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When it comes down to planning your day-to-day list of things to do, ShermansTravel experts have you covered. To make sure you get the most out of your vacation, we recommend the can't-miss museums and attractions, as well as the off-the-path activities and unique local experiences that will make your trip truly memorable.

Things to do in Madrid


A rainbow of greens sprout from the exterior of CaixaForum, a contemporary arts space that opened in 2007 and claims one of French botanist Patrick Blanc’s impressive vertical gardens. Inside, the early 20th-century building – a former electrical plant and one of the only examples of industrial design in the city’s old town – showcases a rotating selection of temporary exhibits, and claims a 322-person auditorium and a top floor café overlooking the Paseo del Prado.

Paseo del Prado 36, 011-34-91-330-7300
Tags: art | things to do | museum | gallery

Catch a corrida

Book a coveted and pricey sombra (shadow) seat at a corrida, Madrid’s controversial but revered bullfighting event; season runs from March through October, with bullfights every Sunday, but the best matadors and fiercest bulls come during the annual Fiesta de San Isidro (in mid-May).

Calle Alcalá 237,
Tags: editor pick | smart splurge | things to do | culture

Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

Picasso's Guernica takes the spotlight at this contemporary art center, but the rest of the collection is equally impressive, with a strong selection of Dalí and Miró works and a snazzy new glass wing by trendy French architect Jean Nouvel. Free on Saturdays after 2:30pm and on Sundays. Mon-Sat 10am-9pm; Sun 10am-2:30pm.

Santa Isabel 52, 011-34-91-774-1000,
Tags: editor pick | art | things to do | culture | architecture | museum

Círculo de Bellas Artes

Once a private, members-only club that facilitated under-the-table gambling during Franco’s reign, this now more democratic building houses concerts, temporary art exhibits, and daily original-language film selections. Don’t miss the rooftop terrace, which puts on display Gran Via to the north; Madrid’s low, red brick-roofed homes all around; and the Cerro de los Angeles (Hill of the Angels), considered Spain’s geographic center, to the south.

Calle Alcalá 42, 011-34-91-360-5400,
Tags: historic | art | things to do | museum | gallery

Convento de Las Descalzas Reales

This remarkable Franciscan convent dates from 1557 and is chock-full of splendid tapestries, woodcarvings, frescoes, silverware, sculptures, and paintings. Tues-Thurs, Sat 10:30am-12:45pm and 4pm-5:45pm; Fri 10:30am-12:45pm; Sun 11am-1:45pm.

Plaza de las Descalzas,
Tags: art | things to do | culture | architecture

Gran Vía

Considered Madrid’s version of New York City’s Broadway, this expansive, century-old boulevard is grand indeed. Fast-fashion chains like Zara, H&M, and Bershka line many of the sidewalks from Plaza de España to Calle de Alcalá, but direct yourself to the narrow side streets for more atmospheric browsing and gallery hopping in TriBall (northwest of Gran Vía’s intersection with Fuencarral).

Gran Vía,
Tags: historic | things to do

Matadero Madrid

This turn-of-the-century slaughterhouse and meatpacking complex went through various iterations as a livestock market, food storage warehouse, and headquarters for Spain’s ballet company before the Madrid City Council converted it into a multipurpose contemporary arts space in 2003. Take time to wander throughout the 1,596,2870-square-foot property’s pavilions, which currently house temporary art exhibits, an intimate theater venue, and a design center. 

Paseo de la Chopera 14, 011-34-915-177-309,
Tags: art | things to do | museum | gallery

Museo Chicote

Since pioneering the city’s bar scene in 1931, this Art Deco classic has hosted a string of luminaries, like Hemingway, Bette Davis, and Frank Sinatra, and still attracts a mixed crowd for its great cocktails.

Gran Vía 12, 011-34-91-532-6737, (Spanish only)
Tags: nightlife | historic | things to do | bar

Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

Get a minor in art history at this cultural heavyweight whose collection spans the 13th to late-20th centuries, with Gothic painting to Russian Constructivism to Pop Art and masterpieces by Renoir, Degas, and Van Gogh hung on the walls of a 19th-century palace. Also watch for impressive temporary exhibits, as the institution’s generous lending policy ensures that many of the world’s premier collections make stopovers in Madrid.

Paseo del Prado 8, 011-34-91-369-0151,
Tags: art | things to do | culture | architecture

Palacio Real

Pay due respect to Spain’s monarchy by touring its royal palace (though it no longer houses the royals). About 50 of its opulent rooms are open to the public, as are its armory and 16th-century pharmacy packed with ancient jars and mortars.

Calle Bailén,
Tags: editor pick | things to do | culture | architecture | history

Parque del Retiro

Mix with Madrileños (as the locals are known) in this manicured 330-acre oasis that once served as royal hunting grounds and spend the afternoon promenading, cycling, boating on the lake, or catching performances by pavement artists.

Tags: family | things to do | outdoors | park

Plaza Mayor

The city’s most iconic square is a cobblestoned affair lined with sidewalk tables and theatrically enclosed by granite arches; take a coffee break and admire the bronze equestrian sculpture of Felipe III at its center.

Tags: things to do | outdoors | culture | architecture


This venerable museum houses an 8,600-strong collection of Spanish paintings, including masterpieces like Velázquez' Las Meninas, Goya's celebrated Maja portraits, and over thirty El Grecos. Don’t miss either Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch’s eerie 16th-century The Garden of Earthly Delights, a Seussian triptych portraying mankind’s biblical fall from grace.

Paseo del Prado,
Tags: editor pick | art | things to do | culture | architecture | museum

Puerta del Sol

Stroll through Madrid’s major transport hub and rendezvous point, perennially packed with street performers, locals and tourists; then sit down for coffee just southeast of the Puerta at charming Plaza Santa Ana.

Tags: things to do | outdoors | culture | architecture

Rastro Flea Market

The sheer quantity of stalls laden with bric-a-brac, from CDs to flip-flops and watches to antique furniture, is reason enough to get up early on a Sunday morning to visit this famed flea market (open Sunday 9am-3pm).

around Calle Ribera de Curtidores,
Tags: shopping | things to do | walking district

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