Ay Espana! Some of you may remember when I professed my love for Barcelona. If you don’t remember you can refresh your memory HERE. But Barcelona and Madrid are polar opposites when it comes to cities. Sure both have a never-ending flow of good wine and some of the best food you’ll ever eat. But while Barcelona is like your cool, free-spirited well-traveled older cousin who used to sneak you booze at the Christmas party, Madrid is like your well dressed older cousin who just finished law school and always has a comment about politics.
But just because Madrid is a bit more straight-laced than its Catalan counterpart, it is still just a fun. I always end up in Madrid when I make it out to Spain, I mean….I MOSTLY go for the gorgeously bearded men in three-piece suits (SUP BOYSSS)…I’m not sure if I’m kidding lol. But after having been a couple of times there are certainly a few things that I HAVE to do and I wanted to share them too. Here are my top things to do in Madrid.
Drinks & Tapas at El Tigre
I FRICKEN ADORE THIS PLACE. If the huge €6 cups (more like buckets) of sangria don’t win you over then this next detail sure will. As you may or may not know, the beauty of tapas is that you get small dishes of food with your drinks. A LOT of places in Spain will charge a bit extra for the various plates. NOT AT EL TIGRE. There are two things that should be known about El Tigre, 1. The dishes are far from small and 2. They are completely free. Yes, you read that correctly, with each drink you are handed a MASSIVE plate of free food. I am sold on anything that’s free but ESPECIALLY SO when it comes to food….let’s be real now.
Grab a couple of friends and head there then next thing you know you’ll have a small buffet because yup, each of your friends gets a plate of food with their drinks too. You’ll practically need a wheelbarrow to get out of your place and it is a dream spot for travelers on a budget.
Check out the Art Museum FO’ FREE
Another great thing to do for my homies on a budget is checking out the Reina SofÍa & Prado Art Museums. I always check out art museums whenever I’m in a new city and these two are easily on my list of favorites. Those curators in Spain sure know how to put together some compelling collections. I personally adored the Wilfredo Lam collection last time I was at the Reina Sofia and there’s really no words for when you see Picasso’s Guernica for the first time. At the Prado, you’ll find countless classic works and even catch a Rembrandt or a Monet.
The free times for the Reina Sofia are as followed:
7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
1:30 – 7:00 p.m.
April, 18, May 18 and October 12, December 6
Free all day
The free times for the Prado museum are as followed:
Monday to Saturday
6pm – 8pm
Sundays and holidays
5pm – 7pm
See the Turtles at the Atocha Train Station
You ever think of visiting turtles in a train station? Yeah no, me neither. I remember I was taking a train from Madrid to Valencia and killing some time by wandering around the station. Well, I wish you could have seen my face when I stumbled upon AT LEAST 100 turtles just swimming around this mini oasis built into the middle of this train station. 100% worth seeing for yourself. Oh, and did I mention, it’s free?
I am a sucker for a good market. The colors, the scents, all of the new flavors I get to try, the sounds and obviously…I’m anywhere there’s food. Exploring a market is always a sensory treat and Madrid is one of my favorite cities to hop all over town and check out all of the different markets. The options are endless too. Although SUPER TOURISTY, Mercado de San Miguel is worth a visit. The architecture of this building is so unique and a lunch of olives and ham is a just a given when in Madrid. Looking for something different than your usual Spanish favorites? There is a flavor for EVERYONE. Seafood, sushi, ice cream and even a bar, you can satisfy almost any craving here.
The Mercado de San Antón is a mecca for food displayed in the most beautiful way. Your Instagram feed will thank me later. The Mercado de San Ildefonso is a hip new take on a street market and the mural-clad Mercado de Antón Martín on Calle de Santa Isabel is a must go.
Wander the Royal Garden next to Palacio Real de Madrid
Sabatini Gardens on a warm day is the perfect place to digest if you’ve taken the advice I’ve given you thus far. A regal garden with three terraces, a fountain, well-manicured topiary and city views. SO many good places to take your new profile picture or even better sit back and people watch for a bit. The Spaniards know how to live life right and firmly believe in a mid-day siesta (aka a mid-day nap). I can ABSOLUTELY support this and this garden is perfect to hang out in the shade for a little and appreciate that laid-back Spanish lifestyle.
Satisfy your Sweet Tooth with Churros
Can I just say that I LOVE the fact that in Spain their idea of a hot chocolate is much different than what I’m used to. It can come one of two ways. It can come spiced so that it has a little kick to it or a solid bar of milk chocolate is melted to it’s most lovely purest form and served alongside delicious, savory and sweet churros. Chocolatería San Ginés is the perfect place to try out the latter of those two options. A famous staple in Madrid, one bite into their churros and you’ll know why you waiting in line for 15 minutes waiting to put in your order. For 120 years they have been whipping up sweet indulgences for people to enjoy on a side street sunny corner. If you’ve been around for that long then you HAVE to be doing something right. I can speak from experience that these people are doing it rightttt. For less than 5 euros you can create what will be your sweetest memory in Madrid. YUM.
Scope out the Tile Work
One of the best things about Spain and Portugal is their appreciation of tile work. I find it so refreshing to see buildings that have been fitted with beautiful tiles that are specifically tailored to the business they are decorating. Some of the best I’ve ever seen are in Madrid. If you wander the streets you’ll stumble upon some true works of art nestled down an alley.
Sip a Cold Drink on a Rooftop Bar
Círculo des Bellas Artes is an art and cultural centre that puts on live performances in its theatre. It ALSO has a rooftop bar with a 360 view of Madrid. The perfect place to unwind a bit after a day of sight seeing you can get to the top of the building for a couple of euros. At the top you’ll find a chic rooftop bar with some of the cutest waiters/waitresses Madrid has to offer.
Stroll down Calle de Santa Isabel
I randomly stumbled upon Calle de Santa Isabel on my way to the Reina Sofía one day. If you’re wondering, then yes, I was lost. BUT I’m really glad I ended up there. First I noticed the tile work from the above picture and wandered down the street. Then I saw all of the street art. THEN I noticed the tree-lined street that had cafes sprawled up and down the street and all I heard was Spanish. I knew I made it to the right spot. This street is a perfect display of local life in Madrid. Be sure to stroll down it on your way to free day at the Reina Sofía.
What are your favorite things to do in Madrid? Let me know in the comments! Don’t forget to pin this post to bring on your trip!