Top 10 attractions in Madrid

Madrid

Madrid, where life is in full swing around the clock, is an open city that attracts people from different places in the world. Distinguished by hospitality, colossal cultural and artistic heritage, this city is undoubtedly one of Europe's fascinating centers.

Madrid is the highest European capital, located at approximately 657 m (2,155 ft) altitude in the Iberian Peninsula's center. The climate in the city is continental, mostly dry. The best time to visit Madrid is during spring and autumn as it can be hot in summer and cool in winter.

Started built in the 16th century – when it became the Spanish capital – at the whim of one person, king Philip II, Madrid is considered an "intentional" city. Its Old Town is a real gem.

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.

Although Madrid is a modern and cosmopolitan city like Vienna, its appearance and cultural life flawlessly reflect its royal reality. Since the 16th century, it has been the capital of the Kingdom of Spain. Royal palaces, spacious squares, and beautiful churches that monarchs built – the city is rich in them. 

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Top 10 attractions in Madrid

The capital of Spain presents pleasant surprises for those who like exciting excursions – it has a wide variety of historical and architectural sites. Here is a guide that contains a detailed description of the top 10 tourist attractions in Madrid. And as a bonus, a map of Madrid is attached to show their locations.

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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 are present on the palace facade in a harmonious manner.

The interiors of the Royal Palace are the most luxurious throughout Europe. Inside, you can admire the canvases of Caravaggio, Goya, Tiepolo, Velazquez, and a collection of home furnishings, 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 Royal 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

Royal Palace of Madrid Skip-the-Line Guided Tour

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 together with 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

Madrid: Live Flamenco Show with Food and Drinks Options

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. In 1910–1931, the first skyscrapers in Spain arose here, taking as a basis modern design trends borrowed from the United States.  

Gran Vía
View of Gran Vía and Callao Square


Architecturally divided into three sections, the Gran Vía is unofficially the city's main street. The first section – from Calle de Alcalá to Plaza Red de San Luis – has many buildings in the neo-Renaissance style, with large balconies, columns on the facades, and heavy stucco cornices. The second one, extending to Plaza de Callao, is a mix of French architectural style and 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 (at no. 8), Grassy (house no. 1), Sanz Joyeros (at no. 7), and Aristocrazy (at no. 26).

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

Useful links for visiting Spain

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. In addition to large shopping centers, on the plaza, there are several cinemas, also numerous cafes and restaurants with open summer areas, where there are always many tourists who enjoy the beautiful views of the city with a cup of tea and coffee. 

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


Nine granite semicircular spans and two decorative ciborium-like turrets above the central aisle with sculptures of Saint Isidore and Saint Mary Torribia by Juan Ron are the structure's characteristic features.

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

Rent a scooter in Madrid

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. Coming to Plaza de España for the first time, almost every traveler wants to take a picture himself in the company of the famous heroes of Cervantes' novel - the impeccable knight Don Quixote and his faithful assistant Sancho Paso.

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

2.5-Hour Evening Tapas Tour through Madrid

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

Book a hotel in Madrid

What to Buy in Madrid

The Spaniards know a lot about beauty and delicious food, so in Madrid, you can buy quality clothing and shoes, fashion accessories, natural cosmetics, elegant wine, aromatic cheese, etc.

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. You can buy liqueur produced from the tree fruits in the city's various shops. 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.



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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