Ultimate Madrid Must-See List

Smart Insiders welcomes you to Madrid!

Hello and welcome to everyone who’s new to the city! Spain’s capital city is known for its lively ambience, important cultural sites, great shopping, and phenomenal cuisine, so we’re so excited you’re here! Wondering where to start on this fantastic adventure? In this guide, Smart Insiders is back with more helpful tips and advice for study abroad students, interns, au pairs and auxiliares in Madrid. Here are our top picks for getting to know Madrid and its “Must-See Sites”. 
 

Top 3 Sites in the City Center

Puerta del Sol is one of the city’s most famous squares, and it’s actually the geographical center of Spain! The square represents the “Kilometer Zero” of the city, where many main streets of Madrid come together. Sol is a very touristy area, full of traditional and mainstream shops where you can buy souvenirs to remind you of your time in Madrid. The landmark of Madrid, “El Oso y el Madroño,” is located in this square too! 

Plaza Mayor, just a few minutes walk from Puerta del Sol, is a stunning plaza with four facades and a statue of Philip III on horseback in the center. In this iconic site in Madrid, you can enjoy traditional restaurants, bars, artisanal shops and the bustling atmosphere. There are also plenty of concerts and shows here throughout the year, not to mention a huge Christmas market in the winter!

Gran Vía is the ultimate shopping destination. With global brands lining the streets, there is no better place to find some decorations for your new flat, clothes, shoes or merchandise.  It boasts incredible architecture throughout the street, where you will also find many hotels, banks, movie theaters and so much more.

Top 3 Museums in Madrid

The three most famous museums in Madrid, also called the “Triángulo de oro y arte”, are none other than the world-renowned Prado Museum, Reina Sofia Museum and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum.

The Prado Museum is one of the most important and most visited museums in the world, welcoming over 2 million visitors per year. Here you can admire Velazquez’s “Las Meninas” and Titian’s “La Gloria”, among many more must-see works of art. 

The Thyssen-Bornemisza consists of a breathtaking permanent collection and fantastic exhibitions. There are over 1000 paintings on show, many by world-famous artists from the 13th century to the 20th century.

The Reina Sofia Museum was founded in 1992, though it was originally built in the 1700s as a hospital. It houses many impressive works of modern and contemporary art by famous artists such as Picasso, Miro, Dalí, Juan Gris and Georges Braque, among others. In addition to Miro’s and Dalí’s important works, the most famous painting of the Spanish world is also exhibited here: Picasso’s “Guernica”.

IMPORTANT! Smart Insiders organizes free visits to the Reina Sofia and Prado Museum. Click here for more information on how you can sign up!

Top 3 Palaces in Madrid

The Royal Palace is another must-see in Madrid. Its construction started in 1738 after a fire destroyed the previous Alcazar, and was the Royal Family’s residence until 1931. Inside its walls you can find preserved Goya’s and Velazquez’s works, as well as stunning architecture and a fascinating history.

You can’t miss Cibeles Palace either: An impressive construction designed by Antonio Palacios and Joaquín Otamendi that used to be the headquarters of the Spanish Post Office and Telegraph Company. Since 2007, it has been the headquarters of the City Council. If you want to enjoy an amazing view, climb up the Faro de Moncloa and see the whole city through its crystal windows.

Palacio de Liria offers a different kind of experience to the others. This palace offers each visitor a sensory experience; images, voices, chosen words and music help to stimulate your mind and take you back in time as you explore this incredible palace. It has an incredible collection of art, and like the others, it is very central and easy to get to. 

IMPORTANT! Smart Insiders organizes free visits to the Royal Palace and Cibeles Palace. Click here for more information on how you can sign up!

Top 3 Parks in Madrid

When you are in the mood for a walk or some fresh air, consider Smart Insiders’ favorite parks in Madrid. 

Retiro Park is one of the largest and most noteworthy parks in Madrid. Here you will be able to find a lot of sculptures and monuments, beautiful trees and an incredible rose garden. You can also row boats in the lake before heading to one of Retiro’s many cafes and restaurants. The Crystal Palace in Retiro is an amazing sight, overlooking a large pond full of terrapins!

Caso de Campo is the biggest park in Madrid. Located right next to the Royal Palace, it was formerly the king’s hunting grounds, and now it is a popular destination to  have lunch, go biking, take a nice hike or simply enjoy the fresh air and birds chirping. Click here to discover more about the “Top 4 places to go hiking in Madrid!” 

Parque del Oeste is a beautiful park close to Plaza de España and Moncloa; it is a great place to read a book, relax, or have a picnic with friends. Parque del Oeste is also home to Madrid’s Cable Car, which offers incredible panoramic views of the city; this 11-minute journey to Casa de Campo will offer you and five friends an unparalleled perspective as you soar 40 meters above ground. There is also a beautiful, award-winning Rose Garden found in Parque del Oeste that is open every day of the year! Templo de Debod, an Egyptian Temple, is also a firm favorite in the park and is the hot spot for a picnic and watching the sunset, as it has incredible views of the city.

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