Madrid, Spain’s capital city, is full of color, history, and culture. The city has maintained an impressive balance between old and new, keeping gorgeous classical buildings next to works of modern architecture. It’s literally located in the center of Spain and a perfect take-off point before you tour the country. At the same time while you’re in the city it has a nearly endless list of experiences to keep you entertained.

Art Museums

Though Barcelona is better known for its modern galleries and art collections, Madrid’s two museums put much of Barcelona’s art to shame. The Museo del Prado is a phenomenal experience with some of the most highly regarded works in Europe painted by famous names like El Greco, Francisco Goya, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, and Botticelli. The Museo del Prado even has Heironymous Bosch’s famous Garden of Earthly Delights, a painting which you could literally spend hours examining.

Also worth visiting is the El Reina Sofia museum, which is a tribute to the greatest Spanish artists of all time (though it still does have a few foreign artists). El Reina Sofia’s better-known works include Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” and Picasso’s “Guernica.” Seeing the former in person puts all those mass-printed dorm posters you may have seen to shame. The museum building itself is stunning, and includes a glass elevator as an entrance as well as modern architectural design features which play with the natural lighting.

Real Madrid Stadium

Visiting the Real Madrid stadium is an essential experience when visiting Madrid, especially if you’d like to get a deeper understanding of Spanish culture. European football represents a staple of life in Spain and during the right season football fever dominates the whole city. There are tours of the area available when games are not being played and when the team is playing, Real Madrid tickets are available if you click here.

Around the stadium you’ll find many football bars, perfect for a real local experience or in case you simply can’t find a ticket. Regardless it’s worth visiting the area simply to see the stadium structure and how it towers over the surrounding square. It’s been host to some classic matches, including the 2010 Champions League final for European club football.

Bullfighting at La Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas

If you’re an animal lover, this may be worth skipping. The bullfighting arena, known as La Plaza de Toros, still features the classic matador vs. bull conflicts from history. The arena itself is a tragically beautiful example of Moorish architecture. If you’re up to seeing it, shows are on every day starting in March and going on until December, generally around 6 or 7 pm. (The peak season is the San Isidro Festival during May or June.) The arena’s seating capacity is about 25,000 and it’s usually full or even sold out. (This is not the place to go for the “running of the bulls” festival which has become internationally famous. For that, you’ll have to travel to Pamplona. The best bull fights, on the other hand, take place here at La Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas in Madrid.)