Distant Guide Welcome to Madrid, Spain!
Hola, solo travelers! These next seven days may be the best of your life. Madrid is a bustling city in the heart of Spain, one that seems to perfectly balance a mix of new and old. There’s an endless number of sights to see in the city, but Madrid is about more than sights: it’s about finding and having unforgettable experiences! As locals do, try an afternoon siesta after a busy morning exploring Madrid’s art scene; go restaurant hopping, listen to beautiful flamenco music, enjoy outdoor taverns, eat tapa after tapa and stay up late; and catch a football match and join in on the national obsession.
From the world-class museums, to its scenic parks, winding cobbled alleyways, Egyptian monuments, massive markets, royal palaces and hidden hotspots - it’s hard not to fall in love with Madrid.
Get cultured at museums, dance the night away, savor Spanish food, go to Toledo, watch a match or simply people-watch at eclectic plazas.
Classic tapas, fresh-caught seafood, Europe’s best churros, jamon and so much more - Madrid is a city that all foodies should not ignore.
Madrid has a wide range of accommodation options - luxurious Airbnbs, quirky hostels, guest houses and 5-star hotels.
Flights & Transport
We suggest booking flights 3-6 months in advance to secure the lowest prices for tickets. For local travel, Madrid is great for walking and has lots of convenient public transportation. You can choose from buses, taxis and the Madrid metro. Taxis are everywhere, so if you’re in a rush it might be worth your while to hail one down. However, walking around Madrid is a great option, in order to see the city’s contrasting styles, reflecting different movements and periods of change.
More than 75 million people visit Spain annually, which means you won’t be the only tourist wanting to get a seat at that famous tapas restaurant. You probably won’t have to call ahead to visit attractions, but if you’re considering catching a performance, taking a tour of any kind, or grabbing eating at the busiest restaurant, then it’s probably best to call and book in advance. Many attractions in Madrid have entrance fees in order to visit, so remember to carry a few extra Euros around during the day.
Madrid is filled with great places to stay —hotels, B&Bs, hostels—and there’s often no need to secure in advance, but it’s sometimes useful, depending if you’re traveling during high season or low season. Airbnb is a great option if you are traveling as a group.
Insurance & Passport
It’s extremely important that you have travel insurance when traveling. Whether it’s lost luggage or injuries (knock on wood), you want to make sure you’re covered. It’s easy to avoid the blocks of text in your insurance’s Terms and Conditions, we totally get it. However, you can make it easier on yourself by calling your provider to review your coverage and benefits before you start exploring Madrid.
A passport and visa (depending on your nationality) are absolute musts! You must carry a passport that’s valid for at least 6 months beyond the dates of your travel in Spain. The documentation needed for your visa application may take some time to gather so make sure to plan ahead! Documentation is different depending on your nationality. Check with the Spanish embassy in your country to confirm if you need anything else.
A few months before your trip is the best time to secure your flights, tours and accommodations. Take a look at our hotel and activity recommendations for each location and book now to ensure your trip is exactly what you want it to be! This way, you’ll save a lot of time and stress. Plus, you’ll avoid the disappointment of your favorite places and activities being sold out.
In Spain, the power sockets are of type G. The standard voltage is 220v, and the standard frequency is 50Hz. You need to know the difference between a power adapter and power converter. An adapter retrofits your plug to ‘adapt’ to the outlet in the wall. A power converter actually transforms the current to match the voltage coming from the wall. Which one you need will depend on the appliance itself, so make sure to check the voltage on your laptop, hair dryer, cellphone etc.
The city’s cable cars offer incredible views of Madrid.
Make use of Madrid’s rooftop bars and their happy hours.
The best place to watch the sunset from is the Temple de Debod.
The best tapas are at Mercado San Anton.
Parque Retiro on Saturdays and Sundays boasts a number of free ive music shows.
Dress code: Madrileños are fashionable people. The vibe can change from area to area, from bohemian to sophisticated, casual to business, and everything in between. Many of the city’s young people dress in a smart, bohemian style. Dress is similar to many European and other Western countries.
• Watch the weather: Madrid experiences more cloudless days than almost all other European cities. Of course, this means lots and lots of sunshine - a whopping 300 days every year. In the summer it can get very hot, so even though there are no nearby beaches, don’t go out without taking some sunscreen. Winters are cool, around 10 degrees Celsius.
• Luggage: suitcase, backpack, roller, a mix of everything - what are you bringing? Sometimes packing for a trip can be overwhelming, but we’re here to help. Packing your belongings in packing cubes will make everything a lot easier and will keep things organized. Tip: Don’t over pack.
• Capture the moments: Don’t forget your camera, charger, and memory card! And make sure to you use it!
• Google Maps | an absolute must for navigation—GoogleMaps can estimate travel times on foot or by taxi, and keep you updated about the opening/closing hours of local attractions
• Tripadvisor | a favorite resource for finding off-the-beaten-path restaurants and things to do. However, all reviews are subjective, so don’t obsess over scores
• Whatsapp | free text messaging (over wi-fi) to other Whatsapp users
• XE Currency Converter | your go-to guide for up-to-the-minute
Transit Booking Sites
• Sky Scanner | easy to use website for finding low air fares
• Google Flights | helpful fare prediction technology
• Madrid Metro | schedules and routes for the Madrid Metro
• Kayak | if your dates and/or departure cities are flexible, search here to find the lowest fares
• Madrid Transportation | Transportation guide for Madrid
You’ve made it! It may not be familiar now, but after seven days of exploring you’ll have fallen in love with Madrid. There are intriguing sights to see and magical experiences to have every step of the journey. First thing’s first, however. Get to your hotel, check in, and then let the sightseeing begin! Take a stroll around the area you’re staying in, in order to get your bearings. Lined with gourmet restaurants, chic cafes, shopping centers, theaters and museums, Gran Via is the cultural centre of Madrid; the city’s beating heart. Plan your day around this area of the city.
Madrid’s main airport is about 12 kilometers from the city centre. The fastest way to get downtown is to take the metro, which takes about only 15 minutes. You can also take the bus, train, or a taxi, which may be more comfortable but is more expensive. For more convenience, check with your hotel to see if they offer airport pick up - many hotels do.
Now, all that’s left is to check into your hotel before you hit the town!
Madrid’s layout can sometimes be confusing, so the more walking around you do, the better. This way, you’ll quickly get your bearings. Gran Via, Madrid’s upscale shopping street, runs through some of the neighborhoods where you’ll be staying. There's no shortage of things to do and see, on this street alone.
At one end of Gran Via is the Plaza de España, one of the city’s major landmarks. Watch locals having lunch, playing cards, and enjoying life at a relaxed pace. Head to El Corte Ingles and grab some lunch.
You’ve probably heard all about Spanish food by now, specifically, tapas. Tapas, sometimes free with drinks or meals, are any of a wide variety of Spanish snacks and appetizers. Hot or cold, big or small (mostly small), tapas have turned into a movement; a cuisine of its own.
If you’ve made it to 10pm on your first night, take a stroll down Gran Via and see where the locals are going. Order a few different items.
PLAZAS AND PALACES
Start your morning by joining a walking tour. This is a great way to squeeze many sights into as little time as possible. Many popular tours fill up quickly, so consider registering the day before. If your feet are a little tired, consider a bicycle tour. Either way, we suggest soaking up as much of that Spanish sun as possible.
Make a stop at the Royal Palace of Madrid. The luxurious, extravagantly decorated palace features 2,000 rooms. You’ll want to hire a local guide in order to see and learn as much as possible, rather than getting lost! Built in 1735, the palace is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family, but the property is only used for state ceremonies. After, head to Plaza Mayor, the main square in central Madrid, before sunset.
After watching the sunset over the hoards of people visiting the plaza, you’re probably working up an appetite. Eating tapas while cheering on the Real Madrid football team with fellow Madrileños is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We suggest catching a football match in person at Stadio Santiago Bernabeu in order to feel the gravitational energy of the arena, and of the obsession of the fans.
You could stick to seeing Madrid’s main and most popular sights and easily spend seven days doing just that. However, we suggest getting off the beaten path a little, and exploring some insider gems in the city.
Wander down Calle de Santa Isabel, a street not commonly explored by tourists. It has the feel of Spain in the 1920’s, lined with colorful architecture and an art-deco cinema. Later head to the Malasaña neighborhood. It’s home to many of Madrid’s artsy youth, and is a great place to see local street art. All of the city’s neighborhoods have their own unique charms worth experiencing.
Now, for one of the busiest places in the city. Puerta del Sol is one of Madrid’s many energetic plazas, and one of its most central and popular. Did you know that Madrid’s official city symbol is a bear and a strawberry tree? Well, now you know. It has appeared on the city’s coat of arms since the 13th century. Located in the bustling square is a statue of the bear and strawberry tree - a popular photo op. Many of Madrid’s roads lead to this square. The heart of Madrid is a hangout place, a place to watch people and listen to music, and a must-stop if you want.
After you’ve seen hundreds of people pass through Puerta del Sol, it’s probably time to start thinking and dinner. We’ve got a great choice for you: Sobrino de Botín. The restaurant, one of Madrid’s most popular, is the oldest continually operating restaurant in the world, according to Guiness World Records. Established in 1725 and still running - it has to be doing a few things right. Grab some fellow travelers and make a reservation.
You’ve got a big day ahead of you tomorrow. Hit the hay early tonight and prepare to explore Toledo - once the most important city.
It would be pretty easy to spend all 7 days in Madrid, but hey, why not hit the road for a day? Toledo is about 50 minutes by rail from Madrid, and the same amount of time heading back to the city. Trains run all day, so you can enjoy a full day in the ancient capital. Bring cash, sunscreen, water, camera, and anything
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986 for its impressive and extensive cultural heritage, Toledo is a wonderful city to spend the day exploring. It’s known as “Imperial City,” and the “City of Three Cultures,” because Christians, Jews, and Muslims lived peacefully together for centuries.
Toledo sits picturesquely beside a river on a small mountainside. The small city, of less than 100,000 people, is covered in ancient architecture and cobblestone roads. It is perfectly sized for a day of exploring its palaces, fortresses, museums, churches and other places of worship.
The Cathedral of Toledo is one of the city’s main sights, one of the finest cathedrals in all of Spain, and a beautiful example of Gothic architecture. Consider using an audio guide to learn about the cathedral’s history. To get off your feet for a while, head to Lo Nuestro Taperia and Restaurant to eat some excellent traditional Spanish food, and to nibble on some tapas, of course.
Next stop: Alcazar - Biblioteca de Castilla-La Mancha. This big stone fort and palace was built in the 3rd century and sits at the highest point in Toledo. The Alcazar is now a military museum. Learn about Spanish history, Kings and Queens, and discover the treasure trove of historical artifacts inside.
For the perfect view of Toledo, cross the river and hike up to Mirador del Valle - an outlook offering scenic, panoramic views of the city. There’s an eatery and market along the way, if you decide to stay longer in order to make a mental picture of the storybook scene. Watching the sunset over Toledo from the outlook is the perfect way to end the day.
There’s still more to see in the evening in Toledo - the narrow cobblestone streets are beautifully illuminated, and there’s a feeling of romance in the air. Consider checking out Toldeo’s other architectural wonders while strolling around town.
Before catching the train back to Madrid, hop into another one of the city’s famous eateries for an early dinner - grab a chair on La Abadía Cervecería Artisana’s outdoor terrace.
Are you in love with Spanish food yet? Well, there’s so much more to explore! Mercado San Miguel is not your ordinary market. The market’s vendors serve a variety of produce, but also specialize in wine, yoghurt, beer, seafood, and so much more.
The covered market was originally built in 1916. Arrive hungry, and leave full but yet hungry for more. It’s a little pricey, but the food is top-notch. The market can be a wonderful introduction to Spanish food - a place to try a number of amazing tapas.
Take your pick - there’s an array of great museums in Madrid, ranging from history to art to football. We suggest visiting the Prado National Museum, and if you have time, the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum.
Prado is the main Spanish national art museum. It is considered to have one of the world’s finest collections of European art, and one of the largest collections in the world. Discover masterpieces by Goya, El Bosco, El Greco, and other masterminds, dating from the 12th century. A must-visit for art lovers. Thyssen has over 1,000 pieces of art on display from multiple major time
What’s better than hearing gently plucked notes resonate from the Spanish guitar while sitting in an open-air park enjoying Spanish food? Not much. You’ve probably been serenaded by now - in the park, at restaurants, at the market. But if you haven’t, try to catch an intimate show to really appreciate the Flamenco style of guitar.
Flamenco is also a style of dance, which Spain is famously known for. It’s full of energy and beauty. Famous dancers and musicians perform all over Madrid each and every night. Visit the Corral de la Morería, Madrid’s oldest Flamenco locale, to watch and listen to the romantic dance.
It’s your last day. You may want to rush around to see and experience as much as possible before leaving, which is understandable. But try to relax, and experience Madrid at the same relaxed pace as the locals do.
Start your morning off with a great traditional Spanish breakfast at Cafe de Oriente. After eating, take a peaceful tour of Museo Sorolla.
The space is the original home and study of artist Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida. It’s one of the best preserved artist homes in Europe.
After walking in the steps of Bastida, wander to Queen Sofia Arts Centre. From Picasso to Dali, the museum houses a diverse collection of 20th century art.
Even seeing Madrid at a relaxed pace can take the energy out of you, especially under Spain’s relentless sun. Don’t feel bad if you want to join the locals to close your eyes and take a siesta. Visit Madrid’s peaceful Retiro Park, which is situated around a lake in the city centre. Filled with musicians, people exercising, and those who just want to relax, it makes for a great walk and great way to break up your day.
Your last evening! After you’ve left behind Retiro park and have had another amazing lunch, consider heading to the Templo de Debod. The Egyptian temple dates back to the 2nd century BC, and was transported to the Curartel de la Montana Park. The temple majestically sits in the middle of a small lake. Many say it’s the best sunset view in Madrid. Bring your camera, but even without it, watching the sunset over the temple is going to leave a lasting impression of your time in this beautiful city. There’s no better way to end your last night than heading to one of the city’s lively eateries, catching up with new friends (local and foreign) over tapas, and watching a football match.
DON’T STOP NOW
Depending on the time of your flight you might choose to stick around the hotel and get everything in order. If your flight isn’t until later in the day, get back out on those magical Madrid streets make the best of it! Was there something you read about that didn’t have time to do or see? Get out there and do it! There’s still so much to see in this city!
Bring your camera - there’s always time to snap a few more shots and make a few more lasting memories. Go explore the Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales. The royal monastery is administered by the Patrimonio Nacional, and is cheap to enter. If you’re still around for lunch, don’t question getting a couple more tapas before leaving: just do it. Stay close, though - missing your flight home is not how you want to end your day.