Madrid is one of the most visited capital cities in Europe and if you have already been there you can understand why. It is a big, lively place with beautiful architecture and a lot of history.
Despite being a relatively big city, the main tourist attractions Madrid offers are at a walking distance from each other and they are located mainly downtown and in the surrounding areas. So take a double shot of espresso, arm yourself with a comfortable pair of walking shoes and in less than 24 hours you will manage to see a lot more than you think.
- Start from Puerta de Atocha, Madrid’s main train station where you can find a beautiful indoors tropical garden which is worth enjoying for a few moments. As you get out of Atocha, you will find yourself in Plaza del Emperador Carlos V (better known as Plaza de Atocha). There you will see a large roundabout surrounded by beautiful 18th and 19th century architecture.
- Walk to El Prado Museum, located only a 10 min walk from Atocha. This is the country’s most famous museum, featuring royal art collections dating back to the 16th and 17th century. Expect to spend somewhere between 1 and 3 hours here. There are certain days and hours when you can get a discount or even get in for free. For more information, check Museo del Prado.
- Right next to the museum there is the Retiro Park, a wide green area in the heart of the city. Don’t miss the Christal Palace and the Pond, with its monument to Alfonso XII.
- Exit the park from the Plaza de Independencia side, where you will find the famous Puerta de Alcalá, a beautiful 18th century arch, one of Madrid’s historical gateways.
- Stroll along Calle de Alcalá and enjoy its beautiful architecture. This street will take you to Puerta del Sol, one of Madrid’s most iconic plazas. This is considered the kilometer 0, from where all radial roads are measured, and it features the famous Bear and the Strawberry Tree and the old Post Office building.
- Just a few blocks away you will come across Plaza Mayor, Madrid’s main plaza, that dates back to the XVI century.
- From there, walk along Calle Mayor and you will get to Santa Maria Cathedral, which faces the Royal Palace. Take a selfie then enjoy the Sabatini Gradens located just behind the palace.
- Visit Plaza de España, at the end of the Sabatini Garden. From here you can visit the Eastern Park (Parque del Oeste) and the Dedod Temple, though I would suggest you skipped this part and go for a walk along the Gran Vía. This is considered Madrid’s broadway and it is a beautiful shopping street surrounded by early 20th century architecture.
This itinerary involves a 1h45min walk at a normal speed, without counting the stops. You can decide how much time you want to spend on each site, however, it will take you at least 4 hours – which include a 1 hour visit to El Prado Museum – to complete it.
If you still have time, don’t miss Real Madrid’s Stadium (Santiago Bernabeu), which you can reach by public transportation in about 30 min from downtown. Also, don’t miss Puerta de Europa, located 1.5km North of the Stadium.