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12 Best Things to Do in Madrid Spain

You’re spoilt for choice with all the fun things to do in Madrid Spain. Many people immediately think of Barcelona for its beaches when planning a trip to Spain. However, Madrid, the capital, holds a wealth of culture and attractions for visitors. Its central location is a significant advantage, making it an excellent hub for exploring other top destinations in Spain. From day trips to Toledo to weekend trips to the coast, you’ll never run out of fun things to do in Madrid and the surrounding areas.

Before you leave the city, check out the best things to do in Madrid.

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The Best Things to Do in Madrid, Spain

12 Top Things to Do in Madrid Spain

Visit El Rastro Sunday Flea Markets

The Best Things to Do in Madrid, Spain

Every Sunday, Madrid is completely transformed as the city’s largest market overtakes a large part of the city center. 

Come to El Rastro to shop for souvenirs, art, antiques, clothing, and more. Arrive as early as possible, as the market is one of the most popular free things to do in Madrid. Start at La Latina subway station and navigate the busy streets, but don’t neglect the smaller alleyways where you’ll usually find the best-hidden treasures. 

Of course, no trip to El Rastro is complete without having lunch in a traditional Spanish tapas bar afterward.

Head to Madrid’s Best Rooftop Pool

The Best Things to Do in Madrid, Spain

Are you searching for fun things to do in Madrid? While the Emperador rooftop pool club isn’t the best thing to see in the city if you’re on a budget, it’s the perfect place to splurge for an afternoon and treat yourself. Since the city doesn’t have a beach or body of water to swim, visiting a rooftop pool is a must-do on a hot day in Madrid. 

Compared to other rooftop spots in Madrid, the Emperador is notably spacious, offering more room and a larger pool than anywhere else. While most city pools are tiny, here, you’ll feel like you’ve stumbled upon a chic beach club with unbeatable views of Madrid. It’s an experience that’s truly worth it, especially for a special occasion.

If you’re coming as a couple, you might want to consider booking a room at the Emperador for a night to gain access to the rooftop. Room rates hover around €100, slightly more expensive than two-day pass access tickets.

It’ll all be worth it when you enjoy the view, sip on a cold drink, and relax in the shade on a sun lounger. You’ll love it.

Have a Picnic in Retiro Park

The Best Things to Do in Madrid, Spain

Tourists in Madrid always love strolling through the picturesque El Retiro Park, a perfect spot for a picnic on sunny days.

Madrid’s biggest urban park has a large lake, well-maintained lawns, and colorful flower beds. Originally owned by the Spanish Monarchy, it became public property in the late 19th century.

Retiro Park is a must-visit for its various events. In 2021, it was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site alongside the nearby Paseo del Prado. From Book Fairs to dazzling fireworks, there’s something for everyone, especially during holidays and summer.

Plus, admission is free! This is a must-visit for those seeking free things to do in Madrid.

Watch a Flamenco Show

The Best Things to Do in Madrid, Spain

Catching a flamenco show is one of the best things to do in Madrid for those who appreciate the arts and culture. Flamenco, a traditional folk dance from Southern Spain, has been deeply ingrained in Spanish culture since the late 1700s.

Numerous venues across Madrid offer flamenco performances, but the historic Torres Bermejas Tablao is a favorite. Dating back to the 1960s, its beautiful interior, influenced by Arabic design, adds to the experience and will make your evening unforgettable.

Guests also try authentic Spanish cuisine while being serenaded by a live band comprising singers, guitarists, and clappers. 

While this is a touristy activity, everyone should do it once during their trip to Madrid.

Did You Get Travel Insurance Yet?

The Insurance companies I recommend are Hey Mondo and Safety Wing

Hey Mondo is great if you are looking for a great value flexible policy. They offer single-trip cover, annual multi-trip cover, and long-term travel cover. Safety Wing is great value, with monthly coverage starting at $45.08. It’s super easy to use, and it just renews each month. I currently use them as they offer me free cover for my son as part of my policy.

Read my full travel insurance post here, where I go into detail about all companies. 

Explore the History of Real Madrid at Santiago Bernabéu Stadium

The Best Things to Do in Madrid, Spain

The Estadio Santiago Bernabéu is a must-visit destination for football fans and anyone looking for unusual things to do in Madrid. It’s the home of the Real Madrid football team and can accommodate over 80,000 spectators, making it the second-largest stadium in Spain and the third-largest football stadium in the world.

Football enthusiasts shouldn’t miss a chance to tour this iconic stadium and delve into the team’s history at the Bernabéu Stadium Museum.

Visitors can explore the stands, the pitch, the trophy room, and locker rooms while learning about legendary players and events showcased in the museum. Additionally, the museum displays some of the kits, boots, and equipment used by the team throughout the years.

See the Royal Palace

The Best Things to Do in Madrid, Spain

Madrid’s Royal Palace is one of the top things to do in Madrid Spain. Loathed in the heart of the city right next to the equally iconic Almudena Cathedral, this palace is open to the public, so you can visit the inside and admire the incredible collection of artifacts, art, and much more.

Book your tickets online to skip the line and ensure tickets aren’t sold out that day. If you have the time, booking a guided tour is a fantastic way to learn even more about the background and significance of each of the grand rooms.

Head to El Escorial

The Best Things to Do in Madrid, Spain

Around an hour outside of Madrid lies another iconic architectural gem best seen on a day trip from the city. You can catch a bus to El Escorial or, if you have a car, it’s more convenient to drive yourself.

This 16th-century former monastery is the largest Renaissance building in the world and belongs to the Spanish royal family. The grounds are enormous, so take your time to explore them. Note that photography is not permitted in most parts of El Escorial, so respect the rules when you visit.

See an ancient Egyptian temple in the heart of Madrid

The Best Things to Do in Madrid, Spain

I consider the Temple de Debod one of the most unique things to do in Madrid. This 2nd-century temple was dismantled and reassembled in Madrid as a gift from the Egyptian government to Spain.

It’s completely authentic, and seeing the interior is magical. Legends say that this is where the Egyptian goddess Isis gave birth to her son Horus, and even today, it’s a mystical place to visit.

Visit the Plaza Mayor

The Best Things to Do in Madrid, Spain

Plaza Mayor is a top-rated tourist attraction. It’s popular among free things to do in Madrid, making it ideal for budget travelers.

The area around this beautiful plaza is great for pedestrians, so you can explore on foot. The 17th-century square is known for its small restaurants and souvenir shops, which are a bit pricey here but worth it. You can also stop by the world’s oldest restaurant, Sobrino de Botín, Where Goya famously worked as a server many years ago.

Explore Priceless Artwork at the Prado

The Best Things to Do in Madrid, Spain

The Prado is one of the most famous art museums in the world, and no trip to Madrid is complete without stopping by here. Come early so you don’t have to wait in line for too long. The weekends get very crowded at this museum, so avoid them if possible.

The Prado is a large museum, so you can easily spend at least half a day here. Admire priceless art by Goya, Bosch, Dürer and many more.

Eat at the Mercado de San Miguel

The Best Things to Do in Madrid, Spain

A roundup of the best things to do in Madrid would be incomplete without Mercado de San Miguel. Madrid has a fantastic selection of food halls and indoor markets that offer fresh meats and cheeses, tapas, and other local Spanish specialties.

If you’re looking for a quick lunch or a snack, stop by the Mercado de San Miguel, one of the most beautiful markets in the area and a popular place for tourists to spend an afternoon. It’s located within walking distance from Plaza Mayor, so it’s easy to reach and well worth a visit after a long day of exploring.

Go Shopping on Gran Via

The Best Things to Do in Madrid, Spain

Gran Via is Madrid’s main street and a great place to go shopping if you have the time. With a great selection of shops for all budgets, this is an excellent spot to buy a new outfit, accessories, or souvenirs. Gran Via is best explored on foot; afterward, you can head to Plaza Mayor, Retiro, or the Mercado de San Miguel, all located close by.

Avoid going in the midday heat of August, when Madrid’s temperatures reach over 40 degrees. The early evening is much better, especially since most stores stay open late.

Wondering where to stay? Check out these options!

Hotel Liabeny
Luxury Rooms Madrid Center

The Best Time to Visit Madrid

The best times to visit Madrid are spring, from March to May, and autumn, from September to November. However, you can have fun any time of year with all the indoor and outdoor things to do in Madrid.

In spring, Madrid looks lovely with nice weather, blooming flowers, and fewer tourists. It cools down from September to November, perfect for exploring and outdoor activities. Plus, the food markets are bustling. If you’re looking for things to do in Madrid, these seasons are your best bet.

Quick Tip: View my full Europe packing guide here including a downloadable checklist. And check out my Europe Essentials shopping list here.

Madrid Travel Guide Planning

🧳 Any recommendations on what I should pack for Madrid?

Yes! I have created a whole packing guide to Madrid which you can read here and you can also check out my packing list for Madrid on Amazon here.

🚗 Where can I book bus or private transportation while I’m in Madrid?

I strongly recommend using Bookaway. You can book almost all transport in the major tourist destinations through them online. They don’t just cover buses they also cover shuttles, ferries, and private drivers.

🎫 Where can I buy tickets for museums, attractions, and tours in Madrid?

I recommend either Viator or GetYour Guide. They have a lot of options!

👩‍⚕️ What is the best insurance to have while traveling?

I recommend using Heymondo for a great value policy. The app also offers you 24/7 Dr Chat. For Digital Nomads check out SafetyWing digital nomad insurance.

I have also written a blog post covering all my recommended travel insurance here.

✈️ Any flight recommendations?

WayAWay offers you cheap flights with cashback. You can use this code CLAIRE22 to get 10% off. Otherwise Skyscanner or Expedia are my go-to flight searching platforms.

📱What do you use for internet connection while traveling?

I’m a big fan of personal WiFi devices and they have saved my ass so many times when traveling. I wrote a full review of the top travel WiFi devices you can read here. I personally use GlocalMe as I can either pop in a physical sim card or use their local carrier.

With regards to my phone connection, I use e-sims while traveling, so rather than having to swap out my regular sim card I can download the app and buy a virtual sim card. I recommend using either Airhub or Alosim. Both have great coverage of multiple countries and are very easy to use.

🛏️ What is the best platform to use for booking accommodation?

The 3 best platforms that I normally use are, and Expedia. They offer great deals and multiple options. I always check all three to be sure of the best deals.

🛅 Do you have any luggage recommendations for traveling?

I do have a complete list of the best packing and luggage products that I recommend, you can check the list here. I’m currently traveling with this suitcase and this backpack.

Author’s Bio

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Victoria is a travel blogger and writer from Germany who spent several years living in Madrid before moving to Bali, Indonesia.

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