Thanks to pleasant weather and the San Isidro Festival, which officially kicks off the bullfighting season, May might just be the best month to visit Madrid. It’s also a nice time to view the picturesque Real Jardín Botánico, the royal botanical gardens dating back to the 18th century. The 30,000 or so plants bloom during the spring and summer, making the grounds a peaceful place to stroll. The livelier Retiro Park—a huge expanse of statues, greenery, beautiful old buildings, and a lake with rowboats for rent—is also nearby.
In between the festivities of spring and the dry but extreme heat of mid-summer, June promises plenty of sun without the overwhelming crowds that start streaming in during July and August. Take the time to sip sangria on an outdoor patio or look for the perfect keepsake along the Gran Vía. Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises ends at the grand boulevard, but if you’re a shopper, you’ll just be getting started at this mecca of noteworthy architecture and upscale shops.
January and February are the coldest—and least popular—times to visit. But with temperatures ranging from about 30 to 60 degrees, it’s not too chilly to enjoy yourself, and lines at the biggest attractions are nearly nonexistent. The broad, tree-lined Paseo del Prado houses three such attractions you won’t want to miss: the incomparable Museo Nacional del Prado, a must for anyone who enjoys European art; the well-loved Museo Reina Sofía, a contemporary art museum that’s home to Picasso’s Guernica; and Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, which includes a nice assortment of works from the likes of Duccio, Auguste Renoir, and Titian.