Top 10 Madrid Attractions

Madrid

Madrid is an open city that attracts travelers from different corners of the world. Its life is in full swing around the clock. The Spanish capital is unquestionably one of Europe's most fascinating cities, distinguished by its tolerance and rich cultural heritage.

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Located over 650 meters / 2,130 feet above sea level in the heart of the Iberian Peninsula, Madrid is the tallest European capital. It has a mostly dry, continental climate. The city is best visited in the spring and fall, as it can be hot in the summer and cool in the winter.

Madrid is an "intentional" city since it was created on the whim of one person, King Philip II, in the 16th century when it became the Spanish capital. Its Old Town is a true treasure.

"Here is a city built in a wilderness. Philip II chose the site for no other reason than that it was the geographic center of Spain." – an English writer who spent much of his life in Spain.

Even though Madrid is a contemporary and cosmopolitan city like Paris or Vienna, its appearance and cultural life perfectly represent its royal reality. The city has magnificent palaces, spacious squares, and beautiful churches founded by monarchs.

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The 10 Best Attractions in Madrid

Madrid Map

The capital of Spain presents pleasant surprises for those who like exciting excursions – it has a wide variety of historical and architectural sites. Below is a guide with a short description of the city's 10 top tourist attractions.

1. Royal Palace of Madrid

Built in the 18th century, the Royal Palace of Madrid (Palacio Real de Madrid) is the largest of all existing royal palaces in Europe today: almost twice than Versailles in Paris and Buckingham in London. It is the official residence of the Spanish monarchs located in the western part of the city. 

Royal Palace of Madrid
The Royal Palace of Madrid at night


The building exterior combines various architectural styles such as Rococo, Baroque, and even oriental motifs on the palace facade are harmonious.

The interiors of the Royal Palace are the most luxurious throughout Europe. Inside, you may see paintings by Caravaggio, Goya, Tiepolo, and Velazquez, as well as a collection of furniture, sculptures, and antique weapons. This historical wealth makes the palace the most attractive museum in Madrid, open to the public on days free from official royal events. 

In total, the palace has more than 2 thousand different rooms; you can visit more than 20 allowable rooms in 1.5–2 hours.

Address: 
Calle de Bailén, s/n, 28071 Madrid

Transportation: 
Metro (lines 2, 5): Ópera
Bus (lines 3, 25, 39, 148): Plaza De Oriente

2. Plaza Mayor

The Main Square (Plaza Mayor) owes its present appearance to the Spanish architect Juan de Villanueva, who worked on the place in the 18h century after a series of fires. Since its founding, it has been a stage for many events: coronations, bullfights, football matches, and even public executions.

Mannequins Plaza Mayor
Mannequins with flamenco and bullfighter traditional costumes for tourists to pose


Surrounded by four-story residential buildings, the rectangular square is "dressed" in the Baroque style. The reddish-ocher façades with 237 balconies and beautifully frescoed walls of the most famous local building – former royal bakery Casa de la Panaderia – give an extraordinary beauty to this place.

The Plaza Mayor is always lively: travelers take photos, street artists paint portraits, merchants sell souvenirs. Within the square, there are numerous restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, bookstores.

Transportation: 
Metro (lines 2, 5): Ópera
Bus (lines 17, 31, 50, N26, SE712): Plaza Mayor

3. Almudena Cathedral's Crypt

Every city in Europe has a cathedral. Characterized by its age, exceptional architecture, and exquisite decor, the cathedral is usually the most impressive local church. In Madrid, this is Almudena Cathedral.

Almudena Cathedral Crypt
Interior of the crypt


There is a beautiful crypt beneath the floor of the cathedral. It has more than a hundred years old and stands in excellent condition. Designed by the Spanish architect Francisco de Cubas in Neo-Romanesque style, the crypt has a Latin cross shape. The stone chamber looks slightly mystical due to the low ceiling and insufficient light sources. 

The cathedral-sized crypt is considered one of the largest in Spain. It attracts visitors' attention not only that some significant aristocratic personalities rest here but also by its interior or, more specifically, by the "forest" of impressive columns with non-repeating capitals.

Address: 
Calle Mayor, 90, 28013 Madrid

Transportation: 
Metro (lines 2, 5, R): Ópera
Bus: (line SE712): Palacio Real

4. Gran Vía

During its century-old history, the famous Gran Vía has become a kind of hallmark of Madrid. The first skyscrapers in Spain arose here between 1910 and 1931, using modern design concepts derived from the United States as a foundation.

Gran Vía
View of Gran Vía and Callao Square


Architecturally divided into three sections, the Gran Vía is unofficially the city's main street. 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. 

Continuing 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, is created in the American Rationalism current found most in New York.

The reputation of Gran Vía as the central shopping street remains till now even if you can buy everything you want and need in other places in the city. Among the very famous and popular brands all over the world, you can find several truly historical museum stores: Loewe, Grassy, Sanz Joyeros, and Aristocrazy.

Transportation: 
Metro (line 2): Banco de España
Bus (001, 1, 2, 74): Círculo De Bellas Artes

5. Plaza del Callao

Located in the central part of Gran Vía, the Callao Square (Plaza del Callao) dates to the first half of the 20the century. Edificio Capitol stands on the square; it is one of the tallest buildings in Madrid. Its style is a combination of futurism and Art Deco dating back to 1933.

Plaza de Callao
View of Callao Square with 1926-Cinema and 45-m (147-ft) high Edificio Capitol building 


Over 110 million people pass through Callao Square annually. There are several theatres, a significant number of cafés, and restaurants with outdoor summer seating areas, where travelers may enjoy the lovely views of the city while drinking a cup of tea or coffee in the sun.

Transportation: 
Metro (line 3,5): Callao
Bus (lines 001, 1, 2, 46, 74, 75, 147, 148, N16, N18, N19, N20, N21): Callao

6. Puerta de Alcalá

The Alcalá Gate (Puerta de Alcalá), located in the city's center on Independence Square next to Buen Retiro Park, originally served as the main city entrance gate from Aragon and France. Today it is considered an architectural symbol of Madrid and has been declared a national monument in Spain.

Puarta de Alcalá
Northwestern view of the Alcalá Gate


The gate became the pinnacle of creativity of the famous 18th-century Italian architect Francesco Sabatini. He worked in Spain and carried out orders of the royal family.

Built-in the Neoclassical style, the triumphal gateway has three vaulted passages decorated with pilasters, columns, sculptural images of lion heads, and four cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance. The Baroque décor, made of limestone, perfect the facade.

Transportation: 
Metro (line 2): Banco de España, Retiro
Bus (lines 1, 2, 9, 15, 19, 20, 28, 51, 52, 74, 146): Puerta De Alcalá

7. Toledo Bridge

Standing over the river Manzanares, the Toledo Bridge (Puente de Toledo) – one of the oldest in Madrid – was built by the Spanish architect Pedro de Ribera in the 18th century. Although the architect did not strive for any decorative extravagance, the bridge looks exceptional because the Baroque style it possesses is particularly solemn in itself.

Toledo Bridge
On the Toledo Bridge


Attractive features of the structure include nine granite semicircular spans and two decorative "ciborium-like" turrets above the central aisle with Juan Ron sculptures of Saints Isidore and Mary Torribia.

Today, residents and visitors to Madrid can enjoy a picturesque view of the city from the Toledo Bridge, as the movement of any transport on it is prohibited.

Transportation 
Metro (line 5): Marqués de Vadillo, Pirámides
Bus (lines 18, 23, 34, 35, 36, 62, 116, 118, 119): Pirámides

8. Plaza de Castilla

Located in the northern part of the city, in the Chamartin district, Castile Square (Plaza de Castilla) is one of the most spacious and beautiful squares of modern Madrid. Here, guests and residents of the Spanish capital can see two identical high-rise buildings that became a city's attraction and symbolically named Gateway of Europe. Their vertical slope is 15 degrees, and it seems that they are trying to get closer to each other, closing in on the upper corners. The buildings rise to a height of over 114 m (374 ft) m, and each of them has 26 floors.

Plaza de Castilla
Modern Madrid: Castile Square with Cuatro Torres in the distance


The square also has other landmarks, such as an obelisk designed by the Spanish Swiss architect Santiago Calatrava for the 300th anniversary of Caja Bank, the water tower, and Canal de Isabel II park with a temporary exhibition center.

Transportation:
Metro (lines 1, 9, 10): Plaza de Castilla
Bus (lines 5, 70, 107, 129): Plaza Castilla

9. Plaza de España

The most recognizable structure on Spain Square (Plaza de España) is the magnificent sculptural composition dedicated to Miguel de Cervantes. Almost everyone, who visits the Plaza de  España for the first time, wants to take a picture with Don Quixote and Sancho Paso, two of Cervantes' most famous characters.

Plaza de España
Spain Square at night


The square also contains two famous high-rise buildings built in the 1950s. The 142 m (466 ft) Madrid Tower with 117 m (384 ft) tall Spain Building form one of the fascinating architectural ensembles of the capital. On the opposite corner of Plaza de España, it is worth noting the 19th Royal Asturian Mining Company Building raised in the Eclectic style.

Lined with tall plane trees, the south side of the square is a lovely green area where you can always find a shady place to rest.

Transportation:
Metro (lines 3, 10): Plaza de España
Bus (lines 3, 25, 39, 46, 75, 148): Plaza De España

10. Cuatro Torres

Cuatro Torres is a business center near Castile Square, consisting of four modern skyscrapers – the tallest buildings in Madrid and all of Spain.

Cuatro Torres
Skyscrapers at Cuatro Torres; the middle one – Torre de Cristal


They are considered genuine icons of the city. The buildings are most offices, but there are also hotels and restaurants.

The center's main feature is the 52-story Torre de Cristal – the tallest building in Spain and the 3rd in the European Union. Designed by the Argentinian architect César Pelli, it stands 249 m (817ft) tall. The "Crystal" skyscraper attracts attention with its vertical roof garden, twisted design, and light-reflecting glazing, for which it got its name.

While in Madrid, be sure to visit this center to fully immerse yourself in the splendor of the Spanish capital and the perfect blend of its history and modernity. 

Address: 
Paseo de la Castellana, s/n, 28029 Madrid

Transportation: 
Metro (line 1, 10): Madrid Chamartín
Bus (lines 154, 815): Madrid Chamartín
Trains (lines C1, C2, C3, C4, C8, C10): Madrid Chamartín

The Most Adventurous Experiences in Madrid

There is always something going on in Madrid, the country's dynamic capital. Day or night, the city offers a splendid plethora of exciting outdoor activities.

You might want to explore Madrid by choosing one or more of the recommended activities listed below. Enjoy!

Currency

Spain joined the Eurozone by adopting the euro in 1999, so visiting Madrid and traveling around Spain and nearby countries – France, Portugal, and Andorra – will be truly convenient for you.

Where to Stay in Madrid

On Booking.com, you can book 700 homes, apartments, and other unique places to stay in Madrid.

Booking.com

According to this online travel agency for lodging reservations, CoolRooms Atocha, Room Mate Alba, and VP Plaza España Design are some of the most famous hotels in Madrid.

Renting a Car in Madrid

DiscoverCars.com – a leader in online car rental reservations – is the best site to book a car in Madrid. They compare car rental deals from many companies so you can choose what works best for you.

What to Buy in Madrid

Fan. This accessory is so popular that the Spaniards even came up with a unique sign language. Made of paper, fabric, feathers, and even nacre, they are sold everywhere. If you are looking for a handmade exclusive, visit Casa de Diego, a specialty shop for fans and umbrellas at Puerta del Sol, 12.

Liqueur. The bear with the strawberry tree is the coat of arms of Madrid. To get a special bottle marked with the Madrid symbol – El Oso y el Madroño, take a look around the Mariano Madrueño wine cellars in the historic Lavapies district (Calatrava Street 19).

Cosmetics. Spanish cosmetics are not as famous as French ones, but they are also popular in the country. It is worth noting the professional face and body cosmetics Natura Bisse and Belnatur and hair products Myrsol. You can find all this in professional cosmetics stores, beauty and hairdressing salons.

Shawl. Spanish shawls are considered traditional souvenirs. Embroidered on silk with double-sided silk satin stitch, they will be an excellent practical gift. 

Ceramics. The Arabs have once conquered Spain. Spanish handicraftsmen learned ceramics from the Moors and continued and developed its traditions from generation to generation. That is why today, the country is one of the world leaders in porcelain and ceramics production. Sargadelos, Nadal, and Graupera factories manufacture classical and well-known ceramic products.

Spain Travel Guide

For more popular attractions in Spain, read:


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Madrid Guide



9 comments

  1. I'd love to bring home a shawl from a visit. I think that is the perfect souvenir.

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  2. I would love to visit Madrid one day. I love the mixture of old and new architecture. The vibe of the city just seems amazing, too.

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  3. I can't wait to visit someday! I've been to Barcelona but not Madrid!

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  4. Madrid is on my travel bucket list! I can't wait to start traveling the world again and experiencing other cultures.

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  5. Madrid looks like it would be such an awesome place to visit! I'd love to go here and explore myself in the post-pandemic world.

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  6. Oh man, you just created some serious wanderlust! Looks stunning and Spain was very high on my list of places to visit last year. Look like I'll just have to wait a little bit longer. Keeping this list for the future.

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  7. I would love to see all of these. Thank you for this!

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  8. Those are all wonderful selection of places to explore in Madrid. Never been there before but would definitely love to visit with the family someday.

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  9. So many places to visit around Madrid. This is also the city I wish to visit one day coz Spain used to be our patron, and we shared similar culture in the Philippines.

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