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What Makes Spain’s Capital #MustSeeMadrid?

By June 1, 2019July 16th, 20198 Comments

Spain is always calling! It’s one of the very few countries I’ve returned to more than twice, as it has my heart. I love the passion of the south, the beauty of the Mediterranean coastline and even the gorgeous islands like Menorca’s spirit. Among these wonders is the thriving capital metropolis of Madrid, right smack in the centre.

Now honestly, I haven’t spent a ton of time in the capital city of Spain. However, I do have fond memories of exploring Madrid as a student and an adult. I love that’s it’s easily accessible from all parts of the country and has a great urban, modern vibe to drink in alongside its deep roots in tradition. When you go to Madrid, make sure you see the main points of interest, as well as catch a football game and eat some hearty tapas too.

How to Watch Soccer/Football in Spain

Soccer matches in Spain are a rowdy good time. They operate similar to the UK or US matches, inside big stadiums with even bigger rivalries. It was such a thrill to be in Spain during the 2010 World Cup games a well when the country took home first place.

There’s one major league in Spain (La Liga), and then they also participate in two global tournament leagues – FIFA and La UFEA. It’s mildly complicated and expansive, with games seeming to go on all year at various tiers and levels. But the good news is, that makes it easier to score tickets to a pro match when you’re visiting Madrid.

According to Expatica, here’s the rough schedule in Spain of all the football games:

  • Monday evening: Primera División match
  • Tuesday evening: Champion’s League matches, Copa del Rey matches
  • Wednesday evening: Champion’s League matches, Copa del Rey matches
  • Thursday evening: Europa League matches, Copa del Rey matches
  • Friday evening: Segunda División matches
  • Saturday afternoon & evening: Primera and Segunda División matches
  • Sunday afternoon & evening: Primera and Segunda División matches

There’s also lots of friendly matches and local games to catch if you aren’t hell-bent on seeing a tournament-style football experience.

In Madrid, there are two famous stadiums and plenty of others that can hold thousands of fans. The iconic Real Madrid team calls Estadio Santiago Bernabeu home, which can hold more than 80,000 people. The Atletico Madrid team also has a base called Estadio Vicente Calderon, which packs in more than 50,000 fans for a game.

Note: There’s a rumour you can sometimes get into stadiums for free for the last 20-30 minutes of a match. My friends in the south used to say this, but I never gave it a try. Anyways, the art of football in Madrid and beyond is exhaustive, so ask around for local tips on how to get the best tickets, which matches are worth their salt and even the best Spanish cheers/songs to sings during the game.

A Quick 24-hours in Madrid

I’m sure you didn’t come all the way to Madrid just for football. There’s so much else to see and do there as well while in town.

Madrid is about being swept up in the moment and taking it all in at once. People love the culture of being outdoors in the old-school style neighbourhoods, whether it’s people watching in Plaza Mayor to digging into some jamon iberico at a tapas bar in the La Latina district. Grand centers of art and expression like Museo del Prado are amazing to see up close, as is the outdoor green spaces like Parque del Buen Retiro. It’s all for the taking, whether there for a week or weekend.

Working Madrid into a Spain road trip

Now you can certainly spend your whole trip in Spain exploring Madrid. But many travellers like to work in some extra beach time, other cities, or different neighbouring regions. This is fairly simple to do, depending on your transport preference and timeline. Here are a few options.

Madrid and Andalucía

alhambra granada spain eileen cotter wright

I’m a bit biased, but after living in Seville for a while, this was my main route as an au pair and student. You can take the train between the two major cities in about five hours. Or, you drive north from Seville to Madrid in the same amount of time. Don’t forget to see other gorgeous spots along the southern region like Granada and Cordoba.

Madrid and the Costa del Sol

It’s about a three-and-a-half-hour drive to the beautiful Mediterranean coast of Spain from Madrid. Valencia is a great place to begin after Madrid, to see its impressive science and aquatic center and narrow cobblestone streets full of tapas bars. Then enjoy some beach time south at iconic Benidorm or Alicante.

Madrid and Basque Country

Have some cider, shuffle around on sawdust and stomp your way north from Madrid to this lively region. It’s a gorgeous destination full of art galleries and interesting architecture. Continue the Michelin-star rated restaurant party in Madrid to Bilbao too. Bilbao is a four-hour drive from Madrid.

Have you been to Spain? What was your favorite part? If not, would you like to go? Why? Are you a sports fan? Who do you follow?

Eileen Cotter Wright

Author Eileen Cotter Wright

Eileen Cotter is a freelance travel journalist and owner of Pure Wander. She's our resident expat extraordinaire and falls down a lot in yoga class. Follow her on Instagram @Pure_Wander.

More posts by Eileen Cotter Wright

Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • Andi says:

    My family lived in the suburbs of Madrid for 3 years and I got to work at the Embassy in Madrid for a summer. We had such an amazing time exploring Madrid and soaking it all in. I love the architecture and the food and the people and this post reminded me of all that! I also miss shopping at El Corte Ingles!

  • Madrid was the first stop on the whirlwind tour of Spain I took with my daughter. We fell in love with it immediately, and both agreed that we liked it much more than Barcelona. There are charming day trips from Madrid: namely, Toledo and Segovia. But even just walking around the square, eating paella, and touring the Real Madrid stadium were enough to sell us.

  • Neither of us have been to Spain, but it’s way high on our list. I love all the quirky festivals they have, and there’s always “The Camino”. I would also make a point to go to the world’s oldest restaurant. I love how you suggest going to a match in Spain. We always wanted to cross over in Tijuana for a match. (actually, more me than Jenn, but it’s on the list)

  • Heather says:

    I have been to Spain! 9 times as a matter of fact. Like you, I fell in love with it, was there during the 2010 championship, and have only spent a few days total of those 9 times in Madrid. I have some Spanish ancestry and speak it (between conversational and fluent-working on that) so that is what started my interest and then going there fell in love with it. I have spent most of my time in the Canaries though. The weekly football schedule was interesting. I didn’t know there was something for every day! I really want to go back to Madrid and spend some more time there. I also need to go to Seville and Valencia and would love to do a road trip!

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