Madrid is a city with so much life and culture that it’s difficult to do it credit in a few paragraphs. The city can compete with any in Europe, with one of the finest art museums on the continent, showcasing Renaissance masterworks and seminal 20th-century works. Take in all the historical sites and learn about the Spanish Empire, which spanned the world in the 16th and 17th centuries. Let’s take a look at the best activities to do in Madrid:

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1. The Prado

The Prado is one of the best and most famous art museums in the world, and it is a must-see. The collection of masterpieces by Renaissance and Baroque artists is vast. Among the many must-see works are Bosch’s Garden of Delights and Caravaggio’s David with the Head of Goliath. The Spanish Romantic Goya, whose 14 Black Paintings are a cultural reference point in Spain, has the most works displayed at the Prado.

2. Retiro Park

Just a few steps east of the Prado are the Retiro, Madrid’s green centre and home to elegant gardens. It was royal property until the end of the eighteenth century when it became public. On a sunny afternoon, paddling on the Grand Pond next to the Alfonso XII monument is a fun choice for families. The city’s oldest tree, a Montezuma Cypress planted in 1633 and encircled by an iron fence, is nearby.

3. Royal Palace

It is Western Europe’s biggest royal palace, with a mix of baroque and neoclassical styles. The royal collections and artworks are magnificent, and you must go inside to fully appreciate them. On show are works by Goya, Caravaggio, and Velázquez, as well as stunning displays of porcelain, tapestries, silverware, and watches. 

4. Santiago Bernabéu Stadium

Whether you support the club or not, the fact remains that Real Madrid is Europe’s most successful football side, having won a record-breaking 11 European Cups. Any football fan should go to their massive 85,000-seater stadium, where history has been created numerous times. A tour will provide you with panoramic views of the stadium, as well as access to the dressing room, dugouts, and other fascinating features such as the trophy collection, press room, and presidential box.

5. National Archaeological Museum

This museum is a journey through Spain’s rich past, with invaluable pieces gathered from all over the country. The wealth of magnificent items that precede the Roman era may surprise you. Despite being at least 2,500 years old, the finest of these Iberian treasures and sculptures appear almost new. The Lady of Elche is a female figure with an intricate headdress and coils over her ears. The Treasure of Guarrazar, a Visigothic set of crosses and votive crowns originating from the 600s are much later but no less impressive.

6. Puerta del Sol

This grand square, located next to the Casa de Correos (Post Office Building), is a popular meeting place that is rich in meaning for both the city and the nation. The clock at the top of the Casa de Correos will be familiar to every Spaniard, as it signals the televised countdown to New Year’s Eve. There’s also a tricky ritual: with each chime, you’re supposed to consume a grape for good luck. (12 in total). Also in the plaza is the El Oso y El Madroo statue, which has been a symbol of Madrid since the Middle Ages.

7. Gran Vía

A walk along the Gran Va is a great spot to start if you want to get a sense of the city. During the day, shoppers flock to many malls, high-street shops such as H&M and Zara, and luxury boutiques. In the evenings, couples stroll arm in arm to the movies or a show. After nightfall, the street is alive with many of Madrid’s best nightclubs. The vast Telefónica Building, constructed in 1928 and an early example of a skyscraper, is one of the sights to see as you stroll.

8. Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor, another of Madrid’s “must-sees,” is a lovely Renaissance plaza designed in the early 1600s and completely surrounded by historic three-story-high residential buildings. The plaza has nine entrances, and several cafes are within the porticoes at the bottom of the buildings. Order a coffee (expensive but essential due to the location!) and sit outside for a few minutes to observe Madrid in action. Following that, you could make your way up to the 400-year-old bronze statue of King Philip III, who ruled at the height of the Spanish kingdom.

9. Mercado San Miguel

This beautiful art nouveau marketplace, which originates from 1916, is a short walk from Plaza Mayor. It’s more of a gastronomic location to buy the best of Spain’s offerings, such as cava, pimenton (parprika), and saffron than a fresh produce market (though there are grocery stalls). To buy groceries like a true Madrileo, go to the vast Mercado de Maravillas in Cuatro Caminos. With 200 stalls, it is Europe’s biggest municipal market.

10. El Rastro

On Sundays, Ribera de Coritodores and Plaza de Cascorro will appear to be overrun with people. This is when 3,500 stalls open, selling pretty much anything you can conceive of, new or used. It’s Madrid’s biggest flea market and can get quite crowded, so it’s always a good idea to arrive early. Even though it’s a Sunday, the antique stores on the streets branching off Ribera de Cortidores will be open, and there are cafes if you need a break from the crowds. The land of Madrid is well connected with Avianca flight booking so you can book your flights from your nearby Airport.