There is probably no one in the world who has not heard of this Spanish city. And after a visit, probably no one remains unimpressed because of its countless leisure opportunities, its culture, and the liveliness that can be felt in every corner. We are talking, of course, about the Spanish capital, Madrid.
But how can you experience Madrid off the beaten path? What are the best alternative things to see in Madrid? And how can you fully immerse yourself in the local life of Madrid? The answer is visiting some of the Madrid Hidden Gems that even some locals don’t know about.
In this post, I’ll tell you about the city that inspired the group Los Refrescos to write their famous song “Aquí no hay playa” (There’s no beach here). Indeed, Madrid truly doesn’t need a beach to boast about. Because here, you will find the most beautiful, the strangest, and the most secret places that are usually hidden from the visitors’ gaze.
Grab your paper and pen because we’re going to start our itinerary through precisely those Madrid insider tips and unusual things to do in Madrid that hardly ever appear in the guidebooks and are also suitable for anyone who has already visited Madrid (more than once).
My name is Fátima, and just like you, I am a devoted travel fanatic. Unfortunately, I can’t claim to be a citizen of the world (although that would be wonderful, of course) because I live between Toledo, my hometown, and Madrid, the Spanish capital, which has adopted me since 2021.
Note: This post is part of our “Local Experts” series, in which locals introduce their hometowns. The following article is written by Fátima, who was born and raised very close to the Spanish capital Madrid.
The most popular activities & tours in Madrid
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Transport on-site: 10-Ticket, Day Ticket (Título Turístico), or Hop on-Hop-Off Bus
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Madrid Hidden Gems – 19 unusual things to do in Madrid you have not heard about yet
The Ghost Station Chamberí
Opening hours Chamberí: Thu: 10 am – 1 pm; Fri: 11 am – 7 pm; Sat + Sun: 11 am – 3 pm
Entrance Fee Chamberí: free of charge
Reservation Chamberí: Make sure to make a reservation in advance* (no Affiliate-Link)
Getting there: Metro: Alonso Martínez (L4, L5, L10). Bilbao (L1, L4). Iglesia (L1). Quevedo (L2). Rubén Darío (L5) or Bus: 3, 5, 16, 40, 61, 147
We start our tour through the unique things to see in Madrid, literally on the floor of the earth. Diving into the depths of Plaza de Chamberí, we come across one of Madrid’s most secret places, a ghost station that was once part of the Chamberí metro stop.
This stop, which is no longer in use, is part of an old train station. It was once part of Madrid’s first metro line. However, Estación Chamberí was inaugurated in 1919 and is still in use.
The access is entirely free. and with a guide. You just need to confirm your reservation on the website to experience one of Madrid’s oldest stations and its fascinating avant-garde aesthetics.
As mentioned before, Line 1 is still in service, and the ghost station is located between Iglesia and Bilbao metro stations. So if you take the metro on this line and travel back and forth between these two directions, look out for the dim light that Madrid’s most unusual station emits as you pass through.
The crypt of the Almudena Cathedral
Opening hours Crypt Cathedral: Mon – Fri: 10 am – 2 pm & 4.30 pm – 8 pm; Sat + Sun: 10 am – 8 pm
Entrance Fee Krypta Kathedrale: free of charge (but a donation of 1 € is requested)
Getting there: Metro: Ópera (L2/L5); Bus: 3, 148
Under the popular Almudena Cathedral, there lies a crypt bearing the same name as the cathedral. It is considered to be one of the most impressive crypts in Europe. Although many people visit this famous house of worship in Madrid on a daily basis, only a few know about this hidden spot that is located just below.
The crypt is built in neo-Romanesque style and has 400 columns and about 20 chapels inside. It also houses, according to its function, about 1,000 tombs of the nobility and the bourgeoisie, past and present, with outstanding detail of funerary art.
San Manuel y San Benito Church
Opening hours San Manuel y San Benito Church: Mon-Sat: 08 am – 1 pm & 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm; Sundays & Holidays: 09 am – 2 pm & 6 pm – 8:30 pm.
Entrance Fee San Manuel y San Benito Church: free of charge
Getting there: Metro: Retiro (L2); Bus: 2, 20, 28
We rise from the depths to reach the rays of light and admire a beautiful place that often goes unnoticed by pedestrians. This is the church of San Manuel and San Benito, one of the best examples of neo-Byzantine architecture. It was created between 1902 and 1910 by the architect Fernando Arbós y Tremanti.
The church was once intended as a residence and place of worship for the Augustinian Fathers. Its location is not difficult to recognize, as it is located between Calle de Alcalá and Calle Columela, overlooking Retiro Park.
This building is a jewel that can be admired both from the outside and inside. Because even if the building is a relatively unknown sight in Madrid, it is still an important cultural asset of tourist interest.
El Capricho Park
Opening hours Parque El Capricho: Sat + Sun+ Holidays: 9 am – 9 pm (October – March: 9 am – 6:30 pm).
Entrance Fee Parque El Capricho: free of charge
Getting there: Metro: El Capricho (L5); Bus: 101, 105, 151
We will dive deep into the nature of Madrid and discover El Capricho Park, one of the most unknown and magical places in the whole city. It is located in the Barajas district, in the east of Madrid, and was built between 1787 and 1839 for the Dukes of Osuna.
In this beautiful garden, you’ll find shrines, chapels, fountains, small squares, the Dukes’ Palace, and even a Civil War bunker.
As you can see, this park lacks nothing. You can discover three styles in the complex: the French garden, the English landscape, and the Italian Giardino. These features make this little oasis in Madrid a graceful place to stroll and escape the hustle and bustle of the big city.
Cerro del Tío Pío Park
Opening Hours Parque del Cerro del Tío Pío: 24 hrs
Entrance Fee: free of charge
Getting there: Metro: Portazgo or Buenos Aires (L1)
We drive through nature, and in the Vallecas neighborhood, we come across another underrated place in Madrid, a park that wasn’t always a park. It is the Cerro (engl. “hill“) of Tío Pío. Its very name suggests its history. Uncle Pío was the first inhabitant of this hill and, therefore, the first person to build his house on it in 1916.
From 1925, the hill was occupied by more than 10,000 inhabitants who did not have enough money to buy a house. So they built an illegal settlement named Barrio de Pío (Engl.: “Pío’s neighborhood”).
Rumor has it that the remains of this settlement are buried under the hills, as it was much easier for the authorities to bury the remains of all these houses than to remove all the rubble.
Madrid Fun Fact: Because of the shape of its hills, the park is also affectionately known as “Parque de las 7 Tetas” (meaning “Park of the 7 Boobs“).
Now that we know a little about its history, this park is certainly worth a visit for you too.
Besides, this park offers a spectacular panoramic view of the capital, from which you can see such emblematic places as the Pirulí, the Atocha Station, the Kio Towers, and the 4 Towers. You can also enjoy an idyllic sunset from here, for which you should definitely have your camera ready.
Opening hours Parque Europa: Fri + Sat: 09 am – 01 am (Apr + May + Oct: 09 am – 00 am; Nov + Mar: 09 am – 9 pm); Sundays and public holidays: 09 am – 10 pm (Nov + Mar: 09 am – 8 pm).
Entrance Fee: free of charge
Getting there: Train: Direction Alcalá de Henares y Guadalajara (L1/L2); Autobús urbano: L224 – Autobús interurbano: L2/L5 Circular Parque Europa
Another surprisingly untouristy place in Madrid is this park in Torrejón de Ardoz, less than an hour from Madrid by public transport. It is rightly called Parque Europa because it contains numerous monuments that honor the world’s most emblematic landmarks.
Without leaving Madrid, you can enjoy a version of the Trevi Fountain in Rome, the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, or the Belem Tower in Lisbon, to name a few.
The park is very well equipped and is also a recommended day trip for families with (small) children.
The Cerralbo Museum
Opening hours Museo Cerralbo: Tue – Sat: 09.30 am – 3 pm; Sundays & Holidays: 10 am – 3 pm; Thurs: additionally: 5 pm – 8 pm.
Entrance Fee: 1,50 €
Free Entrance: Thursdays 5 – 8 pm; Sundays & Holidays
Getting there: Metro: Plaza España (L2/L3/L10), Ventura Rodríguez (L3); Bus: 001, 1, 2, 3, 25, 39, 44
This palace house goes largely unnoticed by tourists, but it is one of the places that impress every visitor. Located on Calle de Ventura Rodríguez, very close to Plaza España, each of the rooms shows the original decoration of an aristocratic residence from the late 19th century.
The residence belonged to Don Enrique de Aguilera y Gamboa, the Marquis of Cerralbo. Anyone who has visited the residence can confirm that he was a great collector. Because the rooms of the residence contain numerous collections that the Marquis owned and carefully cared for.
The collections are still in the condition in which the Marquis left them and are now open to the public.
The Museum of Illusions – Museo de las Ilusiones
Opening hours Museo de las Ilusiones: Mon – Thu: 10 am – 9 pm; Fri: 10 am – 10 pm; Sat + Sun: 09.30 am – 10 pm
Entrance Fee: 13 €
Getting there: Metro: Tirso de Molina (L1)
In this museum, nothing is as it seems. After all, this is also one of the strangest activities in Madrid. But without a doubt, fun is guaranteed whether you visit with kids, family, or friends.
In this museum, you can visit different rooms like the inverted room, the infinite room, and the tilted room and be amazed by fascinating tricks like photographic illusions, holograms, kaleidoscopes, and many more. The whole experience will challenge your perception, your vision, your mind, and the very science itself.
For all these reasons, the Museum of Illusions is a somewhat different and fun leisure experience to have in Madrid. If you are looking for something different from the usual sights and want to put your own senses to the test while having a fun time, you definitely shouldn’t miss this museum.
The Arrows of Gran Vía
Getting there: Metro: Gran Vía (L1/L5)
On the sidewalk of one of the most famous streets in Madrid, we find two huge arrow-shaped prints. It would almost seem that they are in a forgotten place in Madrid. Because typically, no one sees them so quickly. But nothing could be further from the truth.
The arrows are located at number 32 on Gran Vía in Madrid. On the other hand, the meaning of their origin can be found in the building opposite, at number 31.
On the cornice of the illustrious Hyatt Centre Hotel, you will find Diana the Huntress, goddess of the hunt and protector of nature and the moon. She stands in a particular posture surrounded by hounds and shoots with her bow.
It is not known what exactly the purpose of this shot was. The only certainty is that she missed her first two shots, and the arrows fell to the sidewalk and are now lost in the crowd. Can you spot them?
The Terrace of the Hotel Riu
Opening hours terrace Hotel Riu: Sun-Wed: 11 am – 00 am; Thu – Sat: 11 am – 01 am
Entrance Fee: Sat+Sun & Holidays: 10 €; During the week until 6 pm: 5 €; after 6 pm: 10 €.
Getting there: Metro: Plaza España (L3/L10); Bus: 001, 133, 147, 2, 74
This stunning 4-star hotel is the perfect place for a 360-degree panoramic view of Madrid. The terrace of the Riu Plaza Hotel in Madrid, called “De Madrid al Cielo Sky Bar,” has a glass walkway that you can walk on while watching the hustle and bustle of the city from above.
The terrace is located on the 26th floor of the hotel of the famous hotel chain and invites not only hotel guests to enjoy a fantastic view.
In addition, there is a wide selection of drinks and snacks at different prices; drinks cost around €4, Spanish coffee €3, and cocktails around €12.
The Terrace of Corte Inglés in Callao
Opening Hours Corte Inglés in Callao: 10 am – 00 am
Entrance Fee: free of charge
Getting there: Metro: Callao (L3/L5)
Another cheaper way to explore Madrid on foot is on the 9th floor of Corte Inglés in Callao. On the top floor, you can enjoy idyllic views of Plaza Callao and Gran Vía from the interior windows or the terrace of the building.
On the terrace, you will find the gastronomic space Gourmet Experience Gran Vía, where you can have a Spanish breakfast, lunch, snacks, and even dinner. But you also have the option to have a coffee, buy something or just take a quick tour without having to consume anything.
Vicki’s additional info: Corte Inglés is a Spanish department store chain.
Mercado de los Motores
Opening hours Mercado de Los Motores: On the second weekend of each month: Sat: 11 am – 10 pm; Sun: 11 am – 9 pm.
Entrance Fee: free of charge
Getting there: Metro: Delicias (L3)
Many markets take place throughout the week in Madrid. The most famous of these markets is El Rastro. Although relatively unknown among tourists, however, the Market de Los Motores is one of the most interesting. It is located in an old train station in Delicias. However, the market is held only once a month (on the second weekend of the month, to be exact).
Here, you can find a variety of different things to buy, such as handicrafts, clothing, food, or children’s activities where they can keep an eye on the kids while their parents stroll through the market.
Besides, the market also has a handy train that takes you from one side of the station to the other.
Quinta de los Molinos
Opening Hours Quinta de Los Molinos: 06.30 am – 10 pm
Entrance Fee: free of charge
Getting there: Metro: Suances (L5); Bus: 77, 104, 105, L5
La Quinta de Los Molinos is a natural open space in a quiet corner of this vibrant city. It is a Mediterranean garden located in the neighborhoods of El Salvador/San Blas – Canillejas, in the east of Madrid.
One of the main secrets of this natural space is its almond trees. In February and March, they blossom in their full splendor into a visual spectacle. Therefore, these months are the best time of the year to visit this part of Madrid.
The Art Decó Route
- Edificio Carrión
- Edificio Alberto Colomina
- Cines Callao
- Teatro Pavón
Architecture lovers take note: Madrid’s architecture is very different from Barcelona’s modernist style, and there are not many buildings in the capital that support this Art Deco style typical of the Belle Époque or “the crazy years.”
However, if we walk around and look at each building in detail, we can see the splendor of the Art Deco style in some structures.
Some of the buildings that show this attractive style on their facades are the Carrión Building, the Alberto Colomina Building, the Callao Cinemas, and the Pavón Theater.
The Door of Ratoncito Pérez
Getting there: Metro: Banco de España (L2)
How many times as children did we get our hopes up when a tooth fell out? We put it under our pillow the same night, and the Tooth Fairy would come and get it in exchange for a present. I’m sure this has happened to all of us more than once.
Well, we all know the Tooth Fairy, but only a few know the story of this famous little animal born in Madrid. Yes, you read correctly: in Madrid. Because since the Tooth Fairy can’t travel to all countries, here in Spain, the little mouse Pérez, or Ratoncito Pérez as we Spaniards affectionately call him, takes care of exchanging teeth for gifts.
According to legend, our childhood friend was born in the Spanish Royal Palace. However, he has his residence in a not very touristy place in the city, camouflaged in the street Arenal.
Like all good Madrileneans, Ratoncito Pérez travels a lot by metro. And that is why his small wooden entrance door, about seven centimeters high, is located at the Banco de España metro station.
Over time, the door was damaged and eventually destroyed, but now it has finally been rebuilt, and anyone who passes by can see it, and with a bit of luck… you might even see Ratoncito Pérez go in or out.
The other Crystal Palace of Madrid
Opening hours Palacio de Cristal: Tue – Fri: 09 am – 2 pm; Sat + Sundays & Holidays: 10 am – 2 pm
Entrance Fee: free of charge
Getting there: Metro: (L3 & L6); Bus: 148, 19, 448, 62; Train: C1, C10, C5
We all know the famous Crystal Palace in Retiro Park, but only a few know “the other Crystal Palace” of Madrid. This is another underrated place in Madrid, located in Madrid Río Park, in the neighborhood of Arganzuela.
The palace, converted into a greenhouse, was closed for a while due to the destruction of the famous Filomena.
It has since reopened its doors to the public. Today, the palace is home to more than 9,000 species of plants that come from all over the world and live permanently in the palace.
To accommodate such botanical greatness, the palace has an area of 7,100 square meters, divided into four zones, differentiated by the climatic conditions each area has to offer its inhabitants.
Madrid Insider Tips – Food & Bars
Dining in the dark
Dining in the Dark: Tue – Thu: 8 pm, 8:30 pm, 9 pm, 9:30 pm, 10 pm; Fri + Sat: 8 pm, 8:30 pm, 10 pm, 10:30 pm; Sat afternoon: 1:30 pm, 2 pm, 2:30 pm, 3 pm
Price: Depending on the Menu you choose
Reservations: Ideally via their official Website here
Getting there: Metro: Ópera (LR, 2 y 5), Sol (L 1, 2, 3, C3 y C4); Bus: 3, N16, 148, 50, N26, 51
We continue our tour outside the city’s spotlight ( to be taken literally here) and enter a restaurant where we can experience one of the rarest things in Madrid: dining blind.
This great restaurant is called Dining in the Dark (Dans le Noir). Its originality offers a whole new experience that will sharpen your senses, combining pleasure and fun in a whole new way.
This unusual restaurant experience is located on Calle del Biombo, about a 5-minute walk from Plaza Mayor. It offers surprise menus for the daring, and tasty, refined cuisine.
Even for visitors with allergies or dietary restrictions, there are plenty of options. Therefore, it is an ideal place for those looking for an atypical restaurant and want to spend a pleasant and, above all, fun evening.
Das La Buha Restaurant
Opening hours La Buha: 12 pm – 02 am (kitchen until 01 am)
Getting there: Metro: La Latina (L5)
We embark on the gastronomic route and go directly to a local restaurant in the famous La Latina neighborhood. La Buha restaurant is a modern tavern that offers a varied menu. Their generous plates of stuffed Spanish tortillas are particularly noteworthy and will satisfy your hunger throughout the entire day.
Their huge omelets are very popular in Madrid, and all the greatest gourmets of this type of dish enjoy them. They have fillings for all tastes: tortilla stuffed with vegetables, stuffed with manchego cheese, with cod, zucchini, and a wide range of other fillings that you can check out here.
This restaurant group has another restaurant in Chueca where you can also enjoy a wide variety of tortillas and dishes.
Opening hours La Campana: Sun-Mon: 09 am – 11 pm; Fri + Sat: 09 am – 00 am
Getting there: Metro: Sol (L1)
Madrid is famous not only for its huge tortillas but especially for its calamari sandwiches. For this reason, no one can leave Madrid without trying the famous calamari sandwich in a local bar that only Madrilenians know. Because among the locals, this bar has become a real, local legend for its irresistible taste.
La Campana bar is located just a four-minute walk from Plaza Sol. This place has by far the best calamari sandwiches in Madrid. That is why everyone who visits Madrid always returns to this same place.
Alternative Things to see in Madrid
Below, you will find some alternatives to the typical and usual things to do in Madrid.
|Typical things to do in Madrid||Alternative Activity in Madrid|
|El Rastro||Mercado de los Motores|
|Parque Oeste y templo de Debod||Parque del Cerro del Tío Pío|
|Museo del Prado||Museo Cerralbo|
|Parque El Retiro||Parque Quinta de los Molinos|
|Parque de atracciones||Museo de las ilusiones|
|Parque Oeste||Quinta de los Molinos|
|Palacio de Cristal del Retiro||Palacio de Cristal de Madrid Río|
This is the end of our tour of hidden places in Madrid that few people know about before traveling to the capital. Feel free to tell us in the comments which of them surprised you the most.