Madrid, the buzzing Spanish capital, has everything you’d want from a great European city: art, a rich culinary tradition, stunning architecture, and a nightlife that often carries on until dawn. If you only have one day to enjoy this lively metropolis, here’s how to make the most of your limited time.
Morning: The Prado Museum
Get an early start to your busy day with a visit to one of Madrid’s most popular attractions, the Prado Museum. Maximize your time with a skip-the-line or early-access ticket, and prioritize the masterpieces you want to see most. Those with a particular interest in art will benefit from a guided tour of the museum to avoid missing out on any favorites. After your museum visit, grab a quick bite to eat at the beautiful San Miguel Market (Mercado San Miguel), located just outside Plaza Mayor.
Afternoon: Sightseeing in Madrid
With limited time, you’ll want to see as much as you can. Grab a seat on a hop-on hop-off bus to get an overview of the city with audio commentary on what you’re seeing, or join a sightseeing tour by bus, foot, bike, or Segway to see the best of Madrid with the help of a tour guide. These tours typically include visits to popular attractions such as the Royal Palace, Temple of Debod, Plaza Mayor, Retiro Park, Puerta del Sol, Gran Via, and Los Austrias. Private tours allow you to customize your itinerary so you can focus on what you’re interested in.
Night: Tapas and Tablaos
With your appetite built up from all that sightseeing, treat yourself to the flavors of Spain with a tapas and wine tasting tour through Madrid’s illuminated streets. Sample some of the best bites from tapas bars where Madrilenos go to eat—dishes like Iberian ham, chickpea stew, salted cod, chorizo, garlic prawns, and chocolate with churros. Alternatively, book a table at one of Madrid’s esteemed flamenco venues (tablaos) for an evening of traditional Spanish music and dance. Many shows also include a multicourse dinner and sangria.