Top 10 Madrid Attractions


Madrid is one of Europe's most fascinating capital cities. It has a rich history, beautiful architecture, world-class shopping, and a thriving nightlife. Moreover, the Spanish capital offers a wide variety of art, fine wine, delicious tapas, and captivating street performances.

King Philip II founded Madrid in the 16th century, which helps to explain why it is called an "intentional" city. Its historical center is a true treasure. Rising almost 650 meters (2,130 feet) above sea level in the middle of the Iberian Peninsula, Madrid is the highest European capital. Because of the city's continental climate, spring and fall are the best times to visit, as summers can be hot and winters can be cold.

For me, Madrid was a pleasant surprise. Although I intuitively knew this would be a wonderful place, the metropolis blew me away with its charm. Even though Madrid, like Paris, is cosmopolitan, its appearance and cultural life properly reflect the majestic royal reality. My guide below highlights the top ten attractions in Madrid worth visiting.

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Top 10 Attractions in Madrid

Madrid Map

1. Royal Palace of Madrid

Royal Palace of Madrid
The Royal Palace of Madrid at night

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. The interiors are among the most luxurious in Europe. Inside, you'll find paintings by Caravaggio, Goya, Tiepolo, and  Velázquez, as well as a 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, Spain

If you want to beat the crowds and see parts of the palace that regular visitors don't have access to, take the Royal Palace of Madrid Early Access in a Small Group Tour.

2. Plaza Mayor

Mannequins Plaza Mayor
Mannequins with flamenco and bullfighter traditional costumes in the square

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 even 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 on the always crowded square. It has a variety of restaurants, pubs, souvenir shops, and bookstores.

3. Almudena Cathedral's Crypt

Almudena Cathedral Crypt
The crypt's interior

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 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, more specifically the "forest" of columns, astonishes visitors.

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

4. Gran Vía

Gran Vía
View of Gran Vía and Callao Square

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
View of Callao Square, circa-1926 Cinema, and Edificio Capitol 

The 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. More than 110 million people pass through the square each year; it is as well-known as Trafalgar Square in London and Times Square in New York.

6. Puerta de Alcalá

Puarta de Alcalá
A view of the Alcalá Gate from the northwest

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 famous 18th-century 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
On the 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. Although the architect did not aim for any decorative extravagance, the bridge looks exceptional because the Baroque style it possesses is particularly solemn in and of itself. 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
Modern Madrid: Castile Square with Cuatro Torres

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, and it appears that they are attempting to get closer to each other, closing in on the upper corners. 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
Spain Square at night

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 meters (466 feet) tall Madrid Tower and the 117 meters (384 feet) 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, can be found 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
View of three skyscrapers at Cuatro Torres, with Torre de Cristal in the center

Cuatro Torres is a business district near Castile Square that features four modern skyscrapers, the tallest in Madrid and Spain. They are genuine city icons. The majority 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.

Madrid's Most Adventurous Experiences

In Madrid, the country's dynamic capital, there is always something going on. Day or night, the city offers various exciting outdoor activities. Take part in one or more of the tours listed below to experience Madrid. Enjoy!

Spanish Currency

Spain joined the Eurozone by adopting the euro in 1999, making it incredibly convenient to visit Madrid and travel throughout neighboring countries: Andorra, Portugal, and France.

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