Attractions In Madrid: The 10 Best

Madrid, Spain
Madrid

Madrid is one of Europe's most fascinating capital cities. Its rich history, beautiful architecture, world-class shopping, and vibrant nightlife make it a memorable destination. You can also enjoy fine wine, delicious cuisine, and enthralling street performances in the Spanish capital.

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King Philip II founded Madrid in the 16th century, which is why it is known as an "intentional" city. The city is one of the highest capitals in Europe, located at over 650 meters (2,130 feet) above sea level in the middle of the Iberian Peninsula. Because of the continental climate, spring and fall are the best times to visit Madrid, as summers can be hot and winters can be cold here. According to statista.com, trees cover 39% of its area on average, making Madrid the fifth greenest city in Europe, after Oslo, Bern, Ljubljana, and Berlin.



Madrid pleasantly surprised me. Even though I intuitively knew it would be a wonderful place, its charm blew me away. Spain's capital is a cosmopolitan megacity, like Paris, but its appearance and cultural life reflect the majestic royal reality. Here is my list of ten Madrid attractions I found the most exciting. You might want to put some or all of them on your bucket list for your next visit to Spain's capital.


Top 10 Madrid Attractions


1. Royal Palace of Madrid


Royal Palace of Madrid

The Royal Palace of Madrid, built in the 18th century, is the largest of all existing royal palaces in Europe today, nearly twice the size of Versailles in Paris and Buckingham Palace in London. It serves as the official residence of Spain's monarchs.

The building's exterior combines various architectural styles such as Rococo, Baroque, and even oriental motifs on the palace facade are harmonious. The Royal Palace has almost 3,500 rooms. Inside, you'll find paintings by Caravaggio, Goya, Tiepolo, and Velázquez, along with a great collection of furniture, sculptures, and antique weapons. This historical wealth makes the palace the most appealing museum in Madrid.

Address: C. de Bailén, s/n, 28071 Madrid
Official website: Royal Palace of Madrid


2. Plaza Mayor


Mannequins Plaza Mayor

The Main Square got its current look thanks to the Spanish architect Juan de Villanueva, who worked on it in the 18th century after a series of fires. Since its inception, the rectangular square has served as a venue for various events, including coronations, bullfights, football matches, Inquisition trials, and executions.

The reddish-ocher façades with 237 balconies and beautifully frescoed walls of the most famous local building – the former royal bakery Casa de la Panaderia – give this place an outstanding beauty. Street artists paint portraits, travelers take photos, and merchants sell souvenirs in the always crowded square. It has a variety of restaurants, pubs, souvenir shops, and bookstores.


3. Almudena Cathedral's Crypt


Almudena Cathedral Crypt

Every European city has a cathedral. The cathedral is typically the most beautiful church in the ecclesiastical district under the jurisdiction of a bishop, distinguished by its age, exceptional architecture, and decoration, such as sculpture, stained glass, and wall painting. In Madrid, this is Almudena Cathedral.

There is a magnificent crypt beneath the cathedral's floor. It is a hundred years old, shaped like a Latin cross, created in the Neo-Romanesque style by the Spanish architect Francisco de Cubas, and recognized as one of Spain's largest crypts. The interior of this underground chamber, specifically the "forest" of columns, astonishes visitors.



Address: Calle Mayor, 90, 28013 Madrid, Spain
Official website: Cripta de la Catedral


4. Gran Vía


Gran Vía

With a century-long history, the Gran Vía has become the symbol of Madrid. Between 1910 and 1931, the city saw the construction of Spain's first skyscrapers based on ideas from the United States. 

The street has three architecturally divided sections. There are numerous Neo-Renaissance-style houses with huge balconies, columns on the facades, and heavy stucco cornices in the first section, from Calle de Alcalá to Plaza Red de San Luis. Moving on to Plaza de Callao, the second one combines French architectural style with American modernism. The third section, located between Plaza del Callao and Plaza de España, was designed in the American Rationalism style prevalent in New York.


5. Plaza del Callao


Plaza de Callao

Callao Square, located in the heart of Gran Vía, dates from the first half of the 20th century. The 45-meter (147-foot) tall Edificio Capitol, one of Madrid's tallest buildings, dominates the area. Built-in 1933, it features Futurism and Art Deco influences.

Every year, more than 110 million people pass through the square, well-known as Trafalgar Square in London and Times Square in New York.


6. Puerta de Alcalá


Puarta de Alcalá

The Alcalá Gate, located in the city center on Independence Square next to Buen Retiro Park, was originally the main city entrance gate from Aragon and France. It is now considered an architectural symbol of Madrid. The gate became the pinnacle of the 18th-century famous Italian architect Francesco Sabatini's creativity. He worked in Spain and carried out royal family orders.

The triumphal gateway, built in the Neoclassical style, has three vaulted passages decorated with pilasters, columns, sculptural images of lion heads, and four cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. Limestone ornaments from the Baroque era add a touch of elegance to the façade.


7. Toledo Bridge


Toledo Bridge

The Toledo Bridge, one of Madrid's oldest, was built over the Manzanares River in the 18th century by the Spanish architect Pedro de Ribera. The bridge is an exceptional piece of architecture, though it does not possess any decorative extravagance beyond its traditional Baroque style.

The structure has nine granite semicircular spans and two decorative "ciborium-like" turrets above the central aisle with Juan Ron sculptures of Saints Isidore and Mary Torribia. Residents and travelers to Madrid can now enjoy a picturesque view of the city from the Toledo Bridge, which is no longer open to traffic.


8. Plaza de Castilla


Plaza de Castilla

Castile Square is one of the most spacious and beautiful squares in Madrid. Guests and residents of the Spanish capital can see two identical high-rise buildings that have become a city attraction and have been symbolically named the Gateway of Europe. Their vertical slope is 15 degrees.

Each has 26 floors and stands more than 114 meters (374 feet) in height. Other landmarks in the square include an obelisk designed by the Spanish Swiss architect Santiago Calatrava for the 300th anniversary of Caja Bank, a water tower, and Canal de Isabel II park with a temporary exhibition center.


9. Plaza de España


Plaza de España

The magnificent sculptural composition dedicated to Miguel de Cervantes is the most recognizable structure in Spain Square. Almost everyone who visits the square for the first time wishes to pose with Don Quixote and Sancho Paso, two of Cervantes' most famous characters.

It also has two well-known high-rise buildings from the 1950s. The 142-meter (466-foot) tall Madrid Tower and the 117-meter (384-foot) tall Spain Building form one of the capital's most fascinating architectural ensembles. The 19th-century Royal Asturian Mining Company Building, built in the Eclectic style, stands on the opposite corner of Plaza de España. The south side of the square is a green area lined with tall plane trees where you can always find a shady spot to rest.


10. Cuatro Torres


Cuatro Torres

Cuatro Torres is a business district near Castile Square with four modern skyscrapers, the tallest in Madrid and Spain. They are genuine city icons. Most of the structures are offices, but there are also hotels and restaurants.

The center's main attraction is the 52-story Torre de Cristal, the tallest building in Spain and the 3rd in the European Union. Designed by Argentine architect César Pelli, the skyscraper reaches 249 meters (817 feet) tall. While in Madrid, visit this center to fully immerse yourself in the splendor of the Spanish capital and its perfect blend of history and modernity.



Where to Stay in Madrid

Unsure of where to stay in Madrid? For my trips, I use Booking.com, a well-designed website that helps me find everything from small B&Bs to large hotel chains, vacation rentals, and homestays.




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Have any questions about things to do in Madrid? Planning a trip to Spain? What about other suggestions? Feel free to leave a comment below.




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