One of the top choices for culture vultures around the world is Madrid. It manages to combine world-renowned art and history museums with a vibrant, non-stop nightlife. Madrid’s rich, royal history, intricate architecture and diverse art collection combined with a thriving contemporary art scene and exciting multiculturalism makes it a top bucket list choice.
Best of all, Madrid knows how to have fun. The city’s social life revolves around beer, tapas and lots of late-night dancing. Be sure to rest up because when you get here, Madrid will want to stay out all night.
You’ll never get bored in a cosmopolitan city like Madrid but you may need help on where to start. Check out our top recommendations below and add your favorites to your BUCKiTDREAM planner!
Visit a Museum…or 50 The hardest part of going to a museum in Madrid is choosing which one to go. There are world-famous museums all over the city including ones dedicated to archaeology, city history, sailing, murals, geology, anthropology and much more.
Learn about Art Do you wish you had a greater appreciation for art? If so, Madrid is the perfect place to start. As well as hosting some of the finest art collections in the world, it also has the Art Gallery Tour. The innovative team will introduce you to contemporary art concepts and techniques while giving you a tour of some of Madrid’s best galleries.
Learn the Royal history As the former centre of the Spanish empire, Madrid is dominated by its royal history. Get a taste of the regal life by paying a visit to the Palacio Real, one of the biggest palaces in Europe. Take the self-guided tour and marvel at the incredible opulence.
Take in a Flamenco Show Get up close and personal with one of the fiercest dance forms in the world. The prestigious Corral de la Moreria is on every night and you can book tickets in advance for the show or combine it with dinner.
Siesta in the Park Get a break from the Spanish midday heat by retiring to the shade of El Retiro park. You can hire a rowing boat on their large lake or catch a concert in the bandstand during the summer months. Keep an eye out for their summer drum circles too!
Experience the Opera Teatro Real is probably Spain’s most famous opera house and is a truly magnificent building, inside and out. You can take a tour to get a peek inside but why not take in a show while you’re there? People under 35 can even get discount tickets so if you’ve never had a night at the opera, here is the perfect place.
Experience Bull-Fighting This controversial choice is not for everyone, but for some travelers, it is still the quintessential Spanish experience. If you can’t stomach a show but are still fascinated, there are daily tours of Las Ventas bullring.
Pay your Respects at the Temple of Soccer An absolute must for anybody with a passing interest in the sport, Stadio Santiago Bernabeu is the home of the Real Madrid soccer team. Try and score tickets to soak up the electric atmosphere, but if that’s not possible, opt for the behind-the-scenes tour where you’ll get unbelievable access to the grounds.
Tapas are everywhere here in Madrid. Whenever you order a beer or wine, you’ll most likely be served a small helping of food too, usually chorizo, cheese or olives. These dishes aren’t designed to fill you up but make the bars a great place to stop off during the day for a nibble when other restaurants are closed.
For heartier servings, you should look for racións (full-servings) or media racións (half-serving). Traditionally when dining with friends, everyone orders several smaller dishes and splits them up to experience as much of the menu as possible. Madrid’s restaurant scene is at vibrant as its nightlife. Don’t expect to eat your evening meal until at least 8pm; in fact, a lot of kitchens are closed before then!
For something sweet, sniff out San Ginés chocolaterie. Open 24 hours, it makes for the perfect afternoon pick-me-up between museums or a great breakfast to treat yourself to once you finally leave one of Madrid’s many nightclubs.
Drinks & Nightlife
Madrid is a city built for night owls. With possibly the largest numbers of bars per capita than any other major European city, it’s common for the locals to stay out partying until the sun comes out.
If you want to go clubbing until dawn, head to Tribunal where you’ll find a huge concentration of bars and clubs to suit any and every musical taste. The Gran Via is known locally as the place that never sleeps and its main street is host to a huge variety of nightclubs which all open their doors until at least 6am.
No trip to Madrid would be complete without cooling down with some sangria. A mix of fruit, sweet red wine and brandy, it’s popular with tourists but you’ll find plenty of locals sipping on the good stuff as well.
Most locals drink beer with their meal instead of wine. Order a budget-friendly caña (can) of beer to ensure your drink doesn’t go warm or flat in the Spanish heat.
Luxury If you’re looking for an Old World oasis in between museum-hopping, Hotel Orfila is the one for you. With just 25 bedrooms, you can expect attentive service and a lot of peace and quiet. Enjoy your meals on the patio enjoying the warm Spanish evenings before retiring to spacious bedrooms filled with eclectic, antique furniture. Also close to a great range of high-end shopping, the entire experience will have you feeling like a VIP.
Mid-range Behind an unassuming facade lies La Posada del Dragon, a chic, boutique hotel above an excellent tapas restaurant. Despite being in the heart of the oldest part of the city, the rooms are well-equipped and decorated in a modern fashion. As well as being mere steps away from Plaza Mayor, it’s also on a street packed with bars and tapas restaurants for you to try. Opt for a balcony room if you’d like a spectacular view of the cathedral.
Budget Artistic B&B lies hidden on the third floor of a renovated 19th-century building. It’s a perfect spot to explore excellent boutiques, restaurants and the best of Madrid’s landmarks and museums. A sociable B&B, you can meet other travelers over a breakfast of freshly baked bread. All the rooms are uniquely and brightly decorated with a cheerful, Spanish style and you’ll feel right at home in the center of the city.
Tips & Culture
Madrid is a late-night city and it can be tough to keep up with the locals when you also have a full day of sightseeing to do. The Spanish tradition of the siesta (afternoon nap) may be dying out, but it should be an essential addition to your day if you want to reach the party at 4am!
Madrid is extremely safe and you’ll find CCTV cameras and police officers everywhere. However, some pickpockets do tend to operate on the metro or around the late-night areas so keep an eye on your belongings.
If you have a free Sunday morning, you must pay a visit to El Rastro, Madrid’s largest flea market. A quintessential Madrid experience, here you’ll find rows and rows of stalls selling everything you can imagine, so indulge your magpie tendencies a little. When you’re done browsing, stop off and enjoy plenty of musical entertainment or simply do some people-watching; you won’t find a better spot in the city!
With so much history, culture and beauty around, you’ll find it difficult to put your camera away! Don’t forget to share your best shots on Facebook and Instagram to show other travelers the real culture of Madrid.