Madrid is one of the seventeen autonomous communities (regions) of Spain. It is located right in the centre of Spain. Its capital is also the national capital of Spain. It is bordered to the south and east by Castile–La Mancha and to the north and west by Castile and León.
The city of Madrid is a popular tourist destination for people from all over the globe. Shopping, cultural activities, museums and gastronomy feature high on most lists for visitors.
Combining seamlessly the ambience of yesteryear with the modern advances of a commercial city… Madrid is a delight for the senses.
Don’t just visit the “must sees” – get into those backstreets and find the hidden gems, from designer boutiques to top quality eateries, there is plenty to delight.
Getting around the city is easy if you use the Metro, meaning a car isn’t essential for that city break.
Accommodation is never an issue here, with everything from backpacker hostels to top quality hotels.
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There are always things to do in Madrid… whether you are wanting to hit the sales, or visit the many museums. Obviously we can’t include everything in here… but we have chosen our favourites to give you a good place to start.
Shopping in Madrid
There are all the usual chains that you would expect to see in a Spanish city… Zara, Mango, Bershka and of course El Corte Inglés (rumoured to be where David Beckham buys his socks). But Madrid isn’t just about big brands. In recent years, Spanish entrepreneurs have been giving their middle fingers to the credit crunch, refusing to accept the doomsayers’ predictions and opening smaller stores, selling everything from Bohemian fashion, gifts and trinkets, handmade bags and shoes, books and much much more.
Gran Via is purported to be Madrid’s most famous shopping area – and it is here that you find the “big boys”. Even if you’re not a shopping fan… there is something quite awe-inspiring about the architecture on view. Don’t forget to look up!
Head to the Chueca district or to El Jardin de Serrano for some stunning little boutiques for the fashion conscious and the shoe lovers – bargains aplenty.
Fancy some hippie chic? Then make a note to visit Mercado de Fuencarral and fill your boots!
Like markets? Then El Rastro flea market is the place where you can pick up a bargain on a Sunday, but more importantly soak up some of the atmosphere with the locals.
The out-of-town outlets such as Factory Las Rozas, Las Rozas Village, Factory Getafe and San Sebastián de Los Reyes (all around 20km from inner Madrid) offer a good number of designer brand items – but at a lower price than the city centre. Public transport is possible to these areas, alñthough this is one of those occasions when it may be handy to hire a car.
Larger stores tend to be open all day… but allow for siesta closing on many of the smaller independants.
Places to eat and drink in Madrid
Want somewhere atmospheric where you can let your hair down? Then get to El Tigre in the Chueca district. Drinks aplenty, great free tapas, and a party atmosphere.
Fancy a boogie? Then Kapital has several floors, with something to please everyone.
One of the things we loved on our visit to Madrid was the chain of “Museo del Jamón” eateries. Almost the love children of delicatessens and bars… these places are a hive of activity. Pull up a stool at the bar, chew the fat with your friends, and sample some of the hams and other tidbits on offer. We loved the bustling atmosphere and it seemed very popular with the locals as they piled out of their office buildings at lunchtime.
Regardless of what you want to eat – Madrid has it… although you may struggle to get a steak and kidney pie and chips with Bisto gravy – you’re not in Blighty, after all! Widen your horizons… and grab some of the local fayre. Whether a small family run bistro, or a Michelin starred restaurant, there is something to suit most palates, and most budgets.
SpainBuddy tip: Head to El Rincon de Fogg on Calle Juan de Urbieta for quality tapas style food in a small but very buzzing environment. Prefer something a little plainer? We loved the Opera Pizza on Calle Arenal – just a few doors along from the Francisco II hotel – fab hot salami pizza!
For the footie fans in the family, the Bernabáu stadium is a must. You don’t have to go catch a game (although Real Madrid vs Barcelona would be awesome!) because during the week you can get tours of the stadium. It’s not cheap… but for little Johnny… it’s a special treat that he’s never likely to forget.
The tour includes access to the playing area, the Presidential box, the changing rooms and of course a view across the playing field from the main stands. There is also a gift shop so that little Johnny can demolish your bank balance in one fell swoop. You just can’t have enough football shirts, right?! Of course access to some areas is restricted on match days.
You can buy tour tickets when you arrive, as there is a ticket office displaying times and prices. This is on the side of the stadium closest to the Metro station. If memory serves us right – it was at Gate seven.
It’s the one thing we regret not doing when we were last there – although it’s on the list for next time!
Mon to Sat: 10am to 7.30pm
Sun & Public Holidays: 10.30am to 6.30pm
Museums in Madrid
You are spoilt for choice in this city as there are a number of well established and respected museums. Here are our favourites.
Address: Calle Santa Isabel, 52
Tel. +34 91 774 1000
Opening hours: Mon to Sat – 10am to 9pm. Sundays – 10am to 2.30pm. Closed on Tuesdays and various bank holidays – check before you travel.
Address: Calle Ruiz de Alarcón 23
Tel. +34 91 330 2800.
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday: 10am – 8pm. Sundays and holidays: 10am – 7pm.
Closed: January 1, May 1 and December 25.
Reduced opening hours: January 6, December 24 and 31, 10am – 2pm.
Address: Paseo del Prado 8
Tel: +34 902 76 05 11
Opening hours: Tuesdays to Sundays from 10.00 to 19.00; free visit & access on Mondays from 12.00 to 16.00. The Museum is closed on 1 January, 1 May and 25 December. On 24 and 31 December the Museum will be open from 10.00 to 15.00. On Saturdays the temporary exhibitions have extended opening from 10.00 to 21.00, except on 12th October (check Notices).
Before we are indundated with emails and comments about this article – of course we know this page only scrapes the surface…. we know that it covers only 0.00001% of what Madrid has to offer. We are expanding it over time. If you live in Madrid, or are a regular visitor… and are chomping at the bit… feel free to leave us some of your tips and ideas in the comments below.