Answering the question “What are the best things do in Madrid?” is tough… But not because it’s hard to find activities to occupy you whether you are in Madrid for the first time or you have been here repeatedly.
Quite the opposite, in fact.
Consider the Spanish capital as a unicorn. No one doubts it is a thriving city packed with incredibly cool culture and nightlife that’s also wonderfully friendly.
So do as locals do and spend your time circling the latest art exhibition, enjoying some the excellent free things to do and discovering the city’s hidden gems. Because you travelled to Madrid to have fun in the first place! Didn’t you?
My favorite 12 things to do in Madrid
With so many things to do in Madrid, planning what you want to see in advance is key. So with that in mind, I have put together my 12 favorite things to help you organize your visit.
1. Spend hours in the Prado Museum
What is it? Spain’s world-famous museum of art.
Why go? It is undoubtedly one of the world’s greatest collections of art with over 2,000 paintings (and hundreds more sculptures, prints, and drawings).
Don’t miss: It would be impossible to list all the unmissable masterpieces.
2. Discover Debod, Spain’s only Egyptian temple
What is it? The only Egyptian temple in Spain.
Why go? The Templo de Debod dates back more than 2,200 years and it would have been flooded after the Aswan Dam construction.
Don’t miss: The chance of capturing the sunset on your smartphone.
3. Shop at El Rastro flea market
What is it? The city’s famous flea market.
Why go? Like a regular flea market, you can get all sort of things from clothes, accessories, household items, and even antiques. It spills onto quite a few streets, so you need to meander quite a bit if you want to see everything.
Don’t miss: Arrive at 9:00 right when it opens and you will beat the crowds.
4. Stroll and relax in El Retiro Park
What is it? Madrid’s biggest park.
Why go? El Parque del Retiro is a great place for sunbathing, strolling and general all-out relaxing.
Don’t miss: The elegant Palacio de Cristal and the Ángel Caído – a famous statue dedicated to the devil.
5. See Picasso’s masterpiece at the Reina Sofía
What is it? Madrid’s contemporary and modern art museum.
Why go? It is a must-visit for art aficionados.
Don’t miss: Pablo Picasso’s famous ‘Guernica’ (1937).
6. Get up early to eat churros at San Ginés
What is it? A well-known place to get churros con chocolate in Madrid.
Why go? The Chocolatería de San Ginés has been serving churros 24/7 since 1894. Order then with a cup of thick dipping chocolate.
Don’t miss: The quiet atmosphere on an early morning as it gets crowded on afternoons.
7. See the best views from Círculo de Bellas Artes
What is it? A cultural center with a rooftop terrace.
Why go? The Círculo de Bellas Artes offers you the best views across Madrid.
Don’t miss: The cocktail bar at sunset…
8. Admire amazing art at the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum
What is it? The former private collection of Baron Hans-Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza now state-owned.
Why go? Together with the Museo Nacional del Prado and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, the Thyssen-Bornemisza forms Madrid’s prestigious “Golden Triangle” of art. This museum has a catalogue of 775 paintings.
Don’t miss: Artworks by Van Gogh and Hopper.
9. Stroll around the San Fernando Market
What is it? A local food market where you can take a look at traditional stalls and grab a bit in those offering international cuisine.
Why go? It is not be as touristy as some of the other markets in Madrid. So it is a great place to watch life go by while relaxing at one of its bars or cafés.
Don’t miss: La Casquería, a pay-by-weight bookshop.
10. Visit the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu
What is it? The Estadio Santiago Bernabéu is the city’s main fútbol (or soccer) stadium and the domain of the city’s most popular team: Real Madrid.
Why go? Football is an integral part of Spanish life, and the stadium’s sheer size is example of this. You can either go to a match or do the ‘Bernabeu Tour’ and walk through the most emblematic areas of the stadium.
Don’t miss: The collection of UEFA Champions League trophies.
11. Enjoy art and markets at Matadero Madrid
What is it? A cutting-edge cultural center in a former slaughterhouse.
Why go? Matadero Madrid was an abattoir before being left empty and abandoned for many years. In 2007, however, this beautiful complex was transformed into an arts space.
Don’t miss: The free exhibitions and the weekend markets.
12. Purchase homemade sweets by cloistered nuns at the hidden Monasterio de Corpus Christi
What is it? The hidden Monasterio de Corpus Christi has a bakery run by cloistered nuns popularly known as “Las Carboneras” (“Coal Women”).
Why go? In the 19th century, the nuns began to sell their sweets as a way to be self-sufficient and obtain the financial funds to preserve the building. And nowadays, you can still buy these delicious sweets, handmade by nuns.
Don’t miss: The amazing lemon flavored biscuits.
Things to do in Madrid: events calendar
Madrid is a vibrant city that boasts tons of fun things to do, but with so many choices, you may still not sure of what to do in Madrid.
Well, there is nothing to worry about.
Take a peek at my selection of the most important events taking place in Madrid and start planning your next visit!
You will discover the most important events in the city and you won’t miss a thing.
Note: The dates given may not be precise. Sometimes the exact days may not be announced until a few weeks before the actual festival. Check with the Tourist Office of Madrid if you are planning to attend a specific event.