Beginner’s guide to Madrid

Beginner’s guide to Madrid

Madrid, or “Math-ree-d” as locals pronounce it, is a city in the heart of Spain. From seeing “Las Meninas” to trying paella for the first time, this city will make you fall in love. Madrid has a long list of incredible places, but we’ve cut it down to the essentials. Check out the guide below to see Vrbo’s suggestions for your next trip to Madrid.

Places to stay

This fully renovated two-bedroom apartment has the capacity to sleep up to six travelers

This fully renovated 2-bedroom apartment sleeps up to six travelers, and each room features a balcony for guests to soak in the sights of the city. Just a short walk takes you to the main museums, tourist sites, nightlife, and markets that Madrid has to offer.

Rent the Prado Santa Ana apartment

This three-bedroom apartment is located directly across Plaza Mayor

Featuring an unbeatable location across from the beautiful Plaza Mayor, this 3-bedroom apartment accommodates six people. Serving as the perfect home base for your Madrid adventures, the apartment is a short distance to everywhere you need to go. Previous guests highly recommend this property to anyone staying in Madrid, stating that it has everything a traveler needs for a wonderful vacation.

Stay in this 3-bedroom apartment near Plaza Mayor

This luxury apartment features ten balconies and plenty of room for the whole group to spread out

Look no further than this 3-bedroom apartment for a luxury experience in one of the best areas in Madrid. With ten balconies and a spacious interior, the apartment offers plenty of room for a family or group of friends to spread out. 

Book this luxury apartment in the heart of Madrid

This spacious and bright three-bedroom apartment is located in the district of the Austrias

This spacious and bright 3-bedroom apartment is in the district of the Austrias. One of the most beautiful areas in Madrid surrounds the property, with historic buildings, traditional taverns, shops, and cafes on each corner. Featuring three modern bedrooms, the apartment can sleep up to six of your family members or friends.

Rent this spacious 3-bedroom apartment

Things to do

1. Plaza Mayor 

Plaza Mayor is a great place to start your trip as it’s in the center of Madrid and within walking distance to most of the places you’ll want to explore. It has nine entrances, and each one leads you either to El Botin, Mercado San Miguel, or Puerta del Sol.

Fun (yet terrifying) fact: During the Spanish Inquisition, some of the executions took place in this square.  

2. The Buen Retiro Park (Parque del Buen Retiro) 

The Buen Retiro Park is Madrid’s most famous park. It’s a 350-acre park with an artificial pond and the beautiful Palace of Velasquez, which serves as an exhibition hall for the Reina Sofia Museum. This area is perfect for long walks after you’ve eaten half of your body weight in tapas. 

Fun fact: You can view the interior of the Palace of Velasquez through Google Street View.

3. Royal Palace of Madrid (Palacio Real de Madrid)

Although the last royal who actually lived in this palace was King Alfonso XIII in the early 20th century, the Royal Palace of Madrid functions as a museum and still serves for state ceremonies. In 1934 there was a fire in the palace that destroyed many of the paintings, but some artwork like “Las Meninas” by Diego Velasquez, which is now in El Prado, managed to be saved by being tossed out of the window. 

Fun fact: King Alfonso XII abdicated his rights in 1941, which marked a new era for Spain. The Spanish Republic began under the leadership of Francisco Franco until Alfonso’s grandson Juan Carlos I restored the constitutional monarchy in 1975. 

4. Puerta del Sol

Puerta del Sol is a public square at the center of Madrid. Known as one of the busiest areas in the city, this square is surrounded by some of the country’s best-known fashion stores. Next to Puerta del Sol is “Gran Via,” also well known for its high-end shopping. The square serves as a focal point for political protests and is famous for its annual New Year’s Eve celebration.

Fun fact: While we now have multiple mobile apps for receiving news, this was the place to be when you wanted to hear the latest news during the 17th and 18th centuries.

5. Puerta de Alcala

Although the name is a bit misleading since the word “puerta” means door, Puerta de Alcala is actually a gate. During the 18th century, King Charles III decided to have a monumental gate through which a road would lead to the city of Madrid. It’s often compared with other monuments like the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.

Fun fact: Just like Frank Sinatra’s famous “New York, New York” song, Spanish singers Victor Manuel and Ana Belen  debuted a song called “La Puerta de Alcala” in 1986. This song tells the tales of everyone who had crossed this gate. Known to be extremely catchy, the song remains one of their greatest hits.

6. Museo del Prado

Paris has the Louvre, and although it’s not as grand, Madrid has its Prado. By far the most famous museum in Madrid, Museo del Prado is the residence of “Las Meninas” by Diego Velasquez, “La Maja Desnuda” by Francisco Goya, “The Adoration of the Shepherds” by El Greco, and Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights.” 

Fun fact: Before it became a museum, “El Prado” was a headquarters for the Napoleonic troops based in Madrid during the war.

7. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia

Named after Queen Sofia, this museum features mostly modern art by Spanish artists. The most notable works of two of the most symbolic 20th-century Spanish artists, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali, live in this museum. This museum also features the works of Spanish artists such as Joan Miro, Pablo Gargallo, and Edwardo Chillada, with some international artists including Vasily Kandinsky, Francis Bacon, and Max Ernest as well.

Fun fact: “La Guernica” was painted in response to the bombings of Guernica at the request of the Franco regime during WWII. This painting brought awareness to the Spanish Civil War.

Places to eat

1. Market of San Miguel

One of the nine entrances in the ‘Plaza Mayor’ will lead you to this market, where you’ll encounter specialties from all over Spain. While you’re at the market, make sure to try paella, a rice dish that usually contains meat, seafood, or veggies. The not-so-secret ingredient for paella is saffron, which you’ll be able to buy a lot of while in Madrid. 

2. Restaurante Sobrino de Botin

Sobrino de Botin, also known simply as Botin, is supposedly the oldest restaurant in the world. It claims to have opened its doors in the mid 18th century. One thing for sure, you need to try their roasted pork before you leave Madrid. 

Fun fact: Francisco Goya, the world-renowned painter, worked in this restaurant’s kitchen in 1765 when he was 17 years old.