Madrid: Sightseeing Guide

Madrid is one of those places that is highly underrated but has so much to offer. From amazing food to beautiful sights and an awesome culture. The biggest draw for me is the late night culture. I am totally on board waking up late and having a relaxed day finished with a late night dinner.

One of my pet peeves with Melbourne is how everything is closed at 10 pm. Madrid however, comes alive at 10 pm. To be fair, this culture is very prominent in Spain overall but Madrid is where I discovered it.

I loved Madrid so much, that my words are not doing it justice. But what I can write about is all the sights that made me love Madrid that much more.

Madrid view

Madrid looking north.

If this is your first time to Madrid, then you must visit the sights below.

Palacio Real

The Palacio Real is stunning. The white walls are blinding in the sun and the view from atop its walls are breathtaking. The palace is still the royal residence of the Spanish family but it is only used for state functions. You can actually buy a ticket to visit the palace and it is truly worth the cost.

I am a major history buff, so I always get chills when I visit historical monuments and try to imagine the stories that the walls would tell if they could talk.

The interior of the palace is very well maintained and while sections are cordoned off, I was not disappointed with what my tickets gave me access to.

The Royal Armory is a history lover’s dream come true . The collection contains over 3000 pieces dating from the 16th century. To think, that people actually wore those to go to war. It sent chills down my spine.

If you are visiting the palace, then make sure to visit King Charles apartment, the Throne room, the courtyard and the Royal Armory.

Palacio Real Madrid

Palacio Real, Madrid

Plaza Mayor

You cannot go to Madrid and not visit the Plaza Mayor. This square is surrounded by beautiful old buildings with archways leading to various streets. It is truly awe inspiring to think that this was once the commercial hub of Madrid. Cafes and restaurants line the square and while I would not recommend them for eating, they are a good place to have a drink and partake in my favourite activity – people watching.

TIP: Beware of the pickpockets, they have a very large presence in this square.

Parque de El Retiro

The Retiro Park was one of my favorite places in Madrid with its stunning lake and the vestiges of the old palace.

This place buzzes with life in summer when you can hire rowboats to take a turn around the lake. This place is filled with equal parts tourists and locals. If you want to feel part of the local scene, go around 1 pm when local workers come and relax while having some lunch.

Park el Retiro, Madrid

Park el Retiro, Madrid

Gran Via

Gran Via, also known as the street that never sleeps, is one of the most beautiful shopping streets in the world. It is quite long so if you want to browse the shops, then come prepared to walk for a while. You can pretty much find anything and everything you need here.

FUN FACT: Scott was actually the keenest to go shopping on this street and let me tell you Scott abhors shopping. The only reason he was so keen, was so that he could go to the Real Madrid shop to buy a soccer shirt. He got the shirt but boy was I bored during that process (sports and I are not friends).

Mercado de San Miguel

The Mercado de San Miguel is a must visit. Not only does it offer an insight into the food culture of Madrid but also because this is the haunting grounds of office workers and your chance to be part of the local scene.

This place transforms after 8 pm and is filled with office workers here to have a drink and some grub.

Plaza de Cibeles

The Plaza de Cibeles is one of the most recognisable sights in Madrid.  Four main buildings mark the edges of the square. The most beautiful is the Cybele Palace (City Hall) which has a terrace on the roof that offers spectacular views of Madrid.  You can even see the snow-capped mountains. Entry is just €2 and can be bought at the palace.

Cybeles Palace, Madrid

Cybeles Palace, Madrid

Museo del Prado

I unfortunately didn’t get to go see the Museo del Prado but I have heard so many good things about it. It is definitely on my list of top things to see in Madrid the next time I go.

There is a funny story about why we chose not to go to the Prado in the end. I am not a big fan of looking at paintings. While I can appreciate the beauty, it is not my favorite pastime when I am in a new city. History on the other hand is my jam. I love going to museums and looking and exploring old artifacts.

I made the mistake of going to the Reina Sofia museum, and before I say anything more, the museum is wonderful and would be amazing for art lovers, but for me, it did my head in. It held some of the works of Picasso and I left feeling sad, which is why I choose to skip the Prado. I was not in the right head space to enjoy the Prado after the Reina Sofia museum.


I was of two minds whether to go see a show or not. After all Flamenco originates from Andalusia, so I was not sure whether seeing it in Madrid would be a bit of a tourist trap. In the end, we decided to see a show, unsure as to when we would next be in this part of the world.

We chose to go to Corral dela Moreria and while the place is filled with tourists, it was authentic enough for me to get an insight into what flamenco is. I would probably want to go see it in its original format but the Corral dela Moreria offers as close to an authentic experience as possible in Madrid.

Flamenco performers, Madrid

Flamenco performers, Madrid

All in all, Madrid is an amazing city and I love it so much. One of my dearest wishes is that I could go live in Madrid for a few months so that I can fully explore it and the Spanish culture. In the meantime, I will write about it and reminisce about the wonderful time I had in this truly magnificent city.

I hope you found this guide useful. What is your must see sight in Madrid?



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