Situated in the heart of Spain, the city prides itself on being the pinnacle of Spanish culture, art and style. From glorious art deco buildings to traditional tapas restaurants, every corner you turn uncovers a great discovery... -Yes, I will talk about churros. But not only! Discover what's behind Madrid's vibrant atmosphere...
When my sister & brother proposed me to meet in Madrid instead of South France, I was delighted. In fact, even though I lived ten years in Provence, the only places I've seen in Spain are Barcelona and Baix Empordà -yes, I've explored more of New Zealand than Europe. It's ridiculous. Madrid always intrigued me though -and not only because of the churros!.
We spent 3 beautiful days wandering in the golden metropolis, surprised to discover such an easy going and friendly city. You can actually breathe the real Spanish atmosphere there! To make sure you experience Madrid as much as you can, I've picked up 10 essential things to do when you visit Madrid. Buen viaje!
10 things to do in Madrid
If you can't fit them all in, no worries... you can always come back! But relax, the city is small enough to see the best of Madrid just walking. And no need to boast about the city's world-class shopping, rich culture or crazy nightlife, I guess you'll discover them when you get there... Enjoy your city trip -and please share your tips in the comments, so we can discover your favorite things to do in Madrid !
01. eat Churros con chocolate in madrid's oldest chocolateria
Of course it's number 1! The Chocolateria San Ginés opened its doors over a century ago in this cute hidden alleyway between Puerta del Sol and Plaza de Opera. Today, it still serves the most famous churros in Madrid, 24/7. They've been using the same increeedibly delicious recipe since 1894! To make sure the churros and warm thick dip chocolate were good, we tried them the first day... then the next day... then the next day. Yes, it's pretty damn good.
02. enjoy La Gran Vía and its historical buildings
One of the cool things to do in Madrid is to admire its grand architecture and historic buildings... while shopping. Isn't it the perfect way to explore a city?! With is rooftop bars, movie theaters and hundreds of shops, the buzzing Gran Vía area is one of the most lively streets of the city. Make sure you look up once in a while to admire the architecture masterpieces while you're browsing this shopping haven!
03. EXPLORE madrid's main square, PLAZA MAyOR
No trip to Madrid is complete without a visit to Plaza Mayor. This once ancient marketplace was converted into a stage for royal ceremonies, bullfights and tournaments. Today, the square is ringed with restaurants and cafés. Beautiful but overpriced, so the best is to enjoy the views on Plaza Mayor then head to Mercado San Miguel nearby for a gastronomic lunch.
04. Have a trendy lunch at Mercado san miguel
Near Plaza Mayor is the historic San Miguel Market that used to be a big central market before it fell into disrepair. Bought by a foodie and turned into a modern gastronomic experience, the food there is absolutely delicious. You can taste samples of food for very little money: stuffed olives, Spanish omelet, Iberian ham, mozzarella skewers, paella, cheese, fruit juices, sangria, wine, even oysters! All tasty and fresh. Tourists meet locals seeking afterwork drinks and tapas, the atmosphere is convivial.
05. WANDER IN PEACEFUL EL RETIRO PARK
Madrid's main park, El Retiro Park is the perfect playground to relax on a beautiful day -or to go for a morning jog' with the local runners. An oasis of greenery in the city center, this 18th century palace garden offers a great mental break from the streets and a collection of art exhibits in its stunning Crystal Palace.
06. visit the royal family's official residence, the palacio real
You cannot see Madrid without visiting one of the most impressive buildings in the city! Though it's the official residence of the royal family, they don't actually live in the Palacio Real anymore -it's only used for state ceremonies. The site is beautiful, with more than 3000 rooms decorated with paintings by legendary artists like Caravaggio, Velasquez and Goya, impressive long corridors and stunning views on the countryside...
07 - discover madrid's urban art scene
You know I'm an art lover... and believe me, I've been pleasantly surprised in Madrid! The city is home to many giant artists such as Picasso, Dali and Miró, but besides the incredibly rich museums of Madrid are the streets... that hide many great pieces. Look up and explore the little alleyways, you'll discover some beautiful street art on the capital's walls.
08 - Drink Sangrias & enjoy the view from a rooftop bar
The best way to enjoy Madrid's beautiful skyline is from a rooftop on La Gran Vía... with a glass of Sangria in your hand. This is no myth: the best are in Spain, with the perfect doses of red wine, fresh fruits, fresh orange juice, soda and ice. Go for the sunset to get the perfect light!
09 - Get lost in madrid's picturesque cobbled streets
Getting lost is the best way to make beautiful discoveries and make new friends! Choose a neighborhood you like and take the time to get lost in its picturesque cobbled streets, meet the local, learn some words of Spanish, soak up the atmosphere...
10 - End each day with a Tapas feast!
Tapas are mandatory in Spain! We were lost and starving when, by chance, we found a lovely street full of tapas restaurants (Calle de La Victoria). It took us a while to decide which one to choose, then finally went to La Cueva Del Gato, where we ordered a crazy amount of tapas, figuring that they should be small, as they usually are in Barcelona. Except that... we are in Madrid. Not only the portions are huge, but the prices ridiculously cheap, the staff friendly and adorable and the quality excellent. This night was without a doubt our favorite moments during our 3 days in Madrid.
Our favorite tapas: a runny tortilla de patatas (Spanish potato omelet), the Pimientos de Padrón (small green chiles fried in olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt -I would kill for a portion right now!), Jamon Iberico (thinly sliced salt cured ham). Buen provecho!