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Palacio de Cristal
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37 most beautiful places in Madrid

Historic buildings, hidden cafés, secret gardens... These are our most favourite gorgeous places in Madrid

By Jan Fleischer and Time Out Madrid editors
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When we think about beautiful places, glorious parks and gardens we can enjoy any time of the year come immediately to mind, as do historic buildings that we've all heard about but maybe never visited. What you might not realise is you don't have to leave the Community of Madrid to enjoy other atypical scenes, such as a garden taken from the Arizona desert. Or what about the city's 'hospital' that looks after the well-being of the Artistic Heritage of Spain and that, because of its architectural importance is itself part of the national heritage. We could go on like this for ages, but we'd rather help you discover it all bit by bit with this selection of beautiful places (some are even little secrets) that are worth visiting in Madrid as we enjoy our amazing city and all it has to offer.

37 beautiful places in Madrid

El Retiro
El Retiro
Shutterstock

1. The lookout tower in El Retiro park

Things to do

You can't really miss the tower next to the large pond in El Retiro park; it's a monument built by Mariano Benlliure in 1887 as a tribute to the memory of King Alfonso XII, and it's supported by a pedestal that's over 20 meters high. What you may not know is that there's quite the lookout point up there, a whole glass-enclosed room from which you can take in not only the park's paths and lush vegetation, but also some of the most emblematic buildings and neighbourhoods Madrid has to show off. After 30 years being closed, it has recently reopened its doors, giving us the perfect excuse to appreciate Madrid from above.

2. Desert City

Shopping Florists Off Madrid

Madrid has its own desert. Rather, its own experimental landscaped garden with a biotech nursery, all very much from the 21st century. It's a space of more than 5,000 square meters dedicated to botanical gardens where cacti are the stars. But they're not the only ones in the show, as there are more than 400 xerophytic species, many of them even indigenous to the Community of Madrid.

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La Neomudéjar
La Neomudéjar
Photograph: La Neomudéjar

3. La Neomudéjar

Art Performance art Pacífico

An old train car storage building that belongs to Atoche station is home to La Neomudéjar, a leading arts centre and international artist residency that's not as well-known as other similar spaces like La Tabacalera or La Casa Encendida. Far from the conventional art circuit, La Neomudéjar aims to give an outlet for all disciplines that don't fit in other galleries, such as video art, performance art, street art, parkour, robotics and more.

Real Jardín Botánico
Real Jardín Botánico
Photograph: Real Jardín Botánico

4. Royal Botanical Gardens

Attractions Parks and gardens Centro

Madrid's luscious botanical gardens were created for Charles III by Juan de Villanueva and the botanist Gómez Ortega in 1781. They are right alongside the Paseo del Prado, just south of the Prado museum, but inside this deep-green glade, with over 30,000 plants from around the world, it's easy to feel that city life has been put on hold. A sign at the entrance asks that you treat the gardens as if they were a museum, but don't feel bad about getting comfortable with a book for a while; it is one of the best spots in Madrid to do so.

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Escuelas Pías
Escuelas Pías
Photograph: UNED

5. Pious Schools of San Fernando

Attractions Libraries, archives and foundations Lavapiés

A church half in ruins is currently one of the National University of Distance Education headquarters in Madrid. Located in the Lavapiés neighbourhood, it was for decades a school of the Pious Schools of San Fernando. It suffered during and in the aftermath of the Civil War and it was not until 2004 that works were completed to transform it into a beautiful library and study centre. Inside, the long metal lamps that illuminate the work spaces contrast with the brick walls, and the silence that reigns is invaluable. The amazing architectural ensemble is even more beautiful at dusk, when the dim light dons it with a halo of mystery.

6. Cultural Heritage Institute of Spain

Attractions Historic buildings and sites Moncloa

Here is a jewel of Madrid architecture that has still been undiscovered by many. This crown-of-thorns construction houses the Institute of Cultural Heritage of Spain, dedicated to the conservation and restoration of cultural assets that make up the Spanish historical heritage. Curiously, the building's own beauty and architectural value, made up of a four-storey reinforced concrete structure, commissioned in 1965 from architects Fernando Higueras and Antonio Miró, earned it the recognition as a 'Bien de Interés Cultural' ('Good of Cultural Interest') in 2001. 

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Casa de Campo
Casa de Campo
Photograph: Edescas2

7. Casa de Campo

Things to do Casa de Campo

At over 1,722 acres, the Casa de Campo is Spain's largest green space. In addition to a long history that dates back to 1553, the park has a large lake, where you can hire a boat or a kayak, sports facilities, numerous paths through the trees and bushes for running and cycling, and various leisure facilities like the famous cable car, an amusement park, the Zoo Aquarium, a fairground and the Madrid Arena. There are plenty of restaurants scattered throughout the park, mainly around the lake.

Mercado de San Miguel
Mercado de San Miguel
Photograph: Shutterstock

8. San Miguel Market

Shopping Delis Austrias

This is Madrid's only cast-iron structured market that has survived to the present day and has reinvented itself and adapted to new times, following the model of the Boquería market in Barcelona. It has been declared a heritage site by the Spanish government and currently houses a ‘culinary culture centre’ where you can take part in tastings and buy fresh high-quality products.    

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9. Metrópolis building

Attractions Historic buildings and sites Centro

You'll find one of Madrid's most famous (and most beautiful) buildings on the corner of C/Alcalá with Gran Vía. The Metrópolis Building was inaugurated in 1911 by the company La Unión and Fénix, which would sell it in the 1970s to insurance company Metrópolis, which is where it got its current name. Its slate dome with reliefs covered in more than 30,000 24-carat gold loaves of bread is one of the symbols of Madrid. Fun fact: the winged victory statue that crowns the building today is not the original; it replaced a bronze phoenix that the original owners took with them when they left. It's worth heading over to gaze at the building at dusk to see the whole thing illuminated by more than 200 lights.

Madrid Planetarium
Madrid Planetarium
Photograph: Planetario de Madrid

10. Madrid Planetarium

Attractions Legazpi

Looking up at the Madrid sky isn't exactly the best way to do some serious star-gazing. So if that's what you're in the mood for, you'll want to get to the Planetarium, where you can see temporary exhibitions on the solar system and get a bit closer to the cosmos with the 50 special-effects projectors that simulate the solar system, stellar explosions, pulsars, black holes, galaxies and more. One of the jewels you'll encounter is the optical planetarium, which realistically represents a starry night, with the movements of stars and planets.

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11. El Huerto de las Monjas

Things to do Austrias

This is one of the most charming secret gardens in Madrid. Set in a former convent that was later converted into flats, the garden has remained untouched over the years of changes. In the centre you can admire a small fountain featuring three bronze cherubs at the centre of the space. Theres nothing quite so relaxing as sitting on a nearby bench and listening to the sound of the fountain’s water – peace and quiet in the middle of the city.  

Matadero Madrid
Matadero Madrid
Matadero Madrid

12. Matadero Madrid

Art Legazpi

Located in the city’s former municipal slaughterhouse (a 'matadero'), this complex of 48 buildings is now a multifunctional space dedicated to art and contemporary culture. Although some of the buildings remain abandoned, the rest have been restored and now there is a music block with recording studios, rehearsal rooms and a small stage; a space for the performing arts; a space for literature; a building where exhibitions and markets are held; and a cinema space dedicated almost exclusively to non-fiction films. 

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13. Palacio de Cristal

Attractions Historic buildings and sites Retiro

This glass and wrought-iron construction, which dates from 1887 and was constructed for the Philipine Islands Exhibition, is an outpost of the Reina Sofía museum and a lovely, luminous space for viewing art. It occupies a stunning setting in the middle of El Retiro park, next to a lake with ducks, surrounded by nature and people relaxing and having fun. Shows here often involve large-scale installations, sculpture or pieces conceived specifically for the space.

14. Advanced Technical School of Mining and Energy Engineers

Museums Ríos Rosas

This school, which is still in operation today, consists of four buildings. It is the work of Ricardo Velázquez Bosco, one of the most important architects in the history of Madrid. Granite, brick and limestone were the materials used in its construction, which began in 1884. Restored in the 1980s, the grounds of the Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingenieros de Minas y Energía (Advanced Technical School of Mining and Energy Engineers) are some of the most beautiful and elegant in the city. 

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Jardín Tropical de Atocha
Jardín Tropical de Atocha
Photograph: Álvaro Ibáñez

15. Tropical Garden at Atocha Station

Things to do Centro

A good book, a cup of coffee, and hundreds of turtles that live in this mini urban jungle make it one of the best ways to wait for a train. Some 7,000 plants of 400 different species make up this unusual garden with its own microclimate that lives under the glass and metal structure of the train station.

Palacio Real de Aranjuez
Palacio Real de Aranjuez
Photograph: Fernando García

16. Royal Palace of Aranjuez

Attractions Parliament and civic buildings Aranjuez

Located on the outskirts of Madrid, Aranjuez, the residence of the Spanish Royal Family, was built by Felipe II. The architect was Juan Bautista de Toledo, who died during construction, so it was his pupil Juan de Herrera who finished the work. This huge and beautiful palace is surrounded by lovely gardens, irrigated by the waters of the Tagus and Jarama rivers, and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Landscape.

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17. La Tabacalera

Museums Lavapiés

For the last decade, self-managed social centre has been a place to go for talks, debates, urban art, presentations, theatre, film screenings, markets and all kinds of artistic offerings in the Lavapiés neighbourhood, and is always aiming to generate and disseminate a form of free culture. It got its name from its location inside in the old Fábrica de Tabacos (Tobacco Factory), which was vacated in 2000 after the privatisation of La Tabacalera/Altadis. The building was abandoned for more than a decade until the Lavapiés Cultural Association CSA La Tabacalera took over its management. 

Longoria Palace
Longoria Palace
Photograph: Palacio de Longoria

18. Longoria Palace

Attractions Historic buildings and sites Alonso Martínez

The most emblematic modernist building in Madrid (and practically the only one) is in the Chueca neighbourhood. Foreign visitors are especially struck by the fact that there are not more modernist buildings in town, compared to the extraordinary creations to come out of the 20th century by Catalan architects such as Barcelona's Antoni Gaudí. The Longoria Palace was designed by José Grases Riera in 1902 as the residence of the banker Javier González Longoria. 

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19. Las Vistillas Gardens

Attractions Ships and boats La Latina

One of Madrid’s most traditional green spaces. Located in La Latina, next to the Viaducto de Segovia, the Fiestas de San Isidro, the patron saint of Madrid, are held here every year. At the southern end, you’ll find Parque de la Cornisa, which surrounds the Real Basílica de San Francisco el Grande, and which has an extensive area of gardens. Venture to the top of the hillside to enjoy some really spectacular views.

Círculo de Bellas Artes
Círculo de Bellas Artes
Photograph: Círculo de Bellas Artes

20. Círculo de Bellas Artes rooftop

Attractions Historic buildings and sites Centro

The Círculo de Bellas Artes occupies a superb building, designed by Antonio Palacios and completed in 1926. It's a key player in every aspect of the Madrid arts scene. The Círculo offers a plethora of classes, exhibitions, lectures and concerts in its theatre and concert hall, as well as an annual masked ball for carnival. Its café is well worth visiting, whether to see the marvellous 'El Salto de Léucade' by Moisés de Huerta or for its wonderful views. Its rooftop terrace is usually packed and is a good option for summer evenings.

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San Manuel y San Benito
San Manuel y San Benito
Photograph: Håkan Svensson

21. San Manuel and San Benito Church

Attractions Religious buildings and sites Barrio de Salamanca

Located in C/Alcalá, in front of El Retiro park, this church is one that the people of Madrid may not know well but should. The work of architect Fernando Arbós y Tremanti, it's one of the best examples of neo-Byzantine architecture in the city. Inside the small church are the burial plots of Catalan businessman Manuel Caviggioli and his wife Benita Maurici, who donated the land for the construction of the temple. Its most impressive feature is its large dome in shades of green, blue and gold.

Parque de El Capricho
Parque de El Capricho
Hiberus © Madrid Destino

22. El Capricho park

Attractions Parks and gardens Alameda de Osuna

In Alameda de Osuna in the district of Barajas, you'll find El Capricho (literally, 'The Whim'), a garden that is a jewel of Romanticism and a monument to 18th-century taste. Within its 14 hectares lie an artificial river, lakes, woods, gardens, simulations of temples and other surprising nooks. Building work was begun in 1780 on order of the Duke and Duchess of Osuna. Jean-Baptiste Mulot, a French gardener who had worked for Marie Antoinette, was the head architect, though most of El Capricho is in the English style.

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Museo del Ferrocarril
Museo del Ferrocarril
Photograph: Museo del Ferrocarril

23. Railway museum

Museums Specialist interest Delicias

Housed in the elegant but disused Delicias station, with ironwork by Gustave Eiffel, Madrid's railway museum has an evocative collection of models, old locomotives, railway equipment and memorabilia. There is also a room dedicated to clocks, including the one that marked time when Spain's first ever train chugged from Barcelona to Mataró. You can climb on the trains, have a drink in an old restaurant car or watch film footage of Spanish railways. It also plays host to the ‘Mercado de Motores’ market, held once a month, where you can find deals on all kinds of lovely things you can't live without.

Rosaleda del Parque del Oeste
Rosaleda del Parque del Oeste
© José Javier Martin Espartosa

24. Oeste park rose garden

Things to do Argüelles

This more-than-30,000-square-metre rose garden is the perfect spot to woo your sweetheart, hone your photography skills, or simply stroll among the splendid flowers, fountains and greenery. The park’s many flowerbeds boast more than 500 varieties of roses, which are the subject of an annual competition for the most beautiful blossom. You can feast your eyes on them yourself for free year-round.

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Invernadero de Arganzuela
Invernadero de Arganzuela
Photograph: Shutterstock

25. Palacio de Cristal de Arganzuela greenhouse

Things to do Legazpi

This garden is a complete delight: more than 7,000 square metres of plants and vegetation set in what was once a municipal slaughterhouse. It was built between 1908 and 1928 by architect Luis Bellido y González. The restoration was done in the style of 19th-century London or Viennese greenhouses and accommodates 9,000 species of plants, including cacti and succulents, and even some species of fish. Seriously, the place will blow you away.

Debod Temple
Debod Temple
Photograph: Templo de Debod

26. Debod Temple

Attractions Historic buildings and sites Argüelles

This Egyptian structure, which sits on the outskirts of the Parque del Oeste, dates back 2,200 years and is dedicated to the gods Amun and Isis. It was sent, block by block, by the Egyptian government in 1968 in thanks for Spain's help in preserving monuments threatened by the Aswan Dam. You can visit the inside of the temple, and the views from here at sunset are spectacular.

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Sorolla Museum gardens
Sorolla Museum gardens
Photograph: CC

27. Sorolla Museum

Museums Castellana

Joaquín Sorolla was an exponent of 'luminism', the celebration of light. This delightful little museum, housed in the mansion built for the artist in 1910 to spend the artist's later years, boasts 250 works which are exhibited on the main floor, in his former studio areas. The salon, dining room and breakfast room are furnished in their original state with the artist's eclectic decorative influence in evidence. The garden, Moorish-inspired but with an Italianate pergola, is a delightful, peaceful oasis of calm, seemingly miles away from the roaring traffic outside.

28. Sabatini gardens

Museums Austrias

Welcome to one of the most beautiful spots in the old centre of Madrid (known as Madrid de los Austrias). With a large circular fountain and a small pond where tourists and locals cool off in summer, the French style has made this neoclassical-style garden a unique green space in Madrid. Its shrubs and hedges are trimmed into geometric forms, further highlighting the beauty of the park and its statues. In summer the park is full of concerts and theatre and dance performances thanks to the Veranos de la Villa festival.

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Hospital de Maudes
Hospital de Maudes
Photograph: Florentino Sánchez

29. Hospital Maudes

Attractions Historic buildings and sites Cuatro Caminos

Hospital, warehouse and now one of the councils of the Community of Madrid. This great architectural ensemble takes up almost an entire block in C/Maudes and still features the walled enclosure that protects it from the outside. The octagonal design of the central patio, from where four galleries extend, is one of the most original in the city. In addition to the administrative offices, the complex boasts a church and what were formerly the hospital's nursing units. 

La Quinta de los Molinos
La Quinta de los Molinos
Photograph: Kus Cámara

30. La Quinta de los Molinos

Things to do Walks and tours Ciudad Lineal

There is a park in Madrid that is unknown, even to many locals, where the almond trees bloom each spring. It's the Quinta de Los Molinos, in the El Salvador neighbourhood. Its 21.5 acres are home to a large number of olive, pine and eucalyptus trees, as well as various fountains and a lake. But the real stars of the show are the white and pink flowers on the almond trees, which give off a heady scent. This garden was categorised as a historical park in 1997 and fills up with families playing ball games, couples of all ages, and groups of friends taking photos of the colourful trees with their mobile phones.

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Jardín del Príncipe de Anglona
Jardín del Príncipe de Anglona
Photograph: Losmininos

31. Prince of Anglona gardens

Things to do La Latina

In a forgotten corner of Plaza de la Paja, in the La Latina neighbourhood, you’ll find this hidden garden. A brick wall keeps prying eyes away from Príncipe de Anglona’s best-kept secret: the garden he used to stroll through when he lived in the adjacent palace back in the 19th century. A small stone fountain in the centre of the enclosure is the starting (or ending) point of several stone pathways. The park also features an iron arbour, and a pergola that transforms into a colorful rose garden in spring.

Parque Tierno Galván
Parque Tierno Galván
Photograph: Richtea

32. Enrique Tierno Galván park

Things to do Legazpi

Located in the Legazpi neighbourhood, this 45-hectare park began construction in 1986 during the term of Madrid's most beloved mayor, Enrique Tierno Galván. There's a square and statue in honour of him in the park as well. This green space also houses the Madrid Planetarium, an outdoor auditorium and since 2016, an IMAX theatre, where you can see films in 3D. It also has sports facilities and a bike path.

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33. Museum of Romanticism Garden Café

Bars and pubs Café bars Malasaña

Hidden away in an enclosed garden is this lovely café and tearoom, where you can get home-made cakes and pastries – perfect for breakfast or a snack. The garden café is in the Museo del Romanticismo, an ideal setting for those partial to the work of Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, Goethe, Lord Byron and Rosalía de Castro. The museum houses a lovely collection of more than 1,600 pieces, including furniture, paintings, crockery, pianos, and more, which have been available for public viewing once again since 2009 after a massive remodelling. It's free to enter the café.

Banco de España
Banco de España
Photograph: Turismo Madrid

34. Banco de España

Attractions Historic buildings and sites Centro

This enormous building located on the Paseo del Prado may not grab your eye from the street, but inside it's one of the most beautiful in Madrid. It is indeed the Bank of Spain, and it functions as such, but in 1999 it was declared a 'Bien de Interés Cultural' ('Good of Cultural Interest') for its architectural value. Its 27-metre-high interior patio contains more modern elements and Art Deco features, such as an impressive stained-glass window and a large clock located in the centre of the patio. It's worth going in just to marvel at those.

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Dalieda de San Francisco
Dalieda de San Francisco
Time Out

35. Saint Francis dahlia garden

Things to do La Latina

Next to the Basílica de San Francisco el Grande, in La Latina, lies this small park, divided into several beds of dahlias. Overshadowed by the majesty of the adjacent church, this viewpoint is one of the best and quietest places in Madrid to take in a beautiful sunset. The 'San Isidro' group of sculptures, designed by Santiago Costa, presides over the area. An ideal spot for a romantic rendezvous.

36. Salvador Bachiller Secret Garden

Bars and pubs Café bars Sol

In C/Montera, just steps from Puerta del Sol right in the heart of Madrid, there's a beautiful urban oasis in the form of a secret garden. If you want to discover it for yourself, you'll have to go up to the fourth floor of the Salvador Bachiller shop, resisting those leather bags, suitcases and vintage-style interior café with comfy chairs and sofas you'll walk past. Go up to the roof of the building, and you'll be rewarded with this wonderful place. Colourful hydrangeas, vines, young trees, and plants with a rainbow of flowers welcome you to a tea room that looks out of a fairy tale.

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37. Palace of the Marques of Salamanca in Vista Alegre

Attractions Parks and gardens Vista Alegre

Facing the historic Plaza de Vistalegre is one of the prettiest palaces in Madrid, which, although it's been forgotten by a large part of the Administration, the neighbours want to claim as public space, although at the moment, unfortunately, their petitions have fallen on deaf ears. This palace complex, which was a Royal Site, as it was the summer residence of María Cristina de Borbón, dating from the time of Fernando VII, was a famous place of recreation for the Madrid aristocracy of the 19th century, with river and gardens included.

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