No trip to Spain is complete without visiting the beautiful capital of Madrid. Contributing its own unique flavor to the cultural amalgam of modern day Spain, Madrid’s vibrant personality abounds with history, attractions and unparalleled photo opportunities alike. Here are the Top 10 Most Picture-Perfect Places in Madrid that you won’t want to miss on your visit.
1. La Azotea del Círculo de Bellas Artes
La Azotea del Círculo de Bellas Artes
Boasting breathtaking panoramas of the city skyline, the Círculo de Bellas Artes undoubtedly offers the most spectacular views of Madrid. Atop the chic rooftop bar of La Azotea, one can sip affordable wine while admiring views of Banco de España, Plaza de Cibeles and Gran Vía from seven stories high. Arrive around the golden hour to watch the sun lazily melt into the skyline and set the sky ablaze with colors, then stick around after dark to see the city sparkle at night.
Parque del Buen Retiro
A lush oasis in the middle of a bustling metropolis, Parque del Buen Retiro is Madrid’s answer to Central Park. You will find many madrileños here on the weekend picnicking on the expansive lawns, paddle boating in Retiro’s small manmade lake, watching puppet shows and strolling through the winding paths. To feel like you’re living in a postcard, take in the views of the Monumento a Alfonso XII in front of the lake, then wander over to the stunning Palacio de Cristal.
Head to El Patio Andaluz, near the Palacio de Cristal, for lunch or an aperitif
3. Plaza Mayor
While nowadays this square is often swarming with tourists, Plaza Mayor still retains much of its authentic Spanish charm. This lively plaza, a historic epicenter with a captivating past, is now brimming with bursts of color, bustling cafés and avid people-watchers. While the overpriced restaurants and obnoxious street performers are to be avoided at all costs, the beauty of Plaza Mayor is nevertheless undeniable.
Hungry? Just one block from Plaza Mayor is the world’s oldest restaurant, El Botín
Mercado de San Miguel
Nestled next to the lively Plaza Mayor, the Mercado de San Miguel asserts itself as Madrid’s foodie heaven. One could spend hours wandering around the various stalls and trying all of the sublime Spanish treats. Need a glass of Rioja wine? Craving paella? Just want to snack on some gourmet cheese and chorizo? This chic one-stop shop has all of the delectable goods you could dream of. The elegant architecture combined with the parade of tempting tapas make the Mercado de San Miguel one of the most picturesque places in the city.
While at the market, indulge in sherry tastings paired with tapas at The Sherry Corner
5. Jardines de Sabatini
Jardines de Sabatini
There’s no better place to admire the façade of Madrid’s ornate Palacio Real quite like the Jardines de Sabatini. Subtly tucked behind the Royal Palace, these gardens are easy to miss if you don’t know what you’re looking for. These French-inspired gardens are as resplendent and luxurious as the palace itself, emanating regal decadence and beauty. Rest upon one of the benches in front of the pond and bask in the lavishness of the towering palace above. The serene ambiance, picturesque scenery and unbeatable views of the Royal Palace make the Jardines de Sabatini one of Madrid’s most impressive sites.
6. El Rastro
Experience your Sunday morning like a real madrileño and explore Europe’s largest flea market, El Rastro. El Rastro is abounding with hidden treasures such as old flamenco records, unique handcrafted jewelry and mesmerizing Spanish antiques. Browse through the many booths of local artists and dig for covert gems buried amongst junk. Admire the whimsical array of colors found in homemade scarves, mismatching pottery and eclectic thrifted goods. The colors, quirks and crowds of El Rastro make it one of the most captivating places in Madrid.
Plaza de Oriente
This majestic plaza, situated between the Palacio Real and the Teatro Real, exudes royal luxury and local charm. The square is adorned with statues of former monarchs, immaculate gardens and picture-perfect views of the Royal Palace and Opera House alongside stunning Spanish architecture. Relax and enjoy an espresso or a glass of red wine in one of the surrounding cafés, then linger around until dusk to watch the dazzling square light up at night.
8. Plaza de Toros
Plaza de Toros
Politics of the controversial sport aside, this grand arena is one of the most impressive bullfighting rings in all of Spain. The Plaza de Toros Monumental de Las Ventas boasts a striking façade and an equally enthralling history. To be selected to fight in this particular ring is an utmost honor, and it is here that you will find the best bullfighters in the world. Stand outside of the ring to soak in the details of the intricate Moorish architecture, or venture inside for a peek of the impressive arena.
Plaza de la Villa
Plaza de la Villa is brimming with old world beauty. The architectural feats in this square include historical buildings built in Mudejar and Habsburg baroque styles, embellished with exposed brickwork and rustic wrought iron. The contrasting architectural styles, gallant statue of Don Álvaro de Bazán and vibrant beds of flourishing flowers are teeming with photo opportunities.
Enjoy the view from above with a cocktail in hand at The Roof
10. Calle de la Cava Baja
Calle de la Cava Baja
While this may not be the “typical” attraction that draws in hoards of tourists, a quintessential day in Madrid is not complete without indulging on savory tapas while sipping a refreshing beer or glass of tinto de verano. There is no better place to unwind from a long day of sightseeing quite like Calle de la Cava Baja, a charming medieval street overflowing with tapas bars located in the neighborhood of La Latina. This charismatic and striking streetscape is the ideal place to hop between tapas bars and sample the best dishes of Spain.
Here are some delicious La Latina Tapas Bars
All photos © Courtney Likkel