The main tourist areas of Madrid:
The best museums in Madrid:
There are three of the world's greatest museums within walking distance of each other here in Madrid. - My personal favorite is the Thyssen Museum,
but you may prefer to visit the Prado
Museum just across the street or the Reina
Sofia Museum just 10 minutes down the street across from Atocha train
most recent addition to the area is the also great CaixaForum.
The best of nature in Madrid:
The best party area in Madrid:
Between the Royal Palace and Puerta del Sol in the West and the Prado Museum area in the East, my favourite area in Madrid for both day and night time fun
is called Huertas and runs along Calle Huertas from
the Plaza de Santa Ana to the Prado museum. There are plenty
of bars and restaurants throughout the area and you can just
take your pick. Huertas is part of a tourist area with very little vehicle traffic permitted in it. You can walk on pedestrian-only streets from Recoletos at the Prado Museum all the way to the Royal Palace.
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The best tourist area in the Community of Madrid:
Escorial to the northwest of Madrid in the Sierra de Guadarrama of Madrid.
It's an UNESCO world heritage site and it deserves to be. I recommend
the walk up to "Felipe's Chair" (Silla de Felipe)
for a magnificent view of everything.
The "other" best day-trips outside of the Community of Madrid:
Just outside of the Community of Madrid there are some other wonderful places to visit, At the top of the list is Segovia. It's also an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Roman-built aqueduct is one of Spain's best known monuments, but you've probably seen the fairy-tale "Alcazar" castle at right as well.
While you're in the area, try to find the time to visit La Granja de San Ildefonso and have a picnic at Boca del Asno park.
Other nearby places you just have to go to are Toledo, Aranjuez, Ávila and, a bit farther away, Cuenca (It actually may be faster to go to Seville by high-speed train than to go to this last one.) For a lovely one-day excursion, visit Sigüenza, an authentic medieval village (1.5 hours from Chamartin train station).
If you can get access to a car, you might also consider going to Arenas de San Pedro in the mountains of Gredos, 2 hours southwest of the
Community of Madrid.
La Granja de San Ildefonso (Segovia):
La Granja de San Ildefonso is about 20 km from Segovia and about an hour's drive to the northwest from Madrid on the other side of the Sierra de Guadarrama mountains. Make sure to climb up to the lovely little lake. It's not such a long walk.
La Granja de San Ildefonso
Boca del Asno (nearby)
The best of nature in the Community of Madrid:
The best place to go to in Madrid for a bit of fresh, crisp, mountain air is the Sierra (in the Spring, Summer and Fall for hiking and in the Winter for skiing or sledding. The best easy trails to hike are the Camino Schmid in Puerto de Navacerrada, Camino Puricelli to Las Dehesas park and then the old Roman road (Calzada Romana) to Fuenfria Pass (Puerto Fuenfria) which meets up with the Camino Schmid, the waterfalls at Cascadas del Purgatorio (Rascafria). A bit more difficult is La Pedriza. If you really miss the lush forests of cooler moister climates and you can't make it to Asturias or Cantabria in the north of Spain, why don't you go have a look at the: Hayedo de Montejo in the northeast of the Community of Madrid?
On Youtube: Cascadas del Purgatorio, Rascafría, Madrid.
Laguna de Peñalara
The best shopping area in Madrid:
Rastro - You can find anything and everything at the Rastro from
left-over pieces of junk to beautiful works of art. And
in case you were worried about safety, it's usually crawling with
The best thing for kids to do while you visit:
Zoo - It's a question of preference whether
the zoo in Casa de Campo or the one called Faunia is best. They have a slightly different selection of animals.
Swimming pools in Madrid, Aquopolis - In the Community of Madrid there are two of those swimming-pool parks with all sorts of strange contraptions for people to torture themselves with (worse than the inquisition). I go to my local neighbourhood swimming pool which is just fine at 2.50 a head for the day. There are plenty of them around along with Sports Complexes where you can sign up to play sports like tennis and soccer. You may even be able to join the local leagues, it's all pretty well organized. A warning: I don't see the lifeguards at my swimming pool ever paying very close attention - just an opinion - and there were something like at least 20-30 drownings in the summer of 2008 on the beaches and in the pools.
Warner Park Madrid. - Except for the super-hot August days and super-long waits on weekends, I'd heard nothing but positive recommendations about the cool rides and shows and now that I've gone myself a couple of times as well, I can sincerely say that I agree with them - it's fantastic! Oh, and by the way, the shows are all in Spanish which might be a bit frustrating for you if you don't speak the language.
Parque de Atracciones (Amusement Park) - There are loads of picnic tables and I've even seen people lugging around enormous coolers with their lunches. It's also inside Madrid and not out in the sticks. By the way, I'm not a big fan of Disneyland or anything, but I just love this amusement park. Except for the lack of good places to eat, it seems to be well-managed, well-kept-up, modern, etc. If you look at in the satellite photo in Google Maps, it doesn't seem to be as big as Warner Park and maybe it isn't, but bear in mind that it's got a lot more tree cover as it's a much older park and so you can't actually see as much of the park. Some of the rides are better in my opinion. The "rapids" ride here is longer and nicer than the ride at Warner and there are a couple of roller coaster rides including the Vertigo and the Tarantula that are different and pretty cool without getting too extreme.
The best of Sports in Madrid:
Real Madrid soccer or football - Ticket prices are at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu are really expensive, but it's worth going to at least one match.
For basketball, Real Madrid games are also an excellent option. Estudiantes is another team which occasionally does well. Real Madrid matches are often played in the Palacio de Deportes or Caja Mágica.