Madrid is renowned because of its architecture, gastronomy and history. However, there are way more things to see in Madrid, alternative experiences, delicious local food to try, and unique places to visit. That’s why I wanted to share with you 10 non-touristy things to do in Madrid, a guide that will make your trip to the Spanish capital unforgettable.
Exploring popular neighborhoods will grant you the opportunity to discover how the real lifestyle is. Moreover, the farther you go out from the city center, the insider point of view you will experience. Follow our travel tips below and discover alternative, local and non-touristy things to do in Madrid.
Need information about traveling to Spain? Read all our guides here!
Delicious and non-touristy things to do in Madrid
1- Taste the regional gastronomy at a traditional food market
Firstly, let me start with a personal recommendation. I would suggest you visit a traditional food market in Madrid to experience how diverse and varied the local agriculture and cuisine are. Although Madrid doesn’t have a fish port, it currently receives the freshest products directly from the sea.
You might have heard about Mercado San Miguel, but that’s too touristy. For a local food experience in Madrid, you should visit any of the following spots, where stall owners mix with gastro bars.
– Mercado La Cebada, Plaza de la Cebada.
– Mercados Los Mostenses, Plaza de los Mostenses.
– Mercado Antón Martín, Calle de Santa Isabel 5.
– Mercado San Fernando, Calle de Embajadores 41.
2- Have a drink at any Gran Via’s rooftop
Any given chill afternoon should include a drink at Gran Vía’s rooftops. Enjoy the views of the most famous avenue in the city center, while listening to music. Which are the best spots in Madrid that I would recommend to you?
– Circulo de Bellas Artes terrace, Calle del Marqués de Casa Riera, 2.
– Sky bar at Hotel RIU Plaza España, Calle Gran Vía, 84.
These rooftops will offer you the opportunity to photograph and experience Madrid’s best city center views: Banco de España, Cibeles square, Gran Via, Plaza España and Casa de Campo park.
Unique and local things to do in Madrid
3- Photograph the best street art
Looking for something cool to do in Madrid? So don’t miss the opportunity to admire and take pictures of the most colorful murals in town. Thanks to several private and public projects, Madrid street art features an unfinished modern art museum. Where could you see that?
– CALLE Lavapiés, street art festival at one of the most multicultural neighborhoods in town.
– PINTA Malasaña, urban art in a chic & bohemian district.
– Urvanity Art, the most important post-graffiti event in town.
– Circular festival, fighting against gentrification with contemporary art.
– MOS, Meeting of Styles. Madrid’s best graffiti writers.
Apart from these names, you should also take into consideration visiting La Tabacalera. This former tobacco factory from the XIX century is now turned into a self-sustained center, considered by many travelers as Spain’s street art mecca.
Join a guided tour to discover Madrid’s Street Art scene. GetYourGuide has a local tour with a street art hunter, click here to book.
4- Visit non-touristy cultural centers & museums
Madrid’s art circuit goes beyond El Prado and Reina Sofia national galleries. If you are interested in alternative things to do in Madrid you might want to visit non-touristy exhibitions and offbeat museums, like La Neomudejar. This is a brut art and visual arts Avant-Garde center located next to Atocha, Spain’s most important train station.
It’s the atmosphere of an almost derelict building that will surprise you the most. You could easily imagine how railway workers developed their tools in this warehouse over the XIX century. La Neomudejar is now an artsy spot which not that many locals know about. It’s completely alternative!
IVAHM is the most important event celebrated at this unique venue. The international video art festival brings worldwide video makers and photographers to Madrid.
Non-touristy things to do in Madrid at night
5- Enjoy Madrid’s best sunset view
Another highlight of the cool things to do in Madrid is to observe the best panoramic views in town. As you may guess, you’ll have to commute to the outskirts in order to have a unique downtown shot. Where should you head to enjoy Madrid’s best sunset?
El Parque de las Siete Tetas (seven boobs’ park), formerly known as Parque del Cerro del Tío Pío, is what you are looking for. It is located in Vallecas district, a working class area in Madrid’s southbound. In order to reach these hills, you will have to walk approximately 15 minutes from the nearest metro station, Buenos Aires (line #1).
You could also visit Faro Moncloa. It is located next to the Complutense University. It features an almost 360º panoramic view of La Casa de Campo, the biggest green area in Madrid.
6- Go out at local electronic music night clubs
The next item on the list of non-touristy things to do in Madrid would be to attend an electronic music party. Spaniards are commonly known as party lovers, which might be due to the city council allowance. Did you know that the majority of the night clubs may open till 06:00 AM?
The clubbing scene is vibrant. Taking into consideration Madrid’s population, there are many choices during the whole week. However, these are the electronic music night clubs that I would recommend you from Thursday to Sunday:
– Mondo Disko, featuring international guest DJs.
– Goya Social Club, pure house music.
– Utopia, best sound system in town.
More local things to do in Madrid
7- Wander around Madrid’s unique urban gardens
If it’s not the first time that you visit Madrid, you’ll probably confirm that the traffic in the city center has decreased over the past 3 years thanks to the local government. In other words, people receive a higher value than cars.
In the same vein, the number of community urban gardens has increased thanks to locals interested in transforming the city’s landscape. That is the reason why they occupied several abandoned spots and turned them into beautiful gardens.
For instance, you should visit Esta es una Plaza. This little gem is located in Calle Doctor Fourquet and features a cactus garden, furrows to plant organic vegetables and the best street art in Lavapiés area.
8- Cycle around the Manzanares River
The list of unique things to do in Madrid continues. This time, we’ll mention a route that you’ll be able to follow with the public bike network. Take your bicycle at any dock station, and head towards Legazpi metro station.
Once you hit the square, get through Matadero Madrid gate and continue until you reach the riverside. The biodiversity in the area has changed thanks to the construction of an underground highway. From Legazpi station, you can cycle to the east until you hit Puente Segovia. Then turn right towards Embajadores. This is the perfect activity to do in Madrid for travelers who like cycling, nature, and local life.
9- Support a local football team
Besides Real Madrid and Atletico de Madrid, there are other football teams in town. For years, these two famous clubs have led the number of fans. However, you should know about Rayo Vallecano.
This local team has played for many years in the Spanish La Liga (First National League). What makes the visit to Teresa Rivero Stadium one of the most different things to do in Madrid is the Rayo’s supporters. Most of them clap and sing at all times, making it an unforgettable experience.
Around the stadium, you’ll find many no frills bars. I would recommend you to visit them before the match kicks off.
10- Shop in Madrid’s most fast-fashionable street
Last but not least non-touristy things to do in Madrid would be walking around Fuencarral and Hortaleza streets. These two central pedestrian avenues feature the biggest number of fast-fashion stores and thousands of locals. Not only will you find famous brands, but also vintage clothing stores and local products.
Do not miss the opportunity to walk around Chueca and Malasaña districts before or after visiting Gran Via.
These 10 non-touristy things to do in Madrid will keep you busy for a couple of days, so now it’s time to talk about where to stay in Madrid. If you have a taste for the unique and different, then your place to stay in Madrid needs to be out of the ordinary.
Unique places to stay in Madrid, Spain
– Hotel Puerta America: avant-garde design by world-famous architects including Norman Foster, Jean Nouvel and Zaha Hadid.
– Dear Hotel Madrid: stay in the middle of the action and swim overlooking Madrid.
– Cats Hostel Madrid Sol: vibe and price of a hostel in a 17th-century Arab-Andalusian style patio that is part of Madrid’s historical heritage.
Did you know you can rent a house, an apartment or a room in Madrid via Airbnb? Curious? Sign up here and get a discount on your first booking!
More about traveling to Madrid
Travel to Madrid is easy. The city has 3 airports; the biggest one is Adolfo Suarez Madrid-Barajas Airport that receives international and domestic flights. You can search for the best flights to Madrid using Skyscanner or Kiwi.com.
The city is also well connected by train and bus. Check out the Eurail Pass if you consider traveling around Spain by train. It’s one train ticket that you can use on multiple trips (and countries) from 1 to 3 months. Read our review about traveling with Eurail Pass here.
If you want to save money, buses are usually the cheapest way to travel. We already traveled between Madrid and Portugal by bus and it was a great experience. You can search for the best buses and book your ticket via OMIO. Are you traveling to Madrid on a budget? Read our post about the costs of traveling in Spain and discover how to save on your trip.
Now you know all the cool things to do Madrid, the best places to stay and how to get there. It’s time to book your tickets and make the most of this incredible city.
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Javier Garcia loves Madrid, street art and travel. His passion is to show the alternative side of Madrid to travelers from all around the world. He is the owner and local guide for Cooltourspain which offers street art and graffiti tours in Madrid.