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Madrid Travel Guide

Madrid Travel Guide

Madrid Travel Guide

Hello intrepid travelers! If you're reading this, it's because you're about to enter Spain's most vibrant and exciting city: Madrid. Get ready to immerse yourselves in a whirlwind of culture, gastronomy and fun.

In this guide, we'll give you the basic tips to make your first visit to the Spanish capital unforgettable. From landmarks to hidden corners, we'll help you explore and discover all that Madrid has to offer.

So lace up your comfortable shoes, open your eyes wide and get ready for a unique experience in this city that never sleeps. Let's get started!

What Can You See for Free in Madrid?

If you want to enjoy Madrid without spending much, here are some great spots you can visit for free:

  • Retiro Park: Check out the Fallen Angel statue and the Crystal Palace, a cool glass and metal structure. Perfect for photos!
  • Plaza Mayor: A historic square with arcades and balconies, it's a popular meeting spot for locals and tourists.
  • The Royal Palace: An impressive building with gardens offering great views.
  • Puerta del Sol: Known for the Bear and Strawberry Tree statue and the Casa de Correos clock, famous for New Year's Eve celebrations.
  • Temple of Debod: An Egyptian gift to Spain with amazing city views, especially at sunset.
  • Almudena Cathedral: A mix of neoclassical and neo-Gothic styles.
  • San Miguel Market: Enjoy a variety of tapas, wines, and gourmet products in a traditional setting.
  • El Parque del Capricho: A peaceful park with gardens, mazes, and palaces.
  • Plaza de España: Home to the monument of Cervantes and his characters, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.
  • Sabatini Gardens: Offers great views of the Royal Palace and a nice spot to relax.
  • Campo del Moro: Beautiful views of the Manzanares River, perfect for a quiet walk.
  • Casa de Campo Lake: Enjoy outdoor activities like hiking and boat rides.
  • Puerta de Alcalá: One of Madrid's most iconic monuments.
  • Paseo del Prado: A tree-lined avenue with landmarks like the Prado Museum and Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum.
  • Palacio de Cibeles: Home to City Hall, with exhibitions and a viewing deck.
  • La Cuesta de Moyano: A charming street full of second-hand book stalls, great for book lovers.
  • Goya's Tomb: The painter Goya is buried in the Hermitage of San Antonio de la Florida, which also has his frescoes. Worth a visit for art fans.

What Days Are the Museums in Madrid Free?

Museums are key to a city's culture and history. In Madrid, they house amazing artistic and cultural treasures that attract visitors from all over the world.

If you want to explore Madrid's cultural scene without breaking the bank, here's when you can visit some top museums for free:

  • Galería de las Colecciones Reales: Free from 6pm to 8pm Monday to Thursday. Free for European Union and Latin American citizens with proof of nationality or residence/work permit. Standard price: 14.77 euros.
  • Museo del Prado: Free Monday to Saturday from 6pm to 8pm, Sundays and public holidays from 5pm to 7pm. Standard price: 15 euros.
  • Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía: Free every day from 7pm to 9pm and Sundays from 12:30pm to 2:30pm. Standard price: 12 euros.
  • Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza: Free every Monday and on October 12. Standard price: 13 euros.
  • Museo Cerralbo: Free from 5pm to 8pm on Thursdays and Sundays. Standard price: 3 euros.
  • Sorolla Museum: Free on Saturdays from 2pm and Sundays from 10am to 3pm. Standard price: 3 euros.
  • Museo de América: Free on Thursdays from 2pm and on all Sundays. Standard price: 3 euros.

What to Eat in Madrid

Get ready for a unique food experience in Madrid! The Spanish capital is known for its rich history, amazing art, and delicious food. Here are some must-try eats during your visit:

Bocadillo de calamares

  • Calamari Sandwich: A Madrid classic with tender fried calamari rings in a crispy baguette.
  • Cocido Madrileño: A comforting stew with chickpeas, veggies, and meats that feels like home.
  • Spanish Omelette: One of Spain's most popular tapas made with eggs, potatoes, and onions. Simple and tasty!
  • Churros with Chocolate: A must-have for breakfast or a snack. Dip those soft churros into rich hot chocolate.
  • Rosquillas: Sweet doughnuts in different styles: tontas (plain), listas (with powdered sugar), Santa Clara (with cooked egg), and French (with almond).
  • Chocolate Napolitana: A flaky pastry filled with chocolate that will keep you coming back for more.
  • Cheesecake: Perfect for dessert lovers. The Madrid-style cheesecake is creamy and irresistible.

Where to Eat in Madrid?

Madrid has a huge food scene. In the Spanish capital, you can find traditional bars and restaurants where you can enjoy tapas and try the famous cocido madrileño. There are also gastro taverns specializing in Mediterranean food, tons of Mexican restaurants for the best tacos, bars that serve only the calamari sandwiches locals love, and modern spots where you can enjoy brunch and the best cocktails.

Here's a selection of bars and restaurants recommended by the best guides in Madrid:

Terraces and Rooftop Bars in Madrid

Enjoy Madrid's charm from the heights at its amazing terraces and rooftop bars. The city offers a wide variety of places where you can relax, enjoy a drink, and take in the panoramic views while soaking up the Madrid atmosphere.

Clubs and Pubs in Madrid

Beyond where to eat or where to sleep, many of the younger visitors who come to Madrid wonder where to find the best party in the city. Well, although this is absolutely relative and always depends on the personal tastes of each person, the Madrid guides recommend, among all the others, these clubs:

The Best Viewpoints in Madrid

Just like the terraces, Madrid's viewpoints are a big draw in the city. There are several, but here are our top picks:

El Cerro del Tío Pío or Parque de las Siete Tetas

Cerro del Tío Pío

Popularly known as the Park of the Seven Tits, El Cerro del Tío Pío is in the Vallecas neighborhood. The city views are amazing all day long. We recommend visiting at sunset.

The Temple of Debod

Vistas del Templo de Debod

If you want to see a beautiful sunset without leaving the city center, the Temple of Debod is your spot. Enjoy Madrid's colorful sky as the sun sets in a unique setting. It's usually pretty crowded, so get there a bit before sunset.

Moncloa Lighthouse

Faro de Moncloa

This is the first paid viewpoint on the list. Located in the Moncloa district, just a few steps from the metro station with the same name, it offers a panoramic view of the city. It's 92 meters high, and after a unique elevator ride, you can see iconic spots like the Royal Palace, Almudena Cathedral, and Telefónica Building from above. It costs 4 euros to go up.

Tablaos Flamencos in Madrid

Madrid's tablaos flamencos are known for featuring some of the best flamenco dancers, singers, and guitarists in Spain. They offer an authentic and unforgettable experience for flamenco lovers and visitors to the city.

Can You Drink Tap Water in Madrid?

One of the most common questions travelers ask when they arrive in Madrid is whether or not they can drink the tap water. The answer is simple: yes.

Madrid boasts some of the best water in Spain and the world, so don't hesitate to drink it if you need to. You can also ask for tap water in bars and they won't charge you for it.

5 Cool Facts About Madrid

Now that you have all the practical information about Madrid, it's our turn to give you five curious facts about the city. We are sure that knowing them will make you even more eager to walk its streets!

Madrid

1. Origin of the Name Madrid

The word “Madrid” comes from the Arabic word “magerit”, which means “place of many waters”.

2. Chamberí Metro Station

Known as the “Ghost Station”, Chamberí station was closed to the public in 1966 because it couldn't fit the new, longer trains. Since 2008, it's been a museum as part of the Andén 0 project, offering a trip back in time on the Madrid metro.

3. Metrópolis Building

One of the most iconic and photographed buildings in Madrid. Originally topped with a statue of the Phoenix, it was replaced in 1975 by a statue of the winged Victory, symbolizing triumph and beauty, adding character to the famous Gran Via skyline.

4. Why are Madrilenians Called “Gatos” (Cats)?

Madrilenians are called “cats” because of their supposed ability to climb walls during sieges or conflicts. To be considered a “gato”, you must be born in Madrid, your father must be a “gato”, and your maternal grandfather must be a “gato”.

5. The Heart of St. Valentine in Madrid

According to tradition, the remains of St. Valentine’s heart are in the church of San Antón in Madrid. It's a popular spot for those interested in love stories and the patron saint of lovers.

Day Trips from Madrid

Many visitors use their trip to Madrid to explore nearby cities like Segovia, Ávila, and Toledo. Other popular spots include El Escorial, the Valley of the Fallen, Chinchón, and Aranjuez. These places are close to Madrid and perfect for day trips.

Toledo, city of three cultures

Toledo

Known as the "City of Three Cultures," Toledo is full of history and medieval charm. Wander its narrow cobblestone streets, visit the stunning Gothic cathedral, and enjoy panoramic views from its walls. It's about an hour by car from Madrid. By train, it takes around 30 minutes and costs about 13 euros.

Segovia and its amazing Roman aqueduct

Segovia

Discover Segovia's amazing Roman aqueduct, one of Spain's most impressive monuments. Explore the old town of Segovia, visit the Alcázar, and try the famous roast suckling pig. It's about an hour and fifteen minutes by car from Madrid. By public transport, it takes about 90 minutes by bus or 30 minutes by high-speed train. Train tickets start at 9 euros, while bus tickets are 6.10 euros.

El Escorial and its monastery, a unique cultural asset

El Escorial

Visit the grand Monastery of El Escorial, a masterpiece of Spanish Renaissance, and explore the Valley of the Fallen, a memorial to the Spanish Civil War victims. It's about an hour by car from Madrid. By public transport, you can reach El Escorial in about 45 minutes by Cercanías train.

Avila, a walled city like no other

Ávila

With its impressive medieval walls, Ávila takes you back in time. Explore the cobblestone streets, visit the cathedral, and try the famous yemas de Santa Teresa, a local sweet. It's about an hour and a half by car from Madrid. By train, it takes around 90 minutes and costs about 10 euros.

Chinchón and Aranjuez

Aranjuez

Enjoy the tranquility of Chinchón, a charming town with a medieval main square and excellent restaurants. Then visit Aranjuez , known for its royal palace and beautiful gardens by the River Tagus. It's about an hour by car from Madrid. By public transport, you can reach these towns in about an hour by bus.

More free walking tours in Madrid

Madrid Travel Guide
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