Saturday, 13 July 2019

Top Ten Things To Do In Madrid

Glen and I enjoyed a fabulous child-free four days in marvellous Madrid back in January and I've picked out the top ten things to do if you're there for a weekend of indulgence and exploration. As always there is a bit more of a foodie slant to my list, but there are plenty of other options too.

1. Food Markets

Madrid has a ton of different indoor food markets and we visited several during our stay, which all had their own individual charm. 

Our favourite by far was the Mercado San Miguel in the Centro area, which is set in an absolutely stunning and historic building - all wrought iron and clear glass windows and doors, making it an attractive proposition before you even arrive. 

The atmosphere on a Thursday afternoon was electric - it was jam packed with tourists and locals alike; all being tempted by the many, many different types of food on offer. 

It isn't cheap, but it's super fun to hop from stall to stall trying different bites, and there are plenty of bars too offering beer, wine, cava or something stronger if you prefer. 

Our favourites here included this super creamy whipped burrata topped with jamon and cups of the most delicious jamon, that melted in the mouth. Well worth a visit and make sure you go hungry!

Burrata & Jamon at Mercado San Miguel
Jamon at Mercado San Miguel
Delicious olive, anchovy and roasted pepper morsel at Mercado San Miguel

2. Arts and Culture

You will be spoilt for choice in Madrid for galleries, museums and exhibitions - it's such a diverse and cultural city.

We enjoyed a few galleries but the absolute standout had to be visiting Museo Renia Sofia which is home to an astounding amount of fantastic pieces of art and photography from Dali to Picasso.

Picasso piece at Museo Renia Sofia

It's around 15 Euros per adult ticket - but they do have a free entry period in the evenings between 7-9pm if you're on a budget.

It's well worth the admission price especially to see Picasso's breathtaking Guernica in the flesh - the size and breadth are amazing. 

3. Chocolate & Churros

Chocolate & Churros at San Gines, Madrid

You will see dotted around the city a number of 'chocolateria'; but the oldest - dating back to 1890 is San Gines

We gladly joint the hoard of people queuing up to try the long doughnutty churros dipped in pure liquid chocolate - absolute bliss and a must-do for Madrid!

4. Take Your Own Walking Tour

Royal Palace, Madrid

Pack some comfy shoes or trainers as you really can see most of Madrid by foot - especially if visiting in a cooler month. 

Grab a map and make a plan of the places you're keen to see and attempt it on foot with some water on hand. 

There are plenty of bars, cafes and restaurants all over the city to sit and cool down and hydrate in and along the way. 

Places of interest you might want to nose at include The Royal Palace, City Hall, the Cibeles Fountain (where you see Real Madrid celebrating sometimes), and the many, many beautiful churches in and around Madrid, to name a few.

City Hall, Madrid

5. El Retiro Parque

Palacio De Cristal, Madrid
El Retiro Parque, Madrid

The El Retiro Parque is for me comparable to Central Park in New York as it seems to be it's own little city, with different areas and districts within it and tons going on within it's gates. 

It's an absolutely beautiful and completely green space with tons of grassy areas, playgrounds, a boating lake and of course the stunning Palacio De Cristal - or crystal palace which is beautiful inside and out. 

Within the park you'll see loads of street entertainers performing all sorts of different arts - from tai chi, skate boarding, dance, singing and many other things. It's a great, free place to visit in Madrid.

6. Enjoy Cava in the Sunshine

Cava in the Madrid sunshine

Cava is Spain's sparkling wine equivalent to Champagne, Prosecco and the like; and it is absolutely delicious and much more modestly priced than Champagne. 

It's an absolute must to enjoy sipping on a glass of cold, sparkling cava sitting outside in the sunshine of Madrid and will only set you back 5 or 6 euros.

7. Take a Tapas Crawl in La Latina

Pan con tomate with jamon, Lateral, Madrid

You can pick up good tapas all around the city when you enter a bar for a drink, however mine and Glen's favourite after four days was the little district of La Latina, especially if you're talking about after dark. 

Take a stroll along the Calle Cava Baja and you'll soon understand the appeal - even on a cold wintery January evening, the whole stretch of road which is adorned with bars and restaurants was absolutely heaving with happy Madrilenos and tourists alike. Spilling out of the bars into the street tons of people were enjoying plates of tapas, ice cold beer, wine and cocktails too. It's a buzzy atmosphere and the food along here was some of the best we had in the four days. 

In the bars you'll be presented with a plate of tapas 'gratis' or complementary with your drinks, but there are some cracking restaurants along the Calle Cava Baja too. 

We really enjoyed some spectacular dishes in Cava Baja 17 and they were completely different to what we'd had elsewhere too - a little cheesy empanada was a nice beginning but then we had soft, flavourful Iberico pork topped with goat's cheese on fresh crusty bread which was great; and our favourite dish which was so unusual and so delicious was the bread again but this time topped with cod fish and then a honeyed aioli - it was stunning. 

Cod & Honeyed Aioli and Iberico Pork & Goat's Cheese, Cava Baja 17, Madrid

You don't have to limit your tapas choices to this area though; we didn't have a bad meal anywhere in Madrid - we enjoyed a fairly fancy tapas meal in a more up-market setting at Lateral Castellana 42, some lovely authentic tapas in Alahambra in the Centro district washed down with Fino sherry, and a relaxed but delicious array of tapas in Downtown Madrid at Aceytuna on Calle Fuencarral for only 40 euros with beers included. 

Blistered Padron Peppers at Aceytuna, Madrid

However my favourite dish of the four days was an inexpensive 'gambas al ajillo' - succulent juicy prawns in sizzling garlic oil cooked to absolute perfection and served with bread to mop up the juices in a very casual little cafe in the Sol area, called Las Bravas. We'd walked for a couple of hours and stumbled upon this little gem, full of locals and couldn't resist after seeing that being delivered to another table. Well worth a visit.

Gambas al ajillos, Las Bravas, Madrid

8. Enjoy a La Liga Game

Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid
Views from Wanda Metropolitano

As a pair of football fans, Glen and I were lucky that a local derby took place during our stay and we we managed to source a pair of tickets for around 70 euros for the pair. 

We watched Athletico Madrid versus Getafe CF at the incredible Wanda Metropolitano stadium. We've both been to some of the UK's best football stadiums between us but both agreed the Wanda Metropolitano was something special. The structure, layout, the fact there was no queuing once inside as there was ample bars, food stalls and most importantly staff - making the visit super easy. 

The structure also has huge (intentional) gaps so you are able to look out over stunning scenes of Madrid. We travelled on the Metro with tons of passionate Madrilenos on the way to support their teams and it was fabulous to soak in that atmosphere.

9. Go Dancing

As a rare few days without our two children, Glen and I indulged in plenty of beer, wine, cava and cocktails during our four days in Madrid. On the weekend evenings, I was keen to go dancing and for that we found the Chueca area to be the best bet. Known for being the LGBTQ friendly area of Madrid, Chueca is home to tons of bars and a handful of clubs, pretty much the Soho of Madrid for me. 

We enjoyed a few drinks in different upmarket bars such as D'Mystic and then ended up in a gay club called Black & White which I thoroughly enjoyed. I danced the night away while Glen was propped up the bar. Great stuff.

10. Start the day well

Breakfast at The Cappuccino Grand Cafe, Madrid

With most city breaks we tend to pack in a lot during the day and in Madrid, we did 90% of that on foot. With that in mind, we made sure to have a hearty breakfast each day to set us up for the day and there are some really good breakfast spots in Madrid.

Pan con tomate is a common breakfast item - sometimes with a fried egg on top, and you'll pick that up almost anywhere, as with a tortilla. But there is a fairly new breakfast and weekend brunch scene emerging in Madrid and we found a really great spot. 

The Cappuccino Grand Cafe opposite El Retiro Parque was home to our favourite breakfast of the stay. Despite being January, it was warm enough to sit out on the terrace to have our breakfast and I enjoyed delicious thick and creamy yoghurt topped with soft fruit and Glen had Egg's Royale - with smoked salmon, a rich Hollandaise sauce and a whole avocado - absolutely winning. This was a great people watching spot too.

There are tons more things you could pack into a mini break to Madrid but these were our favourites. Please do share any top tips as we will certainly return. 


  1. Madrid looks amazing - the food especially the Churros (with chocolate as well :) ) - #MustSeePlaces

    1. It is honestly one of the best cities I've visited - just for the food alone. I'd love to return in a warmer month and experience it slightly different. The churros was divine!