At first glance, Madrid may strike you as a refined, traditional city, with grand boulevards, opulent landmarks like the Royal Palace, and prestigious cultural institutions like the Prado Museum, home to priceless masterpieces by the likes of Rembrandt and Titian. But scratch between this elegant exterior and you'll discover an exuberant modern metropolis that really knows how to party.

    The dining scene runs the gamut from friendly hole-in-the-wall tapas joints to exclusive Michelin-starred restaurants, while Madrid's nightlife is thrillingly hedonistic, with more raucous bars, chic cocktail lounges and pulsing dance clubs than you could ever hope to explore.

    What to see & do in Madrid

    Featured stories & fun stuff

    Madrid attract all sorts of travellers with its vibrant tapas bars, outstanding art museums, and historic squares. Plaza Mayor, Madrid’s most impressive square, is surrounded by 15th-century designs, such as Palacio Real, Plaza de Oriente, and Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales. Many also consider Madrid as the art capital of Spain, thanks to the city’s trio of art museums near El Retiro Park. Museo del Prado, Centro de Arte... Read more

    Where & what to eat in Madrid

    Madrid's food and dining scene is known for its Ibero-American cuisine and a wide range of food markets, gastronomic spaces, tapas bars, upscale restaurants and ethnic cuisines. Ibero-American cuisine offers everything from Argentinian and Uruguayan to Peruvian, Cuban and other Spanish-American foods. Here, you can eat Chilean, Venezuelan or Colombian, or you can experience fusion cuisine mixing many of the above into one new tradition. Of course... Read more

    Where to shop & what to buy in Madrid

    Shopping in Madrid allows you to get lost in the height of European boutique fashion, unique arts and crafts, souvenirs and the biggest haute couture names. Even better, non-EU residents, including those from the UK, can reclaim VAT for tax-free shopping. You can explore vast indoor shopping malls and outdoor shopping centres or head for one of the street markets for which Madrid is famed. To find the... Read more

    Where to go & what to do at night in Madrid

    Madrid's nightlife is vibrant and famed all over the continent, whether you want to enjoy Flamenco dance, party with a DJ or just grab a late-night meal. Live music can be had in jam-packed local cafes and smaller concerts in hidden speakeasy-style bars. DJs regularly spin the latest underground electronica while casinos let you game the night away. The Literary Quarter has something to offer just about... Read more

    Useful information

    This section comprises all of our useful information about Madrid, Spain’s capital and largest city. With a population of over 6.5 million fiesta-loving residents, Madrid has a multicultural setting with festivals taking place all year round. Getting around on foot or bicycle is relatively easy, as many of the city’s must-visits occupy Plaza Mayor, Madrid’s central district. Whether you’re researching for the best time to visit or looking... Read more

    Start planning your trip

    More information about Madrid

    Bustling tapas bars, world-class art galleries and historic squares are just some of the attractions of a Madrid city break. Book a Madrid hotel to soak up the vibe of the lively Spanish capital and get to know the madrileños, the city’s fiesta-loving residents.

    Get your bearings

    Compact and pedestrian-friendly, the city’s hub is Sol, the area around the Puerta del Sol square. To the east lies leafy El Retiro park and Madrid’s world-class art museums, with the exclusive Salamanca neighbourhood to the north. Westwards to the river, Calle de Alcalá and Calle Mayor wind past the arcaded square, Plaza Mayor, towards Palacio Real, or Royal Palace. Cutting across the city is the busy Gran Via with trendy quarters Malasaña and Chueca to the north. South of Sol is fashionable La Latina, home to Sunday’s El Rastro market, and the cosmopolitan Lavapiés district.

    Culture circuit

    Forming a ‘golden triangle’ near El Retiro park is Madrid’s trio of art museums. Inside the vast Museo del Prado are works by Bosch, Goya, El Greco and Titian. Stop by Velázquez’s Las Meninas for a lesson in perspective. On the other side of the road is Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, displaying everything from Old Masters to contemporary American art. For many, a Madrid city break is a chance to admire Guernica, Picasso’s shocking response to the Spanish Civil War in Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. See impromptu flamenco performances in Plaza de Oriente or ask your Madrid hotel about tickets for Teatro Real, Madrid’s Opera House.

    Historic haunts

    Visitors flock to Plaza Mayor, Madrid’s most impressive square in all its arcaded glory and a favourite spot for coffee. The surrounding area of Habsburg Madrid is characterised by Flemish-inspired designs from the Bourbon-era Palacio Real and elegant Plaza de Oriente to the opulent convent Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales near the Opera House. East of Sol is Plaza de Santa Ana – the Fine Arts Institute and Teatro Español highlighting the area’s 19th-century literary heritage.

    Madrid after-dark

    A 3 am traffic jam is not unheard of in Madrid, renowned for its late-night antics. Between Sol and Opera is Palacio de Gaviria nightclub, an old castle ballroom playing everything from karaoke to cabaret. For alternative nightlife, head to Chueca and Malasaña, north of Gran Via, and La Latina, south of Sol. Flamboyant flamenco performances take place at Corral de la Morería near the Royal Palace. The outdoor terraces of Paseo de Recoletos boulevard are packed in the summertime. On cooler nights, explore the ‘cave’ taverns around Plaza Mayor.

    Gourmet capital

    It’s 250 miles inland, but Madrid has the world’s second-largest fish market – marisquerías (seafood bars) are great for sampling fresh catch. La Latina’s eateries range from trendy tapas bar La Musa to traditional Spanish cuisine in Botín, said to be the world’s oldest restaurant. North of Gran Via, gay-friendly Chueca has several stylish eateries and Plaza Dos de Mayo is a favourite spot for cañas and tapas (draught beer and snacks). Look out for good-value menú del día (set menus).

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