Is Madrid Worth Visiting In 2024? Best Things To Do & Places To See

Is Madrid worth visiting? Having lived in Madrid for 2 years, I (Timon) share my personal experience on why the city is a must-visit. Discover Madrid’s charm that makes it an unforgettable destination.


Hi, we’re Timon & Filipa!

We travel across Spain in our motorhome, Speedy, and update TravelSpain24 with fresh content, practical tips, and personal stories from the road. Our goal is to help you experience Spain beyond the typical tourist trails.

My experiences From Living Two Years in Madrid

If you’re early in your ‘Is Madrid worth visiting?’ research, you may have only come across the most famous parts of the city. But, Madrid has loads of areas – in fact, there are 21 districts (known as distritos) and a mind-boggling 131 neighborhoods (or barrios) to explore!

I’ve lived in two parts of the city during my time here, and both have been very different.

Chamartin is an upscale district that’s largely residential. But it is perfect for getting around the city, and the airport is only ten minutes away.

I also lived in Lavapies, which I found to be an edgier and more multicultural district. There’s always loads going on, and it’s home to some incredible restaurants and nightlife. 

I’m happy I got to experience two different parts of the city. Madrid has multiple personalities, and so you’ll definitely want to explore at least a couple of neighborhoods to feel you’re experiencing Madrid like a local – or a Madrileno, as they’re known.

Is Madrid Worth Visiting In 2024? A personal journey

I’ll be honest before I moved to Madrid, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew it was Spain’s capital – and biggest – city and experienced scorching hot summers. But other than that, I arrived ready for a voyage of discovery. Heck, I didn’t even speak Spanish!

As weeks turned into months, I started getting a feel for the place, putting together the geography of the city and its main districts. Plus, I was developing a sense of the many positive aspects of Madrid, which I’ll delve into below.

I’d spend hours walking Madrid’s streets, appreciating the gorgeous architecture, the pretty parks, and the endless cafes inviting me to sit and enjoy a few minutes of relaxation. And that’s one of the beautiful things about Madrid: there’s a place to suit every mood. If I wanted to chill out, El Retiro Park was, for sure, my favorite place. But, when I was feeling high energy, my home neighborhood of Lavapiés always had something going on.

As I’ve spent longer in the city, I’ve come to love Madrid for its energetic buzz, urban but friendly feel, and balance of culture, food, and sights.

What is Madrid known for?

Madrid is, without a doubt, an artistic hub. I started hearing about its many art museums and galleries soon after I arrived, and as I explored them, I was blown away by how great they are. My favorite Spanish artist is Dali, so I was pleased when I discovered that the city’s Reina Sofia Museum is home to a wide selection of his best surrealist paintings. 

You may know about Madrid’s gastronomic reputation if you’re a foodie. I’m a massive fan of tapas, and if you are too, you’ll soon discover that Madrid is head and shoulders above other destinations for the number and quality of tapas joints.

Madrid is also renowned for its rich cultural offerings. One of the must-experience traditions is attending a flamenco show. In fact, Madrid is one of the best cities to immerse yourself in this passionate dance. If you’re curious about the top places to witness a flamenco performance, check out the best Flamenco shows in Madrid.

And, as you’d expect from a city capital, Madrid’s nightlife scene is legendary. I love finding a plaza and settling in for a few beers and a night of people-watching. But, if you’re looking for a more lively scene, Malasaña, Chueca, and Lavapies are some of the best neighborhoods for nightlife. 

BEST Things To Do In Madrid

So, now you know a bit more about my time living in Madrid, let’s explore the best things to do while visiting the city.

Madrid is a vibrant place with lots to do, and although it doesn’t have the obvious tourist sights that cities like Barcelona do, that’s part of what makes it so enticing. You can walk around Madrid and immediately feel like a local.

If you’re wondering, Is there Uber in Spain?, I’ve covered that in another article.

Here are the best things to do in Madrid, whatever your interests.

Madrid’s Museums: From Prado to Reina Sofia and Beyond

If there’s one thing Madrid has in spades, it’s art museums. Its big three are known as the ‘Golden Triangle of Art.’

Prado Museum 

The Prado Museum is worth visiting, especially if you love Spanish art. There are over 1,500 works on display and another 5,500 in the museum’s collection. This is a world-class gallery with big exhibitions of Goya’s work, fellow Spaniard Velazquez, and outstanding Flemish results.

Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza is the perfect art museum if you want to see a wide-ranging collection of international art, spanning the 13th to the 20th centuries and covering artists as varied as Van Gogh and Cezanne, Hopper, and Lichtenstein.

Private Tour: Thyssen Bornemisza Museum
(Entrance ticket)

Museo Reina Sofia

Of the three museums, Museum Reina Sofia focuses on the most modern art, displaying only 20th-century pieces. You can expect to see artists like Munch, Kandinsky, and Picasso, as well as work from lesser-known, but equally talented, artists.

Ticket: Museo Reina Sofía
(Skip-the-line ticket)

To be honest, the Museo Reina Sofia is my favorite of the big three art museums, but they are all great in their own right. Whichever art museum you visit, I’d advise you to buy a ticket in advance if you can. Ideally, get a skip-the-line ticket. Otherwise, it can take a long time to get into these popular galleries – I’ve seen the lines of people waiting, and they don’t look fun.

Must-Visit Sights: From Puerta del Sol to El Retiro Park

Regarding Madrid’s sights, there are some big hitters you can’t miss.

Gran Via

Gran Via is the city’s main street, running over a kilometer from Plaza de Espana to the Metropolis Building, a gorgeous beaux-arts construction dating back over a hundred years.

On Gran Via, you’ll find the city’s main department stores and many theaters, restaurants, and bars. Although it gets busy here, with any luck, you’ll be so distracted by the beautiful architecture surrounding you that you won’t notice.

El Retiro Park

A great place to visit to escape the hubbub of everyday life – and one of my favorite places in the whole city – is the huge El Retiro Park. Located east of the city center, and next to the Golden Triangle of Art, it’s the perfect place to stroll, have a picnic, or enjoy a rowing boat ride on the park’s Great Pond.

There are many monuments to check out, as well as the Palacio de Cristal, an arts venue modeled on London’s famous Crystal Palace.

Palacio Real

The Royal Palace (Palacio Real) is another spectacle worth devoting a few hours to. Located slightly west of the city center, this former home of Spanish royalty – and Europe’s largest Royal Palace – is now open to the public, who can view a selection of its 3,418 rooms on a guided tour.

If you’re visiting on a Wednesday or Saturday, you can also watch the changing of the guards’ ceremony.

Ticket: Madrid Walking Tour and The Royal Palace
(Walking Tour & Skip-the-line ticket)

Ticket: Royal Palace and Guided Tour in Madrid
(Guided Tour & Skip-the-line ticket)

El Rastro market

Markets aren’t always considered a sight, but El Rastro is different. Every Sunday from 9 am, hundreds of vendors set up stalls along Calle de Ribera de Curtidores, selling everything from clothes to jewelry, and vintage furniture to vinyl.

You never know what you’ll find, which kept me returning throughout my time in Madrid. Tradition dictates that after spending an hour or two exploring, you must enjoy tapas and a few beers at one of the many bars in the La Latina district – and who am I to argue?

Cultural Experiences: Flamenco Shows and La Liga Football Games

I was lucky enough to experience two football matches while I lived in Madrid, both at the 80,000-seater Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, which is home to Real Madrid. I’m not the biggest football fan in the world, but there was something special about joining the passionate Madrileno fans as they encouraged their team to victory.

If football doesn’t interest you, don’t write off visiting Santiago Bernabeu completely, as it occasionally hosts parties around the summer that will give you a completely different perspective of the interior of the vast stadium.  

Explore Spain’s most popular sports to learn more about the significance of football and other athletic activities.

Madrid is also a great place to catch a flamenco show, Spain’s passionate national dance. Venues range from tiny flamenco bars, known as tablaos, that put on small-scale, intimate performances, to giant theatres where you can catch a show while enjoying a fancy dinner. Here are a few places I’d recommend you check out:

Cardamomo

Open 365 days a year, you can always catch a show at this classic Madrid flamenco theater.

Ticket: Traditional Flamenco Show
(Skip-the-line ticket)

Corral de la Moreria

This is one of the older tablaos in Madrid and is rightly seen as one of the best. Also, it has the benefit of an in-house Michelin-starred restaurant. 

Ticket: Traditional Flamenco Show in Madrid
(Tablao de la Villa)

Ticket: Traditional Flamenco Table and Tapas
(Flamenco tablao)

Exploring the Vibrant Streets of Madrid City Center

If, like me, you think the best way to learn about a city is on foot, exploring Madrid will be a real joy. It’s ideal for exploring, as around every corner, you’ll find a shaded park, small bar, or bench-lined square to catch some respite from the fierce Madrid sun. If you prefer a more comfortable and convenient mode of exploration, consider renting a car in Madrid to navigate the city’s streets and visit nearby attractions easily.

Madrid’s architectural styles are wide-ranging. Many of the city’s most beautiful structures were built during the reign of King Charles III, who understood the benefit of making Madrid an attractive place to be, proving it worthy of its status as the country’s capital. He was responsible for commissioning the beautiful Prado Museum, among others. The 19th and 20th centuries saw the construction of numerous ornate buildings, like the Palacio de Comunicaciones and the Art Deco Palacio de la Prensa.

You can easily explore Madrid on foot, but to better understand the stories and history behind the city’s best architecture, a walking tour is your best bet.

When Is The Best Time To Visit Madrid?

Madrid’s weather varies wildly throughout the year, thanks to its location at 650 meters above sea level. Snow falls in many Spanish cities during winter, and Madrid is one of those places where snow isn’t unusual. But by August, temperatures often reach over 40 degrees Celsius. Because of these weather extremes, December, January, and August are the least popular times to visit Madrid.

Another thing to consider is that many Madrilenos escape the city for the entire month of August, so many restaurants and bars also close for the duration. I found the height of summer too hot for my North European constitution, so I joined the mass exodus out of the city.

Ideally, visitors want to experience Madrid when the weather is warm enough for a T-shirt. So, I recommend visiting in the shoulder season, May to June, or September to October, when the weather is much more pleasant.

If you’re considering venturing outside the city during your visit, you might want to check out some Madrid day trips.

Conclusion: Is Madrid Worth Visiting In 2024?

I’m unashamedly biased when I say that Madrid is an amazing destination. Enjoy a day in the city exploring on foot, indulging in cultural art appreciation, hunting out souvenirs, or relaxing in El Retiro Park.

Try out Madrid’s best tapas restaurants by evening, visit a traditional flamenco tablao, and perhaps end with some bar-hopping in lively Lavapies or Malasana.

Now you know more about the main sights in the city, it’s up to you to decide whether you want to visit. All I can say is once you’ve experienced Madrid, it’s a place you may never want to leave. 

If you’re interested in venturing beyond Madrid, I highly recommend a Toledo day trip from Madrid.

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