12 Cultural Attractions You Have to Check Out When Visiting Madrid

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Although it may not have the status of Paris or Rome when it comes to sights and attractions, Spain’s capital city has plenty to see and explore. From historical architecture to world-class art, amazing food and beautiful parks, we’ll take a look at some of the top places, attractions, and activities in Madrid.

#1. Plaza Mayor:

The main square in Madrid has cobbles that hold decades of history and culture and has been the scene of almost everything worth watching over the centuries, from coronations to beheadings. Today, it’s a nice place to stroll through and take in the sights and sample some of the city’s most famed foods from one of the many bars surrounding the square.

#2. Royal Palace:

These days, the official residence of Spain’s royals is only used for ceremonies; the King and Queen themselves reside in Zarzuela Palace, a smaller dwelling located just outside of the city. The palace is open to members of the public, who can visit and check out the centuries-old collections of armour, artwork, and furniture.

#3. Templo de Debod:

Bestowed on the country by Egypt as a gift, this Egyptian temple was moved, piece by piece, to Spain in the early 1970s. Today it’s a top tourist attraction in the city, best visited in the evening, as it’s one of the best places to watch the sun set in Madrid.

#4. Gran Via:

The most iconic street in Madrid; Gran Via starred in Abre Los Ojos, the original Spanish language movie of Tom Cruise’s 2001 remake of Vanilla Sky. You’ll find plenty of stunning architecture, along with dozens of shops, cafes, bars, and restaurants to explore. Head to the top of the Corte Ingles Gourmet Experience, where you can enjoy a fantastic view.

#5. Puerta del Sol:

Every road in Spain leads to the Puerta del Sol, which is located at the very centre of the country and also known as kilometre zero. The Puerta del Sol is also home to the famous bear and strawberry tree statue, which is the official symbol of the capital.

#6. Palacio de Cibeles:

Until 2011, this grand building was the official headquarters of the Post Office in Madrid. Today, it’s the home of Madrid City Council and a popular spot for tourists. Not only is the architecture stunning to look at and photograph from the outside, but the observation deck also offers incredible views of the city.

#7. The Rastro:

If you’re going to be in the city of Madrid on a Sunday morning, then you should certainly pay a visit to the Rastro, Madrid’s famous weekly flea market. The streets come to life with a variety of stalls selling everything from handmade goods to street food, and bars open out into the streets, getting everybody in the fiesta-like spirit around the area of Lavapies.

#8. Literary Quarter:

Whether you are a bookworm or not, there’s much to appreciate about the Literary Quarter; one of the most beautiful and cool neighbourhoods in Madrid. Once the home of Spanish literary giant Miguel de Cervantes, today it’s filled with quirky bars and restaurants, with streets decorated with famous and not-so-famous literary quotes.

#9. Flamenco:

Of course, no visit to Madrid would be complete without a visit to the city’s best Flamenco shows. Cardamomo is the main Flamenco tablao in Madrid, with ten artists performing daily so that you can enjoy the best show in the capital. There are four different shows each day, accompanied by amazing food and wine. Flamenco Madrid is a long-standing tradition that’s definitely worth exploring for the day.

#10. Almudena Cathedral:

Opened in 1993 and consecrated by Pope John Paul, it is one of the most famous religious buildings in the city. It’s hugely popular with tourists and the place where King Felipe and Queen Letizia were married. With a stunning Baroque exterior that perfectly matches the older Royal Palace located just next door, it’s hard to believe just how modern the Cathedral building really is.

#11. Cine Dore:

For film lovers, a trip to Cine Dore is essential when visiting Madrid. This old cinema shows a range of both classic Hollywood and modern films from around the world, at a bargain price of just 2.50 euros. With a tumultuous history, the cinema was bombed during the Spanish Civil War, but today, it serves as a headquarters for the Filmoteca Espanola, a part of Spain’s Ministry of Culture.

#12. Sobrino de Botin:

Last but not least, don’t forget to pay a visit to the oldest restaurant in the world – Sobrino de Botin even has the Guinness World Record certificate on display in the window to prove it. Founded in 1725 and going strong ever since their specialty is roast suckling pig.

Which of these Madrid attractions are on your travel bucket list?

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