Madrid City Guides


Almost every town and city in Spain has a main square, and this is invariably called Plaza Mayor. This central square played an important role in the history of Madrid. It was the stage for important events like bullfights, soccer, street markets and even some more gross activities like executions.

In the narrow streets that lead out of the Plaza Mayor you can find small and less fancy bars where you can indulge in a nice bocadillo de calamares, calamari roll, and a beer.

You can enjoy watching street artists at work drawing their caricatures, taking pictures of the buildings or simply sitting down to drink a beer and watch people walk by.

The famous Christmas market takes over the square from the beginning of December or even earlier, until the end of Christmas on 6th of January.

Not far from the Plaza Mayor is a very special café, Chocolatería San Ginés. This café is reputed to serve the best chocolate con churros in Madrid.


Not so long ago there was a hit parade on the charts that went something like “Vaya, vaya, aquí no hay playa”, “there is no beach here (Madrid)“. Madrid being the capital of Spain has always had many attractions for tourism, but there was one thing that it could never have, a beach, given that it is in the centre of the country and far away from its many coasts. However, this has just changed as Madrid has recently managed to get its second beach!

Long, long ago, in the 1930s Madrilians had the chance to swim and sun-bathe on a real beach in their own city. It was an artificial beach designed and built by the local government for the enjoyment of everybody. Now Madrid has a beach again, the “Playa Madrid Río”: 10 kilometres of nature, park and bridges that runs along the river, Manzanares. The project started in 2010 and it was completed in spring 2011.

The new complex can be accessed through many points in Madrid, as it follows the river on its way through the capital. It has its main access point in the Parque de la Arganzuela, Metro Pirámides or getting the bus number 18 from Plaza Mayor. The main attraction will be without a doubt the new beach area with the café and deck chairs to enjoy the sun and scenery. In this complex there is something for everybody. There are playgrounds for the children, as well as sport areas for the older ones and opportunities to just enjoy the new natural environment on foot.

There are 30 km of cycle paths, as well as tennis courts, and football pitches. Another great opportunity for practicing healthy living is the Biohealthy Circuits, an area with 22 different exercise machines situated by the Vicente Calderón Stadium.

The area that this immense park and open nature-urban space has in part being reclaimed to the city. One of the main features is the many bridges that one can find through the 10km journey of the river through the town and the park.


The most famous street market is el Rastro, this market takes over the area of Cascorro, near Sol, every Sunday. In this market you can find almost anything, stamps, books, old Franco memorabilia, hand-craft items and even pet food. Although this market was named after the trail of blood left by animals leaving the slaughter house, nowadays nobody remembers this story and el Rastro is just a place to have fun and spend a nice Sunday morning hunting for bargains.

Other street market, this time permanent, is the book market on la Cuesta Moyano, just outside Retiro Park. In this market in Calle Claudio Moyano you will find second hand books in Spanish, although some of the stalls hold foreign editions and specialise in children’s books.

Madrid also has its own Christmas market. Every year from the end of November till the last day of Christmas, 6th of January, the Plaza Mayor is turned into a Winter Wonderland of Christmas presents, food and decorations. Another Christmas market is the art and crafts one in Arguelles not far from Sol.

A very colourful street market is the flower street market in Tirso de Molina. It is open every day from Monday to Sunday, there you won’t just find flowers and plants, but the market also organises art exhibitions and shows, including flamenco, music dance and theatre.


There are plenty of fun things to do with children in Madrid. You can start your trip in the Retiro Park, near Atocha station. Children will enjoy riding the boats on the lake in the centre of the park, as well as the puppet theatres that independent artists set up at weekends.

You can also take your children to enjoy a nice drinking chocolate with churros, at Chocolateria San Gines near Sol Station. Churros are savoury cakes made with fried dough. They are typically consumed together with a very thick hot chocolate.

If your children are older, they will probably enjoy the amusement park, el Parque de Atracciones. It is situated in the middle of Casa de Campo a massive urban park situated on the western outskirt of Madrid. In Casa de Campo you will also find the Madrid Zoo, with a very big selection of wild animals, as well as an aquarium with dolphins. Both attractions can be accessed from the centre by Metro, or bus.

If you go to the tourist office in Plaza Mayor, they will provide you with a booklet with three tourist routes in Madrid for families with children. The routes are explained and they provide an area maps so you can find your way around the city.


We will start the tour in El Corte Inglés, of course, not a department store, but the department store. There are a few stores in Madrid, and they also have specialised sound and visual shops. The most central one is the store in Preciados street, near Sol Metro Station.

If you prefers something more independent and smaller, there are also plenty of shops in the streets around Puerta del Sol and Callao Square. If you are looking for books, DVDs, technology and music you can also stop at the Fnac store just two minutes from Corte Inglés.

However, the Oxford Street of Madrid is around Goya Metro Station. There you will find many different independent shops offer high quality clothes and shoes. If you fancy yourself as one of the girls in Sex and the City, there are also branded boutiques where you can find very chic and expensive outfits.

For those more alternative and travelling on a budget, aren’t we all?, the street market has on offer everything you can imagine, from Franco memorabilia to shoes and handbags, and even pets. You can find very interesting, hand-made products by local artists.This flea market is called “El Rastro”, you can get to it walking from Sol, or just coming out the Metro on Tirso de Molina.


Not far from Puerta del Sol and Calle Montera, there is an area known as la Cava Baja y la Cava Alta. Today this area is well known for its traditional pubs and tapas bars, and is a destination from locals and outsiders who want to enjoy a bit of the Spanish party spirit.

Legend has it that the Cavas were part of the Arab wall that surrounded Madrid. When this disappeared the area left behind became the Cavas. If you look at a map of the centre of Madrid you can see that these two streets have a characteristic curvy shape, suggesting that they followed the shape of the old wall.

Calle del Almendro, that crosses both Cavas, is one of the main destinations for tapas lovers. Taberna del Almendro 13 was one of the first ones. It offers a great variety of tapas as well as different types of wine and beer. Prices do reflect the popularity of the area, but they are still affordable enough to have a nice night out with family or friends.

However, besides bars, there is also art in Almendro, the jewler’s Helena Rohner is also in this street. It has exquisite works, some of which are on display in the museum Thysen in Paseo del Prado.

De Piedra is also another shop in Calle el Almendro, where you may spy some fancy stone decoration to take back home for your garden or your front door.


The capital of Spain has very many venues that offer life gigs of all types of music with musicians from all over the world. In Calle de Covarrubias, 42, you will find Honky Tonk, a venue that plays Spanish rock, blues and country. It opens from 9.30pm till 5.30am.

Another important one is Moby Dick in Avenida de Brasil, 5. In this venue you will be able to enjoy many different types of music, but their main genre is rock. It opens from 9.30pm till 5am. In Calle Bernardino Obregon, 18, you will find Sala Caracol that offers shows ranging from flamenco, pop to heavy metal.

El Búho Real (the Royal Owl) is a well-known music bar in the heart of the city, it is situated in Calle Regueros, 5, not far from Metro station Chueca in line 5, you can also walk there from Alonso Martínez. This small but cosy venue is well-known among the music-lover circles in Madrid, many sing-a-song writers have started their career in this famous music venue. Its atmosphere is intimate and nice and it’s become part of the legend of Madrid nightlife. Every night this bar offers live music, the entrance fee is about 8 Euros but that includes a drink.


Vistalegre Palace stands now on the same spot of an old bullfighting ring that was demolished in 1995. The bullfighting history in this part of Madrid, Carabanchel, goes back to the 18th century, when many “novilleros” or bullfighters had the first encounters with the horned animals here. Nowadays the new multi-use space also holds some bullfighting shows from time to time, however, the new Palacio de Vistalegre has evolved with the times and offers a wide variety of leisure activities.

To start with, if you want to come to Carabanchel you can use the public transport system, or simply drive and park in one of the 2,000 parking spaces that the building has under its feet. You can also do your last minute holiday shopping there, even in summer the area will stay perfectly cool as it is a covered shopping centre with capacity for 15,000 people.

Besides the bullfighting, Palacio de Vistalegre is also home to some other sports events, like basketball, the team Estudiantes plays there sometimes when they can use el Palacio de los Deportes.


The Roman invasion of Spain has left a legacy of old ruins and archaeological treasures. Not very far from the centre of Madrid, visitors have the opportunity to visit one of the most important sites in the whole region, Complutum.

Alcalá de Henares is a small town just outside Madrid, it can be accessed quickly by train from Atocha Renfe, not far from Sol. Once in Alcalá the centre is walking distance from the station.

Complutum can be accessed from Avenida de Madrid S/N. It is open from 10am till 2pm and at weekends it also opens from 4pm till 7pm in winter and until 8pm in summer.

Casa de Hyppolitus is one of the two buildings that can be visited, it was on the outskists of the old Roman town, and it was the House of the Youth. The current remains date back to the 4th century, when the house was refurbished.

Villa del Val is a mansion that belonged to a rich Hispanic-Roman owner, it was situated 5km away from the town of Complutum. The current remains correspond to the refurbishment the house went through in the 4th century. After Roman times, the Visigods used the area for their necropolis.


Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, inaugurated in 1947, is in the north of the city on Paseo de la Castellana. It is accessible by Metro, the station of the same name is on the line 10 of the network, which is linked to line 1, the main line going through Sol, at Tribunal and Plaza Castilla.

The Real Madrid offers a tour of the stadium, visitors are able to walk inside and walk around the facilities. During the tour visitors will go up in one of the 8 lifts that offers a panoramic view of the stadium, they will be able to visit the changing rooms and the press room as well. The shop sells a great variety of Real Madrid memorabilia that you can take back home to impress your family and friends.

The second team in Madrid is el Atlético de Madrid. Its home stadium has been called Vicente Calderón since 1971, it is next to the manzanares river and to Piramides Station on line 5. One of the nicknames of the team is “mattress makers” because of the stripy shirts.

There is another smaller team in Madrid. Currently it plays in second division, their home stadium is Teresa Rivero, a smallish stadium in Vallecas in the south of Madrid. The team, el Rayo Vallecano (Vallecan Ray) is supported mainly by people in that area. It’s on the same line as Sol, line 1. The Metro station Portazgo is just in front of the stadium. The area the stadium is in, is higher that the centre of Madrid, and 5 minutes on foot from the Teresa Rivero, there is a long park with green hills from which the whole of Madrid can be seen. That is a nice photo opportunity for tourists, and not far from Sol.