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Madrid is Europe’s sunniest capital, meaning that 300 days per year, sun shines down on the Spanish metropolis, creating a warm glow over the city so perfect you won’t even need an Instagram filter. Many visitors are surprised at Madrid’s grandiose beauty, with its sprawling boulevards, awe-inspiring architecture and immense amount of parks, trees and green spaces. The city’s budding foodie scene is also a dream for photographers (and carnivores), so join everyone around you in taking photos of the tapas, vino and legs of cured Iberian ham that you’ll find hanging at practically every restaurant in town.

1. Calle de Gran Vía

Although you can’t really compare Madrid to New York City, many locals call Gran Vía the “Broadway” of Madrid — it’s numerous shops, hotels and theaters have a “bright lights, big city” vibe. The street is also famous for having some important landmarks, such as the Carrión building (known by Madrileños as the Schweppes building) and the Metropolis building, which sits at the edge of Calle de Gran Vía and Calle de Alcalá, covered with statues and 24-karat gold embellishments.

2. Plaza de Cibeles

Cibeles Square is a massive traffic circle encompassed by some very majestic buildings: the Bank of Spain, the Buenavista Palace, the Linares Palace and the Cibeles Palace, which is home to the mayor’s office, many temporary art and cultural exhibits and a gorgeous rooftop terrace. The traffic circle revolves around the famous Cibeles fountain, which dates back to 1725 and features the Roman goddess Cybele perched in a chariot led by lions. The buildings and the fountains are often decorated in tune with whatever event or holiday is happening in Madrid, such as Christmas colors in December or the rainbow to celebrate Gay Pride.

“Ames a quien ames, Madrid te quiere”🌈 “Whoever you love, Madrid loves you!”🌈

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3. Plaza Mayor

One of Madrid’s most important attractions, the Plaza Mayor, which was once used to hold trials for the Spanish Inquisition, is now dedicated to much happier affairs, like Christmas markets, concerts and events. It’s the perfect spot for locals and tourists to wander through, enjoying its colorful red walls juxtaposed against some 237 white balconies, all of which face a large statue of King Felipe III on his horse.

4. The Crystal Palace at the Retiro Park

The Palacio de Cristal is just one of the many Instagrammable spots in Madrid’s most famous park, the Parque del Buen Retiro. Once reserved only for royalty, the regal park now welcomes every and anyone. The palace itself is a structure made almost entirely of glass. It’s especially beautiful on one of those 300 clear days each year mentioned earlier, when the rays of sunshine reflect on the panels just right. It’s also extra-special in autumn, when the changing leaves look especially colorful against the shine of the glass. Inside, you’ll discover temporary interactive art exhibits curated by the Reina Sofía Museum — anything from a collection of rocking chairs to a giant slide for adults. Plus, it’s pretty surreal to feel like you’re in a giant birdcage.

5. The Mercado de San Miguel

Located just outside of the Plaza Mayor, the San Miguel Market (which has become more touristy in the past few years) is the place to be for mid-morning tapas and wine (yes, drinking wine at 10am is totally acceptable in Madrid). The initial enthrallment of wafting scents and sights of frying croquets, giant wheels of Manchego cheese and elaborate, delicate pastries among the general hustle and bustle of the market may catch you off-guard, but don’t forget to admire the exterior, too. Built in 1917, locals once did their daily shopping here and nowadays, it’s the only market in Madrid that has retained its original iron structure.

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6. Templo de Debod

This Egyptian temple actually dates back to the 2nd century BC, although it didn’t make its way to Madrid until the 1960s. Given to Spain in 1968 from Egypt in gratitude for Spain’s assistance helping to preserve ancient temples and ruins in Abu Simbel, it was shipped to Madrid piece by piece and reassembled on the edge of the Parque del Oeste. The temple and park are known as one of the best spots in the city to view the sunset. Don’t bother to wait in line to check out the inside, enjoy the ambiance by grabbing a beer and relaxing in the grass to Instagram that perfect shot of the sun going down below the temple and rolling hills of Madrid.

7. Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid

Spring is the best time to view the blooming roses and tulips in Madrid’s botanical gardens, which feature over 6,000 different plants, trees and flowers. It’s still worth a visit in the offseason, though, with curiosities like the Bonsai tree garden or the tropical greenhouse filled with carnivorous plants. Bookish types can hang out in the plant library on chilly winter days. The garden is open year-round and costs four euros to enter.

8. Platea Market

With four floors of cuisine and cocktails, this former theater-turned-market is an Instagrammer’s paradise, with snazzy lighting, live acts like trapeze artists and DJ’s, and stylish locals every where you look. Spain has a law that protects historic theaters and cinemas, so although Platea has been renovated, the structure still looks like a theater complete with balconies and a stage, making this a special spot to enjoy some vino and tapas.

9. Chocolatería San Ginés

It’s the breakfast of champions: dipping crunchy, fried sticks of dough covered in sugar into steaming hot, melted chocolate. Somehow, the Spanish seem to do it often yet never gain weight. After all, churros and chocolate are a way of life here in Madrid, and although tourists often indulge before hitting museums or other tourist attractions, the most popular time for locals to eat them is between 5 and 7am after a crazy night out on the town. (Madrid is also known for its epic nightlife.) Luckily, San Ginés is open 24 hours, so whether you’re needing a midnight cure for jet lag, breakfast or post-lunch dessert, you can always treat yourself to churros and chocolate.

Esto si que sería una buena silla para un rey y no lo que sale en #JuegodeTronos… ¿O no? 😉 #Got

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Feature photo of Crystal Palace at the Retiro Park in Madrid by JoseIgnacioSoto / Getty Images

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