If it's impressive architecture you're after, a good place to start is the Plaza Mayor, in the heart of old Madrid. This vast square was once used during the Spanish inquisition, and the prestigious ornate 17th century buildings that overlook it still maintain their elegance.
The Palacio Real has to be seen to be believed. It's an enormous building. With its 1,000's of rooms, even a stroll around the outside is impressive enough to pass half the morning. Another one of the fantastic things to do in Madrid is to check out the museums.
Madrid is famous for its so-called 'Golden Triangle' where you can find three of the most impressive Art museums in Spain all within fifteen minutes walking distance of each other. The Reina Sofia boasts a superb collection of 20th century art, and is best known for Picasso's painting, 'Guernica' that depicts the bombing of the town of the same name during the Spanish Civil War.
The Prado houses an extensive collection of paintings and sculptures from as far back as the 10th century. There are works of art from a large number of international artists, and with over 100 paintings from Goya alone it's well worth a visit. Right next door to the Prado is the Thyssen-Bornemisza, which was once a stunning 18th century palace.
Most people don't head out for lunch before 14:00, and dinner may not be until 22:00 or 23:00 at night.
Madrid is also home to the legendary 'churro' which is a donut like strip that should be dunked in gloopy hot chocolate. To try churros at their sticky best you must visit the famous San Gines churreria in the centre.
The selection of tapas is mind boggling and some of the best tapas bars are to be found on the trendy Cava Baja street not far from the Plaza Mayor. You can eat tapas at any time until about 1am. I would also recommend trying every bar around the Plaza Santa Ana, although when you reach the bustling Vinoteca, you may have to stay a while to get the chance to try everything on the menu. If you are looking for somewhere more intimate, try Segun Emma. It has an extensive wine list and sumptuous food.
The children will be spoilt for choice in Madrid, as there are many theme parks and nature parks that will keep them entertained for hours at a time. The variety of animals to see in the nature park of Faunia is entertainment enough for the whole family. You can wander through 8 eco-systems and see over 3,500 animals from all over the world.
See our in depth article about Faunia Madrid.
Another fun idea is to take a skiing trip to the snow park, which caters for the whole family - even if some of you don't want to ski. There's a specialised children's park within its 18,000m2, and you can even slide downhill in an inflatable tube. See our page on Madrid Xanadu snowpark for more information.
If heights don't make you dizzy, take the children up on the Teleferico cable cars that offer fantastic views of the city. From a height of 40 metres you get to see the Parque del Oeste, the Manzanares River, the Palacio Royal and more during the 15 minute trip.
A real treat for your children if they love football, is a guided tour of the Real Madrid stadium. You get to walk down the players' tunnel, stand in the Presidential box and even visit the dressing rooms.
Madrid is an excellent place for romance. An afternoon isn't complete without a stroll through the green walkways of Retiro park. The central boating lake is a must-do for all couples, and is large enough for you to find your own space. To refresh yourselves after all the rowing, I recommend stopping in one of the many cafés and listening to the serenade of one of the many street musicians.
No couple should leave Madrid without experiencing the Medina Mayrit Arabic Baths. Right in the centre of the city, this spa offers a wonderful escape into a sensual world of warm aromas. There is an excellent value package available including a bath, massage, dinner and show. This cost €65.00 from Sunday to Thursday, €75.50 on Friday, Saturday & eves of public holidays.
Activities for families and couples in Madrid
A stroll around the trendy and Bohemian district of Chueca, with a stop off in one of the many vibrant bars is a perfect way to end the afternoon. There are several themed bars that serve zingy cocktails.
Madrid is known as the city that never sleeps, and with good reason. The locals have adopted the name 'gatos' meaning 'cats', as they are out on the tiles all night. I think they manage it because most bars serve an accompanying tapa (small snack) with each drink, which gives you the strength to carry on. Whatever your taste in nightlife, it will undoubtedly be here; there are Irish bars, Latino bars, Flamenco bars and dance clubs.
Bars are to be found in the most surprising locations. At the weekend many of them charge an entrance fee, which includes your first drink - redeemable with the ticket you are given when you pay at the door. Some good places to start discovering the plethora of nightlife on offer are listed below.
Palacio Gaviria is an ultra cool dance club near Puerta Del Sol. It also holds Tango classes during the week. Be prepared to dress smart, and to pay more for drinks than you would do in the bars.
The area of Huertas, not far from the Plaza Santa Ana is bursting with bars and clubs. This is a hugely popular zone, where the young crowd go to drink and dance until the small hours. The bars are all pretty similar, but the fact that they are all crammed into one street means you don't have to stumble far between each one.
In the heart of the area known as La Latina, tucked into the street of Cava Baja is the bar El Tempranillo. It has a stunning selection of wines and delectable tapas, and gets busy later at night.
A lively gay scene is waiting to be discovered at night in the Chueca district. Although Chueca is offers fun for everyone and there are bars that attract a mixed crowd. The district of Chueca is easy to find. Take metro line number 5, which runs right through it.