9 Essential Things to do in Madrid

As the largest city in Spain, Madrid is truly the heart of the country, geographically and culturally. While it’s a very modern and vibrant metropolis, the past is alive everywhere you look in the Spanish capital, from parks and museums to restaurants and theaters. With so much to do, it can be hard to know where to begin! Luckily we’ve put together a cheat sheet with Madrid’s most essential sights.

1) Parque del Retiro

Sometimes referred to as “The Central Park of Madrid,” Parque Del Retiro is perfect for afternoon picnics, sunset strolls, and jogs through the beautifully-maintained gardens and the crystal palace.


2) Prado National Museum

This museum is to Spain what the Louvre is to France, with an impressive collection of Spanish art featuring the brilliant works of Francisco Goya in all their splendor.

3) Reina Sofia National Museum

While the Prado is magnificent, no visit to Madrid is complete without a visit to the accompanying Reina Sofia, containing some of the most famous works of Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso’s masterpiece, La Guernica.

4) Gran Via

Running through the very heart of Madrid, the Gran Via is a bustling, shimmering showcase of the very best shops, plays, musicals, and theaters that the city has to offer.

5) Royal Palace

Witness the heart of Spain’s global empire, spectacularly preserved in all its decadent and lavish detail. This complex is still used for important affairs of state to this very day.

6) Templo de Debod

An actual ancient temple donated to the Spanish as a gesture of friendship by the Egyptians and rebuilt brick-by-brick, this blast from the past sits upon an elevated park from which you can observe the most spectacular sunsets over the city.

7) Santiago Bernabeu Stadium

Home of arguably the most famous football club in the world, Real Madrid, this stadium is holy ground for sports fanatics the world over.


8) Plaza Mayor

One of the oldest central squares in Europe, this square is constantly bustling with street performers, vendors, and the clinking of glasses from relaxed cafes spread out on all sides.

9) Puerta del Sol 

It’s appropriate that this plaza is named after the sun, because it is the bright central hub of Madrid from which everything radiates outward: trains, streets lined with bars and fine dining, everything! Don’t know where to begin exploring Madrid? Sol is the place to be.

This is just a glimpse of what Madrid has to offer; you’ll soon discover that your favorite restaurants and parks may be located in Malasaña, Chueca, Lavapies, or one of the other dozens of colorful neighborhoods that make Madrid so culturally rich. It’s never too early to start planning your “aventura madrileña!”

Want to learn more about study abroad programs in Madrid?

Author: International Studies Abroad (ISA)

Since 1987, International Studies Abroad (ISA) has provided college students in the United States and Canada the opportunity to explore the world. ISA offers a wide variety of study abroad programs at accredited schools and universities in 73 program locations throughout the world.

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