Madrid’s top sights: 20 attractions you don’t want to miss

Planning a trip to Madrid this year? Once you’ve got your hotel booked and your flights locked down, it’s time to start curating the ultimate itinerary.

In this blog, we’re here to share Madrid’s top sights. Whether you’re hungry for local culture, eager to discover the city’s history or on the hunt for the ultimate family day out, we’ve got your schedule covered.

1. El Retiro Park & Palacio de Cristal (The Glass Palace)

El Retiro Park & Palacio de Cristal (The Glass Palace)If you’re keen to spot some of Madrid’s most renowned architectural masterpieces, the Palacio de Cristal is a must-visit landmark. Located in the heart of El Retiro Park, this impressive glass palace stands tall in the shape of a Greek cross – built in 1887. It was originally modelled on London’s famous Crystal Palace and now plays host to a series of breathtaking exhibitions, organised by the Reina Sofia Museum. Once you’re done taking in everything the palace has to offer, take a stroll around Retiro’s vista or hire a boat to explore the park’s idyllic lake.

2. Museo Nacional del Prado

Museo Nacional del PradoMuseum enthusiasts – if you’re heading on a trip to Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado should be topping your to-do list. Located in central Madrid, the Prado Museum is Spain’s main national art museum and holds one of the world’s most impressive collections of European art. The work inside spans almost a thousand years, representing life and artistic movements from the 1100s, all the way to the early 20th century. Walk the grand halls and discover pieces crafted by Francisco Goya, Hieronymus Bosch, El Greco and Titian, amongst other world-renowned greats.

3. Plaza Mayor

Plaza MayorIf history’s your thing, you’re going to love Madrid’s grand central square – better known to locals as Plaza Mayor. Situated in the oldest part of the city, this iconic plaza is the perfect place to gather with friends or family before you explore the rest of Madrid’s historic district. The square plays host to a variety of local retailers, coffee shops, cafes and restaurants – ideal for hungry tourists looking for a bite while they browse the city’s authentic selection of souvenirs. Depending on what time of year you visit, you’re likely to witness some kind of seasonal gathering, whether it’s a Christmas market in December or the Tamborrada Drum Parade at Easter.

4. Royal Palace of Madrid

Royal Palace of MadridThe Royal Palace of Madrid is a must-see landmark for anyone eager to discover more about the city’s eclectic past. Once home to Charles III, Alfonso XIII and hundreds of other Spanish monarchs, the palace continues to be an important monument for the country’s royal family. Built in the form of a square and surrounded by lavish regal gardens, the building was originally inspired by Bernini’s sketches – drawn for the Louvre’s construction. Inside, you’ll find thousands of rooms, sweeping staircases, a historic chapel and even the famous Royal Armoury. If you visit on Wednesday or Saturday (weather permitting!) you may even get the chance to witness the Changing of the Guard – a memorable sight for any tourist.

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5. Calle Gran Via

Calle Gran ViaWant to see Madrid in all of its glory? Head down to Calle Gran Via – the ultimate hotspot for all things dining, shopping and more. Whether you’re on a couples retreat or a family getaway, there’s something for everyone to discover along this historic Spanish street. Almost a mile in length, the Gran Via runs through the heart of the city and features hundreds of notable buildings that represent a plethora of architectural periods. As well as grabbing a bite or something refreshing to drink, you’ll also be able to find all of your favourite retail stores selling both high-street and luxury goods.

6. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina SofíaMadrid is home to an overwhelming selection of galleries and museums – one of the most renowned being the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. This centre of 20th-century art is a treasure trove of Spanish history and culture, officially inaugurated in 1992 and named after Queen Sofia. Inside, you’ll have the chance to discover a wide selection of Spain’s finest artwork, including work from the unmistakable Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali himself. If you’re really into your facts, you can pay a visit to the museum’s free-to-access library, jam-packed with 100,000 books, sound recordings and videos for all to enjoy.

7. Temple of Debod

Temple of DebodOnce you’ve visited some of the city’s more well-known museums, you’re bound to uncover even more thrilling discoveries at the Temple of Debod. This iconic temple dates back to the 2nd century BC, donated to Spain by the Egyptian government to save it from floods following the construction of the great Aswan Dam. It is now situated in the city’s Cuartel de la Montaña Park, surrounded by vast gardens for the whole family’s enjoyment. While you’re at the Egyptian temple, you can learn more about Madrid’s expansive history, then park up for a well-deserved picnic once you’re all schooled out.

8. Santiago Bernabeu Stadium

Santiago Bernabeu StadiumSports fans – now’s your time to shine. The Santiago Bernabeu Stadium is one of the most renowned football locations in the world, home to Real Madrid since 1947. With enough seats to host over 80,000 people, the arena is the second-largest stadium in Spain and was named after Real Madrid’s legendary player and president – Santiago Bernabeu. Take a tour during your visit and get the chance to see the home team’s trophy cabinet, museum and panoramic views of the stadium. Be sure to check out the official website for the most up-to-date opening hours and ticket information.

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9. Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

Thyssen-Bornemisza MuseumArt enthusiasts must add the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum to their Madrid itinerary in order to complete the ‘Golden Triangle of Art’ – a trio of renowned museums also including the Prado and Reina Sofia national galleries. Inside this breathtaking space, you’ll have the chance to discover a wide range of European masterpieces, with work spanning periods such as the Italian Primitives, the German Renaissance and 19th-century American art too. As well as being home to over 1,600 paintings, the Thyssen-Bornemisza also offers a delightful cafe for travellers to enjoy a well-earned coffee.

10. Puerta de Alcalá

Puerta de AlcaláRivalling some of the world’s most architecturally beautiful monuments is the Puerta de Alcalá, one of five historic royal gates that once gave access to the city. It is located in the centre of the Plaza de la Independencia and was built by order of Carlos III to replace an existing gate dating back to the 16th century. Due to ongoing restoration work, the monument is currently covered in a canvas that reproduces the building’s image – but not to worry. This desirable location is still well worth a visit, surrounded by shops, restaurants and some of Madrid’s most-visited tourist attractions.

11. Catedral de la Almudena

Catedral de la AlmudenaYou can’t visit Europe without experiencing the beauty of a classical cathedral, and the Catedral de la Almudena is no exception. The very first plans for the building were drawn up in 1879 by Francisco de Cubas with the intention of creating a pantheon for the late Queen Maria de la Mercedes. Eventually, these visions transformed into a magnificent cathedral which was only considered architecturally finished in 1993 – over 100 years later. Guests can expect to experience a plethora of awe-inspiring artworks and interior design, as well as a museum. Visit alone or with a tour guide to learn more about the history of the city’s most opulent religious structure.

12. Teatro Real

Teatro RealIf you want a true taste of Madrid’s artistic culture, heading to the Teatro Real is a must for your holiday plans. Known in English as the Royal Theatre, this celebrated opera house is considered the top institution for performing arts in the country. First opened in 1850 by Queen Isabella II, Teatro Real has played host to thousands of shows in its history – even the Eurovision Song Contest! The building’s modern day schedule has a lot to offer both local and international visitors, including opera, concerts, dance and traditional Spanish Flamenco.

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13. Plaza de España

Plaza de España MadridWant to check out Madrid’s best urban hotspots? Plaza de España is a central square located at the end of the Gran Via, recently modernised for increased sustainability and accessibility for all. Perfect for the whole family, this historical area now offers extensive children’s play areas and cycle paths for maximum enjoyment. In the square, you’ll discover several fountains, one featuring the popular Monument to Cervantes, and another inspired by the sky of Madrid. Framed by two of the city’s largest skyscrapers, the plaza is certainly worth a visit while exploring the other attractions Madrid has to offer.

14. Metropolis Building

Metropolis Building in MadridNestled on the corner of Gran Via and Calle de Alcalá, the Edificio Metrópolis is a must-see piece of architectural mastery. Any passer-by will struggle to miss the iconic office building, inaugurated in 1911 after 5 years of construction. The Edificio Metrópolis was designed by renowned architects Jules and Raymond Février in a French, Beaux-Arts style – unusual in Madrid at the time of its conception. Visitors will notice columns supporting 4 statues that represent Madrid’s historic industries, as well as a rounded cupola covered by 30,000 leaves of 24K gold!

15. Plaza de Cibeles

Plaza de Cibeles MadridA trip to Madrid wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Plaza de Cibeles, a legendary square that has become a symbol for the city itself. While a complex neo-classical arrangement of marble sculptures, fountains and lights make up the plaza’s centre, the Cibeles Palace is certainly the main event. Visitors flock to the Plaza de Cibeles at all hours of the day to glimpse a sight of its famous architecture and walk the emblematic grounds. If you’re lucky enough to visit after a Real Madrid victory, you’ll likely see fans gathering around the Cibeles fountain in celebration.

16. El Oso y el Madrono

El Oso y el Madrono in Madrid SpainIf you’re on a mission to tick off some of Madrid’s most renowned landmarks, you simply must pay a visit to El Oso y el Madrono. This famous statue depicts exactly what its English name suggests – a bear and a strawberry tree. The sweet-toothed creature is located in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol district and was created by sculptor Antonio Navarro Santafé as part of a commission from the Spanish government. The bear is one of the city’s most well-known symbols, dating back to the 1200s. Stop by the statue and grab a selfie for your holiday album on your next visit.

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17.  Zoo Aquarium de Madrid

Zoo Aquarium de MadridWhat better way to spend a family day out than a trip to Madrid’s famous zoo? The Zoo Aquarium de Madrid can be found at the heart of Casa de Campo, an expansive park that honours the natural beauty of the city. The complex has a bountiful selection of attractions on offer, including a dolphinarium, aquarium, aviary and of course, the zoo itself. Inside, you’ll have the chance to discover everything there is to know about more than 1,300 animals and a whopping 333 different species. Better still, Madrid Zoo is the only one in Spain to house a family of panda bears – a rare sight for the whole family to enjoy!

18. Cerralbo Museum

Cerralbo Museum MadridThe Cerralbo Museum is a must-see for any history enthusiast, particularly those keen to venture off the beaten track. Despite being one of the most important museums in Madrid, this historic spot is one of the lesser-known of the city’s vast selection. Located inside what was once the home of the 17th Marquis of Cerralbo, visitors can experience the life of a 19th-century aristocrat for the day. The palace-like building was originally built for the family to reside in, as well as housing their works of art collected from across the globe. If you decide to pay the spot a visit, be sure to pick up a guide (printed in several languages) to discover everything you can about the artefacts inside.

19. San Miguel Market

San Miguel Market MadridFood enthusiasts can’t visit Madrid without popping by the San Miguel Market – and is it any wonder why? This historic food hall dates back to 1916, built into a stunning masterpiece of cast-iron architecture. Just a short walk from Plaza Mayor, hungry tourists and locals alike flock to the city’s gourmet market to discover an abundance of delicious delicacies. Grab chef-cooked tapas, sea-fresh dishes and artisanal cheeses as you meander through the fleet of stalls, then polish off the day with some fresh cake and coffee on your way out.

20. Parque Warner Madrid

Parque Warner MadridImmerse yourself in the world of cinema and enjoy an unforgettable family day out at Parque Warner Madrid. Built in honour of the Warner Bros universe, this adrenaline-fuelled theme park offers rides you won’t find elsewhere. Climb aboard the Superman, a rollercoaster that simulates the flight of a superhero, travelling at more than 100km/h. Or why not venture through the Scooby Doo-themed tour, perfect for younger family members? When the weather’s warm, you can even spend the day lazing by the pool and slipping down water slides at Warner Beach – the resort’s popular water park.

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