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Go on a cultural adventure with a Madrid vacation
A historic hub in the heart of Spain, Madrid is a colorful destination. Home to a blossoming food scene, sprawling parks, and museums housing some of the finest European art, this city will delight you at every turn.
What to do in Madrid
With its historic neighborhoods and modern flair, Spain’s capital promises enough sights to fill your days and nights. Spend the mornings and early afternoons exploring, and reserve your post-siesta hours to savoring tapas, cocktails, and late-dinners alfresco.
Explore the city
One of the most famous manicured gardens in the world, El Retiro park is a popular spot. On any given morning, the winding paths are flanked with joggers, dog-walkers, and strollers. More than just a green space, El Retiro is peppered with artistic touches, from iconic monuments like the haunting Fallen Angel, to the sculpted Cypress trees in the Parterre Garden. Another can’t miss? The Palacio de Cristal, a beautiful greenhouse that once housed tropical plants.
A trip to Madrid wouldn’t be complete with seeing the Royal Palace, the largest functioning palace in Europe. While it’s no longer used as a royal residence, the palace is still used for regal ceremonies. Designed with Baroque flair, this larger-than-life slice of royalty is one of Madrid’s most popular sights. Ask your concierge about arranging a private tour.
As with most European cities, life has always centered around Madrid’s squares, and Plaza Mayor is no different. Once the heart of Madrid, this square housed the city’s main market until the 17th century. This public space endured a total of 3 serious fires but still holds onto its authentic charm. Cafes, boutiques, and bars line its four sides and are hot spots for tourists. Our suggestion? Grab a gelato and take a little bit of time to walk through the square. Then, make your way under the yellow arch towards Calle de Toledo and find your way to Cave de San Miguel street. This is where you’ll spot Sobrino de Botin, one of the world’s oldest known restaurants.
A few blocks from the Plaza Mayor lies the Puerta del Sol, a popular meeting spot amongst locals. Many come to this lively intersection to see the famous La Osa y el Madroño (the bear and the strawberry tree). A symbol of Madrid, legend has it that the areas just outside of Madrid used to be heavily populated by bears.
If you’re looking for an outside-the-box experience and beautiful sunset views to boast, the Temple of Debod near Plaza de Espana will quench your thirst. A series of 3 temples that were brought over from Egypt, this unique sight draws locals to the south point of Parque del Oeste. Come prepared with an evening picnic and a bottle of Spanish wine and watch as the sun reflects its golden glow on the temples.
Discover world-class museums
Housing some of the finest works of European art, including pieces from Velázquez, Bosch, El Greco, and Goya, this stunning building is among one of Madrid’s many architectural claims to fame. You’ll need at least 2 hours if you plan to see the museum’s thousands of paintings, drawings, and sculptures (your personal concierge can help you plan your visit!). Afterward, you’ll be well-positioned to visit the Huertas neighborhood for a bite to eat. Once a hub for artists, Huertas today is a nightlife and fine-dining hub offering upscale picks like Bar Populart, hailed by many as Madrid’s best jazz bar.
For a different spin on art, visit the National Archeology Museum. Laden with antiquities, mosaics, and artifacts, this museum houses pieces dating from prehistory up until the 19th century. Reconstructing cultural stories from Spain and around the world, you’ll learn about what has made Spain the country it is today.
Where to shop and eat
A visit to Madrid wouldn’t be complete without a shopping jaunt down Gran Via. Flanked with swanky boutiques, diverse department stores, and international retailers, a stroll along Gran Via promises tons of life. While you’ll find recognizable brands, this shopping artery is an excellent place to discover new Spanish designers. Plan a stop at the Circulo Bellas Artes and make your way up to the 7th-floor restaurant for a drink coupled with some of the best views of the city.
Like any other European city, Madrid’s mercados, or markets, are an authentic way to get a taste for local life. For lunch, plan a stop a Mercado San Miguel, a small, covered market built in 1916 selling traditional tapas, seasoned olives by the kilo, and fragrant cheeses. For fresh meats and seafood, Mercado San Anton offers 3 floors of food stall after food stand in a contemporary setting. And if you’re in Madrid on a Sunday and have a sweet spot for flea markets, El Rastro is a must-visit. But get there early; this market attracts Spaniards from neighboring towns and locals alike!
Finally, you can’t visit Spain without dunking long, sugar-covered fried dough into a rich cup of dark chocolate. We’re talking about churros, and everyone knows that San Gines in the place to treat yourself to this famous delicacy. Opened in 1894, this spot knows how to draw a crowd. When you arrive, don’t grab a table until placing your order. Simply walk up to the window, order your churros and hot chocolate (one order to share is plenty), and find a table. Without haste, a freshly-fried plate of churros and perfectly-heated hot chocolate will find their way to you.
Stay in the heart of it all with our luxury rentals in Madrid
Whether you’re planning to visit with the family or with a group of friends, Luxury Retreats offers an exquisite choice of vacation rentals in the Spanish capital’s most exclusive barrios, within walking distance to practically every main attraction in the city. Just minutes from the Retiro Park, Salamanca is a tranquil, upscale enclave where you will find spacious apartments in historical buildings, chic dining options, and luxury shopping. Regular visitors to Madrid often choose this area for its affluent cachet and easy access to the airport.
If you would like to stay in a lively neighbourhood with a more bohemian vibe, consider the Barrio de Las Letras—the literary quarter—where Madrid’s first theatres sprang up in courtyards in the 16th century. Nestled between the bustling city centre and the lush greenery of Real Jardín Botánico, this area is packed with bars, restaurants, and small independent shops. The barrio, which was once home to great writers of the Golden Age of Spanish literature, also boasts the most important museums in the city.
Classy, elegant, and dotted with charming hints of the past, the Chamberí neighborhood is another barrio you will enjoy, especially if you’re looking for that small-town feel. With its wide avenues lined with historic mansions, this neighborhood offers an attractive selection of traditional restaurants and taverns, bookshops, art galleries, and museums—the perfect balance between tradition and avant-garde.