The 12 best things to do in Madrid, as told by an expat living in Madrid…
(Basically, I got sick of emailing people this list, so decided I’d plop them all in a nice blog post)
1. Stroll around Puerta del Sol
This is the heart of Madrid, and there’s always something going on. Look for the Museo del Jamon on the corner of Calle de la Victoria and Carrera de S. Jeronimo – it’s pretty cheap, but cool because there’s literally ham everywhere, and beer costs as low as 40c!
There’s a bakery on the other side of the square called La Mallorquina, which is always busy and the most delicious napolitanas overloaded with chocolate!
2. Get cultured in museums
The Prado isn’t really my cup of tea but I really enjoyed the various exhibitions at the Reina Sofia – including Picasso’s infamous Guernica. There’s also the Circulo de Bellas Artes, a photography gallery with a sweet rooftop bar at the top!
3. Relax in Retiro Park
Retiro Park is like Madrid’s own Central Park. It’s pretty stunning, and great to walk around. Look out for the Crystal Palace inside the park, and just near to that is an art gallery, which is always changing it’s exhibitions and is also free!
4. See Egypt in Madrid then check out the Palace
You have to visit the Templo de Debod! It’s an Egyptian temple that was gifted to the city, and is really cool. If you go during the day you can go inside (for free) and see some hieroglyphics, but it’s also a cool spot to watch the sunset as you look out over Madrid’s largest park, Casa de Campo. From here it’s a short walk to the Palacio Real, which is pretty magnificent from the outside and for a small fee you can go in (though outside is good enough for me).
5. Be a tourist in Plaza Mayor & Mercado San Miguel
The ‘thing’ to do here is eat a bocadillo de calamares (calamari sandwich) – personally, I think they’re a bit dry, so ask for sauce if you’re going to do it! Otherwise, take a few pictures and nip through Mercado San Miguel (just beside the plaza), for some delicious (yet overpriced) nibbles. #touristtrap
6. Pick up some pintxos in La Latina
Pintos are little tapas made on bread with a skewer holding them together. They’re delicious and there’s some great ones in La Latina, especially at Taberna Txakolina – go after 5pm to make sure you get a bit of ambiance.
7. Kick back on a rooftop
Madrid has some great rooftop bars, and although the drinks are often a little more pricey, the views are great and the ambiance makes it worth it. There’s the one I previously mentioned at the Circulo de Bellas Artes, but there’s also a great one at the top of the Mercado de San Anton in Cheuca, and a couple other good ones are at Gymage and Hotel Oscar.
8. Pick up a bike
Madrid has just installed a bunch of hire bikes around the city AND lot’s of bike lanes on the road. It’s easy to get around, as all the bikes have inbuilt motors too, so you don’t even need to pedal hard!
9. Cheer on hot footballers
Even if you’re not a huge sports fan, you should probably try and catch a football game in Madrid. I wrote a whole post just on this… but to summarise watching Real Madrid play in Bernabeu Stadium is one of the best sports experiences I’ve ever had! Games can be pricey though, so check out Atletico Madrid games too these are often a little cheaper and just as fun – make sure to take in a sandwich for half time!
10. Bar hop in Malasaña
Malasana is like the cool ‘hipster’ neighbourhood full of cute cafes and bars. It’s a great place for a night out, cruise down one these streets and choose a bar that looks fun: Calle Pez, Calle del Espiritu Santo.
Read all about the other unique neighborhoods in Madrid.
11. Get spa treatment 30 floors up!
Who doesn’t love a good spa?! To make things even better, the spa at the EuroStars Hotel in the north of Madrid is on the 29th floor, providing an incredible view of the city while you relax in the spa and sauna. be sure to book in advance, and go during the week for a discounted price.
12. Bonus foodie places I recommend:
– Cien Montaditos – this is NOT fancy. It’s a chain & is everywhere. As the name suggests (100 little sandwiches) there’s 100 little sandwiches to choose from which cost anywhere from 50c-2€. The beer is only 1€ too, so it’s often full of students, but it’s a sweet place for a cheap wee snack!
– Casa Toni – for typical Spanish raciones & tapas
– Poncelet Cheese Bar – for cheese lovers
– Helados Kalua – for amazing gelato, waltz over the road to Plaza Olavide for a nice place to eat it
– El Jardin Secreto – for delicious cocktails and hot chocolates
– La Tape – great dinner spot, with delish dishes
– Chocolaterías Valor – for typical Spanish Churros
– El Corte Ingles Gourmet Experience Food Court – this is on the top floor of the El Corte Ingles building at Callao Metro, and is a nice place for lunch, and it has a pretty amazing view too!
So these are my top Madrid must do’s for anyone visiting Madrid! Just writing them now makes me want to go back soon! Im craving some chocolatey churro goodness and cheap tinto de verrano!