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Your Madrid Bucket List: Epic Eats, Iconic Sights & Boozy Beverages

Caleb and I have learned the hard way what to do and not do in Madrid. During the multiple times we’ve visited, we’ve wasted time on some experiences and foods that really weren’t worth the time, money (or calories!) We don’t want that for you! On the flip side, we’ve had some of the most memorable experiences and eats of our lives, and we DO want that for you!

In this bucket list guide, we’re sharing all the must-dos (like a DIY tapas crawl,) must-eats (like pan con tomate with Iberico ham,) and must-sees (like sunset at Templo De Debod,) along with our best tips. No matter what kind of travel style you have as a couple, this bucket list will have some ideas for you!

Let’s get into it starting with a video of some of the highlights:

YouTube video

Bucket List Experiences

The bustling atmosphere of Mercado de la Cebada in Madrid, with shoppers exploring a variety of stalls, from vibrant fruit vendors to a busy pescaderia, capturing the essence of local Spanish market life

1. Pop Up Fish Market Party at Mercado de la Cebada

If you’re in Madrid on a weekend, then on Saturdays between 12-2:30pm, the fishmongers on the ground floor of this market turn into vendors of their fresh catches, along with beer and wine! It’s a crazy busy atmosphere, but Caleb and I love it because there are very few tourists. We recommend the octopus – it comes with a lot of olive oil, and it’s DELISH.

2. Spanish Tapas Cooking Class

We loved doing this cooking class because 1. We got bottomless wine, and 2. It allowed us to learn how to cook some of our favorite foods so we could relive our vacation once we got back!  

3. Take In A Flamenco Show

We recommend visiting Cafe Ziryab for an off-the-beaten-path Flamenco show that is super authentic. Caleb and I sat in the front row, and you could literally feel the passion, as cheesy as that sounds.

4. Go On a Food Tour

This food tour in Madrid is so good we’ve done it twice! You get to experience some of the best tapas bars in Madrid that are small and family-owned so you don’t waste time going to “touristy” places.

5. A DIY Tapas Crawl

Caleb and I fell more in love with Madrid when we started eating like the locals and going to MULTIPLE amazing tapas bars in one evening for dinner. Our two favorite streets for a DIY tapas crawl are the street called Calle Cava Baja if you stay in the city center or Calle Ponzano if you go outside the city center, where the locals go.

Our favorite spots on Cava Baja: Taberna La Concha, La Perejilla, Taberna Tempranillo, Lamiak

Our favorite spots on Calle Ponzano: 4 Latas, La Sistreria, Arima Basque Gastronomy

An empty wine glass sits on a wooden table in a wine shop in Madrid

6. Vermouth Tasting at Madrid and Darracott

Spain is known for its amazing wine, but it also has vermouth. Caleb and I did this vermouth tasting to try something new and LOVED it. We got to try 4 unique, different-colored vermouths, and we even brought two home as a souvenir!

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7. Rowing a Boat in Retiro Park

Renting a rowboat in the cute pond in Retiro Park is a fun (and ultra-romantic) thing to do in Madrid in the afternoon!

8. Eat At the Oldest Running Restaurant in the World

If you can get into Restaurante Botin, you definitely must – it’s been open since 1725! We recommend doing this guided Prado tour with Botin lunch if you plan to visit the Prado – you’ll cross two things off your list at once

A person holds a box of 'Mantecados de Erez' from Monasterio del Corpus Christi, showcasing the convent's traditional Spanish cookies, with the name 'Madres Jerónimas' inscribed, offering a taste of local religious artisanal baking.

9. Buy Cookies from Cloistered Nuns

If you go to the Monasterio Del Corpus Christi and find the door with the sign that says “Ventas de Dulces” you can go inside and buy cookies from nuns without seeing them.

Caleb and I STRONGLY recommend the sherry-flavored cookies as we loved the lemon extract they added and ate these cookies every.single.day! And we thought that buying boozy cookies from nuns was hilarious. This is a hidden gem in Madrid that you need to experience!

10. Explore El Rastro

This flea market claims to be the best in Europe and is only open on Sundays. It’s massive and a great place to find some unique souvenirs to bring home!

11. Sunset at Templo De Debod

Caleb and I think that the sunsets in Madrid are AMAZING, and this Egyptian Temple has the best sunsets in Madrid! It’s our favorite romantic spot to watch the sun go down!

PRO TIP:

Walk a little bit PAST the main lookout area. We were surrounded by people there, but when we walked a little down the path, we had just as good a view with WAY fewer people around!

12. See the views of Madrid on A Rooftop Bar.

The most popular one is Circulare De Belles Artes. Caleb and I checked it out, and the sunset is epic and a must-see. We have to warn you: SO many people are taking photos because it’s a very Instagrammable place, and the drinks are quite expensive and low-quality. So, just know what you’re going for.

PRO TIP:

Don’t make the mistake we did and try to get up the elevator without a ticket. You have to buy one in the lobby before you go up.

13. Go Under the Bar at Bodega Ardosa

This old, standing-room-only tapas bar is an experience itself. But the most fun? Go right under the bar, past the bartenders, to use the bathroom! We saw so many people Instagramming this, so maybe it was on their Madrid bucket list, too? 😏

a beautiful cafe in Madrid lined with old chairs, flowers and green hanging plants

14. Have Tea at Salon de Fleurs

Venture a little outside the city center for tea and DELICIOUS (and huge) baked goods in the most beautifully decorated cafe we’ve ever been to. HIGHLY recommend the lemon pie and “Christmas tea.”

Make a reservation. We were lucky that a reservation didn’t show, so we got in.

15. Stay Out All Night

Caleb and I are usually in bed by 9 at home, but when we go to Spain, that is when we’re starting out at night – that’s what the locals do. It’s not a trip to Madrid without staying out all night once and experiencing why Madrid has some of the best nightlife in the world. 

The nightlife in Madrid is one of the best things about visiting!

A couple stands embracing while looking at the Almudena Cathedral during sunset in Madrid, with the grand architecture and clear skies in the background

16. Sunrise at Mirador de le Catedral

Caleb and I love getting up early and going to “Mirador De le Catedral” (you’ll find it on Google Maps.) We think it’s the best sunrise view in Madrid – the cathedral looks stunning!

PRO TIP:

This is also one of the best photo spots in Madrid, and, for some reason, few people seem to know about it!

17. Find the Literary Quotes at Barrio De Las Letras

Many of Spain’s literary greats once lived in this neighborhood in Madrid. We love walking around and looking for the literary quotes you’ll find on the ground around the area.

Barrio De Las Letras is also one of the best areas to stay in Madrid! It’s central, has great nightlife and lots of bars and restaurants!

>> Click here to view prices, reviews and photos for hotels in the area!<<

18. See a Football Game at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

Madrid loves football. If you can visit Santiago Bernabeu Stadium for a game, you’ll experience Madrid like never before. Or, just do a stadium tour if it’s not game day.

Bucket List Foods

A refreshing sangria in a mason jar, garnished with a citrus twist, sits on a wooden table in a warmly lit, modern Madrid restaurant, inviting a taste of local Spanish refreshments.

19. The Best Sangria At Taberna El Sur

We LOVE the Sangria here and think it’s the best in all of Madrid. Trust us: get the pitcher. You’re going to want more than a glass.

20. Pan Con Tomate with Iberico at Ojala

Pan con tomate is a breakfast staple in Spain, and it’s our favorite at Ojala, where they top it with Spain’s legendary Iberico Ham. It’s always Caleb’s and me’s first breakfast when we’re in the city!

21. The Original Gambas Al Ajilo

La Casa de Abuelo invented the famous “shrimp with garlic,” you can try the first-ever recipe at one of their locations.

Caleb and I recommend doing what we did and pairing it with their house sweet red wine!

22. Chocolate and Churros at San Gines

This spot is among the oldest and most famous places for chocolate and churros. The line gets long, but we found that it moves fast!

PRO TIP:

Don’t expect American-style churros with cinnamon and sugar. Ours surprised us when they came out plain. The chocolate makes up for it, though!

23. Award Winning Patatas Bravas

We were told to go to Le Qualite Tasca on Calle Ponzano for the best Patatas Bravas, and they were! We saw on the menu that they won an award for the BEST ones in the ENTIRE world.

You gotta try them. OMG.

An intimate bar setting with two martini glasses, one with a dark vermouth garnished with a cherry, the other clear with an olive, on a white countertop, accompanied by a bowl of yellow crisps, suggesting a relaxed social atmosphere

24. Drink a Manuela at Taberna La Concha

We always go here the first night we get into Madrid specifically for their house-made vermouth cocktail, Manuela. It’s made with gin and some vermouth, and you’ll want 10 of them.

We always bring home some of their vermouth!

25. Fried Squid Sandwich at Bar Campana

WARNING: do not eat any of the squid sandwiches in Plaza Mayor. They are for tourists.

Walk a few minutes to Bar Campana, where the locals go. We recommend going early as we always see the longest lines at night.

26. Have a Yayo at Casa Camacho

The bartender didn’t even ask what I wanted, just “How many Yayos?” This is their house-special drink made with vermouth, gin, and sweet soda. I loved it, but Caleb did not.

Definitely worthy of adding to your Madrid bucket list!

27. Eat the Best Fried Cod of Your Life

We waited in line when the Casa Labra opened and watched little grandmas ask the waiters to fill their tupperware with fried cod to go. It’s that good.

28. Eat a Tortilla Espanola at Pez Tortilla

We almost left this restaurant because it’s SO crowded and busy, but just squish up to the bar, order one of their many flavors, and you’ll go to flavor town.

We recommend the caramelized onion tortilla!

29. Sobrasada Toast at La Perejilla

Sobrasada is like a spreadable chorizo, and it will make your taste buds fall off your head. We had it on toast with cheese at La Perejilla tapas bar and dream of it every day.

The traditional façade of Casa Gonzalez in Madrid, featuring a red awning, displays a selection of wines and cheeses, with two men engaged in conversation by the storefront, reflecting the city's authentic culinary culture.

30. Spanish Wine and Charcuterie At Casa Gonzalez

This wine shop is advertised as a deli, so it’s easy to miss if you don’t know about it. Caleb and I had the BEST plate of Spanish cheese and meat here, and the waiter knew exactly what wine to give us based on our preferences. It’s one of our favorite wine bars in the city!

If you need more wine: we also LOVE Vinoteca Vides: a cute wine bar with lots of Spanish wine by the glass!

Bucket List Places to Visit in Madrid

The rooftop of the Almudena Cathedral in Madrid against a clear, bright blue sky

31. Almudena Cathedral

If you google “what to visit in Madrid?” the cathedral will be at the top – it’s one of the top sites in Madrid! Construction started in 1879 and ended in 1992, making it on the more modern side. Visiting is free, and you can see it all quickly!

32. Royal Palace (Palacio Real Madrid)

The largest royal palace in Europe is also a must-see to cross off your Madrid bucket list. This 18th-century palace has over 3000 rooms!

33. Retiro Park

Caleb and I LOVE strolling around Retiro Park. It’s one of Madrid’s largest greenspaces, with endless trails to explore.

We guarantee you’ll hear someone playing the theme song to “Money Heist.” If you don’t, we’ll pay you. (No, we won’t.)

34. Sabatini Gardens

You’ll find these beautiful gardens behind the palace that so many people miss! Caleb and I got some of the best views of the palace from these gardens – seen in our photo above!

35. Prado Museum

Caleb and I aren’t really “museum people,” but we recommend you visit if you are – the Prado is one of the 10 best museums in the world, according to Forbes!

36. Reina Sofia Museum

Again, not museum people. But, if you like more modern, 20th-century art, you must visit this Museum.

Woman observing zebras in an outdoor wildlife park enclosure, with the city skyline visible in the background during golden hour, illustrating a harmonious blend of urban and natural environments

37. Casa Del Campo

Madrid’s largest park is home to a lovely lake, restaurants, an amusement park, and a HUGE zoo with awesome animals like zebras and giraffes 

38. Botanical Gardens

You’ll love the different themed gardens and walking paths here if you like plants. Very romantic!

39. The Gran Via

Think of this main street like Spanish Broadway. It’s lively, has lots of shops and tons of people! Caleb and I also love the architecture here! It’s one of the best streets to walk around in the city.

40. Puerta Del Sol

The city’s central meeting point is super busy and is the geographic center of Spain.

41. Mercado de San Miguel

It’s touristy, but you gotta see it. Wander around and try some of the unique tapas that catch your eye.

Note: Caleb and I found this market to be more expensive than others. You’re paying for the “tourist factor.”

42. Spain’s Kilometer Zero

When you’re in Puerta del Sol, find this on the ground so you can say you stood in the literal center of Spain!

43. Plaza Mayor

The most historic and largest public square in Madrid was built in the 17th century! It was once the center of Madrid and now is lined with many shops and tons of restaurants!

44. Palacio de Cristal

This old greenhouse is now inside Reitro Park and sometimes has art exhibits. It’s a beautiful glass building with a relaxing fountain outside!

45. Tropical Gardens at Puerta Atocha

The main train station might sound boring, but a unique tropical garden habitat is inside with little turtles!

That’s all, folks! Now you know everything you must see, eat and do when you’re in our favorite city. You’re going to have an amazing time! But, if you have any questions just let us know in the comments!

If you want to put a lot of these experiences together in a cohesive itinerary without the stress of planning it for yourself, we can help you with that! We compiled all our favorite experiences into this 4-day itinerary for Madrid!

More Awesomeness On Madrid:

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A couple stands embracing while looking at the Almudena Cathedral during sunset in Madrid, with the grand architecture and clear skies in the background

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