There is no shortage of beautiful and historical Madrid attractions; the problem, rather, is how to choose which to visit! We've rounded up our top seven favorites--these will give you a taste of the Old World charm you want from Madrid and introduce you to the unexpected in this classic European city.
If you’re planning a trip to Madrid, you’ll want to know about these top seven Madrid attractions. In a city with tons to offer, these are some of the most memorable and universally-appealing sites, with rich histories and incredible stories. Below, we’re walking you through what you need to know about each, as well as how to prioritize your time.
How We Chose Our Ratings
Each of the following Madrid attractions has a star rating. Most of the ratings are four-stars or better (we wouldn’t have picked them otherwise), but we’ve made a point to learn what other travelers think, as well, so we can bring you the most comprehensive and up-to-date information.here...
Top 7 Best Madrid Attractions
When you think of Madrid, you likely think of bullfighting, flamenco, and tapas, the appetizer-like meals served alongside beer or wine. You might also picture old-world palaces and castles, and you’ll find all of these things in abundance, but that’s not all there is to this city.Likely over two thousand years old, Madrid--much like the rest of Spain and the Iberian peninsula--has a diverse history. What began as a Roman settlement on the lovely Manzanares river, miles away from the Guadarrama mountain range, was occupied in turn by Carpetani settlers, Visigoths, Muslim emirs, and Christians.
Here's the list of Madrid attraction:
See The History For Yourself
You can see ruins still today of Roman villas and Carpetani settlements, as well as a Visigothic basilica located near the Santa Maria de la Almudena church.Madrid has also seen its share of conflict, with revolts, political coups, and one terrible civil war that brought fighting directly to the city. Things are peaceful, now, however, and Madrid has earned the distinction of being one of the most beautiful and well-preserved cities in Europe,while also being one of the largest and most modern.
Old World Charm Plus Creature Comforts
The city has taken tremendous pains to preserve its historic landmarks and while you might not now think of art and culture as synonymous with this Spanish city, you will after a visit, as it boasts some of the best museums in the world, highlighting Spain’s famous sons--including artists like Goya, Picasso, El Greco, Velazquez, and Dali.You won’t lack for any modern comforts here, either--by GDP, Madrid is the third largest city in the European Union, third to London and Berlin, while it’s only smaller in population than Paris and London. To help you decide which of the many Madrid attractions you should visit during your time in this lovely city.
Don’t forget to keep reading for our tips on handling season changes and the weather! Here are our favorites.
Plaza Mayor is one of the most spectacular, most well known of all the Madrid attractions.When it was commissioned and built in the first half of the 1600s, it was the center of the city. Today, it’s the center of Old Madrid, but the city has grown around it. Commissioned to design the palace and remodel the area by King Philip II, Juan de Herrera designed the rectangle shaped buildings in the Habsburgs style. While the outside is somewhat humble--brick--the inside is elaborate and ornate.
The Plaza was originally the main market center of the town and today; you can still find shops and cafes around it. It has withstood three major fires and the subsequent renovations and remodeling. The buildings around the Plaza are now used for residential purposes, though the Casa de la Panaderia, a former bakery, can also be seen.
The Plaza is a delightful place for visitors to the city to soak up the Madrid vibe while enjoying the sunny outdoor breeze, tapas at one of the cafes, and the local shops, and it’s right down the street from Puerta del Sol, another famous plaza.Depending on when you go, you may also see bullfights, soccer games, a Christmas festival, and other events
The Royal Palace of Madrid
If your visit to Europe won’t be complete without an old world palace, you will have to make sure you visit the Royal Palace. While the Spanish Royal Family only uses it now for state ceremonies, it is considered the largest functioning royal palace in Europe. It’s nearly one a half million square feet large, with over three thousand rooms.
Most of the time--except during state functions--the palace’s rooms (a few of them, at least!) are open for viewing, but don’t expect to see royalty! King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia and their family don’t live here; instead, they reside at the Palace of Zarzuela, which is much more modern and modest.The original fortress-turned-castle built on the spot was called Alcázar, but after it was destroyed by a fire in 1734, the palace was rebuilt, tweaked and restored and added to over the ensuing decades to become the stunning piece of art it is today.
You can enjoy its symmetrical French gardens, filled with historical statues, or marvel at the riches held inside, including historical books and codices, grand works of art, and an armory that houses full suits of armor. Whether you’re a history buff or simply love the grandeur of a beautiful palace, you’ll love the
Temple of Debod
The Temple of Debod is one of the most unexpected sites when it comes to Madrid attractions; and it’s utterly unique to the city, if not the whole continent! It was a gift made in 1968 from the country of Egypt to Spain for Spain’s help in saving the Abu Simbel temples in Egypt. It’s one of the few Egyptian monuments that can be seen outside Egypt.The temple was originally built in Upper Egypt, located in the southern part of the Nile, near its source.
Philae, with its religious center dedicated to the Egyptian God Isis, was nearby, and eventually, the small temple was dedicated to that city’s god. It was dismantled and then rebuilt in Madrid, in the Parque del Oeste located close to the Royal Palace of Madrid. Local guides recommend visiting at night or when the water element surrounding the temple is filled with water.Even better? Visit the temple at sunset and enjoy stunning views of the temple and a stunning sunset over the city.
The Aqueduct of Segovia
The Aqueducts of Segovia are the perfect distance for a brief day trip from Madrid--and they’re worth every second. Leftover from the Roman days, they continue to stand--granite blocks still almost completely without mortar--as a testimony to Roman engineering and ingenuity.They were still in use until the mid-1800s, and you can marvel today at their nearly nine miles, plus their more than 150 massive arches.
Thanks to Spain’s semi-arid climate and careful tending, the aqueduct is one of the best-preserved structures of its type.Before you leave, make sure that you linger in Segovia before returning to Madrid for the night. Segovia is as rich in sites as the rest of Spain (check out its castle and palace), and you should also make a point to enjoy its specialty--cochinillo, roast suckling pig.
Madrid's Urban Sculptures
You don’t have to visit one particular place in Madrid to see fantastic statues; the city’s urban sculptures abound through its many parks, streets, and monuments.If you want to visit a place dedicated to sculpture, check out the Museum of Outdoor Sculpture.Its focus is abstract works-it includes a piece called Beached Mermaid by Eduardo Chillida- and it is located in the Paseo de la Castellana.
If your preference is less abstract and more classical, look for these classical fountains on the Paseo del Prado:
Don’t forget to look out for Madrid’s many horse sculptures, as well; these are considered very important in the city. You’ll find one in the Plaza Mayor; it was designed in the 1600s and features Philip III on horseback. Another famous statue of Philip IV is placed in the Plaza de Oriente. Famous Spanish artist Velázquez projected it, Pietra Tacca built it, and famous astronomer Galileo Galilei advised on the project.
The Golden Triangle of Art
Madrid is one of the best places in the world to see art. It might not garner the attention from popular tourists like, say, the Louvre in Paris, but that shouldn’t stop you--the three museums found on the Paseo del Prado that comprise Madrid’s Golden Triangle of Art are some of the best in the world.
Speaking of the best in the world, the Prado museum, the largest of the three, has some of the most infamous pieces in recent history. Its art includes:
You can also see works by Caravaggio, El Greco Titian, and many more.To see one of the most monumental works of the 20th century, look no further than Guernica at the Reina Sofía National Art Museum. Pablo Picasso’s enormous work is housed here, along with other 20th century works from Spanish artists. You can see famous art from Julio González and Salvador Dalí, for example.
The final museum of the Golden Triangle of Art is the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. It’s a private collection (at one time, it was the second largest private collection in the world) designed to showcase what the other two museums miss: Italian primitives, for example. Whether you only have an or so at each museum or can take a whole day at each place, these museums can’t be missed.
Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas
No list of Madrid attractions would be complete without a nod to bullfighting--and you can’t visit the city with at least passing by the Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas, Madrid’s premier bullfighting arena.Children in Canada dream of becoming star hockey players; in the United States they dream of becoming star basketball players; but in Spain, they dream of becoming famous bullfighters! Bullfighting is the national sport in Spain, and it has a long and fabled history.
Las Ventas is a giant ring that can be converted to a concert venue or sports arena, but from March to October of every year, the 23,000-capacity stadium seats nothing but bullfighting fans, and lots of them! The fights last 2-3 hours and are held every Sunday, though, during the San Isidro festival, they’re held daily. You can find Las Ventas on the east of Madrid; the stadium is one of the largest rings in the world and was built in 1929.
The Traveler’s Guide to Madrid
As you can no doubt tell by now, Madrid has something for everyone. Incredible dining and fantastic weather help to round out the experience, but don’t forget to prepare for what can sometimes be uncomfortable extremes at night! Because of the city’s proximity to the mountains, it can get pretty chilly in the evening and hot during the day in the summer, and it can get fairly cold in the winter, though it rarely drops below thirty degrees.
Our best piece of advice is to hire local guides whenever possible, as these will be able to give you a personalized history that you simply can’t get elsewhere. Plus, you might even get a chance to ask where the locals eat!No matter how long you stay or when you go, Madrid attractions make the city an unforgettable adventure. Happy travels!
Featured image via pexels