One Day in Madrid: A Memorable Madrid Itinerary

Ahh, Madrid – the land of fantastic food, wine, and so much history and culture! While there are many fantastic capital cities in Europe to explore, Madrid has my heart. The city is always alive; you’ll find authenticity around every corner. Whether you explore museums, eat, or wander the charming streets, there is something for everyone in the heart of Spain! There are so many things to do in Madrid if you plan to visit Madrid in a day you need to figure out the best places to see that interest you.

Ornate glass and metal greenhouse structure with visitors enjoying one day in Madrid, in a sunny park setting.

While one day in Madrid, Spain will be jam-packed, a day trip to Madrid in one day is doable! In this guide, I’ll share how to spend the perfect 24 hours in Madrid, so you leave with a full belly and unforgettable memories!

Let’s get into our travel guide for what to do in when you visit Madrid for one day!

Xyuandbeyond is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commissionYou can read my privacy policy here.

Madrid one day itinerary

If you only have one day to spend in Madrid, you can easily see the best of the city with a well-planned 1-day itinerary. Stay in Madrid and take a guided walking tour to save time and see the must-see spots in Madrid. Start your day in Madrid with a visit to one of the city’s iconic landmarks, such as the Prado Museum or the Royal Palace.

Twilight skyline of Madrid featuring the Royal Palace and Almudena Cathedral with illuminated domes during one day in Madrid.

You’ll see the best of Madrid in one day, including the beautiful plazas, bustling markets, and vibrant neighborhoods. Madrid is home to some of the most stunning architecture in Spain, so be sure to take a guided tour to learn about the history and culture of the city. In just one day in Madrid, you can also explore the nearby day trips from Madrid, such as the charming town of Toledo or the historic city of Segovia or even go further afield and take a road trip to Southern Spain and Andalucia.

During your perfect one day layover in Madrid, make sure to visit the Plaza Mayor, one of Madrid’s most famous squares. You can easily spend half a day wandering through the shops and cafes in this bustling area. Be sure to try some of the local cuisine, such as churros and chocolate or tapas and wine. If you have time, take a day trip to one of Madrid’s nearby cities, such as Barcelona or Valencia. Madrid is one of Spain’s most vibrant and exciting cities, so make the most of your trip to Spain by exploring all that Madrid has to offer in just one day.

A person walking down a quiet, narrow cobblestone street lined with traditional European buildings, experiencing one day in Madrid.

Morning in Madrid

Today will be a full day to ensure you get all the top sites in. First, you must ensure you are fully fed and ready to go. To start off your day, I have two suggestions:

If you are more adventurous and love the idea of cookies for breakfast on vacation, you need to get the famous cookies baked by cloistered nuns.

Visit Monasterio del Corpus Christi, by Mercado San Miguel, and look for the “Venta de Dulces” sign on a big, old door. It’s open 9:30 am-1:00 pm and 4:30 pm-6 pm. If the sign is there, press the “Monjas” button on the intercom to get buzzed inside. Follow the “Torno” signs to order, choosing 1kg or ½ kg, and then place your money in the torno after receiving your cookies!

A person holding a box of "mantecados de jerez" from the Monasterio del Corpus Christi during one day in Madrid.
©CrisNYCa, CC BY-SA 4.0

It’s a very unique experience, and the simple but delicious cookies are worth trying!

If you want something more substantial and less sugary, head to my favorite brunch spot, “Ojala,” in the trendy Malasana district.

They have a lovely, sunny patio, and the pan con tomate with Iberico ham (toasted bread with grated tomato and Spanish ham) is incredible.

Slices of prosciutto on bread with tomatoes and olive oil in the background, reminiscent of one day in Madrid.

After you’re fed, you’ll want to spend the rest of the morning exploring some of the major tourist sites:

Places to see in Madrid in one day

The Almudena Cathedral  

This 19th-century cathedral is gorgeous and easy to see in only 20-30 minutes. It also has INCREDIBLE views at sunset if you happen to get done early tonight. Madrid has some of the most beautiful sunsets!

Twilight view of a grand cathedral in Madrid with illuminated street lamps and a spacious square.

Palacio Real Madrid (Royal Palace of Madrid)  

From the cathedral, it’s just a 3-minute walk to Europe’s largest royal palace with over 3400 rooms! It’s the official residence of the Spanish royal family, and they still come back for important ceremonies. 

Baroque palace facade with visitors strolling in the square under a partly cloudy sky, capturing the essence of one day in Madrid.

Plaza de España

A short walk from the royal palace, you can visit another famous plaza in Madrid. Here, you can see Cervantes Monument, dedicated to Miguel Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote and said to be the most outstanding Spanish writer of all time. 

Urban park with a monument and reflective pond in Madrid, flanked by tall buildings under a blue sky.

Plaza Mayor

Take a walk just 15 minutes to Madrid’s largest public square in the centre of Old Madrid it dates back to the 17th century. It’s surrounded by beautiful red and grey buildings and tons of cafes. Just don’t eat here, as the restaurants are pretty touristy and overpriced. 

From here, you can head to lunch or take a little detour to check out the Gran Via. This central street is known as Madrid’s Broadway and is a great place to shop for some souvenirs. One of the best places in Madrid to visit for those who love buildings and architecture – make sure you look up as you walk down the street because it’s known to have some of the most stunning architecture in the city!

Outdoor dining area with red tablecloths in a historic European square under a cloudy sky, capturing the essence of one day in Madrid.

How to spend an Afternoon in Madrid

By now, you’ve probably worked up an appetite, which means it’s time for lunch. You have two options here:

1.     Walk to the famous Mercado San Miguel to explore and grab a bite to eat.

This is one of the oldest markets in Madrid, and you can sample a huge variety of Spanish food and bask in the fun, lively atmosphere. This market is always busting!

An indoor market in Madrid with bustling food stalls and people exploring various eateries.

This is one of the more touristy places in all of Madrid. The food is still of good quality, but you won’t see locals eating here, and you’ll pay higher prices.

Twilight over a bustling outdoor market in Seville with illuminated stalls showcasing Spanish food and eager shoppers.

Madrid’s Tapas Street

If you want a more local experience, walk to the ’s most famous tapas street, and find a tapas bar that looks busy – that means the locals love it and it most definitly one of the top things to do in Madrid if you are a foodie.

A vibrant tapas bar in Madrid with an array of snacks, a glass of beer, and patrons in the background.

Have a traditional “hora de vermouth” between 12 and 2pm by ordering a glass of Spanish vermouth with a few tapas for lunch and enjoying the lively atmosphere. I recommend La Perejilla or Taberna La Concha: both are lively and have excellent food and house vermouth!

Entrance to "taberna la concha," a one-day-in-Madrid essential tapas and wine bar, with two sandwich boards advertising drinks outside.
©El Pais

 Puerta Del Sol

Once you’ve had lunch, walk a few minutes to Puerta Del Sol, the city’s central meeting point. This square is one of the biggest in Madrid and is Spain’s geographical center! If you look hard enough, you’ll find the plaque on the ground that marks “Kilometer 0,” or the country’s center.

Sunny day in Madrid at a bustling city square with pedestrians and a cyclist.

You can wander around the little shops and streets near the square or walk just one minute to Chocolateria San Gines, Madrid’s most famous place for churros and chocolate. Lunch dessert on vacation is totally a thing, and it’s a must-try when you’re in Madrid.

 Barrio de las Letras

Before heading toward Retiro Park, I recommend taking a detour to the literary heart of Madrid: Barrio de las Letras. This neighborhood, where famous writers like Cervantes lived, is perfect for walking around and digesting that Churro!

Pay attention to the streets because they are filled with quotes from classic literature engraved on the sidewalks.

A bustling street scene in Madrid with people sitting at outdoor café tables on a sunny day, surrounded by European-style buildings.

Retiro a UNESCO World Heritage Site

When you’ve got your literary fix, head to Madrid’s most famous park, Retiro. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Retiro Park is a great place to relax for a little bit after all that walking. You’ll find so many beautiful walking paths, fountains, and gazebos to explore. Or, rent a paddle boat on the large pond for something different.

Crystal Palace in Retiro Park, Madrid, surrounded by autumn foliage and reflecting in a tranquil pond, is a must-visit on one day in Madrid.

 Palacio De Cristal

Don’t miss the Palacio De Cristal inside the park. It used to house different art exhibits but has been closed for several years. Although you can’t go in, the outside is absolutely beautiful and worth seeing!

If you’ve worked up a thirst after Retiro, I highly recommend walking for about 20 minutes to have the best sangria you will ever have in your life at Taberna El Sur. While sangria is actually not a traditional drink in Spain, this one is worth having, and Spain always seems to be on happy hour.

Evening in Madrid

We’ve come to the end of your day, and you have more options based on what you would like to do!

If you’re an art lover, you cannot miss exploring at least one of the museums in Madrid. Since you’re at Retiro Park, you’re close to Madrid’s “golden triangle of art,” which consists of these 3 museums:

Prado Museum

A globally famous museum with over 7,000 pieces, including works by Spanish legends Velázquez and Goya and international icons like Rembrandt. This is one of the greatest art museums in the world and it should be very high on any Spain bucket list! So if you only have the time to visit one museum in Madrid, I recommend the Prado Museum.

Visitors queuing outside a museum on a sunny day in Madrid.

Reina Sofia Museum

Specializes in modern art with stars like Picasso, Miró, and Dalí. It’s renowned for housing Picasso’s “Guernica,” a powerful depiction of the 1937 bombing of Guernica.

Visitors observing Picasso's "Guernica" at a museum exhibit one day in Madrid.

Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

Boasts around 1,000 artworks from masters such as Degas, Renoir, Van Gogh, and Dalí. Its smaller size makes it ideal for a quicker art fix.

Choose which museum sounds most interesting to you and spend the early evening getting lost in culture.

Just keep in mind that if you choose the Prado, you can only see some of it. You wouldn’t even be able to see it all if you spent the entire day there – it is HUGE! If you decide to visit the Prado, you should do a guided tour to see it as quickly as possible.

After you’ve explored, try to catch a Flamenco show. Sevilla, the birthplace of Flamenco, is quite close to Madrid, so the shows in the city are spectacular. Don’t get food at the show, as Flamenco theatres are not particularly known for having good food! 

Flamenco dancer performing onstage with musicians and other dancers seated in the background in Spain.

After the show, you’ll need to grab dinner. If you didn’t visit Taberna El Sur for happy hour, go for dinner as they have some of the best tapas in Madrid. Get that sangria, and I recommend the grilled baby squid, cod scrambled eggs, and a platter of Iberian ham to keep it super Spanish!

Chef wearing a red hat smiles from behind a food counter with an assortment of tapas, one day in Madrid, next to a chalkboard sign displaying prices.

If you prefer food over art and don’t want to spend the entire evening in a museum, I recommend you take this incredible food tour.

It’s a great way to spend an entire evening, and you’ll ensure that you visit some not-so-touristy, local establishments with memorable food! You’ll visit 4 local bars to try 10+ different dishes and get 4 or 5 glasses of vermouth or Spanish wine.

A plate of Spanish seafood pasta with shrimp and mussels, accompanied by a bottle of olive oil and lemon on a wooden table.

Make sure you pace yourself so that you can taste it all! It’s a lot of food, but you’re only in the city for one day, unless you’re able to extend for a 2 day itinerary in Madrid, so you must enjoy it all while you can!

A person sitting on a ledge by a cobblestone street with outdoor restaurant seating and hanging plants in Madrid, enjoying the evening.

If you’re not exhausted at the end of the day, you could wander back to Calle Cava Baja for an evening vermouth or head to your hotel to rest!

Practical Information and travel tips For A Day in Madrid

Practical tips for your day in Madrid itinerary

  • Currency: Spain uses Euros.
  • Language: Spanish (but English is widely spoken in the tourist areas)
  • If you arrive to Madrid by plane, you’ll most likely fly into Madrid Barajas Airport.
  • Tipping: The usual standard is 10% in restaurants, and leave some change in cafes or bars.
  • Get the Madrid Card, the Madrid Metro Card, and/or the Madrid City Pass to help you save money.
Hand holding a red Madrid public transport card at a subway station during one day in Madrid.
  • Meal times are late: lunch is usually at 2pm, and dinner starts around 9pm. That is why we’ve planned a later lunch during your day – you need it to tide you over until late in the evening!

Where to Stay For One Day in Madrid, Spain

You want to make the most of your time in Madrid for a day, so you should stay in the historic city center, which is composed of many “barrios” or neighborhoods. The ideal neighborhood for sightseeing is the “sol” neighborhood. Other great options are La Latina, Malasana, or Barrio de Las Letras.

Pedestrians pass by a colorful, tiled restaurant facade in a quaint Madrid street.
MADRID, SPAIN, DECEMBER – 2017 – Urban scene at historic center of Madrid city, Spain

●       Budget Suggestion: New Gran Estudio Centro. It’s a cute apartment with lots of cafes around it.

●       Mid Budget: Posada Del Leon De Oro. The location in La Latina is AMAZING, and the rooms are clean and comfortable.

●       Luxury: Gran Hotel Ingles. Super beautiful and classy, with an incredible central location.

How to Get Around Madrid

Navigating Madrid is super easy and has many options depending on how you travel around cities. Here’s a quick guide to getting around Madrid, ensuring you make the most of your one day in Madrid, Spain.

  • Walkability: Madrid’s city center is compact and highly walkable, ideal for discovering tourist attractions, restaurants, and bars. Walking is enjoyable and allows you to immerse yourself in the city’s lively atmosphere.
  • You can get from the airport to the center of Madrid via the Metro line 8 from either Terminal 4, floor 1, or Terminal 2, floor 1. The ride from Madrid Airport to central Madrid  takes around 15 minutes. Trains leave every 5 minutes from 6.00am to 2.00am.
A hand holding a red 'consorcio transportes Madrid' public transport card, symbolizing one day in Madrid, with a blurred subway platform in the background.
  • Public Transport: Madrid has an efficient public transport network, including buses, trains, and the metro. The EMT Madrid bus service covers the city extensively, and the metro is a fast and reliable way to navigate the city.
  • Ride-sharing and Taxis: Apps like Cabify, Uber, and Bolt offer convenient ride-sharing options. Although taxis are available, ride-sharing apps often provide better prices and convenience.

FAQS on a one day in Madrid Itinerary

Is One Day in Madrid Enough?

One day in Madrid isn’t nearly enough, and you’ll want to go back for sure. But you can make the most of 24 hours in Madrid to see the best of this incredible city. One day is enough to see the highlights of Madrid. However, more is needed to explore the city, get off the beaten path, or explore some museums in depth!

Which is Better, Madrid or Barcelona?

Madrid is better than Barcelona. Barcelona, while beautiful and full of Gaudi sites feels more touristic. In Madrid, you don’t really have to try too hard to have an authentic Spanish experience.

What is the number one attraction in Madrid?

The number one attraction in Madrid is the Prado Museum for art lovers or the Calle de Cava Baja if you’re a foodie.

Grand hall of a museum in Madrid with visitors admiring art and architecture.

Conclusion: One Day in Madrid Itinerary

The Spanish capital, with its vibrant culture and friendly people, has so much to do, see, and eat that you’re sure to enjoy spending a day exploring. While you won’t be able to see it all, 1 day in Madrid means you’ll have enough time to see some of the best sites, eat some amazing food, and experience the lively and bustling culture of this city that never seems to sleep!

You might also like to read:

20+ Pros and Cons of Living in Spain

Ronda, Spain: A Local’s Itinerary for a Perfect 2 Day Trip

Things to do in Malaga, Spain: by a Local

Visiting Salobreña Spain on the Costa Tropical

Celebrating Christmas in Spain: 22 traditional Spanish customs

23 Unique things to do in Cartagena Spain

8 Unique places to visit in Spain

Pin it to save it

Smiling chef wearing a red hat and blue gloves at a food market during one day in Madrid.


  • Taylor is the creator of Culture Craving Couple, a travel blog focused on traveling in the USA and Europe. She and her husband’s goal is to help couples explore the world, have amazing, off-the-beaten-path experiences and the best food and drinks, while growing closer. However, they also believe that traveling should not just be about “taking” from a country, but also about giving back to it.

    View all posts
Scroll to Top