30 Things to do in Madrid, Spain
Cibeles Square and Council
If there is one thing that sets Madrid apart, it is the city's wide variety of cultural and leisure alternatives-enough to keep you busy from the early hours of the morning until late at night. You might start your day with a breakfast at a place steeped in history, and end it in the small hours with a late-night flamenco session. But there is also a world of possibilities to fill the hours in between-so many that, if you're just passing through, you will have to consider extending your stay... or coming back for more. Although the options are endless, here are 30 things you absolutely must do before leaving town. Every time you do one, tick the box beside it, and when you've enjoyed everything on the list... Congratulations! You'll be a bonafide madrileño. 1. Cycling in Madrid Rio Park Metro: Principe Pio. Legazpi. Or skating, or simply walking, if you prefer. Madrid's new park on the banks of the River Manzanares is a concatenation of green zones, recreational areas and bridges that are contemporary works of art. And as if all that weren't enough, Madrid Río even has a beach. 2. Strolls for listening and learning Metro: Sol. Where Cervantes lived, which king presides over Plaza Mayor, ghost stories... Take one of the original and entertaining Official Guided Tours offered by the Madrid Destino to discover the city from a different perspective. www.esmadrid.com/officialguidedtours 3. The pavement cafes of La Latina Metro: La Latina. These are not just perfect places for having an aperitif or some tapas: they're also great for soaking up sunshine, even during the winter. Madrid's most authentic neighbourhood is also dotted with squares and the odd secret garden, where you can relax and escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a while. 4. Shop for antiques at El Rastro Metro: La Latina. Puerta de Toledo. Madrid's most famous outdoor flea market is only held on Sunday mornings and holidays, but the quaint auction houses and antiques shops in the vicinity are open every day. There are always treasures waiting to be discovered. 5. Meet and eat at the market Metro: Sol. Chueca. San Miguel Market, beside Plaza Mayor, and San Antón Market in the Chueca neighbourhood are good for more than just grocery shopping. They are also ideal places to meet up for coffee or drinks or to sample the best products, fresh from the vendor's stall. Oysters with champagne, anyone? 6. The changing of the guard Metro: Ópera. Lancers and yeomen of the guard march to the sound of fifes and drums during the Solemn Changing of the Guard, which takes place on the first Wednesday of every month, weather and schedule permitting, at the Royal Palace. A total of 400 people and 100 horses participate in this ceremony. 7. What is the mystery of Las Meninas? Metro: Atocha. Banco de España. In order to discover the mysteries and secrets concealed in Velázquez's masterpiece, you will need to pause and examine this picture carefully in the halls of the Prado Museum, where it hangs alongside other paintings by consecrated artists such as Goya, Titian, Raphael, Rubens and Bosch. 8. History Lesson on the aet walk Metro: Atocha. Banco de España. To take in the entire history of western painting, all you have to do is stroll two kilometres along this grand boulevard of culture, moving from Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights (Prado Museum) to Hotel Room by Edward Hopper (Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum) and on to the grand finale, Picasso's Guernica (Reina Sofía Museum). 9. Wander the streets of hapsburg Madrid Metro: Sol. Ópera. La Latina. Palaces, monasteries and Baroque churches, but, above all, delightful corners steeped in charm. Madrid's most historic neighbourhood, in the heart of the city, is the best place to get lost. Centuries-old shops and tradesmen's workshops give these streets even more character. 10. Boating in the Retiro Park Metro: Retiro. Here you will find a fallen angel, a glass palace, a former dairy farm and a Montezuma cypress planted nearly 400 years ago, now the oldest tree in Madrid. Wandering the footpaths of this park, a genuine green lung of the city, is always a pleasure, as is going out for a row on its lake. 11. Learn spanish over tapas Madrid is the perfect place to practise your Spanish if you hail from abroad. The Royal Academy of Span-ish Language and the Instituto Cervantes are both headquartered here. But the best conversations always emerge spontaneously while sharing beers and tapas at one of our many bars. 12. A slow-cooked cocido First comes the soup... then the chickpeas and vegetables... and, finally, the meat. Cocido madrileño, a hearty two or three-course meal, is the signature dish of local cuisine, and you will always find it on the menu at traditional restaurants. 13. Makeover in Malasaña and Tribunal Metro: Gran Vía. Tribunal. Find fun, original, casual clothing, often with a dash of vintage flair, at the tiny designer shops that flourish in these two chic neighbourhoods, just a short distance from Gran Vía. Calle Fuencarral is the backbone of this district. 14. Shopping in the Salamanca district Metro: Serrano. Goya. Velázquez. Calle Serrano, together with all the surrounding streets, is essentially one huge fashion runway. Shoe stores, jewellers and boutiques of the leading Spanish and international designer brands display their sophisticated creations in irresistibly tempting shop windows. 15. A night at the Opera Metro: Ópera. Madrid's Teatro Real is one of the greatest stages in Europe, offering a select variety of exquisite productions year round that consistently feature the world's most gifted operatic voices. This high temple of opera also arranges guided tours. 16. Literary footprints Metro: Sevilla. Antón Martín. Oh, my angel of love, do you see? The verses of José Zorrilla, author of Don Juan Tenorio, accompany our steps through the Literary Quarter, where excerpts from works by great writers like Cervantes, Quevedo and Góngora are etched into the pavement. 17. House-Museums The house where Lope de Vega once lived (ANTÓN MARTÍN) has a kitchen garden and rooms with period furnishings. The former residence of Joaquín Sorolla (Iglesia) boasts a lovely garden and the studio where he produced some of his greatest masterpieces. These small, intimate museums, like the Cerralbo Museum (Plaza de España), the Lázaro Galdiano Museum (Rubén Darío) and the Museum of Romanticism (Tribunal), are located in what were once minor palaces or mansions. 18. "Support" the leaning towers Metro: Plaza de Castilla These towers in Plaza de Castilla are often featured in films. And, of course, you can't go home without a souvenir of a famous movie landmark. However, a simple optical illusion will satisfy this requirement: take a picture of yourself framed between the towers so that it looks like you are supporting the leaning structures. 19. Count the ways of celebrating a goal Metro: Santiago Bernabéu. Pirámide. Going to a football match at the Santiago Bernabéu, home stadium of the Real Madrid team, or at the Vicente Calderón, stomping grounds of the Atlético de Madrid, is often a truly unique experience, which you can round off with a visit to their respective museums. 20. The best views Contemplating the city from on high is a pleasure you can't resist. The observation decks of Centro-Centro (Banco de España) and the Círculo de Bellas Artes (Sevilla) also offer restaurants and bars where you can sip a drink while admiring the view. In Madrid, it's important to always look up: otherwise you might miss the lively rooftop terraces crowning several of the city's hotels. 21. Sunset at the temple od Debod Metro: Plaza de España Built in Lower Nubia in the second century BC, this temple was a gift from Egypt to Spain in gratitude for its assistance with the recovery of monuments while the Aswan Dam was under construction. From here you can enjoy the best sunsets in the city, with the peaks of the Sierra de Guadarrama in the distance. 22. Flamenco nights Madrid is the world capital of flamenco, inscribed on the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Flamenco dance and song are pure sentiment, raw emotion that sends a shiver down the spine of all who see and hear it. The city is full of tablaos (flamenco bars) where you can spend an incredible evening amid quejíos and soleás. This is art at its finest. 23. Admire the madnificent spanish fighting bull Metro: Ventas. Las Ventas is the most important bullring in the world, and its spectators have a reputation for being the hardest to please. Every bullfighter worth his salt dreams of achieving an afternoon of glory in this arena and leaving through the Puerta Grande or main gate, an honour reserved only for the best. 24. Find the km. 0 marker in Puerta del Sol Metro: Sol. Although the busiest square in the heart of Madrid has illustrious tenants like "El Oso y el Madroño", the famous statue of the bear and the strawberry tree from the city's coat of arms, you should also keep your eyes on the ground. If you do, you'll find a plaque marking the exact spot from which Spain's six major motorways fan out across the country. Hint: it's in front of the Real Casa de Correos. 25. Dance until dawn in Chueca Metro: Chueca The diverse, cosmopolitan, open neighbourhood of Chueca is home base for Madrid's LGBT community and the Gay Pride festivities held in early July. If you think the night is still young, then Chueca's fun, laid-back establishments are the place to go. 26. A fried squid sandwich in Plaza Mayor Metro: Sol Nothing could be more typical in Madrid! The square is surrounded by countless bars for indulging in this tasty tradition. And the oddest thing is that we are nowhere near the sea! 27. Take a picture with Don Quixote Metro: Plaza de España The knight of the woeful countenance and his faithful squire, Sancho Panza, are the most frequently photographed figures on the monument to Miguel de Cervantes in Plaza de España. A picture with them makes a fabulous souvenir. 28. This is entertainment! Metro: Gran Vía. Callao. Plaza de España. The century-old Gran Vía is Madrid's own Great White Way. Throughout the year, its theatres offer musicals and other productions you won't want to miss. Madrid's theatre listings are always full of surprises. 29. Hot chocolate with churros The perfect breakfast, snack or pick-me-up after a night of revelry. You won't be a true madrileño until you've savoured these delectable fried dough sticks dipped in a cup of thick, creamy hot chocolate. It's a tradition that dates back to the 19th century. 30. Let them eat grapes Metro: Sol On 31 December, all of Spain rings in the New Year to the chimes of the clock in Puerta del Sol. Tradition dictates that one grape must be eaten with every gong, a classic ritual to bring good luck and make a wish. Perhaps your wish will be to return to Madrid.