Get off the Tourist Trail in Madrid
Beyond the typical, Madrid has unknown places that may surprise you and make you enjoy it to the fullest. Travel to Madrid through different eyes and discover unusual corners that will make you fall in love with the city again.
The capital of Spain is Madrid, a beautiful city that’s famed for its world-class museums, covered food markets, and buzzing nightlife. As one of the most visited cities in Spain, you’d have thought that there are no hidden gems left to uncover. Luckily, scratch beneath the surface and you’ll soon discover a wide array of fun and interesting activities off the beaten path. Here’s your guide to the best of secret spots in Madrid that you must visit on your next trip to the city.
Casa Árabe is a space to strengthen bilateral relations between Spanish and Arabic worlds. There's also another one in Cordoba.
Beti Jai: Did you know that the Beti-Jai is the oldest urban fronton whose original structure is still standing? Designed by Joaquín Rucoba, today, the court is celebrating its 128th anniversary. From 1919 onwards, it was used for various purposes, such as an auto repair shop, a police station, a prison and a plasterboard workshop, among others. It was declared a National Monument in 1991.
La Tabacalera: The former Embajadores Tobacco Factory is home to this self-managed social center, a place where any type of cultural activity takes place. La Tabacalera is such an alternative place with the building itself, the artworks that decorate its workshops and the atmosphere.
Palacio Longoria: The palace was built by the financier Javier González Longoria as a family home and to house the offices of his banking business. The building is notable for its luxurious, highly ornamental external appearance, very much in line with art nouveau taste. Inside, the striking staircase also takes its inspiration from French art nouveau architecture. Today it houses the headquarters of the Spanish Society of Authors and Publishers.
Parque Capricho: Commissioned by the Duchess of Osuna, the Capricho Park (“The Caprice Park”) was founded between 1787 and 1839. It is the only park designed in a Spanish romantic style. Although it is one of the most charming green-spaces in Madrid, very few people know its existence.
Parque Villa Rosa: This serene park is well worth a visit if you're around. The highlight is a pavilion that stands as a tribute to tranquility. There's also an estuary that begins in the horizontal artificial stone sundial with a steel gnomon and ends in the dovecote that can be crossed by any of the nine bridges.
Plaza de Canalejas: Constructed between 1916 - 1920 and built from the designs from architect Leonardo Rucabado is Casa De Allende that's without a shadow of a doubt the most beautiful structure on Plaza Canalejas. In 1914 the widow of financier Meneses commissioned the architects José María Mendoza Ussía and José de Aragón Pradera to design this building, intended for commercial use except for the attic, reserved for housing.
Biblioteca Escuelas Pías - UNED: The ruins of the "Nuestra Señora del Pilar" Church from 1763 were turned into the Library of the National Distance University (UNED) in 2004 after having served as a market and a garden in between.
Parish of St. Mary Magdalene: The Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Mary Magdalene has made it to the list of the city’s 6 most beautiful churches has been compiled by the Spanish newspaper El Mundo.
Church of Saint Andrew the Apostle: The church, which stands on the site on which there used to be a primitive Christian temple in Islamic Madrid, was destroyed and reconstructed several times until it was burnt in 1936, at the beginning of the Civil War, losing all of its artworks and preserving only the exterior.
Cine Dore: Just south of the entrance to the Anton Martín metro stop lays one of the real treasures of the Madrid film scene, Cine Doré. Built in 1923, the theater boasts a standout brick-orange facade, accented with white columns and pretty adornments. Cine Doré is the hub cinema of the films shown by la Filmoteca Española, a program of the official Ministry of Culture of Spain, whose objective is to research and preserve the cinematic history of Spain.
Casa de las Bolas: At the intersection of Goya and Alcalá streets is the Casa de las Bolas: a neomudejar building that is notable for its tricolor brick front with geometric designs, polychrome tiles and spheres. Built between 1885 and 1895, it's nicknamed La Casa De Las Bolas for the large marble ball-like decorations on its towers.
Posada del Peine, with almost 400 years of history, is the oldest registered hotel in Madrid. Di you know that Room 126 had a passageway connected to a secret room that could have been used to house fugitives, "forbidden" encounters, and clandestine gatherings?
Iglesia Santa Cruz: Madrid's Holy Cross church is located in the monastery of Santo Tomás de Aquino, belonging to the Dominican Order. The temple is built in the neo-Gothic style of brick and white stone. The most characteristic part of the church is the over 80-meter tower which was the tallest building in the city until 1920.
Iglesia de El Salvador: The evangelist church is the work of the architect Luis López López, built in 1913, and represents a late use of the Neo-Mudejar style.
San Jerónimo el Real: Popularly known as "Los Jerónimos", the monastery dates back to the year 1464. It was an emblematic place in the Court, where the heirs to the Spanish throne would pledge their oath as Princes and Princesses of Asturias. It was also the site of several Spanish Courts and episcopal ordinations.
Basílica de la Concepción de Nuestra Señora: Built in 1914, in neo-gothic style the basilica's highlight is the huge 44-metre-high tower at its foot, crowned by a large iron spike upon which there is an image of the Virgin Mary. The basilica also has a crypt where the writer, Emilia Pardo Bazán rests.
Parish of Santa Bárbara: Designed by French architect René Carlier and later renovated by Francisco Moradillo, the church is one of the finest buildings in town and the main parish church in the Salesas district. Originally, it was part of the Salesas Reales Convent, which nowadays is home to the Supreme Court.
La Iglesia de Santa Cristina: The church of Santa Cristina is a temple located in Madrid. Originally designed in neo-Gothic style, Repullés y Vargas finally executed a neo-Mudejar building. It is located in the Puerta del Ángel neighborhood. During the initial periods of the Civil War it was converted into a prison.
Casa Palazuelo: Inspired by North American architecture, Casa Palazuelo was built by Antonio Palacios between 1919 and 1921 , commissioned by Demetrio Palazuelo. It was built on the site of the old palace of the Counts of Oñate was located and, from the beginning, its use was commercial.
Plus Ultra Building: It is yet another amazingly looking structure located on Plaza Del Cortes which is famous for its famous clock show twice a day.
Ataneo: The Athenaeum is an institution with a rich history and played an important part in the cultural life of Spain during the 19th and early 20th centuries, as a forum for discussion and a platform for the free expression of ideas. The hall known as the "cacharrería" (junk room) hosted ongoing heated discussions by writers and artists. The narrow façade, which bears three medallions with the reliefs of Alfonso X the Wise, Cervantes and Velázquez, does not reflect the spaciousness of the interior of the building. Today The Artistic, Scientific and Literary Athenaeum of Madrid is housed in the building constructed back in 1884. To enjoy even better the ambiance, you can look for candlelight concerts that take place here.
Palacio de Liria: Built in the 18th century, Liria Palace is the official Madrid residence of the House of Alba, whee you can get to see the art collections of siz centuries collected by this ancient lineage that is closely entwined with Spanish history.
Museo Ferrocarril: Located in the old Delicias train station as a magnificent example of 19th-century cast-iron architecture, this museum houses a charming collection of old trains and carriages. Every month, it showcases "Mercado de Motores", a mix of traditional markets and innovative pop up stores, with the objective of providing a place to meet, try and buy original Spanish products while enjoying concerts or gastronomy in a unique location.
Who wouldn't want to study in a college like that of Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Madrid?
Fuente del Lozoya: Designed by the engineer Juan de Ribera Piferrer, the fountain stands on the side wall of the First Deposit of the Canal. The central figure in the arch is a monumental personification of the Lozoya River carved by Sabino de Medina Peñas, flanked on the left by an image of Agriculture by Andrés Rodríguez, and on the right by another of Industry by José Pagniucci Zúmel.
The 18th century Conde Duque Barracks, a historical building located right in the heart of Madrid, is now a vast 58,000-square metre cultural centre, home to exhibition spaces, an auditorium, and a theatre that stages shows throughout the year. The imposing building, with its distinctive pink hued façade, was built under the auspices of architect Pedro de Ribera. This wonderful example of the Madrid barroque architecture was declared a Historical-Artistic Monument in 1976.
Casa Botín, founded in 1725, is the oldest restaurant in the world. Yes, it's even recorded as such in the Guinness Book of Records. It's famous for its roast suckling pig mentioned in a Hemingway novel.
The Museo Africano Mundo Negro is one of the lesser-known museums in Madrid. A visit here will be like a quick trip through the history of African tribal culture. The museum displays a collection of every day objects, costumes, war artifacts and art pieces that depict the practices of everyday life, collected by the missionary, Saint Daniele Comboni during his trips to Africa between 1854 and 1880.
Meet the city's cutest shop!
Andén 0 (Chamberi Metro Station): One of eight stations on the Metro’s first line, the Chamberí station provided shelter during the turbulent years of the Spanish Civil War. In the 1960s, it was decided to extend the station platforms to allow for longer trains that would hold more passengers. Because of its close proximity to the nearby stations Bilbao and Iglesia, it was impossible to extend Chamberi's platform, so in 1966 the decision was taken to close down the station. In 2008, the station was turned into a museum chronicling the history of the Madrid Metro. Don’t be startled by the trains that still rumble through this abandoned-station-turned-museum, separated from the exhibit area only by a clear glass barrier. Enjoy the beautifully reconstructed original ads composed of brilliantly-colored tiles just as they were in 1919. You can take a look the movie "El Barrio" which has in fact scenes shot here.