Madrid Travel Guide

SD › Madrid Travel
Updated: August 10, 2023
By Santorini Dave

Hotel in Madrid.

Hotel ME Reina Victoria on trendy Santa Ana square in Madrid.

The 102 best hotels, restaurants, shops, cocktail bars, craft breweries, cafes, museums, markets, tours, neighborhoods, and things to do in Madrid.

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Madrid Hotels

1. Mandarin Oriental • Retiro • $$$$

Ideally situated for visiting the Retiro park and the ‘Golden Triangle’ of Madrid’s top art galleries, the Ritz is classic 5-star luxury, popular with visiting dignitaries, aristocracy and celebrities. Inside the grand 1910 building, many rooms and suites are furnished with antiques and original artworks, some come with silk canopies or chandeliers over the beds, and some with balconies overlooking the garden. Facilities include a spa and fitness center and the on-site Goya restaurant is one of the best in the city; their Sunday brunch in legendary. • +34 917 01 67 67

2. Relais & Châteaux Orfila • Serrano • $$$$

On a quiet residential street in Alonso Martínez, this revamped 19th-century mansion comes with plenty of theatrical flourishes, including a grand lobby used to stage plays in the 1920s. Traditionally-styled rooms feature upholstered headboards, heavy drapes, and hydromassage tubs. Amenities include a rooftop terrace and garden, and the on-site Jardín de Orfila restaurant serves sophisticated dishes made from seasonal produce. Conveniently located for exploring the ‘Golden Triangle’, upmarket shopping, plus bar-hopping in Chueca. • +34 917 02 77 70

3. Hotel Urban • Centro • $$$

This centrally-located chrome-and-glass cube is the most interesting 5-star hotel in town. The design is Art Deco meets ancient history, while the sparsely-furnished rooms are a study in stylish urban sophistication. Apart from the superb rooftop pool, compact gym, and sauna, the hotel has a museum in the basement showcasing Papua New Guinean artifacts. The on-site Michelin-starred Cebo serves creative Mediterranean dishes, while the semi-subterranean Glass Bar is all about cocktails, Japanese-inspired tapas, and champagne. • +34 917 87 77 70

4. Palacio de los Duques Gran Meliá • Centro • $$$$

This luxurious palace in the heart of Madrid blends opulent historic surroundings with cutting-edge design and superb dining. Midnight blue, gold, champagne, and charcoal feature in the décor of this 19th-century duke’s palace, with Velázquez reproductions in all the rooms. There are 3 outstanding restaurants, a rooftop pool with panoramic views of the city, and a spa with a full range of treatments. Ideal for visiting the Royal Palace and right near the bars, restaurants, and shops of Sol and Gran Vía. • +34 912 76 47 47

5. Hospes Puerto de Alcalá • Retiro • $$$

Opposite the Retiro park and overlooking the Alcalá Gate – this well-located boutique hotel comes with a great spa. Inside this 19th-century townhouse, the rooms and suites all differ slightly in design, though they’re all decked out in neutral greys and creams. The on-site Independencia restaurant serves tapas and creative Mediterranean dishes, and the Bodyna spa features original stone arches, a basement pool, and a hammam. Great for museums and dining and shopping in Salamanca. • +34 914 32 29 11

6. Posada del León de Oro • La Latina • $$$

This former coaching inn turned 4-star boutique hotel sits on lively Cava Baja which is renowned for its tapas bars. The excavated remains of Madrid’s 12th-century wall are visible beneath the glass floor of the restaurant and each of the 17 spacious rooms comes with heavy wooden beams, chrome walls, funky wallpaper, and wall-length cityscape prints. The restaurant serves excellent traditional cuisine, and the proximity to museums and the nightlife and restaurants of Sol and La Latina make this a great mid-range pick. • +34 911 19 14 94

7. Only YOU Boutique Hotel • Chueca • $$$

This fashionable little adults-only hotel in a converted 19th-century palace in the heart of lively Chueca is a blend of history with hip interior design. Navy-blue walls, map prints of old Madrid, and giraffe-print bathrobes feature in all the rooms; for a private terrace, book the Only You Secret room. The hotel is geared towards urbanites looking to make the most of their time in Madrid, with no established check-in time, 24-hour service, and 24-hour gym. Perfect location for boutiques, bars, and clubs of Chueca and Malasaña. • +34 910 05 22 22

8. Único • Salamanca • $$$$

Combining 19th-century elegance with dramatic modern design and Michelin-starred dining, the Único sits on one of Madrid’s most exclusive streets in upscale Salamanca. Some of the monochrome, wood-paneled rooms and suites come with balconies, facilities include a basement gym, tranquil garden, and guest library, and the on-site Ramon Freixa’s Michelin 2-star namesake restaurant is a magnet for serious foodies. Ideally located for shopping and dining, with Retiro park, the Prado, and other major attractions just a short ride away. • +34 917 81 01 73

9. URSO Hotel & Spa • Chueca • $$$$

This contemporary boutique hotel geared towards romantic retreats is convenient to the dining and nightlife in Malasaña and Chueca, and has one of the best spas in Madrid. Neutral tones and Japanese prints in the rooms contribute to the tranquil ambience. Creative local fare is served at the on-site Media Ración and the Urso Bar is known for its imaginative cocktails. The Natura Bissé spa is superb, with a wide range of treatments, hydromassage pool, steam room, and sauna. • +34 914 44 44 58

10. Westin Palace • Retiro • $$$$

Within a stone’s throw of both the Prado and the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, this elegant 5-star hotel is steeped in history. Over the past century, its guests have included Picasso, Albert Einstein, and Salvador Dalí. Rooms feature classic decor, antique furnishings, custom-made beds, and spacious marble bathrooms. Four restaurants are on-site, including the light-filled Rotonda, plus amenities such as gym, luxury spa, and sauna. • +34 913 60 80 00

11. ME Reina Victoria • Huertas • $$$

This buzzy, stylish hotel overlooks one of Madrid’s tapas bar hotspots – Plaza Santa Ana – and the rooftop bar comes with its own DJ. All blond-wood Scandi-chic with trademark purple touches, the bright, modern rooms, great beds, hydromassage showers, and ‘hangover kits’. There’s a popular cocktail bar on-site, as well as a restaurant renowned for its innovative international cuisine. • +34 912 76 47 47

12. Villa Magna • Salamanca • $$$

Sitting on the Paseo de la Castellana boulevard in swanky Salamanca, Villa Magna combines a Brutalist exterior with a jaw dropping mix of cutting-edge design, antique-style furniture, and bold contemporary art inside. The wood-paneled rooms in purple and grey are more subdued than the common area. There’s a full range of amenities aimed at families as well as 3 excellent restaurants and a terrific spa. • +34 917 87 12 34

13. Room Mate Alba • Huertas • $$

This 17th-century townhouse has been remodeled by cutting-edge designer Lorenzo Castillo and turned into an intimate 4-star hotel, with touches of Art Deco, Bauhaus, and Oriental exoticism. Rooms are comfortable and contemporary, and the 2 suites with black bathtubs are downright lavish. There’s a great bar onsite and the location is perfect for museum-hopping and checking out the nightlife right on the hotel’s doorstep. • +34 910 80 64 71


14. DiverXO • Chamartín • $$$$

The only Michelin 3-star restaurant in Madrid, DiverXO is the city’s most memorable meal. Chef David Muñoz’ tasting menus change, depending on his whim. Dishes (such as sea urchin with buffalo milk, or octopus with kimchee and tea) arrive on slabs or specially designed trays, along with special utensils instead of cutlery. Advance reservations absolutely essential. • +34 915 70 07 56

15. A’Barra • Castellana • $$$$

North of Madrid’s exclusive Salamanca neighborhood, this Michelin-starred restaurant serves seasonal, ingredient-driven dishes in a contemporary setting. Choose between the spacious dining room and the circular bar with an open kitchen in the center. • +34 910 21 00 61

16. Sobrino de Botín • Centro • $$-$$$

Founded as an inn in 1725, this is the world’s oldest continuously open restaurant. It’s renowned for 3 things: it’s old-world 18th-century décor, it’s succulent roast meats, and its literary connections (Hemingway, Graham Greene). The specialties are the roast suckling pig and lamb; dine in the atmospheric bodega (vaulted cellar) or in the opulent dining rooms. • +34 913 66 42 17

17. La Tasquería • Goya • $$-$$$

This bright and modern bistro blends tasca (tavern) and casquería (offal), championing nose-to-tail dining. There’s an a la carte menu and 2 tasting menus: long and short, featuring kidneys, hearts, tongues, trotters, and more, as well as conventional meat dishes. Book ahead. • +34 914 51 10 00

18. Sala de Despiece • Chamberí • $$-$$$

Market-driven-menu, stark décor that includes Styrofoam butcher containers and meat hooks and table-side pyrotechnics characterize one of the hippest eateries in northern Madrid. Expect seasonal ingredients and plenty of ‘deconstruction’ wizardry. • +34 917 52 61 06

19. DSTAgE • Chueca • $$$$

The Michelin 2-star project of chef Diego Guerrero features a hip dining area where guests are first treated to bar snacks before tucking into either a 15 or 18-course tasting menu with the chef and his staff working their magic in the open kitchen. Wonderfully creative dishes with Mexican, Japanese, and Spanish influences. • +34 917 02 15 86

20. Álbora • Salamanca • $$-$$$

This sleek, pared-down, Michelin-starred venue is all about contemporary Spanish flavors. Order from the a la carte menu of smart, seasonal, ingredient-driven dishes, including stews and oxtail pies, or head to the restaurant upstairs and choose between the long and short tasting menus. • +34 917 81 61 97

21. Cebo • Centro • $$$-$$$$

Part of Hotel Urban, Michelin-starred Cebo focuses on the bounty and extensive repertoire of the Iberian peninsula. Choose from a la carte or tasting menus; “The Seventeen”, comprising signature dishes from each of Spain’s regions, is a showstopper. • +34 917 87 77 80

22. La Cabaña Argentina • Centro • $$-$$$

Arguably Madrid’s best Argentinian steakhouse, it is all exposed brick walls and black and white photos of vintage Buenos Aires, with a meat-heavy, succinct menu of ribeye, sirloin, filet mignon, flank, and skirt steak cuts. The extensive wine list focuses mostly on Argentinian and Spanish wines. Equally popular for dates and family meals. • +34 913 69 72 02

23. Cruz Blanca de Vallecas • Puente de Vallecas • $$-$$$

One of Madrid’s classic dishes is the cocido madrileño (garbanzo bean, vegetable, and smoked meat stew). This unassuming taverna on the southeast outskirts of the city is worth the trip; chef Antonio Cosmen’s superlative version of the dish sees such a steady stream of foodie pilgrims that you have to make reservations months in advance. • +34 917 77 34 38


24. Antigua Casa Talavara • Centro

If you’re looking for unique Spanish gifts, the Antigua Casa Talavera is home to beautiful ceramics by small family potters from all over Spain, ranging from colorful tiles to crockery.

25. El Arco Artesanía • Centro

Just off the Plaza Mayor, this great little store is all about homemade designer souvenirs, from jewelry and papier-mache figures to home fittings. Ideal for unique gifts.

26. Museo del Jamón • Centro

There are several branches of El Museo del Jamón scattered around the center. If you’re a foodie, vacuum-sealed packs of Spain’s finest jamón iberico bellota and other meaty goodies are a great purchase; some outlets double as tapas bars.

27. Antigua Casa Crespo • Malasaña

This place has been providing Madrid residents with hand-sewn espadrilles (colorful, comfy sandals) for over 150 years. There’s something to suit all tastes here, from canvas-topped flats to stylish mesh wedge-heel sandals.

28. Sportivo • Malasaña

This hip menswear boutique stocks hard-to-find items by such brands as You Must Create, Paraboot, Del Barrio, and Libertine Libertine, from casual shirts and slacks to more formal wear and Barquet unisex footwear.

29. Loewe • Centro

Come to the Gran Vía outpost of Spain’s luxury fashion house to browse the silk scarves, leather handbags, purses, shawls, and other accessories. There’s also an on-site museum showcasing the brand’s history from 1890 onwards.

30. Lavinia • Salamanca

This 2-story wine emporium is one of the Spain’s best wine shops and you can find pretty much any Spanish wine here that you can think of, from fine cava to the highly prized, rare vintages from Rioja Alta. There’s an excellent tapas restaurant attached.

31. Alambique • Centro

Just off the Plaza de Encarnación, this kitchen store and cooking school is your one-stop shop for specialized cooking utensils if you’re looking to recreate Spanish dishes at home. Come here for the earthenware dishes for cooking garlic shrimp and other tapas, paella pans, olive-wood platters, and more.

32. Casa de Diego • Centro

If you’re after a hand-painted fan, silk shawls hand-embroidered with traditional Spanish needlework, a gentleman’s cane, or a high-quality umbrella, look no further than this store that’s been outfitting Madrid’s high society since 1800.

33. Cocol • La Latina

If you’re looking for genuine crafts by Spanish artisans (as opposed to mass-produced souvenirs), this great boutique stocks high-quality items made by craftsmen from across the country, from wool blankets and abstract ceramics to esparto baskets.

Tapas Bars

34. Txirimiri • La Latina

Just south of the 2 main tapas bars-lined streets in La Latina, Txirimiri is a terrific Basque tapas bar. Take your pick of the heaped pintxos (tiny open sandwiches) and specialties such as the Unai hamburger, fried in tempura with wild mushroom sauce, and grilled fois gras with fig marmalade. Good selection of Basque and Spanish wines.

35. La Perejila • La Latina

Right in the middle of one of the most popular streets for tapas bar hopping in La Latina, this is an old-school bar popular with locals. There are traditional raciones: cheese platters, mojama (wind-cured tuna) with roasted almonds…but what this bar is famous for are the rebanadas (large, open sandwiches), washed down with wine and vermouth.

36. Bodega de la Ardosa • Malasaña

With tables made of wine barrels, engraved beer taps, and heavy wooden beams, this 127-year-old bodega has tons of atmosphere and even better food. Grab a serving of sherry-braised beef cheeks or the award-winning tortilla Española and wash it down with one of the many wines by the glass.

37. 80 Grados • Malasaña

This attractive modern space is all about locavore cuisine, with creative dishes made from locally sourced ingredients and none of them cooked above 80° Celsius in order to let them preserve their natural flavors and properties. Standout tapas include salmorejo with parmesan ice cream and truffled eggs with potatoes.

38. La Chata • La Latina

La Chata is a quintessential madrileño tapas bar with a dining room decorated with vintage bullfighting posters and stuffed bull’s heads. Perch at the bar with a glass of wine or vermouth and order some tostas (toasted bread) with numerous toppings or else grab a tiled table and get some rabo de toro (oxtail) or cazuela (stew) to share.

39. Casa Revuelta • Centro

About as ‘local’ as you can get, Revuelta has been a neighborhood favorite for generations. The specialties here are the battered bacalao (salted cod) fritters, plus callos a la madrileña (Madrid-style tripe stew). Push your way to the bar and order a glass of vermouth from one of the penguin-suited waiters.

40. Baco y Beto • Chueca

This low-key, contemporary bar focuses on dishes prepared solely using high quality Spanish ingredients with protected designations of origin. Specials change daily, but some tapas standouts include salmorejo (a thick, savory take on Andalusian gazpacho) with quail eggs and breaded mushrooms with aioli.

41. Taberna Carmencita • Chueca

The second-oldest bar in Madrid (open since 1854) is a hugely popular late night pit stop for night owls. On the menu are over 75 traditional, no-nonsense Spanish dishes, including rabas (battered and fried calamari) and croquetas de jamón (ham croquettes), along with many vermouths and wines by the glass.

42. Casa Gonzáles • Huertas

A hybrid vinoteca, cheese shop, and tapas bar, Casa Gonzáles has been a beloved local institution since 1931. It comes with a few marble tables on which you can enjoy a glass of wine, along with platters of charcuterie and conservas (tinned seafood).

Cocktail & Wine Bars

43. Del Diego • Chueca

This watering hole may be frequented by quite a few corporate suit types, but that’s only because they appreciate top-notch martinis, white Russians, and other classic cocktails, executed with aplomb and served at the polished wooden bar.

44. Bar Cock • Chueca

This 1920s former brothel turned iconic bar had served the likes of Frank Sinatra back in the day and classic cocktails remain their strength: it’s hard to go wrong with a margarita, G&T, or martini.

45. Salmon Guru • Centro

The drinks at this flamboyant, over-the-top brainchild of Madrid’s top mixologist Diego Cabrera are as incredible as the décor. Expect elaborate, original cocktails with really unusual ingredients and a sensory assault in the form of neon and retro superhero prints and plenty of mirrors.

46. Vinoteca Vides • Chueca

This unpretentious, low-key wine bar is the polar opposite of those sleek, brightly lit, intimidating establishments that are also found in the city. Don’t let the chalked menus and rustic décor fool you, though: the wine list spans the country’s 72 wine-growing areas and is second to none.

47. Viva Madrid • Huertas

This 1850s taverna has been given a contemporary makeover and turned into one of Madrid’s best cocktail bars. The signature drink here since 1927 has been the media combinación (gin with vermouth and bitters), though the current version has been given a contemporary twist by superstar mixologist Diego Cabrera.

48. La Venencia • Centro

This temple to sherry has been around since 1922 and the decor hasn’t changed a great deal since Hemingway used to haunt this place. Find yourself a space among the oak barrels and vintage bullfighting posters and let the bartenders initiate you into the world of amontillados, palo cortados, and finos.

Craft Beer

49. La Tape • Malasaña

A contemporary bistro as well as one of Madrid’s best craft beer bars, La Tape pairs ingredient-driven dishes with a huge selection of craft beers. There are seven rotating taps, dozens of bottled brews, and even gluten-free beers.

50. The Stuyck Co • Malasaña

This compact bar is the place to go if you’re after some of Spain’s more unusual and rare craft beers. The food doesn’t let the side down either, and customers are treated to some of the city’s best and most eclectic tapas.

51. Fogg Bar • Huertas

Does cheese go with beer? You’re about to find out if you head to this buzzy beer bar run by a father-daughter team. There are plenty of locally brewed beers served alongside creative cheese-based tapas.

52. Fábrica Maravillas • Malasaña

The 5 freshly brewed beers at Madrid’s first microbrewery are inspired by Belgian and American beers and the thimble-sized interior gets packed with local beer buffs.

Flamenco Shows

While the art of flamenco hails from Andalusia and Seville is the undisputed capital of the mesmerizing dance and melancholy songs that accompany it, it’s taken very seriously in Madrid. Here you are unlikely to catch any impromptu breakout of flamenco music and dance-driven by pure passion in some dive bar, but there are several flamenco venues where highly professional performances take place on a nightly basis.

53. Las Tablas Flamenco • Centro

Just off the Plaza de España, this venue stages relatively inexpensive, traditional tablaos (flamenco shows) with a good mix of tourists and locals in attendance; entry price includes a free drink.

54. Corral de la Morería • La Latina

Just on the outskirts of the La Latina neighborhood, this place has been staging tablaos (flamenco shows) since 1956. Attached is a Michelin-starred restaurant with just 4 tables for those who want to enjoy an exquisite meal alongside the show.

55. Las Carboneras • Centro

Near the Plaza de Mayor, Las Carboneras stages polished, old-school tablaos (flamenco shows) nightly, and they tend to be more wallet-friendly than many other flamenco venues. It also offers dinner before the show as well as unlimited free drinks if you book in advance.

56. Casa Patas • Huertas

The ‘House of Feet’ is the place to catch big names in flamenco. It’s an intimate venue, popular with tour groups as well as locals; book tickets in advance. The flamenco style performed here is more contemporary than at Las Tablas, and there’s a restaurant here as well for those wanting dinner before the show.


57. Chocolateria San Ginés • Centro

Just north of the Plaza Mayor, this locally beloved cafe has been serving churros con chocolate to madrileños for over a hundred years. It serves only drinking chocolate – so thick that you can almost stand your spoon up in it – accompanied by churros (tubular, deep-fried dough); best on weekdays, when the lines are shorter.

58. La Bicicleta • Malasaña

This artsy café is all bicycles chained to the ceiling, exposed brick walls, and distressed sofas, with excellent artisan coffee on offer and organic nibbles and breakfast. Good for lingering with your laptop or sipping a cocktail or caña of beer in the afternoons.

59. Café de la Luz • Malasaña

Kitted out like a boho lounge (mismatched furniture, shelves filled with books), this super-popular coffee shop doesn’t have any fancy brewing equipment but they make an excellent (and wallet-friendly) café con leche, and it’s a welcoming space to linger in.

60. Chocolat Madrid • Huertas

In the lively Barrio de las Letras part of Huertas, this retro café has grumpy waiters and a very short menu that features some of the city’s best chocolate con churros. Choose between traditional churros or the fatter and spongier porros and have them with hot chocolate, tea, or coffee.

61. Hola Coffee • Lavapiés

The owners of this third-wave specialty coffee shop are really serious about their coffee and roast their carefully sourced single origin beans at their own roastery. Go for a V60 pour-over or a chemex brew; this one is for serious coffee aficionados.

Things to Do

62. Visit the Palacio Real

Originally a 16th-century wooden fortress, Spain’s grand royal palace was rebuilt in a style similar to Versailles. Each subsequent king added their own touches – Italian interior décor, Spanish porcelain, French tapestries – and the end result is an imposing French-Italian Baroque palace filled with frescoes, tapestries, gold leaf, chandeliers, and porcelain, used primarily for state functions (the royal family lives elsewhere). The audio guides lead you through individually decorated rooms including the Throne Room, Gala Dining Hall, and Armory.

63. Chill out in Parque del Buen Retiro

Created in the 17th century for King Felipe IV, this vast park just west of Madrid’s art museums is hugely popular with locals. Madrileños come here to read, go strolling or running past the landscaped lawns, play with their kids, go boating on the park’s larger lake (El Estangue), or sit in one of the numerous terrazas (open-air cafes) with a cold drink. On weekends, buskers, tarot readers, jugglers, and other street performers cluster along the walkways around the lake.

64. Visit the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Almudena

Madrid’s cathedral was only completed in 1992 and its cavernous, grey-and-white, neo-Gothic interior lacks the old-world grandeur of Spain’s medieval churches, though some visitors find it refreshingly modern. Interesting features include a contemporary, colorful ceiling, a splendid 15th-century altarpiece, and an enormous 5,000-pipe organ. In a chapel behind the altar, you’ll find the 12th-century coffin of Madrid’s patron saint, San Isidro. The main highlight is the rooftop viewpoint with great views of the Royal Palace.

65. Smell the Flowers at the Real Jardín Botánico

Just south of the Museo del Prado and east of the Parque del Buen Retiro, this sculpted green space is a great spot to relax after you’ve visited the nearby art galleries. There are over 30,000 species of plants in this 8-hectare space, including exotic trees from around the world gathered by King Carlos III. Head to the Pabellón Villanueva, on the east side of the gardens, to check out the frequently staged contemporary art exhibitions.

66. Take the Kids to the Casa de Campo

Casa de Campo is the city’s largest park that stretches west of Río Manzanares. It’s criss-crossed with walking trails, dotted with lakeside restaurants and is particularly popular with families. The zoo with the huge aviary is a big draw. For something more adrenalin-packed, the nearby Parque de Atracciones is an amusement park with a good assortment of white-knuckle rides for older kids and adults, as well as gentle rides for small children.

67. Attend a bullfight at the Las Ventas bullring

In Madrid, bullfighting is still going strong and the country’s top matadors come to show off their skills at the grandest bullring in the country. It’s not a spectacle for the squeamish, though there’s no denying the grace and skill of the professional matadors. Even if not attending a bullfight, it’s well worth touring the arena and visiting the museum, with its impressive collection of bullfight-related paintings and trajes de luz (suits of light) belonging to some of the biggest names in bullfighting.

68. Visit the Templo de Debod

Originally located close to the first cataract of the Nile, south of Aswan in Egypt, this temple, dating back to the 2nd century B.C., was dedicated to Isis, one of the most important deities in ancient Egypt. It was donated to Spain by the Egyptian government in 1968 as a way of thanking Franco for his assistance in helping to preserve several key UNESCO monuments after the construction of the Aswan Dam. The temple – the only one of its kind in Spain – was painstakingly rebuilt, stone by stone, in Madrid’s Parque del Oeste.

69. Tour the Santiago de Bernabéu Stadium

If you’re a football (soccer) fan, then a visit to Santiago Bernabéu is a must. Visit the stadium during the day for a self-guided tour of the presidential box and the press room, the dressing rooms, players’ tunnel, the pitch itself, and the remarkable trophy exhibit that shows off the vast array of trophies won by Real Madrid, one of the world’s most successful football clubs. Come during football season (September to May) to catch an exciting match alongside 80,000 exuberant supporters.

70. Catch a show at the Teatro de Zarzuela

Is it theater? Is it opera? Is it dance? All of the above and more, zarzuela is a uniquely Spanish pastime, invented in the 17th century as entertainment for King Felipe IV and his court. With their focus on everyday problems, zarzuela shows incorporate double entendres, scenes portraying sexual themes, social criticism, in-jokes, and local references. If you’re fluent in Spanish, it’s an excellent glimpse into local culture.

71. Visit CaixaForum

One of Madrid’s most striking contemporary landmarks, this eye-catching 21st-century structure across the street from the Prado has a 4-story hanging garden and an exhibition hall, with 4 floors of stainless steel and soaring ceilings. World-class contemporary art, photography, and multimedia shows take place here on a changing basis 3-4 times a year.

72. Catch the Views from the Circulo de Bellas Artes

One of the most popular viewpoints in Madrid, this 1920s skyscraper near the Plaza de España has a 7th-floor roof terrace, crowned with an Art Deco statue of Minerva, Roman goddess of wisdom. You have to pay to take the elevator up to the terrace; once there, you can have drinks at the small rooftop café and get a bird’s eye view of some of Madrid’s notable buildings, plus the Gran Vía, one of Madrid’s main shopping streets.

73. Go up the Faro de Moncloa

Worth the trip to the northwest corner of the city, the Faro de Moncloa is a 110-meter-tall former transmission tower. Visitors can take the see-through panoramic elevators up to the 92-meter viewpoint at the top that resembles a flying saucer, from where you can see the Royal Palace, Almudena Cathedral, 1950s Victory Arch, and even the peaks of the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range, way beyond the city limits.

Day Trips

74. Toledo

Spain’s stunning 2,500-year-old former capital. Flanked by Río Tajo, a tangle of narrow, cobbled, ancient streets snakes up the hillside and makes up the historic heart of Toledo. Toledo’s roots comprise two and a half millennia of Roman, Visigothic, Jewish, Moorish, and Christian heritage and one of Toledo’s biggest attractions is getting lost in its maze of streets and drinking in the medieval atmosphere. Don’t miss the cathedral, Museo del Greco, or 12th-century Sinagoga del Tránsito.

75. Segovia

The historic town of Segovia is famous for 2 things: an impressive Roman aqueduct and a fairytale castle that allegedly inspired the one in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Some 100 feet high and 2,500 feet long, the well-preserved, 2,000-year-old Roman aqueduct was built without any mortar and is extremely impressive. The medieval, walkable heart of Segovia is shaped a bit like a ship, with the aqueduct at the stern and the castle at the bow.

76. Monasterio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial

Majestic monastery and 16th-century palace complex in the foothills of the Sierra Guadarrama range. A self-guided tour takes you through the basilica and the Sala de Batallas, decorated with paintings celebrating Spain’s great military victories. Check out the Museo de Pintura, with 15 to 17th-century works by Flemish, Italian, and Spanish masters, and the Panteón de Los Reyes, where 26 Spanish kings and queens are seeing out eternity. Other highlights include the King’s Apartments and the lovely monumental garden, Jardín del Príncipe.

77. Valle de los Caídos

Easily doable as a side trip from the El Escorial Monastery, the controversial memorial consists of an enormous, stark basilica deep inside the hill, and a huge cross that perches on a granite outcrop above the basilica. Visitors pass between giant angels with swords to make their way to the high altar, where the remains of 34,000 victims of the Civil War (from both sides) are interred. Franco’s remains have now been reburied elsewhere.

78. Ávila

This beautiful historic town with its impressive medieval wall is the birthplace of St Teresa – the most important woman in the history of the Catholic Church in Spain. Ávila is particularly famous for its beautifully preserved 12th-century wall that encircles the town’s medieval heart and can be climbed. Try to linger in Ávila after dark, when the medieval lamp-lit streets are particularly gorgeous and eerie.

Museums and Art Galleries

79. Museo del Prado • Retiro

With a collection spanning more than 7,000 priceless artworks, including entire rooms dedicated to masterpieces by European greats, the Prado is one of the world’s top art museums. Look out for the Black Paintings by Francisco de Goya as well as works by other Spanish masters: Murillo, Velázquez, and El Greco. Don’t miss the Edificio Jerónimos, with its excellent temporary exhibitions, or the beautiful 2nd-floor cloisters. Book your ticket online to avoid waiting in line.

80. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza • Retiro

An extraordinary private collection of European art that forms part of Madrid’s “Golden Triangle” of art. Whereas the Prado and the Reina Sofia galleries provide an in-depth look at the works of specific artists, Thyssen gives you the chance to explore a huge array of artistic styles, including Thyssen’s forte, Impressionism. Look out for works by Constable, Van Gogh, Kandinsky, Dali, Chagall, Manet, Gauguin, Lucian Freud, and many more. Don’t miss paintings by El Greco and his Venetian contemporaries Titian and Tintoretto.

81. Centro de Arte Reina Sofia • Huertas

Madrid’s top contemporary art gallery showcases cubism, surrealism, and other 20th-century art movements, along with contemporary sculptures. The majority of works are by Spanish artists, with a particular emphasis on 20th-century greats such as Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Joán Miró, Antoni Tàpies, and Juan Gris. The star of the collection is Picasso’s Guernica, a monumental canvas that captures the horrors of war, with a room all to itself.

82. Museo Arqueológico Nacional • Salamanca

Excellent museum dedicated to the history of the Iberian peninsula. Exhibits run the gamut from the earliest human presence in Spain in the Neolithic, Copper, and Bronze Ages to Celtic Iberia and 7 centuries of Roman rule (don’t miss the remarkable mosaics). Highlights include an in-depth look at 800 years of Moorish culture, plus the riches on display from the Spanish conquest of the New World. The museum organizes family activities and holds twice-monthly archaeology workshops for kids.

83. Museo de America • Chamberí

This excellent museum focuses largely on the exploration and conquest of Latin America by the Spanish Empire between the 15th and 19th centuries. Exhibits focus on the voyages of Columbus and other explorers and the displays showcase jewelry (the Colombian gold collection is remarkable), statues, ceramics, weapons, and ritual objects looted from Spain’s many South American colonies. Family workshops and activities just for kids are also organized.

84. Museo Sorolla • Salamanca

House museum dedicated to Valencian painter Joaquín Sorolla. This mansion, surrounded by lush landscaped gardens, is Madrid’s best house-museum and home to the most complete collection of the artist’s works. Much of the house has been left exactly as it was during the artist’s lifetime, lending the museum a personal touch. Paintings spanning Sorolla’s entire career are spread across the top floor in chronological order.

85. Ermita de San Antonio de la Florida • Argüelles

Near the Casa de Campo, this small 18th-century Neoclassical chapel may not look like much, but inside is the tomb of Goya, one of Spain’s greatest painters. After his death in France, his mortal remains were transferred to Madrid in 1919; apparently, when his skeleton was exhumed, it was missing the head. It’s particularly worth visiting Goya’s tomb if you’ve already been to the Prado and seen his masterpieces.

Food and Flea Markets

86. El Rastro • La Latina

Every Sunday, madrileños head to Europe’s biggest flea market that spreads across several blocks south of La Latina metro stop. The streets are lined with old furniture, antiques, miscellaneous bric-a-brac, bootleg CDs, and much more, and there are plenty of street musicians as well.

87. Mercado de San Miguel • Centro

A couple of blocks away from Plaza Mayor, this beautiful, historic food market is a great place to stop for tapas. It’s very popular for several reasons: central location, varied selection of edible offerings at counter-bars and gourmet shops for buying wine and chocolate.

88. El Corte Inglés Callao Gourmet Experience • Centro

This food court on the 9th floor of the El Corte Inglés department store by the Callao metro station is a great place for a bite with a view. Apart from several specialty stores selling gourmet food products, there are numerous restaurants and food stalls to choose from.

89. Mercado de San Antón • Chueca

This 3-story food market combines traditional produce stalls on the first floor with a stellar tapas and craft beer experience on the second floor. Head to the third floor for a panoramic rooftop view of Chueca.

90. Mercado de Motores • Atocha

Held on the second weekend of every month (apart from August) on the site of the Museo de Ferrocarril (Railway Museum), this vast flea market is a great place to browse for vintage clothes and treasures from people’s attics, as well as accessories made by local designers.

91. Mercado Central de Diseño • Chopera

South of the city center, this huge outdoor market is held for one weekend every month (except January and February). There are dozens of street food trucks and stalls showcasing national and international designers, and live music to boot.


92. Centro

Centro is both the geographical and historical center of the city. A maze of medieval streets surrounds the main Plaza Mayor – Madrid’s grand main square, lined with gorgeous, centuries-old architecture. The Royal Palace marks the west border of Centro, while to the north, the main shopping thoroughfare of Gran Vía separates Centro from the barrios of Malasaña and Chueca. There is varied dining around Plaza Mayor and nearby Plaza del Sol, ranging from fast food joints and tiny tapas bars to gourmet food markets and some of Madrid’s oldest and most distinguished restaurants. Accommodation is a mix of boutique hotels, numerous budget options, and several 5-star hotels. This neighborhood is very walkable but difficult to drive in.
Best Stuff: Palacio Real (Madrid’s grand royal palace) • Catedral de Nuestra Señora de Almudena (cathedral with rooftop views) • Plaza Mayor (historical plaza, beautiful architecture) • Iglesia de San Ginés (one of Madrid’s oldest churches) • Mercado de San Miguel (gourmet food market) • Chocolatería San Ginés (Madrid’s most famous churros con chocolate café) • Las Tablas Flamenco (traditional flamenco shows) • Sobrino de Botín (Madrid’s oldest restaurant, roast meats a specialty) • El Pimiento Verde (contemporary Basque cuisine) • La Cabaña Argentina (Argentine grill, great steaks) • El Inti de Oro (authentic Peruvian dishes) • Casa Revuelta (late-night tapas bar, bacalao croquettes a specialty) • Brew Wild Pizza Bar (gourmet pizzas and craft beer) • Salmon Guru (off-the-wall décor, cocktails by Madrid’s top mixologist) • La Venencia (venerable 1920s bar, traditional cocktails).

93. La Latina

Just south of Centro is the equally walkable La Latina, also known for its attractive architecture, as well as Madrid’s largest flea market on Sundays and its excellent tapas bars, many of them clustered along Calle de Cava Baja. The attractions in Centro and Retiro are a 10 to 15-minute walk from La Latina which is a popular barrio for kicking off a night out with a tapas bar crawl. Besides several mid-range hotels, accommodations here feature largely budget options.
Best Stuff: El Rastro (Madrid’s biggest flea market) • Museo de San Isidro (museum dedicated to Madrid’s patron saint) • Corral de la Morería (flamenco show venue with Michelin-starred restaurant) • La Taberna del Capitán Alatriste (atmospheric cellar restaurant, Spanish classics) • Txirimiri (terrific Basque tapas bar) • La Chata (historic tapas bar, great stews, and classic Spanish bites) • Mad Café (some of Madrid’s best burgers) • Juana La Loca (extensive range of creative tapas, great tortilla) • La Taquería de Birra (authentic Mexican tacos, great margaritas) • Rasputín (Russian fine dining).

94. Lavapiés

Flanking La Latina to the east is Lavapiés, which shares the El Rastro flea market with its neighbor and is just a few minutes’ walk west from Retiro park and Madrid’s main art museums. An edgy, up-and-coming neighborhood, Lavapiés has traditionally welcomed immigrants and is famous for its ethnically diverse eateries and cluster of hip bars. There are few accommodations here – mostly mid-range and budget options.
Best Stuff: El Rastro (Madrid’s biggest and best flea market on Sundays) • Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (Madrid’s best contemporary art gallery) • Hola Coffee (terrific specialty coffee shop) • Distrito Vegano (homey vegan restaurant) • Taberna Más Al Sur (classic Spanish tapas, big jugs of sangria) • Dakar Restaurante Senegalés (inexpensive, tasty Senegalese food) • Bar El Boquerón (seafood tapas bar) • Chinaski Lavapiés (brewpub with zany décor, great beer selection) • La Fuente de la Virgen (friendly brewpub, great cocktails).

95. Huertas

Bordering Lavapiés to the north is Huertas, also known as the Barrio de las Letras due to its connections to writers from Spain’s literary Golden Age, and it’s still home to numerous independent shops and art galleries. Apart from its diverse collection of bars to suit any taste and budget, it offers some of Madrid’s best al fresco dining and drinking around the attractive Plaza Santa Ana, and is one of the city’s bohemian enclaves. Plaza del Sol, Plaza Mayor, and Retiro are both within a few minutes’ walk and lodgings range from 5-star hotels to budget digs.
Best Stuff: Plaza de Santa Ana (attractive square surrounded by tapas bars) • Casa de Lope de Vega (house-museum of one of Spain’s greatest playwrights) • Convento de las Trinitarias (working convent and final resting place of Cervantes) • Terramundi (traditional, moderately-priced Galician cuisine) • Casa Alberto (historic taverna, traditional tapas) • Rosa Negra Madrid (authentic Mexican dining) • Sidrería Vasca Zeraín (fresh cider on tap, terrific Basque cuisine) • Chocolat Madrid (superlative churros con chocolate) • Fogg Bar (craft beer, cheese-based tapas) • Casa Gonzáles (many wines by the glass, cheese tapas).

96. Retiro

Retiro, with its grand park, heavyweight art museums, and some of Madrid’s grandest hotels is immediately to the east of Huertas and Lavapiés. Unlike its neighbors, it’s very much a daytime neighborhood, bustling by day and very quiet by night. The lakes, botanical gardens, and numerous walking trails of Madrid’s grandest park are perpetually popular with locals and visitors alike, and the park is busiest on weekends.
Best Stuff: Parque del Buen Retiro (Madrid’s most popular park) • Museo del Prado (one of the world’s top art museums) • Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza (incomparable private art collection) • Real Jardín Botánico (extensive botanic gardens) • Caixa Forum (beautiful exhibition center) • Palacio de Cibeles (Spanish fine dining) • Restaurante Alabaster (restaurant specializing in Galician dishes) • The Spanish Farm (‘modern-rustic’ bistro, farm-to-table dishes) • Restaurante Don Giovanni (home-style Italian cooking).

97. Salamanca

Immediately north of Retiro is Salamanca, Madrid’s most exclusive residential neighborhood. This barrio is particularly busy during the daytime when it’s popular with shoppers in search of the latest fashion, though there is also a worthwhile cluster of upscale restaurants and bars in the streets closest to Retiro park. Accommodations here include a number of 4 and 5-star hotels. Salamanca is more spread out and not as walkable as Madrid’s more central neighborhoods, but attractions in Centro and Retiro are just a couple of stops away on the metro.
Best Stuff: Museo Arqueológico Nacional (superb archaeological museum) • Museo Lázaro Galdiano (private collection of art and artifacts, mostly from the Iberian peninsula) • El Paraguas (Asturian fine dining) • El Pimiento Verde (sophisticated Basque cuisine) • Verdejo Taberna Artesana (bistro at the forefront of Madrid’s latest foodie trends) • StreetXO (Spanish-Asian fusion, bar seating) • Ramón Freixa Madrid (creative Michelin-starred dining).

98. Malasaña

Malasaña, Chueca’s western neighbor, has a grittier, grungier vibe and is equally renowned for its nightlife. Some of its live music venues hark back to the 80s, when Malasaña was at the heart of a counterculture movement, and there are plenty of nightlife venues to choose from, such as sophisticated cocktail and wine bars, craft beer joints, and pulsing nightclubs. During the day, there are independent boutiques to explore and a wide variety of restaurants to choose from, many of them off or around the main Plaza de Dos de Mayo and the mostly pedestrianized Calle Fuencarral. Malasaña and Chueca are both within easy walking distance from Centro’s attractions, and boutique and budget hotels make up the bulk of accommodations in these 2 neighborhoods.
Best Stuff: Gran Vía (Madrid’s premier shopping street lined with historical buildings) • Museo Municipal de Arte Contemporaneo (extensive collection of contemporary Spanish art) • Bodega de la Ardosa (wood-paneled 19th-century tapas bar, classic Spanish tapas) • 80 Grados (imaginative contemporary tapas cooked at 80°C) • Pez Tortilla (tapas bar specializing in 15 kinds of tortilla plus craft beer) • Mercado de San Ildefonso (hip food hall) • La Bicicleta (terrific coffee shop) • La Tape (imaginative bistro fare, extensive craft beer menu) • The Stuyck Co (buzzy brewpub offering flights of beer) • Fábrica Maravillas (great selection of craft beers and good tapas to match).

99. Chueca

Sandwiched between the southern half of Salamanca to the east and Malasaña to the west, Chueca is one of Madrid’s hippest neighborhoods and the epicenter of its gay nightlife. By day, the trendy restaurants lining its narrow, highly walkable streets fill with diners; in the evening, its bars and clubs come alive and are hopping until dawn.
Best Stuff: DSTAgE (wonderfully creative 2 Michelin star dining) • Food Truck (gourmet American-style hamburgers) • Mercado de San Antón (gourmet food market with tapas stalls and craft beer) • Yakitoro by Chicote (sleek Japanese restaurant) • Cannibal Raw Bar (for fans of ceviche and steak tartare) • El Cisne Azul (dishes with wild mushrooms are a specialty here) • Vinoteca Vides (low-key wine bar, superb selection of Spanish wines) • Bar Cock (historic watering hole serving classic cocktails) • Del Diego (sleek cocktail bar serving great martinis and White Russians).

100. Argüelles & Moncloa

Bordering Malasaña to the west is Argüelles, a residential area fringed by one of Madrid’s largest parks. Together with Moncloa, directly to the north, these neighborhoods are popular with students and have their own share of local bars. A short metro ride from either area connects to Madrid’s central neighborhoods.
Best Stuff: Templo de Debod (2nd century BC temple rebuilt painstakingly) • Faro de Moncloa (one of Madrid’s highest scenic viewpoints) • Casa de Campo (Madrid’s largest green space) • Museo de América (museum dedicated to the conquest of the New World) • Ermita de San Antonio de la Florida (final resting place of painter Goya) • Casa Mingo (Asturian cider brewery and restaurant) • Arrocería Casa de Valencia (traditional rice restaurant serving paellas for 2 or more) • Casa Paco (low-key tapas bar specializing in tortilla and croquetas) • Txirimiri (Basque tapas bar).

About Santorini Dave

Santorini Dave Santorini Dave was started in 2011 by a guy who loves Greece and Europe, travel and great hotels. We're now a small team of writers and researchers dedicated to providing the best travel content on the internet. We focus on Santorini, Mykonos, Athens, and Greece, offering recommendations for top hotels, neighborhoods, and family-friendly hotels worldwide. Dave can be contacted at