Madrid is a crowded city with a lot to offer. If you're only in town for a weekend, consider these five adventures:
1. Take a self-guided bike tour
Seeing the beautiful city of Madrid from the window of a taxicab just doesn't do it justice. Though a walking tour gives you more time to enjoy the many architectural sights, a better option may be to rent a bicycle for the day. Riding a bike not only allows you to see more of the city than you could on foot, but also gives you the opportunity to slow down when you want to enjoy the scenery.
As you walk around Madrid, you'll probably notice a number of electric bicycle stands. These are part of the BiciMAD initiative, which has over 300 locations across the city - many of them located near some of the most popular tourist destinations. Starting at 2€, you can rent a bike for a few hours or an entire day.
2. See some famous art
Madrid is full of life and color everywhere you look. The city's museums are filled with some of the world's most amazing art and it's often free to see. According to TimeOut magazine, the Museo del Prado is free from the hours of 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The Prado was one of the world's first public art museums when it first opened its doors in 1819. Today, visitors can get a look at artwork commissioned by the country's royalty in the 15th through 17th centuries.
Of course, no visit to Madrid is complete without a glance at Picasso's famous piece 'Guernica,' which depicts scenes from the Spanish Civil War in stark surrealism. The massive oil painting can be found in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia.
3. Visit an Egyptian temple
Oddly enough, you can visit an ancient Egyptian temple without stepping foot in Egypt - or in Africa for that matter. Madrid is the adopted home of the Templo de Debod, a shrine that historians believe was built around 200 BC. Today, the temple sits on a reflecting a pool which dramatically reflects the many hues of the sunset.
In 1960, the Egyptian government began construction of the Aswan High Dam, which would change the flow of the Nile and completely alter much of the surrounding landscape. The Temple of Debod was right in the target of the new reservoir. So, in 1968, the temple was completely dismantled and shipped to Spain as a token of gratitude and goodwill. In 1972, the temple was constructed near the Royal Palace of Madrid.
4. Relax in a garden
A weekend in Madrid can be a lot of fun, but the speed of life in the city can easily make visitors feel fatigued. To restore your energy reserves, consider taking a stroll through one of Madrid's many gardens.
For example, the Atocha Station Tropical Gardens are a surprising bit of greenery located within a high-speed rail station. Containing plants from Asia, Australia and the Americas, this lush garden lies beneath the glass-domed ceiling of the train station. Or, make a visit to the Palacio de Cristal, a glass and steel botanical garden in the Parque del Retiro, in the center of Madrid. Here you can enjoy the sunshine by the garden's geyser fountain or stroll beneath its transparent ceiling as you enjoy beautiful plants and abstract works of art on loan from the nearby museums.
5. Go bargain hunting
If you have a mind to do some shopping while you're in town, stop by the El Rastro flea market on the Calle de la Ribera de Curtidores. The market is only open on Sundays and Holidays, so it's the perfect pit stop for a weekend visit.
According to Introducing Madrid, you can buy everything from exotic birds to paintings in the market. Be sure to give yourself at least an hour to check out the many shops within the market, and consider grabbing some tapas to munch on as you walk.