Do you only have one day to take in the city of Madrid? We’ve got you covered! Our guide to spending 24 hours in the capital of Spain has plenty of suggestions for the morning, afternoon, evening and late night. Choose the activities and attractions you like best and enjoy. You’ll surely come back for more.
IN THE MORNING
The superb Prado Museum is regarded by many to have the finest art in the world. It houses works belonging to the Spanish Royal collection, including paintings by Rogier van der Weyden, Hieronymus Bosch, Rubens, Fra Angelico, El Greco and Titian, among other artists. However, the Museum stands out for the masterpieces of two of the greatest Spanish painters: Velázquez and Goya. Choose your favourite artist and focus on their paintings or take a tour through the 10 Prado Museum highlights.
The most traditional open-air flea market in Madrid, El Rastro takes you along Ribera de Curtidores and the adjoining streets every Sunday. They say what you can’t find in El Rastro you can’t find anywhere else. From clothes to records or books to natural rubber, keys, frying pans, knives, hats, antiques and all kinds of things you won’t even know what they’re for. After a stroll through this bustling street market, you could have a drink in La Latina district. The shops in the area, offering antiques, second-hand goods and furniture, are open on weekdays too.
El Retiro Park
The green lung in central Madrid doubles as an interesting cultural complex. When the park was commissioned by King Phillip IV, it was meant to be the garden of the Buen Retiro Palace. Since the nineteenth century, it’s been open to all. The wonderful hall of steel and glass that can be seen today was built to host art and industry exhibitions. El Retiro is always lively, filled with Madrileños out for jogging, bicycling, rollerblading, rowing, visiting an exhibition or having a drink in an outdoor café, all in a bohemian and family-friendly atmosphere.
IN THE AFTERNOON
From Plaza Mayor to Royal Palace
You’ll absolutely enjoy walking through the city, especially across Madrid de los Austrias (Hapsburg Madrid). In this part of town, from Plaza Mayor to Plaza de Oriente, are most palaces and convents from the seventeenth century, when the royal court moved to Madrid. Now listen: fold up your map, put away your guidebook and get lost. You’ll find yourself in winding alleys lined with taverns, a Baroque church or a tucked-away garden. The itinerary will lead you to Madrid landmarks like the San Miguel Market, the Royal Palace or the Teatro Real opera house.
From Atocha to Cuatro Torres Business Area
The long north-south axis of Madrid starts at Glorieta del Emperador Carlos V and runs along Paseo del Prado, Paseo de Recoletos and La Castellana, ending past the Cuatro Torres Business Area at the Nudo Norte road junction. Along these avenues you’ll find ministry buildings, the National Library, the Bank of Spain and the Santiago Bernabéu stadium. The Neptuno, Cibeles and Colón fountains or the sculptures in the Museum of Public Art are some of the monuments you’ll come across along the way. As the itinerary covers several kilometres, you could take the Madrid City Tour (hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus, line 2) or a Madrid bus (line 27 runs along the axis, departing from Glorieta de Embajadores).
From Sol to Gran Vía
You’ll love wandering through the streets of the vibrant heart of Madrid. Not only do they shelter museums, churches, palaces and parks but they also have interesting stories to tell. Start at the Kilometre zero marker in Puerta del Sol, from which the national roads starting in Madrid fan out. The second busiest street in the world according to the Guinness Book of Records, Calle de Preciados, begins in this large square. Then take Gran Vía, a lively traditional avenue on which shops, cafés, movie theatres and theatres are to be found.
Out for tapas in Barrio de las Letras
When the sun goes down, the city wakes up. As they say, Madrid never sleeps. A good place to start your tapas tour – which consists in hopping from bar to bar eating bite-size food and drinking a glass of wine or beer – is Plaza de Santa Ana, in Barrio de las Letras (Literary Quarter), just a stone’s throw from Puerta del Sol.
Clubbing in Gran Vía, Malasaña and Chueca
Beyond Gran Vía are Madrid’s nightlife hotspots – Malasaña and Chueca. Since the late 1980s, these two districts have housed the bars, pubs, music venues and clubs that turned the Madrid party into one of the coolest the world over. Malasaña plays indie music, while Chueca is filled with nightclubs catering to the gay and lesbian community.
There’s no better place in Madrid for a great cocktail than Museo Chicote, named after Perico Chicote, the barman who opened this establishment on Gran Vía more than 80 years ago. Classic and creative cocktails here are the perfect mix of wonderful colours, smells and flavours.
Sure, Madrid is a city for night owls, but now wave goodbye because there’s little time remaining from your 24 hours in the capital of Spain. See you back soon!
From one of the largest Royal Palace in Europe to Real Madrid's stadium, discover the city's most popular sights and attractions.
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