Spain’s classy capital is ready to welcome up to 100,000 fans of the Premier League giants for the European match of the season.
And what a perfect venue it is – an elegant, vibrant, compelling city where life is meant to be lived well and where “fútbol” is at fever pitch.
It has something for everyone – from art and architecture aficionados to history and food fans. Just be prepared for little sleep… the Madrileños often don’t get going until after midnight!
Here’s a guide for Reds and Spurs supporters heading to the match of the decade…
Royal Palace: The largest in western Europe, it was home to the kings of Spain from 1755 and is still the official residence.
Inspired by the Louvre in Paris, it comprises more than 3,000 rooms including the Throne Hall, Guards Room and the Royal Chapel with a collection of stringed instruments made by the fabled Antonio Stradivari.
El Retiro Park: Covering around 350 acres and with more than 15,000 trees, impressive sculptures and fountains, it’s a glorious green oasis in the heart of the city.
Rent a rowing boat on the lake or see the exotic plants in the cast-iron framed Glass Palace. The statue of the Fallen Angel is the only sculpture in the world dedicated to the Devil and, weirdly, is 666 metres above
Puerta del Sol: The beating heart of Madrid, and indeed Spain, is a semi-circular space with a stone slab marking Spain’s kilómetro cero (km 0), the starting point for all major national radial roads.
On top of the Casa de Correos building there’s a clock that all Spanish eyes turn to at midnight on December 31 – and traditionally eat 12 lucky grapes to the 12 chimes.
There’s also the El Oso y el Madroño statue. It’s the official symbol of the city, a bear nuzzling a strawberry tree, and a popular meeting spot for locals.
Prado Museum: Away from the artistry on the football pitch this is a truly magnificent collection of Europe-wide art dating from the 12th century. Founded 200 years ago, it boasts works by Goya, Hieronymus Bosch, El Greco, Rubens, Titian and Velázquez.
There are around 8,200 drawings, 7,600 paintings, 4,800 prints and 1,000 sculptures ( museodelprado.es , €15).
The UEFA Champions League Festival: There’s a feast of football-related activities, kicking off on May 30 for supporters who arrive early.
Look out for fan zones with giant screens around the main squares, a huge replica of the trophy in Plaza de Oriente, DJ concerts and live bands in Puerta del Sol, star footballers signing autographs
and an Ultimate Champions Tournament event at a temporary full-size football pitch in historic Plaza Mayor (finalmadrid2019.esmadrid.com).
Hit the kit: Want a Madrid soccer souvenir? They’re available at the many official stores for Real Madrid, Atlético de Madrid, Rayo Vallecano and the Spanish national team.
Gathering points: Real fans like to congregate at the Cibeles Fountain, while Atlético rally at the Neptuno Fountain. For Rayo Vallecano it’s the Assembly of Madrid and the Plaza de Colón is where club rivalries are set aside for everyone to celebrate the Spanish football team’s triumphs.
Model professionals: A visit to the Wax Museum has Iker Casillas and David Villa on the same pitch as Cristiano Ronaldo, Andrés Iniesta and Fernando Torres. Ronaldo looks exactly like the real thing. Obviously ( museoceramadrid.com , adult €21/child €14).
World class: The Spanish national football team’s museum is part of the Ciudad del Fútbol complex 14 miles out of town in Las Rozas.
It traces the history of the Red Fury from the early days at the 1920 Antwerp Olympics and on to winning the European Nations title in 1964.
The highlights are the cups of the European Championships in 2008 and 2012 and the World Cup win in South Africa in 2010, when they won Juan-nil ( sefutbol.com , adult €6/child €4.50).
THE REAL DEAL
Any football fan’s visit to the capital should include a tour of the magnificent Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, home of European aristocrats Real Madrid, record 13 times winners of the Champions League. See the bench, changing rooms, pitch, press room, presidential box and the glittering trophy room ( realmadrid.com , adult €25/child €18).
The 67,829- capacity Wanda Metropolitano Stadium has been the home of Atlético Madrid since the 2017-18 season, following their move from the old Estadio Vicente Calderón.
It is in the San Blas-Canillejas district, six miles east of the main Puerta del Sol square in the city centre.
The best way to get there is by subway, which takes 45 minutes.
Line 7 station Estadio Metropolitano is adjacent to the ground, while Line 2’s Las Rosas and Line 5’s Canillejas are both are about 15-minute walk. Stadium tours are available ( atleticodemadrid.com , adult €18/child €11).
Madrid can be seen on foot but it has a very efficient public transport system. A two-day travel card will set you back €14.20 per person for unlimited bus and metro usage.
FOOD AND DRINK
Madrid has loads of bars with something for everyone, but you will be competing with 99,999 other fans to get served!
A beer or a glass of wine will cost you around €3, while expect to pay €6-7 for a spirit and mixer. Soak up the booze with good value tapas, churros and empanadas. If you want to eat on the hoof, supermarkets sell freshly baked bread and local meat and cheese for a fraction of the price you’d pay in a cafe or restaurant.
Lunch in a bar or restaurant can be found for under a fiver if you look around while a dinner in a decent spot can cost you just €15.
A good area for a pre-match drink in the run-up to the kick-off or to watch it if you don’t have a ticket (that’s around 66,000 fans!) is atmospheric Barrio de las Letras (Literary Quarter).
This is where the Real Madrid players and staff enjoy an evening out.
- Additional research by Ailbhe Daly