Madrid

Lies on the River Manzanares in the central part of Iberian Peninsula, Madrid is the capital and most populous city in Spain. It is an important economic, cultural, industrial, educational and technological hub in the European region.

Today, Madrid has become a tourist magnet as it is one of the most visited cities in the world With the stunning Royal Palace, beautiful churches, art museums, gorgeous parks and delicious Spanish food, there is definitely plenty of interesting stuff to see and do in this vibrant city.

Best Time to Visit

Madrid is one of the best places to travel in Europe all end around. There are a lot of indoor activities, such as the Royal Palace, churches and art museums, So either rain or shine, there is no better time to visit these places throughout the day.

If you love a cool and breezy weather like me, the best time to come is spring between March and May and autumn between September and November. I travel to Madrid in mid-October and the weather was lovely and makes walking more enjoyable.

The summer falls between June and August, but the weather is not as hot as the Andalusian region due to its geographical area. It is expected to be crowded and see many Europeans visiting Madrid during their holiday travel season.

Getting There

By Plane

Madrid- Barajas Airport (Airport Code: MAD) is the most busiest airport in Spain and the second-largest airport in Europe. There are flights flying from most European cities as well as other destinations in North and South America, the Middle East, Africa and several Asian cities.

When you arrive at the airport, you can take the train which is the fastest way to get into the city center. The Cercanias Line CI connects the airport Terminal 4 to Charmartin Station and Puerta de Atocha Station. The journey takes around 35 minutes and only cost €3.40. There is also a metro Line 8 linking all airport terminals into central Madrid.

By Train

Taking the AVE Renfe high-speed train to Madrid is easy, fast and comfortable. As the capital city of Spain, the trains connect passengers to every corner of the country.

The train services operate regularly to Madrid Puerta del Atocha Station from popular destinations like Malaga, Barcelona and Seville. All journeys will take about 2.5 hours to 3 hours. Other destinations include Zaragoza, Biblo, Granada, to name a few.

Train tickets can directly be bought from Renfe’s official website without any additional booking fee and only need to show your e-ticket before boarding the train.

By Bus

If you choose to travel by bus, the local bus operator called Alsa runs frequent journeys all over Spain and its neighboring countries including Portugal and France. Traveling by bus can be the cheapest way to go around, but do keep in mind that the ride may not be comfortable as the train, especially if you are going on a long journey that takes more than 6 hours (Click here to check on the destination and price).

Getting Around

Madrid is well equipped with an impressive transportation network that takes you to all tourist sites. By getting the Tourist Travel Pass, it gives unlimited access and trips to all types of public transportation. There are passes that are valid for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 7 days and for two zones- A and T, depending on which places going to visit.

There is another option that I used during my Madrid trip- the 10-trip Ticket. It is slightly cheaper which costs €12.20 and covers metro Zone A and all public buses. It does not need to be use on a consecutive days and can top-up once it finishes.

All tourist passes can be purchased from ticket machines at all metro stations including those at Madrid Airport, the main office of Madrid Regional Transport Consortium and tobacco shops.

The Best Activities for 2 Days in Madrid

This lively Madrid is one of the most interesting cities in Spain. Filled with beautiful churches, art museums, gardens and of course, the Royal Palace. It is recommended to stay at least 4 nights in Madrid by spending 2 days in this fabulous city and take a day-trip to the historic Toledo.

Dine-in at Museo del Jamón

Enjoy a delicious meal at Museo del Jamón located at the heart of Madrid city. There are several stores throughout the city and they sell over 200 delicatessen items ranging from fresh hams, sausages, cheeses to cold cut.

This establishment was founded by the brothers Don Luis and Don Francisco Muñoz Hera in August 1978. They were the first “themed” restaurants in Spain, since hams from all over the country are displayed on their walls that become an attraction to customers and tourists.

Stroll through Puerta del Sol

Puerta del Sol, simply known as Sol or “Gate of the Sun” is one of the most popular meeting point for Madrileños. The square was originally the site of one of the city wall’s gates in the 15th century. The famous “El Oso y El Madroño” statue depicting a bear eating the fruit from the strawberry tree represent the official symbol of the city.

The center of the square lies a stone slab that marks Kilometer 0, the starting point of 6 national highways in Spain. It is located on the pavement in front of Casa de Correos’s main entrance. Above the building is the famous clock where people across the nation traditionally usher the New Year by eating 12 lucky grapes to the twelves chimes of midnight struck by the clock.

Roam around Plaza Mayor

The grand Plaza Mayor is a great starting point for the adventure of your Madrid trip. There are several restaurants, cafes, pubs and souvenir stores open in the square, but they tend to be more expensive.

In the center of the square lies the bronze statue of King Philip III created by Jean Boulogne and Pietro Tacca in 1616. You can catch special events such as music festivals, exhibits and Christmas markets.

Back in the old days, it was originally the city’s most popular market until the late 16th century. When King Philip II moved the Spanish court from Toledo to this city in 1561, he start to remodel the square and was later completed during the reign of his son, King Philip III.

The plaza has be renamed a numerous times following the past events, history and reign in Spanish history. Several events had taken place in this square including executions, bullfights, scorer games and annual Christmas market.

Getting there: Take Metro L2, L5 or R to Ópera Station or Metro L1, L2 or L3 to Sol Station

Join a free Madrid city tour

Who loves a free guided tour around Madrid city?

The fantastic way to learn the history and discover Madrid city sights is to join a free guided tour. Departing from Plaza Mayor, guides with great knowledge of Madrid will filled you with excitement as they give a 3-hour story-telling including the tragic event of Spanish Inquisition and the assassination attempt on King Alfonso III.

Walk along with the friendly guide to the famous sites and hidden gems like the famed San Miguel Market, Sobrino de Botin (claimed to the world’s oldest restaurant), the Royal Palace and Almuneda Cathedral.

Travel tips: Free guided tours like Sandeman are tip-based tour companies and they rely on the gratitude given by tourists. You can support and reward them according to your satisfaction at the end of the tour. Most free tour will depart from Plaza Mayor.

Go food-hunting at Saint Miguel Market

San Miguel Market (Mercado de San Miguel) is Madrid’s gourmet market opened back in May 1916. From tapas made from freshest fish and seafood from the Galician coast to tasteful gourmet cheese meat, vegetables, bakeries and yummy cakes, there are 30 food stands serving the best Spanish food from all around the country. The stores are owned by a number of internationally-renowned chefs with Michelin Stars.

Address: Plaza de San Miguel, s/n

Getting there: Take Metro L2, L5 or R to to Ópera Station or Metro L1, L2 or L3 to Sol Station. You can also take Bus No. 3, 31, 50, 65, 148 or N16 to the market

Visit Prado Museum

Prado Museum (Museo del Prado) is one of Spanish’s best art museums with home to more than 7,600 impressive paintings and 1,000 sculptures. These collections date back from the 12th century to the 19th century. 

Prado currently displays 1,500 fascinating paintings that include the works of famous Francisco Goya, El Greco, Peter Paul Rubens, Titian and Diego Velázquez,

If you’re truly a art lover, make your way to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and the Reina Sofia Museum to explore other genre of arts. These three famous museums had formed Madrid’s Golden Triangle of Art.

Getting there: Take Metro L1 or L2 to Banco de España. You can also take Bus No. 001, 10, 14, 27, 34, 37, 45 or C03 to the museum

Address: Paseo del Prado s/n

Opening hours: Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 8 pm, and Sunday and public holiday from 10 am to 7 pm

Entrance fee: Adults: €15/ Adults aged 65+: €7.50/ Children aged 0-17: Free (Click here to buy the tickets from their official website and check other discounted rates)

Explore the lavish Royal Palace

The Royal Palace of Madrid (Palacio Royal) is the former residence of the Spanish Royal Family from the reign of Charles III to Alfonso XIII. Today, the palace only used as the state ceremonies. It is the largest royal palace in Europe by area that spans 135,000 m2 over 7 floors with a total of 3,418 rooms. 

To experience the most out of this palace history, step inside and admire the fascinating frescoes and paintings created by famous Spanish and Italian artists such as Goya, Velazquez and Caravaggio. There are also an exhibit that houses a collection of crown jewels, tapestry and storage of royal armory.

Brief History of the Royal Palace

Long before Madrid became the capital of Spain, Emir Mohamed I picked the city as the site for a fortress to defend Toledo from the invading Christians. The building was eventually occupied by the Kings of Castille that became known as the Antiguo Alcázar (Old Fortress) in the 14th century. Charles I and his son Philip II transformed the fortress into a permanent Spanish royal residence.

However, a fire broke out in 1734 and burnt the Palace of Los Austrias to the ground. Philip V had a new palace built which stands today. It was Charles III who took the first residency of this new palace. His successors Charles IV (the creator of the Hall of Mirrors) and Ferdinand VII added many decorative items and furnishings to the mansion.

The transformation of the palace’s rooms and its layout took place over the years to suit the residents’ needs. When roaming inside this divine palace, you will first walk up the grand 70-step Main Staircase designed by Sabatini. Slowly pass through the majestic Throne Hall featuring a ceiling painted by Tiepolo, the Guards Room, the Gasparini Room, the Royal Chemist and the Royal Chapel.

King Felipe of VI and the Royal Family do not live here, but reside at the modest Palacio de la Zarzuela in El Pardo. The royal family, the House of Borbón, who reign since 1700 do not hold any political power but still play an important public and cultural role to the country.

Travel tips: The decoration of those rooms are stunning, but sadly photography weren’t allowed due to security reason

Getting there: Take Metro L2, L5 or R to Ópera Station or L2, L3 or L10 to Plaza de España. You can also take Bus No. 3, 25, 39, 46, 62, 75, 138, 148, C1, C2, N16, N18, N19 or N20 to the palace

Address: Calle de Bailén , s/n

Opening hours: October to March: Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm, and Sunday and public holiday from 10 am to 4 pm/ April to September: Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 7 pm, and Sunday and public holiday from 10 am to 4 pm

Entrance fee: Adults: €12/ Adults aged 65+ and children aged 5-16: €6/ Children aged 0-4: Free (Click here to buy the tickets from their official website and check other discounted rates). Additional €5 for audio guide

Visit Almudena Cathedral

The Almudena Cathedral is the most important religious building in Madrid. The construction started in 1883 when Alfonso XII of Spain laid the first stone. The building was designed by the architect Francisco de Cubas in Gothic style.

It is believed that the structure was been built on the site of a medieval mosque that was demolished in 1803 when Alfonso VI reconquered Madrid.

Works was been halt due to the Spanish Civil War before resuming in 1950 and later completed in 1993. It was consecrated by Pope John Paul II on 15 June 1993, which makes the first cathedral to do so outside of Rome. The marriage of King Felipe VI and Letizia Ortiz was held here in 2004.

The beautiful Romanesque Revival church lies below the cathedral is considered to be the biggest crypt in Spain. The crypt has 5 naves, 20 chapels and more than 400 columns that each crowned by different capital adorned with biblical figures. It is the resting place of King Alfonso XII’s first wife María de las Mercedes de Orléans.

Getting there: Take Metro L2, L5 or R to Ópera Station. You can also take Bus No. 3, 31, 50, 65, 148, SE712 or N16 to the cathedral

Address: Plaza de la Almudena

Opening hours: The cathedral opens daily from 9 am to 8.30 pm. The museum and the crypt open from Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 2.30 pm

Entrance fee: Entry to the cathedral is free and entry to the museum and crypt is €6

Take a breather at Campo del Moro

Situated between the Monzana River and the Royal Palace, Campo del Moro is a perfect spot to rest after a long walk around the city. Designed under the rule of Queen Maria Cristina in the 19th century, it is an beautiful English style park surrounded with lush gardens, splendid fountains, avenues and greenhouse.

The garden was named after a historic episode when the Muslim leader, Ali Ben Yusuf tried to reconquer Madrid following King Alfonso VI’s death, by attacking the fortress from the hillside close to the river. He and his troops camped in what are now the gardens.

Getting there: Take Metro L2, L5 or R to Ópera Station or L2, L3 and L10 to Plaza de España. You can also take Bus No. 3, 25, 33, 39, 41, 46, 62, 75, 138, 148, C1, C2, SE730, N18, N19 or N20 to the park

Opening hours: Daily from 10 am to 6 pm

Go window-shopping at Gran Via

Situated at the busy downtown of Madrid, Gran Via is said to be the street that never sleeps. It is famously known as the leisure, shopping and cultural hub of Madrid.

The hustle and bustle street is lined with theatres, hotels, cinemas, rooftop bars, restaurants and cafes. You will find many Spain’s and global designer stores like Zara, H&M, Springfield. Camper and Michel Kors. You can also find smaller shops that sell fine jewelry, shoes, watches, accessories, handicrafts and souvenirs.

Mingle around Plaza de España

Lies in the busy central Madrid, Plaza de España is home to a monument dedicated to Miguel de Cervantes known as the greatest writer in the Spanish language. It was built in 1915, a year before the 300th anniversary of the writer’s passing. You can also find the statues of Don Quijote and Sancho Panza standing in front of the famed writer.

Behind the monument are the city’s tallest skyscrapers, Torre de Madrid and Edificio España that were built in 1953 in Neo-Baroque style. Torre de Madrid was once the tallest building in Western Europe until 1967 with a height of 142 meters.

During my tour in Madrid, an international food festival was held in the plaza. People came here to taste variety of food from all over South America and attended a small outdoor concert.

Getting there: Take Madrid Metro L1, L3 or L10 to Plaza de España Station

Visit the Church of Saint Theresa y Saint José

The Church of Saint Theresa y Saint José was built in the 19th century as a religion community residence, a nursing home and a parish church. Its mixture of Gothic, Renaissance, and Byzantine architectural style makes the church looks like a medieval castle. The façade is made up of battlements to represent a fortress, based on a book, Las Moradas written by Santa Teresa de Jesus.

The 35-meter high dome is decorated with yellow, orange, red, and blue polychrome tiles and topped with a royal crown. The statue of Saint Teresa of Avilia, the altarpiece and the window panes are the great masterpieces by Maumejean.

Getting there: Take Madrid Metro L1, L3 or L10 to Plaza de España Station

Address: Pl. de España, 14

Opening hours: Daily from 8.15 am to 1.30 pm and from 5.30 pm to 8.30 pm

Entrance fee: Free

Take a glimpse of Temple of Debod

The Temple of Debod is an ancient temple given to Spain by the Egyptian government as a sign of gratitude to save the Abu Simbel temple from floods following the construction of Aswan Dam in 1968. The temple was dismantled and reconstructed in the Praque del Oeste near the Royal Palace and later opened for the public in 1972.

The shrine dates back to the 2nd century BC at the order of Meroë King Adijalamani. A chapel was built to dedicated to the god Amun and the goddess Isis in Philae.

Getting there: Take Madrid Metro L1, L3 or L10 to Plaza de España Station

Address: Calle de Fernaz

Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 8 pm

Entrance fee: Free

Catch the sunset at Montaña Park

Montaña Park is the best place to hang out and watch the stunning sunset in Madrid. The park offer amazing views overlooking the Royal Palace, Almuneda Cathedral, and Casa de Campo. It is surrounded by tall shady trees and you can relax or have a picnic on the green lawn or wooden bench.

Getting there: Take Madrid Metro L1, L3 or L10 to Plaza de España Station

Travel Tips

  • Avoid bringing too much money at one time, take care of your personal belongings, and be vigilant against pickpockets at crowded and touristy sites.
  • Always buy tickets for tourist attractions well in advance to secure the date and time, especially during the peak season.
  • Check out any discounted rates or free entry to the city attractions for youths, students, adults above 65 years old, and person with a disability regardless of the nationality of a country on their official website to save some money on your travels. Remember to bring your I.D. as proof of identification.

Going Elsewhere in Spain?

If you are looking for more adventure in Spain, you can look at my other posts for some travel guides:

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All views expressed on this site are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity whatsoever with which I have been.
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