Madrid is the first destination to our 30-day European trip. Why this city? It’s the cheapest flight we found from Dubai :p But seriously, anyone who’s visiting Spain for the first time should include Madrid. It’s not only about the soccer game, nightlife and shopping but of beautiful sights, fun things to do and delicious food! The largest and capital city of Spain had certainly made us busy with our first 4 days.

Quick Find: Top Sights, Favorite Plazas/Squares, Markets, Must Try Food

If you’re like us who gets excited with a new place and keeps rolling even on a 9-12°C weather, who doesn’t follow a planned itinerary and forget most of it (yes, that’s us!) or you have less than 4 days to spend in Madrid – make sure not to miss these 16 things while in the Spanish capital.

Must See Sights

1. Royal Palace of Madrid/Palacio Real

The official residence of the Spanish royalty is a must-see. However, you can’t see the King here as it is only used for national ceremonies. When inside, be sure to see the wonderful interior decorations made using a number of materials, from mahogany to marble. They were so incredibly rich and intricate.

Photography Tip: Go in the stairs of Almudena Cathedral to get a full view of the palace (located in front of the Royal palace)

Nearest Metro: Ópera
Admission: €11 (We bought our tickets on-site. Don’t worry as the line moves quickly. )
Timings: Open all days, October to March (10 – 6), April to September (10-8)
Address: Calle de Bailén, 28071
View in Google Maps

2. Almudena Cathedral/Catedral de la Almudena

Situated next to the Royal Palace is Madrid’s first Catholic cathedral – Almudena Cathedral. The combination of its architectural style inside and out is something special. Besides, entrance is free so you have to pass by. If you want to see the city view in another vantage point then you can pay to go to the museum.

Photography Tip: Play with the green landscape nearby and frame it baby!

Nearest Metro: Ópera (Line 2)
Admission: €6 (If you enter the museum)
Museum Timings: Monday to Saturday from 10 – 2:30pm
Address: Plaza de la Armería, Madrid
View in Google Maps

3. Palacio De Cibeles

Known to be a post office before, the Cibeles now serves as Madrid city hall. Its striking white facade along with the fountain in the middle looks so beautiful especially at night and after the rain as you get this cotton candy clouds!

Photography Tip: Make sure to take a night photo as it’s also gorgeous at night!

Nearest Metro: Line 2 – Banco de España station
Admission: €2 (We didn’t go inside)
Timings: Tue-Sun 10:30am – 1:30pm / 4:00pm – 7:00pm
Address: Plaza de Cibeles, 1, 28014 Madrid (Intersection of Alcala Street, Paseo de Recoletos and the Paseo del Prado)
View in Google Maps

4. Gran Via from Círculo de Bellas Artes Terrace

Gran Via is probably the most popular avenue of the capital which can be best seen at the chic rooftop bar of La Azotea Círculo de Bellas Artes. You can enjoy the panoramic view of Gran Via along with Banco de España and Plaza de Cibeles while sipping affordable wine here. Make sure to arrive before the sunset and admire the spectacular view!

 Photography Tip: It’s not actually a tip but an explanation of this beautiful shot :p Jeremiah went inside the forbidden area (the corner of the rooftop is closed) then after only a few shots, the security was after him! So don’t do it guys as there are security cameras in the area.

must things madrid photography tips

Nearest Metro: Banco de España station or Sevilla station
Admission: €4 (located at the 7th floor)
Terrace Timings: Mon-Thu 9am-2am, Fri 9am-2.30am, Sat & Sun 11am-2.30am
Address: Alcala street 42, 28014
View in Google Maps

5. Madrid Rio over Casa De Campo Park

Casa De Campo serves to be one of the green retreats of Madrid’s concrete jungle. The spiral metal-like bridge over the Manzanares river, flower beds and grassy meadows is a part of Madrid Rio which is truly impressive. Anyone can enjoy a bike here, picnic or just enjoy a tranquil walk just like what we did.

Photography Tip: Go up at the Toledo bridge and enjoy a full view of the park.

Madrid Rio

Nearest Metro – Madrid Rio: North Section – Principe Pio (line 6 and 10), Center Section -Marques de Vadillo/Piramides (line 5), South Section – Legazpi (line 3 and 6).
Admission: Free
Timings: Open 24 hours, all days
Address: Puente de Toledo, 28019
View in Google Maps

6. Toledo Bridge/Puente De Toledo

The first spot we’ve been to in Madrid! It’s a baroque style bridge made of 9 semi- circular arches over the park and Manzanares river. In the middle of the bridge there are two sculpture of the patron saints of Madrid, namely San Isidro and Santa María de la Cabeza.

Photography Tip: Go at the bridge and underneath to see the beauty of the whole bridge!

Nearest Metro: Pirámides (Line 5)
Admission: Free
Address Glorieta Marqués de Vadillo, 28019 (near Madrid Rio)
View in Google Maps

7. Temple of Debod

Surprisingly in Europe, there’s this famous ancient Egyptian temple dating back to 2nd century BC which was given to Spain. Built in two floors, the Temple of Debod comprises of a hall, a terrace, chapels and a small museum. Too bad, it was raining when we went and the queue was intolerable under the cold weather.

Photography Tip: Go during sunset time and show us your photos since we failed to do so.

Temple of Debod 2017

Nearest Metro: Plaza de España or Ventura Rodríguez (Line 3)
Admission: Free
Timings: Check here
Address: Ferraz, 1 28008, Parque del Cuartel de la Montaña (near Plaza de España, next to the Paseo del Pintor Rosales)
View in Google Maps

8. El Retiro Park & Crystal Palace

El Retiro is perhaps the most popular park in the city and Madrid’s answer to Central park. It’s a huge area to explore so make sure to see the artificial lake, enjoy a boat ride here, grab a picnic or stroll through the winding paths. Nearby, you can admire the Crystal Palace and the Puerta de Alcala gateway.

Nearest Metro: Cuatro Caminos/Las Rosas,  Retiro station (Line 2)
Admission: Free
Timings: All days / Summer 7 – 12mn / Winter 7 – 10pm
Address: Plaza de la Independencia, 7, 28001 ( very close to the Puerta de Alcalá and not far from the Prado Museum)
View in Google Maps

9. Jardin De Sabatini/Sabatini Garden

The maze-like greenery and the view of the Royal palace from here made this French inspired garden to our must visit list. Also, it can be relaxing to sit in one of the benches in front of the pond and enjoy the picturesque scenery.

Photography Tip: See the reflection of the palace from the pond

Nearest Metro: Ópera (Line 2), Príncipe Pío (Line R)
Admission: Free
Timings: All days 9 – 9pm
Address: Bailén Street, 2, 28013 (Cuesta de San Vicente)
View in Google Maps

10. Basílica de San Francisco El Grande

One of Madrid’s grandest old churches, the striking frescoed dome is said to be the largest in Spain and the fourth largest in the world. After our visit to Toledo bridge, we went here around 7 and it’s already closed so we failed to see what’s inside. Still, we included it in this list since the google images of the church are so pretty!

Photography Tip: Make sure to check the timings, take inside photos of the frescoed dome.
Nearest Metro: La Latina or Puerta de Toledo stations (Line 5)
Admission: Free
Timings: Tuesday to Friday: 11:00 to 12:30 and 16:00 to 18:30 / Saturday: 11:00 to 13:30.
Address: San Buenaventura Street, 1, 28005 (San Francisco Square)
View in Google Maps

Must Visit Plazas/Squares

11. Plaza Mayor/Main Square

After visiting many plazas in the city, we’ve come up with two worthy places and Plaza Major is definitely one of them. The popular square is located right in the center of the city and is fenced in by brick-red apartments on all sides. Countless restaurants and cafes surround the area so make sure to taste one of Madrid’s culinary specialties Bocadillos, a calamari sandwich. However, be prepared that the restaurants are usually quite expensive.

Plaza mayor Madrid

Worth Trying: Just one block from here is the world’s oldest restaurant, El Botín.
Nearest Metro: Sol Station (Line 2)
Address: Plaza Mayor, 28012
View in Google Maps

12. Puerta Del Sol

How can we ever forget Sol? It’s the first place where we stayed and Jeremiah forgot to take the hostel location! I cannot blame him since we only booked it 3 days before our flight! :p The first host we got wasn’t in a good location so we chose to just cancel it. Safety first guys before freebies! haha Besides, making Sol our home base in Madrid allowed us to explore the city mainly by foot. It’s the most common meeting point lined with many notable buildings and shops.

Photography Tip: Don’t miss the famous symbol of Madrid – the bear and the tree.

Nearest Metro: Sol Station (Line 2)
Address: Plaza de la Puerta del Sol, 28013
View in Google Maps

Must Visit Market

13. Mercado de San Miguel

Situated next to the Plaza Mayor, the Mercado de San Miguel is Madrid’s foodie heaven. There are tons of food stalls offering tapas, seafood, paella, pastries, cheese, chorizo and all the other famous Spanish delicacies. While the place is not exactly cheap and crowded, the beautiful building combined with the display of tempting food make it one of the top places in the city.

Nearest Metro: Sol or Opera Station (Line 2)
Address: Plaza de San Miguel (near the Royal palace)
View in Google Maps

14. El Rastro Market

This is the most popular and said to be the oldest open air flea market in Madrid. El Rastro is a series of winding streets passing through the oldest residential part of the city. In here they sell both new and old items so make sure to haggle and take care of your belongings as it gets really crowded.

Timings: Sunday and public holidays 9 to 3 pm
Nearest Metro: La Latina or Puerta de Toledo station (Line 5)
Address: Calle de la Ribera de Curtidores, 19, 28005 (Between Plaza Mayor, La Latina and Puerta de Toledo)
View in Google Maps

Must Try Food

15. Churros at Chocolateria De San Ginés

The traditional white-marbled bar opened in 1894 serves up the most popular churros in town. Expect a long queue of people ordering for one specialty – the chocolate con churros. While I’m not really into sweets, the husband who’s a hot chocolate fan definitely loves it!

Churros at Chocolateria De San Gines

Price: €3.70 for 6 churros and a cup of molten chocolate
Nearest Metro: Sol station (Line 2)
Timings: Open 24 hours
Address: Pasadizo de San Ginés, 5, 28013 (next to the Church of San Ginés, close to Puerta del Sol and just round the corner from Calle Arenal)
View in Google Maps

16. El Botin Restaurant

El Botin is the world’s oldest restaurant dating from 1725 and can be found just one block from Plaza Mayor. The ambiance and food are truly remarkable. Besides it’s in the Guinness book of world records so any visitors should visit the restaurant at least once.

Price: Average price of a 3 course meal is €40, main dish is €18
Nearest Metro: Sol station (Line 2)
Address: Calle Cuchilleros, 17, 28005 Madrid
View in Google Maps

Other Must Try Food: Paella, Bocadillos de Calamares (fried squid sandwich), Tapas, chorizos, Picho de Tortilla, Boquerones (an anchovy tapa dish), wash it all with Sangria 🙂

Paella and Bocadillos de calamares

I would say that 3 days in Madrid are enough to see it all based on our experience. Most of the city’s main attractions sit within walking distance from one another which made it easy to travel. But if you love art and want to visit museums (which aren’t a part of this list), go to the lesser known places or plan to do shopping, definitely you should stay more.

Have you been to Madrid? What are your favorites in the city? We’d love to hear from you! 🙂