6 Things You Absolutely Need on Your Madrid Bucket List

Madrid bucket list

Wherever you go in Spain, you can’t get away from tapas culture. However, there are other things to do and eat if you know what you’re looking for! Stay in Spain for long enough and you’ll drown in tapas, so here are a couple other things that you need on your Madrid bucket list.

Eat at the world’s oldest restaurant

Sobrino de Botín, just outside of Madrid’s Plaza Mayor, is the longest running restaurant in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. It opened in the 18th century and has never closed down, even in the worst of times. In fact, Madrid’s claim to fame still uses the same oven as it did all those centuries ago. As a tourist trap, it is a bit pricey and you should probably make a reservation beforehand, but it definitely belongs on your Madrid bucket list. This is hands down the best start to your Madrid food guide!

Try a calamari sandwich

Spaniards love their fried squid, and Madrid is no different. The calamari sandwich is a famous snack in Madrid, especially to eat in Plaza Mayor. There are tons of restaurants around the plaza that offer it for a few euro. Plaza Mayor is also the place to be in Spain, so it’s also a famous stop if you attend a Madrid walking tour.

Go to a fútbol match

There’s a cheesy joke that Spaniards love to pull on tourists – what’s the most popular religion in Spain? The Spanish are pretty obsessed with it, and while you’re in Madrid you need a Real Madrid game on your Madrid bucket list. They play once or twice a week, and it’s a great way to really stick your face in Spanish culture.

Chocolatería de San Ginés

If you’re at all interested in chocolate, check this place out. This restaurant is also centrally located, and is a huge part of Madrid’s personality. It’s been open and running since the 1800s, and is famous for their chocolate con churros – there’s always a line out the door (don’t worry, they’ve mastered the art of fast service), so you know it’s gotta be good!

Watch a bullfight

These days, bullfighting is an art full of controversy. In my experience, many Spaniards hate it. I delve more into the subject of the Spanish bullfight and the different ideas surrounding it in other posts, so I’ll leave you to discover those. Just know that for those of us who travel in order to take in a new country and its history, it’s worth it to have the experience. Madrid has one of the biggest bullfighting rings in Spain, so this is a must-do for your Madrid bucket list.

Sunday morning Rastro

El Rastro is Madrid’s flea market, held every Sunday morning. Its name, meaning ‘trail’, comes from the days when tanners would transport dead animals down the street, leaving trails of blood. That doesn’t apply to modern-day Rastro, of course. If you don’t want to shop in tourist shops, go to Rastro! You’ll find everything from tourist treats to clothes to underwear.

If you’re looking for other things to do, check out the best tourist traps. Don’t worry, they’re absolutely worth it!


  1. I have to say I seriously disagree with having bullfighting on a Madrid bucket list. I have lived here for 1.5 years and all of my Spanish friends think its completely horrible and I agree. If even you admit that all the Spaniards you’ve met hate it, then why is it a ‘bucket list’ experience? Because Spain’s image is associated with bullfighting? There are so many other wonderful things to do in this city than torture a poor animal for enjoyment.

    • People travel for different reasons – I travel to get a truly immersive experience of a country, its people, culture, history, language, etc. Bullfighting is such a huge part of Spanish culture, it’s not something one can just ignore. I did learn a lot about Spain when I went to see a bullfight, and observing the locals was really eye-opening for me. It’s not something I’ll do again, but I do believe it’s an important facet of Spanish culture.

      Now, if you travel for different reasons, more power to you! I can totally understanding not wanting to experience a bullfight. To each their own, y’know?

      • I’m an anthropologist so I’m all about cultural immersion. I live here and I speak the language, have Spanish friends, studied Spanish history and archaeology, and have worked alongside Spaniards in many different aspects. I’ve been to nearly every region of Spain and spent significant time in each one exploring that region’s culture. So you can absolutely get an immersive experience in the culture without experiencing bullfighting. It is one aspect of one part of a rich and multi-faceted culture, as each region has its own distinct culture as well. Besides, Spaniards themselves aren’t even going to bullfights now – a government study just announced that only 9% of Spaniards even went to a bullfight in 2015. Meaning the rest are tourists. So it’s really not part of the current culture that most Spaniards live – older generations are still hanging onto it but bullfighting is on its way out. Definitely to each their own for traveling styles, but its not really true to say that if you don’t go to a bullfight you’re not experiencing Spanish culture.

        • I’m sorry, I think you might have misinterpreted my response. I don’t think bullfighting is the end all, be all of the culture. I wholeheartedly agree that you can get a fulfilling experience of the Spanish culture without it. The point I was trying to make is that I feel it’s wrong to ignore bullfighting. When I taught English in Madrid, it was a very common conversational topic with the Spanish kids I was teaching – they all had their own opinions, and some had very passionate opinions. That being said, in order for one to form an opinion about something, especially when it belongs to a foreign culture, I personally feel like I should experience it for myself.

          I’m not here to necessarily support bullfighting, I’m here to provide a well-rounded view of another culture as best I can. While I personally hope that bullfighting eventually only exists in the history books, a tradition isn’t going to go away just because I ignore it; instead, I choose to be educated. I’m not making any money off of talking about bullfighting, I’m not taking tourists on field trips, nor do I talk about it much. However, on my blog I like to discuss even the subjects that make people uncomfortable, because a lot of the time these subjects are what causes misunderstandings across cultures. As I said, I only bring up bullfighting as a rather important part of Spanish history that I like to understand as much as I can.

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