And if you don't want to take my word for it and would prefer a few (thousand) second opinions, Tripadvisor has over 200 things to do in Madrid with lots of user comments: Tripadvisor's Things to Do in Madrid
Cheap Things to Do in Madrid
If you plan on doing a lot of these activities, you might want to consider a discount card. Read more about the Madrid Card to make sure it is worth the money. You can also save some money by sticking to the items on these lists:
It would take you months to get through everything on this page. Why not spend a few months here and learn the language? I named Madrid my best place to Learn Spanish in Spain.
*In fact, that is precisely the task I set About.com Contributing Writer and Barcelona resident Paul Cannon, who delivered the goods with this 100 Things to Do in Barcelona
100 Things to Do in Madrid: By Subject and By District
If you know what type of activity you're looking for, check out this breakdown of my list of 100 Things to Do in Madrid
- 20 Madrid Day Trips
- 10 Madrid Landmarks
- 10 Madrid Museums
- 10 Madrid Plazas and Streets
- 10 Madrid Leisure Activities
- 9 Madrid Art Museums
- 8 Madrid Tapas and Snack Joints
- 7 Madrid Nightlife Spots
- 6 Madrid Meals
- 5 Madrid Shopping Spots
- 5 Madrid Cafes
But the best way to tackle Madrid is to split the city up into districts. Listed in order of relevance to tourists, the first few of these should take you a day (or a half-day if you're in a hurry), though check out each of these pages as all of the districts have something to see.
- Things to Do near Sol & Gran Via
- Things to Do in Madrid de las Austrias
- Things to Do in La Latina
- Things to Do in Malasana & Chueca
- Things to Do in Lavapies
- Things to Do in Huertas
- Things to Do Around Paseo del Prado
- Things to Do in Casa de Campo
- Things to Do in Barrio Salamanca
- Things to Do Elsewhere in Madrid
- Things to Do Outside of Madrid: Day Trips from Madrid
Scroll down for the full list of my 100 Things to Do in Madrid.
Ten Things to Do near Sol & Gran Via
Sol is Madrid's most famous plaza and Gran Via is its most famous street. The two are tourist magnets that you may be tempted to hurry away from as quickly as you can. But there are some little secrets right in the eye of the storm that are worth checking out.
- 1. Puerta del Sol
Madrid's central square and Spain's 'kilometer zero'.
- 2. Gran Via
Madrid's premier shopping street.
- 3. Try Traditional Cocido Madrileño Stew
Madrid's signature stew.
- 4. Convento de las Descalzas
Famous convent with art collection.
- 5. Great Tapas at Casa Labra
Cheap and cheerful beer and cod dishes.
- 6. Debod Egyptian Temple
Genuine Egyptian temple in the heart of Madrid!
- 7. Madrid's Iconic Post Office
Madrid's best photo opportunity.
- 8. Plaza España
Grassy plaza surrounded by Spain's oldest skyscrapers.
- 9. Shopping on Calle Preciados and Calle Carmen
Some of Spain's biggest shopping chains can be found here.
- 10. Museo de las Telecomunicaciones
The history of telecommunication.
Ten Things to Do in Madrid de las Austrias
Madrid's oldest district and likely to be one of the main focal points of your trip to the capital.
- 1. Plaza Mayor
Madrid's most ornate plaza and home to the town hall. A nice place for breakfast!
- 2. El Botin, the Oldest Restaurant in the World
The oldest restaurant in the world (the Guinness Book of Records says so) and Ernest Hemingway's favorite restaurant.
- 3. Madrid Cathedral
Madrid's, um, cathedral!
- 4. Plaza Oriente
The plaza in front of Madrid's royal palace.
- 5. Madrid Royal Palace
The royal palace in front of Plaza Oriente!
- 6. El Flamenco Vive Music Shop
Buy some excellent flamenco music from those who know it best.
- 7. San Gines Chocolateria
Spain's best chocolate con churros.
- 8. Casa de las Torrijas
Spanish bread pudding, served with sweet red wine.
- 9. Arab Wall
Madrid's oldest sight.
- 10. Hammam Al Andalus Turkish Baths
Ten Things to Do in La Latina
Famous for tapas and its Sunday morning market, but there's much more to La Latina than just these things.
- 1. Tapas on Cava Baja
A high concentration of good tapas bars, most with English menus
- 2. Flamenco at La Solea
Flamenco without the pomp and ceremony - as it should be. UPDATE: This bar has closed.
- 3. Plaza and Iglesia de San Andres
Take a beer in the shadow of a magnificent church...
- 4. Basilica de San Francisco El Grande
...which is just down the road from an even more magnificent church.
- 5. Tapas at Casa Granada
Madrid's best concealed tapas bar.
- 6. Plaza Paja
Madrid's oldest square.
- 7. El Rastro Market
Browse for trinkets in Madrid's famous Sunday market.
- 8. Calle Segovia
An attractive street, with a viaduct and nice restaurants...
- 9. Paella at El Arrozal
...the best of which is this paella restaurant.
- 10. Museo de San Isidro
Museum about the history of Madrid.
Ten Things to Do in Malasana & Chueca
The trendy districts to the north of Gran Via. Malasaña is the bohemian district, Chueca is nominally gay; both are a lot of fun.
- 1. Espacio Conde Duque and the Contemporary Art Museum
- Attractive old barracks and home to one of Madrid's best modern art museums.
- 2. Coffee on Calle Espiritu Santo
- English bookshops and retro-hip cafes on this popular street.
- 3. Cafe Commercial
- And then there's this one - Madrid's most famous place to get coffee.
- 4. Wine Tasting at Planeta Vino
- Sample Spain's famous wine culture.
- 5. Mercado Fuencarral
- Trendy alternative fashion (at a price).
- 6. Tapas at Stop Madrid
- Ham, cheese and chorizo - tapas couldn't get any more classic...
- 7. Tapas at El Tigre
- ...whereas here it couldn't get any cheaper.
- 8. Drinking at Via Lactea
- One of Madrid's hippest bars in the 80s still attracts a crowd.
- 9. Biggest Drinks in the World at Diplodocus
- These drinks were made to be shared - trust me!
- 10. Con Dos Fogones Restaurant
- An excellent fusion restaurant at a reasonable price.
Top Five Things to Do in Huertas
Another old district of Madrid, Huertas has some of the best - and worst - bars in Madrid. Ernest Hemmingway used to frequent this part of town.
- 1. Viva Madrid and Magister
- Viva Madrid is the oldest bar in Madrid, Magister brews its own beer and gives you free tapas - the two bars are virtually opposite each other.
- 2. Plaza Santa Ana
- Pretty plaza that was popular with Hemingway.
- 3. Flamenco at Cardamomo
- A flamenco show with all the trimmings. But miss out the meal - it's overpriced.
- 4. Calle Huertas
- An attractive tree-lined and pedestrianized street, with a couple of well-known jazz cafes.
- 5. The House Where Cervantes Died
- Cervantes died here and I once lived here!
Top Five Things to Do Around Paseo del Prado
Paseo del Prado is one of Madrid's most majestic boulevards, with some of the city's most important museums close at hand. Madrid's famous park, El Retiro, is near here.
- 1. Museo del Prado
- This art museum vies with La Sagrada Familia and the Alhambra as the most visited sight in Spain.
- 2. El Retiro
- Madrid's Central Park.
- 3. CaixaForum
- Contemporary art space.
- 4. Real Jardin Botanico
- Madrid's botanical gardens.
- 5. The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum
- One of Madrid's most famous art museums and one of the best private art collections in the world.
Top Ten Things to Do in Lavapies
One of the poorer districts of Madrid, Lavapies' mix of immigrants and trendy youngsters are making this part of town one of the coolest places to be.
- 1. Centro de Arte Reina Sofia
- Madrid's premier modern art gallery, with key works by Dali and Picasso (including the latter's Guernica)
- 2. Coffee at Cafeteria Barbieri
- My favorite cafe in Madrid. Got a sweet tooth? Try the cafe bonbon.
- 3. Visit a Moroccan Teahouse
- Not just green tea with milk, but a whole host of spiced teas. They have shishas too.
- 4. Bars on Calle Ave Maria
- A number of classy bars on this street.
- 5. See a Concert at Sala Juglar
- Expensive beer, but concerts every night pull in the crowds.
- 6. Curry in Lavapies
- Cheap and cheerful Indian restaurants run by the local expat community.
- 7. Casa Encendida
- Exhibition space.
- 8. Bocadillo de Calamares at El Brillante
- The self-proclaimed best squid sandwiches in Madrid. I couldn't disagree with them.
- 9. Atocha Train Station
- A tropical garden (with terrapins!) and a monument to those who died during the 2004 terrorist attack.
- 10. Gaudeamus Cafe Rooftop Bar
- It's a cafe, and a bar, on a rooftop, and it's called Gaudeamus!
Top Five Things to Do in Casa de Campo
Madrid's other famous park, Casa de Campo, is a bit further away than El Retiro but also offers a number of worthwhile attractions.
- 1. Madrid Teleferico (Aerial Tramway or Cable Car)
- Get a bird's eye view of Madrid as you whizz from close to Plaza de España all the way to the park.
- 2. Madrid Zoo and Aquarium
- Home to a rare white rhino and a baby panda.
- 3. Madrid Parque de Atracciones
- Madrid's closest theme park.
- 4. Paseo de la Gastronomia
- High-class restaurants that come at a price!
- 5. Walk Around the Lake
- Take a stroll and see Plaza España from an unusual angle.
Top Five Things to Do in Barrio Salamanca
Madrid's most chic district, with a few good museums around here too.
- 1. Archeological Museum
- Includes a replica of the Altamira cave in Cantabria, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (the original, that is!).
- 2. Museo Lazaro Galdiano
- Private collection, featuring coins, medals, paintings, ceramics, jewelry and more.
- 3. Museo de Escultura Abstracta
- Open-air abstract sculpture collection.
- 4. National Library
- Features a book museum.
- 5. Window Shopping on and around Calle Serrano
- Too expensive for most people's budgets, but one can dream...
Top Ten Things to Do Elsewhere in Madrid
Away from Madrid's most touristy districts, there are still plenty of things to do.
- 1. Santiago Bernabeu
- How to Real Madrid, the most successful soccer team in Europe.
- 2. Bullfighting
- Madrid is one of the main centers of bullfighting in Spain.
- 3. CosmoCaixa Madrid
- Excellent science museum on the outskirts of Madrid.
- 4. Museo de las Americas
- Museum about Spain's exploits in the discovery of the New World.
- 5. Faro de Madrid
- Madrid's "lighthouse" - a lookout point where you can see the whole of Madrid.
- 6. Anden 0
- An old metro station, turned into a little time capsule.
- 7. Blind Museum
- A museum for the blind and about the blind - but the sighted can get a lot out of the tactile exhibitions too.
- 8. Faunia
- Madrid's wildlife park.
- 9. Madrid Planetarium
- It's a planetarium. In Madrid.
- 10. Naval, Railway and Air Museums
- Transport aficionados can indulge themselves in these three museums.
Twenty Things to Do Outside of Madrid
But wait! When you think you've got enough out of Madrid, you still have some of the region's amazing array of towns and villages to visit.
The AVE high-speed train makes this possible as a day trip, though it's expensive and Barcelona really deserves more than a day.
- 2. Toledo
This walled city is one of Spain's most famous sights.
- 3. Seville
The jewel of Spain's south and home to flamenco and bullfighting. Again, it deserves more than a day, but better to see it for a day than never at all.
- 4. Cordoba
Home to one of the biggest Mosques in the world.
- 5. Segovia
Segovia has a 2,000 year aqueduct and a German-esque fairytale castle.
- 6. Valencia
Spain's third biggest city and the birthplace of paella.
- 7. Avila
The walls and turrets of this medieval city are more impressive than those in Toledo.
- 8. El Escorial
The burial place of most of Spain's monarchs.
- 9. El Valle de los Caidos
The chilling monument, built to honor the memory of Franco, Spain's former dictator.
- 10. Aranjuez
The royal family's former retreat.
- 11. Salamanca
One of the nicest plazas in Spain.
- 12. Cuenca
Famous for its 'hanging houses' - dwellings built over the sides of cliffs!
- 13. El Pardo
Franco's former country retreat.
- 14. Warner Brothers Theme Park
Madrid's best theme park.
- 15. Consuegra
Famous for its windmills (the ones that Don Quixote thought were giants) and saffron.
- 16. Chinchon
Quaint village near Madrid.
- 17. Alcala de Henares
University town and UNESCO world heritage site.
- 18. Manzanares El Real
Castles and hiking.
- 19. Cercedilla
Hiking and the Roman road to Segovia.
- 20. Siguenza
A 12th century cathedral and a historic train journey there.