Leisure activities in Madrid
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As a bustling city, you’ll never be without something to do in Madrid. This incredible city features some of Europe’s best art and culture, nightlife that never stops, and unique local markets in every neighborhood. New arrivals to Spain’s capital will be happy to learn that whether you’re looking for an activity midweek or weekend, both have perks.  

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Be sure to read about Madrid’s gastronomic scene, sporting options, and group-specific leisure activities as well.

Weekend activities

While there’s no shortage of things to do, weekends in Madrid definitely have a laid back vibe. People leave their cars behind in favor of leisurely strolling, so expect less traffic and an easier time getting around by cab. Smaller shops and restaurants may have shorter working hours on Saturday and likely be closed on Sunday. Large chains, however, stay open later in the evening to accommodate the city’s late-night lifestyle. Here are a few specific things to check out during the weekend in Madrid.

Specialty markets

Madrid has no shortage of interesting weekend markets and they can be one of the biggest weekend attractions. El Rastro is one of the biggest in Spain and has been held every Sunday in Madrid’s La Latina neighborhood for more than 400 years. You could wander for hours in this open-air flea market finding everything from household goods, clothes, and antiques to coins, vintage furs, and books.

The Mercado de Motores (11 am - 10 pm) is another large market and held inside Madrid’s train museum. Every second weekend of the month there are food vendors and music alongside vintage and handmade clothes, furniture, and unique design items.

One or two weekends a month the main plaza of the Matadero hosts a specialty market. Sometimes it’s farmers with gourmet products while others feature local designers’ clothes, shoes, and jewelry. The markets are always accompanied by food trucks and afterward you can check out the other buildings in this sprawling cultural complex.

Nightlife

While locals are a late-night bunch no matter the day, Madrid’s nightlife scene is especially exciting Thursday thru Saturday nights. Expect bars to open in the evening and clubs only after 1:00 am. Each neighborhood has a distinct scene so there is ample choice for venues no matter what your vibe. Expats looking for a sophisticated atmosphere will want to head to Salamanca for cocktails at DRY Martini Bar or Platea. Chueca is the hub of Madrid’s LGTBI community and full of diverse and exciting clubs to party the night away. Hip thirty-somethings gravitate to Malasaña’s legendary triangle of classic clubs La Vía Láctea, El Penta, and El TupperWare.

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Madrid’s official website has an extensive description of nightlife areas and a list of clubs, including the ones listed above.

Weekend Brunch

Spending a couple of hours lingering over a meal is something many locals do at least once during the weekend. And while brunch is a relatively new concept in Madrid, the restaurant scene is quickly catching on. On either Saturday or Sunday, a late and leisurely breakfast is where you’ll find many locals starting their day or meeting up after a fun night out. Options in Madrid range from Toast Cafe’s simple American style menu to the Intercontinental Hotel’s luxurious buffet, so there’s something for every taste and budget.

Weekday leisure

A free-day midweek comes with the added bonus of lighter crowds in many of the city’s main attractions. You’ll find an easier time shopping, shorter lines at museums, and more open seating at restaurants. Even better is that some places like theaters and museums offer discounted or free entry. Traffic, however, will make commuting busier and more crowded whether you’re on the road or using public transportation. Take a look below at what you should check out mid-week in Madrid.

Local markets

Local markets are more than just a place to pick up groceries for the week. In Madrid, they also feature mini-restaurants and bars, making them an ideal place to have lunch or grab an after work drink with friends. On weekends, however, many local markets are closed or have shortened hours, making mid-week the time to check them out. Try Mercado Antón Martín in Huertas—it’s a mix of traditional market with fresh fruit and vegetable stalls, but also a great place to find reasonably priced and exciting street food. Another local spot is Mercado de San Fernando in Lavapiés, which boasts a specialty wine shop where you can select a Spanish wine and have it bottled on request.

Main attractions and museums

Mid-week is the perfect time to check out Madrid’s most popular spots. Places like Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, and Retiro Park are popular with both tourists and locals, so taking advantage of a midweek visit means you’ll have more space to yourself.

Weekdays are also a great time to get off the beaten path and visit lesser known (but just as busy) must-see sights. For instance, Platform Zero is an abandoned and perfectly preserved metro station from 1919. Because it’s open just a few hours a week, midweek visits are a good idea. Similarly, if you want to catch the perfect photo at one of the few works of ancient Egyptian architecture outside of Egypt, a midweek trip to the Temple of Debod is your best bet.

Entry to some sites can add up quickly, so take advantage of the free visiting hours at Madrid’s major museums. The Prado and Reina Sofia museums, as well as the Royal Palace, have free entry on weekday evenings. The Thyssen, Madrid’s main contemporary art museum, offers free entry on Monday from 12:00 pm - 4:00 pm.

Theater and movies

Madrid is a culture-lovers paradise when it comes to film and theater. Midweek shows mean discounted rates and more availability. Mainstream cinemas (Renoir, Yelmo Cine) all offer half-price tickets on Wednesdays. For specialty films, check out Cinéteca (documentaries) or Ciné Doré (classic and art-house movies).

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Most films are shown in their original language with Spanish subtitles and labeled VOSE (voz original, subtitulos en Español). If a film doesn’t carry this label, it means the movie was filmed or dubbed in Spanish.

The city is also home to a thriving theater scene. Billy Elliott and The Lion King are two long-running shows featured on Madrid’s grandest boulevard, Grand Via. Flamenco spectacles are another big draw, and you can check out visiting shows by date, with events every night of the week.

 Useful links:

Madrid official website events calendar
TimeOut Madrid things to do

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