15 cool things to do in Madrid

What to do in Madrid

Somehow it turned out that only after we close five years plus of living in Spain, we arrived in Madrid.
We were there – separately – but with the children it was the first time.

So what do you do in Madrid?
Well, there are quite a few options.
I bring here the activities that we particularly liked – which will suit both those who travel with children and those who travel without.

If you prefer images over text,  our three trips are concentrated in highlights Madrid 1, Madrid 2, Madrid 3 on Instagram (not following yet? You can always start now :))

Content

When is the best time to visit Madrid?

In summer – it is very hot, in winter very cold. Which leaves autumn and spring as the best time to visit here.
Last time I was in July 2023 – there was one sweaty day of 35 degrees followed by comfortable days in the 30s. 

מלון וינצי דה מינט ענבל כבירי

Where can we go from Madrid?

To the Pyrenees // to San Sebastian // Bilbao // to Picos de Europa // to the south of Spain

In any case, don’t worry, you will never be there alone. The city welcomes more than six million tourists a year.

Where to sleep in MAdrid?

I very warmly recommend this hotel that we will sleep in in July 2023 this hotel that we will sleep in in May 2023
And also this, that we slept in on October 2022.
You are welcome to read the detailed list of recommended hotels in Madrid.

Getting around the city

There is a convenient and efficient metro and bus system. The hard card is bought at the metro and can be recharged. It is significantly cheaper than Barcelona.

Taxis – the Uber app worked great for us. Note that the traffic is not the most fluid in the city, there are many traffic jams and sometimes it is faster to walk.

*Locals tip*
Lines 001 and 002 (not to be confused with 1 and 2) are *free* lines, for the benefit of residents and tourists. You have to ask the driver to print tickets for you, you request them according to the number of people you are, tear them off, and keep them until the end of the trip. Don’t forget to throw them in the blue paper recycling bin.

Food in Madrid

Like any capital city in Europe, Madrid has a very wide variety of restaurants. From bars in markets to fancy Michelin restaurants.

Since the subject is so important, I dedicated a separate post to it, where you can find recommendations for both vegetarians like me and those who are not.

Marmiton madrid

What to do in Madrid?

Last July I had the privilege of completing the “Golden Triangle” (holy museum trinity) of Madrid and also visiting Reina Sofia and Thyssen Bornemisza in one weekend (!). What a joy!
Where should you go if you only have the option to thread one in your schedule? Well,  I think each of them is a whole world and there won’t be a wrong answer or choice. Hope I helped 🙂

The Prado

הפראדו מדריד

The museum is a must-visit for art enthusiasts, history buffs, and those who are interested in enriching their general education. The works of art are an accessible and open window to the historical, cultural, and religious context of the past. You can observe the works of the greatest names, like Rembrandt, Goya, Rubens, Velázquez, Da Vinci, and many more. With over 20,000 exhibits, it’s worth setting aside a few hours for this experience.

The building itself is spectacular, built in an elegant neoclassical style with wonderful natural light. The surrounding manicured gardens offer a peaceful respite and a perfect place to reflect on the masterpiece you have seen.

I highly recommend not to miss this museum.

The museum is located at C. de Ruiz de Alarcón, 23, 28014 Madrid, Spain.

If you’re looking for a place to grab a coffee before or after your visit, Plenti Cafe is just a few minutes’ walk away. It’s a pleasant place to sit, with welcoming service and delicious light meals.

 

Reina Sofia Museum

ריינה סופיה מדריד

Queen Sofia House is one of the leading art museums in the world. The museum was established in the residential building of the Queen Sofia House, which used to be the home of Queen Sofia of Spain (who is still alive, and married to Juan Carlos I), and was therefore named after her.

This is one of the most impressive places for research and observation of the world of Spanish and international art.

The museum hosts a rich and amazing group of works of art from the 20th and 21st centuries. The collection started accumulating here in the 80s and grew over the years. Inside you will find fine works by world-class artists.

One of the most popular works in the museum is Picasso’s painting “Guernica”, from 1937. I had no idea how huge and impressive this work is. Guernica is considered a symbol of the potential threat of weapons leading to destruction and violence in war. Picasso created the painting in a week. His progress is recorded on the wall opposite and that is also interesting to see. Interesting to read about the piece here. It is forbidden to take pictures in the entire Guernica hall, so I have no documentation, but! I opened Wikipedia and read exactly what her story was. So my warm recommendation is to take a guided tour, an audio guide if you like, or even dig online and understand what you see. It gives an extra dimension to the visit.

Another spectacular piece in the museum is Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” or “Liquid Clocks”. Dali, one of the most important artists in the Surrealism movement, created it in 1930. In the picture you see soft melting pocket watches, which represent the relativity of space and time. While some claim it was influenced by Einstein’s theory of relativity, Dali claimed it was inspired by a surrealist view of melting Camembert cheese. The painting also includes a strange creature reminiscent of a self-portrait and other elements that may allude to dreams and the passage of time.

The museum is very large and rich and you can spend a good few hours there. The inner courtyard with the kinetic sculpture is beautiful and I would be happy to come here with a book. There is also a store – not big, but nice.

Address – C. de Sta. Isabel, 52, 28012 Madrid, Spain
Very close to Atocha train station.

Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza

Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Paseo del Prado, Madrid, Spain
The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum is a well-known art museum located in Madrid, Spain. Established by Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza and his wife Carmen in the 20th century. The museum houses a spectacular and diverse collection of European art from the early Renaissance to the 20th century. In the museum you can find rare works from world artists, including Renaissance artists such as Domenico Ghirlandaio, Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists such as Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh, and also contemporary art such as Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian. The collection offers a rich variety of art fields that describe the changes and developments in the history of European art. In addition to the permanent exhibitions, the museum hosts temporary exhibitions and cultural activities. Until September 24, a fascinating exhibition about the hidden – Lo Oculto – is on display there. An exhibition of Picasso is expected to open after it. Address – P.º del Prado, 8, 28014 Madrid, Spain

El Rastro flea market

A leisurely stroll through the stalls and shops of a flea market is the ultimate weekend pastime for me, especially after a good breakfast. It provides a glimpse into the lives of others, human encounters that are not possible under other circumstances, and most importantly, piles of rare items from the past that I would love to take home with me. Although I know I can technically do so, I prefer to leave them behind for the next person to discover.

If you’re in Madrid, I highly recommend visiting El Rastro, one of the largest open-air flea markets in Europe. It spans several streets in the lively La Latina district every Sunday, from morning to afternoon. The market is not just a place to shop, but a social gathering where locals haggle, tourists cautiously investigate, and street musicians strum their guitars. In my eyes, this is the true and local atmosphere of Madrid – lively, diverse, and unapologetically passionate. Even when it’s rough around the edges, like a cake that’s a little burnt, that’s part of the magic.

אל רסטרו, שוק פשפשים מדריד
שוק פשפשים אל רסטרו מדריד
שוק פשפשים אל רסטרו מדריד
שוק פשפשים אל רסטרו מדריד
שוק פשפשים אל רסטרו מדריד
שוק פשפשים אל רסטרו מדריד
שוק פשפשים אל רסטרו מדריד
שוק פשפשים אל רסטרו מדריד
אל רסטרו, שוק פשפשים מדריד
אל רסטרו, שוק פשפשים מדריד

Retiro Park

Retiro Park, officially known as “Parque del Buen Retiro”, is an oasis that covers 125 hectares in the bustling heart of Madrid and offers an idyllic retreat from the fast pace of the city. The park is a must-visit for nature lovers and those who want to take a break from the city’s hustle and bustle.

Here are some attractions you shouldn’t miss:

  • Rosalda’s aromatic rose garden
  • Palacio de Cristal, a wonder of glass and metal.
  • Velasquez Palace and its changing exhibitions.

You can rent a rowing boat for a relaxing cruise across the magnificent Retiro Pool, against the backdrop of the royal monument of Alfonso XII. 

In the northeast corner of the park (outside), there are two places for renting bicycles and other riding equipment that will help you navigate the park. I recommend the motorized kart with the pedals, which you can rent from Diverbikes.

If you’re a fan of oriental confectionery, go to Pastelería SHAM and stock up on sweets that you can enjoy in the park.

פארק רטירו מדריד

The CBA rooftop

If you’re looking for a trendy rooftop bar with a great view, I recommend visiting the Azotea bar at the Círculo de Bellas Artes de Madrid (CBA). The CBA is a private non-profit cultural association that has been recognized as a “centre for the protection of fine arts and for the public benefit” since its establishment. It is one of the most important private cultural centers in Europe and is organized precisely with open access to the leading and most innovative artistic developments. Activities at the center include visual arts, literature, science, philosophy, cinema, and artistic performances.

To get to the Azotea bar, tell the guard at the entrance that you want to go there, pay 5 euros, and take the elevator to the roof. There you can enjoy a 360-degree view of the city while seated at the bar or restaurant.

The Círculo de Bellas Artes de Madrid is located at C. de Alcalá, 42, 28014 Madrid, Spain.

cba madrid
cba madrid

Streetart tour

It’s great to hear that you enjoy street art! I agree that it’s a fascinating way to observe the public space and discover unconventional, protest, and underground messages.

You’ve been on some amazing tours in Shoreditch, Athens, and Barcelona. I’m sure you’ve seen some incredible works of art.

If you’re in Madrid, I recommend taking a street art tour. Some tours go through the Lavapies neighborhood, where you’ll see an astronomical amount of artwork. We were lucky enough to come across the artist Tetoux, whose works are dominant in this neighborhood.

Cool Tour Spain is known for their existing attitude and devotion to the community. They take out small groups of up to 15 people so as not to disturb the residents and devote time to a wonderful community garden in the neighborhood, which seemingly deviates from the main theme of the tour.

Two important discoveries from the tour:

  1. Every year, a tapas festival called Tapaspies takes place in the neighborhood.
  2. Every year, a street art festival called Calle takes place in the neighborhood, in which 50 artists are invited to paint on the walls of the neighborhood and the facades of various businesses (restaurants, shops). The works prepared during the festival are marked with square signage.

Cool Tour Spain also offers hands-on tours for children.

 

אומנות רחוב במדריד
אומנות רחוב במדריד
אומנות רחוב במדריד
אומנות רחוב במדריד

Carrer Cava Baja 

A recommendation I received from my local – go to this street and its parallel, Carrer Cava Alta.

If you are looking for tapas – this is the place for you. A street full of energy and bars.

A long line of taverns and bodegas with a variety of patatas bravas, padrons and a variety of seafood in small bites, cheeses and local wines.

What’s cool here is the atmosphere of the past – this is exactly the story of the La Latina neighborhood – with the pastel-colored houses and the old fonts.

Every August, this street becomes even more alive when the locals celebrate La Paloma, one of Madrid’s biggest fiestas, with flamenco music, street performers and lots of food.

carrer cava baja

Wow Shop

If you’ve been to Madrid, I’m pretty sure you passed this store and chose not to enter it. I can understand why too. Its ground floor looks like some sort of tourist trap of the most basic kind, the kind you can also find in the center of Amsterdam / London / Berlin – a puzzling combination of cosmetics, shoes and electronics. What drew us in besides the impressive sculptures at the entrance was actually the Polaroid cameras that the kids decided they wanted and just out of curiosity, we decided to explore the next floors. The findings were really surprising.
It started with clothes – not conventional at all, not ones I would buy or even measure. Hipster / Avant-Garde / Retro fashion – not something very interesting, so we continued to climb.
On the 5th floor there were very beautiful housewares and even a small collection of Hay, the coveted Nordic brand and even some crumbs from Vitra, the Swiss brand that I am simply devastated.
Keep going up and on the sixth floor is a beautiful restaurant with a totally cool design! full of people! And an exit to the roof! What a bargain. We didn’t eat here, but it’s really worth checking out if only to sit in this designed space.
Go back downstairs and go down to the basement floor where the electronics floor is. The kids enjoy petting all kinds of new gadgets, a Playstation room (I actually considered leaving them there, they would never notice I was gone) and I was happy to see turntables and old video game machines. I almost bought sunglasses with speakers.

Great place, I really liked it.

מתחם wow מדריד
מתחם wow מדריד
מתחם wow מדריד
מתחם wow מדריד
מתחם wow מדריד
מתחם wow מדריד
מתחם wow מדריד

Crazy Mary Librería & Co

Pearl Jam and Madrid’s Las Letras neighborhood intersect at the new bookstore, Crazy Mary, named after the band’s song and album. The store was founded by book lovers Maria and Alfredo. Their bookstore is a paradise for book lovers. It has a selection of new titles, reissued classics and hidden gems from independent publishers, all carefully selected. You can sit there with a cup of coffee and enjoy jazz music playing in the background.

Librería Desnivel

A bookstore and much more than one that deals with climbing. Even if you have a fear of heights, do not give up on a visit here. There is a rich selection of travel and travel books of all kinds, a whole floor of magazines and a fascinating corner of special and so so beautiful children’s books.
A real experience to walk around here.

Address – Pl. de Matute, 6, 28012 Madrid, Spain

Librería Desnivel

San Miguel Market

A market that was probably a kind of inspiration for the port market in Tel Aviv. Very popular with non-locals. Stalls full of fancy food – perhaps the most decorated tapas I’ve seen. If you are vegetarian, you really have nothing to look for here and if you prefer authentic food, this is also probably not the place for you.

Madrid with kids

Natural science museum

Not a very big museum and not very interactive, but nice.

Established in 1772, it has a comprehensive display of over six million exhibits – from prehistoric fossils to taxidermy displays of wildlife species and giant dinosaur skeletons.

When we arrived, some workshop that looked interesting had just finished – so it’s worth checking if there’s one when you’re in the area.

More suitable for children interested in the living world, less for those interested in science or looking for activities.

מוזיאון הטבע מדריד

Ikono

A nice and quite Instagrammable complex that filled a (not cheap) half-hour hole in our schedule. Very close to the Atocha train station.

This room is one of those immersive experiences (I don’t know if the translation “sensory” or “immersive” is accurate and therefore the English).
The idea, born from the founders’ experiences in the bamboo forest of Arashiyama in Kyoto, Japan, is to recreate the feeling of exploring new places and capturing unforgettable moments through photography, all within the city limits. The 600 square meter space includes 15 rooms, where visitors are invited to activate their senses and record them. The highlight was undoubtedly the pool of blue balls.

ikono madrid

Sweet Space

An interactive museum dedicated entirely to sweets. Another immersive experience, so to speak. In a complex of six rooms in total, each one presents a specific aspect of sweets. If you, your mother or your uncle is a dentist, you are set. If not, plan ahead of time how many sweets your guys are going to eat.
The coolest part – the spiral slide and the refrigerator where you can imprison your little monkeys (somehow in English it sounds much more politically correct) without it being considered a criminal offense. It’s just for the picture.
Not cheap, not long. Don’t expect much.

sweet space
sweet space
sweet space madrid

Robots Museum

Quite disappointed after the sweet space, we fell upon this museum like a great loot finder. It wasn’t cheap either, but at least it was interesting.
Found in the same hidden mall as the “Sweet Space”, on the floor above.
Our instructor was fascinating and charming, the children were fully listening for 40 minutes. It’s really not trivial. Even I, whose closest to robots was “Star Trek” that I saw some years ago, I really enjoyed the tutorial.
We saw there – robots that participated in movies, Sony’s line of pet robots and not only that, all kinds of other robots from different periods in the history of the last thirty years. At the end there is an area where you can play with different game robots and also buy in the store.
A very pleasant experience.

robots museum madrid

Velazquez Museum

I haven’t felt so cheated in a long time. I don’t usually give negative recommendations here, but this place in my opinion crossed the line.
Over 30 euros (for the three of us) for the 25 minutes we spent there, including waiting time for the video with holograms – outside the room and in the projection room.
In my opinion, this place discounts the entire industry of digital art that has become trendy in recent years. If you were, I’d love to hear what you thought.

Many more cool things to do in Madrid

Guided tours, day trips, museums – see here.

What must be on the list? Tell me about the places you liked in Madrid.
And if you traveled following my recommendations – tag me on Instagram!
Our three trips are focused on highlights Madrid 1, Madrid 2, Madrid 3 (not yet a follower? Immediately immediately).

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