Fun Things To Do in Madrid
Madrid is one of my favorite cities. Located right in the center of Spain it is a great place to start a Spanish adventure! But first, let’s explore the city. Here are a few favorite things to do in Madrid, plus places to eat, drink and sleep.
The Weekend Travel Guide to Madrid
Whether you are visiting Madrid for a day, weekend or a month, here are some of our favorite things to do! We’ve included a handy Madrid attractions map you can view on your smartphone or computer which you will find at the end of this article with lots of addresses for interesting things to do in Madrid and places to eat and drink.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Getting to Madrid
Things To Do in Madrid
Day Trips & Overnight Trips from Madrid
Places to Stay in Madrid
Getting Around in Madrid
Madrid Attractions Map
Getting to Madrid
It’s easy to get to and from Madrid from international destinations as well as other parts of Spain.
Madrid is well connected by high speed train from the north and the south. You can catch RENFE trains between Madrid and cities like Barcelona, Cordoba, Valencia, Santander and Sevilla. The main train station in Madrid is Atocha, but you might also arrive at Chamartin. Check Trainline for ticket and route options within Spain and from other countries as well.
Traveling by car it is about six hours from Barcelona to Madrid. If you don’t have a car of your own you can rent one or use shared Blablacar like locals do. But the train is much faster, it only takes two hours!
The major airport in Madrid (MAD) is also called Barajas Airport. You can fly into Madrid airport from most cities in Europe and of course from all over the globe. Check Skyscanner for the best prices and flight schedules for multiple airlines that fly into Madrid.
To get from the airport to the city center you can take the Metro, but you will have to pay a €5 supplement in addition to the regular Metro fare. If you arrive by train or bus you may need to catch the Metro or a taxi to the neighborhood where you are staying.
More information about public transport in Madrid is at the end of the article.
Would you like to take the train from Madrid to Lisbon or Porto? You can! There are two night train options from Madrid or San Sebastian to Lisbon. It is also possible to take day trains but you will have to transfer 3 times.
The RENFE train known as Lusitania Trenhotel goes from Madrid’s Chamartin station to Santa Apolonia or Oriente stations in Lisbon. It travels overnight and you can book a private sleeper cabin or just a bed in a shared cabin. You can then connect to the train to Porto if you like. Check Trainline for tickets.
Another RENFE train known as the Sud Express goes from San Sebastian to Lisbon overnight. The journey takes a little over 13 hours and actually starts at the French border. You can book a seat, a bed in a shared cabin or a private sleeper cabin. Check Trainline for ticket options.
Fun Things To Do in Madrid, Spain
Are you looking for the top 10 things to do in Madrid? Lounge in a beautiful leafy park, rent a bicycle or visit one of the world’s top museums… and don’t miss the churros! There are so many amazing things to do in Madrid. Let’s go!
This wonderful urban park is filled with leafy trees and grassy green spaces. It even has a big pool where you can rent a boat and go for a paddle – one of the really fun activities to do in Madrid. Retiro is a popular place to lounge in the shade, walk your dog, or go for a run. There are several structures in the park which are also worth a look, especially the stunning historic entrance gates. Don’t miss the Palacio de Cristal in the center of the park – it often hosts free art exhibits and is absolutely gorgeous.
Hanging out in El Retiro is one of the best free things to do in Madrid spring, summer or fall. It might be a bit cooler in March than August but the park is always nice.
When I was staying in Madrid I would pass through the park several times a day on my way to Spanish class. One day I saw a fellow walking his cat on a leash. Other times I would pass kids coming home from the clubs at 7:30AM. Often I would see fashion or wedding photoshoots. Another day a guy with 5 crates of champagne stopped to ask me for directions. (I really considered lying and directing him to my apartment) Retiro park always offers unique things to do in Madrid, it’s never boring.
Churros y Chocolate
Have you tried churros y chocolate? Whether you are already a fan or have never sampled this sweet treat, head down the narrow alley to the famous Chocolateria San Gines for a delightful snack. You’ll get a plate of crunchy fried churros and a mug of thick chocolate sauce. This ain’t for drinking, my friends! Dip the churro in the chocolate and take a bite, yum!
This might not be the most non touristy thing to do in Madrid, but if you love sweet things you should try it!
Vamos a Tapear
When in Madrid, do as the locals do. Go for tapas! Start around 8PM and find an area with several bars. Have a drink and tapa or two at each bar and move on to the next. Many places specialize in a certain type of food or drink. Have fun exploring! After a few tapas you could go to dinner, or just continue with a tapas tour until you are full!
Looking for unique things to do in Madrid? Explore the many neighborhoods! The coolest neighborhoods to go for tapas include Chueca, La Latina and Malasaña, or for more upscale options try the area around Retiro park like Chamberí. The Plaza Mayor area is a bit more touristy but you’ll still find many hidden gems. Check out our handy map below for lots of locations.
If you love tasting new foods, sampling tapas at different bars and restaurants is one of the most interesting things to do in Madrid. See below if you’d like to discover Madrid’s food scene with a guide.
Hit a Museum
The Prado and Reina Sofia are two world famous art museums located in Madrid. Both of these should be on the list of must-sees for any art aficionado.
Reina Sofia is housed in a former hospital, and an impressive building it is. Inside you’ll find works by many famous Spanish artists like Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso, of which Guernica is likely the most well-known work. This museum is a must for any serious art lover.
The Museo del Prado was constructed during the reign of Carlos III as part of his building scheme designed to make Madrid more magnificent. The museum has one of the world’s largest collections of European art.
The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum holds a collection from more international artists, including works by English, Dutch and German masters. You’ll find paintings by Van Gogh, Monet, Rubens, Chagall, Rothko, Pollock and more.
As you can tell, if you love art there are lots of things to see in Madrid.
Feeling frugal and want free things to do in Madrid? Both the Prado and Reina Sofia have free entrance times. The Prado is free Mon-Sat from 6pm – 8pm and Sundays from 5pm – 7pm. Reina Sofia has free hours daily from 7-9pm and Sundays from 2:30 to 7pm. Check their websites to confirm current times. Keep in mind the museums will likely be quite crowded on the free days.
Rent a Bike
So you have a weekend in Madrid. What to do? You might notice the rows of white bicycles parked curbside around the city. Madrid has its own fleet of city bikes that can be rented by locals and tourists alike. And guess what? They are high tech electric to give you that little extra push up hills. Directions for using them are available in English as well as Spanish at each of the many rental locations. You can also get information about the bikes online. Best of all, if you have your own wheels it is easier to get off the beaten track and discover the non touristy things to do in Madrid.
Would you prefer to ride with a guide to show you the sights so you don’t get lost? A city tour is always a good way to get oriented in a city when you first arrive, and you can ask the guide for hidden places in Madrid. Take a 3-hour bike tour of the historic city center from the Puerta del Sol area and through Retiro Park. How about a sunset bike tour to see Madrid as night falls? Are you into street art? Then you might like this bike tour that looks for the best street art in town.
Do a Food Tour
You’ll find plenty of places to eat delicious food in Madrid, but if you want to learn more about your tapas then I suggest taking a food tour. I did a tapas tour with Devour Madrid and it was incredible. The food and drinks were delicious and we still managed to learn a lot about the history of Madrid. We sampled everything from jamon and vermouth to stuffed mushrooms and grilled shrimp. You can book a tour here.
If you’d like to find non touristy things to do in Madrid, why not learn to cook like a local? You can try a cooking class like this cooking experience where you can learn to prepare paella and tortilla. Or enter a typical Madrid house to make cocido madrileño, a common dish of the area.
- Try tapas from all over Spain, as well as cider from the north and rebujitos from the south on this 3-hour walking tour.
- Explore the Lavapies neighborhood with a guide on a tapas tour paired with wine.
- Did you know that Madrid has a thriving craft beer scene? Try tapas paired with specialty beers on this tour with a beer expert.
- Sample typical Spanish cuisine at lunch time with this tapas tour.
Day Trips & Overnight Trips Near Madrid
If you run out of fun activities to do in Madrid, it is time for a day or overnight getaway! Madrid is conveniently located just about in the center of Spain. Although there is a lot to discover in Madrid itself you also might want to explore the surrounding area.
Here are some interesting places close to Madrid that are perfect for a day trip or overnight adventure.
If you have a rental car you can reach many places in an hour or so. But if you don’t, never fear. You can also hop on the RENFE train, ALSA bus or take a guided tour. In fact, the high speed train is often much faster than driving.
Here are some of the best overnight and day trips near Madrid:
- Toledo is a lovely city about an hour away from Madrid. If you don’t have your own car you can visit by bus or train or take a more convenient guided tour. A tour can be especially helpful if you also want to visit other towns in one day. If you have time I recommend spending at least one night in Toledo, you can check out our full guide to Toledo here.
- Cuenca is a historic walled town with steep cobblestone streets and castle ruins. It is reachable as a day trip, or take a guided tour from Madrid.
- Known for the Universidad de Salamanca, the city of Salamanca is a popular place to study Spanish language as their accent is said to be the purest. There are lots of students, making it a lively place. It also has beautiful sandstone architecture. See Avila and Salamanca on a day tour from Madrid.
- Love wine? Then why not visit one of the several wineries located around Madrid? Popular wineries include Moradas de San Martin, Bernabeleva and Bodegas Andres Diaz. Visit on your own or take a winery tour.
- The ancient Roman aqueduct is a fascinating sight in the city of Segovia. Don’t miss the Alcazar as well. Go there on your own, or take a guided tour that includes Toledo too.
- Check out the lovely windmills of Consuegra, you can also combine them with a tour to Toledo.
- Cordoba is one of my favorite Andalusian cities. The entire city center is a UNESCO Heritage site and there are plenty of monuments to explore. You can reach Cordoba by train from Madrid in about two and a half hours. Check out our Cordoba weekend guide to learn more.
- Sevilla is an easy two and a half hour train ride from Madrid and makes a wonderful weekend adventure. There is so much to explore in this gorgeous city. Don’t miss the Plaza de España and Alcazar.
For longer adventures you can head north to Bilbao, San Sebastian or Barcelona or even out to the Balearic Islands. There is so much to see in Spain!
Places to Stay in Madrid
Have you booked a place to stay in Madrid yet? it can get quite booked up in spring and summer! Check lodging prices across booking engines with HotelsCombined.
If you book through Airbnb, use this link to save around €30 off your first reservation.
There are many choices for places to stay in Madrid.
Budget lodgings in Madrid:
- The Hat Madrid: a great roof terrace at this conveniently located hostel in the La Latina area
- OK Hostel Madrid: a fun and clean hostel in a great part of the city
- Sungate One: this hostel is located at Plaza del Sol and near Gran Via and always has fun activities to join
Apartments in Madrid:
- This Plaza Mayor apartment is centrally located near Mercado San Miguel with lovely decor and lots of windows
- Stay at 60 Balconies Recoletos and enjoy the spacious, beautifully decorated apartment
- Sol Mayor apartment has a well equipped kitchen and is in an excellent location
- I love the pastel colors of the decor at this bright Madrid apartment. Use this link to save €30 off your first reservation.
Luxury hotels in Madrid:
- Gran Hotel Ingles: a beautifully refurbished historic building close to the main museums
- Heritage Madrid Hotel: a lovely five star hotel within walking distance of Retiro Park
- URSO Hotel & Spa: stay in a refurbished palace in a peaceful part of the city
Getting Around in Madrid
If you are staying in a central location you can see much of Madrid on foot. As mentioned above you can also use the city bicycles. But chances are you will use the Metro as well to get around a little more quickly. The Metro in Madrid is easy to use, clean and comfortable. Check here for the website that gives route and ticket information for the Metro or click here for the integrated public transport site.
In addition to the Metro, Madrid also has a good bus network. Sometimes it is easier to get from point A to B using the bus rather than changing Metro lines multiple times. Onboard the bus you can purchase single use tickets from the driver, you can also use the multi-trip tickets that you buy at the Metro stations.
Tickets for the transport system are straightforward. You can buy a single trip or a 10 trip paper card at the machines at the station, then enter the card in the slot at the gate to access the platform. Each time you use the multi-trip card it is stamped by the machine. You can pay cash or use a PIN debit card. The same tickets can be used for the bus. The system is split into zones, and most of Madrid’s main sights are within Zone A.
There is a tourist hop-on-hop-off bus that you can use to get around – get tickets here.
If you will be traveling to Madrid’s suburbs you might have to catch Cercanias trains or Metro-Trams. These use a different ticket system.
To get from the airport to the city center you can take the Metro, but you will have to pay a €5 supplement in addition to the regular Metro fare.
If you are traveling in a group or have mobility challenges you might prefer to take taxis. They are also a good way to get around although Madrid can have pretty intense traffic too.
I highly recommend wearing comfortable shoes in Madrid as you will likely be on your feet quite a lot. Here is a list of great shoes and sandals for traveling in Spain.
Madrid Attractions Map
Here is a tourist map of Madrid that includes lots of restaurants and bars, interesting sights and more. All of the above locations (and more) are included on the below map which you can view on your computer or smartphone. Click here to access the map. If you open it when you are logged into Google you should also be able to access it in the Google Maps app on your phone. I hope it helps you find some amazing places and fun things to do in Madrid.
Be sure to check out this helpful post on Seeking the Spanish Sun on what you need to know before visiting Madrid including how to get around and Spanish language basics. Perri is a Madrid local and can give you lots of excellent insights.
Have fun exploring the gorgeous and fun city of Madrid!
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