From royal palaces to scenic parks
Most of Madrid’s attractions are within walking distance from one another, so while eating your way through the city from breakfast to dinner, you will be able to tackle many of them in just a few days. But taking it all in in a short time could be daunting. Madrid is worth being discovered off the beaten tracks! Check out our Top 5 things to do in Spain’s capital.
With its impressive number of world-class museums, royal palaces, beautiful parks and new upcoming districts and its many street markets Madrid has the perfect mix for everyone. In this part of our Madrid Guide series we want to show you our personal Top 5 for the best spots in Madrid off the beaten track. Keep your eyes wide open and discover a new side of Spain’s capital here!
1. Parque de El Ritiro: Discover the city’s green heart
- Address: Main entrance in Calle de Alcalá
- Opening Hours: April – September 6am – midnight; October – March 6am – 10pm
The Parcque de El Ritiro is Madrid’s green heart and only a few steps away from the Prado. The park was one of the royal properties up to the end of the 19th century and is today open to the public being one of the main parks for relaxed afternoon strolls and coffee breaks in the sun. The glorious Ritiro Park is quiet during the week but comes to life on weekends. On Sundays, you can paddle on the Grand Pond next to the monument of Alfonso XII. Visit the park to escape from city life for a few minutes, bring some food and drinks for a little picnic or simply stroll through through the avenues and enjoy a few calm moments before heading back to the big city life.
Insider tip: During the whole week it is possible to visit the breathtaking glass pavilion, the Palacio de Cristal (free entrance!): designed by Ricardo Velázquez Bosco and built to house the Philippine Exhibition in 1887, it is one of the finest examples of iron architecture in Spain’s capital. Originally, the palace was planned as a greenhouse that was supposed to contain tropical plants. Today, it is used for temporary exhibitions organised by the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía.
2. Matadero Madrid: A former slaughterhouse turned into a cultural centre
- Address: Centre for Contemporary Creation, Plaza de Legazpi, 8
- Opening Hours:
- Connect: Find Matadero online, on Facebook & Instagram
Previously the city’s old slaughterhouse, today Matadero Madrid is a cultural centre. After years of having been left completely abandoned, the multidisciplinary space was brought back to life only in 2007 and is now dedicated to culture and entertainment. Check out their program online! They cover everything from theatre, cinema, literature, concerts, fairs, festivals and weekend markets.
Insider tip: Make sure to plan some extra time to check out the botanical gardens in the glass pavilions of the Palacio de Cristal de la Arganzuela right next to Matadero Madrid.
3. Malasaña: the city’s funky & hip district
- Address: The best metro to reach Malasaña is Metro Tribunal. You can also walk there and enter the district from some other streets coming from the metros of Bilbao, Arguelles, or Chueca.
From the centre of Madrid’s movida to vibrant, colorful streets, hip bars and cafés, funky design and fashion shops: Madrid’s Malasaña district has been through quite a lot of changes in the last few decades! Today modern restaurants, vintage and second-hand shops live alongside traditional tapas bars – of which we have mentioned some in our Madrid Food Guide – as well as places, restaurants and markets the locals have been going to for ages.
Also, Malasaña is also one of most popular nightlife areas in the city serving different crowds and kinds of music! Probably the best thing to do in the evening is to walk around and have a drink at a few of the funky bars around. For those looking for the “good old movida days”: head over to TupperWare! This bar combines kitsch and pop art at its best! Expect a mix of fake fur, Star Wars pictures on the walls and extremely colorful decoration turning this to a must-see when in Malasaña in the evening.
Insider tip: Malasaña is an extremely colorful district! Walk around, have a look into the little streets, too, discover interesting pop-up shops, street art by talented national and international artists and enjoy the vibrant energy of this diverse district.
4. Mercado de la Cebada: one of the oldest markets in Madrid
- Address: Plaza de la Cebada
- Opening Hours: MON – SAT 9am – 2pm & 5:30pm – 8:30, closed on Sundays
- Connect: Find Mercado de la Cebada on Facebook
If you’ve been following us for some time, you’ll know that we are huge fans of markets and always make sure to visit some of the local markets in every city visit. You might for example remember our market tour in Rome with gastronomist Lisa Schultz! This time we visited the Mercado de la Cebada in Madrid. It is one of the city’s oldest markets where locals go to buy some fresh produce, meat and fish or have a quick lunch break with a menú del día at one of the many stalls. During the weekends, the market turns into a popular foodie hot spot for madrileños and visitors.
Insider tip: Check out the back of the market building right next to the La Latina metro station! On weekends you might find a little design and vintage market in the open air area that is part of the Mercado de la Cebada building block.
5. El Rastro: Spain’s most popular flea market
- Address: located between Calle Embajadores and the Ronda de Toledo (south of La Latina metro station and Puerta de Toledo station)
- Opening Hours: held every SUNDAY and public holiday during the year
Chances you’ll feel like the whole city has came to one spot on Sundays will be very high: vendors from all around the world are offering their products – from vintage furniture to books and clothes – at the city’s biggest and Spain’s most popular open-air flea market. There are more than 3,000 stalls and it is usually very crowded, so make sure to plan some time to check everything out and have a break in between at some of the numerous bars in the area.
Insider tip: Since it’s Madrid’s largest flea market things will definitely get hectic – so better show up early if you want to enjoy it!
Let Madrid surprise you!
Madrid really surprised us for being that diverse. You will feel the difference from district to district and sometimes it will be enough to simply cross a street to feel like in another world. This is what makes the city so special! Be aware that the main tourist attractions such as the museums might be very crowded and the queues long. But if you are looking for a city trip that covers some special and unusual places and hidden gems you should definitely put our Top 5 on your list.