Madrid – Spain’s capital city. Located in the direct center of the country, this city draws millions of tourists each year. While it is admittedly not my favorite city in Spain (I feel it lacks some of the charm and character that most Spanish cities have), it is still a great place that is worth visiting!
I have been there several times, and for a few of my visits I’ve had only 1 day to introduce the city to friends or newcomers. Through trial and error, here is how to see the main sights of Madrid, and get a taste for what it has to offer, in just one day! All of these sights can be visited on foot.
Make sure to check out the interactive walking map at the bottom of the page!
Start your day at Madrid’s bustling Puerta del Sol. This plaza (centrally located and full of hotels) is home to the famous bear statue (el oso y el madroño), which is the heraldic symbol of Madrid. It is also a busy gathering place for important political, holiday, and sports events. There are a variety of food options here, but be wary of tourist places trying to overcharge you!
From here, walk 6 minutes towards the famous Plaza Mayor. This is the epicenter of Madrid, and on nice days is full of people dining outside. The Plaza has nine entrances, and is home to many traditional shops and cafes under its porticoes. There are plenty of souvenir shops here too! The Plaza Mayor (“Old Plaza”) has been around since the 16th century, and over the years has been the site of a variety of events such as bullfights, soccer games, markets, public executions, and even public penances against heretics during the Spanish Inquisition.
Next, walk about 5 minutes to Madrid’s most famous food market, Mercado San Miguel. Take some time to shop and try amazing Spanish foods, then walk 10 minutes towards Spain’s Royal Palace: The Palacio Real. No need to go inside, just admire the beauty from beyond the front gate. While there, enjoy the activity in the Plaza de la Armería, and take a moment to peek inside the Cathedral of Santa María La Real de la Almudena.
This part will be the longest stretch of your walk, but will allow you to really see the city. From the Palace, walk about 23 minutes towards the Plaza de Cibeles. Known for its iconic statue of the goddess Cybele in the center of the plaza, it is also home to the impressive Palacio de Cibeles, a government building that is one of the most recognizable and beautiful structures in Madrid. From this plaza, you can also see The “Gran Vía”, the city’s premier shopping district.
Leave the plaza and walk 5 minutes towards Madrid’s largest park, Parque del Buen Retiro. Originally owned by Spanish royalty, it is now a centerpiece of the city. Once there, visit the pond Estanque del Retiro to rent a rowboat. Then, maybe haggle with street vendors, find a snack, or stroll a garden pathway and relax! Next, make your way over to the Palacio de Cristal: A beautiful greenhouse-style pavilion made of glass, located in the center of the park.
When you leave the park, walk right over to the famous Prado Museum. This is the 6th largest art museum in Europe, and features some of the finest collections of European art in the world. With only one day, you won’t have time to truly appreciate all of the artwork, so I wouldn’t advise going in unless it is a Sunday (free admission). However, it is worth taking a look at its beautiful exterior! Next, walk 4 minutes to the Fuente de Neptuno (Fountain of Neptune) located in the Plaza Cánovas.
This is where your walking tour of Madrid ends- where you go next, is up to you!
Some Ideas for the end of your walking tour:
- Head back to your hotel for a siesta before a night out on the town!
- Find a great restaurant to eat tapas
- Spend time shopping the Gran Vía
- Visit the Templo de Debod
- Visit the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium (home of the most successful soccer team in the world: Real Madrid!)
- Visit the world’s oldest restaurant, Restaurante Botín, near the Plaza Mayor
- Check out Viator for ideas on additional sightseeing tours or daytrips if you have more time!
Check out the interactive walking map I created below:
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