When it comes to European vacations, most Americans think about London, Paris, or Rome. And while these are all cities worth exploring, it would be foolish to leave Madrid off the list.
7 Exciting Madrid Sites, Attractions, and Experiences
Madrid is the central capital of Spain – a city of unique architecture, regal boulevards, and beautiful parks that simply aren’t found in most modern urban areas. Known for its art, history, museums, and food – Madrid is both a landmark for the present and an anchor for the past.
With a metro-area population of roughly 6.5 million, Madrid is the third-largest city in the European Union (trailing just behind London and Berlin). And during most of the year, this number swells with millions of travelers flocking to the city to experience everything it has to offer.
If you’re planning a trip to Madrid, it’s important that you develop an itinerary well in advance. With so much to see and do, a plan will serve you well. In particular, you’ll want to think about integrating the following experiences into your travel plans:
Museo del Prado
Whether you enjoy museums or tend to avoid them, the Museo del Prado – commonly known as “the Prado” – is a must-see. It’s one of the most popular museums in the entire world – and rightfully so. Spain is represented by some of history’s finest artists – including Velazquez, El Greco, Rembrandt, Rubens, Botticelli, and Tintoretto – and you can see some of their finest works here.
On the east side of central Madrid, you’ll find the iconic Parque del Buen Retiro – i.e. Retiro Park. Translated as “Park of the Pleasant Retreat,” this oasis is just that. It’s a breath of fresh air in the middle of a thriving metropolis. Consisting of more than 300 acres of parks, gardens, lakes, cafes, and playgrounds, you could feasibly spend an entire day here (and it’s free).
Every major city has its iconic destination; for Madrid it’s Plaza Mayor – the bustling square located in the heart of the city. From coffee shops and bars to tourist shops and tasty cafes, Plaza Mayor is perfect for kicking back and doing some casual people watching.
The Royal Palace
Built back in the mid-18th century for King Philip V, the Royal Palace is a gorgeous piece of historical architecture that’s impressive even by today’s standards. Built on the site of Madrid’s Moorish Alcazar fortress-palace, which burned down in 1734, this palace is the largest of its kind in all of western Europe. If you enjoy architecture, you’ll be particularly amazed by the unique combination of neoclassical and baroque styles.
When someone mentions “flamenco,” you probably have a cartoonish image in your head of a flamboyant dancer dressed in red. But our American view of flamenco is just a soft shadow of the real thing. Flamenco is a Spanish art form that consists of song, dance, and guitar. And if you want to experience it in its original state, visit a Flamenco house for a show. It’s a genuine Madrid experience.
World Class Fútbol
Fútbol – or soccer as we Americans know it – is huge in Spain. Madrid – being the capital of Spain – is also the unofficial capital of fútbol. In the heart of the city, you’ll find the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu – the 81,044-seat stadium for the city’s most popular team: Real Madrid. While tickets can be hard to come by, you should definitely consider attending a match if one is being hosted during your visit.
Food and drink should also be a part of your Madrid experience. While there are too many places to name in this article, you should know that there are dozens of highly rated restaurants, cafes, and bars scattered around the city. Do your research and make a few reservations.
Begin Planning Your Trip to Madrid
If you’ve never visited Madrid, now is the time to begin planning your next vacation. Because of its size and convenient location to the East Coast of the United States, Madrid is a fairly easy city to access. If you plan far enough in advance, you should be able to find relatively inexpensive flights and save some of your money for excursions and experiences in and around the city.