Oh Madrid! ….Where should I begin? Madrid holds a very special place in my heart for quite some time because back in college, I had the pleasure to study abroad in this lovely city for a semester. While there, I created many fun memories, made some great friends, went to many crazy parties and learned about their beautiful culture and I guess “learned some things in school!” (sorry, daddy! 🙊) This past Christmas break I had the fortune to go back to Madrid after 11 years and I’m happy to report that it’s still as wonderful as I remembered! 😉
Fun Fact: In Europe they call foreign exchange students Erasmus!
Madrid is the capital and the largest and most populated city of Spain and it is also right in the middle of the country. It is also the third-largest city in the European Union (EU), with a population of approximately 6.5 million in the metropolitan area, making it smaller than London and Paris only. It is also the home of many historical places, famous museums and legendary soccer teams!
If you are determined, you can probably explore Madrid in 2 to 3 days. So here are a few recommendations of places you should check out:
Puerta del Sol
It is a public square in Madrid that is one of the best known and busiest places in the city. Here you can find the center “Km 0” of the radial network of Spanish roads and right across from there, you can find “El Oso y el Madroño” (Bear and the Strawberry Tree) which is the coat of arms of Madrid.
Plaza de Cibeles
This plaza is one of the staples of Madrid. It consists of a fountain was built in 1782 and it is surrounded by the buildings of Buenavista Palace (the Army Headquarters), Linares Palace (the Casa de América cultural institution), Palacio de Comunicaciones (which was previously the main Post Office and is now Madrid City Hall), and the Bank of Spain.
This is Madrid’s best-known street! Here you will find numerous restaurants, bars and clothing stores, cinemas and theatres.
Royal Palace was built by King Charles III in mid-1700 and nowadays, the Palace is used exclusively for receptions, state ceremonies and official acts since the King of Spain currently lives in the Palacio de la Zarzuela. You can also go inside and take a tour of the palace.
Jardines de Sabatini
This cute park is located on the northern façade of the Royal Palace and you can chill and snap nice pics with the palace in the background.
This “Main Square” is located in the heart of Madrid, near Puerta del Sol and the Royal Palace. In the middle of the squared you can find the Equestrian statue of Philip III that dates back to 1616.
Puerta de Alcala
Another famous landmark of the city! This neo-classical triumphal arch from 1778 was once one of the five royal gates that gave access to the city of Madrid. It is also close to one of El Retiro’s main park entrances.
Parque del Retiro
This park has become Madrid’s most renowned park since it was first opened to the public in 1868. Inside the park you can find several attractions including the Estanque (Lake): where you can rent rowboats and hangout or visit the Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace): which was built in 1887, it used be a greenhouse but now you can find contemporary art exhibitions.
This museum has been open since 1819 and is one of the most important art museums in the world. Here you can find sixteenth to twentieth-century artwork and masterpieces by painters like Velázquez, El Greco, Rubens, Bosch and Goya.
Reina Sofia Museum
This is another popular museum where you can find a large collection of paintings by renowned twentieth-century Spanish artists like Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí and Joan Miró. This where Picasso’s famous “Guernica” painting is located.
Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas
Interested in going to a Spanish bull fight? The season starts in March and ends in October. The bullfights are held every Sunday during the season, they start at 6 or 7pm and last for two to three hours.
Not an “official” destination, but it is certainly an experience. You will spot a Corte Ingles store in every corner of the city and of the country. They pretty much sell EVERYTHING from food, to designer clothing.
Chocolateria San Gines: Churros that you dip in chocolate! Open 24 hrs and have been a Madrid staple since 1894.
Museo del Jamon: It started as a convenience store and later became one the most well-known delicatessen shops in Madrid. Disclaimer “NOT a real musum”, but you can find hundreds of hams to eat there or to take to go. yum!
Mercado San Miguel: This market was originally built in 1916 and it used to be a regular wholesale food market. Since 2009, this historical building has been a chic gastronomic market. Here you can find more than 20 shops where you can experience high-quality Spanish tapas at pub price.
Yes, Madrid is known for all its culture, but it is also well known for its party scene. Trust me, I was a student there once 😉…. From drinking calimochos (red wine & coca cola) at a botellon (drinking in the street) to going to some lit clubs., Madrid knows how to throw it down!!! Here are just a FEW clubs that are pretty fun:
Kapital: 7 floors of epic parting! Each floor plays different music, so there’s a little for everyone.
Joy: This club has been kicking it since 1981! It’s right in downtown and you will definitely have a good time.
Bling Bling: Interesting name, but tons of fun! Spent New Year’s there and the music was on point!
Now that you have the inside scoop, I hope all this fun talk has inspired you to add the capital of Spain to your bucket list! Hasta luego amigos! 👋🏼