Madrid has so many things to do, it’s hard to really know what there is to do in Madrid and what is worth doing. In my time here in Madrid, I have compiled a list of museums, parks, markets, stores, and more that I have enjoyed!
- The Prado Museum. The Prado Museum is one of the most important museums for art in the world. The Prado is so essential because of the many significant and influential works on display; such as Las Meninas, the man with his hand on his chest, Saturn devouring a son, Mona Lisa, and others. The Mona Lisa in the Prado is not by Leonardo da Vinci but by his student. For students, it is free, you only need an identity card from your university and your passport.
- The Reina Sofia Museum. The Reina Sofia Museum is very important because there are many modern works by Dalí and others, but most importantly – Guernica by Pablo Picasso. The Reina Sofia Museum is huge, and one visit is not enough to see all the works. I really liked this museum and will recommend it in the future. You will need a lot of time to see everything.
- The Museum of America. The Museum of America is not a museum about modern America, it is about the Americas when the conquistadors arrived in the Americas. There is a lot of gold and silver and jewels with special stones and works with very beautiful materials. For students, this museum is free. I think it is important to see because there are no museums like this in the United States.
- Balloon Museum. This museum is not serious like the others, but it is an opportunity to spend time with friends and take unique photos in the arrangements. It’s not free, but it’s a lot of fun and has interactive art exhibits.
- Nomad Museum. The Nomad Museum is mostly a light show with a projector, but the main room is relaxing when everyone in the room is relaxing. Some of my friends felt nauseous because of it, so be careful if changing and moving lights make you neusous.
- Archeological Museum. The Archeological Museum has a lot of artifacts spanning from the prehistoric period through the Roman period and the Egyptian period. I found it interesting but I didn’t take the time to read everything. If you’re a student, you have free entrance to the museum.
Restaurants and Snack Stores:
- San Ginés Chocolate Shop. The San Ginés Chocolatería is historic because San Ginés has the best chocolate churros in all of Madrid. Many famous people have visited the chocolate shop and their photo is on the walls of the restaurant.
- Viandas. Viandas is an Iberian ham store. Food to try: Fuet, Iberian Ham, and Manchego cheese. The food is good for a snack. It is closer to Puerta del Sol in one of the surrounding streets.
- Malvón. Malvón is an Argentinean empanada shop. My favorite empanadas are Ham and Cheese and Bacon and Cheese. I know that the empanadas are not from Spain, but they are good. The food is good for a snack. There are many places in the city and throughout Spain. They also have a brownie sandwich with a caramel filling that is divine!
- Torrons Vicens. Torrons Vicens is a chocolate shop. Chocolate is very good and it is very difficult not to eat it all for a snack. This is another chain brand in Spain, but the chocolate is amazing.
- Ella Sky Bar. Ella Sky Bar is a rooftop bar overlooking Gran Via and much of Madrid. I am a big fan of the Mojitos. I had the classic and the passion fruit mojitos – life-changing.
- Los Alpes. Los Alpes is an ice cream shop near the Moncloa metro station. There are several flavors of ice cream and sorbet. I personally enjoyed the passion fruit and mango sorbet the most, but the lemon sorbet is hard to beat.
- Ferros. Ferros is a small bar near the Las Islas Filipinas metro station that has delicious coffee, wine, tapas, and more. I really enjoyed the popcorn chicken here and a glass of wine.
Stores: Gran Via has these stores and many more! These are my favorite Spanish brands
- Zara. Zara is a big store and it has cheap and a bit more expensive clothes, it depends on what you want. Zara is very popular in Spain. There are places in the United States to buy clothes for your trip to Spain before you arrive.
- Primark. Primark is very cheap and has many floors of different clothes. The store is good to buy temporary clothes and you have a purpose for your visit. Be careful with clothes that have images of places in the United States because I have seen many errors in the designs.
- Pull and Bear. I like Pull and Bear but I think that it is a bit more on the expensive side but it is still more affordable than other stores.
- Corte Inglés. Corte Inglés is a large department store in Spain. This store has every department that you could think of and the stores normally span a city block or more with multiple floors. It is on the costlier side for their products but they have a number of more affordable services available.
- My savior of a store has been Carrefour. This is the local grocery store near my residence that I go to any time I need something. From coffee and breakfast foods to sauces to making the dining hall livable, Carrefour is open most hours of the day, cheap, and close.
- Mango. Mango is similar to Zara but it is not nearly as big of a store. The clothes are very similar and depending on the week, Mango has the better deals.
- El Rastro. El Rastro is a market only on Sundays. There are many sellers with different things and for the best they are cheap, but there are few that are expensive. It is impossible to see the whole market in one day because there are so many shops. In my experience, it is the best place to buy a bag that costs little money. The Rastro is at the La Latina metro station. I highly suggest taking a bit of time before and after shopping to appreciate the live music at the station. La Latina is one of the few stations to have people play music there. It creates such an amazing atmosphere that I know I will miss it when I return to the US.
- The San Miguel Market. The Mercado de San Miguel has many stations for fruit, drinks, food, and fried food. There is a station for great sangria too.
- The motor market. The motor market is only open once every month and is inside the train museum. There is no one type of seller, but there is something for everyone. There is also live music and food.
- Parque de Oeste. Parque de Oeste is very close to the Moncloa Metro station. It is very quiet and there is a lot of shade. This park is the source of inspiration for the guided tour. There are many people with their dogs and people with their friends and lovers. I will recommend bringing something to drink because the sun is very strong and it was very hot. My favorite thing to do in the park is lay on a blanket with a glass of lemonade, working on whatever I need to while listening to music.
- Parque de Templo de Debod. I really like this park, I have yet to be able to go in the temple as there is a line to wait and I got there at the end of the viewing time. The surrounding park is beautiful, with lots of shade and an amazing viewing area of the green outer edge of the city. There are plenty of restaurants surrounding the park to get a drink or snacks. The temple inside is really something unexpected. There are several rooms and artifacts of the temple when it was at its prime.
- Plaza Mayor. Plaza Mayor is perfect for a time to eat and drink and listen to music. You don’t need to spend a lot of time here, but it’s best for coffee in the morning or drinks in the afternoon.
- Puerta del Sol. Puerta del Sol has many shops, the center of Spain, and much more. There are many restaurants, bars, and at night, discos around the Puerta. In this plaza you can also see the center of Spain – a spot where all major roads in the country start.
- The Santiago Bernabéu stadium. The stadium is the home of Real Madrid – a very important soccer team. The stadium has a small museum, but there are many trophies and a presentation about the construction. If you like soccer, it’s a good time.
- Malasaña. Malasaña is a neighborhood with many vintage clothing and food locations. An afternoon here is perfect for escaping the sun and shopping for new clothes, there is also a vivid nightlife here.
- Barrio de las Letras. If you are a follower of Spanish literature, this neighborhood is for you. There are many houses of very important writers from Spain here.
- Royal Botanical Garden. The garden is very big and beautiful. It only costs one euro per student. It is perfect to see many flowers from many places in the world and spend time with friends. The nature in the garden is very beautiful and there is a lot of shade. The garden is near the Prado Museum.
- Amusement park. The amusement park is so much fun and it’s a very serious escape from classes. It is very similar to an amusement park in the United States, but it is a lot of fun with friends.
- Telefónica has temporary expositions at its building. In my time in Madrid, there was a Witcher exposition. If you don’t know The Witcher, I recommend it. The Witcher exposition ends the last week of July, but keep an eye out for the next one at Telefónica!
- Palacio Real. The Royal Palace in Madrid is quite a sight to see. While you cannot see everything, as it’s in use, there are still many rooms to see from the last few Monarchs who resided in the palace. There is a student discount available but it will cost around 6 euros.
- Almudena Cathedral. The Almudena Cathedral is right next to the royal palace and it is absolutely stunning. The ceilings in this cathedral aren’t painted with holy images like other cathedrals, but it is still beautiful. There are so many colors that it is like a breath of fresh air in there.
- Madrid Zoo. The Madrid Zoo is much smaller than most zoos in the United States, but you can still see many of your favorites. The idea that everything is bigger in the US really resonates with the zoo, but I still enjoyed my time. The adjoining aquarium is small and not much bigger than a reptile house.
- El Faro de Moncloa. This is a lookout near the Moncloa metro station. It’s a lookout over most of Madrid. Here you can almost see Escorial. On a good, clear day, you could see 50 miles easily. It costs around 4 euros to go and lasts around 20–30 minutes.
Excursions on the outskirts of Madrid:
- Toledo. Toledo is a city outside of Madrid with many beautiful basilicas and shops. You will need a car or bus to get there. You need a full day to see everything you want, I recommend the basilica and other religious places.
- Segovia. Segovia is very pretty and has the last Roman aqueduct. The basilica is very beautiful and has many works on the ceiling. The food here is delicious and some of the freshest tasting food I have had.
- Aranjuez. Aranjuez is one of the many Royal Palaces in Spain. This one is in a relatively small town outside of Madrid. This palace is one of the largest with surviving internal decor. There are large surrounding gardens and a decent-sized town surrounding it. While I was in Aranjuez, I tried some popcorn chicken with cornflake batter with a side of curry to dip in. It was wonderful and I would go there to eat again. The palace was very interesting, with many rooms decorated in distinct styles from different periods. It was intriguing, but the security team was a bit rude and almost followed certain people in the group. One of the best parts of the day was the Chiquitren – a little train that drives around the city and the gardens, giving a tour. I thought the train ride was amazing because we were able to feel a breeze on a really hot day.
- Escorial. Escorial is a very small town that takes its siestas very seriously. Aside from that, the building Escorial is what used to be the equivalent of the White House with an accompanying monastery. I thought it was interesting and something to do once. I do not think I would go back to it if there was not a really good reason to go.