Hear the word “wellness” and you might immediately think of spas, healthy eating, acupuncture, energy healing, and so on. But it turns out you can achieve a sense of wellness just by exploring a city. The city in question? Madrid.

The second largest city in the European Union, Madrid quietly promotes well-being in nearly everything it does. That’s great for Madrileños, but it’s equally important for travelers. The last thing you want when you go on a trip is to be dropped into a stressful environment or feel like you have to sprint to mark spots off some sightseeing checklist. Not only does this make a vacation less fun, but you also miss out on the true wellness benefits of travel.

Madrid is your antidote to the bucket-list race, a place that encourages you to slow down, enjoy a sunny-day stroll through the park, connect with locals at a terrace cafe, and feed your mind with world-class culture. If that sounds like your kind of trip, here are five reasons why Madrid gives a master class in urban wellness.

1. It’s the sunniest European capital.


Paris may be nicknamed the City of Light, but that moniker should really go to Madrid. After all, at 3,000 hours per year, no metropolis in Europe gets more sunlight than the Spanish capital.

Madrid’s sunlight and agreeable temperatures have even given rise to a new phrase: The Landscape of Light. Two attractions anchor this luminous landmark, together earning Madrid its first UNESCO World Heritage designation. The first is the city’s central boulevard, the Paseo del Prado, home of the renowned Museo del Prado and a true urban oasis that’s been imitated in many other major metropolises. The second is El Retiro, a 350-acre park that serves as the city’s main green space and holds more than 15,000 trees.

Wellness-seeking travelers can walk the Paseo del Prado, amble around the Real Jardin Botanico, head into the Museo del Prado, and then linger in El Retiro — one long, sunny expanse that’s beneficial for mental and physical wellbeing.

2. There’s greenery everywhere you go.


At the intersection of wellness and urban exploration is the simple act of walking. And easily navigable Madrid encourages it, from its grid-like layout to its pedestrian-only zones. When you’re not catching rays in a park or plaza, move from one neighborhood to the next on foot, getting to know the city at your own pace.

One thing you’ll notice wherever you are: an abundance of foliage. More than 55 percent of Madrid’s streets are lined with trees, making it the second leafiest major city on the planet after Tokyo. It’s even been named a “Tree City of the World” multiple years in a row by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) — meaning every walk in Madrid is quite literally a breath of fresh air.

Consider renting a rowboat on the lake at El Retiro or hopping on a bike to fill your mind with bliss as you navigate the streets. Take advantage of Madrid’s bike-sharing program, BiciMad, which has over 600 docking stations and 7,500 electric bikes for use — it’s exercise, exploration, and elation all in one. Then, after a full day of touring, pedal to the Mirador Madrid observation deck at Palacio de Cibeles for a spectacular sunset.

3. Every meal (and snack) is an absolute delight.


Ernest Hemingway, who adored this city, called Madrid “the most Spanish of all cities” because people from every region in Spain have flocked here. In addition to the diversity of Spaniards, Madrid is now home to people from across the globe. All are welcome throughout the city — from its many terraceos (outdoor cafes) to gourmet food halls like the century-old Mercado de San Miguel — but you’ll find one of the best examples of Madrid’s multiculturalism in Lavapiés. Chief among the neighborhood’s immigrant imports is its sundry restaurant scene, which represents cuisines and cultures from the Middle East, North Africa, South and East Asia, Latin America, and beyond.

Food is one of the things that brings Madrid’s residents and visitors together. It also fosters well-being by sustaining the body and delighting the senses. And that’s just what Madrid’s culinary scene is: delightful. Let’s start with restaurants: the city has 27 spots with Michelin stars. Three of those many stars belong to DiverXO, which ranked #4 on the 2024 list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. In addition to fine dining, the city hosts centuries-old food halls in every neighborhood and tapas bars where you can sip a glass of wine while grazing on small plates. And no one is going to rush you out of a restaurant or bar here. This is Madrid — that spot is yours for as long as you want.

When you’re fully sated and ready to give up your table, let the city’s after-dark offerings invigorate you for a few more hours. Catch a flamenco show or grab a post-dinner cocktail at a rooftop bar while the city sparkles beneath you.

4. There’s an entire museum dedicated to happiness.


Museums and galleries are central to Madrid’s culture, from the avant-garde art featured in La Neomudéjar to major art museums like El Prado and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, named after Spain’s Queen Sofía. These creative spaces are also hubs of activity, staging an exciting assortment of daytime and evening events 365 days a year. That means Madrid offers stimulation for all five senses, all the time.

In addition to the fine art museums and galleries sprinkled around the city, two specialty museums, in particular, excel at sensory experiences. Head to the mind-bending Museum of Illusions and the interactive Nomad Museo Inmersivo, where art meets technology to make magic, and you’ll never think about museums the same way again.

But if there’s one museum in Madrid that’s essential for embracing urban wellness, it’s the new Museo de la Felicidad, or Museum of Happiness. On offer here are more than 20 euphoria-inducing experiences — pop into the Laughter Chamber, try out a hugging machine, and linger at the exhibition on the geography and history of happiness. A visit is certain to spark joy in you for the rest of your trip.

5. You can embrace traditional wellness, too.


After all the walking, sunlight (and sunsets), museums, happiness machines, and bike rides, if you still want a traditional wellness experience, Madrid has that in spades. The city’s many luxury and comfortable hotels offer spa experiences to soothe every muscle and molecule in your body. From the huge and impressive spa at the Four Seasons Hotel Madrid, to the heated indoor pool and sensory showers at the Mandarin Oriental Ritz Madrid, to the mud baths at the Madrid EDITION, to the multitude of beauty treatments available at Bless Hotel Madrid, you’re always just steps away from rejuvenation in the Spanish capital.

Wellness is often framed as a specific type of travel, but Madrid proves that travel in itself promotes well-being. So pack your bags — Madrileños are ready to welcome you.

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