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A Day in Madrid: Things To Do in Spain’s Capital City

Palacio Real de Madrid, Madrid, Spain

We don’t always have time to explore every inch of a city. If you’re planning a short trip to Madrid, Spain, you can still see much of the capital city’s top sights in just one day. These are my suggestions for what to see and do on your short visit to Madrid.

With its mix of bustling streets and gorgeous plazas, Madrid is a city that begs to be explored. But with so much to see, it can be overwhelming to figure out how to make the most of your day. Don’t despair! I’ve got you covered with this guide to the top things to do in Madrid in one day.

To help you get the most out of your visit, we’ve rounded up the top 5 things to do in Madrid. From visiting a royal palace to enjoying the city’s Art Deco architecture, these must-do sights will guarantee an unforgettable day in Spain’s capital city.

1 Day in Madrid Itinerary

Not convinced you can get the most out of one day’s visit to Madrid? I saw all of the sights listed below in a single day on my Spain trip, and I did it while I was sick, too! I’d completely lost my voice, and I still managed to have all this fun with one day in Madrid!

Check out these top things to do in Madrid in one day.

Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor, Madrid, Spain

Plaza Mayor was once the center of Old Madrid, and it was built in 1580–1619 during King Philip III’s reign. It is a very uniformed portico-lined square with a statue of King Philip III on horseback in the middle of the square.

You can eat and shop here. I definitely recommend sitting at one of the restaurant terraces and having churros and hot chocolate.

The plaza itself is free to visit; perfect for budget travelers! Of course, you’ll have to pay for the churros!

Related tour: Madrid Tapas and Wine Tasting Tour

Santa Maria la Real de la Almudena Cathedral

Santa Maria la Real de la Almudena Cathedral, Madrid, Spain

This Catholic church is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Madrid. Construction on the Santa Maria la Real de la Almundena Cathedral began in 1883, and it was to have a completely different Gothic design than it has today. That plan was abandoned until 1950 when a new exterior for the Cathedral was built to match the gray and white of the Palace across from it. The Cathedral was finally completed in 1993.

Almundena Cathedral is free to visit, but they do request a donation of €1 per person.

If you want to visit the Cathedral Museum, Capitulary Room, Main Sacristy, and the Dome, there is an admission charge.

Related tour: Royal Palace Tour & Almudena Cathedral

Palacio Real de Madrid

Palacio Real de Madrid, Madrid, Spain

Palacio Real de Madrid is the official residence of the Spanish royal family in Madrid, though it is mostly used for state ceremonies now. The Royal Palace doesn’t allow photography inside, but you can trust that the interior is lavishly and extravagantly decorated.

The Palace is known for housing famous paintings by  Spanish painters Francisco de Goya and Velázquez, Rocco frescoes by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Corrado Giaquinto, and Anton Raphael Mengs, and the world’s only complete Stradivarius string quintet.

There is an admission fee to enter Palacio Real de Madrid. You can take a self-guided tour of the palace or a guided tour with an expert.

Related tour: Madrid Walking Tour and The Royal Palace

Plaza de España

Plaza España, Madrid, Spain

Plaza de España is one of the largest squares in Spain. This is another of the city’s popular spots for shopping and eating.

In the center of the square is a monument to the Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes, who wrote Don Quixote. This is a great sight to see for my fellow literary travel nerds!

The plaza is free to visit.

Related tour: Madrid in Electric Bike — Highlights & Parks

Gran Vía

Gran Vía, Madrid, Spain

Gran Vía is an avenue in Madrid that runs from Calle de Alcalá to Plaza de España. This is the place to go for shopping in Madrid. The street also has plenty of hotels, so you might even find yourself staying the night here.

While you’re shopping, you should take a moment to admire the Plateresque, Neo-Mudéjar, and Art Deco architecture that makes up the buildings along this street.

Related tour: Architecture Tour of Gran Vía from its Best Rooftops

Save on Madrid’s Top Attractions

Want to save big on Madrid’s top attractions? With the Go City Madrid attraction pass, you can save up to 55% on the cost of entrance tickets to museums, tours, and attractions all around the city!

Visit bucket list attractions, enjoy top tours, and discover hidden gems handpicked by local experts. With one price and one pass, you have everything you need right on your phone.

Get your Go City Madrid attraction pass here.

Top Madrid Tours

With so much to see, Madrid can be overwhelming for any first-time traveler. To take some of the stress out of planning your visit, opt for a guided tour! Check out this list of the top Madrid tours to help you make the most of your time in this beautiful Spanish city.

Where to Stay in Madrid

Find the perfect place to rest your head on your visit to Madrid, from the top rated accommodations to unique stays you can’t get anywhere else.

Read next: Barcelona on a Budget: Free Things to See and Do

Ready to visit Madrid, Spain? Plan your trip with these tips.

  • Book your flight: Find the cheapest flights using Skyscanner, my favorite flight search engine.
  • Find Accommodation: You can find top hotels in Madrid using
  • Get a Guide Book: Check out the guide books from Fodor’sLonely Planet, or Rick Steves for in depth info about traveling to Spain.
  • Save on Attractions: Save up to 55% on admission to top Madrid attractions using the Go City Madrid pass.



A Day in Madrid: Things To Do in Spain's Capital City

What are your top things to do with one day in Madrid, Spain? Let me know in the comments!

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