Madrid is highly underrated. When most people visit Spain, they think of the whitewashed buildings with blue shutters and flower pots you can find in Granada, or the bustling La Rambla and beaches of Barcelona. Located smack-dab in the middle of the country, people tend to think Madrid isn’t anything special and isn’t worth making a stop while traveling though Spain (read: there’s no beach in Madrid, so there’s no reason in visiting). There are plenty of things to do, even in just a one-day trip to Madrid.
The truth is: from gastronomy to culture and everything in between, Madrid has a lot to offer, both on and off the beaten path. Here are just a few of the best things to do in Spain’s capital city:
Start your day with Chocolate and Churros at Chocolatería San Ginés
Who doesn’t want to start their day by eating fried doughy goodness dunked in steaming hot chocolate? San Ginés is a Madrid symbol that even has the locals coming back for more.
All the greats who have visited Madrid have eaten the churros and chocolate from San Ginés for breakfast (or any meal of the day)!
Go for a stroll in Retiro Park
El Parque del Buen Retiro, or Retiro Park, is to Madrid what Central Park is to New York City. It’s everyone’s quick getaway from the reality of city life, outdoor gym, and spot to relax.
Visitors can rent rowboats to paddle around the lake, visit the flower gardens, or marvel at the Palacio de Cristal, a giant glass palace hidden in the heart of the park. This is hands-down one of the most beautiful places in the city.
Peruse the secondhand goods at El Rastro
Sundays in the La Latina neighborhood of Madrid are reserved for one thing: flea market shopping. From vintage necklaces to colorful tapestries, El Rastro is your best bet for all things antique and unusual.
The market is packed with locals and tourists alike on Sunday afternoons as people check out the knickknacks for sale at the stands lined up down the street. People watching in the market is even more fun than shopping, just be sure to hold on to your wallet! You don’t want to leave the market with less than what you came in with!
Hike up the rocky trails of La Pedriza
If you can manage to get out of the city for a day, hiking in La Pedriza, the mountains on the outskirts of the small town Manzanares el Real, is well worth the 45-minute bus ride.
With a wide variety of trails of varying levels of difficulty, La Pedriza is the best place to go if you’re looking to find some peace and quiet in nature. At the top of the mountain, take in the breathtaking view of the four skyscrapers of Madrid and the surrounding countryside.
Grab a drink (or three) in Malasaña
Malasaña, Madrid’s trendy neighborhood in the center of the city is home to the city’s most fun and eclectic bars. Fabricas Maravillas has some of the best craft beer in the city (and their olives are literally THE BEST).
For a more old-school Spanish vibe, drop by Mesón el Chamizo for a caña (beer). As ridiculous as it sounds, their chips are so good! This bar looks like a traditional Spanish bar that only old men would want to hang out at, but there’s always a friendly crowd and free good tapas to eat while drinking your beer.
Don’t forget to stop in Sidi, a hybrid between old man bar and fun, young people’s bar. This place is always full on weekends, and their free tapas are delicious. So maybe you should go to Malasaña on an empty stomach; your tastebuds won’t be disappointed!