Madrid: Spain’s Capital – the Top 10 Places of Interest
Our destination is not only the capital of Spain but also the largest city in Southern Europe – welcome to Madrid! The metropolis on the banks of the Manzanares, in the middle of the Iberian Peninsula, is home to more than 5 million people. It’s a powerful political, economic, and cultural center with a special kind of beauty and a relaxing Mediterranean atmosphere. In short, Madrid is the perfect destination for an unforgettable trip! After all, the city offers endless attractions, museums, restaurants, soccer games, and clubs.
Madrid in a Nutshell
Spain covers most of the Iberian Peninsula and therefore several climate zones, from the Mediterranean Sea over high mountain ranges to the Atlantic Ocean. The country’s capital is in the continental climate zone, which means it’s subject to hot, dry summers and occasionally frosty winters. The best time for traveling to Madrid is in spring or fall, when temperatures are generally moderate.
But where does the name “Madrid” come from in the first place? Its name goes back a long way and derives from the Celtic name of a fortress in the 9th century. Due to its location on the banks of the Manzares, the fortress was called a “place of abundant water.” Over the centuries, the name changed and evolved into today’s Madrid.
If you do just one thing while you’re in Spain, it should be trying the country’s national dish, paella. Its main ingredient is rice, which is then garnished with vegetables and meat. We can especially recommend any paella with shrimps and mussels!
Make sure you don’t miss out on Madrid’s biggest events, either! One of the most spectacular ones takes place during the Christmas period from January 5th to 6th. During this celebration, the three wise men enter the capital, followed by a spectacular parade. It’s not only great fun but also an important religious occasion for the predominantly Catholic population. We also recommend the Mad Cool Festival, where you can dance to a lot of rock, pop, and indie music. The event has been around since 2016 and has become more and more popular every year. Today, more than 100,000 people attend the Mad Cool Festival every summer.
One thing you don’t have to worry about in Madrid is the public transport system. The metro is the most popular form of transport in the city, and the network of the Metro de Madrid is one of the largest in the world. It will take you to any place in the city in no time. However, we also recommend walking as a good alternative, as it’s a great way to discover some of Madrid’s more hidden sights. Plus, you’ll get to enjoy the capital’s great weather. Clouds are a pretty rare sight here, and with almost 2,800 hours of sunshine a year, Madrid is one of the sunniest cities in Europe.
The Top 10 Places of Interest in Madrid
There are a lot of sights for you to discover in Madrid, some of which are hundreds of years old. Often, you’ll find that the city’s past has been integrated into its present. To help you plan your trip, we’ve compiled a list of our 10 favorite places in the Spanish capital – make sure you don’t miss any of them!
Puerta del Sol
During your time in Madrid, you will inevitably stumble upon the Puerta del Sol. This square is located between historical buildings at the very center of the city – literally. Its nickname is “kilometer zero,” as it’s the origin of all Spanish country roads. In addition, a lot of Madrid’s bus and metro lines meet here as well. As you can probably imagine, there’s always a lot going on in the Puerta del Sol!
The square is the perfect place to immerse yourself in the exciting atmosphere of the city. Why not take a break from exploring the nearby shopping district and relax in one of the many restaurants and cafés lining the square?
Plaza de España
Despite its central location, the Puerta del Sol isn’t the most famous square in Madrid. This title belongs to the Plaza de España. The area surrounding this square isn’t exactly beautiful, as it features a lot of apartment blocks and busy streets. Don’t let that stop you from exploring the neighborhood, though!
Two of the oldest and best-preserved skyscrapers in the world are located here, namely the Edificio España and the Torre de Madrid. They both date back to the 1950s, and just seeing them makes a visit to the Plaza de España already worth it. In addition, you’ll find a nice small park as well as a statue of the famous literary character Don Quixote here.
Plaza de Oriente
As you may have already noticed, there are a lot of large squares in Madrid! The third one on our list is the Plaza de Oriente. This rectangular square features statues of 20 different Spanish monarchs. They were created between 1750 and 1753 and were originally meant to decorate the roof of the Royal Palace. Today, they form two rows, one to the east and one to the west of the square. The Plaza de Oriente is also the location of the Royal Gardens and the beautiful Teatro Real.
Palacio Real de Madrid
The Palacio Real de Madrid is another sight we highly recommend visiting. The magnificent palace is located next to the Campo del Moro. Do you know how many rooms there are in the Palacio Real? It’s probably more than you think – at least, it’s more than we would have guessed! The palace has an incredible 3,000 rooms, all of which are lavishly decorated. The whole complex was rebuilt in the middle of the 18th century after it had been destroyed by a fire.
Originally, the Royal Palace was – as the name suggests – the residence of the Spanish royal family. Today, however, it’s used solely for representative purposes, such as state ceremonies and banquets.
Plaza de Cibeles
There are a lot of impressive buildings and statues in the neoclassical style surrounding the Plaza de Cibeles. One of the statues depicts Cybele, the goddess of fertility. On the southwestern side of the square, you’ll find the Bank of Spain. As if there weren’t already enough sights to discover here, the Palacio de Buenavista, the Palacio de Linares, and the Palacio de Cibeles are also located on the Plaza de Cibeles.
Did you know that the square has been of great importance since the Renaissance? Back then, it was part of the axis separating the royal palaces from the rest of the city.
Puerta de Alcalá
Make sure you visit the Puerta de Alcalá while you’re in Madrid! After all, it is one of the most famous monuments in the city. It was built in the 1770s as a triumphal arch to celebrate the arrival of King Charles III.
Its height of almost 20 meters and its elegant symmetry make the Puerta de Alcalá a very impressive sight. The stone masks and reliefs decorating the gate enhance its already imposing effect even further.
Museo del Prado
Welcome to the most important art gallery in Madrid, the Museo del Prado! Don’t miss your chance to see the incredible works of art held in this gallery. The museum houses one of the most beautiful collections of European art, comprising a total of 8,600 paintings from the 12th to the 19th century. Personally, we would consider the museum’s beautiful building, which dates from 1819, a work of art as well.
The Museo del Prado is located in the southern part of Madrid, right next to the Parque del Buen Retiro. The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía and the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza are also nearby. Together, the three museums form the Triángulo del Arte. One of them, the MNCARS, is home to one of the most famous paintings of all time, Guernica by Pablo Picasso. Even just this one painting makes the museum well worth a visit!
Parque del Buen Retiro
The Parque del Buen Retiro is located in the city center. Until the end of the 19th century, it belonged to the Spanish monarchy, but today it’s the most important public park in Madrid.
You’ll find lots of beautiful sculptures, monuments, galleries, gardens, as well as an artificial lake here. The park is also home to two museums, the Museo del Ejército, which deals with Spanish military history, and the Casón del Buen Retiro, where you can admire paintings from the 19th and 20th century.
Estadio Santiago Bernabéu
The Estadio Santiago Bernabéu is the home of Real Madrid, one of the best soccer clubs in the world. The stadium’s construction began in October 1944 and finished three years later. Its original name was Estadio Chamartín, after Real Madrid’s previous stadium. It was renamed, however, in 1955 in honor of Santiago Bernabéu, the club’s president at the time.
The stadium has enough seats for more than 80,000 fans. Unfortunately, you might still have a hard time getting tickets to a match. Especially games like the city derby against Atlético Madrid or El Clásico against FC Barcelona are often sold out immediately.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to miss out on seeing the stadium’s inside entirely – tickets to a guided tour are significantly easier to come by! The tour includes getting a panoramic view of the stadium and visiting the presidential suite, the players’ tunnel, the pitch, the trophy room, as well as the fan shop.
The Royal Site San Lorenzo de El Escorial near Madrid
This former royal residence is located in the municipality of San Lorenzo de El Escorial. It’s a perfect example of Spanish Renaissance architecture and therefore of great historical and cultural importance. For this reason, it’s also been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984.
The palace houses several museums, a church, a monastery, and a school. Its main building is an imposing rectangular structure, which includes two bell towers and four regular towers. The dome of the basilica is 92 meters high. The corridors, which cover a length of 24 kilometers, are another a distinctive feature.
The monastery was decorated by renowned artists such as El Greco and Titian. Today, you can admire more than 1,600 of their works here. The Escorial also includes the Museum of Architecture, the Museum of Art, the Library, the Reliquaries, the Pantheon of the Kings, and the Pantheon of the Princes.
The thing that distinguishes Madrid from all other capitals is its fascinating mixture of art and culture. In addition, the city combines historical and modern features in an absolutely fascinating way.
We highly recommend spending some time in the Prado Museum, at the Puerta de Alcalá, and in the Royal Palace. Afterwards, you can spend the day admiring the capital’s architecture, with its wonderful neoclassical facades, magnificent palaces, and towering monuments. Madrid is also very popular with photographers, as many of its features make for a great motif!
The capital of Spain has preserved many of its historic streets and squares, such as the Plaza de España but can also be proud of its thoroughly modern transport system. Especially the Metro de Madrid is well-known for its speed and reliability. All of these aspects make Madrid the perfect destination for your next city trip! What are you waiting for?