10 must-do experiences in Madrid, according to Aniek
Our colleague Aniek fell in love with Madrid many years ago. She knows the ins and outs of this city and is happy to share them with you. Just consider this list as a sign that you need to plan your next trip right away! First stop: Madrid.
Follow this list on your city trip and you’ll be sure to experience the best that Madrid has to offer. From museums to neighbourhoods, this is your guide to a successful getaway. In this list, you’ll find the best tourist attractions that are worth visiting, as well as extra tips to experience the city as a true Madrileño/a. Consider yourself a foodie? Then you’ll love this top 10! Next to some of the must-sees, you’ll find a few hidden gems for the best food spots in the city.
1. Food tip: Mercado San Miguel
Let’s start off with one of the things Madrid is best at, food. Right next to Madrid’s central point, the historic square Plaza Mayor, you’ll find a food market that is worthy of being declared a cultural heritage site. The beautiful building was built in 1919 and is also worth visiting to just admire the architecture. However, the best advice is to come with an empty stomach so you can try out Madrid’s delicious tapas. Grab the food that you like from different stalls, order a bottle of wine, and find a spot at a table in the middle of the building. It’s the best way to spend your afternoon after walking around the city!
2. Day trip: Toledo
Want to get out of the city for a day? Only 30 minutes away by train you’ll find the former capital of Spain, Toledo. With its tiny narrow streets, centuries-old buildings, and a stunning view over the river, this city is straight from a fairytale. This small city was once the home of King Philip I. After he moved to Madrid, Toledo never lost its magic as it kept most of the buildings after all these centuries. Walking through the city will feel like you’re in a museum. It’s no wonder that this place was named a World Heritage Site in 1986. However, many sights are also worth visiting, such as the Cathedral and the museum of El Greco. You can easily spend the whole day exploring this city.
3. Area tip: Malasaña
Want to know where the trendy Madrileños and Madrileñas hang out? Malasaña is one of the hippestneighbourhoods in Madrid. There’s a lot of history to be found in this area, as this became the base of “la movida” (the movement) against the suppression of the dictatorship of Franco in 1975. The neighbourhood expressed this through art and music. With fascinatingstreet art and colourful buildings, you can’t help but get excited to be in this area. If you prefer the more authentic shopping stores over the big chains on Gran Vía, you can shop to your heart’s content here. You’ll find the best bars and cafes, whether it’s for coffee, brunch, or a beer in the afternoon. The streets come to life in the evenings, where people go outside to meet up and enjoy a few drinks, and listen to the street bands that are scattered throughout. After a few beers, it’s time to hit the dance floor in the typical bares de copas. It’s hard to not fall in love with this area!
4. A cocktail with a view tip: rooftop bars
As Madrid is the third biggest city in Europe, you can imagine that the view from above is one to remember. What if we told you that you can see this view with your own eyes? And even better: with a cocktail in your hand. Madrid has many rooftop bars, which are all fun to visit, but this particular rooftop bar is the real winner with its mind-blowing view of the city. How to get there? Visit the Cibeles Palace and take the elevator to the 6th floor. Order a cocktail, because why not, find a good spot, and enjoy the view! Here you can make the perfect shots for later to think back on the great memories that you made in this wonderful city.
Next to the Cibeles bar, there are many other rooftop bars to be found in Madrid. From big fancy rooftop bars such as 360º Rooftop Bar and Nice to Meet You in Plaza de España, to cosy and intimate ones such as Ático 11 on Gran Vía and El Viajero in La Latina.
5. Park tip: El Retiro
Looking for a green break during your trip? Parque El Retiro is the right place for you! Within just 15-minute walking distance you’ll find this big park where you can get away from the crowded streets for a moment. This park has lots to offer: rent a boat on the river, visit the wonderful Palacio de Cristal, admire the Rose Garden, or listen to street artists. Want a break from your full day of sightseeing? Walk around and find a spot to drop your bag and relax. It’s a great place to lay down for a moment and watch the people pass by. Reload your battery here for the rest of your trip!
6. Day trip tip: Elle Escorial and Valle de los Caídos
For the History fans among us, this day trip will be one to add to the list. Start this day off by visiting the old Royal Palace of El Escorial, which was completely reconstructed by King Felipe II in 1557. With loads of funds received from the “New World” at that time, this became the biggest building in the world. So it’s safe to say it’s a memorable palace. Many monarchs have found their final resting place here. It’s a place that’s remembered for the wealth and power that Spain had in the 16th century.
Just a small 10 km from El Escorial, you’ll find Valle de los Caídos, or Valley of the Fallen. This is a monument that remembers the people that didn’t survive the Spanish Civil War. It’s an impressive sight as the tall monument is stood on top of a hill. It was built by the prisoners by order of General Franco. This is also the reason why many Spanish people refuse to visit it, as they believe that it’s a memorial to fascism and Franco himself.
This day trip is a good way to learn about the history of Spain, both beautiful and tragic.
7. Food tip: Mercado San Ildefonso
Another food market, because they’re worth it! Right in the city centre, you’ll find Mercado San Ildefonso. This is one of those hidden gems that you won’t spot easily from outside, but once you’re inside you’ll be over the moon that you decided to try it out. This trendy and cosy spot has it all; a great interior, the best finger food from different cultures, a hip bar, and space enough to sit down with your friends and enjoy amazing food, a glass of wine and good company. A few days a week you can even show off your dance moves with a live DJ playing.
8. Sunday tip: El Rastro
Discover a new place on Sunday! A short walking distance downtown, you’ll find La Latina, the oldest neighbourhood of Madrid. This area has a great atmosphere, with narrow streets which are packed with authentic bars and terraces for the best tapas and beers. Start off the day with a traditional Sunday brunch, while you get into the relaxing Sunday mood. Then it’s time for some action. In the centre of La Latina you’ll find El Rastro, one of the most famous flea markets in Spain. This isn’t one that you finish in an hour, you can easily spend hours on this market. The streets are filled with clothing, antiques, and food offerings. You’ll discover talented street performers on almost every corner of the street. Dance your way through the streets while finding a new outfit and trying out some tapas.
9. Food tip: Tabernas
Now that you know the places to go to for a small bite, now it’s time to give you the best tip for dinner. For the best experience, you visit a taberna. Here, you’ll find true Spanish dishes. These restaurants are passed over by family members, which gives them an old and cosy vibe with the traditional interior and family photos hanging on the walls. The atmosphere feels more like a bar than a restaurant, which makes it feel like you’re being welcomed in a family’s home. The food fits right in this atmosphere as you’ll try the best traditional dishes that Spain has to offer, like croquetas and tortilla española, while sipping on a Vermouth or caña. You can eat sitting down at a table or standing at the bar. It’s up to you!
10. Sightseeing tip: The Royal Palace
A final tip must be an attraction! There are many museums in Madrid, too many to fit in a city trip. Even though all of them are great and worth visiting, choices need to be made. If you’re in doubt about some, just make sure to include the Royal Palace. This is the official residence of the Spanish Royal family. They’re currently not living in the palace, but it’s still used for state ceremonies. The reason why this building is worth visiting is its impressive size. It’s the largest palace in Europe by floor area (over 135,000 square meters/ 1,450,000 sq ft) and 3,418 rooms. You read it right, over 3,000 rooms! Every room is breathtaking and reading about the events that took place there invites you to step into the royal past for a moment. Don’t forget to pay a visit to the beautiful garden!
Want to gift a trip to someone? Madrid is worth it! From sightseeing to enjoying food, and relaxing to dancing, it’s an experience to never forget. By giving a Flightgift, you let your receiver choose when they’re planning to visit Madrid, or any other destination.