Madrid: Home of beautiful art, world-renowned football and delicious food and drink. Visiting Madrid for a weekend or a short city break? Read our Express.co.uk guide to a weekend in Madrid, including the best places to eat, and drink and the top things to do.
1. Take in the Museums
Spain’s capital boasts one of the largest and most diverse list of museums of any city in the world. The most famous of these make up the ‘Golden Triangle’ of Museums’ located in the Paseo del Arte (Avenue of Arts), all located within 10 minutes walk of each other.
The biggest of the three, the Museo Del Prado houses some of the most important Spanish art of the last 500 years, which is no surprise why it is the most visited tourist attraction in Madrid. Works from Goya, Velazquez and El Greco line the walls of this spectacular grand building, as well as the mesmerising work of Hieronymus Bosch.
If you’re after something a bit more modern, the Museo Reina Sofia is one of the world’s most contemporary art museums. Hosting various works by Pablo Picasso, including his infamous ‘Guernica’, plus works from surrealist icon, Salvador Dali.
Completing the ‘Big Three’ is the Museo Thyssen Bornemisza. Organised in chronological order, you can immerse yourself in this private collection of Western Art History – all the way from the 8th to the 20th century.
Be sure to check the opening times of all the museums whilst planning your trip, as you can bag yourself free entry by going at specific times or on certain days.
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2. Eat your way around the city
As expected, Madrid showcases all of the wondrous delights of Spanish cuisine. You won’t turn a corner without stumbling across a place to grab some cured hams, patatas bravas or paella.
Dotted around the city are many markets, but the Holy Grail is the Mercado De San Miguel. A beautiful indoor market filled with all of your desires, from fresh ingredients to make-your-own dishes, to street food (including the famous cod-croquettes), plus bars to sit down and sample some of the finest wines.
For more traditional, quaint restaurants for an authentic tapas experience, head down to the ‘Latin Quarter’ for cosy settings and a huge variety of foods to choose from, like the quaint La Perejila.
3. Sample the drinks and nightlife
As well as all of the amazing food, you might want a couple of drinks to accompany your taste journey around this fantastic city.
On nearly every street corner you’ll find somewhere to sip on a glass of red or share a jug of Sangria. What better way to enjoy these than by basking in the sun on a rooftop bar. The Azotea del Ciculo is a popular destination, located off the main shopping street: Gran Via, but there are some hidden gems nestled down the quieter backstreets. The Hat is located on the roof of a hostel, which is free to access even if you aren’t staying there. If you’re after a little adventure, try and find the Secret Rooftop Garden. This beautiful location does have a small entry fee – that is if you can find it first. (Go through the back of the Salvador Bachiller shop and take the elevator up to the fifth floor!).
And if you’re looking to find the most Instagrammable cocktails out there, get down to Salmon Guru. Rated in the top 20 bars in the world, the bar has a variety of very reasonably priced cocktails with some of the most inventive forms of presentation. Due to its popularity and the one in one out policy, expect to have to queue, but it’s worth the wait as you’re guaranteed a table and fantastic night out.
4. Discover the Cathedral, Churches and Temples
There are a whole host of Churches dotted around the city, some hidden down backstreets like the beautiful Iglesia de San Antonio de Los Alemanes.
The Catedral de la Almudena remains one of the biggest tourist attractions. The Baroque Catholic cathedral known for its colourful chapels, plus a Romanesque crypt & museum stands majestically stands next to the Grand Palace. Entry is free, but a donation is anticipated.
About 20 minutes walk away is the Temple of DeBod. The Egyptian template dates back to the 2nd Century BC and was transported to Madrid’s Cuartel de la Montana Park. The inside of the monument is currently closed to visitors, although you can still walk along the walkway during the temple opening hours.
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5. Immerse yourself in the City’s Street Art
Madrid may not be as famous as some other European cities for its street art, but there is a movement which is currently gaining momentum. One of the best places to find this is The Tabacalera Area in Embajadores.
The streets that surround an old tobacco factory are covered with the works of 25 local artists. The project, named ‘Muros Tabaclera’, sees them designing new pieces annually, focussing on the theme of urban nature.
6. Take in the splendour of the Royal Palace
Adjacent to the Catedral de la Almudena stands the ‘Palacio Real de Madrid’ – the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family.
Spanning 1,450,000 sq ft of floor space, it contains 3,418 rooms making it the largest functioning royal palace and the largest by floor area in Europe. Being a tourist hotspot, it’s better to visit in the week, and you can get free entry at certain hours.
7. Walk the captivating parks
Madrid has a variety of stunning parks including the Cast De Campo, which lies to the North West of the City and is roughly five times the size of Central Park in New York. But one of the most accessible and diverse parks is ‘Retiro Park’. Located very close to the museums, the park is a vast open area with a man-made lake where you can hire rowing boats.
The park regularly puts on garden plays and concerts. A short walk from the park is the Royal Botanical Gardens. This houses three greenhouses, three different climates and over 30,000 spices of plants.
8. Take in a match or stadium tour
Not many cities can boast they have not one, but two teams playing in the Champions League. If you’re lucky enough to time your visit with a home game, you can join the red and white fans of Athletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium or travel to the north of the city and watch Europe’s most successful football team – Real Madrid.
Both clubs have the option of a stadium tour, but the sheer velocity of the Bernabeu stadium is worth the trip. Not only do you get to walk around the top of the stadium, and sit in the dugout, but you can walk the many immersive halls and take in all of the golden boots, domestic cups and numerous European Trophies from the clubs rich history.
9. Do something different…
If you’re going on a city break, specifically visiting train and tube stations may not be top of your agenda. If you don’t have any connections from the airport to the city’s largest station: the Atocha Train Station, it’s worth making the journey down there. The exceptional)steel and glass building posses it’s very own tropical garden in its concourse.
For a more quirky trip, travel north to Chamberi, the ‘Ghost Station’ of Madrid. One of the original tube stations built for the city, the station closed in 1966. It was then re-opened in 2006 as a museum where you can walk around the original ticket booths, turnstiles and marvel in the restored advertising lining the platform.
10. See the City from a different angle
As with most places, one of the best ways to discover new things and absorb yourself in the culture and spirit of a city is to just wander around with no agenda. You can marvel in the architecture at the numerous squares dotted around the city, like Puerta del Sol and one of the most popular, the Plaza Mayor.
One of the best ways to view the city is from above. You’ll find the Faro De Moncloa on the outskirts, and at just €3 per person, it is the perfect way to see a panoramic view of Madrid, from an observation deck 92 metres up.
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