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13 best things to do in Madrid, according to locals

Madrid is the second most visited city in Spain after Barcelona, ​​but it is the largest and most diverse in the country. No wonder, then, that Madrid is full of tourist attractions. Some are forgettable, some are worth avoiding if you have extra time, and some are a must for any trip to the Spanish capital. The latter are favored even among locals and make Madrid a more authentic experience.

Separating tourism from what it deserves can be difficult. For example, Plaza Mayor looks like a friendly place for lunch, but the authorities - read: my husband, Floren, who was born and raised in the city, and his friends and family who still live there today - say that only tourists eat there . To see Madrid as a local, follow their recommendations.

Tip: For a great overview of landmarks in Madrid, download a copy of the new map of Icons of Yesterday and Today. Show the most popular locations and walking routes in the city.

Retiro Park Glass Palace
“The instantly recognizable, tiled-lined glass palace, built in 1887 as a greenhouse, also houses temporary exhibitions overseen by the Queen Sofia Museum.”
(Photo credit: Álvaro López del Cerro / Madrid Destination)

1. Retiro Park

Retiro is more than the most beautiful park in Madrid; It is also part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which includes the Paseo del Prado and the Jerónimos district. Some of the city’s most famous attractions are here, including the Alcalá Gate, the Alfonso XII Monument, and the Fountain of the Fallen Angel, depicting the fall of Lucifer in Paradise lost.

You can spend an entire day exploring the 350-acre park, from its scenic promenades to its sculptural gardens and pavilions. The Velázquez Palace, built in the early 1880s to house industrial exhibitions, now features temporary exhibitions of modern painters, photographers and sculptors. The instantly recognizable, tiled-lined glass palace, built in 1887 as a greenhouse, also houses temporary exhibitions overseen by the Queen Sofia Museum.

Entrance to the Royal Botanic Garden
Entrance to the Royal Botanic Garden
(Photo credit: Álvaro López del Cerro / Madrid Destination)

2. The Royal Botanic Gardens of Madrid

With an area of ​​20 acres, seven separate sections and five greenhouses, the Royal Botanic Garden is located along the Paseo del Prado. Within its boundaries are about 90,000 plants and flowers and over 1,500 trees.

Follow the suggested route through the garden to learn more about plants, local history, and the importance of these living species that “breathe” into our lives. Attractions include the rose garden, the large variety of exotic greenhouses, the herbarium and the library and archive, which contain almost 10,000 botanical drawings.

House On
At Casa Encendida, “she is loved by the residents for her avant-garde exhibits.”
(Photo credit: Javier Sánchez / Madrid Destination)

3. The Lighted House

Less than a mile from Retiro Park, this cultural and social center is loved by residents for its avant-garde exhibits and programs in four thematic areas: culture, solidarity, environment and education. In the accessible and modernized historic building, you will find exhibition spaces, an adult library and a children’s library, media rooms, a café and a charity shop specializing in ecological items. Use Google Translate to interpret the signage, which is usually in Spanish.

La Terraza, a rooftop bar full of herbs, offers some of the best views in the city. It is also a great place for breakfast and brunch.

The interior of the Mingo House
“In operation since 1888, Casa Mingo is probably the first cider house in the country.”
(Photo credit: Javier Sánchez Madrid Destination)

4. Casa Mingo

In operation since 1888, Casa Mingo is probably the first cider house in the country. Occasionally and affordable, it specializes in Asturian-style dried cider, although sweet varieties are also available. Most people come for juicy fried chicken, but the menu has other simple selections, such as green salads, potato salad, chorizo ​​cooked in cider and fried red peppers.

The restaurant is getting busy on the weekends. Skip the queues before 2:30 pm for lunch or 9:00 pm for dinner. Go upstairs to sit on the outdoor terrace.

Madrid cable car
Get on a cable car [at Casa De Campo] for a storytelling tour of the city’s green spaces and historical landmarks. ”
(Photo credit: Javier Sánchez / Madrid Destination)

5. Gondola (Cable Car) The Country House

For a unique view, take the metro to Casa de Campo Urban Park. Here you can climb into a cable car for a storytelling tour of the city’s green spaces and historical landmarks. The 1.5-mile journey takes about 10 minutes.

When you’re done, explore the green spaces of Casa de Campo and the amusement park, zoo and family aquarium. Stop along the lake, surrounded by bars and restaurants, for a quick mouthful or sip. On summer weekends, people from Madrid arrive in droves to go jogging, play football or tennis, go cycling or swimming in the public swimming pool.

6. Beer and tapas at Bar Alonso

Small and popular perennial, Bar Alonso is usually full after work or just before dinner (21:00 - 22:00), when residents gather for beer and tapas with friends. Although I can’t guarantee it, my gut is delighted with our friends in Madrid. What I can recommend: the salmorejo, a cold Spanish soup made from tomatoes, garlic and bread; and patatas bravas, slices of french fries covered with a spicy paprika sauce.

Plaza de Santa Ana during the day
Plaza “Santa Ana, located in the Huertas neighborhood, is a hot spot for nightlife.”
(Photo credit: Álvaro López / Madrid Destination)

7. Plaza De Santa Ana

Santa Ana, located in the Huertas district, is a hot spot for nightlife. Located between Teatro Español and the stunning Reina Victoria Hotel, it is full of bars, cafés, breweries and restaurants, including colorful Irish pubs. At sunset, the best places in the house are in the stylish and trendy rooftop bar of the Reina Victoria Hotel.

On Sunday mornings, families take a fresh walk around Santa Ana and stop at a bakery or two for bread and pastries.

The temple of Debod at sunset
The Temple of Debodin is an Egyptian temple located in the Cuartel de la Montaña Park in Madrid.
(Photo credit: Paolo Giocoso / Madrid Destino)

8. The Temple of Debod

You would be forgiven for wondering what an Egyptian temple is looking for in the Cuartel de la Montaña Park in Madrid. The structure was built in year 2when century BC and abandoned when the Nubian empire converted to Christianity. In 1907, in order to save the Nubian monuments during the floods caused by the construction of the Aswan Dam, Egypt donated four temples to different countries. Debod was dismantled, stone by stone, and rebuilt in Madrid. It reopened to the public in 1972.

The temple of Debod stands on a stone platform above a small pond to mimic its original location along the Nile. It is decorated with a variety of reliefs, many initially polychrome, although the colors have long faded. At night, the buildings are lit from below with a glow of another world.

9. Chocolate and churros at Chocolatería San Ginés

Right next to Puerta del Sol is San Ginés, the original outpost of a café that sells Spanish chocolate and churros since the 1890s. San Ginés has been treated in many guides in Spain and can be packaged, especially on New Year’s Day and in weekend mornings.

For a quieter experience, go on a day of the week and sit at one of the old-school green benches inside with tiled floors or lift an outdoor table so you can soak your churros in thick, decadent chocolate. while watching people. Take a bag of chocolate mixes to take home with you from the overseas retail store.

10. Spanish Tortilla

Meaning “little cake” in English, tortilla is the national treasure of an omelet from Spain. The traditional versions are only with eggs and potato tortilla, which are filled with boiled potatoes in olive oil.

Perhaps the most famous Spanish tortilla is made at the Méson de la Tortilla in a restaurant like a cave below the Plaza Mayor. But Dani’s House has won a number of awards, and Txirimiri, a Basque-inspired restaurant, serves a potato tortilla with truffles and caramelized onions.

As for the eternal debate over whether a tortilla should include onions, you are either team chives or the team no chives. Floren’s girlfriend, Elena, says: “I vote ‘with’!” He replies, “I can’t stand onions in a potato tortilla.” For registration, I’m a team chives; the addition of tender onion to the wife really makes the food sing.

Bacchus Temple in Capricho Park
“It simply came to our notice then [Park]in the Barajas district, it is one of the most charming and least known of the beautiful parks in Madrid. ”
(Photo credit: Paolo Giocoso / Madrid Destino)

11. Capricho Park

Capricho, in the Barajas district, is one of the most charming and little known of the beautiful parks in Madrid. It was built in the late 1700s and early 1800s under the leadership of María Josefa de la Soledad Alonso Pimentel, Duchess of Osuna, a benefactor of artists and intellectuals during the Enlightenment. On her estate, she created a natural paradise where the city’s great thinkers and artists could escape city life and nurture their creativity.

The park declined after the Duchess’s death in 1834. In 1974, the Madrid City Council bought Capricho and rehabilitated it. Many of its historic structures survive, including fountains, pavilions and hermitages. Capricho has three gardens - French, English and Italian - as well as a maze of laurel bushes. Currently, the park is only open on weekends and holidays. The beautiful Palace of the Dukes is being renovated, with plans to reopen it as an interactive art space.

The stalls of the sellers at El Rastro
“There’s practically nothing you can’t find at El Rastro… as long as you have the patience to go through more than 1,000 vendor stalls.”
(Photo credit: Álvaro López del Cerro / Madrid Destination)

12. The Trail

On Sundays and public holidays in Madrid’s La Latina district, the streets turn into one of the largest open-air flea markets in Europe, operating in the 1730s.

There’s virtually nothing you can’t find at El Rastro - from clothing and textiles to pottery, antiques, household goods, art, food and collectibles - as long as you have the patience to go through more than 1,000 stalls. of sellers. Most are located in the Plaza de Cascorro, and the triangular block is bordered by Calle de Toledo, Calle de Embajadores and Ronda de Toledo. Although the streets are accessible, El Rastro gets busy and it is difficult to navigate with a mobility vehicle. Plan to visit shortly after opening and avoid peak traffic, which starts around 11 a.m.

If you go in the afternoon, stop at one of the many bars in La Latina for a vermouth, a typical Sunday tradition in Madrid, along with a squid sandwich.

13. Sangria At Las Cuevas Del Sésamo

The Spaniards are great at sangria, their home party punch. Taste the real deal at Las Cuevas del Sesamo, a dimly lit underground bar where Ernest Hemingway gave back a few - well, more than a few - in the 1950s.

While Las Cuevas attracts tourists, its entrance is often hidden from the crowds of the restaurants around it. A set of stairs leads to the barrel-shaped bar, which is crowned by a series of arcades patterned with quotes. On one side is a piano, where a musician plays in the evening. Have a meal and sip some sangria, which is sold exclusively in jugs and has an excellent balance between sweet and sour.

For more ideas and inspiration about Madrid, explore these articles:

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