If you’ve gotten to know me a bit, you know how much I love traveling to the Spanish capital. I’ve heard some people say that ‘there isn’t much to do and see there,’ and I was baffled because you can find plenty of famous landmarks in Madrid, as well as museums, beautiful neighborhoods, amazing culinary and nightlife scenes, and so much more.
So if you like sightseeing but are not entirely sure what Madrid has to offer, here are more than twenty must-see spots.
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Planning a last-minute trip? Check out:
Top accommodations in Madrid:
– Hostal Alexis Madrid (budget/mid-range)
– Apartosuites Jardines de Sabatini (mid-range)
– Oriente Palace Apartments (mid-range/luxury)
– 7 Islas Hotel (mid-range/luxury)
FAMOUS LANDMARKS IN MADRID, SPAIN
Starting with the obvious, the number one Madrid landmark you must visit is the Royal Palace, the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family in the city and the largest functioning royal palace in Europe.
Though you can marvel at this Baroque beauty from the outside, be sure to tour the palace to see its jaw-dropping luxurious rooms and visit the Royal Armory, which boasts a collection of the personal arms of the Kings of Spain.
The daily visits to the Royal Palace are limited, so get your ticket in advance.
You can either book a guided tour or purchase a ticket for an unguided visit with a specific timeslot.
Some people can also visit the palace for free (read about it here).
Next to the Royal Palace, you’ll see the Almudena Cathedral, one of the most important religious buildings in Madrid. It took over 100 years and six architects to construct it until it was finally complete in 1993.
You can also visit its crypt, as well as a small museum (€6) from which you’ll get to the cathedral’s dome (that offers magnificent views of the palace).
RETIRO PARK & ITS MONUMENTS
I wouldn’t normally consider a park a landmark, but Retiro definitely deserves that status, and in fact, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Not only did it belong to the Spanish monarchs for more than 300 years until the late 19th century, but it’s also home to quite a few visit-worthy points of interest.
From the notorious Crystal Palace to the Monument to Alfonso XII of Spain to the rose garden (La Rosaleda), you can spend hours exploring every nook and cranny of this gorgeous park.
Want to explore Retiro Park with a guide? Take this walking tour!
PUERTA DEL SOL
The most bustling square in Madrid, Puerta del Sol is literally located in the heart of the city and Spain.
It’s where you’ll find the plaque of Kilometro Cero, the point from which the distances of the national roads are measured, which is considered the geographical center of Spain. It’s also the starting point of the numbers of Madrid’s streets.
Other notable monuments in the square include the statues of Carlos III of Spain and El Oso y El Madroño’ (The Bear and the Strawberry Tree) – the symbol of Madrid’s coat of arms.
Puerta del Sol is also surrounded by countless shops, cafes, and restaurants, which means that it’s always vibrant and lively.
Only a couple of minutes’ walk away from Sol, you’ll get to the stunning 17th-century Plaza Mayor, commissioned by King Felipe II and built during the reign of King Felipe III.
One of the buildings that make this European square so beautiful is Casa de la Panadería, which is decorated with colorful paintings of mythological figures from Madrid’s history.
The square has hosted countless events throughout the years, and today, it’s a lovely place to wander around and a great starting point to explore the neighborhood of La Latina.
SAN MIGUEL MARKET
The city’s most prominent indoor food market, San Miguel, is not just a fantastic place to stuff your face but also a legit historical landmark in Madrid.
The 100-years-old building still preserves its original cast iron structure and has become one of the top gastronomic spots in the city, receiving more than 10 million visitors a year.
The market highlights Spanish cuisine, with stalls serving dishes and selling produce from across the country, from cheeses and seafood to croquetas and patatas bravas to desserts and more.
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GOLDEN TRIANGLE OF ART
A trip to Madrid is not complete without visiting at least one of the museums that make up the Golden Triangle of Art.
You don’t have to be an art fanatic to be impressed with the pieces found in the internationally famous Prado, Reina Sofía, and Thyssen-Bornemisza museums.
Each one seems to be completing the other, and together they house one of the world’s finest collections of Spanish and European art from the 12th-20th centuries.
Amongst the museums’ most notable paintings, you’ll find Las Meninas by Velázquez (Prado) and Guernica by Picasso (Reina Sofia), but the list goes on and on.
Get your tickets to the Prado, Reina Sofia, and Thyssen-Bornemisza museums, or purchase a combo ticket.
Note that on certain days and hours, admission is free (for more details, check out my full list of free museums in Madrid).
PUERTA DE ALCALA
Did you know that Puerta de Alcala was the first Arc de Triomphe built in Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire? How cool is that?
Commissioned by King Carlos III in the 18th century, the Neoclassical gate was also one of the main entrance points to Madrid, which was still surrounded by walls at that time.
It’s impossible to miss this beautiful Spanish landmark as it’s situated near the northwestern corner of Retiro Park.
ROYAL BOTANICAL GARDEN
I adore botanical gardens, and Madrid’s 18th-century Royal Botanical Garden does not disappoint. It was founded by King Fernando VI and moved to its current site by King Carlos III (Charles III of Spain).
The garden wasn’t always as beautiful as today, with quite a few decades of neglect in both the 19th and 20th centuries. But thanks to some restoration work, it has become a must-see site in Madrid.
Its terraces and greenhouses are now home to thousands of ornamental plants, trees, flowers, and the largest herbarium in Spain. The garden truly is a wonderful addition to your Madrid itinerary and is conveniently located next to the Prado Museum.
An experience still on my bucket list is visiting the Royal Botanical Garden in December when it turns into a magical illuminated wonderland (at least that’s what it seems like in photos).
CAIXAFORUM AND ITS VERTICAL GARDEN
Have you ever seen a vertical garden? Well, you can find one in Madrid on the exterior wall of the adjacent building to the CaixaForum, a cultural center located on Paseo del Prado right across from the Royal Botanical Garden.
The center itself is actually a remodeled old power station, but it is the vertical garden, which boasts about 300 different plant species, that draws attention to this area that could have been easily overlooked without it.
Not too far from Puerta de Alcala, you’ll find one of the most beautiful sights in Madrid – the Cibeles Palace (also known as the Palace of Communications).
Built in the early 20th century, the regal building is the former headquarters of the Spanish Post Office and the current seat of Madrid City Council.
It also houses exhibitions rooms, a gourmet restaurant overlooking Plaza de Cibeles (Cibeles Square), and even an observation deck where you can feast on magnificent views of the city.
To learn more about its history, architecture, and current use, you can take a guided tour inside the Cibeles Palace.
ATOCHA RAILWAY STATION
There’s something about train stations that fascinates me, and Atocha is definitely a unique one. Not only does it connect Madrid with many other Spanish cities and towns, but it is also the city’s first railway station (dating back to the 19th century) and a beautiful Art Nouveau landmark.
After being expanded throughout the years, this huge complex also houses cafes, shops, and even an indoor tropical garden with more than 7000 plants. These are all found in the station’s old building, which is used for leisure, while the adjacent new building functions as the train terminal.
Crossing the Manzanares River, the 16th-century Segovia Bridge is the oldest in Madrid. It was commissioned by King Felipe II and served as one of the main access points to the city.
Even though it was built more than a millennium and a half later, if you’ve ever visited Cordoba, it might remind you of its 1st-century-BC Roman bridge.
Even though it is “just” an office building, the Metropolis Building is one of Madrid’s biggest symbols. It was built at the beginning of the 20th century for an insurance company, but it didn’t take long to realize that it should be treated as one of Madrid’s famous landmarks.
Thanks to its stunning Neo-Renaissance facade and iconic black and gold dome, it is one of the most photographed spots in the city and a must-see along Gran Via street.
CIRCULO DE BELLAS ARTES
You’ve probably stumbled upon photos of the views you can see from the terrace of the Circulo de Bellas Artes, but this non-profit cultural institution has a lot more to offer.
Dating back to the late 19th century, it has exhibition rooms, concert halls, a cinema, a library, a restaurant (‘La Pecera’), and many other facilities. It also hosts countless cultural events all year round.
Of course, many people visit it for its rooftop bar and terrace, which cost €5 to access along with the exhibition halls.
ARCO DE LA VICTORIA & FARO DE MONCLOA
Located near Oeste Park and Museum of the Americas, Arco de la Victoria (also known as Puerta de Moncloa) is a triumphal arch built in the 1950s to commemorate the victory of the rebel side in the Battle of the University City during the Spanish Civil War.
Right behind it, you can’t miss the Faro de Moncloa (Moncola Lighthouse)., which was constructed to celebrate the election of Madrid as the European Capital of Culture in 1992.
The 92-meter high tower has an observation deck that offers THE BEST panoramic views of Madrid, and it only costs €4 to visit. Going up there is not an experience you want to miss, so be sure to include it on your itinerary.
Who said the Royal Palace is the only palace you can visit in Madrid? Let me introduce you to an 18th-century building that was the Madrid residence of a noble family called the House of Alba.
Touring the Liria Palace will give you a glimpse into their luxurious life, and you can even visit it for free on Monday mornings at 9:15 AM and 9:45 AM (but you have to reserve your spot in advance a week ahead).
You can also visit the palace throughout the week, but still, be sure to get your tickets in advance as you need to pick a specific timeslot.
CHURCH OF SAINT MANUEL AND SAINT BENEDICT
Right across from the northern entrance to Retiro Park, you’ll find one of the prettiest churches in Madrid, the Church of Saint Manuel and Saint Benedict (Parroquia San Manuel y San Benito).
Built at the beginning of the 20th century, it is the only building in Spain constructed entirely in Neo-Byzantine architectural style, and it’s easy to recognize its beautiful tower and red copper dome.
SAN JERÓNIMO EL REAL
Another easily recognizable church in Madrid is the 16th-century San Jerónimo el Real (Church of Saint Jerome the Royal). Originally, it was a monastery of the Order of Saint Jerome, and the building standing today includes both remains of the old structure and restored parts.
What makes it unique is not only its gorgeous Gothic-style exteriors but also its historical significance. You can pass by it and think it’s just another church, but during its years as a monastery, it was the place of the investiture of the Princes and Princesses of Asturias.
One of the best sunset spots in Madrid, the Debod Temple is a curious landmark. Why is that? Because what has an Egyptian temple from the 2nd century BC anything to do with Spain?
Well, it’s not uncommon for countries to give gifts to one another, and Debod was a symbol of gratitude for Spain’s help with saving Egypt’s Abu Simbel Temples from the waters of the Aswan Dam in the 1960s.
PLAZA DE ESPAÑA
One of the largest, most beautiful squares in Madrid, Plaza de España is known for being home to the Cervantes Monument, dedicated to one of the world’s most influential writers.
Although Miguel de Cervantes, the infamous author of the Spanish novel Don Quixote, wasn’t born in Madrid, he lived and was buried here (fun fact about Madrid – his remains were lost in the city for 400 years until they were found a few years ago and reburied!).
To commemorate him and his most prominent literary creation, the monument was erected in the 20th century. It includes sculptures of Cervantes, Don Quixote, and Sancho Panza, as well as a few more statues of other Cervantine characters.
Behind it, you’ll also see two of the city’s most distinct skyscrapers, Torre de Madrid and Edificio España.
SANTIAGO BERNABÉU STADIUM
A football game is an incredible addition to any trip to Spain, even if you’re not a fan. My love for European football aside, the energy in the stadiums is unreal, and the overall experience is like no other.
But even if you don’t want to go to a game, you at least have to take a tour of Madrid’s most famous arena, Santiago Bernabéu. The home stadium of Real Madrid, one of the world’s most successful football teams, it’s difficult to put into words how culturally significant this place is.
To learn more about the history of Santiago Bernabéu, see the team’s cups and a collection of club memorabilia, and even get access to the dressing rooms, you have to take a tour inside the stadium.
Get your tickets here.
WANDA METROPOLITANO STADIUM
Let’s not forget that the Spanish capital is home to another amazing football team – Atlético Madrid. Visiting their current stadium is actually still on my bucket list because it’s relatively new, but I was lucky enough to be at the older one, Vicente Calderón.
This team has the best fans, and attending one of their games was by far my favorite football experience. The energy was electrifying, and I even got a little emotional (not it’s difficult to make me emotional).
I highly recommend a combo of touring the stadium and going to a game, even if you’re not a football fanatic. Trust me, you’ll get addicted in no time.
Get your tickets here.
Were you inspired by these tourist attractions in Madrid? Read more about the city:
- 2 days in Madrid
- Alternative things to do in Madrid
- Madrid travel tips
- Where to stay in Madrid
- Madrid packing list
- Walking tours in Madrid
- Breakfast and brunch in Madrid
- Things to do in Alcala de Henares, a day trip from Madrid
MAP OF THE MOST FAMOUS MADRID LANDMARKS AND MONUMENTS
Click here to access the My Maps interactive map of Madrid and its landmarks.
Read more about Spain:
- Spain bucket list
- Hidden gems in Spain
- Best road trips in Spain
- Things to know before visiting Spain
- Virtual tours of Spain
- Spain themed gifts
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