Madrid will always be one of my favorite cities. Of course, that is why I chose to live here. But I have heard from many people that they were kind of overwhelmed by the city when they visited it. Since it is a capital, it seems so big and busy! Especially if you do not speak Spanish you can get a little bit lost. I feel like it can be really easy to get trapped in the typical touristy places in Madrid and not enjoy the city too much. But don’t worry. You came to the right place! So if you want to spend one day in Madrid and want to see the most important things here, this blog post is perfect for you 🙂
(By the way, I wrote a blog post about things that you can do in Madrid for free, that you can find here)
Other blog posts about Madrid that couls be interesting for you:
- 104 free things you can do in Madrid
- 25 Museums in Madrid you can visit for free
- Let’s do a self-guided walking tour of Madrid
- Visit the two new UNESCO world heritage sites in Madrid
Transportation in Madrid
Something that I always have to tell everyone: Public Transport in Madrid is amazing! The metro is connecting all major spots you need to get to and buses are also leaving regularly. A metro ticket usually costs between 1.50 – 2 Euros (depending on how far your destination is!). You can definitely get around with Uber or Cabify, but be aware that public transportation is just as good!
Interactive Map you can use while you are visiting Madrid
I put all the attractions I am talking about in this blog post on the map above. This is going to help you understand distances in Madrid and to be able to plan your day in Madrid better. You can send this map to your e-mail or just use it here on this site. It’s up to you 🙂
Explore Madrid with the Hop-On Bus!
Hop-On Hop-Off buses are a great way to explore the city if you only have limited time. That way you can still see the best attractions in Madrid. And you will definitely be faster than walking. Apart from that, it is a great choice if you visit Madrid with people that do not walk so much. My mom went on one of these buses and loved it.
The Hop-On Hop-Off buses in Madrid cover more than 40 bus stops with buses coming every 5-10 minutes. You can just get on one of these buses and leave at your desired destination. Then again, once you saw everything you wanted to see you just have to wait for the next bus to arrive.
A one-day ticket costs 23€, but you also have the option to book for two days, which costs 27€. So it is more affordable than taking a taxi everywhere. And of course, the views are so much better. An audio guide in 14 languages is also included 🙂
By the way, you have the option to cancel your ticket up to 24hours before the starting time of your ticket and get a full refund. You can find more information here. You should definitely consider this choice if you want to see as much as possible of Madrid in one day!
One day in Madrid: Start at Puerta del Sol
Puerta del Sol (Sun Square), which locals just call Sol, is like the Alexanderplatz of Madrid. The reason why it is called Sol is that the streets from the square look like sun rays leading away from it. It is usually quite busy as it has one of the biggest metro stops in the city. You should definitely be aware of pickpockets!
In his square there are some famous pastry shops that you should know about:
Chocolatería San Gines: The perfect place to have churros con chocolate. I have to admit that I am not a big fan of it. But in case you want to try it this is the place to go. It is famous for being open since 1894. I also have to mention that it is open for 24hours straight!
La Mallorquina: It is located right on the plaza and a famous bakery that was founded in 1894 as well. Seems the perfect place if you have a sweet tooth.
If you do not want to have a sweet breakfast you can ask for a “pan con tomate” instead. This is toasted bread served with olive oil and cream of mashed tomatoes. It is very typical to have this for breakfast in Madrid. You can even ask to get it with ham. It is my favorite if I do not feel like having a sweet breakfast 🙂
Plaza Mayor , the Main Square of Madrid
From Sol it is only a small walk to Plaza Mayor, the main square of Madrid. All cities in Spain usually have a main square. The one in Madrid was built in the 17th century and is one of the main attractions in Madrid. Sometimes it hosts small exhibitions or markets, but usually, it is a place for tourists to come and take photos. It is a beautiful place to go but I would not bother staying there too much. I also would not recommend eating at the restaurants there. It is too expensive in my opinion!
Walk around Gran Vía
Gran Vía is one of my favorite places to take people to in Madrid. It kind of reminds me of Time Square in New York because it looks so magical! Gran Vía was the biggest and most important shopping street of Madrid up to the 1960s. It is full of different shops and restaurants. I would recommend having a drink in one of the following rooftop terraces. I can recommend you the following three. Please keep in mind that they do get crowded during the weekend, especially at sundown.
Circulo de Bellas Artes (Entrance is 4 Euro)
Relax at Parque del Retiro
The Retiro Park is one of my favorite places in Madrid, and one of the reasons why I love this city so much. I just think it’s great that Madrid is the capital, but compared to other European cities is so green and has a beautiful park right in the city center. I should mention that the park is quite big and has several museums and exhibitions in it that you can visit when you are there. If you only spend one day in Madrid, I would definitely recommend relaxing at this park for a while. And there are so many things to see here! The most important attractions in Retiro Park include the following:
Palacio de Cristal (Conservatory made out of glass)
El Lago del Retiro (big lake in the park)
Monumento a Alfonso XII (Big Monument for Alfonso 12th right next to the lake)
Where to have Lunch in Madrid
If you want to have the real Madrid Experience I would recommend you go to an old Spanish Taberna. Here, you MUST try the croquetas de jamón and vermouth, which is a typical drink to have in Madrid as well. One of my favorite Tabernas in Madrid are the following:
Visit the Prado or the Reina Sofia
The Prado and the Reina Sofia are the two most important and biggest museums of Madrid. Having said that, you could stay there the whole day and you still would not be able to see everything in them! That is why you probably need to make a decision about which one you’d rather want to visit.
To make your decision easier, here is a small summary of what you can find in both museums:
(By the way, here is a complete list of all museums you can visit for free in Madrid)
Museo del Prado
It is one of the biggest and most important art museums in the world! It included more than 5000 paintings, 2000 prints, and thousands of other art collections. There are many paintings from Spanish artists but you will also find international artists, like Albrecht Dürer.
Like I said before, this museum is huge and you could end up staying the whole day there. But if you want to limit your visit, I think 60-90 minutes could be enough.
Museo de la Reina Sofia
I would choose this museum if you are more interested in local artists and want to see paintings from e.g. Salvador Dalí. This museum is famous for Picasso’s painting “Guernica”.
The History of Spanish Royals in Palacio Real
I bet you did not know that the Palacio Real in Madrid is bigger than Versailles and Buckingham Palace! Yes, it is huge! It is the official residency of the Spanish Royal Family, but they do not live in the palace anymore. Of course, not all of it is open to the public but I definitely think it is worth visiting it to learn more about Spanish History. You will see decorated rooms in different parts of the palace, the collection of Crown Jewels, and even armors. Afterward, you can have a stroll in the beautifully decorated inner courtyard of the Palace.
And that was my ‘one day in Madrid’ itinerary! I really tried to include the most important places and attractions of Madrid. Let me know if you think I missed something. I will see you in my next blog post.