Madrid is home to some of the richest history, art, and culture in Europe. If you are planning a trip, you may feel overwhelmed by all there is to do and see!
These 10 most famous landmarks in Madrid are unmissable destinations for any tourist, whether it is your first trip or your most recent of many visits.
Famous Landmarks in Madrid
1. Museo Nacional del Prado
The Museo Nacional del Prado is one of the largest and most famous art museums not just in Madrid, but in all of Europe.
The art collection here is among the most extensive in the world. Exhibits focus on European art ranging from the 12th century to the 20th century CE.
Tourists can view art pieces from world-renowned artists such as El Greco, Hieronymus Bosch, Titian, Francisco Goya, and Peter Paul Rubens.
The museum’s nearly 200-year history has brought it from a display of Spanish paintings and sculptures to one of the most extensive art collections in the world. Exhibits range from sculpture to prints, paintings, and drawings.
The museum is also home to many historic artifacts and documents, many of which date from significant moments in European history.
2. El Retiro Park
Located in the heart of Madrid, El Retiro park is the city’s largest green space. The park covers more than 125 hectares or 308 square acres.
It is not only an excellent place to walk and enjoy the nearby trees and waterways but also serves as a place for art exhibits, community events, and more.
Throughout the year, locals can find children’s puppet shows, holiday celebrations, rent a rowboat to sail the lake, or bring little ones to the playground.
The park is also home to some of the city’s most important artistic and cultural exhibits, such as the Reina Sofia Museum and the Teatro de Titeres. The teatro still performs puppet shows every weekend, which are free to the public.
As you stroll the grounds, you will also see stunning gardens, fountains, and sculptures, some of which are hundreds of years old. The most notable include the Fountain of the Fallen Angel, the monument to the Republic of Cuba, and the Artichoke Fountain.
The oldest statues in the park have stood there since 1650 and depict the Lion of Nimea and the Hydra of Lerna, both from the Twelve Labors of Hercules.
3. Plaza Mayor
Plaza Major is the ancient city square found in Hapsburg Madrid. This is the oldest part of the city, showing some of the most fascinating architecture and important historical sites in Madrid.
The plaza was built in the late 16th century and was once the heart of the city. Today, it is a place to shop, enjoy coffee and baked goods, and watch public performers.
Some of the original buildings still stand, most notably the Casa de la Panaderia. This was once the city’s foremost bakery; today it serves as a historical exhibit and tourist information center.
You will also find the statue of King Philip III in the square, where it has stood since 1848 (when it was already more than 200 years old). The plaza is considered an excellent display of Spanish culture, history, and architecture in one place.
4. Royal Palace of Madrid
The Royal Palace of Madrid is not simply a historical and cultural exhibit. It remains the official residence of the Spanish royal family to this day, the second-largest royal palace still in use in Europe.
The palace is a stunning treasure of history, art, and culture. The building itself dates from the 9th century. At the time, it was a stronghold of the Muslim emir. Today, it is open to the public for tours, though the grounds are so large that only sections of the property are toured at a time.
Also Read: Landmarks in Spain
The palace is known for its rare art collections and historical artifacts, which include pieces by Caravaggio, Francisco de Goya, Velasquez, and many more.
The Royal Armoury of Madrid is also housed here, as well as one-of-a-kind artifacts such as the only Stradivarius quintet in existence.
5. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
El Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia is located alongside El Retiro Park in Madrid. The museum is the city’s biggest exhibit of modern Spanish art.
Exhibits here focus on artists from the early 20th century onward, mostly Spanish artists. The building was originally a hospital built in the 18th century and was used as a medical facility until 1969.
In 1980, it was reopened as a museum of modern art and named in honor of Queen Sofia. The extensive exhibits include works by Pablo Picasso (most notably his painting Guernica), Salvador Dali, Jorge Orteiza, Eduardo Chillida, Paul Klee, Diego Rivera, Rene Magritte, and many others.
There are also collections from modern American painters. In addition to the exhibits, the museum also includes a free-access library with more than 100,000 books, as well as two auditoriums. Exhibits are also displayed at Velasquez Palace and the Crystal Palace.
6. Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum
The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum is one of the three museums in Madrid that together make up the Golden Triangle of Art.
This is not just because of their location but also because their collections are seen as corresponding to and completing one another. The Thyssen is the third part of the Golden Triangle along with the Prado and the Reina Sofia.
The Thyssen, as it is commonly called, features more than 1,600 paintings, making it one of the largest private art collections in the world. While the Reina Sofia features contemporary Spanish art and the Prado on German, Dutch, and Italian masters, the Thyssen offers an overview of European Reinassance art.
The paintings are mostly from the 14th and 15th centuries, though pieces in the collection range up to the 20th century. Notable works include ones from artists such as Jan Van Eyck, Fra Bartolomeo, Albrecht Durer, Hans Holbein, Caravaggio, Rubens, Van Gogh, and many more.
7. San Miguel Market
The Mercado de San Miguel is a modern attraction in Madrid, but considered an unmissable destination in the city. Built in 1916, the market was renovated to its modern form in 2003. Today, it is known as a destination for foodies and a place to sample Spanish cuisine of all kinds.
It is one of Madrid’s largest gourmet tapas markets, with more than 30 vendors offering a variety of light food items and beverages.
Here, you will find visitors strolling the stalls to try local offerings of olives, ham, bread, cheese, meats, baked goods, desserts, wine, beer, champagne, and small prepared foods.
The market is covered, which means that you can find it open no matter the weather. You will also find a variety of regional specialties such as Galician cheese, coastal cuisine, and homemade ice cream.
8. Temple of Debod
The Temple of Debod is an ancient Egyptian temple that now rests in Madrid. Dating from the 2nd century BCE, the temple is located in Madrid’s Cuartel de la Montana Park.
The stunning piece of history was a gift to the Spanish people from the Egyptians to protect from flooding in connection to the Aswan Dam. The Temple of Debod includes sacred rooms dedicated to the goddess Isis and features some of the most amazing ancient Egyptian art outside of the country.
Tourists are welcome to visit and learn about the history of the temple, a once-in-a-lifetime chance for tourists in Spain.
9. Calle Gran Vía
Calle Gran Via is sometimes called the most famous street not just in Madrid but in all of Spain. This enormous road is the site of the city’s most well-known shops, restaurants, and other attractions. It was first proposed in the 1860s and was constructed over several decades in the early 20th century.
Today, tourists will find the Gran Via bustling at every time of the year. It is a popular place to enjoy food and drink as well as shopping, theater, and much more.
You will find some of the city’s best bars and restaurants along this road, which extends from Salamanca to Arguelles. It is also considered Madrid’s best nightlife destination and is sometimes referred to as the street that never sleeps.
10. Puerta del Sol
El Puerta del Sol is one of the most famous public squares in the city. Its main attraction is the enormous bronze statue of King Charles III.
More importantly is the square’s reputation as the starting point for every road in Spain.
The square also features some of the city’s most well-known meeting spots, public artworks, and historic buildings, and is considered a gathering place for Madrid residents to this day.