There’s always been plenty of things to do in Madrid. Although inhabited since prehistoric times, the city of Madrid was officially established in the 9th century. With a history like that, it’s no wonder that Madrid is now the third largest city in Europe, with a personality unlike any other.
Play in the park
Retiro Park (Parque del Retiro) is one of the most popular daytime destinations in Madrid with more than 350 acres (1.4 km2) of nature and with places to sail, skate, snooze or snack. But Retiro isn’t the only park in Madrid. In fact, more than 105 million square feet of green space can be found in the metropolitan area. Try the Casa de Campo, one of Europe’s largest municipal parks, or the Botanical Gardens (Jardín Botánico), too.
The well-designed city squares are an attraction all their own. The bustling Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol, and Plaza de Santa Ana offer a host of cafes, bars, restaurants and shops. Ideal for people-watching, the plazas’ ornate design and artistic layouts are memorable.
Explore the museums
Home to some of the largest and most diverse art collections in Europe, Madrid’s phenomenal art collections are not to be missed. The Prado Museum is most popular, and contains the works of greats like Velázquez, Goya and El Greco. Together with Prado, the Thyssen-Bornemisza and Reina Sofia museums are known as the ‘big three’. But smaller, more intimate galleries, like the Sorolla, are also worth a peek.
Take an architectural tour
Like many cities in Spain, Madrid is filled with architectural contradictions. Ancient cathedrals like Catedral de la Almudena are complemented by modern, post-modern and avant-garde buildings. The centuries-old Royal Palace (Palacio Real) is nestled among modern buildings designed by some of the world’s finest architects. Madrid even has an ancient Egyptian temple, the Temple of Debod, built in the second century B.C.