There’s more to visiting Madrid than massive museums and sipping sangría on Plaza Mayor – though you should definitely try out those things, too.
The city is a gargantuan metropolis full of poetic history and hidden locations. It’s the kind of place that unapologetically engulfs travelers, and fills them with an excess of wanderlust before spitting them out into the yellowed plains of Seville or tourist-infested resorts of Málaga…
In any case, use this handy guide of 17 unique things to do in Madrid to go off the beaten path and enjoy the city like a local would.
Skip to a section
Unique museums and attractions in Madrid
1. An essential and unique thing to do in Madrid: the Golden Triangle of Art
For art lovers, there are three bucket-list museums in Madrid: Museo del Prado, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, and Museo Reina Sofía. They’re all located along the Paseo del Prado, the city’s oldest boulevard, which makes it even easier for you to get wilfully lost in this Bermuda Triangle of art.
The Prado is a cultural institution that needs no introduction. As big as the MoMA and as captivating as the Louvre, you could easily lose time exploring its collection of pre-20th-century art. Highlights include Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Son from his morbid Black Series, Velázquez’s Las Meninas, Bosch’s famous triptych of The Garden of Earthly Delights, and priceless masterpieces that are renowned the world over.
For a complete guide to the Prado Museum, read our post about must-see paintings at the Prado Museum. It includes things to do in Madrid and the vicinity after your visit. Make a day of it!
Considering the size of the Prado, we wouldn’t recommend you attempt tackling the trifecta of museums in Paseo del Prado in one day. However, if you’re a fan of modern and contemporary art, the Thyssen-Bornemisza and Museo Reina Sofía museums are a must. Set a full day aside to do both, and chronologically trace the events of art history to understand why art is the way it is today.
🌟 PS: If you’re short on time and want to see all three museums, save time and money by purchasing a skip-the-line smartphone ticket to the Prado, Reina Sofía, and Thyssen for 20% less.
Still got some energy left after your adventures through art? Make the walk back to your hotel, hostel, or Airbnb via the Paseo del Prado (try and pass by CaixaForum Square’s impressive Vertical Garden). Paseo del Prado is a landmark in itself – it’s the central, historic nerve of the city, bordered by Park Retiro and the old city center. Saunter leisurely along its tree-lined pavements as the shadow and light play against the turn-of-the-century townhouses that stand snugly side by side.
2. Get to the top of Círculo de Bellas Artes
A star in Madrid’s arts scene, the Círculo de Bellas Artes is a little-known highlight in the city’s sea of world-famous museums. Founded in 1880 by an artist collective, the Círculo is concerned with the here and now, unlike most other institutions that aim to preserve a sacred past. The organization is famously supportive of innovative cultural and artistic trends, encompassing visual arts, science, literature, and philosophy.
This interdisciplinary approach to curating the arts means that the Círculo houses over 1,200 works – excluding non-art objects like furniture, books, archival documents, and more. There’s something for every type of culture-hound here. Check out their website for the most up-to-date event calendar, and see what coincides with your visit. You might get lucky and be able to catch a special exhibition, conference, workshop, or concert here.
If you want to skip all that and get straight to the high point of your visit, you’ll be happy to know that the Círculo de Bellas Artes boasts one of the best rooftops in Madrid – and you can access it for just €5.
This Antonio Palacios-designed building has an impressive monumental façade on different levels. At the very top, some 56-meters-high above the Calle Alcalá, visitors can enjoy 360° views of Gran Vía and Plaza de Cibeles. You can also get up close to the sculpture of Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom and art that lavishly crowns the whole building. During the spring and summer months, the Círculo’s rooftop is a great place to enjoy affordable drinks while gazing out over Madrid and the Guadarrama mountain range.
🌟 Bonus tip while experiencing unusual things to do in Madrid: El salto de Léucade
Don’t miss the statue of El salto de Léucade by Moisés de Huerta in the Círculo’s café. This graceful statue is said to be that of Aphrodite sprawled on a sea rock after leaping from the cliffs above the Ionian Sea. She was thereafter reborn, freed from the pain in her heart. Just a tad dramatic – perhaps us mortals are better off sticking to ice cream and dating apps to get over heartbreak.
3. Go statue-spotting in Madrid
No bonafide urban adventure is complete without a bit of statue-spotting. Whether you’re a connoisseur of this material artform or simply someone looking for some curiously cool shots for your ‘gram, Madrid will not disappoint.
From obvious crowd favorites such as the massive statue of Don Quixote and his squire Sancho Panza at the famous Monumento Cervantes or ones that require some searching, like Retiro Park’s The Fallen Angel (which is widely acknowledged as the only public monument to the Devil himself), the city is rife with works of art waiting to greet you around every unassuming corner.
A self-guided statue-spotting city walk is a unique thing to do in Madrid that isn’t ultra touristy. Here are some top picks.
On the corner of San Bernardo in Calle del Pez, you can meet brave Julia, the first female student in Spain to attend university.
She’s said to represent Concepción Arenal, who studied at the Law School of the Central University (now the Complutense University of Madrid) while dressed up as a man. Brave doesn’t even begin to cut it.
On the ever-busy Calle Mayor, near Puerta del Sol, don’t forget to look up.
It’s not a bird, it’s not a plane, no, it’s Madrid’s very own fallen angel, lovingly known as Air Crash. This 300-kilogram statue by Miguel Ángel Ruiz Beato has been artfully faceplanted on the very top of building number 3 on Calle de los Milaneses.
Day and Night
Day and Night is another set of statues that will stop you in your tracks. Located right outside the Madrid-Atocha train station, these two gigantic baby’s heads seem menacing, until you find out the story behind them. They were crafted by doting grandfather, Antonio López García, using his six-month-old granddaughter as the model. The statues, one with eyes open and the other with eyes closed, are said to symbolize wakefulness and sleep – integral in the passage of time. They are said to be erected in remembrance of the victims of the March 11, 2004, terrorist attacks on Madrid.
Proletariats, unite! The Sweeper in Plaza de Benavente is a moving realist work of art by Félix Hernando García. You can find it among the crowds of people between Puerta del Sol and Calle de Atocha, in Plaza de Jacinto Benavente. The most photographed statue in Madrid is also the easiest to overlook, thanks to its modest size and unpretentious design. It looks just like a person, hard at work, attempting to do their part as a nameless cog in the colossal machine that is humankind.
4. Go on a Madrid city tour
Take a Madrid city tour any way you like. There are hop-on hop-off buses, segway tours, Madrid walking tours, sightseeing on a bike, free pub crawls, Madrid food tours, running tours… you name it – there are more ways to see the city than you can count on both hands!
🚍 Madrid city tour #1: sightseeing bus
If time is sparse, the Hop-on Hop-off Bus Madrid is a great way to see a lot in a short amount of time, while also saving you the trouble of getting around. It offers 37 bus stops on two different routes along several landmark-littered locations. Plus, with an audio guide in 14 languages (and a special channel for kids), free WiFi, an open deck above and air-conditioning below, it’s simply a no-brainer way to see all of Madrid.
🏃🏻 Madrid city tour #2: run through city highlights
Fancy a spot of cardio after all that food? We don’t encourage feeling guilty about eating all the food while on holiday – it’s part of the cultural experience, after all! Nevertheless, if you’ve packed your running gear, consider joining a private running tour in Madrid. You can see old and new Madrid, run an architectural route, jog through urban parks, and more. Your guide will narrate along the way and adjust the pace based on your fitness level. A running tour is undeniably a unique thing to do in Madrid – if you have the stamina for it.
👟 Madrid city tour #3: free walking tour
Looking for a free thing to do in Madrid? Lucky for you, free walking tours in Madrid are a dime a dozen. Most hostels offer them for almost nothing, the most famous being the iconic Catz hostel which offers free, tip-based tours surrounding pub crawls, paella workshops, sangría parties, and more. Simply show up early to sign up – and don’t forget to tip your guide so these places can continue to offer great experiences for travelers of any budget!
💡 Madrid city tour #4: Madrid mysteries and Legends Tour
In many cities, history is available to you at every turn. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find a past that’s not mentioned on the Wikipedia page. Madrid is a city full of these mysteries. Get to know some of them on a unique, off-beat tour that will show you “the B side” of the Spanish capital, with plenty of humor and intrigue packed in.
5. Get a sugar rush at Sweet Space
You wanted unique, and this is about as unique as it gets in Madrid. Sweet Space is a very literal description; this colorful, multi-sense-sating attraction combines the best of art gallery, immersive experience, and candy store!
Bringing together art and new digital trends, Sweet Space is a dream for your photo reel but has more substance than the many Instagram tourist traps. Concocted by some of the best artists from Spain and further afield, every exhibit has been carefully designed, making for a rewarding experience.
It’s especially worth visiting if you’re looking for unique things to do in Madrid with kids – they’ll delight at the vibrant rooms and exhibits (and the free candy that’s on offer at every stop!).
6. Avail of the avant-garde at CAV La Neomudéjar Museum
The avant-garde is alive and well in La Neomudéjar Museum. Their goal is to give a voice to new media artists and avant-garde creators, whether their chosen medium is urban art, performance, sound art, video, or even parkour.
The exhibits include political art, video art, art brut, performance and sound art, but anything goes here – expect the unique and unexpected. Built inside an old railway depot, it’s got a rustic vibe and it’s also a great spot for a terrace stop on a hot day.
7. Templo de Debod
Don’t rub your eyes when you see it – this really is an authentic 2,200 BC Egyptian temple in the middle of Madrid. It was saved from being flooded over by a new dam construction in the area where it initially stood for millenniums, which was 20 kilometers south of Philae in the Nubian desert of southern Egypt. The Templo de Debod makes for an unexpected sight and is truly an unusual thing to do in Madrid.
Why is the Templo de Debod in Madrid, you ask? In the years following 1968, it was dismantled and shipped block by block to Spain as a gesture of thanks to the dedicated Spanish archaeologists who worked to save this ancient treasure that would have otherwise been lost to the depths of Lake Nasser forever.
The Templo de Debod is located in Parque de la Montaña, on a small slope between Plaza de España and Rio Manzanares. This elevated location makes it one of the best spots to watch the sunset in Madrid, allowing for views of the Royal Palace and the Guadarrama Mountains.
Visitors to the park can admire the temple’s facade. Take note of the time-worn reliefs and symbolic motifs carved into the ancient stone. There are also scale models to see around the park, and on select nights, you can catch spectacular audiovisuals projected onto the walls of the temple. Admission to the Templo de Debod is free, but access is very limited and can only be made via the museum’s website/phone.
8. Experience Cuesta de Moyano Book Market
What began in 1925 as a row of wooden stalls along the Cuesta de Moyano pedestrian walkway is now a bustling vintage book market. Local vendors tout their literary wares from quaint wooden stalls. These olden-day booksellers’ stalls lining the lush walkway of Moyano’s Hill are worth a photograph or two, as there’s rarely anything like it elsewhere. This is a unique thing to do in Madrid for locals and tourists alike.
You can snap up a classic, second-hand book or two – perhaps Don Quixote, but ironically, of course. Bear in mind that they’ll all be in Spanish, which is bueno if you’re trying to brush up on the language.
Saunter further uphill and you’ll find the statue of acclaimed Spanish writer Pío Baroja. He was a key novelist of the Generation of ’98, a literary movement of intellectuals who were active in Spain during the Spanish-American War. They committed themselves to Spain’s cultural and aesthetic renewal at the turn of the century. The statue is a fitting crowning feature of this hill filled with books.
9. Sample local delights at these markets in Madrid
Market culture is huge in Madrid, and fellow Madrileños have been frequenting food, flea, and fresh produce markets for centuries. You can’t truly visit Madrid without visiting one of its age-old, neighborhood markets.
Mercado de San Miguel
You’ll probably hear about Mercado de San Miguel before even arriving in the city. This is Madrid’s answer to Barcelona’s La Boqueria. Located right by Plaza Mayor, it’s an easy one to cross off your sightseeing list. However, prices here have been inflated thanks to tourism, and commercialization has left its mark on this 19th-century market which sees fewer and fewer local patrons.
We get it – it’s hard to find ‘local’ treasures while being a tourist oneself. If it doesn’t feel slightly hypocritical, then you’re not doing it right. But, in the spirit of authenticity, you could track down markets that are frequented by locals and tourists alike. El Rastro is one example of this. El Rastro is Spain’s most popular outdoor flea market. People flock from the country and beyond to marvel at the sheer amount of books, clothes, and kooky knick-knacks being peddled by bustling sellers.
It’s a maze of flimsy pop-up stalls snaking through the curious masses looking for a good deal on the strangest items. Located along Plaza de Cascorro and Ribera de Curtidores, El Rastro is held every Sunday and on public holidays during the year. Make sure to stop and enjoy the enthusiastic buskers. Best put your bargaining hat on before visiting!
Mercado de la Cebada
Mercado de la Cebada is more of an art project than a market. This vibrant, bi-level structure in the heart of the La Latina neighborhood is surrounded by centuries-old landmarks, making the walk there easy on the eyes. What awaits inside, however, may not be as classically beautiful. A fully-functioning local hangout for cheap eats and drinks, La Cebada is a mismash of jarring color with a sometimes questionable interior decor and design. You won’t find a sushi bar or artisanal jamón here.
What you will find, though, is a kitschy interior, an abundance of fresh food, standing wine bars, traditionally prepared meats, and vendors selling locally made art and clothing. The market is open from Monday till Friday, and on the first Sunday of each month. Arrive hungry, leave tipsy!
Things to do at night in Madrid!
10. Watch a Flamenco show in Madrid
Sure, it’s not an unusual thing to do in Madrid, but catching a flamenco performance is one of the best things to do in Madrid at night. Spain’s national dance is profoundly passionate and based on ancient folkloric traditions. Listed as a UNESCO Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, flamenco is vibrant and nostalgic all at once.
Catching a flamenco show in Madrid can be a cathartic experience if you know where to go. Many Madrid city tours offer flamenco shows with dinner and a drink included. Do some internet sleuthing beforehand to avoid ending up in a tourist trap you found by following a flyer you picked up near Mercado de San Miguel.
💃🏼 Corral de la Morería: best flamenco show in Madrid
Corral de la Moreria may very well be the most famous tablao flamenco in the world. The establishment has been featured in many ‘Top 1,000 places to see before you die’ lists. It has a recommendation in the Michelin Guide for five consecutive years and was the winner of The World’s Best Tablao Flamenco Award in Las Minas International Festival – which is a big deal in the world of flamenco.
It goes without saying that Corral de la Morería is the Mount Olympus of tablao flamencos. If there’s one place that’s foolproof for enjoying a flamenco show in Madrid, this is it.
Prices start at €49.95 for a show plus a drink – and it is worth every cent.
💃🏼 Villa Rosa: a fiery, romantic flamenco show in Madrid
When it comes to effortless passion, Villa Rosa is queen. This Moorish-inspired tablao is one of Madrid’s oldest and has played host to flamenco legends such as Imperio Argentina and Juanito Valderrama. Bordering a little on the gaudy side, the interior of this tablao is decked out to dazzle the gods of flamenco themselves.
A dinner and drink combo starts at €70, which puts this on the slightly pricier end of the scale. But, it makes for a great date idea – if you’re looking to win someone over with… well, someone else’s moves.
💃🏼 Cardamomo: family-friendly flamenco show in Madrid
First of all, let’s face it: flamenco isn’t for young kids. Most venues don’t even allow children – and if they do, chances are that your five-year-old isn’t going to enjoy it. But, if you’re traveling with kids and simply must catch flamenco, check out Cardomomo.
Kids under 4 can enter for free, while there are fairly-priced tickets for older kids which include food and a drink.
Bear in mind that Cardamomo isn’t just for families with kids, so don’t expect anything toned down. It’s a popular venue where locals and tourists alike gather to enjoy flamenco – as they have for decades here. It was listed by the New York Times as the best tablao in Madrid.
How much? That’s the best part. A show with a drink (usually sangría) starts at €25. Win!
💃🏼 La Carboneria: cheap flamenco show in Madrid
While there are a handful of bars and restaurants that put on cheap performances, Cafetín la Quimera is a consistently reliable venue to catch cheap flamenco in Madrid.
Prices start at €20 for a drink and a show. It’s rare to find a better deal in Spain’s capital!
PS: They also offer flamenco lessons from €15.
11. Madrid nightlife: Dance it out Madrid’s most popular club!
So you’ve watched a flamenco show and now you have some rhythm in your heels. Why not dance it out in any of Spain’s premier nightclubs? While salsa and bachata originate from Cuba and the Dominican Republic respectively, Spain’s ties to these deeply sensual Latin dance forms are strongly reflected on the dance floor. Experience Madrid’s nightlife – another great thing to do in Madrid at night – and see if you can keep up with the locals.
If you’re no stranger to Spanish operating hours, then you’ll know not to start pregaming until after 11:00 pm. Most clubs open their doors at 1:00 am and people only begin spilling in, dressed to the nines, around 3:00 am. The upside is that you can get your morning coffee to-go with your Cabify ride back after a great night out.
As for which of the best Madrid nightclubs to go to, everyone and their mother will tell you ‘Kapital’. Madrid’s most popular nightclub, which spans seven floors, tends to live up to its long-cultivated hype. It’s a wild place, filled with confetti explosions and a massive dancefloor. Be wary of their selective entrance policy though, which may differ from day to day, making the experience somewhat unpleasant at times.
12. Learn salsa or bachata at Retiro Park
If clubs aren’t your thing, but you still want to experience some Spanish dancing, Retiro Park has been known to host salsa lessons on Sundays. Locations such as the pavilion at Templete del Retiro and the square adjacent to Retiro Park Lake (filled with rowboats for hire) are also popular spots to see salsa dancers strut their stuff.
Keep an eye out for flyers advertising upcoming dance lessons at the park. For a small fee, you too can join in on a class and connect with your inner dancer. But it’s all the same if you just want to sit back, listen to the sensual music, and watch the city come to life through dance as the evening settles in.
13. Catch a football match
If you’re in Madrid during the season, it would be criminal not to experience a match at the Santiago Bernabéu, the stomping grounds of Real Madrid. Catching a home game during La Liga, Champions League, or domestic cup competitions will often not set you back more than €50, and it’s guaranteed to be an unforgettable experience to complete your voyage of unusual things to do in Madrid.
From catching a metro bursting with singing, dancing, painted-faced Real Madrid fans towards Santiago Bernabéu, to sitting among some 85,000 roaring, die-hard supporters while trying not to spill your beer and attempting to catch every round of Mexican wave that comes your way – this is football at its height. It’s unequivocally the best thing to do in Madrid.
Don’t fret if there’s no match going on when you visit. Passionate Real Madrid fans can have an extra special experience with tickets for a Santiago Bernabéu tour. Take a Real Madrid stadium tour and see the stadium at your own pace. Step into dressing rooms, walk around the pitch, explore the museum, walk through the player’s tunnel… It’s almost as good as catching a match!
🌟 Bonus tip: Bars to watch football in Madrid
If you are visiting Madrid during the season, but can’t secure match tickets, there are plenty of bars to watch football in Madrid.
📍Crowd favorite: O’Neill’s Irish Pub
O’Neill’s Irish Pub springs to mind as a local favorite (and of course, it’s Irish). Located close to the Plaza del Sol, this bar is the perfect place for Real Madrid or Atlético de Madrid fans to celebrate victories or share in losses over a pint of Guinness. Come dressed in team colors for the occasion.
📍Neighborhood joint: Penalti Lounge Bar
This is an innovative sports bar in the neighborhood of Chamberí. Penalti Lounge Bar has two locations in Madrid, one in Reina Victoria and another in Moncloa. Both are said to be pretty similar. What sets Penalti apart is the fanfare around football. They have a reservation-only special menu during match nights, complete with limitless jugs of Estrella Damm beer.
Everything starts at €12 per person, making this an affordable way to enjoy a football match and dinner in Madrid. Sit back and revel in the laidback atmosphere – don’t hold back while shouting “Goooaaal”, along with all the other gleaming football fans who frequent this bar.
Unique things to eat and drink in Madrid
14. Try the famous jamón ibérico de bellota
A freshly baked slice of bread, drizzled with olive oil, and topped off with a ruby-hued slice of jamón Ibérico de Bellota – go ahead and name a better trio.
What’s so special about jamón ibérico de bellota? Well, for one thing it’s rated one of the finest grades of ham out there. Real jamón ibérico is derived from the black cerdo Ibérico (Iberian pig), which dates back to prehistory. Jamón ibérico de bellota, in particular, is made from free-roaming pigs that have lived part of their lives feasting on chestnuts and acorns in Portugal and Spain’s oak forests, before their time for slaughter arrives. Their oil-rich meat is cured in salt and spices for up to 36 months, lending it a special kind of umami that’s inimitable. No Madrid city trip is complete without tasting jamón ibérico de bellota.
If you’re beginning to drool just thinking about the salty goodness, satiate your hunger at some of the best places to eat jamón ibérico in Madrid. At Calle del León, 12, you’ll find the unassuming Casa Gonzalez. This cozy deli and wine bar serves up an authentic slice of Madrid’s culinary treats, including jamón, cheeses, artisanal meats, and up to 200 Spanish wines. Its no-frills atmosphere and closely seated situation is exactly what you’d expect from a family-run establishment that’s been around since 1931.
If you want more variation in your menu, head to Bodega de la Ardosa. Standing strong on Calle de Colón, 13 since 1892, this antique, wood-paneled bar serves up inexpensive tapas like tortilla de patatas, croquettes, and salmorejo alongside slinky slices of the good stuff – jamón ibérico of course. This is supposedly some of the best tapas in Madrid. Wash it down with a wide selection of beers. You can also sample the bar’s very own brand of Spanish vermouth – speaking of which…
15. Taste Spanish vermouth
More than just a cocktail mixer, Spanish vermouth plays in a league of its own. Known locally as vermut, or vermú, this heavenly concoction of white wine, caramelized sugars, botanicals, and spices is often ordered on its own over ice or con sifón. It’s sometimes thinned with some carbonated water, often accompanied by a well-placed wedge of some citrusy fruit.
Vermouth is such an institution in Spain that ‘la hora de vermut’ (the hour of vermouth) is actually a real thing. It can be enjoyed by the rich and not so rich alike, making it the aperitif of the people.
Want to drink some vermouth in Madrid? Step into any bodega or taberna and they’re guaranteed to serve the good stuff– even if it’s not explicitly written on the menu. If they don’t, walk out… you may be in the wrong Madrid.
🌟 Love vermouth? Don’t miss this unique thing to do in Madrid: Day drink and sightsee with a vermouth tour
If you’re on the lookout for some top places to drink vermouth in Madrid, try a self-guided vermouth pub crawl via Madrid’s a ruta del vermut – a tried and tested vermouth-drinking route spread across the city’s vibrant center. Fans of literature and drinking, take note: this history-filled booze route begins at Barrio de las Letras, Madrid’s literary quarter. It’s also famous for great bars and nightlife.
📍Stop 1: Casa Alberto
First, have a tasty tipple at Casa Alberto. Dating back to 1827, this cozy bar/restaurant is located on the same street of the building where Cervantes lived when he was penning the adventures of Don Quixote.
📍Stop 2: Casa Gonzalez
Just a two-minute walk away is Casa Gonzalez of jamón ibérico fame. If you needed another reason to go there, just know that they serve vermouth on tap.
📍Stop 3: Taberna Pompeyana
Next up is Taberna Pompeyana, an atmospheric tavern with a kitschy interior and food that’s raved about by most reviewers. Located just four minutes away from the previous tavern on this list, Taberna Pompeyana is an unmissable stop to top up on some vermouth with locals – who are often regulars here.
And if you’re still standing…
📍Stop 4: Cervecería Cervantes
Once you feel the spirit taking hold, it’s time to brave the half-kilometer walk to your endpoint: Cervecería Cervantes on Plaza Jesús, 7. This classic bar has all the trademarks of a local haunt: small, cavernous spaces, waiters rushing by with glasses filled to the brim, fresh seafood, jamón, canapés, and of course, vermouth. Try the percebes (goose barnacles) if you’re feeling particularly adventurous.
Since you’re in the neighborhood, you can quickly make your way along the adjacent Paseo del Prado, up to the Fountain of Neptune. You’ve now officially taken your own Madrid city tour and ended up in the center of Madrid’s Golden Triangle of Art. World-class museums like the Prado, Reina Sofía, and Thyssen-Bornemisza are all just minutes away.
🌟 One last tip for a unique Madrid food stop:
If all that’s not old enough for you, then there’s always Casa Botín, the world’s oldest, continuously operating restaurant. Just how old is Casa Botín? This fixture in Spain’s cultural menu has been serving its iconic roast suckling pig since 1725, and was even frequented by Ernest Hemingway.
If you’re a fan of the writer, you can find mentions of Casa Botín in some of his books, the most famous being The Sun Also Rises (1926). Make like Hemingway and order a bottle of Rioja Alta.
Relax and unwind in Madrid
16. Try these spas in Madrid
So you’ve walked the length of the Gran Vía, legged it to all three corners of the Golden Triangle, attempted flamenco (or rowing) in Retiro Park, and snapped selfies with statues… your legs must be beat. Time to recharge so you can keep visiting Madrid in unique and unusual ways.
If you’re lucky enough to be staying at one of those fancy hotels in Madrid with a pool and spa, you’ve earned your day off to enjoy a dip, a relaxing massage, and perhaps top it off with some room service. However, if you’ve been roughing it out at one of the city’s iconic hostels, a half-price, watered-down hostel beer just won’t cut it. Luckily, there are plenty of spas in Madrid that can offer comfort to your weary traveler’s feet.
📍Arabic-style spa in Madrid: Hammam Al Andalus, Madrid
The atmospheric Hammam Al Andalus is located in the heart of Madrid, on 14 Calle de Atocha. It lies tucked away inside the converted cellars of a 300-year-old cistern. The spa features multiple pools of different temperatures and offers all the usual fanfare of a typical, luxurious Arabic-style spa. Rejuvenate with a Eucalyptus steam bath and refuel by the tea fountain. Prices start at €30.
📍Thai-style spa in Madrid: The Organic Spa
A little piece of Thai nirvana in Madrid, The Organic Spa employs certified Thai masseuses and uses real Ayurvedic knowledge to bring calm over your body, mind, and soul. Get cracking, kneading, and shiatsu-ing in your own private oasis at 90 Calle de Lagasca. Prices start at €70 for massages.
📍Cheap spa in Madrid: Balnevital
Balnevital is a relatively new spa located close to the center of Madrid, on Calle de Arregui y Aruej. This conceptual spa was built upon the principle that health and wellness should be affordable and accessible for the busy, overworked people of Madrid. They offer a range of aesthetic services, massages, as well as advanced treatments like acupuncture, homeotherapy, mesotherapy, and lymphatic drainage. Prices start at €18 – go forth and relax!
The most unique thing to do ‘nearby’ Madrid
17. Have time? Battle giants in Castilla La Mancha
“Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them.”
Journey to the sun-beaten land of giants, where windswept high plains are dotted with ancient windmills – the mythical giants of Miguel de Cervantes’ 1605 novel, Don Quixote. La Mancha is one of the least-visited places in Spain. This is in part due to its remote location. To be specific, the windmills of lore are located in the small town of Consuegra in La Mancha. It lies tucked away in the hilly terrains of inland Spain, about 130 kilometers south of Madrid.
Getting to Consuegra isn’t easy, but you don’t know much about adventures if you haven’t tried getting to an impossible place. The incontestable land of queso manchego, blooming saffron fields, and some of the best wine in Spain will leave you speechless. On one hand, it’s relatively far from Madrid… But on the other hand, Madrid is probably the closest you’ll be to Consuegra (unless you’re in Toledo), so why not go the extra distance?
You can easily find tour companies offering day-long wine tours from Madrid to La Mancha, with hotel pick-up and drop-off. These all-inclusive types of tours are the most fuss-free way to visit La Mancha while also getting up close to the region’s highlights like crumbling castles and the famous windmills Don Quixote did battle with.
Renting a car and making the drive out is always a good way to explore any place like a local. It affords you the convenience of following your own schedule and stopping along the way to see other stunning cities like Toledo or Aranjuez.
Stop by vineyards, buy fresh produce from roadside vendors, and drive on small, winding roads with vast, open plains on both sides. Dare yourself to take off-road detours and explore Castilla La Mancha’s castle ruins that are scattered around the sierra-hued planes. Are those giants you see in the distance?