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Madrid is normally overlooked by many tourists who flock to Barcelona as Spain’s top city break location. However, Madrid has more than enough to hold it’s own with Barcelona and other top European cities. Whether your idea of a city break is shopping, eating amazing local food or sightseeing, Madrid has it all. Check out all of my favourite attractions and top things to do in my Madrid!
Royal Palace of Madrid
The Royal Palace of Madrid is the official residence of the Spanish royal family at Madrid. Nevertheless, do not expect to see any signs of royalty as this is building now only used for state ceremonies.
The palace, in it’s current form, was constructed in the 18th century and is a short walk from the main squares of Madrid making it a worthwhile wander toward. You can also access a small area around the palace for free, or take the 1.5 hour guided tour for a more complete experience.
Temple of Debod
Located only a 10 minute walk from the Royal Palace of Madrid, is an ancient Egyptian temple called the Temple of Debod. This was donated to Madrid in 1968 by the Egyptian Government.
The temple itself is over 2,000 years old. It was recovered by a group of Spanish archaeologists from the waters of Aswan Dam. As a result, this was gifted by Egypt and they brought back every piece and rebuilt it in its current location.
This attraction is free to enter and worth a visit no matter what season it is.
The Temple of Debod is located in the Parque del Oeste. After appreciating this piece of ancient history, admire the incredible backdrop of this location. The park has some stunning views over Madrid, and picturesque avenues to wander through.
Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas
It’s safe to say I will not forget my time at Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas. The eye-catching external architecture drew me in. However, I was a bit oblivious to the whole bullfighting sport as a whole. The bull ring itself was a pretty spectacular sight as it was empty. However, when we learned that fate of every bull that is unfortunate enough to take part in this spectacle, it gave my visit a bitter-sweet twist.
If you are not overly an animal-lover, then you may enjoy a trip here. However, when we finally made our way to the exhibition inside the tour, we slightly horrified by the videotapes playing. No matter how nice the surroundings are, this is not one for the animal-lovers amongst you, as the treatment of the bulls is slightly less than impressive.
Set in the heart of Madrid, the Plaza Mayor is one of the main squares in the city. This has been a meeting place since the 16th century. Nowadays, the Plaza Mayor is for both the locals and tourists to shop, wander, eat, and enjoy the outdoors.
In the centre of the square, there is a bronze statues of King Phillip III which was created in 1616. This statue has been in the centre of the square since 1848.
Mercado de San Miguel
This foodie’s paradise is a wholesale food market. The market itself first opened over 100 years ago, which is a testament to the quality of produce that has come through over the years. There are over 20 stalls selling traditional Spanish cuisine, such as Iberian ham.
There is plenty of tapas dishes to order here as well as raw meats and vegetables. A must try if you are a fan of trying local cuisine while travelling.
Monkfish definitely looks better on the plate!
Puerta del Sol
Puerta del Sol is another, if not the busiest, place in Madrid. This bustling square is located pretty much bang in the centre of the city centre and where many popular roads meet.
It is also here where you will find the most iconic symbol of the Spanish capital; El Oso y el Madroño. This translates to “the Statue of the Bear and the Strawberry Tree”
The Tio Pepe sign also illuminates the sky over the square. This is actually an advert for a brand of sherry but has become a symbol of the square over the years.
During the winter period, the square is beautifully decorated with Christmas decorations and there are a number of festive attractions and stalls around the square. This makes for a popular place to gather and enjoy the atmosphere.
El Retiro Park
El Retiro Park is Madrid’s green oasis in the city centre. Multiple statues and water features make this the perfect place to switch off and relax when strolling by over 15,000 trees. The park itself has been open to the public since the 18th century and you will find many locals unwinding here.
If you want to cover as much of El Retiro Park as possible, consider renting a bike from one of the nearby bike rentals.
Chocolatería San Ginés
This iconic establishment is always popular as it is open 24/7. Chocolatería San Ginés is Madrid’s most famous chocolate shop. San Ginés first started serving churros and coffee way back in 1894. This is the perfect place to re-energise, whether it’s at 4 am after a night of partying or for breakfast before a full days sightseeing. And if you love churros, these churros are amazing, served with a big cup of chocolate. What’s not to love?
Sobrino de Botin
Sobrino de Botin’s claim to fame is that the restaurant holds the Guinness World Record as the oldest restaurant in the world. Although many of the other restaurants bidding to become the oldest in the world are much older, Sobrino de Botin received the distinction because it remains in its original building with the same interior from the 18th century.
The food is simplistic yet enjoyable and famous for its cochinillo (suckling pig) cooked in a 300-year-old oven. Although this is not the best food I have tasted on my travels, to have added the world’s oldest restaurant to my list of travel memories is well worth it.
Bars and Tapas
No matter where you stay in Madrid, you will not be far from some sort of nightlife. This includes restaurants, bars, pubs, discos, flamenco and more.
During my time in Madrid, I stayed in La Latina. This area is synonymous with enjoying tapas and beers. Calle de la Cava Baja has a number of bars and tapas restaurants. I can’t think of a better way to enjoy a night in the city than traditional tapas washed down with a nightcap.
Like many major European cities, Madrid’s football fanbase is split into two; Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. Both have stadiums which most supporters of other clubs will be envious of. Even those who do not actively follow football or these clubs can appreciate their stadiums.
Santiago Bernabéu Stadium
The Santiago Bernabéu is home to La Liga giants Real Madrid. This steep stadium is insanely big with a capacity of 81,000. This stadium has hosted some of football’s most famous fixtures and competition and is a highlight of Madrid.
The newer of the two stadiums is the Wanda Metropolitano. The stadium was renovated in 2017 and has been the home of Atletico Madrid since. Although this is the case, the stadium is still dwarfed by the Bernabeu and “only” has a capacity of 65,000.
As a fan of Atletico Madrid, I was thrilled to get the opportunity to witness Atletico Madrid play in this work of art. I had the joy of watching them beat Roma 2-0 in the 2017/2018 Champions League. An experience I won’t soon forget.
Have you ever been to Madrid? Let me know some of your favourite places below? Or check out more about Spain!