Is Madrid Worth Visiting? Here’s What You Should Know

As someone who has visited countless European capital cities, I often get asked, “Is Madrid worth visiting?”

Let me tell you—Madrid is an underrated city.

This Spanish city is often overlooked by travellers who head straight to Barcelona (guilty!). But, Madrid is a modern city, that checks all the boxes of a sought-after destination – amazing museums, parks, architecture, food and nightlife.

So, if you need convincing stick around I will share why Madrid should be at the top of your travel list, including an honest review of some drawbacks, no matter what type of traveller you are you’ll want to know about.

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Why Go to Madrid

1. Cultural Attractions

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Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum

Madrid is a great city for the cultured traveller. If you love art and museums then you will feel right at home.

Three of the well-known museums are affectionately called the Golden Triangle as they are within mere steps of one another. Museum hop between Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (specializing in Spanish art), Museo Nacional del Prado (specializing in 12th to 19th century Spanish art) and Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum (13th to 20th century art).

The Prado Museum was a highlight for me. I spent hours admiring the works of Goya, Velázquez, and El Greco.

2. Food Scene

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Traditional Tapas Bar

If you’re a foodie, Madrid will steal your heart.

The city’s culinary scene is a delightful mix of traditional and modern. Tapas bars are scattered everywhere, each offering a unique twist on classic dishes.

I still dream about the churros and chocolate at San Ginés, a place that’s been serving this sweet treat since 1894. I love visiting markets, and Madrid has one in every neighbourhood, with the most popular among tourists, being Mercado de San Miguel, where I would sample some of their best gourmet tapas.

3. Green Spaces

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Rose Garden in El Retiro Park

Just like any European capital city, Madrid has its fair share of beautiful green spaces.

This fact surprised me: Madrid, with 300,000 trees and 6,400 hectares of green space, is the second most sustainable city after Tokyo. It has more trees and green space per inhabitant than any other European city.

The showstopper is Retiro Park where I would take daily walks to get a little reprieve from the busyness of the city, and the rose garden is my favourite spot.

4. Historical Landmarks

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Puerta del Sol

History buffs will find the city’s landmarks and architecture most interesting.

From the gorgeous Royal Palace to the ancient Egyptian Temple of Debod, the city is steeped in history as it is thought to be over 2000 years old. It’s home to the Restaurante Botin, officially the oldest restaurant in continuous operation in the world, which was founded in 1725!

No trip to Madrid is complete without a visit to Puerta del Sol, the city’s biggest and busiest public square. All roads in Spain lead from Madrid and this indication can be found on the square showing Kilometer 0 with the 6 main roads branching off from Madrid. 

5. Makes for a Great Home Base

If you’re a traveller who loves to explore beyond the city they are visiting, Madrid makes for a great home base thanks to its well-connected train network.

The high-speed AVE trains make it easy to take day trips to:

  • the ancient city of Toledo, with its stunning medieval architecture
  • the beautiful city of Segovia, famous for its Roman aqueduct and fairy-tale castle
  • the picturesque town of Ávila, with its well-preserved city walls

Is Madrid Worth Visiting…

purple tulips in front of white building asking is madrid worth visiting
Plaza de Cibeles
  • If you are looking for a warm sunny destination. Madrid is one of the sunniest cities in Europe with an average of 300 days of sunshine.
  • If you love European football. Madrid is home to one of the most successful soccer clubs in the world: Real Madrid.
  • If you are looking for a Europe city break destination. Madrid makes for an exciting 2 to 3 day weekend trip.
  • If you’re looking for a budget-friendly capital city, Madrid is a cost-effective choice. Compared to Paris, Rome, and London, Madrid’s average daily cost is approximately €136 per person.

Drawbacks to Visiting Madrid

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Metropolis Building

1. Big City

If you’re not a fan of visiting megacities, you’ll likely want to take a pass on visiting Madrid.

It is home to a staggering 3.2 million people, making it the second most populous city in the EU after Berlin (where I lived in 2023). Expect to find crowded streets and busy public transportation, which might be overwhelming for some travellers.

If you like visiting cities with European charm, you’ll be hard-pressed to find it here in Madrid.

2. Royal Enthusiasts

For royal enthusiasts, Madrid might be a bit disappointing as the famous Spanish royal family doesn’t actually reside in the city. Their official residence is the Zarzuela Palace, located on the outskirts of Madrid.

Unlike London, where the British royals live in Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace, Madrid’s Royal Palace is primarily a ceremonial site and museum, which is well worth a visit.

3. Nightlife

If you’re a daytime traveller you might find Madrid a bit boring. While I enjoy a late-night dinner or cocktails on a rooftop bar, my preference is for daytime activities.

Madrid, often called the “city that never sleeps,” means that the city can be pretty quiet for about half the day. Even the public squares can feel lifeless during the early hours. The nickname “Madrileños” or “cats” comes from the idea that the locals, like cats, are nocturnal and come alive at night. This nighttime culture might not suit every traveller.

As a Holidaymaker

Is Madrid worth a visit for you?

I know how personal travel can be. Preferences and interests vary greatly. Take Paris, for example – some travellers find it overrated, while others, like me, can’t get enough of it. When deciding on a destination, I consider what I’m looking for and if the city is well-known for those aspects, which often influences my choice.

For me, I’m glad I visited Madrid. Now that I’ve been, would I return? Yes, but mainly to use it as a home base to explore more of Spain. After spending 10 days in Madrid, the city itself wouldn’t be the primary reason for my return.

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