Madrid City Guide: your guide to live event experiences in the Spanish Capital
Philip Mak - June 04, 2019

Madrid City Guide: your guide to live event experiences in the Spanish Capital

The best events in Spain’s biggest city.
Palacio Real Madrid

There are few cities in the world that so seamlessly merge classic charm with contemporary amenities quite like Madrid.

Besides its breathtaking architecture and the perpetual temptation of late-night wine and tapas bars, it also has relatively warm, arid weather year-round, which makes going out to explore and experience events that much easier.

Madrid is Spain’s capital and largest city, home to around 6.5 million people (known as Madrilenians) spread across its metropolitan region. Amongst sports fans, it best known as the home ground of two internationally famous football clubs: Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid. The city also hosts some of Europe’s top events, from the stadium to the stage — including music, festivals, theatre and comedy.

Want to skip the guides and go straight to the events? Find tickets for all sport, music, festival and theatre events in Madrid.

What’s happening in Madrid in 2019

  • Sports: Spain vs Sweden — Qualifiers 2020, Davis Cup Finals, Spain vs Romania
  • Concerts: Bon Jovi, Ed Sheeran, Michael Bublé
  • Festivals: Download Festival Madrid, DCODE Festival, Madrid Salvaje, Mad Cool Festival
  • Theatre and Comedy: GHOST The Musical, The Lion King Madrid, Cirque du Soleil Kooza

Things to know about Madrid

Though Madrid has been Spain’s capital continuously since 1606, it only became the country’s commercial and cultural hub around the turn of the 20th Century as more universities, publishing houses and newspapers moved into the city. Despite the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s and subsequent Franco dictatorship, an economic boom between 1959 and 1973 would push the municipality into becoming a true metropolis.

With the return of democracy in the mid-1970s, Madrid flourished in the 80s and 90s — with thriving artistic, academic and athletic communities unrivalled on the Iberian Peninsula. As the Franco regime’s conservative values were abandoned, the city’s music and nightlife scenes also boomed, with clubs and live music venues popping up quickly. Meanwhile, by the end of the 20th Century, Real Madrid had established itself as one of the most successful and valuable football clubs in the world.

There’s a saying that Madrid never sleeps (sorry, New York) and with so many exciting events across sports, music and festivals, theatre and comedy, anything more than a quick siesta would be missing out.

Popular Annual Events in Madrid

  • Madrid Pride (Orgullo)
  • ARCOmadrid
  • Noche en Blanco
  • Virgen de La Paloma Festival
  • Madrid Carnival
  • Madrid Fashion Week
  • Rock n’ Roll Madrid
  • Open de España
  • Mutua Madrid Open
  • San Silvestre Vallecana
  • Vuelta a España (Tour of Spain)
  • Mad Cool Festival

Sports in Madrid

Among football fans, Madrid needs no introduction. The city has two legendary football clubs: Real Madrid, which has played at Santiago Bernabéu Stadium since 1947, and Atlético Madrid, with a home ground at Wanda Metropolitano. When the two have a match against each other, it’s called a Madrid Derby — something that you should definitely try and be there for whilst in the city.

Real Madrid is the highest-earning football club in the world and has long-standing rivalries with Atlético Madrid and Barcelona. The best time to visit the city as a football fan is during the Campeonato Nacional de Liga de Primera División (usually shortened to ‘La Liga’) season, which usually runs from mid-August until the end of May; games are usually held on the weekend, though there are also UEFA Champions League (Tuesdays and Wednesdays) and UEFA Europa League (Thursdays) matches during the week.

Pro tip: if Real Madrid is victorious, fans will gather afterwards at the Cibeles Fountain on Paseo de Recoletos — with the players themselves known to show up after particularly significant matches. If Atlético Madrid wins, those cheering them on will head to another fountain down the street, the Fuente de Neptuno.

If you are a real Real Madrid super-fan, you will already know the football club shares its name with its basketball division, Real Madrid Baloncesto. It plays at Palacio de Deportes de la Comunidad de Madrid and has won more Spanish and European championships than any of its peers. CB Estudiantes is Madrid’s other professional basketball team. While not as popular as football, the sport is still a slam dunk amongst Madrilenians (hint: get tickets early).

If you are a real Real Madrid super-fan, you will already know the football club shares its name with its basketball division, Real Madrid Baloncesto. It plays at Palacio de Deportes de la Comunidad de Madrid and has won more Spanish and European championships than any of its peers. CB Estudiantes is Madrid’s other professional basketball team. While not as popular as football, the sport is still a slam dunk amongst Madrilenians (hint: get tickets early).

Music and festivals in Madrid

Madrid has become a European nightlife capital — with tapas bar, live music venues, jazz lounges, clubs and flamenco theatres lining the streets of its trendier neighbourhoods like La Latina, Chueca (particularly for the LGBTQ community), Malasaña, Huertas, Lavapiés and Salamanca. Want to hear some tunes? Beyond the innumerable free festivals, Madrid’s Live Music Venues Association’s La Noche en Vivo hosts nightly events in bars around the city so look out for those.

After the end of the oppressive Franco regime in 1975, La Movida Madrileña (‘The Madrid Scene’) was a countercultural wave that swept the city and subsequently the country — marked by free-spirited attitudes and music. The sound of the time resembled British new wave and major bands included Hombres G, Nacha Pop and Radio Future. Many of these groups are still well-known today among locals.

If you’re going to strictly come dancing to Madrid, you should go see a live flamenco show whilst there. The beautiful style of dance and music is bouncing with energy and colour, and there are innumerable venues around the city where you can catch a performance. Among the best and biggest are Corral de la Morería (the oldest in town), Casa Patas and Torres Bermejas.

For larger shows with touring international and Spanish stars, the biggest indoor arenas for concerts include Palacio Vistalegre, Palacio de Deportes de la Comunidad de Madrid, Caja Mágica and Madrid Arena. If you fancy taking advantage of that Spanish weather, Madrid also hosts a number of major international music festivals including Mad Cool Festival, Download Festival (a branch of the UK edition, aimed at hard rockers), Paraíso Festival for electro enthusiasts, A Summer Story for DJ sets, Black is Back for soul and funk, and many others.

Theatre and comedy shows in Madrid

Madrid has a thriving theatre and comedy scene, from cutting-edge one-off plays to internationally touring musicals like Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera and The Lion King. The city’s most famous venue is the Teatro Real (Royal Theatre), which is a classical opera house that is semi oval-shaped on the outside and entirely opulent inside. Colloquially known as 'El Real', Verdi’s Rigoletto, Aida and Il trovatore are amongst its most long-running productions, with over 340 performances each.

There are a number of Madrid theatres to choose from, depending on your taste. Located on the city’s chic Gran Via, Teatro Compac Gran Vía hosts large-scale productions and musicals. Nearby is the Rialto Theatre, which is often called the ‘Broadway of Madrid’. Nuevo Teatro Alcalá also hosts large-scale productions and musicals, having recently had Billy Elliot.

If you’re after something more intimate and individual, Teatro de la Abadía is housed in an old church and usually does interesting one-off shows. Teatro Circo Price is also an opportunity to see the circus right in the city.

There has also been an English explosion in Madrid’s comedy scene in recent years, though you may want to brush up on your Spanish to get the full local experience. That said, there are many clubs to get a chuckle dotted around the city like La Chocita del Loro Senator, Beer Station and Central de Cómicos LIVE events hosted by the Spanish Comedy Central television channel. Plus, there are often internationally famous comedians passing through the city’s arenas on tour.

Find tickets for all upcoming events in Madrid.

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