On my first trip to Madrid, I was deeply impressed by this city. I think my first impression was: Boy, this city knows how to live! Madrid is the most alive city that I’ve ever visited.
A cutting edge city boasting with impressive works of art, beautiful architecture, vibrant nightlife and extremely delicious food, Madrid successfully kept its dazzling ancient sights. There are so many things to see and do that 24 hours may not seem enough, but there is also the possibility to come back.
Once I’ve had a delicious breakfast, tortillas and fresh orange juice at El Brillante I’ve marked down my first three things to see: Prado Museum, Retiro Park and Calle Fuencarral.
Prado Museum features impressive works of art by Rubens, El Greco and Fra Angelico among others. Though, the highlight of the museum is the vast collection of paintings by Goya and Velasquez.
On my way to Calle Fuencarral, I decided to take a stroll in Retiro Park. Located in the heart of the city, the park was once a space reserved exclusively for Spain’s royalty. Now, is a natural oasis opened for both locals and tourists and offers plenty of outdoor activities to choose from. Besides boating on the lake or skating, the park also hosts exhibitions all year-round in its pavilions made from glass and iron.
Calle Fuencarral, once a dodgy part of the city is now a popular shopping spot. You can find pretty much everything from interior design stores to club wear or tapas bars. This avenue is always crowded, attracting all kinds of people.
After a fantastic dish of fresh sea food, I rushed for a walk in Plaza Mayor. The area is filled with palaces, convents and plenty of 17th century buildings. I let my senses guide me along narrow streets to discover its hidden gems. I’ve had a great time admiring the Royal Palace, San Miguel Market and Teatro Real.
From there, my feet took me to Atocha station. With 500 different luxuriant botanical species, this busy commuter railway station is like an oasis. As much as I wanted to spend more time here, I took the train all the way to Cuatro Torres Business Area to see the four towering skyscrapers. You could easily walk the Avenida de la Castellana it may be long but its home to many landmarks like Bernabeu Stadium and Cibeles Fountain.
When night falls, Madrid transforms itself into a vibrant city with plenty of things to do. I chose Plaza de Santa Ana as my final destination. Located in the Literary Quarter, the area is known for its “spicy” nightlife. It was a full day and I wanted to enjoy a nice glass of wine mixed with a beer aside a really delicious tapa. As I was sitting there, watching the Madrilenians, I realized that someday I might call Madrid my second home for a while.
Tips: Free things to do in Madrid
If you are on a tight budget and you want to keep an eye on your euros, here is a list with free things to do in Madrid.
- Free entry at some high-class museums. Prado Museum can be visited free of charge on Tuesday to Sunday from 6PM to 8PM. Reina Sofia Museum offers free admissions as well on Monday to Friday from 7PM to 9PM, Saturday from 2.30PM to 9PM and Sunday from 10AM to 2.30PM
- Retiro Park is a well-known attraction among Madrilenians and travellers. The park offers plenty of outdoor activities as well as dazzling monuments and sculptures.
- The Royal Palace is Europe’s largest palace with more than 2 800 rooms. The courtyard and the grounds are accessible for free.
- Visit Templo de Debod. The temple was donated by the Egyptians to Spain as a thank you for helping them on saving the historic pieces while the dam was developed. The Egyptian temple is now located in the Parque del Oeste.
- Visit El Rastro, the largest open flea market. There are plenty of bargains to be found, from clothes to antiques, the 3500 stalls are irresistible.
- Stroll around the Old City Walls.
- Enjoy the Bullfighting Museum. It’s more for those that don’t afford to see the bullfighting for real or they just don’t like these fights. The museum presents the history of bullfighting, costumes and it has a painting of Goya depicting a scene of bull fighting.
- Anden 0 is a small museum showcasing an old Metro station of Madrid.