Hey everyone, I am so excited about this article because Madrid is my favorite city in the whole world (thus far). And by living here I have had the chance and luck to be able to explore a large majority of the city. So, what I’ve done is I’ve ranked my top 10 places that I love. If you need any more suggestions shoot me an email!
1. Retiro Park
Retiro, thus far, is one of my favorite places in the world. It is large enough that once you get inside, the sound of cars fades and the sound of the birds and people talking takes over. There are 5 suggestions I have for the park,
- First off, rent a bike. The park is large, and it would take hours to walk around the park completely. There is a bike station–right outside the park entrance is Puerta de Alcala. You will need a passport number as identification and the machine will hold 150€ (it’s for those people who don’t return the bikes). The rate is 3 euros for the first hour and 4 euros for every hour after, very cheap compared to some of the rates in the US.
- Another way that you can explore the whole park is by renting rollerblades. The nice thing about this way is that your butt won’t hurt from the bike seat. Here is a link to a place right next to Retiro for renting skates.
- My third recommendation is to rent a boat to go on the lake. There is a man-made lake in the middle of the park, and as soon as the weather is warm, you will see dozens of boats with people paddling away. Unfortunately, if you are visiting in the winter, the boats will be locked up and not available to rent. Monday through Friday it costs €6 and on weekends and holidays, it costs €8.
- My fourth recommendation is to walk around and watch all the performers. On any given day you can find dozens of people playing guitar, doing magic, comedy, or stunts. It is super fascinating to check out.
- My last suggestion would be to bring a blanket and some snacks. There is nothing better than a picnic in Retiro! (Side note: if you want to bring alcohol you need to have it in a bag. Also be very cautious because there are cop cars that drive around and public drinking is not legal in Madrid).
2. Circulo de Bellas Artes
I think Circulo de Bellas Artes is almost a must for anyone who loves views. It is right off Gran Via and it gives you a phenomenal almost panoramic view of the city. If you have a student card of some sort it costs 3 euros; for everyone else, it costs 4 euros. The place also has artistic expositions and it only costs an extra euro to have a ticket to go see those as well. You go up the elevator and you will be blown away by the view. There is also a bar and café at the top with lounge chairs where you can enjoy a cocktail while seeing the skyscape.
3. Gran Via
Whether you like to shop or not, Gran Via is a quite a site to see. If you like to shop, it is literally heaven. Many of the stores have 3 or more floors! Some examples of stores are; H&M, Primark, Zara, Pull & Bear, Stradivarius, Berksa, Springfield, and Adidas. There are also a ton of restaurants and coffee spots if you need a pick me up or some munchies to fuel your shopping adventure. Café and Te, Starbucks, Burger King, VIPS, Foster’s Hollywood, Ginos, and McDonald’s are some examples of places where you can stop. If none of those names sound familiar have no fear, you will fall in love with Spanish fashion and food by the time you are done.
4. Mercado de San Ildefonso/Salamanca
Mercado de San Ildefonso is a sophisticated, elegant, chic take on Spanish food. They offer the traditional dishes but cooked in a different way. Paella, tortilla, ham, and more are offered in a contemporary new style. Though most of the stalls are Spanish, there is also a Central and South American influence, so you can find burritos, tacos, and more.
For some extra evening ambiance, on your way up to the top floor, you will pass two beautiful terraces that are draped in sparkling lights. It is a fantastic place to go for a drink, some tapas, a romantic date, or just to hang out with your friends.
Gosh, where to start—Malasaña neighborhood has so much to offer. Not only can you find Mercado de Ildefonso there, but also its own hip boulevard filled with trendy shops. If you want to go the same shops but don’t want the crowds of Gran Via, Calle Fuencarral is a great place to go. Malasaña is also one of the trendiest neighborhoods, so if something is in style, you will find it there. You can find boutique second-hand shops when you are walking around.
Another beautiful thing about this neighborhood is that you will see lots of street art. So, keep your eye out for trees that have sweaters knit around them or murals on the walls.
6. Rastro Flea Market
Rastro market is the largest flea market in all Spain. It overflows from street to street, captivating its victims in a maze. It takes place every Sunday from 9am-3pm year-round, including holidays.
Rastro caters to the flea part of market. Unfortunately, the quality of the products sold in the market are not top notch. On the other hand, that means that the prices are also low. In all honesty, for those from the US, it slightly reminds me of your grandma’s garage sale. However, that does not mean that treasure cannot be found. If you are looking for cheap souvenirs, scarves, tapestries, or general knick-knacks, it’s a great place to go scavenging.
Here are a couple tips to get you started in the market:
1. Watch out for pick-pockets! There is a police presence, however, that will not stop some determined thieves. Keep your purse or backpack on the front of your body and make sure nothing is open. Also, guys do no keep anything in your back pockets.
2. Arrive earlier rather than later. If you want to maneuver around it’s best to get there before the crowds do, which is around 11.
3. Bring cash but keep it well hidden and do not flash how much you have. No vendors will take cards.
4. Try bargaining–even if you are a little timid, the street vendors are not set on their price and you can get a nice steal if you ask for a lower price.
5. While you’re in the neighborhood also check out Mercado de San Miguel. It is another great food market, like the Ildefonso one I talk about above. San Miguel is larger and has more options, however, there are fewer places to sit and it’s less of a hang-out place
7. Prado Museum
The Prado Museum is arguably the best museum in Madrid. It is the main Spanish national art museum and has one of the finest collections of European art. In general, it is open Monday-Sunday from 10am-8pm and on Sundays, it closes one hour earlier. Though in some months, or on holidays, the hours will change so double check that before you go.
Cost: 15€, 7,50€ for students or children
8. Reina Sofia Museum
Reina Sofia is the Spanish national museum of 20th and 21st-century art. In its collection, you can even find some pieces from Salvador Dali. It is open from 10am-9pm Wednesday-Mondays. It is closed on Tuesdays.
Cost: 10€, no reduced prices
9. A Futbol Game
Spain is absolutely crazy about their futbol. There are two teams in Madrid–Athletico Madrid and Real Madrid. In general, the tickets for Athletico are less expensive, that said, they are not cheap. However, the atmosphere and raw emotion during the games make it an authentic and cool experience.
10. Royal Palace
The Royal Palace is an amazing example of architecture and classic history. The outside is majestic and the inside even more so. It’s especially a good option if it is a rainy or cloudy day.
Cost: 10€ or 5€ for reduced
So what did you guys think? Anything on there that stands out to you? I hope this helps give you an idea of what to do while here in Madrid, enjoy!