Madrid is a vibrant city, full of wide boulevards, European art and delicious food!  With just a few days in the Spanish capital, we managed to pack in the following highlights, saving plenty of ideas for next time!  If I were you, I would dedicate a few weeks here, set up in a nice Air BnB and take your time exploring all the different neighbourhoods.

Visit the Royal Palace of Madrid

The official residence of the Spanish Royal Family, this magnificent Baroque building is now used only for state ceremonies and is open to the public for sightseeing. It is full of quality art, elaborate table settings and rooms dripping with wealth and beauty.  Wander through and soak in what it must feel like to live as a member of the royal family!

Royal Palace of Madrid

Admire the Puerta de Alcalá

This triumphant archway conjures images of Brandenburg Gate and the Arc de Triomphe.  It stands in the Plaza de la Independencia and was the gate of the former Walls of Philip IV.  Nowadays, it stands in the middle of the city, with modern vehicles zooming through, a far cry from what it would have looked like back in the 1700s.

Puerta de Alcalá

Explore the Parque de El Retiro  

Within this park, you can go rowing on the Estanque Grande del Retiro, wander the gardens, eat ice-cream and listen to buskers, which surprise you around every garden path.  The park is huge, so allow plenty of time and maybe even pack a picnic and a bottle of wine to get maximum enjoyment!

Parque de El Retiro

Visit the Palacio de Cristal

Within the Parque de El Retiro, you will find the beautiful Palacio de Cristal.  Make sure you visit on a sunny day to see the magical crystal effect as light filters through this glass building.  Palacio de Velázquez is just a short walk away from here too, which shows art exhibitions to the public free of charge.

Palacio de Cristal

Eat a Bocadillo De Calamares

Madrid is famous for this rather humble sandwich, consisting of deep fried squid rings in a bread roll. Tastes delicious washed down with a local beer!  This meal makes a good light lunch, or a pick-me-up snack to give you some more energy for sight-seeing.

Bocadillo de Calamares

Meet the Old Masters at the Prado National Museum

There are many quality museums in Madrid, so it is hard to pick and choose. I prefer to pick one and explore it properly, or else it can be a bit culturally overwhelming. The Prado National Museum is full of Old Masters, such as Goya, Velasquez and El Greco. Entrance is 15 euros, but keep in mind that you can buy a combined pass if you wish to visit a number of other museums.  Allow at least 2 hours to explore this first though!

Prado National Museum (image:

Enjoy tapas and wine at Musa Malasaña

Just North of the main centre, Musa Malasaña is a hipster tapas bar serving delicious food, tasty wine and excellent service.  I recommend ordering the tapas banquet, where you will enjoy a selection of cold and warm savoury tapas, followed by desserts.  Contrary to my usual feelings about tapas, you will finish the night here completely satisfied after a substantial feast.

Tapas at Musa Malasaña

Party the night away at a street festival

Simply wander around the old centre near the palace and you’re bound to walk into any number of bars, offering wide varieties of drinks and tapas. We stumbled upon a huge open-air party complete with endless DJs, mojitos and festival stalls, where I tried without success to win a giant pink flamingo by throwing darts at balloons. Barbecues sizzled and the music pumped loudly, encouraging even the most sober of party-goers to spend all night dancing.  If you explore long enough, you might even stumble across what we liked to call Sparkle Street, where silver tinsel hung in garlands across a long alleyway full of bars.

Mojitos at the Street Festival

Have you been to Madrid?  What were your favourite neighbourhoods?

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