Travel Guide to Madrid

Best things to do and see in Madrid

Madrid: Why go

Whether you fall in love with the fabulous art museums, eclectic shopping, delicious tapas or the party-all-night ethos, we guarantee a weekend in Spain's capital city will leave you smitten. Hectic yet relaxed, it's a friendly vibrant place with masses to see, and its downtown area can be easily explored on foot.

The simplest way to navigate Madrid's neighbourhoods (barrios) is to start at the centre and work your way outwards. Puerta del Sol (Gateway to the Sun) is Madrid's literal heart, at which all of the city's roads converge. It's a busting social hub, filled with European shops and fast-food restaurants.

Head south and you'll enter the labyrinthine streets of the old town, known as 'Los Austrias'. This is home to the elegant Plaza Mayor (the capital square of Renaissance Madrid), the magnificent San Francisco el Grande (with its vast dome and 19th century ceiling frescoes), and the quirky El Rastro flea market.

West is the beautiful Royal District, filled with legacies from the Habsburg era. The Palacio Real is mind-blowing, dripping with gold and filled with priceless objets d'art, while the Teatro Real opera house is world-famous for its acoustics.

Head north east and you'll visit the affluent Salamanca and Recoletos neighbourhoods, aka the designer shopping district. Calle de Serrano is brimming with expensive boutiques and it's a great place to linger over a (pricey) café con leche and people watch.

East is the tree-lined 'Paseo del Arte' (Golden Triangle of Art); the Paseo del Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza museums. This area is also home to the Parque del Retiro, Madrid's Hyde Park, with lakes, ponds and statues, and a weekend carnival atmosphere.

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