top of page

24 Hours in Madrid

This lovely Spanish capital is the gateway to the rest of Spain. From here you can travel anywhere in this diverse country; therefore you might find yourself with only a short amount of time to see the main sights before you set off for the many different cities sprinkled around Spain. With the advice of lots of different people taken into consideration, I have constructed the ultimate 24 hours in Madrid to get a good feel of what the city has to offer.


I recommend starting your day around 8:30 or 9 am if possible to fit in this full day of sightseeing without rushing. Head over to Plaza del Sol via the metro or a take nice walk over there depending on how close you are staying. This is a bustling square where you can find many shops including Vodafone, which is a great place to get a SIM card for your phone if you need one. It only costs €10 for 1.5 GB of data which is usually a lot cheaper than an international phone plan from the states depending on how much data you use or which phone provider you have.

Also in this square, you will find an excellent bakery called La Mallorquina. If you are from the U.S. like I am, there might be a bit of culture shock when you walk in. The walls are lined with different areas with different kinds of sweets in glass cases and this place is filled to the brim with people. You need to push your way through and find some counter space where you can order some sweets and a coffee or a nice juice. The catch is that there aren't any tables and chairs in this area, but you just claim your spot along the counter and eat/drink your breakfast right there and pay afterward. I think there might be an area upstairs where you can sit down, but we stayed on the bottom level and did it the most obvious way. Everything there was incredibly delicious. You honestly can't go wrong with anything you decide to get.

Next, enjoy the short walk over to Plaza Mayor. It is a beautiful square surrounded by shops and restaurants. We were there in December, so they had a Christmas market in the square and it was fun to look around at all the cute trinkets they had in the stalls.

After Plaza Mayor, we walked over to the Royal Palace and the Almudena Cathedral. They are right next to each other and they both offer tours. We did not have time to go inside both, but we did do the self-guided tour of the Royal Palace and I actually enjoyed it quite a bit! Everything was beautiful of course, but learning the history of the Spanish Royal family was my favorite part. It took us about an hour and a half to walk through the entire palace and cost €11 for adult general admission and an additional €3 for the audio guide. Many advise getting tickets online ahead of time, but because we went in the off-season we hardly waited to get them there at the palace.

The Afternoon

By this point you have probably worked up quite the appetite, so head back on over by Plaza Mayor to El Mercado de San Miguel for a fun tapas lunch. You can really get a taste for the different types of Spanish cuisine at this beautiful market and I really encourage you to get outside of your comfort zone and try some new things!