This post is sponsored by Spain
Madrid is a big and bustling city with so many cultural places to visit, delicious food to try and things to experience. Not only is it the capital city it is also an important cultural centre.
It will certainly take you more than a couple of days to take it all in. The fabulous museums alone will take you a few days to walk around. Here is a selection of the top cultural things you must see and do on a weekend in Madrid.
1. Museum de Prado
This is Madrid’s most important cultural site and one of the greatest art museums in the world. This 200 year-old Art Museum is home to many important pieces of paintings and sculptures from top European masters like Goya, Velázquez, Raphael, Rubens and Bosch. You could spend one whole day here but the museum has handy suggested itineraries if you are short of time.
An unusual piece not to miss is the Mona Lisa. This copy is thought to have been painted by Leonardo da Vinci’s pupil. You can see details on this painting that you probably won’t see in the original. You certainly won’t have to queue like at the Louvre.
2. Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
The Centro de Arte Reina Sofía is Madrid’s premier collection of contemporary art. It is where you will find Picasso’s Guernica, Spain’s most important piece of art. It is a mural that depicts the bombing of the old Basque city of Gernika in April 1937. This museum is also the home of art from Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró and Juan Gris.
3. Palacio Real The Royal Palace
The Royal Palace in Madrid is the largest royal palace in Europe. It is still the official residence of the Royal family although it is no longer their home. You can visit the Royal Palace and see the stunning art that has been collected over the last few centuries. The rooms are decorated with priceless tapestries, furniture and art. Don’t miss visiting the Royal Chapel while there. You can also see armour worn by the kings from the 13th century. My favourite is the kitchen in the basement. It is one of the best-preserved kitchens in a European royal palace.
4. Take a leisurely stroll around the gardens of El Parque de Retiro
Take a break from museums and shopping with a stroll through this park. It is in the centre of Madrid and is home to some impressive many monuments, sculpture, fountains and gardens. Catch an exhibition at the Glass Palace (inspired by London’s Crystal Palace) or row a boat across the artificial lake. On the weekends, you can catch a puppet show at the Teatro de Títeres.
5. Tour the Metropolitano Stadium, home of Atlético de Madrid
If you are a football fan, a visit to the Metropolitano stadium is a must, especially if you are an Atletico fan. This stadium has had many incarnations before this. In 2017, it reopened after a renovation and can now seat up to 68,000 fans and all under their new roof. You can take a tour of the stadium by booking your tickets here. Tickets cost €18 and free for children under 5.
6. Plaza Mayor
Plaza Mayor is the main square in Madrid in the old part of town. It has been a hub for the locals since the 15th century. It was once the site of the most popular market, hosted coronations and other entertainment and today it is still popular with both locals and visitors, especially to linger at one of the cafes in the porticos. Explore all the alleyways leading away from the square for some interesting shops. Beware of the high prices of the cafes here, instead head to the nearby market, Mercado de San Miguel.
7. Make a gastronomic visit to the Mercado de San Miguel
Mercado de San Miguel is one of the most popular markets in Madrid. Located near Plaza Mayor and housed in an impressive 100 year-old building, it is easy to add this to your tour of the city. It has many food outlets where you can taste and buy products from all over Spain. Here you will find pintxos from the Basque country, the best Iberico ham (look for the black label ones), or cider (sidra) from Asturias. This market is now a popular place for the locals to meet in the evenings for tapas and wine.
8. Take a Madrid food tour, eat tapas and drink lots of local wine
The best way to get to know a city and its culture is to take a food tour. There are several Madrid food tours you can take. They will take you on a journey to discover the best Spanish cuisine in town and eat like the locals.
The tours usually take you to small artisan shops where you can taste the food, drink the wine and hear stories about the producers. Some will even take you to some local bars for some music and even Flamenco dancing.
9. Shopping at Puerta del Sol (Gate of the Sun)
This square is the centre of Madrid, literally. All road distances are measured from here (like Trafalgar Square in London). There is a 0km plaque here and a clock tower that is the centre of New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Road radiate from this point across Madrid. The square is also a popular shopping area.
10. Visit a 2000 year-old Egyptian temple at Templo de Debod
This is a bit unusual. The temple was gifted to the City of Madrid by the Egyptian government for the Spanish help in the building of the Aswan dam to save it from floods. The temple was built in the 2nd century and dedicated to the god Amun and goddess Isis. Over the next 4 centuries, subsequent kings added to the main chambers. In the 6th century, Nubia closed the temple after converting to Christianity.
This temple was transported brick by brick to Madrid’s Cuartel de la Montaña Park and opened to the public in 1972. Visitor can learn more about the history of the temple from the audiovisual guides.
Need more travel itineraries for Madrid, check out their official website for more ideas.