How to spend 24 hours in Madrid

With only 24 hours in this pulsating city, this guide helps you get to the beating heart of Madrid, Spain’s capital.

A Modern-Art Morning

Get your modern-art fix at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, housing four floors of works by famous names such as Miró, Dalí, and Picasso. The 1937 work, “Guernica,” shows Picasso’s disdain for the bombing of the Basque town during the Spanish Civil War. It’s a powerful piece with a powerful message.

If you prefer your art of the 11th–19th century persuasion, then the world-class Museo del Prado, home to pieces by Goya, Rubens, and others, is for you.

Garden Calm

Across the Paseo del Prado from Reina Sofía, the Real Jardin Botanico awaits. The gardens are a perfect place for a stroll around three terraces, elaborate fountains, and colourful carpets of florals.

An alternative is the 295-acre Parque del Retiro, home to pathways for pedestrians, cyclists, and rollerbladers, and a majestic lake. Savour a coffee and watch the boating action, or go ahead and take part!

24 hours in madrid: Parque del Retiro

Parque del Retiro. Photo by Javier Travelandphotos via

Bigging it up in Plaza Mayor

Calle de Atocha leads to the city’s Plaza Mayor, so-called for good reason. It’s pretty much impossible to capture the whole of this gigantic plaza in just one photo — but you can certainly try.

24 hours in Madrid: Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor. Photo by Yagiza Neo via

With buildings dating from 1590, an impressive bronze statue, and stylish arcades, sit and soak up the life and atmosphere from one of the many cafes.

Lunch at the Market

From Plaza Mayor, it’s a short hop to the Mercado de San Miguel. The glass-and-steel façade, coupled with the culinary delights offered inside, make it a perfect stop for assorted lunchtime delicacies, washed down with a glass of wine. Enjoy!

24 hours in Madrid: Mercado de San Miguel

Mercado de San Miguel. Photo by Jessica Bowler via

Afternoon Architecture

After lunch, take your pick from Madrid’s architectural gems. Whether it’s the Gran Via with its boomtown buildings of the 1920s and ’30s, a tour around the 250-year old Palacio Real, or a step back in time to the 16th-century Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales — choose your period of history and Madrid will deliver the goods.

An Evening of Tapas and Churros

You can’t leave Spain without sampling tapas. If you don’t know your patatas bravas from your albondigas, you might want to try a tapas tour. A word of warning … locals eat late in Spain. For the late-night munchies, the Spanish fail-safe equivalent of a doner kebab is the doughnut-like churro, dipped in chocolate. Worry about the calories when you get home.

24 hours in Madrid: churros and chocolate

Churros and Chocolate. Photo by Esther Levy via

Tips for Travel in Madrid

There are plenty of hotels in the heart of Madrid’s action. For affordable options, you can browse here. Booking through this link doesn’t cost you any more and I receive a small commission which helps me run this site. Thank you 🙂

To get around the sites, the metro (subway) is easy, fast, and a good value. For more on the metro, visit the Madrid Metro website.

Madrid in Summary

Madrid is a city where world-class art can be found as easily in a garden or square as in a gallery, where a culture of outdoor eating and living prevails, and where heat can be used to refer to the summer temperature or the nightlife. Get out there and enjoy it!

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