1. The Royal Palace of Madrid
The Royal Palace is a lasting piece of Madrid’s history and culture. Once inside, you feel like you have been transported back in time. The architecture is absolutely stunning along with all of the artwork and furniture. I was mesmerized by all of the detail that went into every ceiling throughout the palace. Everything is so well-preserved and you get to see first-hand how royalty lived. We paid about 10 euro for access into the palace and an English speaking guide who was as nice as could be. She was extremely knowledgeable and passionate about Spanish history. Note: You are not allowed to take pictures in most parts of the palace and they take the rule VERY seriously so just be aware.
2. Parque de El Retiro
Full of street musicians, beautifully landscaped grounds, and lots of sunny patches to relax. Parque de El Retiro in a way resembles Central Park. It is also home to the Palacio de Cristal (the glass palace) – pictured below. There is a lake with rowboats to rent at a decent price. Pack a picnic of fruit and cheese and take in all this park has to offer!
3. Wine and Dine in La Latina
La Latina is a vibrant neighborhood located right outside Madrid’s center. There are many restaurants that provide an atmosphere great for enjoying drinks and tapas. The great thing about this area is it tends to be a little bit less touristy and you can experience Madrid more like a local. My favorite restaurant was El Viajero. We asked to dine in the upstairs room which has a lovely view of the streets down below. If you go here you MUST NOT LEAVE without trying one of their mojitos. I don’t really even like mojitos and I wanted to order five more. I would also recommend the spanish omelet (pictured below). It was gone from my plate in a matter of seconds.
4. Arganzuela Footbridge
This footbridge is located in a well-kept urban park full of dogs and joggers. This isn’t one of the well-known attractions of Madrid, but it’s a neat thing to see especially for those who appreciate architecture. It is also a nice escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and gives you a peek into Madrid’s suburbia. The best part? There are a couple of fun slides that we just had to test out
5. Try a Tinto de Verano
The Tinto de Verano is a wine-based drink that somewhat resembles sangria. Tinto de Veranos are a bit more simple than sangria and are more likely to be ordered by locals. So try your sangria but if you want to try living like a true Spaniard, be sure to order at least one of these babies during your stay… or two….or three
6. Circulo de Bellas Artes
For one of the best rooftop views of Madrid, this is the place to go. It’s only three euro to get to the top. There is also a cafe downstairs if you need any refreshments. The rooftop also turns into a bar at night. Don’t forget your camera and be prepared to be amazed by the almost panoramic view of this beautiful city!
7. Mercado de San Miguel
The Mercado de San Miguel is only a short walk from the central Plaza Mayor. It is an old-style market that has everything you could possibly imagine food-wise. Wine, pastries, tapas, cheese, pizza, paella, fresh fruits and vegetables, and seafood are just a few of the things you will find in the expansive market. The market attracts high volumes of tourists but locals also come to enjoy all that the market has to offer.
8. Catch a Sunset on “the Hill”
If you are coming from the direction of Plaza Mayor, go until you see Catedral de Almudena (the big church next to the Royal Palace) and then take a left until you cross the bridge with glass siding. At the very end of the bridge, you will see a little area to the right with a fence and a hill. We just climbed over the fence and sat down on the other side. You might already see some locals gathered there depending on the night. Bring some glasses and wine with you to enjoy with the sunset. Once the pink and orange show is over, be sure to stick around to see the Catedral de Almudena all lit up at night!
9. Plaza Mayor
So Plaza Mayor can definitely be a tourist trap but it surely something you don’t want to miss out on, being one of the main staples of Madrid. The attraction is an old square rich with history built during the late 1500’s. The square has nine entrances that offer beautiful views both in and out of the square. However, I wouldn’t recommend eating at any of the restaurants here because they are meant for tourists and are ridiculously over-priced and crowded.
Tip: The streets don’t really start bustling in Spain until later because the Spaniards go to very late and sleep in. If you want to admire the square without all of the tourist groups and annoying aggressive vendors, come early. We walked through the plaza for the first time around 7:30/8:00 a.m. and we had the whole place to ourselves! It gave us some time to quietly admire the square and its beauty.
10. Churros con Chocolate/ Torrijas
There are certain Spanish sweet treats that must be tried and these are them ^. Churros con Chocolate can be eaten for breakfast and I’ll take any excuse to eat chocolate for breakfast. The chocolate is more of a liquid than a syrup so don’t be fooled! Another american girl who we met told us she started drinking the chocolate because she thought it was hot chocolate. The torrija is a bakery treat that somewhat resembles french toast. It is a slice of bread soaked with milk and spices, dipped in an egg and fried. It is usually topped with an abundance of cinnamon and sugar. I had several of these during my visit but my favorite was from the famous La Mallorquina located right outside Plaza Mayor. They seemed to have and extra layer of cinnamon sugar on top