Cibeles fountain with the Puerta de Alcalá arch in the background
Caixa Forum in Madrid
Prado National Museum
Outdoor terrace in the Plaza Mayor
Puerta del Sol
Plaza de Oriente square and Royal Palace
You can do a lot of things in one day in Madrid. Visit the largest art gallery in Spain, stroll around the gardens and rooms in the Royal Palace, enjoy a range of gastronomic delights... We have a few suggestions to help you discover the centre of Madrid on a route through the city.
At a leisurely pace, because we're on holiday, but with a carefully planned schedule to make the most of our day of culture. Let's get going
PRADO MUSEUM: a must-see (approximately 2 and a half hours. Suggested times: 9.30 a.m. to noon)A good time to start the visit would be at 9.30 a.m. That way we avoid the crowds and can make the most of our time in the museum. Our aim is to see all the most important works in a single morning. If we are planning to spend a whole day in Madrid, one option would be to visit the permanent collection for two hours and save a little time for the rooms that most interest us, or for the temporary exhibitions. On our route around the museum we should be sure not to miss the towering works of European masters such as Hieronymus Bosch, Goya, Roger van der Weyden, Fra Angélico, Velázquez, Tintoretto and Rubens.Things to remember The use of audio guides is highly recommended, as not all the paintings have descriptions in English.You can hire a private guide for your visit. You'll find these guides at the entrances to the museum, wearing an identifying label from the Madrid Region on their jackets.The group entrance is through the Puerta de Murillo Gate, after collecting tickets at ticket offices 1 and 2.It is essential to pick up a map at the information point.Admission is free for the last two opening hours every day.The museum opens every day of the week.FORTIFY YOURSELF AS THE SPANISH DO: STOP FOR A "PINCHO"We finish the visit at around noon, which is the perfect time to have a bite to eat or a “pincho” (light mid-morning snack). The Prado has a café where you can do so and an outdoor seating area that is open from March to October, but there are also options in the area. For example, in the Plaza Cánovas del Castillo square there are cafés with pavement terraces with views of Neptune's fountain. And, if we continue for a few metres along the "Art Walk", we reach the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum which has a well-known restaurant with an open-air terrace, ideal on a sunny day. Other options are the Spanish potato omelette, "patatas bravas" (potatoes with a spicy sauce) or potatoes with alioli (a garlicky mayonnaise), Iberian cured ham, croquettes, squid or marinated anchovies. The usual custom in Madrid is to enjoy them with a small glass of beer or wine.
A WALK UP TO THE PUERTA DEL SOL SQUAREThe best way to get to know a city is by strolling through its streets and, as this point is so near the Puerta del Sol, it's a good time to take an hour-long walk around the area known as "Madrid de los Austrias".Right in front of Neptune's fountain there is a tourist information point. where you can pick up a map of the old part of Madrid.We continue along the Paseo del Prado. On the way we pass some distinctive buildings. First, we see the Madrid Stock Exchange on our right. Then the Plaza de la Lealtad square and the Naval Museum, next to the Navy Headquarters.We reach the Cibeles Fountain, a perfect spot for taking photos. Amongst the most popular images are the fountain with the Cibeles Palace, currently the Madrid City Council Building, as a backdrop; the Linares Palace and the Banco de España. In the background, we have the Puerta de Alcalá and the well-known Gran Vía is to the left.We continue on along up Calle Alcalá on the same side of the street as the Banco de España, and we see the Cervantes Institute in front of us. We continue on and turn into the Calle Marqués de Cubas, which brings us out in the Plaza de las Cortes (Parliament Square), opposite the Congress building. A few minutes' walk along the Carrera de San Jerónimo brings us to the popular Puerta del Sol. By the way, don’t be surprised if you see a group of people staring at the pavement under the clock in the Puerta del Sol; they’re looking for Km 0, which marks the point at the very centre of the country. TYPICAL MADRID FOOD It is about 1.30 p.m. The perfect time for lunch. There are numerous restaurants serving typical local fare around the Puerta del Sol. Most of them are to be found in streets such as Tetuán, Carmen, Carretas, Victoria, de la Cruz and Mayor, among others. If you really want to enjoy the local gastronomy, you can have a canapé beforehand accompanied by a glass of vermouth on tap. When it comes to lunch, we recommend trying dishes such as "cocido madrileño" (chickpea casserole), "callos" (tripe) or baked blackspot seabream. If you would like something a little faster, a "bocadillo de calamares" (squid roll). And to drink, we recommend sangria, a glass of beer or a good wine.A tip: leave your dessert for a little later and have a coffee in the Plaza Mayor. If it's sunny, this is a perfect opportunity to get to know this square at length.
SUNSET IN THE COMPANY OF KINGS AND QUEENSAfter lunch, we can visit Madrid's Royal Palace and its magnificent surroundings. At about 4 p.m., we reach our first stop, about ten minutes' walk along the Calle Mayor and through the Plaza de la Villa square.Things to remember in the Royal PalaceIt's a good idea to arrive at least 45 minutes before closing. The visit lasts about an hour and a half.Guided visits are only to the royal quarters, and are in groups (maximum 30 people)The ceremonial changing of the Royal Guard takes place every first Wednesday in the month at noon inside the Palace (except in January, August, and September, days when there is an official event, or when the weather prevents it).On all other Wednesdays, the changing of the Royal Guard is held at the Prince's Gate between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.The audio guides include explanations of the royal quarters, the Royal Armoury and the Pharmacy.The descriptions of the items on display are given in English and Spanish.PLAZA DE ORIENTE SQUARE AND THE ROYAL PALACE GARDENS We will end our visit to the Royal Palace at about 6 p.m. This is a good time to stroll around and relax in these beautiful surroundings, including the Sabatini and Campo del Moro Gardens, the Plaza de Oriente square, the Royal Theatre and the Almudena Cathedral. We can stop off for a rest in one of the bars in the square, from where we have a good view of the palace.Things to remember Sunset is a perfect time to visit this area and for strolling along Calle Bailén and through the Plaza de Oriente square.The most beautiful views of the Royal Palace are to be had from the Campo del Moro and Sabatini gardens.The best views of the Almudena Cathedral are from the Vistillas gardens (a few metres past the Cathedral along the Calle Bailén, moving away from the Palace) or from Calle Rebeque or Calle del Factor.
By this time we will be wanting something a little more leisurely, maybe some shopping in the shops and a quiet dinner in the centre. A good place to find gifts is the Calle Arenal and the surrounding area, including the Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol squares. The Calle Arenal is completely pedestrianised and at this time (about 8 p.m.) it has a wonderful atmosphere.A TAPAS SUPPER AND SHOW We are now right near one of the main areas for tapas in Madrid. We get there by crossing the Plaza Mayor and taking the arch leading to the Calle de Cuchilleros. From this point, along the streets of Nuncio, Segovia and particularly the Cava Baja and Cava Alta we can find restaurants serving all kinds of cuisine, and numerous bars and traditional taverns where we can sample a wide range of tapas. Their traditional methods have meant that their appearance has survived unchanged for several generations.To end up our cultural day out in Madrid, a good option is to enjoy a drink or two while we take in a live show. There are numerous places in Madrid to do this. For example, Café de Chinitas or Corral de la Morería are very well-known flamenco venues, but there are many other places where you can hear live music.It is probably best not to recommend any specific time to return to your hotel, as Madrid has so many options on offer that you choose what time you want to end your night.