Madrid is hot and dry in summer—with temperatures reaching 95°F to 105°F in July and August—and chilly in winter, with minimum temperatures in the low 30s or slightly less in January and February, though snow in the city is rare. The most pleasant time to visit is spring, especially May, when the city honors its patron saint. June and September through December are also good. From sprawling museums to traditional restaurants and bars, every corner you turn uncovers a spot that draws in tourists and locals alike. Here is a short list of 10 essential things to do next time you’re in Madrid.
1. Walk along the Gran Vía
The city’s main tourist artery runs the famous Metrópolis building to the Plaza de España. Shops, bars and even a casino line this wide street. The impressive Telefónica building kicks off the next leg, where clothing shops compete with each other to grab the eye, and the euros, of a wide variety of clientele. Gran Vía comes to an end between the Torre de Madrid and the Edificio España, facing the monument to Miguel de Cervantes that’s in the centre of the grand square.
2. Visit big museums and small galleries
Exploring the area known as Madrid’s Art Triangle is compulsory for any visitor to the city. The Museo del Prado, the Reina Sofía and the Thyssen-Bornemisza are the three vertices that make up this traingle that is right on the Paseo del Prado, but they’re not the only places where you can see art in the area: Madrid’s Caixa Forum and its vertical garden are also great places to contemplate beauty.
3. Take in the city’s best views
The Madrid skyline is one of the most attractive in Spain. And if there’s a perfect place to take it all in, it’s from the rooftop terrace at the Círculo de Bellas Artes in C/ Alcalá. From this massive patio you can see the whole city, its great avenues, famous monuments, green spaces, and the Cuatro Torres, the capital’s big skyscrapers. It’s also an ideal spot to have a drink and watch the sun set.
4. Grab some beers
Going out for a few beers (or glasses of wine, or soft drinks) is one of the locals’ preferred pastimes. And it’s made even better when the weather’s nice and all the bars and restaurants open up their terraces. Among the favorite areas to wet their whistle are La Latina in Plaza de la Cebada, a meeting point for many, especially younger crowd. At weekends it’s near impossible to make your way through streets like Cava Baja or Cava Alta, where you’ll find most of the bars and restaurants.
5. Tour the city’s parks
You might not realize it, but Madrid has a lot of green spaces. The biggest one is the Casa de Campo, with 6.6 square miles – five times bigger than New York’s Central Park. The interior features a large lake where you’ll find small boats and where schools practice kayaking for competitions. There’s also a fun fair, the Madrid Zoo, a youth hostel, sports facilities and more than a few spaces for concerts and events, including Madrid Arena.
6. The Paseo de la Castellana, from top to bottom
The Paseo de la Castellana is the axis that passes through the city from north to south along the Paseo del Prado and the Paseo de Recoletos. This is where you’ll find Madrid’s financial centre, exclusive shops and hotels, and even Spain’s most-visited stadium, the Santiago Bernabéu, home to the Real Madrid football club.
7. Essential sights to see
Whether you’re in town for three days or three weeks, you must visit at least three essential spots before you leave. The first is Plaza Mayor, where you can relax with an expensive cup of ‘café con leche’, study the equestrian statue of Felipe III is in the centre of the square and do some pretty good people watching around the Tourist information Centre. The Puerta de Alcalá is another must on your list of sights to see. In Plaza de la Independencia, next to El Retiro park, this ancient neoclassical-style gateway to Madrid is at its best at dusk, when lights shine on its arches. You’ll also want to have a look at the Royal Palace, next to the Catedral de la Almudena, the official residence of the Spanish royal family, although they now live in the Zarzuela Palace.
8. Go treasure hunting in El Rastro
Every Sunday it seems like the whole of Madrid is in one place: C/Ribera de Curtidores, in the Embajadores neighborhood, where dozens of stalls are set up selling second-hand clothes, vinyl records, jewelry and just about any object you can imagine. This is El Rastro, the most famous and oldest flea market in town.
9. Take in a musical
Back in the day, Gran Vía was nicknamed ‘the Broadway of Madrid’ thanks to the sheer quantity of cinemas and theatres that lined the street. Even though many of those have since closed, the strip from Plaza de Callao to Plaza de España keeps the culture alive and draws long queues at the box office. Dating back to 1944, the Teatro Compac Gran Vía is one of the oldest theaters in the city, and its stage has held dance performances, musicals and more.
10. Delight in the chocolate con churros at San Ginés
Over a century ago this chocolatier’s opened its doors in a hidden alleyway between Puerta del Sol and Plaza de Ópera. Today San Ginés serves up the most famous churros in Madrid, and it’s a popular meeting point for clubbers heading home after a serious night out.
See the Top 10 Sights in Madrid
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