If you want to experience authentic Spanish culture as part of your holiday in 2017, come to Madrid. Steeped in history and culture, the city is full of attractions for any budget. There are a host of museums with free entry and a wealth of exclusive VIP spots. There are fun-filled activities for families, opportunities for a romantic getaway and plenty of chances to experience the vibrant atmosphere of this cultural hub. The community in Madrid is open and welcoming, and the city is a favourite among LGBT+ communities, as well as being popular with luxury holidaymakers.
Whether its action and adventure, family fun, exclusive VIP treatment or a romantic couple’s holiday you want, Madrid has flavour and personality to suit. With so many options, you won’t need to go anywhere else.
At a glance
- Currency: Euro
- Language: Spanish
- Time Zone: GMT +1
- Average flight time: 2h 40m
When to go
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With a holiday to Madrid, the city itself is its own top attraction. Visit the gourmet food markets and indulge in fresh local produce, or grab a bite to eat at one of many tapas bars and sample the region’s famous wine. Head down to the Literary Quarter for cocktails, flamenco and live music or experience the counterculture of the Malasaña region. Visit one of the many contemporary art galleries or spend the night at the Spanish Opera. Leave the city far below you as you ride high above in the cable cars or immerse yourself in the landscape at one of the many parks.
Experience the football frenzy at the stadiums of Santiago Bernabéu and Vicente Calderón or open your eyes to hundreds of animal species at one of the zoos and aquariums. Spend a day at the amusement park, riding the rollercoasters and rapids, and stop for a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants.
Wine and Dine
One of the many highlights of a Madrid holiday is that the city is awash with gourmet food markets. The cast-iron architecture of the San Miguel Market is a real jewel, and the market caters for both locals and tourists, offering fresh daily produce, as well as allowing visitors to sample the food or watch the crowds over an aperitif at one of the bars. Alternatively, the San Ildefonso Market unites tradition and innovation in street market style, offering a variety of ready-made foods at the stalls.
No holiday to Madrid would be complete without sampling the culinary art of tapas, and there are plenty of centuries-old taverns to choose from. Whether it be cod and croquettes at Casa Labra, traditional tapas at Bodega de la Ardosa, or following in the footsteps of Andy Warhol with shrimps and langostinos at Casa del Abuelo, you’re in for a treat. With Madrid’s ancient wine-making traditions, there are a host of vineyards and wineries to visit.
With heaps of activities to keep kids occupied, a holiday to Madrid is the perfect family getaway. There are plenty of opportunities for a day out with the kids from the Zoo Aquarium, home to more than 500 species of animal, to the Madrid Parque de Atracciones with its rollercoasters, rapids and The Walking Dead experience. A little further out in San Martín de la Vega there is Warner Park, where kids can spend the day with their favourite characters and experience attractions like the Scooby-Doo Adventure interactive ride.
For football fans, there are the stadiums of Santiago Bernabéu and Vicente Calderón with museums dedicated to Real Madrid and Atlético de Madrid Football Clubs. There are also a host of fun museums to charm children from the Wax Museum to the Robot Museum, which houses Europe’s largest collection of robots, the Natural Science Museum and the Railway Museum.
Action and Adventure
Madrid, home of Real Madrid and Atlético de Madrid, offers plenty of opportunities to get the blood pumping with live football practically all year round. If football doesn’t appeal, why not try a round of golf at one of the city’s many courses. Get some light exercise and explore the city at the same time by taking advantage of one of Madrid’s many bicycle hire facilities. Or learn to skate at Dreams Palacio de Hielo, Madrid’s Olympic-sized ice rink.
Get an adrenaline rush at Casa de Campo, Madrid’s amusement park, with 48 attractions including rollercoasters, rapids, nature walks and live shows to choose from. Spend the day in the trees at De Pino a Pino, the forest adventure park just a 40-minute drive from the capital. Change into bathing gear and head over to Aquopolis de San Fernando, the water park on the north-eastern side of Madrid, or visit one of the zoos, showcasing different eco-systems and a vast array of wildlife.
Life's a Beach
Although the city of Madrid itself is landlocked, there’s a wealth of beaches and poolside resorts not far from the Spanish capital. So you can experience all the cultural benefits of a holiday to Madrid and still grab some down time at a nearby shore or pool. The city of Valencia on the coast is less than 2 hours away by train, making it perfect for a day trip. Valencia offers three Blue Flag beaches for sunbathing, swimming and water sports, as well as a range of bars and restaurants along the shore. Or a little further out, just 10km away from the city itself, are the stretches of unspoiled beach at Albufera National Park, perfectly preserved and surrounded by lush vegetation and sand dunes.
Further inland, an easy hour’s travel from Madrid, the Alberche riverside beach offers bright sand, swimming opportunities, rental boats and picnic tables, while the relatively new Madrid Rio project has three oval-shaped wading pools surrounded by grass and picnic tables.
Madrid really comes alive at night. Whether with cocktails, flamenco or live music, there is always fun to be had on a Madrid holiday when the sun goes down. Barrio de Las Letras, Madrid’s Literary Quarter, is one of the city’s liveliest areas at night. It displays a variety of musical styles seven days a week, including jazz, flamenco, indie, pop and rock. Clubs like TupperWare, Penta or La Vía Láctea in the Malasaña area are a tribute to the underground countercultural movement of the 1980s in Spain, and rock, punk and indie pop can be heard playing in many ‘80s-themed venues.
For a taste of more traditional Spanish nightlife, head over to La Latina, where the streets are lined with tapas bars. Or for a more cosmopolitan flavour, Chueca is home to cabaret and the LGBT+ scene. For a more upmarket experience, spend a night at the Opera in Madrid de los Austrias, or revel in the exclusivity of Barrio de Salamanca with its glamourous atmosphere and style.
Romance in Madrid is easy to find. Take a sunset ride above the city in one of 80 cable cars to enjoy amorous views of the buildings, parks and gardens beneath your feet. Enjoy each other’s company in Madrid’s contemporary art scene at one of the galleries, or take a leisurely walk among the landscape gardens of Capricho Park. Visit the ‘green lungs of the city’ at El Retiro Park and wander among the botanical gardens and green oasis.
Indulge in a tour of Madrid’s vineyards and wineries, or visit the food markets to add real Spanish flavour to a couple’s holiday to Madrid. Take pleasure in one of the many tapas bars in the city. Then heat things up in the evenings with some flamenco dancing, or just chill with each other to some laid-back jazz sounds.
On a holiday to Madrid, you’ll find a city absolutely bursting with culture. From art and theatre to history and tradition, there are plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in the rich heritage of this vibrant city. Discover the long history of the city at the National Archaeological Museum, with collections of objects on display from the Visigoth Kingdom of Toledo to the Late Middle Ages. View the Solemn Changing of the Guard at the Royal Palace or get a seat for Zarzuela, a Spanish opera, depicting the social realities of bygone Madrid. Take a look at some of the region’s contemporary art or visit one of the cultural centres hosting avant-garde theatre and exhibitions.
Take part in one of Madrid’s many festivals, perhaps the Feast of Saint Isidore the Farmer in which the locals celebrate with doughnuts and lemonade? Or celebrate local tradition with one of the August fiestas held in nearby districts with dancing, drinks and streets decked with lanterns. Madrid Carnival is a must, when the parks and squares are packed full of music, dancing and people in colourful costumes.