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Madrid City Guide - What to Do in Madrid

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Madrid City Guide - What to Do in Madrid

Plaza Mayor, with its beautiful pictoral facades

Image: Damian Corrigan

Overview:

The capital of Spain isn't as popular as Barcelona or Seville, but it has a charm of its own. Its famous museums, home to delights such as Picasso's Guernica, are worth the trip alone.

See also: 100 Things to Do in Madrid.

Flights to Madrid

There is an airport in Madrid. There is also an airport in Valladolid, which isn't far away.
Compare Prices on Flights to Spain (book direct)

Best Time to Visit Madrid:

Mid May. The weather will be glorious (but not yet reaching the unbearable summer temperatures) and May 15 is San Isidro, the celebrations of Madrid’s patron saint, with a week of parties and music concerts.

Number of Days to Spend in Madrid (excluding day trips):

Three to see all the essential sights (a day in the museums and two days for the rest), several more to really appreciate the diversity Madrid has to offer.

Hotels in Madrid:

One of the better Web sites for booking accommodation in Madrid is Venere.com. Their site is incredibly easy to use and has hotels to suit all budgets.
Visit Vendor's Site

If you're after a budget-priced bed in a dorm, try Hostelworld.

For more in-depth information about booking hotels in Madrid, see this Guide to Hotel Districts in Madrid.

Five Things to Do in Madrid:

  • The famous trio of museums: Museo Nacional del Prado, the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza & the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía.
  • El Rastro, the Sunday morning market.
  • Santiago Bernabeu, home to the Real Madrid soccer club.
  • Madrid's nightlife is world famous - La Latina for the over-thirties, Malasaña & Chueca for those under, Huertas for the tourists.
  • Take a picnic to El Retiro, Madrid's premier park. Perfect for a Sunday afternoon stroll.

Day Trips from Madrid:

Segovia, Toledo, El Escorial, Avila and Salamanca. Read more on Day Trips from Madrid.

Madrid has good transport connections with these cities and they can all be reached easily by train and bus. However, the quickest way to get to them is by guided tour.

See Guided Tours from Madrid

Where to Next?:

Anywhere! Madrid is in the very center of Spain, so the whole country is at your disposal. See Madrid - Departure & Arrival for more details on travel out of Madrid. For tips on planning your travel in Spain, these Suggested Itineraries from Madrid will help you in your preparations.

How to Get from Madrid to...:

If you're traveling from Madrid and want to know specific travel times or prices to specific cities, try this link:

How to Get from Madrid to...

Some brief examples are given below (use the above link for full details):

From Barcelona 631km - 7h by car; 1h10m by plane; 2h40 by train.
Read more on Barcelona

From Seville 536km - 6h20m by car, 2h30m by train*, 1h by plane.
Read more on Seville

*The Madrid-Seville train route is served by the AVE, Spain’s luxury high-speed train.
Buy Direct

Renting a Car in Madrid:

Compare prices on car rental from the big car hire companies on Kayak.

First Impressions:

For a professional guide to Madrid, see Guided Tours of Madrid

Regardless of how people arrive in the city, they usually head to Puerta del Sol, Madrid's main plaza. Usually referred to as simply 'Sol', it is the emotional centre of Madrid and in many ways Spain too (it is also the point from which all distances in Spain are measured). Sol became the focal point of grief (and anger) in the aftermath to the March 11 bombings and is frequently the venue for protests and marches. The rest of the time it is little more than a shopping district and meeting point (a statue of Madrid's symbol, a bear eating from a strawberry tree is eternally surrounded by people waiting for their friends and relatives for a shopping trip or night out).

You can either head south towards the tapas bars of Huertas and then on to the hippy/immigrant quarter, Lavapies, or norther a hundred yards to Gran Via, Madrid's main shopping street, always full of tourists and one of the highest concentrations of Starbucks I have ever seen! Some of the buildings have some interesting adornments (you'll get neckache looking up at them - careful for what you might step in or walk into!) but you'll most likely want to continue past Gran Via, either east towards the regal Paseo del Prado (with its famous museums) or north along the fashionable c/Fuencarral. Do a spot of mullet-spotting on the style-conscious youths on this street as you decide whether to head east into Chueca (the gay district) or west into Malasaña, where fans of alternative music have their bars and record stores.

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