Best Things to do in Madrid for the best trip ever
Table of contents
- 1 First steps
- 2 Best time to visit Madrid
- 3 How many days to spend in Madrid
- 4 Find the cheapest flights to Madrid
- 5 Accommodation – The best place to stay in Madrid
- 6 Travel insurance, don´t worry about unexpected events
- 7 Documentation for your trip to Madrid – Visa and Passport
- 8 From Madrid airport to the city center
- 9 Madrid tourist cards
- 10 Best things to do in Madrid - Essential landmarks
- 11 Eat and drink
- 12 Fun and entertainment – Shows and events in Madrid
- 13 Shopping in Madrid
- 14 Madrid with kids
- 15 Getting around Madrid
- 16 One-day trips
- 17 Packing Essentials
- 18 Practical information
Are you planning to visit Madrid city? Do you want to know the best things to do and see in Madrid?
Here you have the ultimate travel guide to Madrid, the capital of Spain.
My mission is to help you to make a smart planning for your next trip to Madrid and make the most of your vacations in Spain.
But first, let me introduce myself. My name is Sara and I will be your personal travel guide on your visit to one of the most historic, monumental and cosmopolitan cities in the world.
To make the reading of this Madrid guide easier for you, I have included a navigation index so you can directly jump to the sections you are interested in.
Besides, every section links to the specific pages or posts in case you need more info.
If you like the content in Madrid Traveling and I’ve helped you to plan your Madrid city break and find out what to do in Madrid, please, share it on social media and book your flights, hotels and tours through my affiliate links (at no additional cost to you), as I earn a commission if you make a purchase with them.
This Madrid travel guide is quite long, add this page to your bookmarks and come back every time you need to check what to do in Madrid.
Best time to visit Madrid
There are lots of reasons to visit Madrid, but one of the best is the good weather!
I could simply say that the best time to go to Madrid is anytime. Every season is different and unique and I’m sure that you will fall in love with the city no matter when you go.
As every person is different, you need to find which is the best time for you. For this, there are some considerations you need to be aware of to decide when to visit Madrid:
Days are very long so you can plan your outdoor activities for the earlier and later hours and do the indoor activities in the midday when the sun is hottest. You can also enjoy the Spanish siesta and take a nap after lunch.
As thermometers don’t usually go down from 0 ºC / 32 ºF, you should be fine with just a coat. It’s only during January that travelers may get a glimpse of -4 ºC / 25 ºF nights.
Besides, most days are sunny and the thermal sensation goes up with the daylight, this will help you to enjoy all the outdoor things to do in Madrid.
Unless you come from a Nordic country with a freezing climate, you will probably need heavier clothes when the sun goes down.
You need to take into account that the highest and lowest temperatures don’t seem as bad due to the low humidity.
Once the winter cold is finally gone, the Spring in Madrid bursts with new life in its parks, streets, and terraces.
In Autumn, visitors will be rewarded with really nice weather, moderate temperatures and with the colorful trees and flowers in Madrid beautiful parks and gardens.
As a general rule, no matter the season, rain boots and umbrella should not be a priority in your luggage.
People usually depend on the work, the school calendar, and other daily responsibilities, which force them to travel when they can.
As a result, most people can travel just during the summer or winter holidays. Easter is usually quite busy too.
It obviously depends on many other factors but I usually notice a significant increase in the prices of flights and accommodation during these peak seasons in Spain.
Therefore, I would recommend you to fly off-season to Madrid if you want to save some money.
If you can´t, and your only available time is on high season, you can follow these tips of Madrid Traveling to find cheap flights to Madrid:
You will find more tips to find affordable flights to Madrid in a detailed specific post, don’t skip the reading.
You need to know that most of the residents in Madrid (“madrileños”) take off most of July and August and leave the city.
Therefore, you could find some stores closed and some attractions will have reduced the opening hours.
For lower travel rates and significantly shorter lines at attractions, try to avoid, if you can, summer holidays.
Based on all the previous information, in my very personal opinion, the best time to visit Madrid is from March until the end of June or mid-July, September, and October.
Days in November start to shorten, and the daylight will have disappeared by 18.00.
In the recommended months the temperatures are moderate, without an excessive crowd, and probably cheaper flights and accommodation. Days are longer and you will fully enjoy the best sight to see in Madrid as well as the wide range of outdoor activities available and terraces.
How many days to spend in Madrid
Are you wondering which is the minimum number of days to stay in Madrid?
As you will discover when you read my full Madrid travel guide, there are plenty of landmarks, tours, and activities to do in your visit. You will find out that out of the Madrid old town there are also unique places in the world to visit on a one-day trip from Madrid.
It depends on the interests and preferences of everyone, but in Madrid Traveling I want to give you at least an idea of how many days you need to spend in Madrid.
In the itineraries section, you will find plenty of different routes for every visitor with the best things to do in Madrid, no matter the duration of the stay. Summarizing, I would point out 3 options:
However, if you are just spending one day in Madrid check out my step-by-step itinerary to make the most of your day in the capital of Spain.
At night you will have some time to taste the typical food and attend to a popular show.
In this option you need to go straight to the point without wasting any time. Entering museums must not be a priority as they are quite time-consuming.
If you spend only 2 days in Madrid, you will probably have no much free time for wandering around or other leisure activities like shopping.
There is a high risk that you will miss some essential points of interest in Madrid and you will need to come back another time.
Planning in advance what to do in Madrid will help you to optimize your stay in Madrid.
You will not depend so much on public transport and you can often enjoy a stroll to the points of interest within walking distance. I love wandering around the cities I visit, it makes the experience much more rewarding.
You will have time to visit the most important museums in Madrid, trying to avoid peak hours and having a general idea of the artworks you want to contemplate.
You will also have more time to enjoy the typical food, wine, and attend some shows. Maybe some free time for shopping.
You will have time to not just see but also understand and get involved with the history of all the landmarks of one of the most historic cities in the world.
You will be able to take a break and relax in a terrace, spend an afternoon shopping in some of the most exclusive streets of Europe, or even to take a one-day trip to unique cities like Alcalá de Henares, Toledo, Segovia or Avila.
No matter how long you stay in Madrid, adequate planning is essential. Take a deeper look at my itineraries section to fully customize your travel to Madrid.
Find the cheapest flights to Madrid
Once you have decided when to go to Madrid and how long, you are ready for searching for flights.
If you come from far away, direct flights are for sure the most comfortable option. However, don’t discard connecting flights, one stop can often imply a significant saving.
Anticipation, flexibility, the use of the “incognito” mode, and the Skyscanner alerts are some of the additional aspects I detail in my guide, and which will make you find the best bargains.
Accommodation – The best place to stay in Madrid
Don’t delay it any longer and book now your accommodation in the best area to stay in Madrid.
I always try to book my accommodation in advance when I travel, in order to get the best prices.
The accommodation offer in Madrid is wide, diverse and for all budgets. There are many alternatives too, you can choose hotels of different categories, apartments, etc.
Another advantage is the efficient public transport in the city. It allows you to easily move in the city center no matter the neighborhood where you stay. Public transport will be your ally to visit the best things to see in Madrid.
So, don’t worry if you cannot find a hotel close to the Royal Palace, Sol, La Latina or Chueca. Hotels in contiguous areas like Retiro, Salamanca, Chamberi, Moncloa, and all along Castellana street are very well located and communicated too. These are some of the best neighborhoods in Madrid.
Travel insurance, don´t worry about unexpected events
Expect the unexpected, it is something valuable I have learned in my multiple travels.
Madrid is a safe city but a cancellation, disease, or pickpocket can easily ruin your vacations and make you lose a lot of money.
That is why I always prefer to be safe than sorry. This is something obvious when you are considering the security of your family and the affordable prices of the family travel insurances nowadays.
I am always happy when I come back safe home without having used the travel protection plan, as that means everything was perfect. For me, the travel insurance premium is not an expense but an investment for my peace of mind.
Check now how affordable is the travel insurance to Madrid with my guide to find the best travel insurance. Don’t worry about unexpected events, just focus on enjoying your vacations in Madrid.
Documentation for your trip to Madrid – Visa and Passport
Will you need a visa for your vacations in Madrid? Is it required a six-month buffer on the passport’s expiration date?
The documentation required in Spain for tourist purposes varies according to the country of origin:
Visitors, on some occasions, could be requested to justify they have sufficient funds for the stay and a return airline ticket.
For all nationalities, and visitors with other purposes different to tourism, I recommend to check the latest regulations in the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation’s website or contact the Spanish Embassy or Consulate to check all the requirements before starting your journey.
Besides, there could be additional requirements or certificates associated to the Covid-19 pandemic. Therefore, don´t forget to check this useful interactive map to confirm check the most updated entry requirements for the country you are traveling from.
From Madrid airport to the city center
Do you want to know which is the fastest and cheapest way to go from the Adolfo Suarez – Madrid Barajas airport to downtown?
Public transport in Madrid is excellent in quality and price. Once you get to the airport my recommendation is to use public transport to go to downtown, where you will have probably booked your accommodation.
Regarding all the information below, please consider that children under 4 years old travel for free on metro and bus, and under 6 years old on Cercanias trains.
The total cost from the Madrid airport to the city center using Metro Madrid will be under € 5, quite affordable in my opinion compared to other cities I visited all around the world.
The metro line number eight has two stops in the airport: Terminals 1,2,3 and Terminal 4.
Don’t worry about the Madrid metro hours, the line is working from 6.05 a.m. to 1.30 a.m. Be aware that the metro station called “Barajas” is in the town, not in the airport.
You could probably need to change to a different line to get to the subway line closest to your accommodation. Moving by Metro Madrid is super easy and you can find subway maps in all the stations and trains.
Be aware that you must have a “Multi” Public Transport Card loaded with a valid ticket type to use Metro Madrid.
I know well how appealing it results to just get a taxi straight to your accommodation after a long flight. Especially, when you carry heavy luggage.
If this is your situation, you will be happy to hear that the taxi fares from the airport to Madrid old town are not high.
The price for a taxi ride from the Madrid-Barajas airport to the downtown (interior area of the M-30) is a flat rate of € 30 one way. No supplements to this price can be added. Credit card payments are allowed.
Taxi is usually the fastest way of getting to the city center, although it depends on the traffic.
The Airport Express bus runs 24 hours 365 days a year and the rate is € 5. You can pay the driver directly with cash or credit card.
The buses run every 15-20 minutes during the daytime and every 35 minutes at night (23:30-6:00), and the complete journey takes approximately 40 minutes.
There is a train connection between the Madrid airport and the city center through the Cercanías C1 and C10 lines.
The service is quite fast too. For instance, it takes 15 minutes to get to Chamartin, 22 minutes to Nuevos Ministerios or 29 minutes to Atocha.
The frequency is every 15-20 minutes and the single-ticket fare is € 2.60.
Madrid tourist cards
The Madrid Tourist Travel pass and the Paseo del Arte pass will allow you to save money on your visit to Madrid.
You are allowed to take unlimited trips within your chosen timeframe: 1, 2, 3, 5 and 7 calendar days.
Most tourists should be fine with just Zone A, and the prices are € 8.4 for 1 day, € 14.2 for 2 days, € 18.4 for three days, € 22.6 for four days, € 26.8 for five days, and € 35.4 for seven days.
Children under 11 years old have a 50% discount when purchasing the Madrid city pass.
Visitors can purchase the tourist travel pass in any metro station. The Tourist Travel Passes are pre-loaded onto the Multi Card and once the Pass expires, you will be able to top up the Card with pay-per-ride tickets.
The price is € 30.4, which implies a 20% discount on the total cost of all three tickets if they were bought separately.
An additional advantage is that the access to the museums is direct without the need to queue.
You can purchase the card online or in the ticket offices of the museums. The pass is valid for one year from the date of purchase.
Best things to do in Madrid - Essential landmarks
Do you know what to see In Madrid? Which are the most famous landmarks in Madrid?
Madrid is on the international radar for all of its museums and many other remarkable points of interest.
There are so many things to see in Madrid that some tourists find overwhelming the daily planning of their vacations. With my help, you will get the perfect schedule to visit the most popular landmarks in Madrid.
I strongly recommend you to read my complete guide of what to do in Madrid. I include below just a brief summary of the landmarks I have featured:
All of the previous are a must-see in Madrid but they’re not the only one. Read the Things to do section to get a complete planning of what to see in Madrid and take a look to this amazing video of Madrid:
The Itineraries section is essential too in order to make an efficient planning and don’t waste time on your trip to Madrid.
Eat and drink
I love Spanish food. It is one of the things I usually miss when I visit other countries.
I have also found out that most Spanish restaurants out of Spain do not reflect the actual level of Spanish cuisine.
The eating and drinking culture in Spain is one of the greatest attractions in the country. Some Spanish chefs are currently at the forefront of contemporary cooking worldwide.
In addition, wine-producing regions like La Rioja and Ribera del Duero have gained international recognition. If you are eating out, you must taste some of the country’s excellent wines.
I have no doubt that wine is the most popular Spanish drink.
However, I recommend you to choose carefully the restaurants you try, skipping the ones aimed at a foreign clientele. With my tips, you will find the restaurants in Madrid to eat like a local.
In Madrid, you will be able to try some typical dishes of the capital, but also from other Spanish regions. Some of the most typical dishes are:
Apart from this, meat, fish, and seafood are an excellent choice in most of the restaurants I recommend. Besides, you can find some delicious and healthy salads too.
You will also find sensational vegetarian and vegan places in Madrid, as well as top restaurants from many other different nationalities.
Enjoying the nice weather in the city, locals love taking an aperitivo and some tapas with the family or friends in the multiple terraces available.
In case you have an allergy or food intolerance, ask the waiter for more information about the dishes before you order.
Fun and entertainment – Shows and events in Madrid
Are you ready for some fun? Do you know which are the best shows to see in Madrid?
Madrid has an outstanding scene of shows for children and adults, with many types of performances and events ranging from opera or theater to musicals, concerts, festivals, and flamenco shows.
Flamenco shows are a must-see in your visit. You will fall in love with the passion of the music and energy of the dancing, one of the roots of the Spanish culture and traditions.
The agenda of musicals in Madrid is very attractive and complete, full of successful shows which are currently triumphing on the billboard.
And if you love sports, you cannot miss a soccer match with some of the best players in the world. You won’t find any other place gathering two top soccer teams like Real Madrid and Atletico de Madrid.
Check here my Fun and Entertainment section to find my personal recommendations for the best events and shows in Madrid city at the best price.
Shopping in Madrid
To go on a shopping spree in Madrid is an amazing experience for many visitors and locals.
In fact, shopping in Madrid is one of my favorite activities. Most times I return home empty-handed, but that is not important. I really enjoy strolling along the beautiful streets of the old town looking at the store windows.
There are thousands of places to shop in Madrid. Consequently, it can be difficult to identify which are the most suitable shopping areas for you.
I have grouped included below a list of the 6 most important shopping zones in Madrid:
The Golden mile in Madrid is made up of exclusive streets as Ortega y Gasset, Claudio Coello, and Serrano. Loewe, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Chanel, Carolina Herrera, and Adolfo Domínguez are a few examples of both national and international designer stores you will find.
It’s held every Sunday and public holiday with 3,500 stalls selling extremely varied objects. It has become one of the most popular things to do in Madrid. It usually gets very crowded, so keep an eye on your belongings and pickpockets.
El Corte Ingles offers a wide range of products, from clothing, jewelry, and sports to technology, books or food.
Las Rozas Village is an outdoor shopping center, constructed like a small village with individual buildings housing the various stores. It reminds me of some of the Premium outlets I visited in the US.
Just 30 minutes from the center of Madrid, the Shopping Express coach links the downtown with Las Rozas Village several times a day.
Madrid with kids
Madrid is an amazing city if you are traveling with kids. There are plenty of family-friendly activities and attractions for your children.
Most of the children won’t fully enjoy a whole day visiting art galleries and monuments. That is totally understandable. You need to find the perfect balance between tourism and fun.
It’s quite easy to do so in Madrid.
These are a few of the attractions available to enjoy Madrid with kids:
Your children will love the 48 attractions available and the amazing shows of the park. One of the park’s latest attractions is The Walking Dead Experience, inspired in the US TV show.
They will love the large collection of thrilling rides and fun attractions like the Scooby-Doo Adventure interactive ride, the Yogui Bear, the Superman steel attraction, and the Stunt Fall. Fun guaranteed for all ages.
The park is divided into ecosystems and themed areas adapted to each species, with their own habitat, temperature, light and humidity conditions. Visitors will be able to enjoy from the extreme cold of the Antarctic to the tropical heat of the Amazon jungle.
A visit to Faunia is essential in case you have traveled to Madrid with kids.
The Madrid Zoo collects from the smallest insect to the biggest mammal. Children will contemplate over 6,000 animals including elephants, gorillas, koalas, dolphins, sharks, giraffes, kangaroos, and bears.
The Zoo Aquarium is a good opportunity to educate the children and teach them the need for protecting animals.
Kids will contemplate thousands of minerals, plants, animals, tools, arms, and objects from various cultures and ages, and precious minerals from all continents. Kids will enjoy learning.
Getting around Madrid
Do you know which is the best option for getting around Madrid?
Getting around Madrid is easy and cheap using public transport, one of the most efficient networks in the world.
I love to wander around and get to the attractions walking when I visit new countries. It’s a way to get more involved in the local culture.
Walking in Madrid`s old town is an amazing experience. Check my post with the best 5 free walking tours in Madrid.
However, when distances are excessive or you are short of time it’s priceless to count on good public transport.
Remember that the Madrid Tourist Travel pass is a good way to save money if you expect to use public transport during your stay in Madrid. The Tourist Pass allows you to use the metro, urban buses, and Cercanias trains in Madrid for an unlimited number of trips during the period of time you have purchased.
It’s worth to mention the Madrid Cable Car (Teleferico), which allows you to gaze from the air the Madrid skyline. Monumental buildings, parks, and gardens are at your feet, offering some of the most remarkable views of Madrid.
There are plenty of awesome and unique places close to Madrid that you can visit in a single day trip and enjoy your stay in Spain to the fullest. Alcala de Henares, El Escorial, Aranjuez, Toledo, Segovia, and Avila are some good examples that you must include in your itinerary.
Alcala was the birthplace of the most acclaimed figure in the Spanish literature, Miguel de Cervantes. His novel Don Quixote has been translated into over 140 languages and dialects; it is, after the Bible, the most-translated book in the world.
Juan de Herrera was responsible for the work, using a style characterized by the importance of the lines rather than the abuse of decorative elements that distract attention.
In a privileged location, El Escorial is a very popular tourist attraction, with more than 500,000 visitors every year.
I always make a list before I travel to ensure I don’t forget something essential, especially useful travel accessories that cannot be purchased at the destination.
You should be fine with my following top ten travel essentials for your travel to Madrid:
Check the packing essentials section for a fully detailed packing list and a free download of my checklist in .pdf or .xls versions.
There is some basic information you need to know previous to your trip to Madrid:
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5 thoughts on “End-to-end Madrid travel guide | Best things to do”
It’s the most helpful blog I’ ve seen as my wife and I are planning a trip to Madrid then Barcelona and then a 14 day cruise to the Mediterranean to celebrate our 50 plus years of marriage. We are from Puerto Rico and of course our first language is Spanish.
Thanks for your comment Luis. I hope you enjoy that wonderful trip with your wife, it looks awesome.
Very nice guidelines for a traveller. Thank you for your brief explanation of the main spots
You are by far the most informative blogger I have found for the trip I’m planning. Thank you so much. So much detail, thank you thank you thank you!
Thanks so much! We are so happy that you find the blog really useful. Let us know if you need any help planning your trip to Madrid!