Madrid is more than the capital of the Spanish government and the traditional home of the royal Family. The city is a bustling metropolis of more than 3.5 million people and an intriguing history that makes it one of the most popular travel destinations in Europe.
Located in the center of the Iberian Peninsula, surrounded by scenic mountains and natural parks, Madrid is a bustling convergence of culture and business, from a historic focal point for an empire that once ruled much of the known world to a modern day center of commerce for the European Union.
Regardless of whether Madrid is a day trip, the only city you visit, or part of a Eurotrip, these tips will get you the most out of your time there.
How to Get There:
Being centrally located means that you that’s a short trip away from practically any other European destinations. With cheap flights and an expansive train network, you can be in Madrid in no time.
For those travelling throughout Europe, you’re better off investing in a Eurail Pass. Not only do you get the flexibility of travelling everywhere, but you’re also saving a ton of money. We opted for the Global Pass, and it’s worth its weight in gold.
They also have a bonus on right now where you get extra travel days with certain passes!
The weather in Madrid is seasonal so it directly influences what people wear, and the cultural heritage of its residents gives the city a unique sense of style.
In Cuatro Torres, businesswomen and men wear sharply tailored suits and polished shoes. Travel into the older districts such as Barrio Malasaña and residents shift to wearing brilliant and colorful traditional clothing, making it an ideal destination to pick up a bohemian skirt or scarf.
When you are planning your trip to Spain’s capital, research what season you’ll experience during your time there and plan accordingly. During the winter or spring, you can mostly get away with a few layered sweaters and jeans. Bring a jacket for those unexpected cold snaps. If you plan on visiting during summer, pack trousers, skirts and lightweight tops instead.
The city’s public transportation options make it easy to travel quickly between destinations, but some of the best moments in the city can be those leisurely walks on streets that are older than many countries. This might mean limiting how many “must see” destinations you get to visit, but in a city as ancient as Madrid, every corner can tell a story.
To get the most from your trip, be sure to pack a pair of comfortable shoes, such as your favorite sneakers or give your travel wardrobe that extra pop with a pair of stylish Vionic sandals or pumps. That way, you can enjoy those little side trips around the city and still have the energy to go dancing every night.
Sights, Shopping And More
Madrid has plenty of attractions for tourists to enjoy since the city lovingly preserved many historical neighborhoods. The Royal Palace, Plaza Mayor or the restored Opera house are great stops for any traveler looking to embrace the culture of this old world empire. If you are interested in art, three major venues – the Prado, Museo Reina Sofía and Thyssen-Bornemisza – are three museums located on the Paseo Del Prado.
For travelers looking to get off the beaten path, historic neighborhoods, filled with centuries of history are often just a short walk or bus ride away. Madrid boasts all the conveniences of a fully modern city even as it lovingly maintains the old world charm. What you see while exploring the Spanish capital is limited only by the amount of time you get to spend there.
If you enjoy shopping, Madrid has you covered. The Rasto flea market is open Saturday and Sunday and it is the perfect place to pick up souvenirs or one of a kind gift you won’t find in any airport shop. The Chueca is a popular destination for fashion tourists, thanks to the wide selection of designer goods and numerous boutique stores that line its flamboyant and friendly streets.
Part of the larger Justicia neighborhood, the district is located just north of the historic old city, which makes it the ideal spot to take an afternoon break from sightseeing. If you find yourself in the Chueca, check out the shops on Calle Hortaleza. You won’t regret it.
The variety of what Madrid offers can make it easy to pick up more than what you really have room for. Before you leave, it’s best to give yourself a strict budget on what you’ll allow yourself to bring back. If you don’t, just be sure to pack everything for your trip in luggage that can expand.
When you need a bite to eat, you can find a café or street vendor around nearly every corner. Thanks to being the political and cultural hub of the country, Madrid has the most varied cuisine selection of anywhere in Spain.
A popular lunch destination for tourists is the beautiful Plaza Mayor, but these shops can be costly. Just a few blocks off the main plaza are local shops frequented by the citizens, not tourists, so you’ll find the same delicious food for a much more reasonable price, though you might want to brush up on your Spanish. Many residents in Madrid are bilingual, but these small shops are used to native speakers, so it’s a good idea to keep a pocket translator book or phone app handy.
A trip to Madrid would not be complete without eating a churro. The best place to get a churro at is the San Gines churreria in the centre. You should also try some tapas, which can found on Cava Baja Street a short distance for Plaza Mayor.
Don’t Be Afraid To Explore Madrid
If you want to take a break from historical buildings and artistic tours, grab a breath of fresh air at the Retiro Park. The park served as the palace’s royal garden and now is a popular destination for tourists and citizens alike, particularly on Sunday morning. The Retiro contains a boating lake and a number of majestic fountains along scenic pathways throughout the garden. If you visit the park on Sundays you will see Punch and Judy shows, along with tarot card readers and stalls selling candy.
Madrid, like New York, is a city that’s always awake thanks to a thriving nightlife. If you are looking for a trendy dance club, the Palacio Gaviria near Puerta Del Sol is the ideal fit. The club even offers tango lessons if you want to add a little cultural flair to your steps. The Malasaña district is well known for its nightlife, serving as the epicenter of the Movida movement, giving Spain it’s new modern identity in the 70’s and 80’s.
If you are more into bars than you are nightclubs, you don’t want to miss El Tempranillo on Cava Baja street. Not only does it boast an expansive selection of wines; the food is some of the best you’ll have in the city.
With so many options, most tourists who make it to Madrid leave already planning when they come back. It’s a beautiful city, one that offers all of the charm of its history with the conveniences any modern traveler requires. Everyone who visits is sure to find their own favorite shop, so be sure to ask your friends what their “must see” places are. Once you arrive however, don’t be afraid to explore. Your own favorite boutique could be just around that next corner.