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Headed to Madrid for a day and not sure whether you can even spend just one day in this historic and beautiful city?

In short, yes you can!

Trust me, it is possible to explore Madrid in one day! And my whirlwind tour will take you to all of the must-see sights and landmarks so that you can make the most of your visit.

No matter how long you’re in Madrid for, there’s no way you can possibly see everything the city has to offer. But if you want to get a taste of the city’s flavour, you’re in the right place.

From world-famous museums art museums to iconic plazas, there’s something for everyone in this vibrant capital city.

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There’s a little saying in Madrid: ‘De Madrid al cielo’, which translates as ‘from Madrid to heaven’ and means that death is the only thing that will come between you and the city.


Madrid in one day Pinterest Pin

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Is one day in Madrid enough?

Madrid is a city full of contrasts. By day, it’s a bustling metropolis, with busy streets and towering office buildings. But at night, the city comes alive, with lively bars and clubs staying open until the early hours of the morning. 

Madrid is an amazing city full of culture, art, history, and delicious food. It can be overwhelming to try to see everything in such a short amount of time, but with a little planning, it is definitely possible!

If you have a layover for a day or just don’t have enough time to stop in Madrid for longer than 24 hours, this is the guide for you.

How to get to Madrid

Madrid is the Spanish capital and the largest city in the country. It’s located on the River Manzanares, in the south-central part of the Iberian Peninsula. 

To get to Madrid, you can fly into the Madrid-Barajas Airport, which is located just 9 kilometers from the city center. You can also take a bus, train, or car from other parts of Spain or Europe.

How to get around Madrid

The best way to get around Madrid (and my favourite way to explore any city) is on foot. The city is a very walkable city and relatively small, meaning most of the sights are located within walking distance of each other.

If you don’t fancy walking, you can easily get around by metro or bus, which are the affordable modes of transport. Taxis are also readily available but will cost you a bit more.

Where to stay in Madrid

If you plan to stay more than one day in Madrid and need an overnight stay in the Spanish capital, there are plenty of great places to stay for all budgets.

For a bit of luxury: Relais & Châteaux Heritage Hotel is a beautiful 20th century listed building that’s been converted into a luxury hotel. It’s located in the heart of Madrid, just a few minutes’ walk from some of the city’s best museums and sights.

Middle of the road: Hotel Regina may be a three star hotel but looks a lot more luxurious than that. It’s located centrally, just a short walk from the Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor.

To save the pennies: If you’re looking for an affordable place to stay in Madrid, then The Hat Madrid is the perfect choice for you. This stylish hostel is located in central Madrid and is an excellent base for exploring the city.

Things to do in Madrid in one day

Now that we’ve got the logistics out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff: what to do in Madrid in one day! .

08:00 Breakfast at Chocolatería San Ginés

Madrid in one day:  Churros and chocolate
Image by Juan Moyano

Start your day at Chocolatería San Ginés, a world-famous chocolate shop that has been serving up delicious churros and chocolate since 1894.

The company is best known for its hot chocolate, which is made with real Spanish chocolate and milk.

The shop is located in the San Ginés passageway (right in the heart of the city) and is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, so you can start your day (or end your night) with a sweet treat!

09:30 Royal Palace of Madrid (Palacio Real)

Madrid in one day:  Royal Palace of Madrid
Image by Nicola Margaret from Getty Images Signature

The Royal Palace of Madrid is one of the most significant landmarks in the city, and just a short walk from where you’ll have had your breakfast. The palace is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family, but today it is only used for state ceremonies. 

Other than state ceremonies, the palace is open to the public and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country. It has been featured in many films and TV shows and attracts thousands of visitors each year.

The best way to see the palace is by guided tour, where you’ll learn about the history of the palace and get insider information about what goes on behind the scenes. If you want to skip the line, you can buy a ticket online in advance.

Of course, if winging it is your preference, you can wander around the incredible artwork and architecture on your own as well.

I recommend this be one of your first stops on your Madrid itinerary as the palace gets crowded later in the day.

Location: Callede Bailén , s/n28013

11:00 Temple of Debod

Madrid in one day: Temple of Debod
Image by Raquel Campos Garcia from Getty Images

The Temple of Debod is a must-see for any history lover visiting Madrid. This Egyptian temple was actually gifted to Spain by the Egyptian government in 1968 as a thank-you for all the help that the Spanish had given in saving other temples and archaeological sites during the construction of the Aswan Dam.

The temple was dismantled and then rebuilt stone by stone in Madrid, where it now stands as a reminder of Spain’s close ties to Egypt. 

Even though it’s been moved to a new location, the Temple of Debod still offers visitors an authentic taste of Egyptian culture. And with its beautiful setting next to a lake and surrounded by gardens, it’s also one of the most popular spots in Madrid for a leisurely stroll or a romantic picnic.

Location: Calle de Ferraz, 128008

Timings: Tue-Sun and Public Holidays: 10am-8pm

Mondays; 1 and 6 January, 1 May, 24, 25 and 31 December: closed

13:00 Lunch at Mercado San Miguel

Madrid in one day: Mercado San Miguel
Image by LeoChen66 from Getty Images

Mercado San Miguel is a bustling marketplace located in the heart of Madrid. It’s the perfect place to sample a variety of traditional Spanish foods, and it’s also a great place to people-watch.

On any given day, you’ll see tourists and locals alike browsing the stalls, enjoying a leisurely lunch, and mingling with the friendly vendors. The atmosphere is lively and festive, and there’s always something new to see or try.

Whether you’re looking for a quick bite or a leisurely lunch, Mercado San Miguel is the perfect place to enjoy some of Madrid’s best food.

Location: Plazade San Miguel, s/n28005

Timings: Sun – Thurs: 10am – Midnight

Fri, Sat and eves of public hols: 10am – 1am 

14:30 Plaza Mayor

Madrid in one day: Plaza Mayor
Image by Lord Runar from Getty Images Signature

Not far from Mercado San Miguel is the Plaza Mayor, one of Madrid’s most iconic squares. The famous square was originally built in the 16th century and has been used for a variety of purposes over the years, including bullfights, markets, and even executions.

Nowadays, it’s a popular gathering place for locals and tourists alike. You’ll find plenty of cafes and restaurants around the square, as well as street performers and musicians.

The Plaza Mayor is also a great place to do some people-watching and take in the lively atmosphere of the city.

But beware – the pigeons here are known for stealing food from unsuspecting tourists! If you’re looking to avoid becoming a victim, make sure to keep any food well away from them. And if you’re feeling brave, you can always try to outrun them… but good luck with that!

Location: Plaza Mayor, 27 (Casa de la Panadería)28012

Timings: Mon – Sun 9:30am – 8:30pm

16:00 Puerta del Sol

Madrid in one day: Puerta del sol
Image by Pv Witek from Getty Images

Puerta del Sol is one of Madrid’s most popular squares and the starting point for many of the city’s famous tourist routes. The square, in old Madrid, is home to a number of famous landmarks, including the clocktower and El Oso y El Madroño (the Bear and the Strawberry Tree), which are symbols of Madrid.

If you’re looking to do some shopping, Puerta del Sol is also home to a number of high-end stores and boutiques. And if you’re feeling thirsty, you can always stop for a refreshing drink at one of the many cafes and bars that line the square.

No matter what you’re looking for, you’re sure to find it in Puerta del Sol.

Location: Plaza Puerta del Sol, 28013

17:30 Reina Sofia Museum (Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía)

Madrid in one day: Reina Sofia Museum
Image by Dan F L Creativo

Reina Sofia is one of the most popular museums in Madrid, and for good reason. It’s chock-full of world-renowned art, ranging from ancient sculptures to modern masterpieces.

The museum is home to some of the most famous works of European art in the world, including paintings by Picasso, Dali, and Miro.

But while the art is certainly the main attraction, the museum itself is also quite a sight to behold. The massive building is built around a central atrium, which soars several stories high and is flooded with natural light.

And if you manage to get tired of all the paintings and sculptures, there’s always the rooftop cafeteria, which offers stunning views of Madrid. All in all, Reina Sofia is definitely a must for your one day Madrid itinerary.

Location: Calle Santa Isabel, 52, 28012 Madrid

Timings: Monday & Wednesday to Saturday from 10am to 9pm

Sunday from 10am to 2:30pm

Tuesday closed

19:30 Tapas

Madrid in one day: Tapas
Image by Kissenbo from Getty Images

You can’t spend one day in Madrid and not eat some traditional food at one of the many tapas bars dotting the city.

Tapas are Spanish dishes that are typically served as appetizers, but they can also make a great meal on their own.

There are endless possibilities when it comes to tapas, and you’ll find something to suit every taste. Popular options include patatas bravas (spicy potatoes), tortilla de patatas (potato omelette), croquetas (fried croquettes), and jamón (cured ham)

Of course, no meal is complete without a drink, and you’ll find plenty of options to choose from. Wine is always a good choice, but if you’re looking for something a little more traditional, try a glass of tinto de verano (red wine with lemonade) or a jarra of sangria.

21:00 El Retiro Park

Madrid in one day: El Retiro Park Madrid
Image by Fernando Cortes

Last up on our Madrid one day itinerary is a visit to El Retiro Park.

El Retiro Park is a beautiful oasis in the middle of Madrid. During the day, it is a popular spot for picnics, walks, and escaping the heat of the city. But at night, the park takes on a different character. The paths are dimly lit, and the air is filled with the sound of laughter and music. 

You’ll find yourself surrounded by couples holding hands, families picnicking on the lawn, and groups of friends laughing and chatting as they enjoy the lovely evening weather.

It’s easy to forget that you’re in the heart of a busy metropolis when you’re surrounded by such natural beauty. If you’re looking for a romantic evening out, or simply want to experience Madrid in a different light, El Retiro Park is the place to end your one day in Madrid.

Location: Plaza de la Independencia, 728001

Timings: Spring – Summer: April to September 6am – 12 midnight

Autumn – Winter: October to March 6am – 10pm

Got more time to spend in Madrid?

If you have a few days visiting Madrid, here are some other things to add to your list:

Take a Walking tour

Madrid is a city full of history, art, and culture. A walking tour is the best way to see all that Madrid has to offer. You’ll get to experience the city’s many beautiful buildings, parks, and monuments up close. And, you’ll also get to learn about Madrid’s rich culture and history from your knowledgeable tour guide. The best part of taking a walking tour is that you can go at your own pace and take in as much or as little as you want.

Visit the Prado Museum (Museo Nacional del Prado)

One of the most famous art museums in the world, the Prado is a must-see for art lovers. It houses works by Spanish masters like Diego Velázquez and Francisco Goya, as well as paintings by Italian artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael.

Take a day trip to Toledo

Madrid in one day: Toledo lit up in the evening
Image by Sean Pavone Photo from Getty Images Pro

Just an hour away from Madrid by car and a 30 minute train ride, Toledo is a beautiful ancient city with a rich history. It was once the capital of Spain, and you can still see traces of its Moorish past in the architecture and art.

Stroll through La Latina Neighborhood

This lively neighborhood is known for its cobbled streets, charming plazas, and lively nightlife. During the day, it’s a great place to grab a bite to eat or do some shopping in a local market. At night, the bars and clubs come alive, and you can party until the early hours of the morning.

Teatro Real (Opera House)

Madrid in one day: Teatro Real Opera House
Image by Igor Garcia from Getty Images

This beautiful opera house is one of Madrid’s most beautiful landmarks. Built in the 19th century, it has been the site of many world-famous operas and ballets. If you’re lucky, you might be able to catch a performance during your stay in Madrid.

Catedral de la Almudena

This grand cathedral is one of Madrid’s most important religious buildings. It was consecrated by Pope John Paul II in 1993, and its beautiful Neo-Gothic exterior is a sight to behold.

Madrid FAQs

Is Madrid safe?

Yes, Madrid is a very safe city. It has a low crime rate, and you can feel confident walking around alone at night.

What is the best time to visit Madrid?

The best time to visit Madrid is in the spring or fall. The weather is mild, and there are fewer tourists than in the summer months.

Do I need to speak Spanish to visit Madrid?

No, you do not need to speak Spanish to visit Madrid. Many people in the city speak English, and you’ll find that most signs and menus are in both languages.

What is the currency in Madrid?

The currency in Madrid is the Euro.

Can you see Madrid in a day?

Yes, you can see Madrid in a day. If you plan your time wisely, you can hit all of the city’s most important landmarks and attractions.

Is Madrid expensive?

Madrid is not an expensive city, but it is not a cheap one either. You’ll find that prices are similar to what you would expect to pay in most major European cities.


How to spend a perfect day in Madrid Pinterest Pin

Conclusion: Madrid in one day

So there you have it, my guide to spending one day in Madrid.

If you’re looking for a whirlwind day trip that’ll show you all the best of Madrid, this is your itinerary. From world-famous art museums to delicious tapas and everything in between, this is the perfect way to see all that Spain’s capital has to offer in just one day. 


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