Top Attractions to Visit in Madrid
- Reina Sofia Museum -featuring Dali and Picasso
- Royal Palace
- Parque del Retiro (350acres of land!)
- Porta del Soul
- Santiago Stadium
- Plaza Mayor
- Porta del Soul
- Gran Via
- Mercado de San Miquel
- Museo del Prado
Unique Things to See and Do in Madrid
- Treasure hunt at the Rastro Flea Market
- Walk along the Gran Via (shopping district)
- Eat tapas on Cava Baja or Cava Alta
- Tour the Temple Debod
- Drink hot chocolate at San Gines, founded in 1894!
Madrid’s Tapas Culture
If Madrileños (locals) are known for anything it is for their love for tapas. And if they ask to go out for tapas, be prepared to tapas-bar hop. Each tapas bar is known for a couple of dishes or for the style or region where the food originated from. One traditional custom is that tapas are always served with draft beers, however with tapas bars are starting to change with the times some are now offering an array of other drinks, like wine or spirits.
One place to start is the Rastro Flea market and runs every Sunday from 9am to 3pm in the historic centre of Madrid. If you talk to locals about the market, what they will tell you most about is the tapas bars along the street. One stop is that you have line up for is El Capricho Extremeno- but it’s quick and worth the wait. They feature big tostas (open faced sandwiches) with all the favourites of octopus, prawns, or ham (and other proteins), drizzled with olive oil. A great fast snack for only 2.5€. Another spot, Santurfo, which offers fresh grilled sardines.
One of the best known streets for tapas is the Calle de la Cava Baja which is known for its line of tapas restaurants. Here you will find a mixture of older traditional style tapas bars mixed in with the trendier more contemporary ones. Taverna Txakolina features the tapas from the Basque region of San Sebastian. At Txakolina you will find a long bar lined with all the tapas choices, although here it is covered by glass typically in San Sebastian the food is out in the open but it must be served to you and not taken! In Basque tradition, Trablanco, an apple cider is uniquely served. In order to aerate the cider it is poured from about 2 feet above the glass, making it an entertaining conversation piece!
The Spanish tradition is to try a tapa or two in one place and then move on down to the next stop. By the end of the evening, you will have tried up to 7 or 8 tapas places and will be very full! Remember though, when in Spain do what the Spaniards do which is take your time and relax between tapas.
Did you know…?
That Madrid’s official symbol is a bear on its hind legs eating berries from a Madroño tree.
Did you ALSO know…?
That Licor Cuarenta y Tres, and after dinner drink, is a mixture of 43 different ingredients and local Spanish favourite. It is a sweet liquor made from citrus and fruit juices, along with herbs and vanilla.
Getting around Madrid
The subway system in Madrid is quite easy to navigate. All the lines are colour coded and numbered (12 lines in total). The pricing is interesting as it is based on the number of stops. The first 5 stops are 1.50€ and each additional stop is 0.10€ added on, but the maximum is 2€ in the main centre. There are three zones – A,B1, and B2.
Subway passes are also available and there is one called the Abono Transportes Turistico which provided unlimited travel on both the Metro lines and the buses. These passes are more flexible than some other cities as they offer 1, 2, 3, 5, and 7 day passes. If you are planning a day trip to Toledo, the Zone T pass includes all lines plus extensions to Guadalajara and Toledo. They are not valid for RENFE services though. Visit MetroMadrid website for more information.
TIP: Madrid is great for bars being open until the wee hours of the morning and staying out late is a way of life, but remember that the Metro operates from 6am to 2am!
There are three main bus terminals, Mendez Alvaro, Estacion de Avenida de America, and Estacion de Conde de Casal. This is where you would be catching longer trips to and from different cities, for example day trips to Toledo, Salamanca, or longer trips to places like San Sebastian.
City busses in Madrid are red and called EMT (Empresa Municipal de Transporte). They are fairly quick compared to other countries, as they have their own bus lanes. You need to flag down busses or they won’t stop! They operate from 6am to 11:30pm and cost 1.50€ and can only be paid for on the bus. You must validate your tickets!
These come in handy after a late night out and since the Metro line stop at 2am they might be your only option. Most taxis are metered, but always ask for the meter to be turned on. Many taxi drivers will want to estimate a price, but typically it is higher than a metered ride. The prices vary depending on where you are going. If you are travelling to the airport there is a supplemental fee of 5.50€, and if you are travelling after 2am, the initial rate is 0.10€ higher. This is normal!
Best time of year to travel to Madrid
As with most southern European countries, the spring and fall seasons are typically the most sought after months to travel in. The weather is a little cooler, the crowds are less dense, and all of the major tourist attractions are open and fully operational. August tends to be the month that many Spaniards travel abroad, which means many attractions have reduced hours and some restaurants and cafes close during this time.
The summer months of June, July, and August are hot with temperatures averaging around 30C. As the day progresses in Madrid it feels warms with the all the concrete heating up throughout the day. The Spring months of March through June the temperatures range from 10C to 20C and similarly in the Fall too.
Ready to plan your visit to Madrid? Check out these popular guides and trips.