One Day in Madrid: Walking Tour

Madrid – Spain’s capital city. Located in the direct center of the country, it draws in thousands of tourists each year. While admittedly not my favorite city in Spain (I feel it lacks some of the charm and character most Spanish cities have), it is still a great place worth visiting!

I have been several times, and for a few of my visits I’ve had only 1 day to introduce the city to newcomers. Through trial and error, here is how to see the main sights with just one day in Madrid! All these sights can be visited on foot. 

Start your one day in Madrid at busy Puerta del Sol. This plaza is home to the famous bear statue (el oso y el madroño), the heraldic symbol of Madrid. It is also a busy gathering place for =political, holiday, and sports events. There are a variety of food options, 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.

Madrid's Historical Plaza Mayor - See the City on Foot in 1 Day!

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.
Madrid's Palacio Real
Palacio Real: Where Spain’s Royalty Used to Live it Up

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.The Palacio de Cibeles in Plaza Cibeles, Madrid, Spain


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.
The Crystal Palace in Retiro Park in Madrid, Spain
A fall day at the Palacio Cristal

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:

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As always, all reviews and opinions are my own. However, I may receive a small commission should you choose to book any of the tours, items, or hotels listed above. One day in Madrid walking tour by foot.


  • Reply Kavey January 1, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    Really great way of sharing your tips for seeing Madrid, especially the inclusion of your Google map to show the route more clearly. I’ve not yet been to Madrid and it’s over my wishlist, so I’m bookmarking this for when I do. So often, blog trip guides are lacking the practical detail to easily follow them but with yours I can pick out the things that appeal most and find them easily!

  • Reply Javier February 21, 2017 at 2:58 pm

    Very interesting article for newbies although I found out that the royal palace is not the place where Spanish royalty currently lives.

  • Reply Mary (Salvi's friend) April 23, 2017 at 9:11 pm

    Michelle, thank you so much for putting this together! My sister and I followed it exactly and had a wonderful day! It was nice that you included fun facts about each place so we had an idea of what we were looking at! The map was especially useful and helped us know where we were in the city. I hope to explore more of the places you’ve written about in the future! Thank you again!!!

    • Reply Michelle W. August 3, 2017 at 10:58 am

      Wow Mary, thank you so much!! That makes me so happy 🙂 – I’m glad the map was helpful too!!

  • Reply Agness of aTukTuk June 14, 2017 at 11:42 am

    Madrid is a spectacular destination! I would love to experience it through a walking tour!

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