The ideal city for night owls, art lovers and food fanatics, visit Madrid by train to discover one of Europe’s most electrifying capitals.
Madrid, Spain’s bustling capital, is famed for its art culture, sport and many of Europe’s best bars and cafés. It’s a captivating city, a place that deserves a week or more, but even just an overnight stay is enough to get a flavour of Madrid. Our Madrid guide details some of the best things to do when visiting the Spanish capital by train.
Art lovers find true bliss in Madrid’s Golden Triangle along Paseo del Prado, the city's trio of famous art museums: Museo del Prado, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza and Museo Reina Sofía. Other excellent museums to visit include Museo Sorolla, Museo Arqueológico Nacional (MAN) and the fashion-focused Museo del Traje. For one of Madrid’s more unusual museums, visit La Tabacalera, an old abandoned tobacco factory that now showcases graffiti murals and some of the city’s most boundary-pushing art.
Plaza Mayor is one of Madrid’s prettiest public spaces, located in the heart of the city. Enter through one of nine porticoed walkways and into the Renaissance square surrounded by frescoed buildings. Perfect for people watching or enjoying a bocadillo de calamares (calamari sandwich), Plaza Mayoris where both local people and tourists come together to enjoy the hustle and bustle of this great capital city.
The largest royal palace in Western Europe, the Palacio Real is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family and one of Madrid’s most famous attractions. Built in 1735 and housing 3,418 rooms, the Palacio Real is home to one of the city’s most illustrious art collections, with works by Goya, Caravaggio and Velázquez on display, as well as an array of watches, tapestries, porcelain and silverware. The palace's most prized possession, however, is its Royal Quartet, a foursome of stringed instruments by renowned Italian instrument maker Antonio Stradivarius.
One of Madrid’s oldest neighbourhoods, La Latina is known for its narrow maze of lanes dotted with tapas bars and cantinas. This is the barrio to visit for an authentic taste of Madrid and a sample of the city’s famous nightlife. While La Latina is lauded for its bar and restaurant culture, there are plenty more things to do in the lively area. Enjoy a quiet moment in Príncipe de Anglona Garden, visit San Pedro El Viejo, one of the city’s oldest churches and learn about Madrid’s illustrious history at the San Isidro Museum.
Parque del Buen Retiro is one of the city’s most famous parks, originally designed by Felipe IV as a royal retreat in the 17th century. Today the park’s grassy lawns, peacock-filled rose garden and lake are open for all to enjoy. Another former royal garden, the Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid, houses over 90,000 plants and 1,500 trees. Visit in spring to see endless rows of lilies, tulips and roses in a kaleidoscope of colours. Madrid’s largest green space, Casa de Campo, boasts plenty of hiking and cycling trails and is easily reached from the city centre by walking across the River Manzanares, or by cable car from Parque del Oeste.
One of the most popular places to shop in Madrid is the area around Gran Vía, one of the city’s liveliest shopping streets offering high street brands and boutiques. Those looking for luxury items lose themselves in the trendy Serrano neighbourhood, while bargain hunters flock to El Rastro, Madrid’s open-air Sunday flea market in La Latina district. To buy fresh produce, head to Mercado de Maravillas in Cuatro Caminos, a covered market housing over 260 stalls selling regional and local meats, cheese, fruits, vegetables and an array of other delicious delicacies.
Image credits top to bottom: Museo del Prado Flickr Commons (cropped) ©Brian Snelson, Plaza Mayor iStock ©stockstudioX, Palacio Real Flickr Commons (cropped) ©jcsogo, Parque del Buen Retiro Flickr Commons (cropped) ©Cyril Doussin, Metropolis building along Gran Via Flickr Commons (cropped and enhanced) ©orse
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