Your Ultimate Madrid Travel Guide
Even though Madrid is the biggest city and capital of Spain, it might not be the first city you’ll think of for a city trip to Spain. But after reading this blog, that is definitely going to change! Sem and I went to Madrid for a weekend during our six months in Valencia. Of course I was really looking forward to this, but for some reason I didn’t expect much of it. I didn’t really know what to expect of the Spanish capital. The greater the surprise when we arrived, because Madrid exceeded all my expectations! In this blog, we will walk you through all of the places you absolutely should visit, where you can find them and the prices.
Of course, when visiting Madrid, the Royal Palace should be the first thing on your mind. If I am being honest, I usually don’t care too much for these kinds of places. Sure, the architecture usually is flamboyant and gorgeous, but that’s about it. However, the Palacio Real in Madrid absolutely blew me away, which might not be very surprising. The Palacio Real is the biggest royal palace in the world! The palace looks amazing from the outside, both the front and the gardens behind the palace. On every first Wednesday of the month at noon, there is a spectacular changing of the royal guard with no less than 400 soldiers and 100 horses. It is also definitely worth admiring the palace from the inside. Tickets start at 13 euros and it is advisable to buy them online in advance.
Plaza Mayor is the most famous square in Madrid. The square is centrally located and is known for the surrounding, 4 story high, orange colored houses. On this square you will find numerous cafes, restaurants and shops. The square is also used for celebrating holidays, the annual Christmas market and the Festival de Verano. Plaza Mayor is a beautiful square that you should definitely walk across! It is also nice to have a bite to eat or a drink. Keep in mind that you will have to pay more than at a restaurant on aquieter place.
Puerta del Sol
Puerta del Sol square is by far my favourite square in Madrid. The square is lively and surrounded by shops and restaurants. Originally, Puerta del Sol served as the centre of the radial network of Spanish roads. You can see this from the famous ‘KM 0’ tile on the ground. Another sight on the Puerta del Sol is the clock of the Casa de Correos. This clock is known for the countdown to the new year on 31 December, where 12 grapes are then traditionally eaten (one for each chime), as this brings good luck for the new year. You will also find the statue ‘el Oso y el Madroño’ in this square. This statue of a bear eating from a strawberry tree is a symbol of Madrid.
Templo de Debod
In the Parque del Oeste, you will find the Templo de Debod. This Egyptian temple was dedicated to the god Amon, and was brought to Madrid as a gift from the Egyptian government to thank the Spanish engineers who saved ancient monuments after an area was planned to be flooded during the construction of the Aswan Dam on the Nile. It is really quite special to see these Egyptian influences back in the capital of Spain. A visit to the temple is completely free.
El Retiro Park
To escape the hustle and bustle of the big city, an afternoon in “El Retiro” park is more than recommended. El Retiro is so big that there is plenty to do. And what makes this park extra special and fun is the fact that there are also several places of interest in it! For instance, near the park you will find the Real Jardin Botánico de Madrid. In the park itself you will find the Palacio de Cristal, the Palacio de Velázquez and a huge lake which you can sail on in a boat in summer. There are also several cafeterias and restaurants in the park.
Mercado San Miguel
The Mercado de San Miguel is a market hall where you can stroll around and enjoy the most delicious snacks, fresh smoothies and other special food, or you can even buy your fresh groceries there. There are a total of 33 stalls and each stall has its own specialty in artisanal regional products. There are no entree fees, which means you can enjoy walking through the market hall for free. Do keep in mind that when you are planning on having a bite or a drink here, you might be paying a little bit more.
Plaza de Cibeles
Plaza de Cibeles is a square right outside the centre of the city. It contains quite a few sights which are definitely worth seeing! In the middle of the square, you will find the Fuente de Cibeles. The Fuente de Cibeles is a magnificent fountain which has become one of the icons of the city. Around the Plaza de Cibeles are some well-known buildings such as the Palacio de Comunicaciones, this is the former post office and currently serves as the city hall of Madrid and as the work place of the mayor of Madrid. Other notable buildings around Plaza de Cibeles are the Banco de España, the central bank of Spain and the Palacio de Buenavista for the generals of the Spanish Army. If you walk a little further you will also find the Puerta de Alcalá, a beautiful monumental gatehouse.