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We planned a last-minute trip to Europe, knowing we wanted to visit Italy. By last minute, I mean it was Wednesday, and the only date we could fly out would be Friday. Crazy right?

Well, after looking at a few cities to be our base, we opted for Madrid. It was the most affordable one given the very last minute international trip. My husband and I also looked at each other and said: For this trip, no tours, let’s do some off the beaten path things and just go with the flow. Let us find unique things to see in Madrid and just run with it. Now going with the flow is cool when you have at least all of your hotels booked. That is another story for another day, but for today, it is all about Madrid.

We were unsure if we would like Madrid because we actually weren’t thrilled about Barcelona most of the world is. We fell into some tourist traps, didn’t see much local culture at stores, and didn’t enjoy the food as we thought we would. Before you yell at me for what I just said, let’s focus on how much we loved Madrid. It is a fascinating city that feels big yet small and cozy. Here are our top unique things to see in Madrid.

Madrid Rooftop Views & Sunsets

I have started to always look for rooftop views when I visit cities in Europe. After all, the architecture is quite fascinating, and finding a different angle to view the city is fun and unique. I had searched while in Madrid, but after devouring a seafood paella, I searched for a rooftop near where I was. I am so glad I was able to stop by the rooftop at Ginkgo Restaurante & Sky Bar. It costs 5 Euros a person to enter, but they discount what you spend on your bill, so we ordered a bottle of white wine which costs 17 euros, and for the incredible view, it was way more than worth it.

unique rooftops Madrid Spain
Wish I had taken this during sunset with the Palacio Real in the back.

Sadly I missed the live music during sunset, which was probably so magical, and they have to be quiet after a particular time. But this rooftop is so romantic as it has the Palacio real as the backdrop and the moon was beautiful that night. We stayed near the bar area, and you are treated like VIP while there. I felt so special. Then we decided to walk around, and to my surprise, there was this whole other lounge area, darker and more romantic. I had to grab a photo at these beautiful metal wing statue, and they had a glass floor, which is a bit scary to look down at. There are other rooftops in Madrid, but we locked out with this one.

The other part of the rooftop

Fellow Madrid travel expert, Henry from Henryfob suggested the following rooftop options as well:

Shopping in Madrid

Okay, maybe that doesn’t sound like something unique to see, but there are so many affordable clothing stores in Madrid that I had a blast shopping. I specifically shopped at Pimple, which had great deals. You can also window shop Window Shop on Calle Gran Via, which is like Madrid’s 5th avenue. And you can not stop by Madrid without visiting our favorite store in Europe, ZARA. My husband found great pants and shirts for men there at pretty reasonable prices. You can catch my IG stories for some items I bought for myself.

Mercado de San Miguel

Foods of Madrid
Visiting Mercado de San Miguel

I have visited food markets on 2 different continents now, and I have to say this is by far my favorite. My husband and I arrived at Mercado San Miguel on a Sunday afternoon, and it was crowded. We walked around to film for Instagram stories, and he grabbed a beer. I found Cava, which was cheaper than beer, and we waited for a spot to open so we can sit down in the middle of the tables. We finally did and squeezed our way through. We then say there and had more beers, more Cava, and also some food delights: grilled shrimp and olives. We probably spent a good two hours just hanging out and soaking it all in. I can’t wait to go back and try the other food they have.

Mercado de San Miguel, best food market in Spain.
Mercado de San Miguel – Madrid., Spain

The Oldest Restaurant in The World

We saw crowds across the street as we walked at Calle de los Cuchilleros, and I just thought it was a line for a great restaurant called Restaurante Sobrino de Botin. Little did I know, it wasn’t just any restaurant, but the oldest working restaurant in the world. Sobrino de Botin opened in 1725 and is still in operation. It is also a place where Ernest Hemingway spent quite some time. Additionally, Francisco de Goya worked in Cafe Botin as a waiter while waiting to get accepted into the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Its Castilian wood-burning oven produces legendary suckling pig and roast lamb. Ernesto, as he is known in Madrid, featured the restaurant in his book “The Sun Also Rises”. We didn’t go in, but it was emotional being there and looking through their windows. I teared up as I really appreciated being somewhere so many had been. A place that has so much history, and I hope to one day be able to go inside and visit their wine bodega.

Bar Hop, The Ernesto Way

I was bummed I didn’t get to visit more bars where Ernest Hemingway would spend time while in Madrid. One specific bar on my bucket list is La Venencia. The old bar rules still apply to this day, and I thought that was so cool. You are not allowed to take photos, nor to tip, just in case you are a fascist spy.

According to Culture Trip:

“Madrid has more bars per capita than any other city in Europe. But what if you had to choose to visit just one? If you love history, ambiance, and sherry wine, the answer is La Venencia, a decades-old watering hole and local favorite, a short walk from Plaza Santa Ana.”

So this is on my top list when I go back to Madrid!

Palacio Real & Sabatini Gardens

Our trip to Madrid was planned within less than 48 hours, so I must say we didn’t have an itinerary or many plans. I had jotted down some things, but we sought to not go on tours for this trip and to be more laid back. So many of the things that did occur happened because we stumbled upon them accidentally or luckily. One such incredible great thing was the garden palace area. We didn’t know about the gorgeous garden, nor the merry go around where people gather to create art and, of course, to capture many selfies. The garden area is serene and just magical.

Catedral de Almudena and the Palacio Real. is is the official residence of King Felipe and Queen Letizia but is only used for state occasions – the royal family live in the more modest Zarzuela Palace just outside Madrid.

Then something out of this world happened!

We ended up walking right into a famous religious procession called Jesus de Medinaceli,which happens every 80 years. What are the odds that the march was leaving the church next to the royal palace just then? Well, you won’t be able to catch that unless you live to the next one, but you want to walk around the gardens and Palacio Real. We didn’t go inside, so I hope to do that next time.

LA CASA DE PAPEL (MONEY HEIST) FILMING LOCATIONS IN MADRID

This is one thing we wanted to see and didn’t get a chance too but it would have been fun. If you are a big fan of the Netflix show then check out this blog post by Cats Hostels with some locations you can visit for some cool photos.

Real Cafe Bernabeu

Unique things to see in Madrid

My husband is a big fan of soccer and Real Madrid; therefore, a stop at the stadium was a must. Since we didn’t purchase any tickets beforehand, we decided to stop by and visit. I had seen that they had a restaurant you can go to, so we headed and began our day after a cappuccino, of course. To our delight, the stadium tour was not even needed. Why? Because the Real Cafe has an incredible panoramic view of the stadium. I believe it costs a lot of money to visit the restaurant on game day, so we were thrilled to be there even though nothing was going on. It was one of our trip’s highlights. I had a very refreshing coffee dessert drink, and Max had some beers. Our selfie game was en pointe!

This was such a great find in Madrid!

Sunset in Templo de Debod

This is another place we were not able to see but was on my list. Since we were not as close to it and didn’t have too many days in Madrid, it didn’t make the cut. I am a massive fan of chasing sunsets, so this is on my top list next time I go back. As per City Life Madrid -”The beautiful Egyptian temple was originally from Egypt and was given to Spain as a gift for the support Spain has given in preserving temples in Egypt. The temple was built to honor the Egyptian god Amun (sun god) and is now perfectly placed atop the escarpment of Madrid, which is a beautiful spot to watch the sunset.”

Other Unique Gardens and Parks in Madrid

Dos Travel Hearts ( follow them on Instagram) also sent some great recommendations of lovely parks and places with great views.

  • The Crystal Palace in Retiro Park
  • Tropical Garden in Atocha Renfe Train Station 
  • The “{lemetario” in Tierno Galvan Park
  • Botanical Garden in Plaza Murillo 2
  • The Rafo de la Mondiola” a hiew view point in Avenida de La Memoria 2

Get lost in Malasaña & Chueca districts!

We stayed in Malasana and loved ending up at a British pub there called Freeway on our second evening. They have funky colorful streets which are great for photos. You also get the feeling that Madrid is a big but cozy small at the same time. They are welcoming neighborhoods.

We also visited Madrid’s other food market, called Mercado de San Ildefonso. It is located in Malasana.

People watch at Puerta Del Sol

Okay, we actually didn’t people watch much, but we wondered, visiting some exciting corners there. First, there is the famous bear statue everyone takes a photo at. As per Wikipedia – It represents in a real-life form the coat of arms of Madrid, with the tree taller than the bear, who supports his paws on the trunk and directs his attention towards one of the fruits.

Puerta Del Sol

We visited Puerta Del Sol on all our days in Madrid. It is very well centered and so lively. You can also take a foot photo at Kilometre Zero, where the main roads started in Madrid. Kilometer 0. This is also the spot where they celebrate NYE in Madrid. We enjoyed Puerta Del Sol more than Plaza Mayor.

Madrid is a great place to travel to and from Europe. I absolutely loved their airport although kind of wild that we had to get a 7-minute train ride from our gate to get our luggage. It is a huge but very organized airport. We also love that you can take day trips to many cities not too far from Madrid like Toledo.

We can’t wait to go back and hit up these top unique things to see in Madrid that we didn’t see. How about you? Have you been to Madrid? What has been your favorite off the beaten path place or hole in the wall?

Also, check out our year in review blog post where I shared other traveling adventures.

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