One Day in Madrid (Walking Route Map Included!)

Madrid – Spain’s capital city, and a hot spot for visitors! If you’re short on time, follow my walking map to see most of the main sites with just one day in Madrid :

While living in Valencia, I traveled to Madrid several times. For a few of my visits I had only one day to introduce the city to newcomers. Through trial and error, here is the best way to maximize your time! 

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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 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.

Madrid's Historical Plaza Mayor. Part of my one day in Madrid itinerary

The Plaza Mayor (“Old Plaza”) has been around since the 16th century, and over the years has been the site of events such as bullfights, soccer games, markets, executions, and even public penances against heretics during the Spanish Inquisition!

⇒ If you’d rather do a walking tour with a guide, you could also join Free Walking Tour Madrid. This tour operator offers guided walking tours for tips only! ⇐

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.
Madrid's Palacio Real. One day in Madrid.
Palacio Real: Where Spain’s Royalty Used to Live it Up
Walk 10 minutes after 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 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, it is also home to the impressive Palacio de Cibeles, a government building that is one of the most recognizable structures in Madrid.
The Palacio de Cibeles in Plaza Cibeles. One day 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!
Be sure to make your way over to the Palacio de Cristal: A beautiful greenhouse-style pavilion made of glass 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 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 admiring its beautiful exterior!
Next, walk 4 minutes to the Fuente de Neptuno (Fountain of Neptune) located in the Plaza Cánovas.

This is where your one day in Madrid walking tour ends!

See ideas of what else to add below:

Ideas for the end of your walking tour:

Go to your hotel for a siesta, then tapas and a night out!
Visit the Templo de Debod
See Santiago Bernabéu Stadium (home of Real Madrid CF)
Eat in the world’s oldest restaurant, Restaurante Botín, near the Plaza Mayor
If you have even more time in Madrid, take a day tour to Segovia

More Helpful Links:

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Book your hotel in Madrid
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Find a fun local Madrid tour or activity

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  • 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!

  • Reply Vanessa Dacre July 8, 2024 at 1:29 pm

    Hi Michelle, me and my husband have just spent a mini break in Madrid and used your guide upto the Retiro park. Absolutely fabulous – saw exactly what was needed. We aim to come back and will look for the Neptune fountain. We spent the rest of our time in the Retiro park.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to list this in such an easy and informative wat.


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