Spain is famous for its white sandy beaches and Mediterranean azure blue sea. But inside Madrid, Spain’s capital city, you can truly experience the country’s richly vibrant history and culture, in addition to some extraordinary sights.
From architecturally gorgeous landmarks, lush green parks, and museums unrivalled in scale, Madrid is an ideal destination for anyone wanting the dabble in a mixture of adventures for a city break. Here are eight of the most unforgettable experiences this remarkable city has to offer.
1. Indulge in Gran Via’s shops and nightclubs
In the heart of Madrid lies Gran Via. Saunter along this street during daylight and marvel at the dramatic and ornate 20th-century architecture. You’ll find buildings honoured with styles from the Vienna Secession, Plateresque, and Art Deco (to name a few). Do you have a passion for shopping? Go wild in Gran Via’s huge array of upscale shops. Stay until sundown, and witness the height of Madrid’s nightlife along ‘the street that never sleeps’.
2. Spend the day outdoors in Casa De Campo
It’s easy to picture Madrid as the bustling hub of Spain. But after a short ride on a gondola from Parque del Oeste (at the west end of Madrid), you can find acres of tranquil space. Casa De Campo is big; five times bigger than New York’s Central Park to be exact.
It’s the perfect place to escape from the noise and crowds of the city. Spend the day walking and cycling around the once royal hunting estate. Spot wild deer, rabbits, and birds native to Spain. Explore every corner of the park, and stumble across examples of Spain’s natural beauty: red soil and remarkable rugged pine trees native to the land.
3. Have a naughty breakfast at San Ginés Chocolaterie
Indulge in a mouth-watering breakfast at San Ginés Chocolaterie. Take advantage of a moment where having chocolate and deep-fried batter for breakfast is okay. Because chocolate and churros in on the menu at San Ginés Chocolaterie.
It’s the local’s favourite, so if they aren’t being judged, why should you? Better yet, this chocolate haven is open twenty-four hours a day. It can get very busy, but the crowds are worth your patience for such a delectable eating experience.
4. Experience Mercado de San Miguel’s supreme culinary offerings
Mercado de San Miguel is stunningly beautiful. It’s an archaic space, where natural light pours in from the glass walls. Hundreds of markets can be found here, where you can experience fresh and authentic smells of the Spanish cuisine. If you’re a foodie, you’ll be in heaven; stalls offer culinary delights from fresh fruit and vegetables, cold meats and seafood, to chocolates, frozen yoghurts, and casks of sangria.
5. Soak in the Spanish culture at Plaza Mayor
A trip to Plaza Mayor could put a dent in your holiday funds but it’s worth it. Grab a table at one of the many bars or restaurants and revel in the electrifying atmosphere (with a free tapas dish to boot!). Plaza Mayor attracts all kinds of entertainment, such as live music and talented street performers. And it’s difficult not to look up at the grand 17th century, three-story buildings surrounding the rectangular square, with over two hundred and seven balconies facing the plaza; it makes for an unforgettable sight.
6. Visit Museo del Prado, one of the world's largest art galleries
The term ‘minimalist’ has never (and will never) enter the walls of Museo del Prado. The gallery is home to over nine thousand artworks painted by some of the most famous artists in the world. The work of display was chosen by Spain’s 16th- and 17th-century monarchs, giving you an eye-opening look into Spain’s rich history and culture; a once in a lifetime experience for history and art enthusiasts. Because of its popularity, queues are guaranteed, so book in advance to skip a long wait.
7. Teatro de la Zarzuela
Entering the Teatro de la Zarzulela is like stepping back in time. Picture a Spanish theatre in the nineteenth century. Instead of sound equipment, live performers and singers take center stage, using the surroundings only to resonate the music and their voices. All of this can be witnessed in the present day. Teatro de la Zarzuela has stuck to its historical roots; each performance echo's the Spain of old, from the costumes and acoustic music instruments to the stunning, traditional backdrops. You may not be able to speak Spanish, but you’ll understand the language of musical mastery during your visit to Teatro de la Zarzuela.
8. Be enchanted by Palacio De Cristal’s beauty
If it was possible to step inside a rainbow, visiting Madrid’s Palacio De Cristal would be a similar experience. Ornate glass walls and ceilings create patterns of incandescent light inside this magnificent crystal palace. It has been home to exotic plants and renowned art for over a century, creating an air of fairytale decadence. Outside, you can enjoy picture perfect views from the surrounding lush park, and sit by Buen Retiro’s stunning lake just outside the palace.
Have you booked your flights yet?
If you have, I wouldn’t blame you. Madrid has so many ‘must see’ experiences, it’s stressful just thinking about all the things you want to do and see. Thankfully, these experiences aren’t going anywhere. So go ahead and put Spain’s glorious city on your holiday bucket list. And don’t forget to tell us all about it when you finally get to visit! Or perhaps you have already visited Madrid? If you have, we’d love to hear all about it.