone Number: +34 91 210 88 40
    Opening Hours: lunch & dinner Mon-Fri, dinner Sat
    Pricing: meals from €125, set menús €132-165
    Price Range: High
    Address: Paseo de la Castellana 57
    Transportation Type: underground rail
    Details
    : Gregorio Marañón
    Website: www.restaurantesantceloni.com

    Entertainment

    Café Belén

    Café Belén is cool in all the right places – lounge and chill-out music, dim lighting, a great range of drinks (the mojitos are especially good) and a low-key crowd that’s the height of casual sophistication.

    Latitude: 40.4243412800000 / Longitude: -3.6966163150000
    Sub-Type: Chill-Out Bar
    Telephone Number: +34 91 308 27 47
    Opening Hours: 3.30pm-3am
    Address: Calle de Belén 5
    Transportation Type: underground rail
    Details
    : Chueca

    Cardamomo

    One of the spiritual homes of flamenco in Madrid, Cardamomo is a dark, smoky bar that draws a knowledgeable crowd. It has lost a little atmosphere after a recent change of owner, but the flamenco is top-notch and there are nightly shows at 10pm.

    Latitude: 40.4155027800000 / Longitude: -3.6994709680000
    Sub-Type: Flamenco
    Telephone Number: +34 91 369 07 57
    Opening Hours: 9pm-3.30am
    Pricing
    : admission €25
    Address: Calle de Echegaray 15
    Transportation
    Type: underground rail
    Details: Sevilla
    Website: www.cardamomo.es

    Kabokla

    Run by Brazilians and dedicated to all things Brazilian, Kabokla is terrific. Live Brazilian groups play some nights from around 10pm (from percussion to samba and cover bands playing Chico Buarque). When there’s no live music, the DJ gets the crowd dancing. It also serves Madrid’s smoothest caipirinhas and runs samba and capoeira classes outside opening hours.

    Latitude: 40.4260686900000 / Longitude: -3.7079585060000
    Sub-Type: Brazilian Bar
    Telephone Number:  +34 91 532 59 66
    Opening Hours: 10pm-1am Tue-Thu, 6pm-3am Fri, 2.30-6.30pm & 10.30pm-3.30am Sat, 2.30pm-10pm Sun
    Address: Calle de San Vicente Ferrer 55
    Transportation Type: underground rail
    Details: Noviciado

    Events Overviews

    Madrid loves to party, and seemingly any excuse is good for a fiesta. in the city be sure to look out for the following events. There's more information online at www.esmadrid.com.

    Month by Month

     

    February

    Arco (Feria Internacional de Arte Contemporánea)

    One of Europe's biggest celebrations of contemporary art, Arco draws galleries and exhibitors from all over the world to the Parque Ferial Juan Carlos I exhibition centre near Barajas airport. It's held mid-February.

    www.arco.ifema.es

     

    Mercedes-benz Fashion Week

    The infamous Bryant Park fashion shows are sadly not open to the public. But whether you’re invited or not, being in the city this week – when the couture world descends upon Manhattan to thrill over new looks – could provide a vicarious thrill, especially if you can find the after-parties. A second fashion week is held in September.

    www.mbfashionweek.com/newyork

     

    Festival Flamenco

    A combination of big names and rising talent comes together for five days of fine flamenco music in one of the city's theatres.

     

    March - April

    Jazz es Primavera

    Three weeks of jazz in the leading jazz venues across the city.

     

    May

    Suma Flamenca

    Another soul-filled flamenco festival that draws some of the biggest names in the genre.

    www.sumaflamenca.com

     

    Dos de Mayo

    On 2 May 1808, Napoleon's troops put down an uprising in Madrid, and commemoration of the day has become an opportunity for much festivity, often called the Fiesta de la Comunidad de Madrid. The day is celebrated with particular energy in the bars of Malasaña.

     

    Fiesta de San Isidro

    Isidro Around 15 May, Madrid's patron saint is honoured with a week of nonstop processions, parties and bullfights. Free concerts are held throughout the city, and this week marks the start of the city's bullfighting season.

     

    June

    Día del Orgullo de Gays, Lesbianas y Transexuales

    The colourful Gay Pride Parade sets out from the Puerta de Alcalá in the early evening, and winds its way around the city in an explosion of music and energy, ending up at the Puerta del Sol.

     

    July-August

    Veranos de la Villa

    Madrid's town hall stages a series of cultural events, shows and exhibitions, known as Summers in the City.

     

    August - September

    Summer Festivals

    Small-time but fun, the neighbourhood summer festivals, such as San Cayetano in Lavapiés, and San Lorenzo and La Paloma in La Latina, are great for cheap entertainment from mid-August to September.

     

    La Noche en Blanco

    On September's White Night, first held in 2006, Madrid stays open all night with a citywide extravaganza of concerts and general revelry in 120 venues.

     

    October - November

    Fiesta de Otoño

    Music, dance and theatre take over Madrid from mid-October to mid-November, during the fantastically cultural weeks of the Autumn Festival.

     

    Emociona Jazz

    Madrid loves its jazz too much to be confined to just one festival. In November groups from far and wide converge on the capital for concerts across town.

     

    Activity Overviews

    It doesn’t come much more Spanish than Real Madrid or bullfighting. Watching a live game involving Real Madrid is an unforgettable experience. Attending a corrida (bullfight) at the Plaza de Toros Monumental de Las Ventas is a very local thing to do – love it or loathe it, you won’t leave indifferent. Basketball is another spectator sport option.

    For those who prefer getting all sweaty and making their own sport, there are gyms, health centres, swimming pools and tennis courts scattered throughout the city. Excellent spas and massage centres represent the height of pampering for those keen not to get too active.

    Yoga & Pilates

    Many private gyms, such as Gimnasio Chamberí, also offer yoga and Pilates.

    Gyms

    Public gyms and indoor pools (normally for lap swimming only) are scattered throughout Madrid. They generally charge a modest €3.50 to €7 for one-day admission and can get pretty crowded at weekends and after work hours. More expensive (€10 to €15 per one-day admission), privately owned health centres usually have less crowded workout rooms.

    Swimming

    If you’d rather splash around than labour over laps, the following public pools are worth trying, although they can be completely overwhelmed in summer.

    Tennis

    If you fancy a game of tennis surrounded by the greenery of the Parque del Buen Retiro, consider the Polideportivo La Chopera.