When you first think about a city to visit in Europe which has dozens of historical places, vivid nightlife and rich culture, you would probably guess the French or the Italian capital. But Madrid has it all and offers a lot for its visitors.
My tirp to Madrid was truly magical – we had enough time to visit everything without any rush. We even had a whole day when we did nothing else, just sitting in a park, drinking, talking and enjoying life (of course it was before the pandemic hit Europe). For a journey like this I would highly recommend to stay between 5-8 days – and if you might see everything you wanted to, you still have a little time for yourself, or to visit another city close to the Spanish capital.
Without further introduction, you can find all the sights and places that I would recommend. At the end of the article I’ll attach a map as well which can be a great guide for you as all of this places are saved there as well.
I had a great luck with the weather there: perfect sunrises and mesmerizing sunsets – there are many photos here that I still adore, hope you’ll like them too.
List of sights of Madrid
- Almudena Cathedral
- Atocha Train Station
- Basilica de San Francisco el Grande
- Calle De Cava Baja
- Cuatro Torres
- Círculo de Bellas Artes Rooftop
- El Rastro
- Fuente de Cibeles and Palacio de Cibeles
- Goya Frescoes at Ermita de San Antonio de la Florida
- Gran Via
- KIO Towers
- ME Madrid Reina Victoria
- Metropolis Building
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation – Plaza De La Provencia
- Monumento a Alfonso XII
- Museums to visit
- Plaza de Jacinto Benavente
- Plaza de la Villa
- Plaza de Oriente
- Plaza Dos de Mayo
- Plaza España
- Plaza Mayor
- Puerta de Alcalá
- Puerta del Sol: The Heart of the City
- Real Jardín Botánico
- Real Madrid’s Stadium
- Retiro Park and the Crystal Palace
- Sabatini Gardens
- Teatro Real
- Temple of Debod
- The Golden Triangle of Art
One of my favourite building is this church, which is actually the biggest one in Madrid, situated next to Palacio Real, the royal palace. The church has a north-south orientation, which is remarkable, considering most Christian churches have an east-west orientation layout. The reason why the cathedral was constructed this way is to integrate seamlessly with the Royal Palace. While admission to the cathedral is free, donations are suggested. The museum costs six euros to enter, and tourists can’t visit the church during religious ceremonies or church services.
Basilica de San Francisco el Grande
This neoclassical style monumental basilica, close to the popular La Latina quarter, stands out for its artistic wealth that it houses inside, with canvases by Goya or Zurbarán, as well as its impressive dome, the largest in Spain and the fourth in Europe, behind Saint Peter’s Basilica and the Pantheon, both in Rome, and the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower, in Florence.
Calle De Cava Baja
La Cava Baja is one of the most lively and beautiful streets in all of Madrid. It boasts an innately cheerful atmosphere. This charming street is where many of the best traditional and popular tapas bars and restaurants are located, a veritable one-stop shop, ideal for enjoying some of the best local flavours and excellent wines.
The La Latina area, just down from Plaza Mayor, is located right in the heart of Madrid only a few minutes from Palacio, Sol and Lavapiés. It has its own metro station and several bus stops with excellent connections to the rest of the city. Cava Baja is flanked by a series of intensely colourful buildings which represent quintessentially Madrileño architecture and is also home to several popular street markets.
Cuatro Torres or Four Towers Business Area is a business in Madrid, on the former Ciudad Deportiva of Real Madrid. The area contains the tallest skyscrapers in Spain, and some of the highest in the European Union. For those who like modern architecture and minimalistic shots, this is definitely a place to visit. There are many locations in the center of the city as well, from where you can spot these towers, and with a great equipment, you can capture some fabulous shots easily
Círculo de Bellas Artes Rooftop
This lively open-air market is over 400 years old with stands that sell everyday objects as well as unique and curious items.
The Rastro Market is located along the street La Ribera de Curtidores and its adjacent lanes. Ribera de Curtidores is a steep hill with hundreds of stands selling extremely varied objects, from kitchen utensils, clothes, furniture, accessories, jewellery and comic books.
Although it can get very crowded, it is a great place to go for a stroll and get some unique Spanish souvenirs on any sunny Sunday morning or bank holiday. I highly suggest having some tasty tapas in any one of the many bars and restaurants in La Latina once you are tired of visiting El Rastro.
Fuente de Cibeles and Palacio de Cibeles
These sights are definitely my favourites in Madrid! Cibeles Palace formally known as Palacio de Comunicaciones is a complex composed of two buildings with white facades and is located in one of the historical centres of Madrid, Spain. Formerly the city’s main post office and telegraph and telephone headquarters, it is now occupied by Madrid City Council, serving as the city hall, and the public cultural centre CentroCentro.
PHOTO TIP: Even though this building offers great perspectives every time of the day, I highly recommend to go there in the morning, before sunrise for som cliché photos! There’ll be almost no people, less traffic, which allows you to create some truly magnificent, postcard-like photos.
Goya Frescoes at Ermita de San Antonio de la Florida
With its sober appearance, the San Antonio de la Florida Chapel is a contrast to the grandiose pictorial ensemble that Goya painted at the end of the 18th Century. In creating this masterpiece of Spanish art, the artist from Aragón knew that he was decorating one of the most popular temples of Madrid, famous for its celebration each June 13th. In spite of being one of the best neoclassic examples in Madrid, it is the frescos by Goya that makes San Antonio chapel a place to visit in Madrid, as well as being the place where the artist has been laid to rest since 1919. Goya decorated the dome with frescos representing the Saint’s trance before the people of Lisbon.
The two Kio Towers are one of the most famous elements of the Madrid skyline. These two buildings have been officially named “The Door to Europe,” as they can easily be noticed for their location: the heart of Plaza de Castilla, their height: 377 feet high; and their architecture: They are two leaning towers, symmetrical with the La Castellana axis, forming a type of futuristic door defying the laws of gravity.
ME Madrid Reina Victoria
Located on the corner of Calle Alcalá and Gran Vía, this emblematic building, one of the symbols of the area, was designed in 1905 by the French architects, Jules and Raymond Février to house the La Unión and Fénix insurance company, although the final work was carried out by Luis Esteve from Spain.
The Metrópolis Building is one of the main icons of the Gran Vía, featuring in thousands of tourist snapshots who photograph the view of this avenue from Plaza de Cibeles. Built on the site of the “casa del ataúd” (tomb house), so called by locals because of its narrow frontage, it was constructed between 1907 and 1910 as the first stretch of the Gran Vía was being created, and it was officially opened on 25 January 1911.
This sumptuous construction presides over the beginning of the Gran Vía with its neo-renaissance façade of Corinthian columns and a slate dome with golden incrustations, on which a statue of Victoria rises, which used to be a Phoenix, symbol of the insurance company that initially occupied the building.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation – Plaza De La Provencia
Plaza De La Provincia is sandwiched between a couple of streets, Plaza de la Provincia and Calle de Gerona. It is so small that you can probably walk past it without realising it’s a plaza. However there are shops around, cafes and the like, as well as a lovely fountain with a statue in its centre. The architecture of the surrounding buildings is quite interesting and merits a short stop if you are passing by.
Monumento a Alfonso XII
Museums to visit
I’d say that I’m not really a museum visitor person. I’d rather be in the streets, spending a whole day just to create a perfect photo. However if you like visiting museums, these are the ones that everybody would recommend to you.
- Centro de Arte de Reina Sofía: Contemporary Art Museum
- Lázaro Galdiano Museum
- Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza: Fine Arts Museum
- National Archaeological Museum
- Prado Museum
Plaza de Jacinto Benavente
Plaza de la Villa
Plaza de la Villa is one of Madrid’s best-preserved historical monuments. It is located in the historical zone, next to the Puerta del Sol Gate, and up until not long ago, you could find there the site of the capital City Council. It was one of the main medieval centers of Madrid, since three streets start there, corresponding to the original city design: Codo, Cordón and Madrid. In its outskirts are the main façades of three buildings with high historical-artistic value, built in different centuries.
Plaza de Oriente
The beautiful Plaza de Oriente can be found in Madrid’s historic centre, surrounded by two of Madrid’s most important buildings; the Royal Palace and the Royal Theatre. The Plaza de Oriente is an agreeable and tranquil environment, ideal to take a walk through as you get to know one of the oldest and most surprising parts of Madrid. Its central location and points of great historical interest mean it is a sight which should not be missing from any itinerary.
Plaza Dos de Mayo
The lively Plaza del Dos de Mayo is undoubtedly the heart of the Malasaña neighborhood. Its name refers to the uprisings of May 2nd 1808, when the town of Madrid rebelled against Napoleon’s invading troops. The central monument of Daoiz and Velarde is a tribute to two of the heroes of this historic event.
Filled with bars and cafés with outdoor terraces, it is filled with young people and families at midday, lunch time and dinner time (there are swings for the little ones), especially at the weekend when it also tends to hold craftwork and design markets. Many streets converge here with a marked alternative environment, with different fashion stores including the work of young designers and vintage clothes, as well as pop-rock bars and varied restaurants.
This portico lined square is situated at the heart of Hapsburg Madrid, the old part of the city and one of the capital’s most charming districts.
Before Madrid became a capital city, with its wide avenues and boulevards, its footprint consisted of narrow streets, alleys and passageways, which today take us back to the times of swashbuckling swordsmen and medieval rogues.
The Plaza Mayor dates back to the 15th century where it was originally called the “Plaza del Arrabal” and was used as the main market of the town.
Puerta de Alcalá
Erected in 1778 by Italian architect Francesco Sabatini, this triumphal gate was once the main entrance to the city. It was commissioned by King Charles III – over time nicknamed the Best Mayor of Madrid -, who was unimpressed by the gate that welcomed him when he first arrived in 1759. It is situated next to El Retiro Park in the centre of Plaza de la Independencia, a junction for three of the city’s most well-known streets: Calle de Alcalá, the city’s longest road, Calle de Alfonso XII, which leads to Atocha train station, and Calle de Serrano, Madrid’s most glamorous thoroughfare.
Puerta del Sol
This bustling square located bang in the centre of Madrid is one of the city’s most famous sites. With its semi-circular shape, it is a junction for many of the city’s historical and busiest streets such as Mayor, Arenal, Alcalá and Preciados, as well as the starting point for all major radial roads in Spain.
Originally the site of one of the city’s gates, Puerta del Sol should be at the top of your list of places to visit. Sitting atop the Casa de Correos building, the current headquarters of the Madrid regional government, you’ll find the famous clock that all eyes turn to on the last day of the year. For over a century now tradition has it that people across the country usher in the New Year by eating 12 lucky grapes to the twelve chimes of midnight struck by this clock.
A stone slab on the pavement in front of the main entrance to the Casa de Correos marks Spain’s Kilometre 0, the starting point for all major radial roads in Spain. Across the square, at the beginning of Calle Alcalá, Madrid’s longest street, you’ll find the famous Oso y Madroño. The official symbol of the city, the statue of a bear nuzzling a strawberry tree is a popular meeting spot for Madrileños.
Real Jardín Botánico
Real Madrid’s Stadium
Real Madrid is one of our city’s three professional football teams, together with Atlético de Madrid and Rayo Vallecano. Holder of multiple European and international titles, the club opens its doors 363 days a year for football and sports fans to explore its historic stadium, an absolute must on your trip to Madrid.
Retiro Park and the Crystal Palace
Covering over 125 hectares and comprising more than 15,000 trees, El Retiro Park is a green oasis in the heart of the city. In it you’ll find all kinds of interesting monuments and gardens, including the Jardín de Vivaces, the Jardines de Cecilio Rodríguez (Andalusian-inspired classicistic gardens), the Jardines del Arquitecto Herrero Palacios, the Rosaleda rose garden and the Parterre Francés, which holds a Mexican conifer that is nearly 400 years old and is believed to be Madrid’s oldest tree.
In addition to its role as one of the city’s green lungs, it is also a popular spot among Madrileños who like to go there for a stroll, to do some sport, visit an exhibition or take the kids to a puppet show. The park is home to a large artificial lake, where you can rent a rowing boat, and to the Velázquez Palace and Glass Palace which are both currently used as exhibition halls by the Reina Sofía Museum. The latter is a beautiful glass pavilion built in 1887 to house exotic plants for an exhibition on the Philippines. It is one the finest examples of cast-iron architecture in Spain.
The Glass Palace in the Retiro Park is one of the finest examples of iron architecture in Madrid. The metal and glass structure was built in 1887 for the Philippines Exhibition of that year.
Designed by Ricardo Velázquez Bosco, the project was inspired by Paxton’s Crystal Palace. It was originally planned as a gigantic greenhouse to contain tropical plants but today it is used for exhibitions.
These Classical-style gardens were built in the 1930s on the site of the former stables. Located in front of the north façade of the Royal Palace, the gardens, whose construction began during the Second Republic, were completed after the Civil War.
Although they look spectacular at any time of the day, at dusk they are truly magnificent, as it is one of the best sites in Madrid from which to watch the sunset. From the large rectangular pond in the centre of the garden, surrounded by fountains, trees, and white marble sculptures, the visitor can contemplate how the yellow and red tones alter the colouring of the gray stones of the Palace, and watch the sunset from the perspective of the Casa de Campo.
Located in one of the most important historical quarters of Madrid, the Teatro Real is at the hub of the Spanish capital’s most ambitious 19th-century town planning project: next to the Austrias district and facing the Royal Palace.
The building of the Teatro Real as we see it today, is the result of several renovations over the last 150 years. Since it was opened in 1850 the building has been remodelled several times, used for different purposes and occasionally closed. The present building was completely restored and remodelled in 1997 with one of the most advanced and innovative stages in Europe.
Temple of Debod
The Golden Triangle of Art
Art lovers have their particular Bermuda Triangle in Madrid, the known as Golden Triangle is a set of the most representative museums in Madrid: Museo del Prado, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza and Museo Reina Sofía. It’s an easy walk along this leafy avenue, with an approximately 20-minute total walk time between all three landmarks of the Golden Triangle. Alternatively, you can take public transport to each landmark, and save your legs for wandering the gallery halls. 😉