What to see in Madrid in one day
Are you passing through Madrid and have little time to visit the city? We explain what to see in Madrid in one day. This walking route allows you to choose between some essential places in the Spanish capital; you can do it in a two hour walk or take more time, the choice is yours!
1 MADRID IN ONE DAY: PUERTA DEL SOL
Here is the Zero Kilometer Plaque, which is the point from which the main roads that connect Madrid to the rest of the country and where our Madrid in one day-route start.
Puerta del Sol is the heart of Madrid, a coming and going of people animates it at every hour of the day and, if it happens on December 31st, this is where you have to come to listen to the twelve tolling of the bells and fill your mouth with the twelve grapes as an auspicious symbol. Here are some monuments and institutions of the city: the Real Casa de Correos (Old Post office building), an imposing building from the 1700s that occupies one of the long sides of the square, the statue of the Bear and the strawberry tree (Oso y Madroño), the statues of King Charles III on horseback and of Mariblanca or Venus, the advertising of Tio Pepe and the legendary La Mallorquina pastry shop that produces excellent “napolitanas”, the chocolate bag that has now become an institution of the city.
Some commercial arteries of the city depart from Sol: Calle Preciados, El Carmen, Carretas. If you like department stores this is the place for you. If, on the other hand, you are looking for a slightly more authentic and less commercial experience, enter Casa Labra on Calle Tetuàn, and have a snack based on fried cod, one of the best in the city!
Take Calle Arenal and head towards the Madrid de los Austrias, if you are in the mood for pastry try Churros y chocolate in the legendary Chocolatería de San Ginés and continue towards the Monastery of Las Descalzas Reales. At the bottom of Calle Arenal are the Plaza de Isabel II and the Royal Theater, the oldest in the city.
2 ROYAL PALACE AND ORIENTE SQUARE
The second stage of this route through Madrid in one day will take you to a vast space made up of gardens and flower beds, in the center of which is the equestrian statue of King Philip IV: this is the Plaza de Oriente, whose name perhaps derives from its location in east of the Royal Palace.
The background of this green area is entirely occupied by the grandiose mass of the Royal Palace of Madrid and the equally grandiose one of the Cathedral of Almudena which stands next to it: the neo-Romanesque crypt and the view going up the dome can be interesting. . On the opposite side of the Royal Palace are the elegant Sabatini Gardens, a place to rest for a moment or, on summer nights, go and attend some show planned by the Madrid City Council.
If you continue north on Bailén street you will pass by the Senate and finally you will arrive at the Plaza de España.
3 PLAZA DE ESPAÑA
After Sol, Plaza de España is certainly the other nerve center of the Spanish capital. Here you will find other buildings and monuments that are symbolic of the city: the Tower of Madrid, which with its 142 meters high is still the tallest building in the city, the España Building, with the four-star hotel Riu Plaza España, the Monument to Cervantes with Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.
In the background of the España Building, one of the first skyscrapers built in the city and currently the subject of a redevelopment project by the Municipality of Madrid, stands the imposing Monument to Cervantes which honors the great Spanish writer by representing him sitting on a bench an obelisk 35 meters high while holding a copy of Don Quixote. In front of the writer, in bronze, the two most famous characters created by his imagination: Don Quixote and his faithful squire Sancho Panza.
Cinema street and Modernist architecture
North of Plaza de España begins the Paseo de la Fama of Spanish cinema that runs along Martin de los Heros street passing in front of two buildings that symbolize the history of Spanish cinema: the Golem and Renoir cinemas, meeting places for cinephiles as they screen films in their original language . A little further on is the “Ocho y Medio” bookshop which, in addition to paying homage to Fellini, is exclusively dedicated to cinema texts.
The corner between the Plaza de España and Ferraz street deserves a little stop to admire the richly decorated exterior of Casa Gallardo, a splendid modernist building that testifies to the spread of the Spanish variant of Art Nouveau (Modernism in fact) also in Madrid. The building, built between 1911 and 1914 by architects Federico Arias Rey and Luis Vidal y Tuasón, was declared an Asset of Cultural Interest in 1997.
Opposite Casa Gallardo there are other buildings of interest, such as the Real Compañia Asturiana de Minas and the Church of Santa Teresa and San José with its peculiar colored dome and the appearance of a fortress.
If you have time, head to the Mountain of Prince Pio, which offers a beautiful view of the Royal Palace and where the Temple of Debod is located. From here you can see a beautiful sunset, so you can choose to leave this visit for the late afternoon. Nearby, in the Parque del Oeste (Western Park), the cable car begins that leads to the Casa de Campo, offering beautiful views of the city along the way.
4 GRAN VIA, CIBELES SQUARE AND PUERTA DE ALCALÁ
Since 1910, the Gran Via has been the heart of the city, where thousands of “Madrileños” and tourists flock to it at any time of day or night. This long road axis that connects Plaza de España to Alcalá street, is an anthill where, one behind the other, shops and commercial activities, cinemas (once there were 14 of them) and theaters alternate.
One of the most significant buildings on the Gran Via is certainly Carriòn Building with its rounded shape and its legendary Schweppes advertising on the facade: from the top of the terrace of the building you can enjoy a splendid view of both the Gran Via and the Callao Square. Another panoramic terrace is located at the bar on the second floor of the Corte Inglés, the most famous department stores in Spain. Continuing along the Gran Via you arrive at Alcalà street. At this intersection is the San Fernando Circle of Fine Arts from whose roof you can enjoy another beautiful view of the city and Metropolis building, one of the most representative buildings on the Gran Via.
From here you arrive at Cibeles Square, one of the most monumental places in Madrid, in the center of which is the fountain dedicated to the goddess of Nature. On one side of the square is the Cibeles building, once the post office and telecommunications building and now the seat of the Madrid City Council. Also here is Linares Palace, known as Casa de America, a cultural exchange center between Spain and America. Going uphill beyond Cibeles Square is Puerta de Alcalà, a monumental entrance to the city and another symbol of Madrid.
5 RETIRO PARK
Right from the Puerta de Alcalà opens one of the entrances to the Retiro Park which with its 125 hectares of extension and its 4 centuries is the largest and oldest “green lung” in the center of Madrid. Here you can rest in the shade, rent a rowboat and take a ride on the lake, get lost in the Crystal Palace or simply stroll among the statues (the famous one of the fallen Angel), the fountains and the rose garden of the Park.
Wandering around the Retiro you will encounter an area surrounded by touching silence: it is the Absents’ Forest, 192 cypresses to commemorate the victims of the attack of 11 March 2004. If you have time, a visit to the Prado Museum is a must. it is located next to another entrance to the Retiro located in the Paseo del Prado, near the Atocha train station.
6 SANTA ANA SQUARE AND HUERTAS NEIGHBORHOOD
Going up from Prado Avenue, in the direction of the Barrio de Las Letras (Huertas), you arrive in one of the most delightful squares in Madrid, Santa Ana Square, the vital hub of the neighborhood. At any time of day or night you will meet locals and tourists who walk here, take the children to play or stop for an aperitif or dinner in one of the many bars that open along the sides of the square.
At the center of the space are the statues dedicated to Federico García Lorca, the famous playwright barbarously murdered by Franco’s soldiers in 1936, and to the seventeenth-century poet Pedro Calderón de la Barca. A little further up from Santa Ana Square you will find the Angel square, another pretty little square on the way to the much more famous Plaza Mayor.
7 PLAZA MAYOR
The square, begun at the behest of Philip II at the establishment of the Royal Court in Madrid, has a quadrangular shape. On its sides there are some of the most beautiful buildings in the city, while in the center an equestrian statue celebrates King Philip III. Among the most representative buildings, the Casa de la Panaderia – now home of the Tourist Office – stands out for the frescoes on the facade.
The Plaza Mayor houses philately and numismatic shops, artisan shops of various kinds and many bars and restaurants, including Casa Botín, beyond the Arco de Cuchilleros, known as the oldest restaurant in the world. Before leaving the square, it is a must to eat a “bocadillo de calamares”, the famous fried squid sandwich that you can take in a bar and then eat it in some sunny corner of the square.
If the fried squid sandwich is not your thing, you can opt for a snack and tapas at the San Miguel Market, or take Cava Baja, a street with a lot of atmosphere and full of tapas bars, and arrive in La Latina, one of the liveliest and busiest neighborhoods in the center of Madrid and an ideal place to end the one day in Madrid route with a “caña” (a small glass of beer) and some tapas.
MADRID IN ONE DAY ROUTE MAP