Madrid In a Day

Madrid In a Day

Madrid In a Day 

Explore this glorious city in less than 8 hours...

Contributed By: Angie Grossman/ Updated 03.11.2017 By: Anna Whetzle

In a city overflowing with people, bars, restaurants and things to do it’s hard to know what exactly must be seen and what can be saved for another day. Here is a breakdown of what to see and do in about 6/8 hours.


Start with a traditional Spanish breakfast at a local café; including tostada con tomate y aceite (toasted baguette with blended cold tomato and olive oil), freshly squeezed zumo de naranja (orange juice) and café con leché (coffee with milk). Usually you can snag all of this for about 3.90. A local favorite is Café de la Luz on Calle Puebla, 8. (Metro: Grand Via OR Chueca)

Puerta del Sol at Dusk Puerta del Sol at Dusk


Once you’ve finished your tasty breakfast take a stroll down to Puerta de Sol, the very center of the city where you can snap a few pictures between fountains and admire the beautiful buildings. Watch your bag, considering this is the center of Madrid there are always a few sticky fingers in the crowd. Walk up towards Plaza Mayor, this is the oldest square in Madrid and absolutely beautiful, make sure to watch some of the ridiculous street performers and listen to the city sounds. 

After walk behind Plaza Mayor, there are a few exits but take the one (if you're facing the very front of the oldest part of the building, the part with all original structure, the exit on the left), that will lead you to the famous San Miguel Mercado. Walk down the various aisles packed with yummy treats, mostly Spanish traditional food mixed with a fresh produce and lots of seafood. It is a good spot to sample different types of paella in small amounts because usually you have to buy an entire plate in a restaurant which can cost much more and not be as good. Exit the Mercado on the front side and walk right down Calle Cuchilleros until number 17 and check out Botin ‘the oldest restaurant in the world’. Founded in 1725 is known for traditional Spanish food of suckling pig ‘cochinillo’ and recognized by the Guinness Book of Records. 

Royal Palace Photo Credit: Bridget Bailey insta: @trulybridget Royal Palace Photo Credit: Bridget Bailey insta: @trulybridget


Next walk back up past the Mercado, hook a right on Calle Mayor, left on Calle Bordadores until you come to Pasadizo San Ginés, 5 where you will find a famous Chocolate con Churros in Madrid called Chocolatería San Gines, opened since 1894. Buy yourself a sweet treat, sit outside and enjoy the rich chocolate and deep fried sticks. Make sure to share your cup of chocolate because it is super rich! After you finish walk down to Calle Arenal which leads you to the beautiful Opera House, just behind (as you continue to the left) you will find yourself enchanted by The Palacio Real de Madrid, stroll through the beautiful symmetrical gardens and follow along to the back where the entree is, 11 euros to enter. Spend as much time as you like and make sure to go into the Cathedral which faces the Palace as well, free to enter.

Depending on the time you could snuggle up somewhere for a long Spanish style lunch or wait until after the next section of the tour. There are loads of restaurants near this area to grab a famous ‘menu del diá’ but beware of a few tourists traps, a word of advice if they have pictures on the menu or at least 3 different languages on the menu…it’s a tourist trap! 


After the Cathedral walk back the direction you came but continue on past The Palace, there are the gardens called Jardínes de Sabatini which are a tranquil spot to escape the crowds for a little rest on the one of the benches in the shade. Or continue on straight, hugging the right side of the road and look for signs to ‘Plaza España’ which has a monument dedicated to the Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes. You will see his most famous characters, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in the middle of the big square in front of a pool. Continue you're journey walking west towards the ‘Temple of Debod, Calle Ferraz, 1, which was a gift to Spain from Egypt for helping them restore their ancient temples in 1968. This can be a super romantic spot during sunset hours, make sure to come back and see the view. 


Menu del diá time, there is a great area called Conde Duque which is not a far walk from Plaza España.  Calle del Conde Duque (near the cultural center) has a few great spots and you will find some delicious Spanish restaurants off the beaten path in that area.

Retiro Park Retiro Park


After having a delicious and hopefully long Spanish style lunch, it’s time to keep walking. Head back towards Calle Princessa which turns into Gran Via and follow it towards the lovely Retiro Park. Depending on your pace it will take you about 20/30 minutes walking but make sure to pop into a few famous shops: Zara, Mango, H&M if you fancy some shopping. Walking down Gran Via you will pass through Plaza de Cibeles, which is the old post office building that actually has a fantastic but pricey rooftop bar if you want a refreshing drink while having a new perspective of Madrid. Just before this is another famous rooftop bar called “Circulo de Bellas Artes” It is 4 euros to access the rooftop bar, which has a fantastic view that is sure to bring in the Instagram likes! Keep going straight and next you will pass Puerta de Alcalá which means you have officially found the park main entrance. Follow the path in with the crowds of people and you will arrive at the Retiro Pond (a large artificial lake) where you can rent little row boats by the hour for a few euros or find a shady spot to kick your shoes off for a rest. **Also, there are bicycle rental stations in Madrid that you can rent by the hour and would cut your walking time in half.**

  • Rent & Roll is a small bike rental place near the park that has some cute bikes in pastel colors and some even have little baskets for your purse.
  • The Madrid City Bikes are a another wonderful option. You can park them wherever, and you can get a day pass using the machines that are right at the entrance to Retiro Park by Puerta de Alcala.

Pablo Picasso's Gernica at the Reina Sofia Pablo Picasso's Gernica at the Reina Sofia


Once you’ve gotten your strength back, exit the park and head for the famous museums. You have two near the park; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía and Museo Nacional Del Prado. 

  • Reina Sofía: Spain's national museum of 20th-century art
    • Monday, Wednesday - Saturday 10:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m.
    • Monday, Wednesday - Saturday 7:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m. FREE
      • Sunday 1:30-7:00 p.m. FREE
  • El Prado: Spain’s national art museum with one of the world's finest collections of European art
    • Monday - Saturday 10:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.
    • Sunday 10:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
  • Museo Thyssen: Its collection is organized chronologically instead of geographically and includes famous works from American and European artists. It is located just across from El Prado
    • Monday 12:00 pm- 4:00 pm
    • Tuesday - Sunday 10:00 am - 7:00 pm

El Prado and Reina Sofia are free between Monday - Saturday 6pm-8pm so you can choose which you want to see and come back another day to see the other. El Prado is actually free at any time with a student ID, while the Museo Thyssen offers a discounted price for students. 

Tapa serving of Paella Tapa serving of Paella


It’s time for cañas and tapas, depending on which neighborhood you are staying in you will find yourself surrounded by fantastic tapas bars that will start getting busy around this hour. You’ve had a massive day of walking and sight-seeing, you deserve some refreshing cañas! 

Bookmark this page and share it with friends who will be spending a weekend in Madrid and need some good tips!

Lisette Miranda

Written by Lisette Miranda

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