the last guide to madrid you’ll ever need.
Walking tour 1: Start at Temple de Debod, some really cool ancient Egyptian ruins that were rebuilt on the Western edge of the city. From here cross Calle Ferraz into Plaza de España. Keep waking down calle Bailen (the oldest street in Madrid). You’ll eventually get to the royal palace on your right, which has some beautiful gardens just before it that are worth exploring. From there, keep walking past the cathedral and stop in if you want! But the cathedral is not the greatest here by any means. Take a left onto Calle Mayor and wander into the old town area. Stop at Mercado San Miguel, and eat a bunch of tapas. I recommend croquettes of any kind, and the barrata is unbelievable. the octopus is amazing, the shell that is filled with something is good too. or anything with smoked salmon. Just get everything. From here, walk next door into Plaza Mayor. Continue walking down Calle Bailen to Puerta del Sol, which is the real “center” of the city, and (they say) where all of the roads in Spain begin. I’d avoid most bars and restaurants right around Sol because they’re very touristy. From there, find your way to Gran Via, Madrid’s most famous street.
Walking tour 2: take the metro to Chueca, which is a great neighborhood to wander around. Start in Mercado San Anton, which is a little fancier and less touristy than San Miguel, plus it has a beautiful rooftop bar. From there make your way to Plaza de Colon, to see the Colon statue. Walk down Paseo de Recoletos, which is a really pretty promenade. Keep walking until you pass Palacio de Cibeles on the left, and both the Cibeles fountain and Neptune fountain, which are the sites where Real Madrid and Atletico de Madrid fans, respectively, gather to celebrate big wins. From here you can keep walking to reach the three museums, or take a right on Calle de Alcala and walk three blocks to Circulo de Bellas Artes, my favorite rooftop bar in Madrid. Try to be there for sunset 🙂
Museums– El Prado, La Reina Sofia, Thyssen-Bornemisza– the three amazing museums of Madrid. If you like historical artwork and really want to learn about Spain’s history, I’d recommend the prado. The Reina Sofia is all modern art, with an impressive collection of Picasso, including his very famous La Guernica. The Thyssen is a private collection. So it’s slightly smaller but includes all types of art work, and feels a bit more personal. ALL of these museums have free hours, so plan your visit here.
Madrid Rio: if somehow you have a 2 hours free, go down to Madrid rio at Principe Pio, rent bikes at Mi Bike Río and ride south down the river to see some beautiful views of the city. You’ll also pass the Atletico de Madrid stadium (Aupa Atletí!) and lots of great parks to stop in. On your way back return the bikes and walk two blocks up to visit Ermita de San Antonio de la Florida. It’s free to enter and the ceiling of the chapel is covered in Goya frescoes, and is also where he is buried,. Then walk next door to Casa Mingo, a Sidreria that has amazing cider and really good food (I’m partial to the roast chicken. they sell about 2000 every Saturday, so you know it can’t be bad)
Goya– this is a neighborhood off of line 4 that is really beautiful. Lots of great restaurants, bars, and shopping. I highly recommend that you visit La Castela and have the rabo de toro, or bull tail. you must. also check out La Pescadito for amazing seafood (try the Navajas if you’ve never had them before!) and a very andalucian vibe.
Neighborhoods Argüelles/Moncloa: visit Bodegas Santa Cecilia and La caleta- for a fun evening, these are two of my little secrets. Bodegas Santa Cecilia is a really nice wine shop that does insane wine tastings Monday through Saturday. You pay 5€ to be a “member” (just give them your email) and you get to go to the tasting 4 times each month. The tastings are about 30 bottles of wine that you pour yourself. In other words, it’s all you can drink. It’s a hell of a deal and allows you to sample so many amazing wines that you wouldn’t be able to otherwise! The tastings (“cata libre”) are from 6-830 mon-sat. Then, go to La Caleta which is a great tapas bar down the street. Order the fried eggplant with salmorejo and a bottle of the sweet white wine- it’s really typical to the region and really good.
La Latina Sunday- this is a neighborhood in the center of the city that is famous for its tapas bars. It’s really popular on sunday to spend the day there drinking and sampling lots of different tapas! I recommend Casa Lucas (Calle Cava Baja 30) for croquetas, Casa Lucio (Calle Cava Baja 35) for huevos rotos, and Orixe (Calle Cava Baja 17) for really good Pintxos. If you get there early (around 11 or so) be sure to visit El Rastro, which is the huge market in La Latina on Sundays. Lots of great souvenirs, antiques, books, artwork, etc. just watch for pick-pockets 🙂
Calle de Huertas, Calle de la Pez, Calle de Leon– three of my favorite streets in the center of the city. Huertas and Leon run perpendicular to each other, and Pez isn’t far. They all feature some great bars and restaurants. For drinks I recommend El Imperfecto on Huertas for its kitschy decor and cheap mojitos. On Leon, try Bar La Piola for wine the gin and tonic of the week, or light Mediterranean fare. On Pez, I love El 36 de la Calle del Pez for its fancier cocktails and inventive tapas.
Toledo: if you have a chance to do a day trip, go here. Truly a city that seems to have been untouched by time. It’s beautiful and full of history. It’s about an hour train or 1.5 hour bus ride and absolutely worth it.