You've got but 24 hours to explore the Spanish capital city. Where do you begin? What is there to see? Is 24 hours enough? If you plan accordingly, we think so! Here's your quick, and no-frills guide to Madrid, Spain in 24 hours!
This emblematic churrería is open 24-hours, so you can either start your Madrid adventure here, or end it. That's up to you! This traditional churros restaurant opened its doors in 1894, and since then has expanded to Bogotá, Tokyo and Shanghai, of all places! It became popular because it's located between Ópera and Sol metros where hungry theater-goers would stop on their way home.
The Royal Treatment:
Ópera, Almudena Cathedral & the Royal Palace
As you leave your churros and chocolate behind, it's time to take a stroll through Ópera towards the Royal Palace and classic Almudena cathedral. Almudena, although grand in both style and size, isn't the oldest cathedral in Madrid, let alone Spain. Contruction began in the late 1800's. Fun fact: it sits on the site of a sacred Mosque from 1083 (yikes) and if you go around the side of the Almudena, you can see some of the original walls!
Then take a stroll through the Jardines del Campo del Moro and make sure not to miss the Río Manzanares! (yes, Madrid has water too, yay!) If you see a peacock wandering around snap a photo and tag us later!
Lunch Time (is our favorite time)
Traditional & Touristy- check out El Botin, which is one of the world's oldest, operating establishments. It's been serving up traditional cuisine since the 1700's. Yes, you read correctly!
Upscale- Lhardy is a beautiful and romantic restaurant adored by locals, and not well-known by tourists. We'd also like to mention that it's been around for, oh, TWO CENTURIES!
Loved By Locals- La Casa del Abuelo is your bar de toda la vida where you can find Spanish tapas and raciones ranging from oreja (ear) to battered calamari or grilled octopus. It's a fan-fave.
¡Ojo! -- The Spanish menu of the day is a traditional practice still very alive today. It orginally started to give the working class an opportunity to dine away from home during the day without breaking the bank. It ranges between 10,50€ and 15€ and typically includes bread, a drink, a starter, a main, dessert and / or coffee. Ask about it, especially if you're visiting from Monday to Thursday.
Walk it Out
Two options here:
Head to Calle Fuencarral to shop until you drop, or take a walk in Retiro Park. Fuencarral has many typical Spanish stores; however, if you're on your "bad and bougie" you can also find stores liek Valentino, Gucci and Louis Vuitton in the Salamanca neighborhood. Take a cab there if you're trying to splash! (shade.)
For those headed to the Park, there are also kiosks where you can enjoy a coffee and take in any of the numerous street performers. There's a giant, man-made lake where you can rent a rowboat and chill with swans and ducks for an hour. Whatever floats your boat. (See what I did there?)
Take a nap. No really, you'll probably be tired. Don't worry, everyone else is doing it!
For the Culture
Pick a Museum
You can head to the Triangle of art and culture in Madrid which includes the Prado, the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen. There's also the Caixa Forum thrown in the middle there. Check out their websites for deals on day passes. There's one pass that includes all three! Also, they all have certain free hours and times. Do your research first!
Did Someone Say Aperitif?
La Venecia isn't chic and it isn't hip. It is, however, a local treasure and as authentic as it gets. They only serve two types of beverages: sherry and water, tap water to be exact. It's been around for over 70 years and used to be frequented by Republican soldiers during the Spanish Civil War. Their tapas are simple, traditional and tasty and the history of La Venecia is palpable. Again, you won't find tourists here, but it's a great place to start your night nonetheless.
Sunset at Templo Debod
Egyptian pyramids in Madrid? No, you're not hallucinating. It's real! This beauty was a gift from Egypt in 1968, and also happens to be the best place to see the sunset in the whole city!
Dinner with a View
In this stunning building from the late 19th century, you'll find a wide array of cultural activities from film screenings, debates, and talks, art expositions, and concerts. There is an online calendar here that you should check out so that you don't miss anything! That said, there is also a rooftop bar and restaurant that sits 56 meters above the city with idyllic panoramic views of the city center! If you're going up, the tickets cost 4E and if you're dining, we recommend making a reservation first!
Infinity pool in the center of Madrid? Yes, please! Dear Hotel has been a favorite of ours for years now! (Read all about our experience here). From 7:30 to 2 am you can dine and take in the views of Plaza España and Madrid center from the 14th floor! While at the restaurant you can indulge on everything from jumbo prawn pad thai to carrot cake with mango ice cream and passion fruit reduction. This is a great boutique hotel if you're looking for affordable and centrally located accommodation in Madrid.
Want even more insider knowledge on how to best experience Madrid?
This guide is for you, with over 72 pages of the best places to explore in the city!
Danni, Community + Content Director at Las Morenas de España, is a twenty-something, Chicago native currently residing in Madrid. Lover of language, words, and travel, she's managed to combine all of her passions through her work. In her free time, you can find her exploring the winding streets of Madrid, hunting down good flight deals, planning her next adventure and writing & researching for LMDES. Danni loves spicy food, natural hair, music and of course, her wonderful husband. If you need to find her, she’s the girl with huge hair and her face buried in her Kindle.