Local’s Guide to The Best of Madrid

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Advisor - Jessica Pena
Curated By

Jessica Pena

  • Spain

  • Madrid

  • Arts & Culture

  • City Travel

  • Food & Wine

  • International Travel

  • History

  • Sightseeing

  • Local Culture

Street at night in downtown Madrid, Spain
Curator’s statement

Madrid is full of life, with its streets always buzzing and the laughter flowing throughout. I've spent lots of time wandering the streets of Madrid while living here and taking a Spanish immersion course. The Madrileños are kind and welcoming, and their attitude toward life is contagious. Madrid is more of a local city as there aren't as many touristy attractions as in a city like Barcelona. But the longer you are in Madrid, the more it will pull you in as you discover everything it has to offer.

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Where to stay in Madrid, Spain

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Things to do in Madrid, Spain

Stone arches of Segovia in Madrid, Spain with a pink and yellow sunset in the sky

Madrid, Spain, is an exciting city with plenty of historical, cultural, artistic and contemporary sights to cross off the list. Start with choosing a central hotel and bring a comfortable pair of shoes as it's a mainly walking city. 

Tour the Royal Palace

The Royal Palace of Madrid is absolutely stunning inside and out. (Take the tour, and you won’t regret it!) The most interesting thing about this palace is it's still home to the King of Spain and continues to be used for official State events. Afterward, relax outside the Plaza de Oriente, a beautiful garden with a palace view.

Visit Museo Nacional del Prado 

The beautiful Prado Museum could rival the Louvre Museum in Paris. However, my favorite part about this museum is the Real Jardín Botánico (Royal Botanical Garden), located next to the museum. It's a stunning green space with shady pathways, benches, sculptures, greenhouses, a kitchen garden planted with vegetables and a rose garden that blooms through May and June. It's a great place to zen out. 

Leisure in Retiro Park

Parque del Retiro is an oasis in the heart of Madrid. It's so beautifully manicured and offers an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. There is a small lake in the center park's center where you can rent boats and paddle around. There are a few cafes to stop at, they will be slightly more touristy, but you can't go wrong grabbing a tinto de verano (summer red, a refreshing well-known drink in Spain). 

The Crystal Palace is a stunning glass structure located inside the Retiro Park. The building itself bears a surprising resemblance to a greenhouse. It's made with all glass walls and a cast-iron framework. (My favorite view is from across the small pond with the fountain in front). 

Visit the Templo De Debod 

A gift from Egypt in 1968, the Templo de Debod is located in La Montaña Park (near the Plaza de España). Visit at sunset for an incredible view of the palace and reflection on the water. 

People watch & shop on the Plaza Mayor 

Plaza Mayor is a stunning giant plaza surrounded by outdoor cafés and cute restaurants shaded by its arches. It is a great place to sit and people-watch as you enjoy the architecture. In the evenings, the square is a lively hangout spot.

Puerta del Sol

The Puerta del Sol (sun gate) is located in the city's center. This is where most tourists will find shopping and souvenirs on every street. It also sits very close to the Plaza Mayor. The square is a place to hang out and enjoy life, especially come nighttime. It is one of the most happening squares in Madrid. My advice is to avoid eating many meals nearby since many restaurants are more touristy.

Palacio and Fuente de Cibeles

Cybele Fountain and palace in the background is probably a picture you've seen before since Madrid's fountain is highly emblematic. The Centro Palacio de Cibeles has two restaurants: the Colección Cibeles Café and the Restaurante del Palacio de Cibeles on the sixth floor featuring fancy dining with a spectacular city view. You can also catch an incredible panoramic view from the mirador observation deck on the eighth floor. 

Malasaña neighborhood walking tour 

One of the most happening barrios in Madrid, Malasaña, is the place to be! You will find the streets filled with coffee shops, bakeries and vintage clothing stores. The Plaza del 2 de Mayo is a historic square with many lively bars and market stalls on the weekend. It is always a popular meeting spot.

Become a Real Madrid fan 

Estadio Santiago Bernabéu is the home to the world-famous soccer team Real Madrid. So if you’re a sports fanatic, you cannot miss the chance to see a fútbol, soccer, game here or maybe even tour the stadium.

Madrid Teleférico

The Madrid Cable Car is a fun way to get a different view of the city. It will take you over Casa DeCampo, one of the biggest green spaces just outside the city. 

Cine Doré Cinema

The Cine Doré is a beautiful little cinema that plays old, old movies. Each month has a different schedule, and each viewing goes for about €3 a ticket!

Advisor - Jessica Pena

A note from Jessica

Day Trips


A historic city northwest of Madrid, Segovia is located in Central Spain's Castile and León region. An ancient city including medieval walls, Romanesque churches, a former royal palace, and a Gothic cathedral is an excellent destination for a day trip. Its iconic ancient Roman aqueduct has more than 160 arches and stands above Plaza Azoguejo in the city's heart. 


About 30 minutes away on the train from Madrid, Toledo is an ancient city set on a hill above the plains of Castilla-La Mancha.

Places to eat & drink in Madrid, Spain

Pan of mussels with lemon and a side of bread next to a blue and white striped napkin and silverware

Coffee & Breakfast

Hanso Cafe: One of the best places to get good coffee and a great avocado toast. This is a quaint little cafe in one of my favorite neighborhoods: Malasaña

La Bicicleta: A super hip cafe in Malasaña known for its coffee and coworking-friendly spaces. They also have a fresh seasonal menu, crafty cocktails and unforgettable brunch. 

Café de la Luz: A long-time café located on a quiet side street in Malasaña. This homey vintage spot is a great place to cozy up with a coffee and enjoy some delicious brunch.

Acid Café: Unique rustic coffee house and bakery. One of the only places in town to find a great loaf of sourdough. Also offers great vegetarian and vegan options.

Pum Pum Café: Super hip specialty coffee house with delicious breakfast tostas and pastries.

Drômme Kaffe House: A brightly lit cafe and coworking space filled with plants and deliciousness. It’s a tad off the beaten path but if you are a remote worker looking for a coffee and a cozy place to set up shop, this is it! Tip: try the chia pudding.


Mercado San Miguel: Not only is this Mercado housed in a beautiful building, but it is also a food lover's dream! There's so much variety of food that makes this the perfect place to sample a little bit of everything. You can start with Jamon, pair it with delicious cheese or tapas, buy fresh fruit and even enjoy a glass of sangria. It has anything and everything you can want. 

San Ildefonso: A modern take on the traditional Spanish food market, this three-story hip market offers a variety of international Spanish food and a great atmosphere. (Come back on a weekend night for some music and buzzing energy)!

Taberna La Concha: Famous for its vermút and exceptional food. 

La Perejila: Awesome drink and vibes with some of the best tapas on the block. 

Taberna Malaspina: One of the most fun and lively tapas bars. 

La Esperanza: incredible Mediterranean-style tapas with a twist. One of my absolute favorite places to grab lunch or dinner. Their unique retro style offers a fun lively atmosphere.

Sala de Despiece: enjoy a unique experience at this butcher-themed upscale tapas bar. Book in advance or you may be out of luck! 


Habanera: Cuban-style food served amid hip Havana decor. Try the mussels! Stay late for it to turn into a club after dinner hours.

La Casa del Abuelo: Famous for their Gambas al Ajillo, shrimp sauteed in garlic butter. 

Ojala: Two-story gastronomic concept restaurant. Enjoy a beautiful hanging garden, shared wooden tables and a sand beach in the basement with a beach bar.

Botín: The oldest restaurant in Madrid with unbeatable traditional Spanish cuisine.

To Youths: You probably wouldn’t expect to find incredible Chinese food in Madrid but if you’ve had your fill of tapas and are looking for something different, look no further! Create your own soup or stir fry, wait for them to cook it and enjoy!

Mercato Italiano: it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Spain's neighbor would have brought their best food across the water. If you're feeling like Italian this place will satisfy any craving! 

Barganzo: looking for more veggie options? This wonderful place will transport you to Tel Aviv with all their incredible Israeli food that is all vegetarian friendly! 


Macera Taller Bar: This lovely bar serves infused alcohol and great cocktails in-house. 

Azotea del Circulo: Come here for a swanky drink with the best rooftop view in the city. 

El Tigre: Cheap beers as big as your head and a plate of tapas to go along with it. 

Del Diego Cocktail Bar: A sleek bar for a suite-and-tie type of evening. So, would you like that stirred or shaken? 

Bar Cock: A good time bar serving classics, like gimlets, old-fashioneds and margaritas, as well as Spanish-style gin and tonics. You can’t go wrong here!

Viva Madrid: Come here for excellent mixology to catch up with friends and/or hang out with cool locals. 

Salmon Guru: A neon-posted bar with highly Instagrammable drinks. 

Cafe Berlin: Best live music bar with entertainment ranging from DJs to jazz. Check the schedule and see if something catches your eye. 

BarCo: Fun bar to dive into after 2 am to continue the night going. 

Sala Equis: An old x-rated theatre that has been converted into a trendy bar that plays old movies. One of the most unique places that will be sure to surprise you!

Madrid & Darracott: Looking to do some wine tasting? Look no further! This cute little place has wine from all regions of Spain. Such a fun experience, book it in advance and take a bottle to go!

Advisor - Jessica Pena

Travel Advisor

Jessica Pena

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