Madrid: A Journey Through Spain's Vibrant Capital

Travel Advisor McKenley Stewart posing with a mosaic wall behind her.
Curated By

McKenley Stewart

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  • City Travel

  • Food & Wine

  • Arts & Culture

  • Europe

  • Spain

  • Madrid

stone palace with the Spanish flag out front
Curator’s statement

Madrid, the capital of Spain, is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in experiencing the rich culture, history and vibrancy of Spain. With its beautiful architecture, stunning parks and world-renowned museums, Madrid has something for everyone. Visitors can explore the city's historic center and marvel at the stunning Plaza Mayor, the Royal Palace of Madrid and the iconic Puerta del Sol. Art enthusiasts can immerse themselves in the masterpieces of the Prado Museum, one of the most important art museums in the world. Foodies can indulge in the local cuisine, which ranges from traditional tapas to gourmet Michelin-Starred restaurants. And for those seeking a vibrant nightlife, Madrid has plenty of bars, clubs and live music venues to explore. Overall, Madrid is a city that offers a unique blend of history, culture and entertainment, making it a destination that is not to be missed.

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Insider knowledge

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Where to stay in Madrid

InterContinental Madrid, an IHG Hotel

Located in the city center near Salamanca's high-end fashion boutiques, this upscale hotel inspired by an 18th-century palace has fine dining restaurants and sumptuous accommodations.

Fora Perks
  • $100 hotel / resort credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & guaranteed late check-out.

The Madrid EDITION

Stylish hotel in the middle of Madrid with a state-of-the-art gym and spa as well as an outdoor rooftop pool.

Fora Perks
  • $100 hotel / resort credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Círculo Gran Vía, Autograph Collection

A historic, adults-only hotel steps away from Madrid's best attractions.

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Things to do in Madrid

regal domed building against a dark sky

Prado Museum: One of the world's finest art museums, featuring works by Spanish masters such as Velázquez and Goya.

Royal Palace of Madrid: The official residence of the Spanish royal family, with over 3,000 rooms and stunning gardens.

Plaza Mayor: A historic square in the heart of Madrid, lined with beautiful architecture and bustling with activity.

Retiro Park: A sprawling park with gardens, fountains and a beautiful lake, perfect for a relaxing afternoon.

Puerta del Sol: A bustling plaza in the center of Madrid, home to the famous clock tower and the symbol of Madrid, the statue of the bear and the strawberry tree.

Gran Vía: Madrid's main shopping street, lined with impressive architecture, theaters and cafes.

Temple of Debod: An ancient Egyptian temple, relocated to Madrid and now a beautiful spot for watching the sunset over the city.

Cibeles Palace: A beautiful neoclassical building that houses the City Hall and offers stunning views of the city from its rooftop terrace.

San Miguel Market: A bustling food market with stalls offering a wide variety of Spanish delicacies and international cuisine.

Santiago Bernabéu Stadium: Home to the legendary Real Madrid football club, this stadium is a must-visit for sports fans.

Places to eat & drink in Madrid

people lining up in front of a food window

Breakfast

El Riojano: Another historic bakery, El Riojano has been serving up delicious baked goods since 1855. In addition to pastries and cakes, they offer a variety of breakfast items like tostadas and croissants.

Federal Café: This trendy café offers a variety of breakfast items, including avocado toast, pancakes and eggs Benedict. They also have a great selection of coffee and juices.

Carmencita Bar: This cozy café is known for its delicious brunch menu, which includes dishes like eggs with chorizo, French toast and pancakes. They also offer a variety of cocktails, making it the perfect spot for a lazy weekend brunch.

Café de Oriente: Located in the beautiful Plaza de Oriente, this elegant café offers a traditional Spanish breakfast with a view. Guests can enjoy classic items like churros and tostadas while taking in views of the Royal Palace.

Lunch

Mercado de San Miguel: This indoor market is a must-visit destination for foodies, and is the perfect spot for a casual lunch. With over 30 vendors offering everything from seafood and charcuterie to pastries and wine, there's something for everyone.

Casa Mono: This charming and cozy restaurant offers a variety of traditional Spanish dishes, including paella and croquetas, as well as a great selection of wine.

Bodega de la Ardosa: This historic bar has been serving up delicious tapas since 1892. It's known for its excellent selection of Spanish cheeses and cured meats, as well as its famous tortilla española.

Dinner

Botín: This historic restaurant, founded in 1725, is known for its traditional Spanish dishes, including suckling pig and roast lamb. It's considered the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the world.

Sobrino de Botín: Another historic restaurant, Sobrino de Botín is famous for its roast suckling pig and lamb, as well as other classic Spanish dishes.

DiverXO: This three-Michelin-Starred restaurant is one of the most exclusive and sought-after dining experiences in Madrid. Chef David Muñoz offers a creative and innovative tasting menu that combines traditional Spanish flavors with global influences.

Casa Lucio: This traditional Spanish restaurant is known for its classic dishes, including huevos rotos (broken eggs), cocido madrileño (Madrid-style stew, and their famous tarta de Santiago (almond cake).

Drink requirement

My all-time favorite drink is in Spain: sweet vermouth known as "vermut" or "vermú".

Spanish vermouth is typically made from white wine and infused with a blend of botanicals, including herbs, spices and bittering agents. Some common ingredients include wormwood, gentian root, coriander, cinnamon and orange peel. The resulting vermouth has a complex and slightly sweet flavor profile, with notes of herbs, spices and fruit. It is often served over ice with a slice of orange or lemon.

Travel Advisor McKenley Stewart posing with a mosaic wall behind her.

Travel Advisor

McKenley Stewart

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Madrid.