A Day in Madrid in 10 Essential Visits
First, can Madrid be visited in one day? It’s obvious that the capital has much more to give. But if you only have one day, we’ve come up with a selection of must-sees.
1. Puerta del Sol. Flanked by the Real Casa, the statue of the Bear and the Strawberry Tree and the giant Tío Pepe sign. A classic? Taking a picture of your feet on the Kilometre Zero plaque, the starting point of all distances on Spanish roads.
2. Gran Vía. A vibrant city thoroughfare and a hub for the theatre scene, day and night. The “Broadway” of Madrid.
3. Plaza de España. Here you have to look for the imposing building of Torre de Madrid and the monument to Cervantes.
Photo: Plaza de España
4. Plaza de Oriente. Several interesting sights are here: the Royal Palace, the Sabatini Gardens, the Teatro Real opera house, and the Cathedral of La Almudena.
5. Plaza Mayor square. Be sure to see the Casa de la Panadería (the baker’s), the Casa de la Carnicería (the butcher’s) and the terraces where you can try the legendary “calamari sandwich”.
6. Plaza de Santa Ana. A good area for tapas, usually served with “una caña bien tirada”, which is how you should ask for a small glass of beer. By the way: Serving beer is an art form in the bars of Madrid!
7. El Retiro park. A city garden full of idyllic spots. The must-sees: The Palacio de Cristal and the boating pond. Together with the Paseo del Prado and the surrounding area, it has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status.
Photo: El Retiro park
8. Puerta de Alcalá and the Cibeles fountain. Two of the city’s iconic monuments.
9. Plaza de Cibeles, Cibeles Palace (Madrid City Hall) and Círculo de Bellas Artes. Both with rooftops for a magnificent view of the city from above.
10. Temple of Debod. A gift from Egypt to Spain and a magical place to enjoy the sunset.
Photo: Temple of Debod.
An alternative—if your legs fail you!— is to explore an area on a tourist bus, and take the opportunity to see the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, or visit the Museo del Prado with important works such as Las Meninas or The Garden of Earthly Delights.
Another option is to lose track of time and have a wander around the streets. Iconic bars, vintage signs, urban art, unique shops, shopping on Gran Vía or Fuencarral, and seeing how the locals live. The streets are the best museum in Madrid and walking through them is the best way to capture its essence.
In the end, as the singer-songwriter Joaquín Sabina said: “There’s always a flight back to Madrid”.