There’s no denying that Madrid is packed with exciting things to do. Visit the city’s most vibrant public squares? Check. Eat your way around the best restaurants in the area? Of course! See an ancient Egyptian temple? Something doesn’t sound right…
Sure enough, the Spanish capital city is home to a pretty impressive ancient Egyptian monument, the Temple of Debod. But why? How did it get there? And just how old is it?
In this guide, we’ll share everything you need to know about visiting the Temple of Debod in Madrid. We’ll help you find your way there, look at some of the most notable features of the temple, and cover off its long, long history. Then we’ll share some other things you can see and do nearby, from the best restaurants and bars near the temple to some exciting shopping areas. Let’s get started!
Getting to the Temple of Debod by public transport
The Temple of Debod is in a beautiful part of Madrid, nestled inside Oeste Park, or Parque del Oeste, which means ‘Western Park’. The monument is at the southern edge of the park, conveniently close to the Príncipe Pío transport station-come-shopping centre. You can take the overground train to get to Príncipe Pío station. Services C1, C10, MD, and Regional trains run through here.
Still, if you’re travelling from another part of Madrid, the overground train might not be your most convenient mode of transport. This is where local trams, buses, and metro services shine.
We favour the metro, or underground service, for its fast trains and regular departures. Madrid’s metro service connects all parts of the city. You might have to change over, but you should be able to get to wherever you need to with this type of transport.
Which metro station is nearest to the Temple of Debod?
To get to the Temple of Debod by metro, hop on any line three (yellow) or ten (blue) service to Plaza de España. From here, simply stroll through the Plaza to the eastern corner of the park. Subway services six (grey) and ten (blue) also stop at Príncipe Pío, which is right next to Oeste Park.
Choosing the right transport ticket in Madrid
If you’re a tourist in Madrid, it makes sense to pick up a tourist travel ticket. This will let you use any central Madrilenian public transport for the entire period of your stay. Simply choose the number of days you’ll need it for when you buy your ticket. You can do this at any transport station in the city.
What to see at the Temple of Debod
This ancient Egyptian temple is one of the main attractions of Oeste Park, and it’s easy to see why. A gift of thanks from the Egyptian government, the temple was relocated to Madrid, then reconstructed stone by stone in its current location. It’s one of the few examples of ancient Egyptian architecture outside Egypt in the world, and the only one of its kind in Spain.
A perfect photo opportunity
Visiting the Temple of Debod is an exciting experience, whether it’s your first or fiftieth time at the monument. Surrounded by a still, shallow pool, the location offers up a fantastic photo opportunity. Head there at sunset to see the rosy-coloured sky reflected along with the temple, or visit at night when artificial soft lighting adds even more atmosphere.
The stone gateways
Two stone gateways are leading up to the Temple of Debod. Walk beneath these and imagine yourself back in ancient Egyptian times, visiting the home of a god.
The stone gateways are placed in a different order to the original layout. The move to Spain seems to have reshuffled them; the archway with the serpent and sun carving doesn’t seem to have been the closest to the temple during its early life in Egypt. We know this from looking at photographs of the original temple in Egypt.
Inside the Temple of Debod
The inside of the temple is free to visit, and well worth it while you’re there. The inside walls are decorated with traditional hieroglyphics and sculptures, which tell stories of myths and society in ancient Egypt.
The Temple of Debod actually started out as a minimal structure, but was added to on all four sides and decorated more elaborately by the Roman emperors Augustus and Tiberius.
Did you know? Unlike some of the other donated Egyptian temples around the world, the Temple of Debod remains exposed to the elements. Plans to cover and protect the temple were signed off in February 2020, after Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass pointed out the oversight.
Temple of Debod History and Facts
In ancient Egypt, temples were considered the homes of the gods. They weren’t built for praying, like in some other parts of the world. Only priests or pharaohs were allowed access to these impressive structures, to perform rituals and worship on behalf of the people.
The Temple of Amun and Isis
The Temple of Debod was built for the god Amun and the goddess Isis. Construction was ordered by King Adijalamani of Meroë and started at the beginning of the 2nd century BC. Its original location was close to the River Nile, just south of the city of Aswan.
At first a small, single-roomed chapel, Debod was decorated with high reliefs to please the god and goddess who would live there.
Ancient Egyptian rituals inside the Temple of Debod
Wondering what kind of things once happened inside the Temple of Debod? Rituals to the god and goddess were usually performed at dawn. Here’s what one might have looked like.
A priest would enter the temple, which was home to carved figures of the gods. These were purified, dressed, and adorned with trinkets. The priest would then offer food and drink, like bread, meat, fish, and wine, to the statues, before presenting a figure of Maat, the goddess of harmony, justice, and truth.
Finishing the Temple of Debod
Construction of the Temple of Debod took place over centuries and wasn’t finished until Egypt’s Roman period. Because it was built over such a long time, the temple is a beautiful example of multiple civilisations’ architectural and religious influence.
The kings who followed Adijalamani added new rooms around the original centre, making the temple larger, and decorated these new areas with their own chosen reliefs. Subsequent pharaohs and Roman emperors added pylons, courtyards, the processional way, and a pier beside the Nile. Roman Emperor Augustus had scenes depicting himself added to the main façade.
The Temple of Debod abandoned
In the 6th century AD, Nubia had converted to Christianity. The Temple of Debod was sealed up and left abandoned until the 20th century.
Why is the Temple of Debod in Madrid?
By the 1960s, lots had changed in Egypt. The construction of the new Aswan High Dam was starting and posed a threat to the historical Temple of Debod. Instead of leaving it in place, which would have been risky, the Egyptian government offered it as a gift to Spain. Why? To thank the country for their help restoring other ancient temples nearby.
In 1968, the Temple of Debod was deconstructed, moved to Madrid, and rebuilt stone by stone in the park location we know today.
Did you know? The Temple of Debod has been oriented from east to west, just like it was in Egypt!
Restaurants, Bars, and Shops near the Temple of Debod
As wonderful as the Temple of Debod is, it should take you less than an hour to fully experience it. But good news! That leaves plenty of time to explore the surrounding area, which is packed with excellent restaurants, bars, and shops.
The best restaurants near Oeste Park
One of the most exciting things about visiting Madrid is its concentration of tempting restaurants. So stroll around, see what you can find, and sample some traditional Spanish food while you’re in town.
The area just east of Oeste Park is called Argüelles. It’s a laid-back residential neighbourhood, popular with the city’s many students. So it’s no surprise that there are plenty of great places to eat and, of course, drink nearby. If you need a little help, here are some of the best eateries near the Temple of Debod.
- Enklima – this is a small, intimate restaurant owned and run by a couple. Enjoy beautiful international fusion cuisine when you visit this impressive Michelin Guide spot.
- Origen Taberna – another excellent, creative restaurant in Argüelles, Origen Taberna serves seasonal Mediterranean-inspired dishes in a peaceful atmosphere.
- La Portuguesa Taberna – this is a fuss-free family restaurant serving comforting Portuguese food.
- La Sifonería – another cosy spot with a lot of hype around it. And rightly so! La Sifonería is a stylish tapas bar, a perfect place to sip vermouth and recap on your Madrid experiences.
- Saisho – this Japanese spot serves fresh, delicious sushi using the best local ingredients and timeless techniques. Choose your order or leave it up to the chef. Either way, you’re in for a treat.
- El Club Allard – if you feel like dining fancy while you’re in Madrid, El Club Allard could be just the place. This Michelin Star restaurant occupies a listed building and boasts an elegant, traditional interior. Settle in and enjoy creative cuisine with a touch of oriental inspiration.
- Punto Vegano – vegan visiting Madrid? Head to Punto Vegano for high-quality dishes made from entirely plant-based ingredients. Think burgers, stews, salads, and more.
- Dantxari – this is a small restaurant where exceptional food takes centre stage. Enjoy traditional Basque cuisine in the homey atmosphere of Dantxari. Standout dishes include pil-pil cod, oxtail stew, and steak tartare.
Finding the best bars near the Temple of Debod
If you’re in the mood for a drink after your leisurely visit to the Temple of Debod, you’re in luck. The trendy area around the park is home to lots of atmospheric bars. Enjoy a jug of sangria, cold glass of vermouth, or some local Spanish wine. Simply wander around the adjacent streets, and you’re sure to find somewhere welcoming.
Shopping near the Temple of Debod
Oeste Park, home to the Temple of Debod, is perfectly placed for shopping, close to the southern end of Gran Vía. This is Madrid’s main thoroughfare and one of the best shopping streets in the city.
Enjoy iconic Spanish brands like Zara and Massimo Dutti, as well as international favourites, including Mango and H&M. Gran Vía is also the location of one of Madrid’s best department stores, El Corte Ingles.
So, you can enjoy an indulgent day’s shopping, making your way south along Gran Vía, and catch sundown at the Temple of Debod. Then, head into Argüelles for a delicious meal and drinks. What could be better?
The Temple of Debod Opening Times and Prices
Since the Temple of Debod is inside a public park, you can visit any time of the day or night to see it from the outside. And the outside is something special. Enjoy the calm reflection of the temple in the shallow pool which surrounds it, snapping pictures to treasure forever.
If you want to go inside the temple, you’ll need to stick to its set opening hours – between 10:00 and 19:00 Tuesday to Sunday. If you’re determined to go inside, you might like to double-check online before you go since opening hours can vary.
The Temple of Debod is totally free to visit, even if you want to go inside. More euros for tapas and sangria!
Whatever you add to your Madrid itinerary, be sure to swing by the Temple of Debod. Not only is it breathtakingly beautiful, historically significant, and free to visit, but it’s conveniently located in the heart of the city. That means you can add it to your plans without sacrificing too much time. We guarantee it’ll be worth every second.
Taking the train to Madrid
Thanks to the efficient service run by Renfe – Spain’s national train company – it’s easy to reach Madrid by train. High-speed AVE trains can get you from Barcelona to Madrid in 2h 30m on the fastest services, Valencia to Madrid in 1h 40m and Seville to Madrid in 2h 30m. Trains to Madrid arrive into one of the city’s two main stations – Madrid Atocha or Madrid Chamartín; look out for the botanical garden if you arrive into the former!
Want to learn more about travelling by rail in Spain? Read our guide to trains in Spain, your one-stop-shop for all things rail. Our Renfe page also gives you the lowdown on Spain’s national train operator, including how to find the cheapest tickets.