BRING THE WORLD HOME

A step-by-step guide

Madrid

in your pocket!

Welcome to our Madrid guide, where we have carefully selected the must-see places and added personal suggestions. It’s a quick and simple guide that you can consult at any time during your trip.

We have focused on providing useful and practical recommendations that will enhance your trip, including off-the-beaten-track locations. We consider this guide a compilation of our favorite spots in the city.

We have also included gastronomic suggestions that will delight your palate and immerse you in Madrid’s delicious culinary culture.

We hope you enjoy our guide and it inspires you to explore all the treasures that this wonderful city has to offer!

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Madrid

a little bit of history!

Madrid is a city with a rich and complex history spanning over 2,500 years. Its geographical location in the center of Spain has been a key factor in its development, turning it into an important commercial and political center throughout the centuries.

The first settlements in the Madrid area date back to the second millennium BCE (before Christ), although the city itself did not begin to take shape until the arrival of the Romans in the 2nd century BCE. The Romans founded a city called “Matrice,” which would play a significant role as a center of trade and communication.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the region of Madrid became part of the Visigothic Kingdom of Toledo. Later on, during the Muslim invasion of the Iberian Peninsula, the city changed hands several times until it was finally conquered by Alfonso VI in his advance towards Toledo in 1085.

During the Middle Ages, Madrid emerged as an important center of trade and livestock, thanks to its strategic location on the Camino de Santiago. In the 16th century, King Philip II decided to move the court to Madrid, making it the capital of the country and giving a great boost to its development.

As the capital of the kingdom, Madrid experienced a period of splendor during the 17th and 18th centuries, with the construction of numerous iconic buildings and monuments, such as the Royal Palace, Puerta del Sol, the Royal Theater and Plaza Mayor. The city gained an important role as a cultural center, with the presence of notable figures like Francisco de Quevedo and Diego Velázquez.

In the 19th century, Madrid suffered the invasion of French troops, and during the War of Independence, the city sustained severe damages. However, it quickly recovered and experienced a significant economic boom in the second half of the century with the arrival of the railway and industrialization.

 

During the Spanish Civil War, Madrid was one of the main battlegrounds, enduring heavy damages and significant loss of life. After the war, a period of reconstruction and modernization began, which accelerated during the 1960s and 1970s with developmental policies and the rise of mass tourism.

 

Today, Madrid is a modern and cosmopolitan city that preserves much of its historical and cultural heritage. The city boasts numerous museums, such as the Prado Museum, Reina Sofía Museum, and Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, as well as important green spaces like Retiro Park and Casa de Campo.

Public transportation in Madrid is operated by the Municipal Transport Company of Madrid (EMT) and the suburban train company, Renfe Cercanías. The EMT operates an extensive network of urban buses, including daytime and nighttime lines, while Renfe Cercanías offers suburban rail services within and around Madrid.

Furthermore, Madrid has an extensive metro network, which is one of the largest in Europe. The Madrid Metro has 12 lines that cover the entire city and its surroundings, connecting with major train and bus stations. There are also trams operating in some neighborhoods of the city.

To use public transportation in Madrid, you need to have a public transport card, which can be obtained at tobacco shops or at the ticket offices of metro and train stations. The card is loaded with credit to pay for the trips and is used to access the metro, buses, and other public transport services. Prices vary depending on the zone and the type of transport used.

Beware: Since there is no unified transportation system, you have to pay for each mode of transport used separately. For example, if you need to use three modes of transport to complete one trip, your metro card will be charged for three trips for each mode of transportation.

Therefore, if you plan to stay in the city for several days and in order to make your life simple, we recommend purchasing the tourist pass. The Tourist Transport Pass allows unlimited use of all public transportation in the Madrid Community within the validity period, making it a convenient and cost-effective way to get around the city.

Plaza Mayor

An impressive and emblematic historical space that transports you to the heart of the city. With its imposing architecture and lively atmosphere, it is a place you cannot miss in order to experience the true essence of Madrid.

Almudena Cathedral

An impressive architectural masterpiece that combines classical beauty with modern elements. Visiting it is an enriching experience to admire its majesty and immerse yourself in the history and culture of the Spanish capital.

Retiro Park

An urban oasis in the heart of Madrid that invites you to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and immerse yourself in the beauty of its gardens, lakes, and historic monuments. It offers a perfect place to relax, stroll, and enjoy nature.

Prado Museum

The Prado Museum is an artistic gem that deserves to be visited due to its unparalleled collection of masterpieces spanning centuries of history and representing the essence of Spanish and European art.

Royal Palace of Madrid

An impressive architectural jewel, as well as the residence of the King of Spain, captivating with its opulence and historical charm. It is an unmissable visit to immerse yourself in the rich history and culture of Spain.

Puerta del Sol

An iconic square, known as the starting point of the main radial roads connecting Madrid with the rest of the country. Additionally, it is the location of the famous clock that chimes at midnight during New Year’s celebrations in Spain. From the access to Puerta del Sol from Alcalá Street, you can see the symbol of the city, the sculpture of the Bear and the Strawberry Tree.

Puerta de Alcalá

One of the old city gates that was built in the 18th century during the reign of Carlos III. The gate is inspired by the neoclassical style and is characterized by its monumental design with arches and columns.

San Miguel Market

A unique fusion of history, gastronomy, and culture that will delight your senses and immerse you in the essence of the city. A must-visit for food lovers and those seeking the authentic Madrid experience!

Gran Vía

An iconic boulevard that blends architectural elegance with the energy of the city, offering a unique experience filled with shops, theaters, and a vibrant nightlife. It is a must-see for those who want to immerse themselves in the heart of Madrid.

Temple of Debod

A historical and cultural treasure that transports you to the ancient Egyptian civilization, giving you the opportunity to contemplate an authentic temple from the 2nd century BC and enjoy breathtaking sunset views over the city. It is a unique place to visit.

La Latina Neighborhood

A vibrant and authentic blend of history, culture, and festive atmosphere, where you can savor delicious tapas, explore cobblestone streets, and enjoy Madrid’s nightlife. It is worth visiting to immerse yourself in the essence of the city and enjoy its unique charm.

Cebada Market: A traditional market with a wide variety of fresh products and local cuisine.

Tabacalera: A multidisciplinary cultural center that hosts art exhibitions, workshops, concerts, and more.

Casa de Campo: A large park in western Madrid with a great variety of outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, and kayaking.

El Matadero: A cultural center that presents exhibitions, concerts, festivals, and other cultural activities.

Príncipe de Anglona Garden: A historic garden in the La Latina neighborhood with fountains, statues, and a romantic atmosphere.

Campo del Moro: Right behind the Royal Palace, you’ll find the gardens of Campo del Moro. An ideal place for a stroll while enjoying its greenery and beautiful sights.

Parque del Capricho: One of the most beautiful and unknown parks in Madrid.

Palacio de Cibeles: A historic and emblematic building in the city that houses exhibitions and cultural events.

Geominero Museum: A museum of Earth sciences where you can see an impressive collection of minerals, fossils, and rocks.

Doré Cinema: Although it no longer shows commercial films, it has been used as a shooting location and is now the headquarters of the National Film Archive.

Barrio de las Letras: A historic neighborhood filled with bars, bookstores, and monuments dedicated to writers.

Palacio de Linares: A historic building with great symbolic significance.

Madrid de los Austrias: The old town of the city full of historic monuments and palaces.

Our Lady of Almudena Cemetery: One of the largest cemeteries in Europe and a true artistic gem.

Parque de las Siete Tetas: A little-known park with impressive views of Madrid.

Royal Botanical Garden of Madrid: A lush green space with a wide variety of plant species.

House-Museum of Lope de Vega: The place where the famous Spanish writer, Félix Lope de Vega, lived and wrote.

National Library of Spain: An impressive neoclassical building at one end of Plaza de Colón.

Círculo de Bellas Artes: Its rooftop is home to one of the best public viewpoints in Madrid.

Santiago Bernabéu Stadium: The stadium of Real Madrid, one of the most important football teams in the world. Even if you’re not a football fan, it’s an impressive place to visit.

Madrid Río: Its spacious green areas, avant-garde style, and extensive promenades make it an ideal place for sports or a pleasant walk along the Manzanares River.

Teleférico (Cable car) Casa de Campo: A unique ride and a different way to explore the city.

Andén Cero de Chamberí: A previous and historical metro station that is now a museum. Explore the old ticket booths and platform to discover a station from 1919, with all of its original elements.

La Casa Encendida: A cultural center known for hosting a wide variety of activities and events related to contemporary art, culture, education, and the environment.

Chueca: Known as a meeting point amongst the LGBT+ community, with numerous bars and clubs. Chueca also offers a diverse gastronomic scene, with restaurants, cafes, and markets that reflect the cultural diversity of the area.

Callao: An iconic square known for its lively atmosphere and its importance as a meeting point and reference for locals and tourists.

Plaza España: A symbol of post-war Madrid, Plaza España is famous for its two unique buildings: the Torre de Madrid and the Edificio España.

Cocido Madrileño

A stew made with chickpeas, meat, and vegetables, cooked slowly for hours. It’s a very popular dish in Madrid, especially in winter.

Callos a la madrileña

A stew made with beef tripe, chorizo, and blood sausage. It’s a very flavorful and hearty dish.

Squid sandwich (bocata de calamares)

A sandwich filled with fried squid, served in many bars around the city. It’s a quick and popular option for street food.

Chickpea stew (potaje de garbanzos)

A stew made with chickpeas, spinach, and other vegetables like carrots, onions, and tomatoes, along with bay leaf, parsley, garlic, pepper, salt, and oil.

Broken Eggs with Ham

Fried eggs served with serrano ham and French fries, it’s one of the most typical dishes in Madrid.

Zarajos

Lamb intestines rolled on a skewer and fried. They are very typical and traditional from old Madrid (along with gallinejas and entresijos). They are very particular foods, so they’re not always for everyone!

Churros with Cholcolate

A very popular sweet in Madrid, consisting of loop-shaped strips of fried dough served with a cup of thick hot chocolate.

Torrijas

A delicious traditional dessert enjoyed especially during Holy Week. They consist of bread slices soaked in milk, sugar, and cinnamon, then dipped in beaten egg and finally fried in hot oil until golden and crispy.

Dumb and clever doughnuts (Rosquillas tontas y listas)

Dumb doughnuts are sweet and fluffy, while clever doughnuts are covered in a sugar glaze. Both are very popular in Madrid.

Bartolillos

Pastries filled with custard cream, fried, and dusted with powdered sugar. They are very tasty and a classic choice in Madrid.

Sobaos Pasiegos

Although sobaos pasiegos are originally from Cantabria, they are very popular in Madrid. These buttery sponge cakes are tender and have a distinctive flavor.

Orejas de Carnaval

They are fried, thin, and crispy sweets, similar to carnival ears from other regions of Spain. They are made with dough, fried, and sprinkled with sugar.

Red Wine

The Madrid region produces excellent red wines.

Cañas

There are few things that are more Madrilenian than going for “cañas.” Enjoying a cold beer on a Madrid bar terrace is a classic.

Vermouth

Vermouth is a traditional drink in Madrid, served in taverns and bars throughout the city.

Gran Vía

This street is one of Madrid’s main commercial arteries, boasting numerous shops, restaurants, and cinemas.

San Miguel Market

This covered market is famous for its delicious gourmet products and food stalls. It’s a great place to purchase fresh goods and enjoy a meal or snack.

Fuencarral Street

This pedestrian street in the Malasaña neighborhood is renowned for its alternative clothing stores and independent designer boutiques.

El Rastro

This open-air market takes place every Sunday in the La Latina neighborhood and is renowned for its antiques and vintage products.

Lavapiés

The quintessential multicultural neighborhood of Madrid. It’s fascinating due to the diverse range of shops you can find here. There’s an abundance of restaurants (featuring world-wide cuisine), cafés, bars, cultural venues, and, of course, many shopping options.

Curiosities of Madrid

  • The origin of the emblem of the bear and the strawberry tree dates back to the 12th century when King Alfonso VIII of Spain resolved a conflict between the clergy and the town of Madrid. He granted the pastures to the Church and the trees and hunting to the city’s inhabitants. As a symbol of this agreement, the emblem of the bear leaning on a strawberry tree emerged, which became the city’s coat of arms.
  • The Plaza Mayor of Madrid was used in the Middle Ages for bullfights, festivals, royal ceremonies, and public executions.
  • The Royal Palace of Madrid is the largest royal palace in Western Europe and has over 3,000 rooms.
  • The Reina Sofia Art Center, located in the Sabatini building in Madrid, formerly known as the General Hospital of Madrid, officially opened its doors on 26 May 1986. According to legend, the souls of those who died in the previous hospital were trapped within its walls.
  • The origin of the name “Madrid” is uncertain, but it is believed to come from the Arabic word “Magerit,” which means “abundant place in waters.”
  • The Retiro Park in Madrid used to be a private garden for the Spanish kings but was opened to the public in the 19th century.
  • The security of the Bank of Spain and the Cibeles Fountain are crucially related. In case of a robbery attempt detected by the Golden Chamber’s alarms, the fountain has a water channeling system that can quickly flood it. This system flows from underground, just below the lions, to the chamber located at a depth of 35 meters. In a matter of seconds, the water can flood the chamber in response to an emergency situation.
  • The Gran Via, Madrid’s main street, was built in 1910 and completed in 1931. It was designed as a fast thoroughfare but also became an important commercial and entertainment center.
  • The tallest building in Madrid is the Cepsa Tower, with a height of 248 meters.
  • The Prado Museum in Madrid houses over 8,000 paintings and has one of the most important art collections in the world.
  • The “narrowest house” in Madrid is located at number 61 Calle Mayor. Just over four meters wide, this house was the home and the place of death of a Spanish literature legend, Calderón de la Barca, in 1681.
  • The oldest restaurant in the world is called Botín, located in Madrid, and was founded in 1725.
  • The street with the most luxury shops in Madrid is Serrano Street.
  • Why are people from Madrid called “gatos” (cats)? The truth is that there are several theories, although the most accepted one is an ancient legend related to the Arab rule in the Iberian Peninsula. According to this story, during the conquest of Madrid by Muslim troops, some inhabitants would have disguised themselves by climbing trees and rooftops, imitating the stealthy behavior of cats. Since then, the people of Madrid became known as, “gatos.”
  • Madrid has its own Sistine Chapel. It is located near Gran Via and is the Church of San Antonio de los Alemanes, a Baroque jewel with frescoes covering its ceiling and walls.
  • In the municipality of Alovera, in the province of Guadalajara, the largest artificial beach in Europe is being built, and it is only 50 km away from Madrid.
  • The narrowest street in Madrid is Calle de la Cava Baja in the La Latina neighborhood. It is only 1.8 meters wide at its narrowest point.
  • The Plaza de la Villa in the historic center of Madrid was the seat of the Madrid City Hall before it moved to the Cibeles Palace in 2011. Currently, you can visit the Casa de la Villa as well as the Casa and Torre de los Lujanes, the oldest structure in Madrid dating back to the 15th century.
  • The Telefónica Building on Gran Vía was erected between 1926 and 1930, being the first skyscraper in Spain.
  • Madrid has numerous urban statues representing various professions, such as a street sweeper, lamplighter, student, or pedestrian, among others. In total, there are 11 bronze statues with a similar appearance.
  • Madrid has its own Walk of Fame on Martín de los Heros Street in the Argüelles neighborhood, famous for its cinemas and specialized cinema bookstore.
  • In the Retiro Park in Madrid, in the Glorieta del Ángel Caído, you can find the only statue dedicated to Satan in the whole world. Known as the Monument of the Fallen Angel, it was inaugurated in 1885 and is the work of Ricardo Bellver, responsible for the main sculpture, and Francisco Jareño, responsible for the pedestal. It is worth noting that this statue is situated at an exact altitude of 666 meters above sea level.
  • After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, many fragments were preserved and distributed in different parts of the world as symbols of the struggle for freedom and reunification. In the case of Madrid, there are several fragments of the Berlin Wall located in different points of the city. The most well-known one is situated in Plaza de la Libertad, in Berlin Park, in the Chamartín neighborhood. This fragment was donated by the German government to the city of Madrid in 1990 as a gesture of friendship and solidarity between the two countries.
  • The largest clock in Madrid is not located in Puerta del Sol, known for ringing the bells on New Year’s Eve. In reality, the largest clock in Madrid is found in the Atocha train station.
  • Madrid is the capital of Spain and is located at an altitude of approximately 667 meters above sea level, making it one of the highest capitals in Europe.
  • Beneath the streets of Madrid, there are a series of secret tunnels known as “subterranean galleries.” These tunnels, dating back to the 17th century, were used at the time for transporting goods and as escape routes in case of emergencies.
  • Although not widely known, Madrid preserves some remnants of its Arab past. In Emir Mohamed I Park, near Legazpi metro station, you can find the remains of an ancient Arab wall dating back to the 9th century.
  • On Concepción Jerónima Street, near the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, there is a peculiar building that appears to be invisible. It is an urban art project created by Spanish architect Juan Carlos Ramos. The buildings’ façade is covered in mirrors, giving it the illusion of disappearing.
  • The haunted house: The House of the Seven Chimneys, located in Plaza del Rey, is considered one of the most haunted houses in Madrid. According to local legends, the ghost of a woman dressed in white wanders its hallways.
  • In Retiro Park, you can find the “Statue Cemetery,” a place where several sculptures and monuments that were removed from previous locations in the city are exhibited. It is a curious and peaceful corner to stroll and appreciate these works of art.
  • Next to Atocha train station, there is a hidden park called the “Tropical Garden of Atocha.” This garden houses a wide variety of tropical plants, waterfalls, and even turtles.
  • On Pasa Street, in the La Latina neighborhood, there is a building with a façade covered in colorful flower pots and plants. It is known as the House of Flowers and has been a landmark in the area for decades.

Spanish Fans (Abanicos)

Capture a touch of elegance and grace by carrying along exquisitely adorned hand fans. If your visit falls during the summer, consider getting an extra one for everyday use – you’ll quickly grasp why they hold such popularity! Meticulously fashioned from wood and fabric, these abanicos truly exemplify Spanish artistry and flair.

Espadrilles (Alpargatas)

Walk in the footsteps of locals with traditional Spanish espadrilles. Made from canvas or jute rope, these comfortable and stylish shoes are a fashion statement rooted in centuries-old craftsmanship.

Spanish Ceramics

Adorn your living space with the colorful and intricate ceramic tiles, plates, and figurines that Madrid is renowned for. Each piece tells a story of Spain’s rich heritage and artistic traditions.

Jamón Ibérico

Iberian or serrano ham is a renowned Spanish delicacy made from dry-cured pork. It’s known for its rich flavor and is often enjoyed thinly sliced as a tapa or ingredient in various dishes. Bring home this exquisite cured ham and savor the authentic flavors of Spain.

Sangria Pitchers

Add a splash of color and flair to your gatherings with sangría pitchers. An iconic symbol of Spanish conviviality, these pitchers are perfect for serving the traditional and refreshing sangría to your friends and family once home!

Wines

Uncork the essence of Spanish terroirs with bottles of high-quality wines. From robust reds to crisp whites, Madrid offers a diverse selection that caters to every palate. You can even go for a sobremadre wine, a very traditional wine elaboration method.

Churros Maker (Churrera)

Embrace the flavors of Spanish street food by making your own churros with a churrera. Share the joy of this beloved fried dough pastry with friends and family back home.

Violet Candy

Experience the unique and really traditional taste of sweet violet-flavored treats. These have a long history and they are very special to locals, I really recommend them!

Postcards

Keep a piece of magic with delightful postcards, perfect for reliving your cherished memories or sharing the city’s beauty with others.

If you want to discover the complete and up-to-date list of the best souvenirs from Madrid, check out our blog:

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General recommendations

Beware of people asking for signatures in tourist areas, shell game players (the game of hiding a ball under three cups), and pickpockets in general, especially in highly crowded areas.

All restaurants are required to display prices on the menu.

Madrid has a great variety of neighborhoods with distinct personalities, don’t limit yourself to just the historic center. Explore areas like Malasaña, Chueca, Lavapiés, and La Latina, where you’ll find unique shops, trendy bars, and a lively nightlife.

Take a route through the graffiti and urban murals of Lavapiés.

Take the opportunity to try typical dishes such as cocido madrileño (Madrid-style stew), squid sandwich, tapas, and the famous chocolate con churros. Don’t miss out on Madrid’s markets, such as Mercado de San Miguel or Mercado de San Antón.

Keep in mind that schedules in Spain may be different from what you’re accustomed to. Most shops and restaurants close during siesta time (around 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.) and dinners are usually served starting at 8:00 p.m. Plan your activities and meals accordingly.

Enjoy the city that never sleeps, experience life on its streets and squares, and if it’s hot, cool off with a classic caña (small beer) or tinto de verano (red wine with lemon soda) on any terrace.

f you liked this guide and want to support us, visit our website and discover our exciting range of unique and personally designed souvenirs for Madrid!

If you liked this guide and want to support us, visit our website and discover our exciting range of unique and personally designed souvenirs for Madrid!

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