If you only get a chance to visit one city in Spain, Madrid should be at the top of your list. Since 1561, Madrid has been the capital of this fascinating county; well before then, and ever since, it’s been its cultural and artistic heart and soul. Thanks to its convenient layout, Madrid is an easy city to explore - the vast majority of notable tourist attractions are located right within its center. From a rousing nightlife to hundreds of compelling attractions, Madrid is one city that is sure to keep you on your toes. An overview of its most worthwhile features is included below.

Start with the Art

As the home of the Museo del Prado - considered by many to be among the very best art museums in the world - Madrid is highly esteemed as a cultural destination. The Prado is well worth your time; if you only have the chance to visit a single art museum while here, it’s the one that you should prioritize. All of the Spanish masters are represented here, from El Greco to Goya. Be sure to check out Velazquez’s world-famous “Las Meninas.” You’ll also find stunning works by Botticelli, Rubens and many others within the walls of the Prado.

Get the Royal Treatment

Madrid is the long-time home of the Spanish monarchy. Funnily enough, the most prominent fixture of that royal history - and the one that most visitors flock to - isn’t even inhabited by the royal family any more. Indeed, the Palacio Real, or Royal Palace, is strictly reserved for historical purposes now. Still, it is the largest palace of its kind in Europe, boasting 100,000 square meters of spacer, 870 windows and 240 balconies. Beyond its impressive size, it boasts some of the most beautiful and alluring architecture in all of Madrid - be sure to stop by for a visit.

Experience Madrid’s Passion for Sports

Sports and other activities feature prominently in Madrid. Ideally, you should try to include a kind of trifecta when visiting the city - the Santiago Bernabeu, Las Ventas and at least one tablao. The Santiago Bernabeu is the home of Real Madrid, the city’s celebrated football team. Self-guided tours are available, as is a fascinating museum. Las Ventas is where the most prominent bullfights happen; if they’re happening while you’re there - and you’re not squeamish - pay a visit. Finally, take in some exceptional flamenco dancing at a topnotch tablao - the Corral de la Moreria is among the best in the city.

Shop and Stroll with the Locals

Like many other Spanish and European cities, Madrid is studded with massive squares and plazas. The Puerta del Sol is a great one to visit; in it, you’ll find the Oso & Madrono - the symbol of the city - along with Kilometre Zero, the beginning of the Spanish highway system. The Plaza Mayor is another great place to visit, and it’s also a fine place to people watch.

Round out your visit to Madrid by shopping in the decadent Salamanca district. Finally, indulge in some first-rate Spanish cuisine. Along with local dishes like sopa de ajo - garlic soup - and cocida madrileno, you should splurge on topnotch paella at a fine, sit-down restaurant. Also, despite the fact that Madrid is nowhere near the sea, its seafood is unbeatable - and pricey. If your budget can stand it, be sure to try some out. Keep in mind, too, that Madrid’s late nights are truly late - they can go on until five to seven in the morning. From morning till night, this city is packed full of surprises and fun.