Madrid and Valencia Must Sees

This summer the Ahlers Center for International Business took 26 students from the MBA and the Masters in Science of Global Leadership programs to Madrid, Valencia (Spain) and Casablanca (Morocco). Students attended lectures with some of USD’s top business faculty members abroad while traveling and being exposed to the cultural aspects of these beautiful cities. As we have recently opened a new USD location in Madrid, and because we take students to Spain every year, we decided to compile a list of must sees and dos in this astonishing part of the world.


Madrid has been the capital of Spain since 1562. With a population of over 3 million people, Madrid is not only a cosmopolitan city, it is also a business center, the headquarters for the Spanish parliament and the Royal family, as well as an intensively culturally active city.


When exploring Madrid, make sure you don’t miss these spots:

1. Prado Museum

The Museo Nacional del Prado is the main Spanish national art museum. It features one of the world’s nicest collections of European art from the 12th until the 19th century. El prado is also one of the most visited sites in the world! If you plan on seeing everything this museum has to offer consider spending the entire day here, otherwise the museum is free of charge for a couple of hours (from 6pm – 8 pm) from Tuesdays to Saturdays, and on Sundays from 5 – 8 pm.

Museo el Prado - Picture by The Australian

Museo el Prado – Picture by The Australian

2. Retiro Park

The Retiro park is a beautiful park in Madrid’s city center that was originally created as a royal park; it belonged to the Real Sitio del Buen Retiro palace and is now public for anyone to enjoy. Some of the places to see on this park are the Rosaleda rose garden, the Fountain of the Fallen Angel, the Crystal Palace and the Statue Walk.

Buen Retiro Park in Madrid - photo by

Buen Retiro Park in Madrid – photo by

3. Eat tapas on Cava Baja Street

Cava Baja street is a great place to explore Spanish cuisine. Here, people go from bar to bar trying different tapas (Spanish style bite size appetizers). For recommendations on the top 10 places to eat on Cava Baja street click here.

Students exploring Spanish tapas at Baja Street in Madrid

Students exploring Spanish tapas at Cava Baja Street in Madrid. Photo by MBA student Andrea Ruiz.

4. Visit Mercado de San Miguel for yet some more tapas

The San Miguel Market was declared Bien de Interés Cultural in 2000 (a category of the Spanish heritage register). The Mercado San Miguel is one of Madrid’s oldest markets and considered a ‘culinary culture center’ or the ‘Mecca of Spanish Cuisine’. Here you can order wonderful tapas and even more substantial plates from a variety of different vendors.


Valencia is the third largest city in Spain, and home to the Spanish Paella. Although the city is on the Mediterranean sea most residents say that “Valencia has lived with its back to the sea” due to the spirit and core of the city which is not necessarily integrated with its beach. Valencia was founded by the Romans and was held by the Moors from the 8th until the 13th century. Below are some must dos when exploring this wonderful city.

1- City of Arts and Sciences

The city of arts and sciences was designed by architect Santiago Calatrava, a native of Valencia who is now one of the top world’s architects. The City of Arts and Sciences has 6 main buildings: Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia, which is an opera house and performing arts center; L’Hemisfèric, which is an Imax Cinema, Planetarium and Laserium; L’Umbracle — Walkway/Garden; El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe, which is a science museum; Oceanografic — Open-air aquarium or oceanographic park; and Ágora — A versatile space for events.

City of Arts and Sciences - photo by MBA student D.J.

City of Arts and Sciences – photo by MBA student D.J.

2- Eat a paella at the beach

Paella is a specialty of Valencian gastronomy and you must try it while exploring the beach in Valencia! Paella consists of steamed rice and a variety of seafood, meat and veggies.  We indulged in this tasty dish at a place called L’Estimat.

3- The X Door

The X door is a fun team building activity to do in Valencia (and rated #1 attraction in the city by Trip Advisor). In this game you will do activities like trying to get out of a locked room by using the given clues as the clock on the wall tickles away your 60 minutes. Click here to read more on The X Door. Are you up for the challenge?

X-Door - Valencia activity

X-Door – Valencia activity

4- Plaza del Mercado

This public market in Valencia is one of the oldest markets in all Europe. Stop here to enjoy the beautiful Andaluz architecture, buy delicious traditional Spanish food items, shop for souvenirs or simply people watch.  The Plaza del Mercado is closed on Sundays.

We hope you enjoy your time in Spain! For a list of MBA and MSGL classes offered in Madrid/Valencia click here.


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