Things to do in Madrid

Must-See Madrid Landmarks

Madrid’s landmarks whisper tales that refuse to be forgotten by time.

Everything in Madrid is an opportunity for artistry, including the landmarks. From expertly created architecture that marries beauty with functionality to stunning green spaces and gardens, the landmarks in this city are as rich and full of stories as its history.

Of all the things to do in Madrid, you won’t regret seeing the city’s finest landmarks.

Historical Landmarks

Explore centuries of history that still stand tall today at these historic city landmarks.

1. Palacio Real de Madrid

Spain is home to the largest palace in Western Europe, and you can find it in the heart of Madrid. The Palacio Real de Madrid has 3,418 rooms that bore witness to centuries of history. It’s also one of the most iconic buildings in the city.

Even today, history is made in these walls, as the palace is frequently used for official royal events. Tours guide you through some of the most iconic locations within the palace.

The throne room’s rich red walls and gold furnishings are a true sight to behold, inspiring awe and wonder in all who enter. In the Royal Armory, full suits of metal armor used throughout history stand guard.

Photographer: Gijs Jakobs

2. Puerta del Sol

The heart of Madrid comes alive in Puerta del Sol, a semicircle-shaped plaza that also serves as the junction point for many historic streets. It houses the Real Casa de Correos, the city’s regional government headquarters.

Look up as you stand in front of the Real Casa de Correos. You’ll see the clock that serves as the central focus on New Year’s Eve each year. If you look down in front of this building, you’ll see something else: a slab on the pavement marking "Kilometre Zero." This isthe starting point for all radial roads in Spain.

3. Plaza Mayor

The historic Plaza Mayor is in the oldest part of the city center. King Philip II tasked architect Juan de Herrera with its creation. The result in 1619 was spectacular, but unfortunately, it was destroyed by fire in 1631.

After reconstruction, another fire decimated it in 1670. Again, it was reconstructed, and for some time, all seemed well. However, another devastating fire raged through in 1790. The plaza on view today comes from construction finished in 1854.

Over the years, it’s seen twice-daily bullfights for royalty, giant festivals, and annual Christmas markets that have commenced since 1860. Today, street performers use it to delight tourists with their acts.

4. Catedral de la Almudena

The Catedral de la Almudena stands tall and proud over the Centro area. Seeing it from afar is a real treat, as its spires tower above. It features some of the best Madrid architecture, a testament to the rich cultural influences found across the city.

Francisco de Cubas implemented French 18th-century Gothic architecture while drawing inspiration from some of the most stunning cathedrals designed by Reims, Chartres, and León. This cathedral took over a century to complete, from its inception in 1883 until its consecration by Pope John Paul II in 1993.

Since its completion, it has served as an important setting for royal affairs, such as King Felipe VI's marriage in 2004. Within it, a museum respects the effigies of Madrid’s patron saints, including the Virgin of Almudena, from whom the cathedral gets its name, and Isidore the Laborer.

Photographer: José Francisco García Cuenca

5. Royal Basilica of Saint Francis the Great

Discover neoclassical architectural genius at the Royal Basilica of Saint Francis the Great. It’s been a National Monument since 1980, thanks to its stunning beauty. It’s equal parts a place of Catholic worship and where artistry is celebrated.

Paintings by some of the city’s best artists adorn the walls of the gold and marble chapels. From floor to ceiling, frescoes depicting biblical motifs greet you as soon as you set foot in the Basilica.

Even the dome atop this grand building is worth admiring. It’s the largest of its kind in Spain, spanning 33 meters in diameter and reaching a height of 58 meters.

6. Plaza de la Villa

Entering Madrid’s Plaza de la Villa instantly brings you to the cobbled streets of the historical city. It remains one of the best-preserved examples of 17th-century baroque architecture. Together, exposed stone, expertly wrought iron, and brick evoke imagery of a rustic village.

Here, some of the oldest emblematic buildings in the city still stand. They feature the Mudéjar architecture style, which boasts Islamic influences. It’s a chance to witness the city's evolution from its former glory into the magnificent gem it is today.

7. Plaza de España

In the Plaza de España, one of the most quintessential monuments in Madrid stands proud. The Monumento Cervantes honors Spanish novelist Miguel de Cervantes, best known for writing Don Quixote. This monument stands tall above the plaza with figures of Don Quixote and his trusted squire, Sancho Panza, on the center pedestal.

They’re carved in bronze to contrast the stone of the rest of the monument, shining light on the divide between reality and Cervantes’ vibrant imagination. It’s one of the most frequently photographed locations in the city.

Monuments, Fountains, and Statues

Discover the elegant softness that stone can achieve when an artist works with it. These monuments, fountains, and statues look ready to come alive.

8. Cibeles Fountain

In Plaza de Cibeles, Madrid’s Paseo del Arte begins. At its center, the Cibeles Fountain awaits. The fountain immortalizes the visage of Cybele, the Roman goddess of fertility, sitting on a chariot pulled by two lions.

This masterpiece, carved from stone, makes Cybele’s features look as soft as skin, and her clothes appear to billow in the wind. Despite being made of stone, her movement looks as natural and lithe as our own when we perform feats of acrobatic artistry.

Photographer: ribesweg

9. Puerta de Toledo

Between La Latina and Embajadores, a gargantuan stone arch commemorates Ferdinand VII's arrival in Madrid. Built in 1813 by the neoclassical genius Antonio López Aguado, the Puerta de Toledo’s granite visage features three arches along with two side arches.

The real artistic genius is in the carefully carved sculptures adorning one of the city's most emblematic monuments. Each feature represents something significant about the city's history and culture.

The sculptures depict the Spanish monarchy's power around the world in medieval times. Two angels lift Madrid’s emblem on the northern face, and the arches represent military victories.

Cultural and Artistic Landmarks

Follow Madrid’s rich culture of artistry at these cultural landmarks dotting the city’s neighborhoods.

10. Museu Nacional del Prado

The structure that now serves as the Museu Nacional del Prado was built in 1785 under the orders of King Charles to house the Natural History Cabinet. Two generations later, his grandson, King Ferdinand VII, transformed it into a museum. In 1819, it opened its doors to the public.

The building’s exterior may as well be an exhibit, with its Greek-inspired stone columns and statues carved into the walls. Within them, you’ll discover one of the largest collections of art in the world, heavily featuring Spanish genius and pieces created by the likes of El Greco and Diego Velázquez.

Photographer: Ana Dominguez Ruiz

11. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

The Museu Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía welcomes art lovers from around the world with a massive collection of modern art.

You'll discover Picasso’s masterpiece, Guernica, within these walls. Entirely painted in black and white in 1937, it reflects upon the German bombing of Guernica while challenging the atrocity of war.

Throughout the museum’s walls — and even in the courtyards — art awaits around every turn. Works by Dalí and Miró are proudly displayed as a testament to some of the nation’s most recent artistic geniuses. Pieces reflecting on the impact of the Civil War and Spanish history invite afternoons of quiet contemplation.

12. Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum Madrid

The brick building housing the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum might not look like a creative hub. However, one thing we emphasize during our shows is to expect the unexpected.

Once you enter this museum’s doors, you’ll be surrounded by some of the most significant European artwork over the centuries. New and old art is welcome here! Avant-garde works featuring surrealism by Picasso and fantastical works from Dalí will leave you contemplating his inspiration.

Others from 14th-century Italy, such as Duccio di Buoninsegna’s Christ and the Samaritan Woman, show how art has transformed and yet stayed the same over the years. No matter where in time you look, you’ll see the human penchant for creative expression, and this museum celebrates it.

13. Círculo de Bellas Artes

Since 1880, the Círculo de Bellas Artes de Madrid has been a role model in the city's international presence in the arts. Its asymmetrical design makes it an interesting sight and an easy landmark when traveling around the city. Inside this multidisciplinary center, all sorts of artistic venues await.

Traverse the four exhibition rooms, filled with work from beloved and newly emerging artists. Concert and lecture halls bring crowds to discover the heart of culture in Madrid with shows, educational talks, and musical performances. Visual art workshops encourage visitors to tap into their inner artist.

14. Museo Arqueológico Nacional

The history of Spain unfolds at the Museo Arqueológico Nacional. Founded under Isabella II’s royal decree, this museum displays pieces from the Iberian Peninsula dating beyond written history.

Its unique building is crafted in an elegant neoclassical design. While the primary emphasis is on Iberian and Spanish works, art from other cultures accents the experience. Greek ceramics and Visigoth votive crowns can be found within.

However, the most popular museum highlight is the Lady of Elche. It's a limestone bust depicting a woman staring back at viewers with a dispassionate, detached expression.

When you’re done working out what has the Lady so displeased, dive underground into a replica of the Cave of Altamira and its paintings, which have been declared a World Heritage Site.

15. Matadero Madrid

The land on which Matadero Madrid stands was once a slaughterhouse and cattle market. With the days of butchering behind it, the grounds have transformed into the Centre for Contemporary Creation. Here, people can create their own art or admire what others have made.

The building’s brightly colored shutters and giant stone and brick facades stand out, inviting visitors to explore the collection. Traditional and digital art alike speak to the hearts of their viewers.

Download the self-guided tour and see where your exploration leads you. This creative center offers exhibits on all kinds of art, including literature and video game creation.

Parks and Gardens

Witness the beauty of nature and breathe in the fresh air at these unforgettable Madrid parks and gardens.

16. Jardines de la Plaza de Oriente

The 1.6 ha Jardines de la Plaza de Orient are fit for royalty, which makes sense considering they sit in front of the Royal Palace. The greenery growing here elevates the design of the palace and its accompanying Royal Theater.

Dotted across the garden, sculptures of Spanish monarchs overlook the green space. The plaza's center also holds a statue that seems to defy physics. The Monument to Felipe IV depicts his horse rearing up on narrow hind legs, yet it doesn’t snap under the weight of the bronze.

Those legs hold a little secret: The front ones are hollow to lighten the load, while the back ones are solid.

17. El Retiro Park

El Retiro Park is a citywide landmark and one of the most popular parks in Madrid. It’s easy to see why. With over 15,000 trees, 125 ha of green spaces, and stunning sights like Velázquez Palace, it’s a true gem in the city.

Here, you can find all sorts of cultural adventures and discoveries. Since 2021, this park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Landscape for its ability to effortlessly meld the timeless beauty of nature alongside beautiful works of art and architecture.

You’ll even find one of the oldest trees in the city here, a centenary olive tree believed to have been planted in 1396.

Photographer: Lazar Krstić

18. Parque Juan Carlos I

Madrid’s Parque Juan Carlos I may not have the architectural marvels of El Retiro Park to fall back on, but it doesn’t need it. This beloved city landmark reclaimed a degraded area to cultivate an outdoor park for the public. It’s a popular place for gentle urban hiking in Madrid.

Public art and open-air sculptures dot the line, making it easy to spot from a distance. One of the most memorable is the fingers of a hand rising out of the ground as if a giant were clawing its way out of the earth.

Exploring the Magnificence of Madrid’s Landmarks

Madrid’s landmarks are each as unique as the last. They offer insight into what makes this city so wonderful and inspire awe and reverence in those who visit. We can relate in a lot of ways.

Our displays inspire strong emotions as they come to life. We whisper unforgettable stories, share amazing journeys, and show off a spirit far too bright to be tamed. Our shows in Madrid bring aesthetic excellence to the stage, showing just how far it’s possible to go with a dream for inspiration.

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