The capital of Spain, the city of Madrid has so much to offer to first time travelers! It is home to Spanish royalty, medieval churches and plazas, renaissance art and a happening nightlife. During our trip to Spain, we had only a day to spend in Madrid and we made the most of it. This guide covers the top experiences that are a must-see/do while in Madrid and hope this helps you plan your trip!
The center of Madrid is Atocha, which is also the main railway station linking to other parts of the country as well as locally. All attractions are very easily accessible from this location and are within walking distance. The alleys and cobbled streets are scattered with beautiful historical landmarks and plazas that come alive at night.
Royal Palace of Madrid
This is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family and is still used for state ceremonies. This tour was one of the more well-organized self-guided tours that I’ve come across and starts off with the Armory exhibit outside the actual palace. From there, you make your way inside the various palace rooms that are decorated ornately (as one would expect of a palace!) with breathtaking frescos and artwork. The rooms are done in different themes and take you down the history of the Spanish royalty.
Tickets are required for entry and costs 13 euros. It is recommended to purchase the tickets before hand to avoid waiting in queues.
La Almudena Cathedral
Opposite the Royal Palace is the Almudena Cathedral, a Catholic church and seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Madrid. The interior of the cathedral is considered to be Neo-Gothic and features many chapels as well as a museum.
While admission to the cathedral is free, donations are suggested. The museum costs six euros to enter. Opening hours are from 10:00 am to 2:30 pm Monday-Saturday, and tourists can’t visit the church during religious ceremonies or church services.
Crypt of La Almudena Cathedral
Below the Almudena Cathedral lies this beautiful Romanesque Revival church with a Latin-cross plan. It features over 400 columns, each crowned by a different capital adorned with biblical figures, nature scenes and even the symbol of Madrid, the bear and the strawberry tree.
The resting place of some of Spain’s most noble families, and to King Alfonso XII’s first wife María de las Mercedes de Orléans, the crypt has 20 chapels, each with its own beautiful stained-glass window, as well as a number of ornate artworks. Particularly noteworthy is the painting of Our Lady of the Lily, possibly the oldest image of the Virgin in the city. While admission to the cathedral is free, donations are suggested.
El Prado Museum
A trip to Madrid is incomplete without a visit to the Prado museum. Considered to be one of the world’s best art museums, it houses the finest collection of European art and Spanish art in the world. So it is not hard to believe that it is one of the most visited sites in the world!
The numerous works by Francisco Goya, the single most extensively represented artist, as well as by Hieronymus Bosch, El Greco, Peter Paul Rubens, Titian, and Diego Velázquez, are some of the highlights of the collection.
The entry ticket costs between 7-24 euros and again, it is recommended to purchase tickets prior to your visit to skip lines and long wait times. Also be prepared to walk a lot since the museum is massive and gets very crowded during peak hours. Photography is not permitted inside the museum.
El Retiro Park
The Retirement Park is an oasis in the heart of the city and has nothing to do with retirement! It is a beautiful green space spreading over 125 hectares, with beautiful flowers and trees. To me it gave Central Park (New York City) vibes!
If you are a football (soccer) fan, you are in just the right place to take a tour of the home club Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. So those were my top must-visits for a day in Madrid. Follow me on Instagram to get the latest updates on my travels.