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10 Unforgettable Things to Do in Madrid

Rejoneo at Las Ventas arena in Madrid Rejoneador Joao Moura Madrid
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Rejoneo at Las Ventas arena in Madrid Rejoneador Joao Moura Madrid

Colorful, noisy, spacious and alive – that’s Madrid, the capital of Spain. Coming here means saying goodbye to quiet relaxation. In order to help you navigate the wide selection of places and activities, we offer you 10 worthwhile things to see and do in Madrid, recommended to us by tourists, travelers and even local inhabitants.

1. Grab a beer

On their free time, the locals like to have a drink or two of their favorite beer, wine or other beverage. Join them and experience the local mood and atmosphere. It is especially fun to do it when the weather’s warm and all the bars and small restaurants have opened their terraces.

Elderman at restaurant in Madrid
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Elderman at restaurant in Madrid

One of the favorite places of local youth is the De la Cebada in La Latina. During the weekend, streets like Cava Baja and Cava Alta, where most of the popular bars and restaurants are situated, are packed with locals and guests alike. We recommend you visit such neighborhoods as Malasana and Alonso Martinez, where you’ll find traditional Spanish cafés, attractive interior design and local atmosphere.

2. Hunt for treasure in El Rastro flea market

El Rastro market in Madrid
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  El Rastro market in Madrid

Hunting for treasure in Madrid’s flea market, which dates as far back as the Middle Ages, can become one of the most exciting adventures. You will find it in Plaza de Cascorro and Calle de la Ribera de Curtidores every Sunday. Here you can buy all kinds of things: from cheap knick-knacks to valuable items. Address: Calle Ribera de Curtidores, Madrid. How to get there: Metro stop – La Latina, Embajadores.

3. Have fun at a local festival

Transhumance Festival Madrid
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Transhumance Festival Madrid

If you can stand the hot weather, we recommend you visit at least one of Madrid’s summer music and dance festivals. That way you’ll be able to put your hand on the pulse of the capital. In Madrid, festivals take place every month. Some are organized to commemorate a historic date, while others are meant for music and dance. One of the most popular summer fiestas – Virgen del Carmen – takes place in the middle of July. The streets of Madrid are flooded with colorful dancers and people in costumes, while upbeat, rhythmic music starts to flow from every square and inner yard.

4. Visit a bullfighting arena

Rejoneo at Las Ventas arena in Madrid Rejoneador Joao Moura Madrid
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Rejoneo at Las Ventas arena in Madrid Rejoneador Joao Moura Madrid

Las Ventas bullfighting arena (Plaza de Toros de las Ventas) was built in Madrid’s Salamanca neighborhood in 1929. It was officially opened in 1931. Madrid has been known for the bullfighting that takes place here for decades. Even though in 2012 this tradition has been banned in the region of Catalonia, the government of Madrid is, to say the least, reluctant to follow suit.

In Las Ventas, bullfights take place every Sunday, March to October. Sometimes they’re also organized on national holidays. The arena can hold 24 000 people and the price of tickets ranges from a few to a few hundred Euros. Address: Calle de Alcalá 237, Madrid. How to get there: Metro stop – Ventas.

5. Try some snacks

Mercado San Muigel food market in Madrid centre
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Mercado San Muigel food market in Madrid centre

The Spanish tapo is the most readily recognizable Spanish dish. Therefore, while in Madrid, you must eat them the way locals do. Tapos are small snacks to go with wine, beer, tea or coffee. Usually it’s olives, nuts, slices of sausage or potato chips, but it can also be something more filling, like a Spanish omelet, tortilla, cheese, Spanish sausages, sandwiches with anchovies, tuna fish, baked or boiled potatoes with meat, macaroni salad, Russian salad, and lots of other delicacies.    

There is a bar in Madrid, where every customer gets a cooked egg and a slice of bread before even beginning to order. Tea or coffee here usually goes with a doughnut or home-made pie. That’s how young people in Madrid prefer to get their dinner – they go from bar to bar ordering drinks and get free snacks to go with them.

We recommend you go on a day-long trip along the trail of tapos and visit the oldest and most famous cafés and restaurants that serve them, where you’ll be able to eat to your heart’s desire. One of such tours is organized by some appreciators of Spanish food. They take small groups of people – up to 6 individuals – and take them to places which serve the best tapos. This tour costs 44 Euros per person and takes place 6 days a week.

6. Watch flamenco dancers

Flamenco group performing on Plaza Mayor in the center of Madrid
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Flamenco group performing on Plaza Mayor in the center of Madrid

Flamenco is a traditional style of music and dance, which was always a very important part of Spanish cultural life. Make sure to set aside some time to marvel at this rhythmic, mesmerizing music and dance performance. Corral de la Moreria Theater is situated at the center of Madrid. The building which houses it contains Arabic lighting elements from the 18th and19th centuries. The interior of the building feels like an ancient, narrow Spanish street. All of the interior elements come together to create a unique atmosphere.

Many famous people had visited this building in the past to watch a flamenco performance. Among them were the former US presidents John Kennedy, George Bush and Richard Nixon, and famous 20th century Spanish painters Salvador Dalì and Pablo Picasso. The Madridas Corral de la Moreria Theater is not a classical theater to which most people are used to. It’s called a tabalo, which means a scene where flamenco performances take place.

7. Go to the Lavapiés neighborhood and travel the world in one evening

People visit Lavapies district in Madrid
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  People visit Lavapies district in Madrid

The famous Lavapiés neighborhood of Madrid is inhabited by people from many different cultures – Africans, Chinese, Poles, Indians, Roma people, Romanians, etc. Also, it has a food market. Therefore, if you find yourself in the neighborhood, don’t miss the opportunity to visit a few local restaurants. Here you can try dishes from the cuisines of China, Thailand, Russia, India, Georgia, Morocco, Greece and many others. It is often joked that in Lavapiés you can travel the whole world in one evening. Besides, food prices here are very fair.

8. Savor some food in Mercado de San Miguel market for just 1 Euro

Tourists visiting the famous San Miguel Market, Madrid
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Tourists visiting the famous San Miguel Market, Madrid

The San Miguel market is not the biggest market in Madrid, but it is definitely one of the most popular. Tourists are advised to visit it for its sheer originality. If you get hungry, you can eat some great food here in one of the many cafés among the food stalls, where a plate of it costs as little as a couple of Euros.

The San Miguel market has 33 shops and is open all night. It’s a very popular meeting place with many locals. Various events are regularly held here: concerts, plays, presentations, tastings, cooking courses, seminars.

9. Have breakfast in the San Ginés chocolatería

One of the oldest and most famous chocolate houses in Europe, San Ginés opened its door in 1894. It’s a great place for trying the acclaimed Madrid breakfast: hot chocolate with a traditional churro. The San Ginés chocolatería is open 24/7 and even though it is constantly full of people, we recommend you visit it all the same. Be patient and sooner or later you will get a table. Local people usually have their breakfast rather late, because the last night was probably spent partying.

10. Take a deep breath in Retiro park

Crystal Palace (Palacio de cristal) in Retiro Park Madrid
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Crystal Palace (Palacio de cristal) in Retiro Park Madrid

The Retiro Park, which used to belong to the Royal family, was later opened to the public. Now it hosts various exhibitions and other events. The park territory stretches for 135 hectares and is filled with impressive gardens, fountains and monuments. There are also lots of small cafes and snack bars. On summer evenings, free movie screenings take place in the La Chopera neighborhood, while on Sunday mornings the park is overtaken by street musicians, fortune-tellers and puppet theaters. You can also go boating on the nearby lake.

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