Creating an itinerary for Madrid was quite challenging for me, and I am a seasoned traveler with 50 countries under my jet setting seatbelt. I was in Madrid for a week, and wanted to fill it with the city’s history, art, culture, and its remarkable dining.
I believe that I did a ‘pat on the back’ job of creating fulfilling days, as well as finding time to visit Toledo. I knew this first trip to Madrid was not going to be my last. I wanted to visit as many tourist destinations before I returned, to dive into the heart of real life Madrid.
If you are looking to do the same when it comes to experiencing Madrid’s art, culture, and gastronomy scene then look no further. I have composed a list of my personal recommendations when visiting Madrid.
Be sure to wear good walking shoes because the city is great on foot, although I did take a Hop On Hop off bus, as well as taxis. Get ready, set, go – on to visiting magnificent Madrid!
Madrid’s Great Art Museums
Art and culture have always been a great focus of mine when I travel, so when I ventured into Madrid visiting the city’s finest museums was a priority. Madrid contains vast collections of the world’s finest masterpieces within three museums, known as the Museum Trinity.
Prado and Sofia
The holy trinity of museums in Madrid are the Prado National Museum, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, and the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza. I have also included the Museo Sollora, which is the personal home of artist Joaquin Sorolla, and showcases many of his beloved works.
For my complete blog, reviews, and museum information – Madrid’s Greatest Museums | Discovering Spain
A walk through the magnificent El Retiro Park makes for a tranquil afternoon for both locals and tourists alike. I had strolled the park gardens several times during my visit to Madrid, and it was a relaxing time away form the busyness of the city’s bustle.
The splendid grounds of El Retiro once belonged to the Spanish Monarchy until the late 19th century, when it later became a public park. Most recently in 2021, the park became a UNESCO World Heritage site as part of the combined site with Paseo del Prado, one of the main historic boulevards of Madrid.
The park grounds are truly marvelous and filled with beautiful gardens, statues, monuments, galleries, and an artificial lake that you can enjoy row boating.
➡ For my blog and photos – Madrid’s El Retiro Park – A UNESCO World Heritage Site | Discovering Spain
Palacio Real de Madrid
A visit to the Royal Palace of Madrid is one the city’s top attractions. This grand Baroque palace is the official residence for the Spanish Royal family in Madrid, and is used for state ceremonies. Exploring the Palacio Real de Madrid was an extraordinary glimpse into Spanish royal life, as well the opulent beauty of the palace.
The palace’s distinguished interior is a masterpiece of its own, room after room, the construction and materials used were astounding. The amount of wealth of art inside is priceless, including paintings by famous masters such as Caravaggio, Francisco de Goya, Juan de Flandes, and Velazeuez.
➡ For my complete review, photos and palace information – Palacio Real de Madrid – The Royal Palace of Madrid | Discovering Spain
Dining in Madrid
For those who follow my blog or who know me personally, you know how much the world of gastronomy means to me. Food and drink have always been a passion of mine and is another focus I have while traveling.
While I was in Madrid, I had dined at several historical and legendary restaurants. I have listed several of them in this article, as well as included my food journals of Madrid.
Sobrino de Botin – Although this restaurant has been noted as the oldest restaurant in the world, and I have debated that in an earlier blog, it’s oven fire has been continuously burning for over 240 years- now that is impressive!
Botin’s specialty is their suckling pig, but I did not try that. I was dining solo and that little piglet might have been too much food for me, plus I do not eat anything baby or cute. What I did decide on was a couple of smaller dishes that end up being a lot of food- Jamon with Melon and Garlic Sizzling Prawns.
🍽 For my complete review – Sobrino de Botín en Madrid, Spain
Restaurante La Trainera – In land locked Madrid, La Trainera has been one of the city’s top restaurants for seafood. I decided on lunching at this legendary seafood restaurant, and it was an exceptional experience. There were so many dishes that I wanted to try, so I chose several small dishes. It gave me a chance to just taste La Trainera on my first visit to Madrid. I already knew that I wanted to come back to this majestic city and this well loved restaurant.
A few of the dishes I tried at La Trainera: Mejillones Gallegos a La Trainera, Esparragos Blancos de “Navarra”, and Espresso with Spanish Cookies.
🍽️ For the additional dishes that I ordered along with my complete review – Restaurante La Trainera – A Place for Seafood in Madrid, Spain
Zalacain – A gastronomic icon of Madrid since 1973, Zalacain Resaurante has been a legendary dining establishment for decades. By 1987, they received the highly coveted Three Michelin Stars after earning their first star shortly after they opened. Zalacain became the first restaurant in Spain to accomplish this top recognition. Although this restaurant has sadly lost their stars, it still holds a high reputation of excellence.
I could not leave my first visit to Madrid without experience a full blown feast at Zalacain. I am still amazed at how much I ate and drank at this restaurant for lunch! I had Goose Foie Terrine, Goose Foie Ravioli, Filet and Pommes Soufflés, Fluid Chocolate Rose for dessert, and more. I also had an excellent wine pairing experience with the courses of my meal.
🍽 For all photos and my complete review – Madrid’s Legendary Zalacain Restaurante – A Feast for the Gastronome
Meracado de San Miguel – Here is where I had a gastronomic affair with many tapas. Many, many tapas! One of the highlights of traveling to Madrid is noshing your way through the Mercado de San Miguel. It is an enticing market where one can taste the different flavors of Spain under one roof.
Stepping into this tapas market can be a fun experience for those who want to try different tapas in a short period of time. This should not replace a traditional tapas crawl, but you will find an assortment of wines, cheeses, tapas, desserts for as low as a Euro or two. The food and experience at Meracado de San Miguel may be geared towards the tourists, but you cannot beat the price and variety!
🍽️ For my complete review with photos –Meracado de San Miguel – A Gastronomic Affair
Café Gijon – The oldest café in Madrid and a very lovely one at that! Café Gijon was on my radar of places to try in Madrid because it was the oldest. I started off one of my Madrid mornings here, and was pleased that I did. My breakfast was simple which I was good with- a morning espresso and a Chocolate Palm.
Corral de la Moreria – In Madrid, down a small quiet street, in a dark intimate restaurant, upon a small corner stage, a group on musicians and world renowned Flamenco dancers come together, and put on the best shows in the world. They have achieved top recognition as the “The Best Flamenco Tablao in the World” from the International Festival of the Cante de Las Minas, as well as many other awards.
What also makes this Tablao Flamenco the best in the world, is that Corral de la Moreria has achieved a one Michelin Star for their exquisite cuisine served with every show.
🍽 For my complete review with food photos – Corral de la Moreria – A Michelin Star and the World’s Best Tablao Flamenco
My first trip to Madrid was more than I hope for – the architecture, history, the art and the dining all exceeded my expectations. I hope this list with reviews and suggestions have helped you create a magnificent trip to Madrid- Enjoy!
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all…– Hellen Keller
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📸 All photos are taken by me and are my intellectual property – Trixie Navarre