Welcome to the most complete guide to the best landmarks in Madrid.
I am sure you don´t want to get back home having missed some of the most famous attractions of the capital of Spain. It is essential to include all of them on your Madrid travel bucket list.
This information is priceless. Whatever you do, don’t go without Madrid Traveling’s guide on the city’s biggest hits!
Furthermore, I have included for your convenience detailed free Google maps. This way you will save time and make the most of your trip to Madrid.
It is quite a long post so make sure you add this page to your bookmarks to revisit any time you need.
With a collection of must-see attractions, unmissable museums and more, here’s our guide to the most famous Madrid’s landmarks, monuments, and other points of interest.
The capital of Spain has something to offer for everyone, no matter your interests. Check my recommended Madrid landmarks below and be sure to tick the ones of your interest.
Table of contents
- 1 Best way to visit the top landmarks and monuments in Madrid
- 2 Popular Madrid landmarks and monuments by neighborhood
- 3 Final words
Best way to visit the top landmarks and monuments in Madrid
Madrid is an amazing city with a deep historical heritage as it was a focal point of a huge empire that once spanned across continents and lasted for centuries.
The capital of Spain offers numerous tourist attractions and sights recognized worldwide. The historical buildings and monuments in Madrid are unique around the world. A good reason why visit Madrid!
Since there are many points of interest in Madrid to explore, it can be difficult for a first-time visitor to figure out what to prioritize during your stay.
» Check out my popular post: End-to-end Madrid travel guide.
Besides, although most of Madrid´s most famous landmarks are clustered together in the city center, some relevant monuments in Madrid are dotted throughout the city.
Therefore, I have put together in this post the most important Madrid landmarks to help you to plan and optimize your trip to Spain.
Notice that all the points of interest mentioned are inside M-30, the orbital motorway which circles the central districts of Madrid.
This way, you can easily access all of them walking or by public transport.
For your convenience, I have grouped the Madrid popular landmarks by area and neighborhood.
This way, you can easily include them in your planning and identify the ones of your interest.
In addition, for the main areas, I have attached a free interactive map with the most important tourist spots in Madrid.
Be sure to tick off the ones of your interest anytime you travel to Madrid, the capital of Spain.
Popular Madrid landmarks and monuments by neighborhood
Palacio Real (Royal Palace)
Palacio Real de Madrid (Royal Palace)
The Royal Palace, also known as Palacio de Oriente, is one of the most famous Madrid landmarks, located in El Madrid de los Austrias, the most historic neighborhood of Madrid.
The architectural beauty of this area as well as the numerous green zones and traditional restaurants attract a large number of tourists.
The Royal Palace of Madrid is the official residence of the Spanish Royal family, although now it is mostly used for receptions, state ceremonies, and official acts since the King of Spain currently lives in Palacio de la Zarzuela.
It is the largest functioning royal palace and the largest by floor area in Europe.
There are more than 3,000 rooms that are ornately decorated with fine paintings, sculptures, and ornaments.
I have no doubt that the interior of Madrid´s Royal Palace is also one of the best Madrid free museums due to the great historical and artistic collections and paintings.
The changing of the guard takes place every Wednesday and Saturday from 11 a.m. till 2 p.m. Four members of the Royal Guard are relieved of their positions: two foot soldiers and two soldiers on horseback dressed in their uniforms.
I also recommend you to attend the Solemn Changing of the Guard, one of the most viewed spectacles in the city.
The play lasts almost an hour and, in total, 400 people and 100 horses take part in the spectacle.
It takes place the first Wednesday of the month at noon (except January, August, and September).
The Palace Gardens, known as the “Campo del Moro”, are an additional point of interest in Madrid when visiting the Royal Palace.
They are located just behind the Palace, entrance is always free and open to the public at the same hours as the palace.
Finally, the Sabatini gardens were built in the 1930s on the site of the former stables, in front of the Royal Palace.
Their design and location make them some of the most beautiful landmarks in Madrid, especially at dusk, to watch the sunset.
Santa María la Real de La Almudena, also known as Almudena Cathedral, is one of the most popular spots in Madrid.
It is located in the historic Madrid´s city center, next to the Royal Palace.
Almudena Cathedral is the most important Catholic church in Madrid and it is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Madrid.
The cathedral was consecrated by Pope John Paul II on 15 June 1993.
The cathedral is a mixture of styles with a neoclassical exterior and a neogothic interior.
The building is dedicated to the Virgin of the Almudena, patron saint of Madrid.
As an interesting fact, the marriage of King Felipe VI to Letizia Ortiz took place at the cathedral in 2004.
Behind the Almudena Cathedral, you will find Arab Walls of Madrid, which were built in the 9th century, during the Muslim domination of the Iberian Peninsula.
They were declared an Artistic-Historic Monument in 1954 and access is free.
Plaza de Oriente
The Plaza de Oriente is a monumental space surrounded by some of the most famous buildings in Madrid: the Royal Palace, the Royal Theater, and the Royal Monastery of the Incarnation.
The square was designed in 1844 by the architect Narciso Pascual y Colomer and houses different historical-artistic gardens and an outstanding sculptural collection.
It was built under the orders of King Joseph I Bonaparte after the demolition of the medieval houses on the site.
Plaza de Oriente is one of the top attractions in Madrid due to its central location and points of great historical interest.
Therefore, this is a sight which must be in your itinerary.
At the heart of the Plaza de Oriente lies a bronze monument dedicated to Philip IV of Spain, a 17th-century work by Pietro Tacca.
It stands out as one of the essential landmarks in Madrid as it is considered the first equestrian statue in the world supported only by the hind legs of the horse.
With the advice of the famous astronomer Galileo Galilei, the sculptor made the rear part solid and the front part hollow.
The square has an excellent exhibition of sculptures of twenty Spanish kings, placed longitudinally on both sides of the central monument.
Although the initial idea was to adorn the upper cornice of the Royal Palace of Madrid, it was feared that the roof would not support its weight.
This is why the sculptures were finally distributed to other parts of Madrid and other Spanish cities.
The current design of the gardens, created in 1941, continues to take the effigy of Philip IV as a point of reference.
Besides, it distributes the gardens in a square pattern.
The gardens in Plaza de Oriente are remarkable too, and they are one of the best tourist attractions in Madrid, especially in Spring and Summer.
Plaza de Oriente is a haven of peace and tranquility.
The Royal Theater, located in the eastern part of the Plaza de Oriente, is a major opera house located in Madrid.
It was officially inaugurated in 1850 and is one of the great theaters of Europe.
The theater offers visitors guided tours in several languages, and guests can also walk up to the terrace to enjoy the views of the majestic Plaza de Oriente.
Finally, in the surroundings of the Royal Palace of Madrid you will also find:
- The Convento de la Encarnación, which was founded in 1611 as a convent for cloistered nuns. The famous relic with the blood of St. Pantaleon is kept here.
- Puerta de San Vicente (San Vicente gate), which consists of the main arch and two smaller gates.
In a few words, the Royal Palace area has some of the top landmarks in Madrid and should be a must on your trip to Madrid.
Plaza Mayor is one of the most popular points of interest in Madrid and the most emblematic square of the capital of Spain.
It is located in one of the most charming areas in the very center of Madrid and is just a few minutes walking from Puerta del Sol.
The Plaza Mayor is an outstanding arcaded square with a rectangular shape and a total of 237 balconies are present on the residential buildings that face inward towards the square.
The origins of the square date back to the sixteenth century, when it was the main market of the town.
The Plaza Mayor has suffered 3 major fires in its history, in 1631, 1670, and 1790.
It has also been the scene of numerous public events, such as crowning ceremonies, public executions, trials, or the beatification of San Isidro, patron saint of Madrid.
There is a bronze equestrian statue of King Philip III at the center of the Plaza Mayor, created in 1616, by Jean Boulogne and Pietro Tacca.
The statue was a gift from the Duke of Florence and became the centerpiece of the square in 1848, when Queen Isabel II ordered to move it from Casa de Campo, one of the best landmarks in Madrid.
To enter or exit the Plaza Mayor, there are ten entrances to choose from.
However, Arco de Cuchilleros is probably the most popular and it is located in the southwest corner of the square.
The construction of the first building of the square, Casa de la Panadería, started in 1590 and served as the principal bakery of the town, fixing the price of bread.
Today it is used as the Plaza Mayor Tourist Center.
The Plaza Mayor is currently one of the top tourist spots in Madrid. It is visited by thousands of tourists a year to shop, walk around, eat some tapas, and try some Spanish wines.
The square also houses a traditional Christmas market that you should visit in case you travel to Madrid in Winter.
Plaza de la Villa
The Plaza de la Villa is an urban square in the area of Madrid de los Austrias.
It is located next to Calle Mayor, and halfway between the Plaza Mayor and the Almudena Cathedral.
This square has major historical relevance and you will sightsee some of the most remarkable medieval buildings in Madrid.
Plaza de la Villa is one of the Madrid famous landmarks with the best-preserved historical monuments in Madrid such as the House and Tower of Lujanes, Casa de la Villa, and Casa de Cisneros.
Casa de la Villa was the town hall of the city of Madrid from 1693 until 2007.
Then it was moved to the Palacio de Cibeles (Cibeles Palace), which should also be in your list of renowned landmarks in Madrid.
On the eastern side of the square, you will see the Casa y Torre de los Lujanes.
This is the oldest civil building in Madrid and key in the history of the capital of Spain, dating back to 1494.
The name refers to the first owners, the Lujanes family, which were wealthy merchants.
Several coats of arms of this lineage are preserved, which appear on the main façade.
Although it has not been corroborated, the tower was supposed to have held Francis I of France captive after his capture in the Battle of Pavia.
These famous buildings in Madrid are followed in antiquity by the Casa de Cisneros (16th century), at the back of the Plaza de la Villa as the main facade faces Calle del Sacramento.
In 1888, the third centenary of the death of the sailor Don Álvaro de Bazán (1526-1588), a monument was erected in his memory in the center of the square.
In this Madrid monument, Bazán is shown stepping on a Turkish flag.
On the back of the pedestal, you will find the verses that the famous Spanish playwright, poet, and novelist, Lope de Vega dedicated to the general.
Mercado de San Miguel (San Miguel Market)
San Miguel Market, located in the square of the same name, is the most popular market in Madrid.
It is also one of the best Madrid famous landmarks among tourists since it is located next to the Plaza Mayor.
The market was originally built in 1916 and it still retains its remarkable early-20th century iron structure.
San Miguel Market has become one of the most well-known Madrid landmarks.
Millions of visitors, locals and tourists come to enjoy the top-quality products and wines from all corners of Spain in this culinary temple.
Although you can still do the grocery shopping, most people come here to taste the excellent Spanish wines and beers, and to eat some tapas.
There are more than 20 stands with the best quality products, such as Iberian ham, the freshest seafood Galicia, Mediterranean rice dishes, or the most exquisite cheeses from Castilla, Asturias, or Pais Vasco.
The market was forced to close for 9 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic but reopened in July 2021.
San Miguel Market is, in my opinion, a must-see landmark in Madrid.
Finally, in the surroundings of the Plaza Mayor of Madrid you will also find:
- Palacio de Santa Cruz:
The Santa Cruz Palace is one of the most emblematic and famous buildings preserved in Madrid.
It now houses the Spanish Ministry for Foreign Affairs but it was used as a jail until the reign of Philip IV of Spain.
Some prisoners in this jail were Lope de Vega, Espronceda, and the general Rafael del Riego.
In 1996, the Palace was declared a Site of Cultural Interest.
- Basílica de San Miguel:
The Basílica Pontificia de San Miguel is a baroque Roman Catholic church built in 1745.
Despite its small size, it is one of the most remarkable buildings of the Spanish Baroque, because of the unique convex shape of its façade.
It is located in the heart of Madrid de los Austrias. And it was declared a National Historic and Artistic Monument in 1984.
Sol | Gran Vía
Puerta del Sol
Puerta del Sol is one of the most popular squares in Madrid.
The square is a meeting point both for locals and tourists alike because of its central location and the fact that Sol metro station is one of the main transport hubs in the city.
Therefore, it is one of the essential landmarks you need to visit on your travel to Madrid, Spain.
With its semi-circular shape, the square is a nexus for several commercial areas.
Also, some of the most historical and popular streets in Madrid such as Mayor, Alcalá, Preciados, and Arenal start here, offering plenty of shops, cafes, and restaurants.
The area surrounding Puerta del Sol is one of the busiest landmarks in Madrid and remains active late into the night.
» Check out my popular post: Top 3 Museums in Madrid.
During the fifteenth century, Puerta del Sol originated as one of the gates of the city wall.
Its name comes from the rising sun which decorated the entry, as the gate was oriented to the east.
The Puerta del Sol houses some of the most famous Madrid monuments and buildings:
- The former House of the Post Office, known as Real Casa de Correos, was built between 1766 and 1768.
The building is currently used as the headquarters of the Madrid regional government.
There are two commemorative plaques on the front side of this popular building.
The first one is devoted to the Madrid citizens who rebelled against the Napoleonic invasion of Spain on May 2, 1808.
The second one is a memorial to the victims of the March 11th, 2004 terrorist attacks, and to the anonymous heroes who helped them.
The Real Casa de Correos is one of the most famous buildings in Madrid as hundreds of people have gathered for decades in front of its clock tower on new years’ eve.
The chimes of the clock at midnight mark the traditional eating of the Twelve Grapes and the beginning of a new year.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Puerta del Sol was empty the last night of the year 2020.
- The Kilometer 0 (Km 0) is another of the best attractions in Madrid.
The plaque is located on the pavement in front of the main entrance to the Real Casa de Correos.
It is the starting point for the whole Spanish road network.
However, it is worth mentioning that in 2020 Puerta del Sol was pedestrianized and closed to most traffic.
- El Oso y el Madroño is a sculpture of a bear and strawberry tree which represent the coat of arms of the capital of Spain.
It was built in 1967 and is a popular meeting spot for both locals and tourists.
- The mounted statue of King Charles III of Spain in the center of the square, a copy of La Mariblanca statue close to Calle Arenal, and the famous Tío Pepe neon sign are the other popular tourist attractions in the Puerta del Sol of Madrid.
Gran Vía Street
Built between 1910 and 1929, Gran Vía street is one of the most famous Madrid landmarks.
Gran Via joins Calle de Alcalá and Plaza de España, offering a whole set of shopping areas, theaters, cafes, and some of the most famous and iconic buildings in Madrid such as Metrópolis, Capitol, and Telefónica.
Initially, the construction of the Gran Vía street was not a popular project among citizens as it required demolishing over 310 buildings.
Nevertheless, it was finally carried out in three stages and marked the beginning of the modernization of the city.
Also, the first skyscrapers in Madrid were built at that time.
Nowadays, Gran Vía has become one of the main arteries in Madrid.
Gran Vía has recently undergone a vast renovation and offers wider sidewalks after several of the traffic lanes were pedestrianized.
Some of the most iconic buildings you will come across when strolling along the Gran Via of Madrid are:
Located on the corner of Calle Alcalá and Gran Vía, it is one of the most emblematic landmarks in Madrid.
The building was inaugurated in 1911.
You can currently see at the top a beautiful dome with golden incrustations and a bronze statue depicting a Winged Victory.
Next to Metropolis, the Grassy building is another remarkable construction in Madrid.
With a privileged location near Callao square, Capitol (or Carrion) building was inaugurated in 1933.
It was declared a Site of Cultural Interest in 2018.
It has become an icon and one of the top-rated attractions in Madrid.
The illuminated neon sign of the Schweppes brand is one of the symbols of the capital of Spain. It has appeared in several famous Spanish films.
Inaugurated in 1930, the Telefónica building was Europe’s tallest skyscraper, standing 89 meters high.
Its design had an American inspiration.
During the Spanish Civil War, it was used as an observatory by the Republican forces, which made it a target of bombings.
Nowadays, the Telefónica Building is used as a cultural space, hosting exhibitions, workshops, and meetings.
- Finally, close to Sol and Gran Via you shouldn´t miss either Callao square, Casino, Real Academia de Bellas Artes, Descalzas Reales Monatery, and the Church of Nuestra Señora del Carmen y San Luis Obispo.
The arrows carved on the floor in front of Gran Vía 32 are a quite interesting Madrid landmark too.
They represent missed shots from the golden sculpture of Diana the Huntress on the top of the opposite building.
And if you feel lucky, purchase some lottery tickets in the famous Doña Manolita.
Paseo del Arte | Barrio de las Letras
Paseo del Prado
The Paseo del Prado is one of the most emblematic boulevards in Madrid.
Close to Plaza Cibeles and Retiro Park, this street is a must-see landmark for all tourists visiting the capital of Spain.
It was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with El Retiro Park in 2021 and it houses some of the most popular monuments and museums in Madrid.
Madrid’s Paseo del Arte (Art Walk) is located in Paseo del Prado.
It is unique in the world as it houses the top 3 museums in Madrid in less than one mile: the Prado, the Reina Sofia National Art, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museums.
The exceptional location of these three top galleries in Madrid is also known as the Art Triangle.
The Art Triangle is especially convenient for art lovers with limited time, offering three exclusive art collections within a walking distance from each other.
- Museo del Prado:
The Prado Museum is probably the most important gallery in Madrid and one of the most famous worldwide.
It houses one of the most extensive art collections in the world by outstanding painters like Titian, El Greco, Rubens, Diego Velázquez, and Francisco de Goya.
- Museo Reina Sofía:
The Reina Sofia is one of the world’s largest museums for modern and contemporary art.
The permanent collection includes excellent pieces of the most remarkable 20th-century painters in Spain, Pablo Picasso, and Salvador Dalí.
Probably, the most famous masterpieces in the Reina Sofia Museum are “Guernica” by Picasso and The Great Masturbator by Dalí.
- Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza:
The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum is one of the most distinguished art collections and a must-see Madrid landmark.
It houses more than 1,500 masterpieces by some of the most renowned artists such as Rubens, Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Monet, Degas, Renoir, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Titian, Kandinsky, and Picasso.
In Paseo del Prado, visitors will also enjoy a beautiful route next to other top Madrid landmarks such as the Retiro Park, the Cibeles and Neptune fountains, the Puerta de Alcala, or the Royal Botanical Garden.
It is also advisable to visit in Madrid the CaixaForum cultural center with its spectacular vertical garden.
Neptuno and Cibeles Fountains are two of the most beautiful and emblematic fountains in Madrid.
Both fountains are rivals on the sports field.
The Atlético de Madrid followers celebrate their victories in the square that pays tribute to the god of the sea, while those supporting Real Madrid do so in Cibeles.
The Royal Botanical Garden of Madrid is a peaceful oasis next to the Prado Museum.
The Garden exhibits over 5,000 different species of flowers and plants, and it was declared an Artistic Garden in 1942.
It is one of the most important Botanical Gardens in Europe and one of my favorite landmarks in Madrid, Spain.
The Botanical Garden is one of the best things to do in Madrid in Winter when it transforms into a luminous fairytale landscape full of Christmas lights.
Cibeles Square is located at the intersection of the Paseo del Prado and Calle Alcalá.
This Madrid landmark has become one of the symbols of the city and should be a must in the planning of your trip to Spain.
The impressive fountain in the middle of Cibeles square was built in 1782 and shows the Greek goddess of fertility and nature on a chariot drawn by two lions.
Cibeles Fountain is the location where Real Madrid celebrates its trophies with the team´s supporters.
The fountain is flanked by some of the most striking and famous buildings in Madrid:
- Palacio de Cibeles (Cibeles Palace):
The former Communication Palace is one of the most beautiful Madrid buildings.
It has been the seat of Madrid City Council since 2007.
The Palace has a rooftop terrace that offers an amazing panoramic view of Madrid.
- Banco de España (Bank of Spain):
Opened in 1891, this building is one of the most beautiful examples of 19th-century Spanish architecture.
It currently serves as the Headquarters of the Bank of Spain.
- Palacio de Linares (Linares Palace):
It currently accommodates the Casa de América cultural institution, promoting the cultural relations between Spain and Latin America.
Plaza Santa Ana
Santa Ana Square is a square located in the Barrio de las Letras in the city center, close to Paseo del Prado, Sol, and Plaza Mayor.
It features important Madrid monuments and the sculptures of the Spanish Golden Age writer Pedro Calderón de la Barca and the poet Federico García Lorca.
This square, together with the nearby streets in the Huertas district, is one of Madrid’s most popular and vibrant areas.
Visitors and locals enjoy the numerous restaurants, terraces, cafes, and pubs, during the day and also at night.
You can also read quotations from great works of Spanish literature on its pavements.
Dating back to 1583, and rebuilt in 1807 because of a fire, the Teatro Español (Español Theater) may be found on the east side of the Santa Ana square.
On the other side, the Reina Victoria hotel dominates the Santa Ana square.
I have no doubt Santa Ana square is one of my favorite Madrid landmarks, be sure you don´t skip it when you travel to Madrid.
Palacio de las Cortes
Palacio de las Cortes is one of the most famous buildings in Madrid, used as the Spanish Congress of Deputies.
It is located near the Paseo del Prado and was built in the 19th century.
The six impressive Corinthian columns and the two lions flanking the entrance are remarkable.
In 1981, Antonio Tejero stormed the Congress of Deputies chamber along with dozens of armed officers, and the deputies were held hostage for 18 hours.
Although there were no victims, the bullet holes are still visible to visitors.
Finally, in the surroundings of the Paseo del Arte and Barrio de las Letras, you will also find:
- Iglesia Parroquial de San Jeronimo el Real:
Popularly known as “Los Jerónimos”, it is a Roman Catholic church from 1464.
This Gothic-styled church was built in the shape of a Latin cross and is composed of a nave, transept, and five chapels on each side.
The monastery was an emblematic place in the Court, serving for centuries for the investiture of the Princes and Princesses of Asturias.
- Palacio de la Bolsa de Madrid:
This neoclassical-style building from the 19th century is home to the Madrid Stock Exchange.
It is an architectural symbol of the capital of Spain, featuring an imposing portico with six Corinthian columns.
The most remarkable space is the Trading Hall, with its semi-circular dome and iron and glass roof.
- Also, you will find in the surroundings additional famous Madrid attractions like the permanent book fair in Cuesta de Moyano and the Atocha station. In Plaza de la Lealtad there is a monument to the Heroes of May 2nd, 1808, with its flame always lit.
The Convento de las Trinitarias Descalzas de San Ildefonso is the place where Miguel de Cervantes was buried in 1616.
The National Library of Madrid, founded by King Philip V at the end of 1711, houses a valuable collection of incunables, manuscripts, prints, and drawings.
Retiro | Barrio Salamanca
Parque del Buen Retiro (El Retiro Park)
El Retiro is one of the largest parks and one of the most popular attractions in Madrid for locals and tourists alike.
This beautiful park was first opened to the public in 1868 and it is located in the city center, close to the Puerta de Alcalá.
El Retiro has become an icon of the capital of Spain.
The park offers an outdoor museum full of commemorative monuments, magnificent buildings, peaceful lakes, outstanding fountains, and other of the best things to see in Madrid, such as:
- A large artificial pond close to Puerta de Alcalá where many locals and tourists rent rowboats.
- The Monument to King Alfonso XII, erected next to the lake in 1922, features a semicircular colonnade and an equestrian statue of the monarch.
- The Glass Palace and Velázquez Palace, which host numerous art exhibitions.
- Artichoke Fountain, where an artichoke can be seen at the top. This plant is much appreciated for its medicinal properties and culinary use.
- Fountain of the Fallen Angel, which represents Lucifer falling from Heaven, and the rose garden.
- Paseo de la Argentina (or Paseo de las Estatuas), decorated with some of the statues of kings from the Royal Palace.
El Retiro Park offers numerous leisure activities such as rowboats, puppet shows, and musicians.
It is one of the meeting places for Madrid citizens.
Its paths and walkways are used by families, runners, bikers, and rollerbladers.
The Park also features an annual Book Fair, one of the main events in Madrid to enjoy cultural diversity and arts with proposals for people of all ages.
El Bosque del Recuerdo (Forest of Remembrance) in the Retiro Park is a memorial monument to commemorate the 191 civilian victims of the 11 March 2004 Madrid train bombings and the special forces agent who was killed by the suicide bombers.
Did you know there is a goblin in El Retiro?
According to legend, King Felipe V was stunned by the plants, as they seemed to grow from absolutely nothing. And the flowers moved from place to place every day so that the walk of the monarch would always be different.
The only explanation found was that there was a goblin living in the park!
Later, when the park opened its doors to the public, many couples in love came to El Retiro searching for the goblin.
You can imagine that there is no evidence that anyone has ever found this curious character, although in 1985 a small statue was erected in the park.
Puerta de Alcalá
Puerta de Alcala is one of the most important landmarks in Madrid, a symbol of the city.
It is located close to the city center and El Retiro Park.
The original Puerta de Alcalá, which stood nearby, was built in 1599.
Puerta de Alcalá was one of the five main gates to the city, and its name was given as it was on the road that led to Alcalá de Henares, Cervantes’ hometown.
When Carlos III came to the throne of Spain, he demanded a much more flamboyant gate.
The new Puerta de Alcalá was built by Francisco Sabatini in the middle of Calle de Alcalá, one of the oldest streets in Madrid.
It was inaugurated in 1778.
The Puerta de Alcalá, one of the best landmarks in Madrid, is a neoclassical triumphal arch made of granite.
It was the first of its kind to be built after the fall of the Roman Empire, making it even older than the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.
The gate has a total of five arches and six ornamental statues adorn the top of the gate.
There is a popular Spanish song you might have listened to dedicated to Puerta de Alcalá (La Puerta de Alcalá by Ana Belén and Victor Manuel).
Puerta de Alcalá was declared a National Monument in 1976 and must be one of the monuments you visit in your trip to Madrid, Spain.
The next Madrid landmark is Plaza de Colón (Columbus Square), one of the most remarkable open spaces in the city center.
Plaza de Colón
The square, which commemorates the explorer Christopher Columbus (in Spanish Cristóbal Colón), contains some of the most noteworthy Madrid monuments.
Columbus Square is presided by an outstanding monument of 17 meters high to the man who discovered America in 1492.
The monument is topped by a white marble statue of the famous explorer and navigator holding the flag of Castile, which is resting on a globe.
Behind this statue, you will find the Gardens of Discovery with the Monument to the Discovery of America, a series of concrete columns covered with inscriptions related to the discovery.
Columbus square has a strategic location, close to the National Library and the National Archaeological Museum.
It is also home to eminent buildings such as the Torres de Colón (Columbus Towers), an unusual office building composed of two great twin towers.
The square has had the largest Spanish flag in the world since 2001, which flies from a flagpole 50 meters high.
Since 2018, the colossal head of ‘Julia’ by the sculptor Jaume Plensa has become one of the best monuments in Madrid.
It has been agreed that the work, 12 meters high and made of polyester resin and white marble powder, will continue in Columbus square until December 2022.
Milla de Oro de Madrid (Golden Mile)
Salamanca neighborhood was developed in the second half of the 19th century as an exclusive residential area for Madrid’s aristocracy.
It follows a regular grid pattern and synonym of elegance and style.
This Golden Mile is part of the luxurious Salamanca neighborhood, home to sophisticated fashion stores, and the most renowned national and international brands.
Ortega y Gasset, Serrano, Jorge Juan, and Claudio Coello streets are just a few of the most remarkable streets in the Golden Mile of Madrid.
You will find the most prestigious fashion firms such as Loewe, Versace, Dolce & Gabanna, Armani, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, and many more.
There are also numerous restaurants, pubs, and terraces where you can taste the best local beers and wines.
Strolling along the golden mile of Madrid should be a must in your trip to Madrid.
Torrespaña building, also known as ‘El Pirulí’, is a 220 meters communications tower that has become one of the famous attractions in Madrid and a reference in its skyline.
The tower is located in O’Donnell street, and it was built in 1982, commemorating the FIFA World Cup played in Spain.
The Torrespaña famous building in Madrid is popularly known as the “Pirulí”, given the similarity with a particular type of lollipop very popular in Spain some years ago.
Other famous Madrid landmarks and monuments you will find close to the Retiro Park and Barrio Salamanca are Las Ventas bullring and the Neo-Gothic style Concepción de Nuestra Señora Church.
La Paz market, the Fuente del Berro park, and Salvador Dalí´s dolmen are interesting too.
La Latina | Lavapiés
La Latina neighborhood is one of the top tourist attractions in Madrid.
La Latina constitutes a large part of the true historic center of Madrid, the Islamic citadel inside the city walls, with large squares and winding narrow streets.
Its streets have witnessed the most important historical events that occurred in Madrid in all periods.
La Latina is probably best defined as fun and tradition, and is home to countless tapas bars, especially on the Cava Baja and Cava Alta streets, and right in La Cebada and La Paja squares.
In La Cebada square you will also find one of the biggest and oldest markets in Madrid.
It tends to be very vibrant at any time, but the atmosphere is especially cheerful in the evenings and during the weekends.
La Latina is an essential landmark for every tourist sightseeing in Madrid, Spain.
In August, during the festivities in honor of the Virgin of La Paloma, the streets are filled with local citizens dressed in typical regional costumes.
La Latina neighborhood is also closely linked to San Isidro, patron saint of Madrid. You will find references along the whole neighborhood such as the Colegiata de San Isidro or the San Isidro Museum.
Apart from going for a stroll and enjoying some tapas and a beer on a terrace, some of the other spots to relax in Madrid´s La Latina neighborhood are the Principe Anglona gardens and the Vistillas gardens, which is the ideal spot for watching a spectacular sunset with views of the Almudena cathedral.
Basílica de San Francisco el Grande
This Roman Catholic church stands out for its outstanding neoclassical style and the unique artistic wealth inside.
The breathtaking dome and the canvases by Francisco de Goya and Zurbarán are especially remarkable.
San Francisco El Grande church has not always been a Catholic temple.
During the Civil War, the church became a warehouse for valuable objects and works of art.
The doors were also opened during the air raids to shelter the civilians as there was an order not to bomb the temple.
It has been, among others, a hospital, military barracks and prison, parliament, and a national pantheon too.
Today San Francisco el Grande is one of the most historical and outstanding Madrid landmarks.
Real Colegiata de San Isidro el Real
The church of San Isidro el Real is one of the most remarkable Baroque buildings in Madrid.
It was the main cathedral in the capital of Spain until the Almudena Cathedral was consecrated.
Its high altar contains the remains of San Isidro, the Madrid´s patron saint, and his wife Santa María de la Cabeza.
The fire which affected San Isidro el Real in 1936 made the central dome collapse and destroyed numerous works of art.
The restoration of one of the chapels was paid for by the British Embassy in Madrid.
That is why the British coat of arms can be seen over Virgen del Carmen chapel.
Puerta de Toledo
Puerta de Toledo was one of the access gates to the city of Madrid.
It was erected in 1827 as a triumphal arch for the return of King Ferdinand VII as a commemoration of Spanish independence after the French occupation.
The project had been originally ordered by Joseph Bonaparte.
The present structure is not the only Puerta de Toledo that has stood in Madrid.
The current Puerta de Toledo is located at Glorieta de la Puerta de Toledo and it has its own Metro station.
The gate has a total of three arches and is 19 meters high.
On the north-facing central arch of the gate, the emblem of the city of Madrid is held up by two angels.
The sculptures on both sides of the gate represent various military victories.
El Rastro is the most popular open-air flea market in Madrid with 3,500 stalls.
On Sundays, it is spread all around the Plaza de Cascorro, the Ribera de Curtidores street, and its surroundings up to Ronda de Toledo and Embajadores.
Just a piece of advice, it usually gets very crowded, so keep an eye on your belongings and pickpockets.
Since the 16th century, the Lavapiés neighborhood has been inhabited by the humblest citizens in Madrid.
They used to live in apartment blocks called corralas, which were arranged around an interior courtyard.
Nowadays, Lavapiés has become a cosmopolitan and multicultural area in Madrid with more than 80 different nationalities.
It is the best symbol of the ethnic and cultural fusion that has happened in Madrid in the last few years.
Shopping is a true reflection of the broad variety of cultures, and you can find from traditional 100-year-old shops to organic and herbalist stores.
Live music is also usual in many of the pubs in Lavapiés.
Other popular attractions in Madrid´s Lavapies neighborhood are the Antón Martín and San Fernando markets, the colorful Tirso de Molina square, and La Casa Encendida terrace, which offers amazing views of the city.
Chueca | Malasaña
In the very center of Madrid, Chueca is globally famous as Madrid’s gay neighborhood.
Chueca is one of the most cosmopolitan and lively areas and a popular tourist spot in Madrid, Spain.
This neighborhood has transformed in the last 20 years.
Chueca is currently a lively and vibrant area, with numerous terraces, cafes, and boutiques.
It is a full-of-life and tolerant neighborhood with a lively nightlife scene.
But Chueca is not just leisure, but also pure history and culture with famous Madrid landmarks such as the Pedro Zerolo square, the Museum of Romanticism, and the Longoria Palace.
In recent years Madrid has become one of the best destinations for the LGBTIQ+ collective.
It is especially busy in July due to the Madrid Gay Pride week which starts on 28 June (International Pride Day).
The main event of the festival is the famous Madrid Pride Parade on the first Saturday of July.
Thousands of people from all over the world meet to demand equal rights for the LGBTIQ+ community.
I have no doubt Chueca is one of the most popular Madrid attractions.
Next to Chueca, Malasaña is the bohemian and hipster neighborhood in Madrid and one of the top landmarks in Madrid.
It owes its name to Manuela Malasaña, one of the heroines and victims of the historical uprising that took place in Madrid on 2 May 1808 against the French forces then occupying Madrid.
In addition, the Dos de Mayo (May 2nd) square commemorates the rebellion against Napoleon’s occupation.
Malasaña is also famous for having witnessed (and still retain) the birth of the movida madrileña.
This was an underground movement that took place mainly in Madrid during the Spanish transition to democracy after the death of dictator Francisco Franco.
There are numerous terraces and outdoor cafés in Malasaña, although the most famous spots border the Dos de Mayo square.
The Malasaña district still shines at its brightest when the sun goes down.
Strolling around Malasaña should be a must in your trip to Madrid, as well as eating some tapas and tasting Spanish wines and beers on a terrace.
Besides, Malasaña is a great shopping district, and Fuencarral is the most popular street.
You will also find small shops dedicated to vintage fashion and comic stores in the narrow streets around Dos de Mayo square.
Princesa | Chamberí
Plaza de España
Plaza de España is without a doubt one of the most remarkable points of interest in Madrid.
It is located between Princesa and Gran Vía streets and is a popular Madrid landmark among tourists and locals alike.
The square has several gardens and fountains with numerous trees that provide a refreshing shade during the hottest months of the year.
A monument to Miguel de Cervantes, the famous Spanish novelist, stands out in the middle of the Square.
A sculpture of the writer overlooks two bronze sculptures representing his renowned characters Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, from his world-famous novel Don Quijote de la Mancha.
A female statue symbolizing Spanish literature presides the back part of the monument.
At her feet lies a fountain with the coats of arms of all the Latin American countries, and we can see in the top section a representation of the five continents.
Plaza de España is surrounded by two of the most emblematic buildings in Madrid´s skyline, these are the Torre de Madrid and Edificio España.
The Neo-baroque style Edificio España has a peculiar red brick-stepped façade and has presided over Plaza de España since 1953.
On the ground floor of the Edificio España, you will find the largest store in the world of the famous Spanish brand Zara.
Since November 2021, Plaza de España is greener and more accessible.
It has been pedestrianized to allow the connection with the best Madrid tourist attractions such as Plaza de Oriente, Royal Palace, Almudena Cathedral, the Sabatini and Campo del Moro Gardens, and Madrid Río, among others.
Templo de Debod
The Temple of Debod is one of the most beautiful Madrid landmarks.
It is located in the Parque del Oeste near Plaza de España.
This ancient Egyptian temple from the second century B.C. originally stood in Debod in the Nile Valley.
However, due to the construction of the Aswan Dam, many valuable monuments were in danger of disappearing.
The UNESCO made an international call to countries to help save these monuments.
As a sign of gratitude for the aid given by Spain, particularly in helping to save the Abu Simbel sacred buildings, the Egyptian government donated this temple.
The Debod Temple was then dismantled, transported to Spain, reconstructed stone by stone in its current location, and opened to the public in 1972.
The temple is laid out keeping the original orientation, from East to West.
The shrine’s interior is free to visit and its walls are covered by hieroglyphics and sculptures.
Visiting the Debod Temple should be a must in your trip to Madrid. It is even better at dusk to enjoy a breathtaking sunset in the capital of Spain.
Arco de la Victoria
Arco de la Victoria is also known as La Puerta de Moncloa.
It is a triumphal arch of 49 meters high to commemorate the victory of Francoist troops in the 1936 Battle of Ciudad Universitaria during the Spanish Civil War.
The top of the arch is crowned by a sculpture representing the goddess Minerva driving a chariot.
Faro de Moncloa
The Faro de Moncloa (Moncloa Lighthouse) is one of the best places in Madrid to enjoy a panoramic view of the city.
The 92-meter observation deck allows visitors a unique view of some of the best Madrid landmarks, such as the Royal Palace, La Almudena Cathedral, and the Telefónica building.
Plaza de Olavide
Located in the heart of the Chamberí neighborhood, the Olavide square has become one of the most famous landmarks in Madrid.
This cozy square is surrounded by terraces where parents relax while kids have fun in the playground.
The Financial Times included Olavide square in the list of the 22 favorite places to enjoy after the pandemic.
Cuartel general del ejército del aire
This popular building in Madrid houses the Ministry of the Air.
You will probably notice some similarities to the Monastery of El Escorial.
Paseo de la Castellana is another popular landmark in Madrid, Spain.
La Castellana cuts across the city from South to North and houses the financial center of the city.
There is a high variety of pubs and restaurants where the employees of the nearby offices usually meet to take some drinks and tapas after work.
Some of the top-rated Madrid landmarks you will find along Paseo de la Castellana are:
- Santiago Bernabeu stadium is one of the most popular tourist sights in Madrid as this is the home stadium of the Real Madrid football (soccer) club.
- Plaza Castilla, the two leaning Kio Towers, and the Calatrava golden obelisk are some of the most famous Madrid points of interest.
- The AZCA financial complex and the new skyscrapers Business Area hold some of the most important buildings in Madrid.
Madrid Río is an urban park built parallel to the Manzanares River.
It is a leisure and cultural spot where both locals and tourists work out, take a walk, or just relax on the grass.
Madrid Rio is one of the best Madrid landmarks to visit with children, due to the numerous playgrounds for all ages.
It is good to mention that the playgrounds are made from sustainable materials.
If you visit Madrid in Summer, Madrid Río Beach and the jets of water are ideal to cool off visitors.
But Madrid Rio is not just leisure but is also a place to enjoy the cultural activities held at Matadero Madrid.
Some of the most beautiful bridges (Puentes) in Madrid are present in Madrid Rio such as Puente de Toledo, Puente de Arganzuela, Puente oblicuo, and Puentes gemelos.
Puente de Segovia is awesome too and offers astonishing views of the Royal Palace and the Almudena Cathedral.
What are the top-rated landmarks in Madrid?
The list is long but the most popular landmarks in Madrid are the Royal Palace, El Retiro Park, Puerta del Sol, Cibeles Square, Plaza Mayor, Puerta de Alcalá, Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, and the Art Walk.
How many days do you need to visit Madrid?
In my opinion, 2-3 days is the minimum stay to see the essential landmarks in Madrid, enjoy the most important parks and have an overview of the main neighborhoods. 4-5 days is my usual answer though every time someone asks me.
What is the best month to visit Madrid?
Spring and autumn are my favorite seasons and visitors will be rewarded with really nice weather, moderate temperatures and with the colorful trees and flowers in Madrid beautiful parks and gardens. Madrid at Christmas time is especially beautiful too.
I hope you have found this post useful to plan your trip to Madrid.
All my efforts to give you a free comprehensive guide of the best Madrid landmarks should help you to maximize your stay in Spain.
If you want to help me too, please leave your comments below and share the post on your social media.
Please note that some of the Madrid monuments and sculptures appearing in this post reflect the values of the times in which they were created. Nevertheless, these values could not be fully aligned with the values we hold today.