Updated: April 14, 2023Published: February 7, 2023
The other day I was working at the office, and I overheard a guy saying there is nothing to do in Madrid. He said that he would openly wait for a list of more than the ten activities he could plan in Madrid, and of course, we gladly came up with a list of 30 😎.
The truth is that at first sight, anyone would think there is not much to do in Madrid, mainly if you have visited the city more than once or live as an ex-pat in Spain.
But again, that is just at first sight. There are plenty of things to do in Madrid that will make your time here memorable. And I am not talking only about the traditional, touristy stuff; but also about the city’s cool plans.
So, look for the activity that suits you or your travel group the most and have the best time in Madrid.
1. Listen to street music at Debod Temple
I love Debod Temple, a friend of mine says that without the water, it lost its charm, but trust me, it hasn’t. The Egyptian government gifted the Templo de Debod to Madrid towards the end of the 60s; it is located in the Cuartel de la Montaña Park, five minutes away from Plaza de España.
Historia trivia moment! The Cuartel de la Montaña Park is the same place where Napoleon shot the Spanish rebels of the uprising of May 3rd, 1808. Goya captured the same scenes in his paintings the Second of May, the ‘Charge of Mamelukes,’ and the Third of May or ‘The Executions’.
But, coming back to the present. You should enjoy the sunset at Templo de Debod while listening to the street musicians that perform there.
A little tip: There is a Carrefour in Martin de los Heros street; get some snacks and add a picnic to the plan.
2. Visit Turkey in Spain
The Church of Saint Manuel and Saint Benedict is a Neo-Byzantine building that first opened to the public in 1902.
I discovered this church two years ago while walking to Retiro in the Calle Alcalá. I was on my way to try the best chocolate cake in Madrid from ‘La Mejor Tarta de Chocolate del Mundo’ when the church’s dome caught my sight.
When I went, I was surprised by the turquoise and gold ceiling it was hiding. The combination of colors is so bright and beautiful that it keeps you hypnotized for minutes.
After visiting this Cultural Heritage Building, try the chocolate cake and let us know if it is the best you have ever had!
3. Practice your rowing at Retiro Park
Do some exercise and practice your rowing skills in Retiro Park. The iconic Madrid park is perfect for almost everything, a picnic, a date, skating, painting, reading; you name it. And a very popular activity is renting a little boat in the Grand Central pond of the park.
I must admit that this activity is pretty touristy, so go early in the morning to avoid crowds. Still, there is a romantic charm in spending some time on those little boats for a while.
The price is usually between €6 and €8.
4. Visit art exhibitions at Palacio de Cristal (Retiro Park)
Initially, a greenhouse to host tropical flora from the Philippines; today, the Palacio de Cristal is an extension of the Reina Sofia Museum.
It usually hosts modern-art exhibitions or performances that immerse the audience in a different Spain.
I must say that the iron architecture of the 19th century is beautiful enough to capture anyone who gets into the palace by sunset.
If you want to know more about the Museo Nacional Reina Sofia, check out our list of the best museums in Madrid:
5. Get a chocolate truffle from La Mallorquina on your way to Plaza Mayor.
It could be a chocolate truffle or the dessert of your choice. Also get the tiny croissants and lenguas de gato. Don’t worry about the sugar; you will walk it off!
La Mallorquina is one of the oldest pastries in Madrid, and it opened its doors for the first time in 1894 in the corner of Calle Mayor.
It has become very popular among tourists, but madrileños frequently look for traditional sweets in La Mallorquina. Actually, the last time I was there, a sweet old lady recommended the chocolate truffle.
6. Don’t Eat at Plaza Mayor! Go for tapas at Mercado San Miguel instead
Plaza Mayor has plenty of pretty restaurants to attend to hungry tourists, but don’t eat there! Even though the food is decent, it is a bit overpriced.
Instead, after you have taken your pictures, go straight for Mercado San Miguel. Now, pay careful attention! If you are on a budget, once at Mercado San Miguel, first ask for the price and then order your tapa.
As the market’s popularity increases, prices can go a bit higher, but as it is essential, most stalls aren’t too expensive. So, to get a variety of Spanish food for a relatively low price, go around the market, ask for some prices, and decide on your tapa.
7. Eat the best tortilla de patata at Casa Dani and Pez Tortilla
Cooking a juicy tortilla de patatas is an art. I have never been able to prepare a tortilla that stays soft inside and perfectly crunchy outside.
Two places in Madrid fight the podium for the best tortilla in the city: Pez Tortilla and Casa Dani.
Important warning! The reason why these two tortillas are super famous is because of their very soft inside. The key to achieving that texture is keeping the egg on the fine line between undercooked and cooked. So, please don’t push your limits for those with a sensitive stomach.
8. Do a gastronomic market tour around Madrid
Eating is the best way to immerse yourself in Spanish culture and the local madrileño life.
There are twelve iconic markets where you can taste traditional and international food. The prices will be lower and the variety infinite; you could have a Spanish tortilla and a Mexican taco in the same meal!
If you are interested in the previous combination, head to the San Fernando market!
Get all the information on the best Madrid market right here:
Why 10 am? If you want to be able to walk without dodging people, that’s your hour. If you want to go shopping in endless lines, that is your hour.
What is so special about Gran Vía? I truly don’t know how to describe it; you get a vibe in the morning breeze that makes you happy. So, organize a shopping plan and walk Madrid’s most famous street.
That is not the only thing to do in Gran Vía; while yuo walk and shop, look up. Most of the buildings are beautiful. Just look at the building Casa Dos Portugues; stunningly mysterious.
My next recommendation comes in handy with this one, but it deserves its own space.
10. Go for brunch in Chueca and Malasaña
So, you have been walking and shopping through Gran Vía for a while; it is a moment for a treat!
Chueca and Malasaña are two neighborhoods next to Gran Vía filled with charming spaces like Bucólico, La Desayunería, Hanso, Misión, and more.
Our favorite? 100% Misión Café! They have the best french toast you’ll eat your entire life.
11. Eat American Brunch in Madrid
Three big round pancakes, bacon, eggs, and coffee. All of that for less than 15€.
As we were already talking about food, I wanted to share one of my favorite places to satisfy my pancake cravings. When you come to Spain, you will notice that the basis of our breakfast is bread, tomato, jamón, and more pastries.
We are not used to eating scrambled eggs, fruit, or bacon. So, if you need some of that during your time here, now you have THE place to go: Partners!
Partners is located in Calle Vergara, 10 (very close to Opera), and it opens Tuesday through Sunday from 10:30 to 22:00h.
12. Get to know the bullfighting history at Las Ventas
People usually go to the classic museum in s Madrid, but they forget about one that is key in our culture: Plaza de Toros Las Ventas.
Even though bullfighting is a very controversial topic in Spain, it is still part of our history, and Las Ventas hosts toreos every year.
Las Ventas was built between 1922-1929 in a Neomudejar style; it is the third-biggest plaza de toros in the world and the second in terms of the diameter of its arena.
Once there, you can also visit the Bullfighting museum,which opens from Monday through Sunday from 10:00 to 18:00h.
13. Visit the gardens in Madrid for a relaxed afternoon
When you are tired of museums, shopping, history, or the sound of cars, escape to one of Madrid’s gardens.
Retiro Park is the most famous green area in Madrid, and it is already listed in our things to do, but I will tell you about two more where you won’t constantly bump into people.
If you want to take a long walk, go to Casa de Campo Park. It is the most significant public park in Madrid, and it is 30 minutes away from the Royal Palace. Small restaurants surround the lake in the park, so I recommend hiking or running in the morning and returning to the lake for some fresh beer.
If you want to experience the woods, go to Campo de Moro park. It is known for its stunning, tall trees and unique view of the Royal Palace. If you are lucky enough, you’ll see a peacock.
And, if you are more of a flower person, visit the Royal Botanic Garden to admire the variety of blooming species in very season.
14. Take a tour of the Royal Palace
If this is your first time in Madrid, and you are into history, take the tour of the Royal Palace. You will learn exciting facts about monarchy in Spain and see the places where they used to interact.
The Royal Palace of Madrid, believe it or not, is the biggest palace in Europe! It has one of the most valuable art collections and has been recognized as a National Heritage.
This is an activity that you should do once, and after that, every time you return to Madrid, go to the lookout of La Cornisa to get a panoramic view of the other side of Madrid.
The prices of the palace go from 6€ to 16€ according to your age and if you want to visit only the palace or the palace plus the royal kitchens.
15. Visit the Almudena Cathedral right next to the Royal Palace
The Cathedral of La Almudena is one of the few cathedrals around the world that a Pope has blessed. In 1993, Pope Juan Pablo II consecrated the cathedral on his fourth trip to Spain.
Even if you are not religious, one of the best things you could do in Madrid is to visit its churches. La Almudena is simply gorgeous; people can visit the Virgin’s altar, but you have to work your legs.
Madrid’s saint patron is located in an elevated altar; visitors have to climb quite some stairs to get to her and get a view of the entire cathedral.
16. Get some drinks in La Latina
I love La Latina. Every neighborhood in Madrid has its charm; actually, visiting each one of them is an activity in itself! And La Latina’s vibe is simply unique.
If you visit it today, you will notice an international aura, a mix of Spanish and tourists. But if you look closer and pay attention to what makes La Latina special, it’s a journey through time.
In narrow streets like Calle de la Cava Baja, you will notice that the building are older. That is because this neighborhood and how one street connects with the other goes back to Medival times.
So, after you have walked it all, get some drinks at El Viajero, a beautiful three-story restaurant with a dreamy terrace. My recommendation? Get some Verdejo wine and their tortilla de patatas.
17. Scape Madrid for some hours and visit Toledo
Another activity you can do in Madrid is planning some adventures outside Madrid.
Toledo was known as the city of the three cultures in the Middle Ages. Before the Spanish Inquisition, Jews, Muslims, and Christians lived peacefully together, filling the city with culture.
Today it is the capital of Castille-La Mancha and is famous for the churches, synagogues, and mosques spread throughout the city.
Take a Renfe train or an Alsa bus early in the morning, and be back by dinner to Madrid.
18. Feel like a Disney character in the Alcazar of Segovia
Like Toledo, Segovia is very close to Madrid, with one day trip to add to your bucket list.
Besides the Roman Aquaduct, the cathedral, and many other iconic city landmarks, one of the most beautiful sights is the Alcazar de Segovia. Rumors say that the Seogvian castle inspired Walt Disney in the design of his castles in the movies and parks.
Instead of taking the train, I recommend buying an early bus to the city. The station is way closer to the landmarks, just six minutes away from the Aquaduct.
The bus leaves from the bus station of Moncloa, which is super easy to get by metro and bus in Madrid. So, just book your tickets and travel away!
19. Hop on a historical tour to El Escorial and Valle de los Caídos
Okay, this is another adventure right outside Madrid that everyone should embark on.
Both are two historical sites you can visit on a one-way trip. The Monastery of El Escorial is a Renaissance building considered an Eight Wonder of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage.
On the other hand, the Valley of the Fallen is a 20th-century architecture that comprises a Catholic basilica and a monumental memorial. Franco commissioned it, and it is encrusted inside the Valley Cuelgamuros.
Both are breathtaking historical landmarks that should have a space on your agenda.
20. Visit the Gourmet Experience at Corte Inglés Serrano
I promised food, so I am bringing food to you. One of the worst things on Earth is eating awful food on a trip. That is not very likely in Spain, but I want you to have the best of the best.
So, if you are walking through Salamanca (a high-end neighborhood in Madrid), try your luck and head to Street Xo for a unique experience at Corte Inglés Serrano, 47.
Tip! If you go with someone, order to share, it is a very high-end restaurant!
21. Get a romantic view of Madrid at Roommate Hotels Gran Via
There are plenty of rooftops in Madrid, but one I find very romantic is the one at Macarena Roommate Hotel in Gran Vía.
There is no fee for going up, maybe a waiting time of 5 to 10 minutes, but that is it. The average price of a cocktail is 8, and some dried fruit snacks accompany it.
22. Go for some drinks during sunset at the Corte Inglés in Callao
Again more food and drinks for you! Like the Roommate Hotel rooftop, the Gourmet Experience at Callao also offers a beautiful view of Madrid, but it will be a bit more crowded.
If you know what bar to hit, head to the Corte Inglés in Callao, go to the last floor, and enjoy some beer at the central bar.
23. Take a picture with Penélope Cruz on the Walk of Fame of Madrid
Yes, Madrid has its Walk of Fame, and not everybody knows about it!
Hidden in the street next to Plaza de España lies the Paseo de la Fama of Madrid, where artists like Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem have their stars.
The street is called Martin de los Heros, and once there, you could watch a movie in one of the THREE cinemas there or have a drink at Ocho Y Medio movie-themed cafe in front of the Walk of Fame.
24. Go to a Real Madrid Game!
And, if there are no games during your visit, you can meet the places where they have been.
The Santiago Bernabeu museum is the 4th most visited museum in Madrid, and if this is your team, then you better miss the opportunity.
Wondering why Spanish people are so passionate about Football? Here’s why:
25. Know if you are football worthy at the interactive museum of Atletico de Madrid
If you are an Atleti fan and there are no games during your visit, the museum is 100% worth it.
Territorio Atleti, the real name of the museum, is 50 minutes away by public transport. It offers many interactive activities mixed with the team’s history.
My favorite activities in the museum were the old pictures of the team and the physical endurance game to test your abilities as a footballer. Let’s say I have a long way to go before getting a shot at the sport!
26. Watch a flamenco show in La Latina
You can’t leave Spain without attending a flamenco show! One of the best-reviewed tablaos in Madrid is Las Carboneras; you will enjoy a traditional and passionate flamenco alongside some nice tapas.
27. Experience adrenaline at the Warner Park
Experience a good amount of adrenaline and have fun at the Park Wraner in Madrid. It’s a perfect plan to go on a date, spend time with children, or just have fun with friends!
28. Get rid of your anger by ax-throwing
It’s not necessary to be angry to enjoy this sport, but know that you start, you won’t want to stop.
El Hachazo is located very close to the railway station of Atocha; it is a fun activity to enjoy while traveling in Madrid. You can enjoy this sport with friends or your partner from €12,50, and of course, you can keep adding hours later!
29. Experience VR Art
Velazquez Tech is a 360 experience where you will interact with Diego Velzquez’s art with your five senses.
If art is not your strength, this museum will give a modern twist with its interactive approach.
30. Delight yourself with the best cookie in Madrid
To finish this list of activities in Madrid, delight yourself with the best cookie in the city.
This is the one thing to do in Madrid that yuo can’t miss; few places around the world crack a cookie recipe, and this is one of them.
The Cookie Lab has eight locations in Madrid, all with the best cookies you will taste in the city. If they ask if you want to warm up your cookie a bit, say yes, and you’ll thank me later.
These were the 30 best things to do in Madrid! You have a complete list of activities to enjoy in the Spanish capital.
Now when an office colleague tells you they had nothing to do in Madrid, you will make them feel FOMO after listing all the activities you enjoyed in Madrid.
Jimena Bolívar is a seasoned travel writer with a unique passion for Spanish Food & Recipes. With a background in business and marketing, she brings a strategic and innovative approach to her writing, making her the perfect guide for those looking to truly experience the Authentic Spain. Jimena is also a Mother of 4, and is a huge fan of knitting her own clothes.