My favorite Things to do in Madrid – on a layover
Trip Index (what we have published so far):
Why you should visit the Princes' Island Istanbul
My Top 20 Things to do in Istanbul
Why you should make the trip to Ephesus Turkey
Things to do in Izmir
Things to do in Bodrum
My top 15 Things to do in Kos
My Top 10 Things to do in Athens – on a layover
The Rock of Gibraltar – or 5 Myths about Gibraltar busted
My favorite Things to do in Mykonos
My favorite Things To Do in Malaga
Things to do in Madrid - Understand
The Spanish capital is a surprisingly modern city that is more classy than I expected. Plenty of pedestrianized areas in the city center give access to many interesting sights.
8-12 hours of layovers are the best for a one day city exploration. Madrid can be rather hot in summer - so schedule enough time for cooling down in between sights.
The Madrid Metro rules and gets you downtown in 45 minutes. It's also costs just a few Euros - the best way to go downtown quickly.
Things to do in Madrid - See & Do
Madrid has been the seat of the Spanish crown for centuries and the (changing) fortunes of the royals have left their impression on the city.
Royal Palace of Madrid
The Royal Place is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family at the city of Madrid, but is only used for state ceremonies.
It is open for visitors. Lines can be long though - come early if you can!
Adjacent to the palace is the Almudena Cathedral. This is another impressive example of Spanish architecture. It also provides great views according to the reviews. The admission is a little less than for the palace. If the lines are too long - skip the place and go to the cathedral instead.
Museo del Prado
This enormous museum features ton of classic art and paintings. It's also quite expensive at EUR 14. I did not go in - simply because I would have not been able to enjoy the museum given my time constraints.
Plaza de Cibeles
The Plaza de Cibeles is a mix of a contemporary art exhibition, co-working area and a coffee shop. Plus it has a viewing platform with great views over Madrid. Only the viewing platform is paid for - everything else is free. Highly recommended inside/out this place!
Parque del Retiro
This green oasis impresses with wide green avenues and magnificent garden pavilions. Some of them are museums too (often with free admission).
Things to do in Madrid - Eat and Drink
La Bicicleta Café
This unassuming coffee shop/ eatery has taken its motto seriously. Bikes hang all over the walls here. The coffee is excellent (good espresso is hard to get in Spain) and the prices are more than fair.
This place is hidden in quite plaza near the Mercado de San Antón and has friendly staff that serve Spanish tapas and meals. I really like the Mango & Avocado salad. The prices are very fair (alcohol is very cheap in Spanish restaurants). Come here for lunch or dinner.
Mercado de San Miguel
Madrid has a number of Mercados all over the city. These used to be shopping grounds for fresh produce but morphed into eateries. Think of the SF ferry building as an equivalent.
The Mercado de San Miguel is more touristy than others and while many Tapas style offerings are fresh and of good quality - expect to pay more than in other Mercado's around town.
Mercado de San Antón
Mercado de San Antón is close to La Bicicleta Café and provides lot's of indoor and outdoor seating options. The food is much cheaper than downtown and equally tempting.
Museo del Jambon
This Madrid institution isn't a museum but a great place for a super cheap snack on Spanish prosciutto (ham) and a beer. In fact a sandwich with ham and a beer is just EUR 1.80. It's served super quick as well. The prosciutto itself is nothing to write home about but the many pork legs hanging from the walls make this place a must-do.