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The 47 best things to do in Madrid

From cutting-edge culture to chocolate-dipped churros: these are the very best things to do in marvellous Madrid

Written by
Jan Fleischer
Marta Bac
A. Martín Larios
Felicity Hughes
Rosemary Waugh

47 might seem like a lot, but the truth is, this could quite easily be a list of the 4,700 best things to do in Madrid. Even that would be selling the Spanish capital short. Madrid is a magnificent city, one that ticks every box anyone could want. Looking for genre-defining art and elite museums? You’ll find plenty. Hungry? Madrid’s restaurants are some of the best in Spain. Short on cash? Not to worry, there is no shortage of excellent free things to do here too.

Madrid is a city that does both. There is enough here to keep return visitors engaged while newcomers are in for the experience of a lifetime. Madrid is achingly cool, blissfully beautiful and delightfully convivial, all at once. You’re lucky to be here, we’ll say that much.

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Best things to do in Madrid in 2023

Spend hours in the Prado Museum
  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • Retiro

What is it? Spain’s world-famous museum of art

Why go? Acquaint yourself with some of the best artists to have ever worked in Spain, plus other masters from across Europe. El Greco, Goya and Velázquez are all on the must-see list, including the latter’s stunning 'Las Meninas'. Frankly, that would be enough to satisfy most artistic appetites for an entire week, but if you have the stamina, it is also well-worth seeing Dürer's extraordinary 1498 'Self-Portrait', and the unparalleled collection of paintings by Hieronymus Bosch and… and… and… the list goes on, really. This is the big daddy of all the art galleries in the city, and it is unmissable.

Don't miss: All of the above.

  • Museums
  • Lavapiés

What is it? A world-class contemporary and modern art museum.

Why go? Some paintings are so good they are worth getting on a plane for just to see once. Pablo Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ is the showpiece. This stunning anti-war image is even better when seen in the flesh. Be warned: it is incredibly moving. However, once you have paid that masterpiece suitable homage, we recommend checking out the permanent collection and the top-notch temporary exhibitions at this former hospital.

Don't miss: Go for ‘Guernica’ and stay for Dali’s ‘Great Masturbator’, along with the excellent temporary exhibitions throughout the year.

Have fun and relax in El Retiro Park
  • Things to do

What is it? Madrid’s green lung (and heart). 

Why go? Unlike Barcelona, Madrid can’t offer a quick trip to the city beach as an alternative to city life. But what it lacks in sand, it makes up for in cool, green spaces and beautiful rose gardens. Dating back to the time of Queen Isabela I and King Ferdinand, El Retiro Park is the place to be for exercise (dogs and humans), sunbathing, strolling and general all-out relaxation. If you aren't one to stop sightseeing, check out the monument to Alfonso XII or the Casón del Buen Retiro, a large and beautiful ballroom in its heyday. Or, if you prefer some downtime, wander slowly down the pathways, stopping only to admire a fountain or two.

Don't miss: El Retiro might feel like heaven on a hot day, but it is actually home to Ángel Caído, a famous statue dedicated to el diablo.

  • Things to do
  • Madrid

What is it? A type of experiential art gallery where you can touch, feel and, of course, snap photos of everything around you.

Why go? To dip into a pool of blue balls, explore a room with infinite mirrors, enjoy another full of coloured confetti, visit another with luminescent neon lights, and even pop into one with pink bubbles. All of these abstract spaces are set up to spark your imagination, and your skill with your camera lens (or smartphone) takes care of the rest.

Don’t miss: You can also purchase tickets as gifts for others to enjoy the immersive experience.

  • Museums
  • Centro

What is it? A collection of 775 paintings, including ones by Van Gogh, Caravaggio, Hopper and more.

Why go? This bumper collection of artworks was once the private collection of Baron Hans-Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza. Luckily for the city of Madrid and the Spanish government (who signed a purchase agreement for all of it in 1993), old Thyssen-Bornemisza had pretty good taste. See a mixture of big-name Europeans and 20th-century American artists in one of the city’s slightly less well-known galleries.

Don't miss: 'Woman in Bath' by Roy Lichtenstein is an iconic pop art image that has lost none of its original charms.

  • Things to do
  • Argüelles

What is it? The best – and only – Egyptian temple in Spain.

Why go? You don’t have to travel to Cairo to see Ancient Egyptian artefacts. Strangely enough, Madrid has one too. The Templo de Debod dates back more than 2,200 years and honours the gods Amun and Isis. But wait, the history boys shout, when did the Egyptians come to Madrid to build a temple? Well, they didn’t. But in 1968, the Egyptian government sent every historic brick of this place to Spain as a thank you for helping to preserve monuments that could have been destroyed by the Aswan Dam. Which is almost as cool a story as if it had been in Madrid for thousands of years.

Don't miss: Time your trip to the viewpoint perfectly so you can snap the sunset on your phone.

Visit City Hall and the vista point at CentroCentro
  • Museums
  • Centro

What is it? One of Madrid’s most interesting buildings, where you’ll discover a fascinating array of cultural and social events.

Why go? Madrid’s City Hall (the Ayuntamiento de Madrid) is found along the south side of Cibeles Square – and it is hard to miss. This striking building was once the Palacio de Telecomunicaciones and is now a great place to see interesting exhibitions on city life, live music and the handiwork of contemporary artists.

Don't miss: If you want to flood your Instagram feed with beautiful views, head to Terraza Cibeles on the sixth floor and Mirador Madrid on the eighth.

  • Restaurants
  • Austrias

What is it? Madrid's most famous gastro market.

Why go? Here's a classic example of how a historic building in its later years bounced back to life, in this case, to become one of the most outstanding gastronomic stops and tourist attractions in Madrid. In 2009 the Mercado de San Miguel was resurrected, with its original 1916 iron structure intact, and since then, the interior has housed a heady mixture of aromas, flavours and sensations for all tastes. This is buzzing life in the heart of the Spanish capital, where you can always get an unforgettable meal.

Don't miss: Stroll among the tempting stalls and select from some of the best dishes in town.

  • Things to do
  • Centro

What is it? A cultural centre in a stunning building.

Why go? The Círculo de Bellas Artes is the place to be if you love high-quality culture, including concerts, plays and a changing schedule of exhibitions. Or, it is the place to be if you want to take in beautiful vistas across Madrid. Personally, we love doing a bit of both while making sure never to leave the building without at least a quick trip up to the rooftop terrace.

Don't miss: Those rooftop views never get old.

Mooch around the Rastro, Madrid's famous flea market
Photograph: Shutterstock

10. Mooch around the Rastro, Madrid's famous flea market

What is it? The city’s oldest market.

Why go? Every Sunday the Ribera de Curtidores transforms itself into a giant cauldron of curiosities. Antiques, handicrafts, clothing, jewellery, leather goods and more all have their place in the jumble of street stalls that begins to spring up from 7am. Each week the market is awash with locals and visitors alike, all keen to be part of the Rastro’s rich 500-odd-year history – but pickpockets work the crowds, so don’t drop your guard when visiting this must-see phenomenon.

Don’t miss: If you’re prepared to do a bit of haggling, you can get your hands on some authentic vintage treasures at a low price. 

  • Museums
  • Madrid

What is it? A super fun museum dedicated to optical illusions that will make you feel like a little kid again. 

Why go? Since 2020, the Museum of Illusions has been one of the best-loved visitor attractions in Madrid. Locals and tourists adore its vast array of weird and wonderful mind-bending tricks, from the Rubin vase to the 3D stereogram and onto some lesser-known and strange new ones. If you’ve got little ones, we guarantee they will love it here.

Don’t miss: Capture your favourite tricks on your phone camera and see if your friends can also figure them out.

  • Art
  • Legazpi

What is it? A buzzing modern cultural centre in a former slaughterhouse.

Why go? Matadero Madrid started life as an abattoir before being left empty and abandoned for many years. In 2007, however, the Neo-Mudejar building was transformed into a multidisciplinary arts space. Keep an eye on their ever-changing programme and catch plays, films, markets and live music, all at one venue.

Don't miss: The immersive art exhibitions brought to life with VR and floor-to-ceiling digital projections.

Stop by the stalls at the Antón Martín Market
  • Restaurants
  • Lavapiés

What is it? One of the city's main traditional markets with stalls selling fresh produce, craft beer and prepared deli-style food.

Why go? The Mercado de Antón Martin is one of the prime examples of the trend of gastro markets in Madrid. Centrally located just a few metres from the square of the same name, the market is filled with traditional stalls dedicated to the sale of fresh products, as well as small stands offering cuisine from all over the world, be it Japanese, Italian, Mexican, Colombian or Taiwanese.

Don't miss: The mouth-wateringly good Japanese food at Yokaloka.

Feast your eyes at a museum dedicated to sweets
Photograph: Courtesy of Sweet Space

14. Feast your eyes at a museum dedicated to sweets

What is it: Madrid’s first museum dedicated to sweets, Sweet Space is located inside ABC Serrano shopping centre.

Why go? Enjoy nine themed rooms designed by some of Spain’s most famous creatives, from graffiti artist Okuda to clothing designer Ágatha Ruiz. Here, columns of cotton clouds are transformed into gigantic palm trees and an ice cream parlour serves as a taste laboratory in spaces that offer a sensory experience accompanied by a treat or two.

Don’t miss: The tasting emporium at the end of your visit doubles as a ‘gift shop’ offering ice creams, cookies and other sweets to try, buy and enjoy.

  • Restaurants
  • Chamberí

What is it? Another great example of how traditional markets have been reinvented and blossomed to serve up international cuisine.

Why go? It is said that hunger sharpens our ability to create and innovate. And it seems that happened to a group of shopkeepers at the Mercado de Vallehermoso, who, after a nearly two-decade period of decline, decided to give new life to their workplace and opened their doors to restaurants and bars like Prost Chamberí, Di Buono and Craft 19. These days, the once-empty stalls are thriving thanks to the Galería de Productores initiative, made of 22 local suppliers who sell ‘100% authentic foods’ produced in an area no larger than 120 km² and using artisan and sustainable processes.

Don't miss: Tripea is one of the best market stalls to fill up on fusion cuisine in Madrid.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Café bars
  • Sol
  • price 1 of 4

What is it? The most famous place to get 'churros con chocolate' in Madrid. 

Why go? San Ginés has been serving chocolate and churros 24 hours a day since 1894. It uses a prepaid ticket system to accommodate 5am queues of late-night revellers and chipper old ladies. If you fall into the former category, be warned: this place is very well-lit. At least there are tables outside.

Don't miss: Slender churros and the chunkier 'porras' make the perfect companions to a cup of thick dipping chocolate.

  • Things to do
  • Alameda de Osuna

What is it? One of the most beautiful parks in the city.

Why go? 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 the 14 hectares lie an artificial river, lakes, woods, gardens, simulations of temples and other surprising nooks. The park's principal architect was Jean-Baptiste Mulot, a French gardener who had worked for Marie Antoinette, yet a large part of El Capricho is in the style of English gardens.

Don't miss: The romantic temples and statues dotted around the park.

18. Check out contemporary art at Veta

What is it: A gallery in Carabanchel that shows another side to Madrid.

Why go? Catch emerging young artists in a former printworks far from the sleek galleries of central Madrid. The brainchild of dealer Fer Francés, Veta hosts exhibitions by both international and homegrown artists in a rough and ready space. Located in what was once a thriving industrial zone, this luminous 12,000-metre square warehouse is filled with striking contemporary paintings, sculptures, and photography. When you’re done inside, you can get a taste of real Madrid by wandering the streets of Carabanchel, an affordable area that’s begun to fill up with artists’ studios.  

Don’t miss: The huge graffiti murals just down the street.

  • Things to do
  • Madrid

What is it? The last X-rated cinema in the city converted into a cocktail bar, though they kept the projector for special screenings.

Why go? In a short time, Sala Equis has become wildly popular in Madrid. The 700 m² space is dedicated to film, music and cultural and gastronomic goodness. It's divided into two zones: Sala Plaza, the epicentre of the space with a big screen, a bar with a variety of different eats, and an area where you can relax on wooden benches or lounge chairs, or even have a go on the swings; and the 55-seat cinema for their film cycles.

Don't miss: The fab Saturday night ambience and the fun cinema cycles.

Have a hushed dining experience at Éter
Photograph: Laura Ochoa

20. Have a hushed dining experience at Éter

What is it: A symphony of subtle flavours played against a muted backdrop.

Why go: Opened with little fanfare in 2020, this understated restaurant has been heading up a quiet revolution in fine dining that harnesses sustainable ingredients to create something really spectacular. Against a grey backdrop worthy of a Velazquez painting, a tasting menu combining a range of subtle and surprising flavours is served up over the course of a couple of hours. Everything is hushed and peaceful, right down to the staff who whisper descriptions of each plate before setting it down.

Don’t miss: The biodynamic wines and charred horse mackerel.

Try the raciest desserts in town
Photograph: La Coñería

21. Try the raciest desserts in town

What is it? Waffles in the form of genitalia? Yep, that’s the latest craze in Chueca.

Why go? La Pollería, a small spot in the middle of the Chueca neighbourhood, had to move almost as soon as it was set up to supply the demand from customers queuing up to try their waffles in the shape of penises. They were so successful that they came up with a female version at La Coñería and were greeted with similar success. What’s next for them? We can’t wait to find out.

Don’t miss: Maybe they’re not the most gourmet waffles in the world, but your Instagram followers will be suitably scandalized.

  • Restaurants
  • Madrid

What is it? Chef Dani García’s latest restaurant in the city located on the rooftop of the luxury Four Seasons Hotel Madrid.

Why go? Accessible luxury is what you get with this latest from this latest leap from a chef who decided to leave behind his glittering Michelin stars to democratize gastronomy. Enjoy the lavish views and a relaxed ambience, with interior design by the prestigious Swedish studio Martin Brudnizki, throughout a meal that balances sophistication with an informality that usually doesn’t go hand in hand with haute cuisine.   

Don’t miss: The chef’s legendary dishes won’t disappoint, including the nitro tomato with green gazpacho and shrimp tartare.

Discover trailblazing art among the rails at La Neomudéjar
  • Art
  • Performance art
  • Pacífico

What is it? A leading arts centre in an old train car storage building.

Why go? La Neomudéjar defines itself as a centre for art, experimentation and creativity, and it's another good example of a forgotten space that, under self-management, has come back to life to become a valuable part of the Pacífico neighbourhood. The calendar features exhibitions, performances, film series and workshops, and there's space carved out for new shows by innovative creators.

Don't miss: Performances here are some of the most avant-garde in the city.

  • Museums
  • Lavapiés

What is it? One of the most innovative and modern cultural centres in Madrid.

Why go? Some of the most avant-garde and exciting art comes together in La Casa Encendida. Set inside a Neo-Mudéjar-style building, its four floors are home to emerging new artists of all genres, as well as concerts, theatre, performances, film, and activities for children. On top of all this, there's also a charity shop, a library, a café, and a terrace that, in summer, is a great spot to take in a good concert or watch a film in an outdoor setting.

Don't miss: The summertime open-air cinema and concerts, the 'Puwerty' festival for teenagers, and the She Makes Noise women's electronic music festival, among plenty of other plans on the programme.

Spend a day with the kids at Espacio Abierto
  • Kids
  • Canillejas

What is it? Espacio Abierto ('Open Space') is exclusively for children to relax, have fun and learn.

Why go? You'll find Espacio Abierto inside the gorgeous Quinta de Los Molinos park, and it's a great place to bring babies and for kids up to 16 years old to hang out. There are games, puppet shows, music, workshops, and loads of things to do, even if all the kids want to do is just relax on a sofa and read a good book.

Don't miss: Check the calendar to see what's on, as the programme is full of creative endeavours that stimulate the imagination.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Centro

What is it? One of the best cocktail bars in the world. Really.

Why go? This project from Argentinian bartender Diego Cabrera is something to behold. The decor of psychedelic neons combines perfectly with a menu boasting stupendously imaginative cocktails that employ the most unusual ingredients and cutting-edge techniques and are served in original receptacles. Cabrera's latest creations take you on a trip to the Amazon.

Don't miss: Pair your cocktail of choice with one (or more) of the gastro offerings by Estanis Carenzo.

  • Theatre
  • Arapiles

What is it? One of the most modern theatres in Madrid, whose programme features contemporary dance and theatre.

Why go? Despite having been around for less than a decade, the Teatros de Canal has established itself as one of the most appealing stages in Madrid. The modern facilities are home to two theatres, which welcome plays, zarzuelas, cabaret shows, dance performances, opera, and concerts for all tastes. Around 1.5 million spectators have enjoyed some 700 shows since 2009. There are also guided tours available if you want to uncover backstage secrets and perhaps run into that ghost that lives in the building.

Don't miss: The contemporary dance cycles, which are among the best in the city.

  • Art
  • Barrio de las Letras

What is it? An old power plant converted into a cultural centre.

Why go? Located in Madrid's Art Triangle, the CaixaForum welcomes visitors with an impressive 24-metre-high vertical garden at its entrance, which features 15,000 plants and 250 different species. The centre boasts an extensive cultural and educational programme featuring exhibitions, workshops, conferences, courses and concerts, with plenty of child-friendly options. During summer, the programme includes night-time concerts, films, and other activities.

Don't miss: The spectacular vertical garden and the diverse exhibitions you can enjoy for less than a tenner.

  • Things to do
  • Puente de Vallecas

What is it? A park with one of the best panoramic views of Madrid.

Why go? This park, charmingly known as the one with 'Seven Tits' because of its hills, is in Puente de Vallecas and is one of the best places in town to watch day turn into evening. It used to be a dump site, and thus the uneven terrain.

Don't miss: The spectacular sunsets.

  • Clubs
  • Madrid

What is it? The hottest hotspot in Madrid, which won our Time Out Award for Best Club in 2017.

Why go? What appears to be an everyday haberdashery with a great location next to the Apolo Theatre in Plaza de Tirso de Molina is a thriving nightclub with three dance floors that can hold a thousand party people. They play all kinds of music, serve top-notch cocktails, and even offer gourmet food in this 'secret' spot that's been uncovered thanks to word of mouth that's made it so well-deservedly popular.

Don't miss: The wild weekend sessions.

  • Museums
  • Chueca

What is it? One of the top exhibition halls in Madrid.

Why go? Inside number 23 in Paseo de Recoletos stands a space dedicated to art that deserves more recognition. Housed in the stunning Palacio de Medina de las Torres, the space stands just north of Madrid’s golden triangle of art, an area that has been declared a World Heritage Site. Here you’ll find an exciting programme of temporary exhibitions dedicated to photography, painting, and sculpture.

Don't miss: The ornate wooden ceiling on the top floor decorated in a Neo-Mudéjar style.

  • Art
  • Plaza de Castilla

What is it? One of the exhibition halls at the buzzing cultural venue Fundación Canal de Isabel II.

Why go? Exhibitions, concert series, debates, guided tours and workshops are just some of the varied activities dedicated to all types of artistic genres on the programme. The Foundation's main priority is to offer a space for visitors to reflect on the environment and the problems we face today, focusing on the importance of water as a vital resource for our planet. The venue is also well-known for its photography competitions, attracting hundreds of fans every year.

Don't miss: The free, quality art exhibitions, which bring thousands of locals and visitors to Madrid.

  • Film
  • Recoletos

What is it? A cultural centre that aims to strengthen ties between Spain and Ibero-America, that just happens to be housed in a hunted palace.

Why go? Casa de América, set in the exceptional Palacio de Linares, a building with an extraordinary history and full of legends, is a great place to enjoy many different cultural activities in the centre of Madrid. As well as offering some of the best art and photography exhibitions and film screenings, the Casa de América also hosts conferences covering topics such as the environment, the economy, politics and literature. You can also catch stage plays and live music performances.

Don't miss: The free temporary exhibitions and film screenings.

  • Theatre

What is it? A classic theatre that serves as the country’s foremost national opera house.

Why go? Plaza de Oriente is home to one of the most beautiful and emblematic buildings in Madrid. As well as being a temple for opera, zarzuela and ballet, the Teatro Real has been a hugely symbolic building for the city's culture ever since its construction over two centuries ago. Every season national and international stars take to the stage, which is also open to the public for guided tours that let you explore the auditoriums and even dressing rooms.

Don't miss: The last-minute box-office ticket deals to impressive shows.

Thrill your senses over a meal at DSTAgE
  • Restaurants
  • Haute cuisine
  • Chueca

What is it? With two Michelin stars, DSTAgE is one of the best restaurants in Madrid.

Why go? The DSTAgE concept is one of an industrial and urban aesthetic, but it's also a learning space with cooking workshops for kids and adults. Under the guiding hand of chef Diego Guerrero, DSTAgE has broken its share of rules to become one of the best restaurants in the city. Guerrero has earned his Michelin stars thanks to his ability to fuse Spanish, Japanese and Mexican flavours. The restaurant offers two set menus, with 12, 14 and 17 dishes to try, respectively, and prices that start where you expect and go up accordingly. And yes, you'll want to book well in advance.

Don't miss: The incredible and elaborate tasting menus.

  • Art

What is it? One of the most prestigious cultural foundations in Madrid.

Why go? The museum always offers something different from the rest, managing to introduce visitors to lesser-known artists and alternative art you might not otherwise see. It never fails to surprise, as it constantly takes on different styles, whether that is painting, architecture, drawing or beyond. Still, the Fundación Juan March is more than a museum, as evidenced by its series of concerts and conferences. You can also challenge your brain in the library and relax in the café.

Don't miss: The free exhibitions and classical music cycles.

  • Art
  • Alonso Martínez

What is it? The Madrid location of one of the world's most prestigious art galleries.

Why go? Founded in London in 1946, Marlborough now has galleries in New York, Tokyo and Barcelona. This one in Madrid opened in 1989, and ever since, it's been able to prove it's got the Marlborough stuff by acquiring and selling art from the 19th and 20th centuries and putting on public exhibitions of contemporary art from all corners of the planet.

Don't miss: Fresh and modern art exhibitions.

  • Hotels
  • Hostels
  • Centro

What is it? One of the loveliest rooftop terraces in central Madrid.

Why go? In the middle of La Latina, just some 150 metres away from Plaza Mayor, The Hat is one of the most attractive and best-valued places to stay in the Spanish capital. The owners describe it as having the freedom of a hostel and the service of a hotel. But the main attraction here has got to be the rooftop terrace – a fabulous spot to take in the sunset with a cold beer or a warm coffee (depending on the season) and a good variety of snacks without having to spend three weeks worth of wages.

Don't miss: Watching the sunset over the tiled rooftops of La Latina.

  • Theatre
  • Circuses
  • Embajadores

What is it? The only permanent circus in the city.


Why go? In 2002 the Madrid City Council started the construction of a permanent circus, following a road previously paved by European cities such as Paris, Brussels, Munich and Amsterdam. Thus the Circo Price was born and baptised with the name of the circus formed in the mid-19th century by Irish acrobat Thomas Price in Paseo de Recoletos. Now part of an avant-garde hub – together with the neighbouring Casa Encendida – the space welcomes circus performances, festivals, concerts, improv workshops, musicals and more.


Don't miss: The circus and acrobatic performances.

Find the Jaume Plensa statue at the Masaveu Foundation
  • Art
  • Madrid

What is it? The Masaveu Foundation is one of the biggest private art collections in Spain.

Why go? To check out this impressive art centre located in a Neoclassical palace. The 2,000m2 space shows off the works of the Fundación María Cristina Masaveu Peterson, including religious triptychs and medieval sculptures, to more recent works by some of the most sought-after contemporary artists. There's also an impressive programme of temporary exhibitions.

Don't miss: In the Patio of Silence, there's an impressive relief by Catalan artist Jaume Plensa.

  • Cinemas
  • Lavapiés

What is it? The hub of Spanish film archives. 

Why go? This chic art nouveau national film theatre was founded more than 50 years ago, and now it's a spot where you can enjoy its eclectic seasons of films from the Spanish National Archive and world cinema, auteur, classical and experimental productions. Auditorium 1 is a marvellous place to see silent movies, sometimes accompanied by live music.  It’s also worth spending time in the lobby which boasts a cafe and bookshop dedicated to film.


Don't miss: The heavyweight film cycles, most of which are shown in their original language with subtitles.

  • Things to do
  • Centro

What is it? The headquarters of the public institution created to teach the Spanish language and promote Hispanic American cultures.

Why go? At over a quarter of a century old, the Instituto Cervantes is killing it in the goal-achieving department. With delegations around the world, this central headquarters in Madrid is housed in a monumental building that stands out at the top of C/ Alcalá. They organise cultural activities like art exhibitions, seminars and conferences, and Spanish courses in-situ and online. It's only natural that the seat of the Cervantes Institute is in the city where the classic Spanish writer himself penned Don Quijote.

Don't miss: The exhibitions in a sumptuous marble lobby.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Café bars
  • Malasaña
  • price 2 of 4

What is it? Misión Café is a speciality café in Malasaña and one of the best coffee houses in Madrid.

Why go? Cosy and minimalist, Misión serves one of the best damn speciality coffees in the city, thanks in part to its modular coffee maker, the only one of its kind around. With simplicity as its banner, Misión Café is a spot where you will find excellent dark brew, expert and friendly service, and tasty bites. Get something to eat with your cuppa, whether that is toast with homemade jam, creamy porridge or raspberry cake, or even marinated trout on toast or a peanut butter sandwich.

Don't miss: You’re going for the coffee, but if you’re in the mood for something a bit different, try the tea-based homemade kombucha with just the right bit of fizz.

Attend a free workshop at the Telefónica Foundation Space
  • Art
  • Malasaña

What is it? A cultural space located in the Telefónica building, right on Gran Vía.

Why go? With one of the most complete cultural programmes in Madrid, the Espacio Fundación Telefónica has a lot to offer – exhibitions, workshops, conferences, guided tours and activities for all age groups. The four floors that make up the Espacio are chock-full of culture. Over the years, it has become a vital space for fans of photographic art or those interested in technology of the past, present and future. The Foundation has also managed to collect and analyse the latest communication trends, attracting personalities and experts of all kinds who have brought their ideas to the people of Madrid.

Don't miss: The free exhibitions and workshops for all ages.

See cutting-edge art at La Fiambrera
Photograph: Courtesy of La Fiembrera Gallery

45. See cutting-edge art at La Fiambrera

What is it: An art gallery with a contemporary pop and graffiti aesthetic. 

Why go? It’s cutting-edge shops like La Fiambrera that have turned the neighbourhood of Malsaña into one of the city’s most achingly cool districts. The brainchild of former museum curators Maite Valderrama and Ruth López-Diéguez, this glorious emporium puts art centre stage – in all its weird and wonderful forms. In the shop, you can buy original prints, vinyl toys, and art books. However, the magic really happens downstairs in the vaulted brick basement, which hosts exhibitions from both homegrown and international artists.

Don’t miss: The opportunity to buy affordable artwork from up-and-coming names.

Find free things to do at the Conde Duque cultural centre
  • Art
  • Conde Duque

What is it? A former military headquarters converted into a modern and important cultural centre.

Why go? The old military base has become one of the most dynamic and lively cultural centres in Madrid. The distinctive pink building is home to a very versatile indoor space, which hosts shows, exhibitions, talks, workshops, and the series of summer outdoor concerts and plays that are part of the annual Veranos de la Villa festival and feature top artists and shows every season. Several important city institutions also have their headquarters here.

Don't miss: The outdoor cinema series every July and August, and JazzMadrid in November – one of the biggest draws on the centre's busy calendar.

Try some tapas with the kids at San Fernando Market
  • Restaurants
  • Lavapiés

What is it? A market where traditional butchers' and fishmongers' stalls live happily alongside those offering international cuisine where you can find activities for all ages.

Why go? It may not be as popular as some other markets in Madrid, but it's still a place to discover and enjoy, especially as it's in a neighbourhood as lively as Lavapiés, which embraces the Mercado de San Fernando as one of its most symbolic landmarks. Built after the Spanish Civil War, the market has been modernised over the years, both in appearance and its stock. Its food court has a great central area where kids can play while parents relax over drinks and tapas.

Don't miss: The pay-by-weight bookshop and the craft beer stalls.

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