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28 Fun Things To Do in Madrid, Spain [2024]

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Lori Zaino
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Lori Zaino

Senior Content Contributor

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Lori is an intrepid traveler who loves creating itineraries that exude “luxe on a budget.” She’s written for CNN, NBC, The Infatuation, and more, and loves to muse about points-fueled trips to Sri Lan...
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The Spanish capital is often overlooked in favor of beachy Mediterranean hubs like Barcelona or inviting Andalusian towns like Seville. But Madrid has so much to offer visitors, from cuisine to culture and nightlife with a taste of the “real” Spain.

Madrid retains its historic charm from centuries-old attractions to beloved traditions and locals who have lived in the city their entire lives. Stroll regal, manicured parks, feast on tapas, sip vino, admire monuments, and soak up the sunshine on one of Madrid’s more than 300 sunny days each year.

And it’s easy to get to Madrid, as you can fly nonstop from several U.S. cities on airlines including Iberia, American, Delta, and United, with many options for using your points and miles.

Here are 28 fun things to do in Madrid, from free activities to family-friendly to-dos and where and how to enjoy Spanish nightlife. Plus, find other key info to help your trip run smoothly.

The Best Times of Year To Visit Madrid

You can visit Madrid year round thanks to its relatively mild winters. However, it’s best to travel in the spring and fall, especially in May and October when the weather is mild and sunny and there’s lots to do and see in the capital.

Madrid's Retiro Park in Autumn
Madrid is beautiful during the autumn months. Image Credit: Florian Wehde via Unsplash

May is an especially nice month to travel to Madrid. All the flowers are in bloom, and the city goes into celebration mode, hosting concerts, festivals, cultural activities, and more for its patron saint, Isidro.

Christmas is a beautiful time to see Madrid decorated in holiday splendor, but it’s cold and crowded at this time, as many visitors come to admire the decorations despite the more frigid temps.

If you’re traveling on a budget, you may find deals in January and February, but these are the chilliest months of the year. It’s extremely hot (sometimes, higher than 100 degrees) in July and August, and not all spots have air conditioning. However, the city clears out quite a bit at this time of year as most locals head to the coast to cool off, so you may snag a hotel deal or find it relatively easy to get dinner reservations.

Hot Tip:

Iberia Plus is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Bilt Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Marriott Bonvoy. If you have a stash of Iberia Avios to redeem, make sure to consult the Iberia calendar. Traveling on Iberia’s off-peak dates offers very affordable redemptions that sometimes coincide with American holidays that aren’t celebrated in Spain. For example, flying during Thanksgiving is typically considered off-peak with Iberia.

How To Get From the Madrid Airport to the City Center

Madrid’s Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport (MAD), typically just called “Barajas” by the locals, can be easily reached from the city center. The airport has 4 terminals. Terminals 1, 2, and 3 are located next to each other, while Terminal 4 is further away and also home to a satellite terminal T4S. Terminal 3 is mainly used for cargo, not commercial airlines. There are a variety of ways to get between Madrid’s city center and the airport, and they’re all simple and relatively affordable.

From the airport, you can take the bus 200 to Avenida America, one of the city’s transport hubs. The ride costs €1.50 (~$1.64) and you’ll pay onboard using coins, a €5 bill, a contactless card, or your phone. The airport bus, which stops at Atocha, Cibeles, O’Donnell, and each of the terminals, costs €5, and you can pay onboard in the same way.

If you’d prefer to go underground, the Madrid Metro‘s pink line 8 and the short-distance trains Cercanías run to the airport.

These transportation options stop at all of the terminals except for the Cercanías trains, which only go to and from T4. The metro has a stop for T1 to T3, then stops in the village of Barajas (don’t get off there!), then T4.

Taxis charge a flat rate of €30 (~$33) and you can also use rideshare services such as Uber or Cabify, which typically cost around €20 to €25 (~$22 to $27).

Best Places To Stay in Madrid

JW Marriott Hotel Madrid exterior
The brand-new JW Marriott Hotel Madrid is perfect for Marriott Bonvoy loyalists. Image Credit: Nick Ellis

Your options are endless when deciding where to stay in Madrid. Many budget hostels are clean and comfortable and feature private bathrooms. You can also choose from family-friendly Airbnbs and ultra-luxury, brand-new hotel properties, as the city has the right type of accommodation for a variety of travelers.

Notable hotels include newer luxury options such as the Four Seasons Madrid, Rosewood Villa Magna, and the Mandarin Oriental Ritz Madrid. Marriott Bonvoy loyalists are spoiled with options in the Spanish capital, from the Westin Palace Madrid open for more than 100 years, to The Madrid EDITION, home to the largest rooftop hotel pool in the city. There’s also the brand-new JW Marriott Hotel Madrid, among others, including several affordable AC Hotels properties.

World of Hyatt, Hilton Honors, and IHG One Rewards points holders also have numerous lodging options to spend or earn points, such as the Atocha Hotel Madrid, Tapestry Collection by Hilton, the Hyatt Centric Gran via Madrid, and the InterContinental Madrid. Don’t have a stash of points? Don’t worry — the city is home to hundreds of charming boutique properties and apartment rentals, too.

Hot Tip:

Use a co-branded hotel credit card to earn points for a hotel stay in Madrid. For example, if you want to stay at one of the several Marriott properties in Madrid, book and pay using a Marriott Bonvoy-branded credit card. Or, take advantage of a spend bonus and use Marriott Bonvoy points to book your stay.

Tips for Booking Accommodations in Madrid

When deciding where to stay in Madrid, think about the location and noise level. It’s fun to be right in the middle of things, but sometimes, neighborhoods such as Sol, Chueca, and Malasaña are louder at night. If you want to be slightly outside of the main city center but still in the heart of things, consider a stay in the upscale, quieter Barrio Salamanca or local Chamberí neighborhoods.

Hot Tip:

Make sure to confirm whether your apartment rental or boutique hotel/hostel has air conditioning and if there’s an elevator. Small amenities like this can really make or break a vacation.

What To Eat and Drink in Madrid

Tapas in Madrid
Make sure to taste tapas when in Madrid. Image Credit: Agent J via Unsplash

One of Europe’s best and most affordable places to dine, you can get it all in this capital city. But one thing to definitely take advantage of is a Menu del Día, a daily set lunch menu that comes with an appetizer, main course, dessert, and drink for a fixed price, which usually costs between €12 to €15 (~$13 to $16).

Tapas are also popular in Madrid, and you can sample them at bars, restaurants, and food markets. Hop from bar to bar or stall to stall and sample different small plates accompanied with drinks. Make sure to try tortilla de patata, also known as a Spanish omelet, and a calamari sandwich, both traditional dishes in Madrid.

The Spanish capital is an excellent place to drink wine, enjoy a local-favorite tinto de verano wine spritzer, and taste vermouth. The city has many affordable restaurants, Michelin-star spots, and to-go options to fit most tastes and budgets.

Hot Tip:

The important thing to know about Madrid’s gastronomy is not about what to eat but instead, when to eat. Meal times are shifted later, with lunch between 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and dinner between 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.

28 Fun Things To Do in Madrid

Without further ado, here are some of the best activities and things to do and see in Madrid.

Best Museums To See in Madrid

Madrid has many museums, but these are some of the best you can’t leave the city without visiting.

1. Museo del Prado

With thousands of artistic masterpieces, the Prado is one of the most famous in Spain, known for its classical art and works from Spanish and Flemish artists. Some of its most famous paintings are by artists including El Greco, Goya, and Velázquez, and the museum is home to the world-famous “Garden of Earthly Delights” by Hieronymus Bosch. Part of the Golden Art Triangle, 3 art museums all located in a small triangle in the city center, this art space should be on every traveler’s bucket list.

2. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

With more than 23,000 works of art, the Reina Sofía is the place to visit if you love modern works and are a fan of artists such as Dalí, Miróm and Picasso. Also part of the Golden Triangle of Art, this iconic museum is worth a visit, if only to admire the famous “La Guernica” painting by Picasso and get complimentary views of the city sprawl courtesy of the museum’s transparent elevator.

3. Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza

The third museum in the Golden Triangle of Art, the Thyssen-Bornemisza features an eclectic private art collection, which includes works from artists such as Cézanne, Dalí, Degas, Hopper, Monet, O’Keeffe, Picasso, Pollock, Rembrandt, Rubens, and Van Gogh. The gift shop is worth a stop, as is the charming half-outdoor cafe set in the museum’s courtyard.

4. Museo Sorolla

One of the most underrated museums in Madrid, the Sorolla is the former mansion-turned-museum of artist Joaquín Sorolla. This space provides the perfect bite-sized dose of art and culture, as the home is full of beautiful paintings and sculptures by Sorolla. It also has an incredibly picturesque courtyard that makes you feel miles away from the busy city center.

Free Things To Do in Madrid

Madrid is a relatively affordable city and some of the best and most memorable things to see and do are free.

5. See the Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor Madrid
Madrid’s Plaza Mayor. Image Credit: Sven D via Unsplash

This famed square has seen it all throughout the centuries, from Spanish Inquisition Trials to bullfights and outdoor yoga classes. There are 237 balconies facing the center of the square, where you can admire a large statue of King Philip III on his horse. It’s best to wander around and snap photos, but eat or drink elsewhere as dining in the square is a tourist trap.

6. Stroll Parque del Retiro

A peaceful point of greenery amid the hustle and bustle of the city, visiting El Retiro Park is a must-do. Once a royal garden for the kings, it’s now open to the public. Visiting during the week feels delightfully indulgent, as hidden spots like rose gardens are mostly devoid of visitors and you can view the peacocks that roam the Cecilio Rodríguez. But don’t miss more popular spots too, like the central lake and the Crystal Palace.

7. Roam El Rastro Market

Every Sunday, local vendors set up stalls in the La Latina neighborhood from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visitors can shop for souvenirs, clothing, accessories, housewares, and much more. El Rastro Market is massive, but veering off the main drag means you might stumble upon more local stands as well as many antique stores that sell one-of-a-kind wares. Afterward, hang around the neighborhood to taste tapas.

Things To Do In Madrid for Families

Madrid is an incredible city to visit as a family, as the city welcomes children and babies with open arms. It’s especially great for kids who love to explore and learn new things or teens who want to work on their Spanish.

8. Mercado de Motores

One weekend each month, Madrid’s train museum (Museo Ferrocarril) hosts local vendors for a special market called Mercado de Motores. Visitors can peruse gourmet products, purchase local artisan crafts, and shop for vintage wares from stalls lining the train platforms between the trains that once traversed Madrid’s railways. You can even climb on some of the trains and explore some of the train cars. Outside, you’ll find food trucks and a small train system that small children can ride.

9. Visit the Palacio Real

Royal Palace Madrid
The Royal Palace in Madrid is massive. Image Credit: Gijs Jakobs via Unsplash

The Royal Palace is one of the largest palaces in the world at twice the size of Buckingham Palace and Versailles; this imposing royal building is stunning on the outside and just as fun on the inside. Children will love exploring the maze-like Sabatini Gardens and playing around the statues in the Plaza del Oriente, while parents will appreciate the sweeping views from the palace grounds and visiting some of the palace’s 3,400+ rooms.

10. Play at Madrid Río

Madrid’s renovated riverside, Madrid Río, has it all: long, shady pathways perfect for rollerblading or biking, an urban beach featuring splash pads, a skate park, and a number of playgrounds for kids of all ages. Parents can relax with a coffee or cocktail at one of the many river terraces that line the banks of the River Manzanares.

11. Casita-Museo de Ratón Pérez

A tiny little mouse that is Madrid’s version of the tooth fairy, Ratón Pérez’s namesake museum is made just for little ones. It’s particularly special for any kids waiting for their adult teeth to come in. Madrid’s tourism bureau even offers a printout guide of the city led by the iconic mouse that kids can carry around with them to color, play, and learn fun child-centered facts about the city.

Tours To Do in Madrid

12. Devour Food Tour or Cooking Class

Madrid’s gastronomy scene is vast, which is why it may be best to see it with the help of a local. Devour Food tours are famous around Madrid. A guided tapas tour or cooking class can help you understand more about the roots of the city’s cuisine, what to eat, where to eat, and perhaps how to cook or prepare traditional dishes.

13. Insider’s Travel Picasso in Madrid Tour

La Guernica at the Reina Sofia Museum on the Picasso Tour
An Insider’s Madrid tour group on the Picasso Tour, admiring his masterpiece “La Guernica” at the Reina Sofia. Image Credit: Kelly Hurd via Insider’s Madrid

Tour company Insider’s Travel has partnered with the Westin Palace Hotel, a fan-favorite in Madrid for those with Marriott Bonvoy points, for a tour to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the passing of famed artist Pablo Picasso. The tour includes stops such as the century-old Seseña Capes shop where Picasso purchased the cape he’s buried in — his favorite — and the Reina Sofia to admire his masterpieces. The tour ends with a Picasso-inspired lunch menu at the Westin Palace, complete with dishes such as cubist beef and absinthe-filled pavlova for dessert.

14. Bike or Segway Tour

Tour operators around the city offer bike and Segway tours for visitors to see the city in a new way, absorbing more of Madrid’s highlights in less time than walking. This type of tour is ideal for anyone that only has a day or 2 in Madrid and would like to see as much as possible. Madrid’s bike lanes, pleasant weather, and extensive green spaces make it the perfect city to admire on 2 wheels.

Romantic Things To Do in Madrid for Couples

Madrid was made for lovers! Here are some of the most romantic things couples can see and do in the Spanish Capital.

15. See the Sunset at Templo de Debod

One of Madrid’s quirkier attractions, Temple de Debod was a gift from Egypt to Spain. The serene temple complex is circled by a pond and a park, the perfect place for couples to relax on the grass, wander around, and view the sunset over Madrid’s expansive outskirts.

16. Visit a Rooftop Bar

Madrid’s rooftop bar scene has exploded over the last decade, offering numerous options where couples, friends, and even solo travelers can get a drink with a side of panoramic views. Our favorites are the rooftop at boutique hostel The Hat, which offers a neighborhood-style view over Madrid’s red rooftops, and the Sky Bar at the Riu Hotel, which provides sweeping, 360-degree views of Madrid and beyond.

17. Wine Tasting

Spanish wines are affordable and delicious. Couples can enjoy tasting wine at endless bars around the city or by doing a guided tasting to learn more about Spanish wine. Numerous wine tastings are led in English Monday to Saturday at wine shop Madrid & Darracott, where you can sample wine, sherry, and vermouth.

Things To Do in Madrid at Night

Madrid comes alive after dark. Here’s how to best experience it.

19. Go Out to Dinner

Madrid is home to more than 10,000 restaurants, so if you want to experience the city at night, drinking and dining is an easy way to do so. Remember, dinner doesn’t usually start until around 9 p.m. in Spain and is usually a long, leisurely experience, so it’s a great way to see how locals enjoy the evening. From buzzy, trending spots to old-school, no-frills tapas bars, Madrid’s food scene has much to offer when the sun sets.

20. See a Flamenco Show

Although flamenco hails from the hills of Andalusia, many say the best flamenco can be found in Madrid, as the most talented dancers and musicians head to the capital for the most lucrative performing opportunities. Corral de la Morería to Cardamomo are among the most popular “tablaos,” traditional flamenco venues where you can enjoy flamenco singing, dancing, and guitar.

21. Hang at a Bar or Nightclub

Madrid’s nightlife scene is known all over the world for being iconic. You’ll often find locals munching on churros at 7 a.m. after still being out from the night before. From the electric beats of the city’s most famous nightclubs to punk rock bars and speakeasy cocktail joints, there’s a spot for anyone and everyone that wants to experience Madrid at night.

Non-touristy Things To Do in Madrid

Get off-the-beaten path a bit once you’ve seen all the main tourist attractions in Madrid.

22. Check Out Local Neighborhoods

Chueca rainbow Metro sign
Chueca is a popular LGBTQ-friendly neighborhood that welcomes everyone in Madrid. Image Credit: Luis Otto via Unsplash

From the diversity and street art to Lavapiés to Salamanca’s upscale shopping to the LGBTQ bars of Chueca, Madrid features many neighborhoods worth checking out. Don’t miss the quotes from famous authors in the literary neighborhood Barrio de Las Letras, the vintage shops of Malasaña, or the bars of La Latina, best explored on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

23. Hike Outside the City

If you’re itching for more nature and more local vibes, skip the typical touristy day trips to Segovia and Toledo. Instead, head to areas in the Sierra de Madrid, the city’s nearby mountain range. From the trails in Cercadilla to small, beautiful villages like Prádena del Rincón or the ski slopes of Navacerrada, travelers can find adventure, nature, greenery, and local experiences to have outside the city center.

24. Visit an Underrated Museum

Madrid’s most famous art museums are must-sees, but the city also has many lesser-known museums also worth a visit. There’s the Museo Cerralbo, a former palace featuring royal art, furniture, and more; the Museo del Traje, dedicated to Spain’s fashion evolution over the years; and the cultural center CaixaForum, which offers temporary exhibitions and family activities, just to name a few.

25. Take the Teleférico (Cable Car)

Another fun way to view Madrid from up above is the cable car (Teleférico), which flies between the Rosales station and Casa de Campo, a massive park on the edge of the city. The ride is a mere 11 minutes but offers incredible bird’s eye views of Madrid, as well as history and information about the city. As this particular attraction is located slightly outside of the main city center, many tourists never venture over to try it — it’s an attraction typically frequented by locals.

Unique Things To Do in Madrid

Want to do something quirky? Here are some of the most unique, crazy, and fun things to do in the city.

26. Olive Oil Tasting

Spain’s olive oil is just as iconic as its wine, and the country takes AOVE (extra virgin olive oil) very seriously. Consider doing an olive oil tasting around the city, or even get certified with a quick course in olive oil at the official European Tasting Institute so you can go home and brag to all your friends that you’re an expert.

27. Explore a Food Market

There aren’t many cities in the world where you can tapas hop from stall to stall, buy fresh produce, and experience upscale tasting menus all in a single place. But Madrid has many food markets where you can do all of that and more. From the hanging legs of cured ham at the more touristy Mercado de San Miguel to the tapas at the Mercado de San Antón and the international delights at the Mercado de Vallehermoso and beyond, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to food markets in Madrid.

28. Capricho Park

Completely off the tourist track, this one-of-a-kind park is one of the city’s most charming, hidden, and unique green spaces. From its romantic gazebo to its winding labyrinth of manicured bushes, a visit to Parque del Capricho makes you feel like royalty, as it was once a private playground for the Duchess of Osuna. Even wilder? There’s a bunker in the park that was used during the Spanish Civil War, which occasionally opens to the public for tours.

Tips for Exploring Madrid

Madrid streets
Just walking around in Madrid is gorgeous. Image Credit: Victor via Unsplash

These tips and tricks will help you have a safe, affordable, and enjoyable visit to Madrid.

Get a City Card

For those that want to experience many of Madrid’s main attractions, pick up a Madrid City Card. These cards include things like Metro transport, museum tickets, skip-the-line entrance to certain attractions, and more.

Hot Tip:

You can buy Madrid City Cards at tourist information offices around the city.

Take the Metro

Madrid’s public transport system is clean, safe, affordable, and easy to navigate. The Metro is a worthy alternative for tired travelers that want to avoid sitting in city traffic in a taxi or Uber, so head underground and get wherever you’re going efficiently.

Guard Your Valuables

Madrid is an extremely safe city, but make sure to keep an eye on your belongings. Pickpocketing is common in the city center, so leave your passport at home, never hang your purse on the back of your chair, and wear your backpack on the front while in the Metro.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re visiting Madrid with the family in tow or it’s a stop on your honeymoon, there’s plenty to see and do in Madrid for any type of traveler. Make sure to enjoy Madrid’s most popular museums, restaurants, tours, and activities when visiting, but don’t forget to add some more underrated and unique ways to enjoy the city to your itinerary, too.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is better, Madrid or Barcelona?

Deciding whether to visit Madrid or Barcelona is a matter of taste. Both cities offer memorable monuments and special attractions, but Madrid offers a more authentic Spanish feel. In contrast, the more international Barcelona is a bit more cosmopolitan and is ideal for travelers that want to go to the beach as it’s on the coast.

How many days are enough for Madrid?

The ideal visit to Madrid is 5 days. This offers enough time to see the city’s most popular highlights, sample Spanish food, and enjoy some underrated attractions, too. However, Madrid is an excellent gateway to other Spanish cities, so spending just a weekend here could be a good idea. There’s also plenty to do and see to spend a full week or 10 days in Madrid.

Is Madrid cheap to visit?

Yes, Madrid is cheap to visit. It’s one of western Europe’s most affordable capital cities. Dining, accommodation, and other costs are significantly cheaper than many of its counterparts, such as Paris, London, or Milan.

Is Madrid a walkable city?

Yes, Madrid is an extremely walkable city. Most locals walk everywhere, and some don’t even have cars. Some streets in the city center are pedestrian-only. With year-round sunshine and pleasant temps, walking in Madrid can be done in any season.

Lori Zaino's image

About Lori Zaino

Lori is an intrepid traveler who loves creating itineraries that exude “luxe on a budget.” She’s written for CNN, NBC, The Infatuation, and more, and loves to muse about points-fueled trips to Sri Lanka, Sicily, and Myanmar.

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