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Key Info

Price & Hours



Free, Neighborhood/Area, Shopping Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend


  • 5.0Value
  • 3.5Food Scene
  • 3.5Atmosphere

Madrid's bustling Gran Vía is at the heart of the city, and it's a prime spot for avid shoppers and architecture buffs. Built in the early 1900s to make traveling to and from the city center easier, Gran Vía spans nearly a mile and is jampacked with shops and restaurants. Try a traditional bocadillo de calamares (calamari sandwich), buy a new outfit from the second largest of all Primark chain clothing stores in the world or catch a show at Teatro Lope de Vega, all while admiring the street's ornate buildings.  

Start your journey down Gran Vía where the street intersects Calle de Alcalá. There you'll find Círculo de Bellas Artes, a cultural center best known for its sweeping rooftop views. You'll have to pay 4 euros (about $4.50) to get to the top, but once there, you can enjoy a drink while soaking in a sunset over the Metropolis Building– one of the most famous buildings in Madrid. You may have to wait in line, but previous visitors agreed the views are worth it.

After you've experienced Gran Vía from above, head down the street to see the excitement for yourself. History lovers should stop at Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales, a historic monastery just off Gran Vía that offers guided tours. The nearby Telefónica Building, once Europe's tallest skyscraper, is also a must-see for its stately exterior and impressive height. 

Gran Vía is home to a wide variety of stores, from luxury spots, such as Loewe, to more affordable options like Bershka and Zara. The restaurants are just as diverse, offering everything from traditional Spanish tapas to sushi. No matter what time of day you decide to visit, the street will be full of people. Gran Vía's lively atmosphere attracts more than 10 million visitors every year, so you can expect large crowds of tourists. 

At the end of this famous street, you'll find Plaza de España, a large square filled with fountains and statues, such as one dedicated to Don Quixote author Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. The square opens up to other streets, such as Calle de la Princesa where you can continue shopping or Calle de Bailén, which will bring you to the Royal Palace of Madrid. Many visitors also enjoy lounging, having picnics and people-watching in Plaza de España.

Banco de España metro stop will bring you to the Gran Vía entrance near Círculo de Bellas Artes while Plaza de España metro stop will bring you to the opposite end of the long street. There are also metro stops in the middle of the street, such as Gran Vía, Callao and Santo Domingo. To learn more about the history of Gran Vía, visit a tourism website and to see what stores it offers, check out the directory.

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Time to Spend
#1 Plaza Mayor

This square, located in the heart of Madrid, is more a must-experience attraction than a must-see one. Surrounded by cafes and bars, Plaza Mayor practically begs passersby to take a seat, order a coffee or glass of wine (depending on the time of day) and people-watch. Not only do throngs of tourists pass through, but multiple street performers plant their feet here to entertain. The square starts getting busy around 2 p.m. and will grow increasingly busy as night falls. If you find yourself in Madrid during the holidays, locals recommend visiting the holiday markets held in the plaza. 

Recent travelers acknowledge the touristy nature of Plaza Mayor – the souvenir shops, the less-than-gourmet yet overpriced restaurants, for instance – but for most travelers, Plaza Mayor still affords a lovely ambience. If you want to learn more about the history behind Plaza Mayor, which dates back to 1617, reviewers suggest you sign up for a walking tour. One of the city's most emblematic pieces of public art, the statue of Philip III on horseback, can also be found here. 

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