Starting our route with the emblematic Prado Museum. It is home to highly relevant historical and cultural heritage for all citizens. It has contributed to the study and dissemination of art.
El Prado is one of the most important museums in the world and one of the most popular in Europe, 10/10 worth visiting.
You can find the iconic works of Juan de Flandes (The Crucifixion), El Greco, Velázquez (Las Meninas,) Ribera, Goya, Fra Angelico, and Raphael in this museum.
2. Plaza Mayor
Pl. Mayor, 28012 Madrid
Throughout the history of Madrid, the Plaza Mayor has been the privileged setting for meetings, announcements, and celebrations of a civil nature. It is also loaded with commemorative plaques, historic places, and other symbols of great value.
It’s actually a very iconic place to visit if you’re coming to Madrid for the first time because, as you might know, the concept of “Plaza Mayor” refers to the main square of some localities in Castilian and Hispanic American urbanism.
This name comes from the fact that they were intended as a refuge in case of an attack on the city.
At Plaza Mayor, you can find the Statue of Felipe III, Casa de la Panadería, and Arco de Cuchilleros. Also, the famous New Year’s celebration takes place in this square, which is quite out of the ordinary.
3. Puerta de Alcalá
Pl. de la Independencia, s/n, 28001 Madrid
Puerta de Alcalá commemorated the entrance of Carlos III in Madrid as king of Spain. It was inaugurated in 1778, and the monument replaced another previous door, located a few meters below, which marked the way to Alcalá de Henares.
Currently one of the most important monumental landmarks in the city of Madrid.
Nowadays, it is surrounded by the trendiest, most high-end, and exclusive restaurants and bars of Madrid, like Aarde, Bakán, Patio de Leones, Cappuccino, and Hotaru.
If you’re interested in restaurants and bars in Madrid, this article is for you:
The official date of the Royal Palace as the residence of Spanish kings is December 1, 1764, with Charles III, the first King who lived in the Palace.
If you want to obtain all the details, anecdotes, and stories, the best way to visit it is with a specialized guide. (You can get one inside the museum or before arriving) If not, you can just see it by yourself.
Throughout the year, you can visit the Royal Palace free from Monday to Thursday, from 5 to 7PM (from 4 to 6 in winter) if you are a citizen of the European Union, resident, or holder of a work permit.
Ibero-American citizens can also enter free of charge if they can prove their nationality, residence, or work permit.
In addition, free admission is available on May 18 (International Museum Day) and October 12.
Plan your visit on one of these days to save some extra cash.
Also, If you’re wondering how to visit Madrid on a budget, here’s everything you need to know:
The most important landmark of all is the beloved Santiago Bernabéu Stadium.
Did you know that in 2019, around 1,300,000 people took the Bernabéu Tour? That’s a lot.
Besides getting to know iconic places of the white coliseum, such as the dressing rooms, dugouts, or the box, you can also enjoy the Real Madrid museum, the third most visited museum in the capital of Spain, only behind the Prado and the Reina Sofía.
6. Debod Temple
C. de Ferraz, 1, 28008 Madrid
The Temple of Debod is one of the great hidden treasures of Madrid, and it is also, without a doubt, the perfect place to have a romantic date.
Make sure you visit it during sunset or sunrise to feel this magical moment.
This temple was a gift from Egypt to Spain for helping to save the temples of Nubia and prevent it from being submerged by the construction of the Aswan High Dam.
But did you know that this temple arrived in Spain in boxes?
Yes, just as you hear it. In 1961, the temple was dismantled and stored in a total of 1,359 boxes for its transfer.
They shipped it to Alexandria from Elephantine and later to Valencia. The boxes were stored in trucks until taken to Madrid.
Easy peasy. Right?
7. Plaza del Callao
Pl. del Callao, 28013 Madrid
Plaza del Callao is undoubtedly one of the symbols of Madrid.
Its name is due to the battle in the Peruvian port of Callao in 1866. This esplanade led a more or less normal and quiet life until 1917, when it got restructured.
You can see Palacio de la Prensa, the Carrión building, and the legendary Cines Callao. These buildings somehow determined the history of the square.
Moreover, the square also has many important commercial streets that complement it and make it an icon of Madrid.
8. Plaza de España
Plaza de España, 28008 Madrid
Plaza de España is one of the largest squares in the capital. Here we find legendary buildings of the city, such as Torre de Madrid or the Edificio España, some renovated gardens, and the monument to Cervantes.
It is in a privileged location, so you can visit nearby landmarks. Like the royal Palace, Sabatini gardens, the Temple of Debod, Gran via, and the malasaña neighborhood, known for having cool and hipster coffee shops in Madrid.
For authentic coffee lovers, here’s the ultimate guide to the best specialty coffee shops in Madrid:
Also, you can go up to the rooftop of the Riu hotel, which is undoubtedly one of the best and offers beautiful views of the buildings of Madrid that you can accompany with drinks, tapas, and cocktails. (read more)
Without a doubt, Plaza de España is the perfect place to go for a stroll because you can even go see a play nearby on Gran Via, visit the famous ham museum, or go shopping at the world’s largest Zara store, literally.
9. Archaeological Museum of Madrid
Calle de Serrano, 13, 28001 Madrid
The National Archaeological Museum of Madrid houses one of Europe’s most significant archaeological exhibitions. Spain’s main archeological museum is enormous and covers an area of more than 23,000 m².
During its beginnings, the museum had only four sections. Now, the place has twelve exhibition modules, each dedicated to a part of history.
These modules divide into 40 rooms and range from Prehistory to the MiddleAges, through RomanHispania, the ModernAge, and even a section dedicated to the museum’s history or the currency.
If this is your first time in Madrid, you will surely want to photograph the iconic Sweppes building called Edificio Carrión, the Telefónica Building, the Edificio Metrópolis, El Palacio de la Prensa, the Rialto Theater, Edificio España, and Plaza del Callao.
It is inevitable to think a little bit of 5th avenue when we talk about Gran Via. Besides, Christmas is a beautiful time to visit since Gran Via is full of lights, colors, and people walking through the streets. Definitely, a must-do if you are in Madrid.
The famous Puerta del Sol is one of the most famous squares because it is the starting point of the radial road network of the state.
And how could they know that? Well, to accurately identify this point, there is a Kilometer Zero Plaque on the sidewalk next to the Casa de Correos.
Here you can find the Casa de Correos, the oldest building in the square and today houses the headquarters of the Presidency of the Community of Madrid.
You would not want to miss this one, especially on New Year’s Eve. In Puerta del Sol, we find the famous clock of Madrid, responsible for indicating the chimes that start each year.
This Spanish tradition started in 1962, and since then, thousands of people have come to the Puerta del Sol to say goodbye to the year and eat the 12 grapes with each chime (read more).
Also, at the square, the iconic “El Oso y el Madroño” has been the symbol of Madrid since the thirteenth century.
Local tip: this place is super touristy. So you probably won’t want to eat there if you are looking for good Spanish food. Although you can sit on the terraces and drink, be aware that the prices may be a bit higher.
12. El Retiro Park
El Buen Retiro Park, 28009 Madrid
El Retiro Park is the most famous park and the largest in the city’s center.
Moreover, You can start your tour at the Puerta de la Independencia near the Puerta de Alcala.
You can see the Fountain of the Galapagos, the Monument to Alfonso XII, and the famous Retiro Pond.
In this last one, you can take a boat ride, which is beautiful on a sunny day. This is the central axis of this great Madrid park.
There’s also Paseo de las Estatuas, Parterre Gardens, Crystal Palace, and the famous Fountain of the Fallen Angel.
On another note, I know that one of the hardest things when going on a vacation as a runner is to keep up the pace during the mini-break.
The good news is that Retiro Park is the best place to do a short morning run of 5 kilometers to keep up with the habit.
This park is ideal for walking, yoga, or riding a bicycle. It has a total of 4.5 km, but if you go through small streets and do a couple of laps, you will get to 5 km for sure.
Also, you would be blessed and surrounded by nature. What else do you need? The park has a green area of 125 hectares!!
As you might see, there are a lot of activities to do in Retiro Park. Sounds like the perfect spot for spending the afternoon!
13. Catedral de la Almudena
C. de Bailén, 10, 28013 Madrid
Catedral de la Almudena is the only cathedral consecrated by a pope in Spain.
The crypt of the Almudena Cathedral is considered one of the largest in the country. The dome of the Almudena Cathedral is over 70 meters high, with incredible views of other buildings in the city.
The church’s first plans were to create a pantheon for the late Queen Maria de la Mercedes.
Santa María la Real de la Almudena is also Madrid’s patron saint.
Her most famous miracle dates back to when San Isidro and Santa Maria recovered their son Illan who fell into the well after they prayed to the Almudena. The water came up and returned their son safe and sound! (Read more)
14. Plaza de Colón
Plaza. de Colón. 28004.
The Plaza de Colón is located in the center of Madrid and is one of the most important squares of the capital.
It is the crossroads of the iconic streets of Madrid, such as Serrano, Goya, and Castellana.
Here you can see the largest Spanish flag in the world, the Jardines del Descubrimiento, and the Centro Cultural de la Villa.
If you are nearby and don’t know what to eat, I recommend a walk through Platea, Saddle, Chambao, or Efímero.
15. Plaza de Cibeles
Plaza de Cibeles, 28014 Madrid
You are seeing one of Madrid’s iconic symbols and the main scene for celebrating Real Madrid’s victories.
The timeless fountain of Cibeles was initially designed to be installed in the Gardens of the Granja de San Ildefonso in Segovia.
But, it was finished in 1781 under the order of Carlos III and was made by Ventura Rodriguez.
It represents the goddess Cibeles on a chariot pulled by lions. In its beginnings, the fountain was intended to supply water to Madrid’s citizens.
Later, in 1895 it was moved to the center of the square and became a decorative element.
Palacio de Cibeles, Buenavista Palace, Banco de España, and Palacio de Linares are the buildings surrounding the square.
Trust me, I’ve taken all my international friends to Plaza de Cibeles to celebrate Real Madrid’s victories. Most of them agree that it is a unique experience.
The vibes, the generated atmosphere, and the fact that all Spaniards become one when it comes to football are feelings that cannot be explained.
You have to be there to experience it. And yet, my friends are neither from Spain nor are they loyal Real Madrid fans.
16. Reina Sofía Museum
C. de Sta. Isabel, 52, 28012 Madrid
The Reina Sofía Museum houses some of the most important works of contemporary art and 20th-century art.
It has a permanent exhibition featuring more than 20,000 works by some of the most legendary characters in the art world.
It is one of the vertexes of the so-called Art Triangle of Madrid, formed by the Prado and the Thyssen.
Also, one of the most well-known paintings inside the museum is Picasso’s Guernica. However, other Spanish museums have had it on display. In fact, the Prado Museum was the first museum to have this painting on display.
It is best to visit the Reina Sofia Museum during June and July since the days are very long and the sun goes down until 10 pm.
To experience all kinds of museums in Spain, read the following article:
The Cuatro Torres is the symbol of modern Madrid. Its 250-meter skyscrapers mark the new top of Spain and have offices, universities, and hotels.
Its construction began in 2004. The Torre Espacio was completed at the end of 2007, the Torre de Cristal in early 2008, the Torre Cepsa in mid-2008, and the Torre PwC at the end of 2009.
In addition to the four towering skyscrapers that crown Madrid’s skyline, this giant financial space has parks, gardens, and fountains.
Definitely, a must-see if you’re interested in Business and modern Madrid.
Here’s the view from the middle of the IE Tower:
18. Serrano Street
C. de Serrano, Madrid
Serrano Street is one of the most exclusive streets in Madrid. It is known for having luxury stores and being one of the most expensive streets in the capital with chic restaurants.
If you visit it, you’ll notice that the street is dominated by majesticbuildings and a succession of palaces.
Serrano Street owes its name to Francisco Serrano y Domínguez, a Spanish military and politician.
Some of the most important landmarks and buildings to see on this street is Serrano 61, where the “Edificio de Prensa Española” locates. It was built over a century ago and was used in 1899 as an editorial office and workshop for the magazine Blanco y Negro.
Nowadays, tons of famous and well-known brands and stores have their physical shops there, so you can definitely go shopping on this street and have great snacks in the meantime.
Other best places to go Shopping in Madrid are the following:
As the phrase “De Madrid al Cielo” says, this city offers everything you need. An enriching cultural experience, beautiful parks, landscapes, activities, and all kinds of plans to make your visit unforgettable.
These are some of the most important landmarks that you should definitely pay a visit to. Otherwise, you can’t say you’ve come to Madrid (I’m kidding), but this list is just the beginning.
Don’t forget to check out this article to discover Madrid’s unique activities:
Inigo Navarro is a seasoned travel writer with a deep understanding of Spain's cities, culture, people and language. Born and raised in Spain, he has spent years exploring the country and is currently one of the most-read Travel Bloggers about Spain. Inigo is also an experienced digital marketer, a father to 4 beautiful children and a huge Real Madrid Fan. ¡Hala Madrid!