Madrid has no shortage of sights to see, from the Prado and the Reina Sofia Museums to Buen Retiro Park. Any guidebook worth its salt will tell you to visit the Royal Palace, the Plaza Mayor, and the Puerta del Sol. And you should definitely see those places.

But what about all the amazing sights you don’t read about in the guidebooks? You better believe Madrid has no shortage of them!

Keep reading to discover 10 of the city’s most interesting off-the-beaten-path attractions.

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1. Cerro del Tío Pío Park

You’re definitely not going to see any other tourists at this park. Located in a neighborhood called Vallecas, it’s just a short 20-minute ride by metro south of the city center, and it’s the perfect place to escape the chaos of central Madrid. The park, though nice, is not what’s special. Head to the very top and there’s a café serving drinks and snacks where you can enjoy the silence, the fresh air, and the views of the city, which are truly breathtaking.

2. Yugo – The Bunker

If you’re looking for a break from paella and tapas, there’s a very interesting restaurant you don’t want to miss. Yugo – The Bunker serves Japanese haute cuisine—imagine the freshest, most delicious nigiris, sashimi and sushi you’ve ever tasted—in a recreated World War II bunker. It’s an exclusive locale with two spectacular tasting menus served in a completely unique setting.

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3. Casa Granada

This is indubitably one of the city’s best-kept secrets. Located on the rooftop of a residential building, you have to find the right buzzer to ring at the front door for them to let you in. Take the elevator to the top floor and you’ll find a very tacky looking bar. Don’t be fooled though—these are by far the city’s best places: the ones with the tastiest food, the most atmosphere, and where the locals generally hang out. At Casa Granada you’ll want to try to snag a seat on the L-shaped terrace so you can enjoy the lovely rooftop views of two major neighborhoods: La Latina and Lavapies.

4. Kikekeller

I must have walked by this store a thousand times before I realized Kikekeller was a lot more than just a furniture shop. Sure, they sell all kinds of chic home décor items, but the real party is at the bar, if you can find it. Head to the back of the store, and keep walking, until you find yourself in the lovely hidden hipster bar. It’s got great vibes and cool décor (as you might expect), and don’t leave without trying the gin and tonic—it’s their specialty.

3. La Neomudejar

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5. La Neomudéjar

This is one “museum” you should definitely make time for. The artistic space La Neomudejar is reserved for avant-garde creations, and hosts all kinds of exhibitions, talks, and video-art festivals. Artists of all disciplines actually live there and display their work. In addition to the art, the space is quite singular, as it used to be part of a train station.

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6. Flamenco

If you’re coming to Spain, you can’t leave without seeing a flamenco show. You’re going to be told to go to a famous or well-known tablao, a type of theater where Flamenco is performed. Don’t do that. The best show I’ve ever seen was in a tiny bar off a side street in the center of Madrid I accidentally stumbled into, and it cost me a couple of euros. There are some great shows in very small, intimate venues, with amazing acoustics and very moving performances. Check out Essential Flamenco or La Chimera and prepare to get goosebumps.

7. Ribeira Do Miña

Galician food, at its best, in the center of Madrid. Ribeira Do Mina is located down an unsuspecting side street, but once you get inside you’ll understand what all the fuss is about. Waiters rushing about, people everywhere, and the most mouthwatering mile-high seafood platters you’ve ever seen. This place will leave a lasting impression. Don’t forget to order a bottle of Ribeiro wine to wash it all down, and top off the meal with queimada, a classic after-dinner drink that the waiters will set on fire for you.

5. Sherry at La Venencia

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8. La Venencia

Chances are if you saw this bar you would never go in, but it’s a complete and utter gem. This is the perfect place to get your Sherry on—Amontillado, Fino, Oloroso, Palo Cortado… these are all delicious types of Spain’s most famous fortified wine, which is produced in the southern city of Jerez. The décor is ancient, there is no music, the only beverage they serve is Sherry, and food is limited to a handful of very simple tapas, but it’s truly a one-of-a-kind place that’s very popular with the locals.

6. Fried Calamari Sandwich

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9. Calamari Sandwiches

You will inevitably visit the Plaza Mayor, Madrid’s beautiful central square. It’s lined with restaurants and cafés aimed at tourists, serving mediocre food at astronomical prices. Don’t eat there. Instead, head to Calle Botaneras, which is a street that shoots right off the Plaza and get a fried calamari sandwich at Bar La Campana or Bar Ideal. These are small locales that are generally packed with people and there’s often a line out the door, but after you pay 3 euros for your sandwich and taste it, you’ll understand why. Eat there and enjoy the hustle and bustle, or eat it on a bench in Plaza Mayor where you can people watch.

10. El Capricho Park

This is an absolutely stunning 18th century park that’s often overlooked as it’s out of the center, but it’s well worth the journey by metro. From the beautiful sculptures and fountains to the labyrinth, the small palace and little plazas, this is a well-manicured respite from the city. It’s also home to a Spanish civil war era-bunker, which history fans will love seeing. El Capricho is only open on weekends, so plan accordingly, but definitely include this one in your itinerary.

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Madrid is a wonderful place to visit, as it has stunning architecture, top-notch museums, and a delicious culinary culture. There are tons of interesting things to see and do, and one of the best ways to discover the city is to put that guidebook away and just wander the streets. In my experience, that’s when you really get to experience a city’s hidden gems.

Do you have anything to add to this list? Let us know in the comments below!

 


This is a guest post by Samara Kamenecka.

unnamed Samara Kamenecka is a freelance writer and translator, originally from New York but living in Madrid. She has travelled the country extensively, but feels right at home in the capital. When she’s not exploring the city with her boyfriend, daughter and dog, you can usually find her reading a book, cooking, or writing. She blogs over at Tiny Fry.