The Perfect One Day Itinerary for Madrid, Spain

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Adam and I recently took a trip with a couple of friends to Spain and visited Madrid and Sevilla. While Madrid wasn’t necessarily our favorite part of Spain, we did spend one lovely day there before heading out to the smaller town of Toledo.

As with most European countries, there’s a lot of history in Madrid, a palace to see, and plenty of shopping and meandering on your one day itinerary for Madrid. I’m also giving away a few free photos on the Journey Junkies page taken from our trip. If you’re not a member, you can sign up here so you can download free photos to inspire your wanderlust.

One Day Itinerary for Madrid, Spain

One Day Itinerary for Madrid, Spain

On our day in Madrid, we had perfect weather, sunny and not to hot and we walked everywhere and did everything on my list. I truly left Madrid feeling like I spent the perfect day there so I’m sharing my itinerary. If you have just one day and you want to see the highlights, as well as have some tapas, then you’re in the right place.

Start with the Palace

To begin your day in Madrid, it’s best to start early by arriving at the Palace when it opens. On the day we went, it opened at 9 a.m. and we were there right before. The tour buses generally arrive about 10 a.m. so you definitely want to beat that rush. The palace cost 11 Euros a piece and takes about two hours. It’s lovely and well worth a visit but one thing to note is that you can’t take a lot of pictures inside the palace. This is always a bit painful for me since I’m a photographer, but it’s still worth a visit.

View the Palace of Madrid
View the Palace of Madrid and tour for 11 Euros

Meander Around Plaza Mayor

After the palace, it will be time on your itinerary for Madrid to meander and find a place for lunch. My meandering tends to take awhile as I enjoy visiting shops and taking heaps of photos. The main area of Madrid is called Plaza Mayor and is (usually) lined with shops, photo ops, and a tourist trap or two. When we were in Madrid it was the week before the football Champions League Finals that were being held there. That meant they were setting up the area for tourists and spectators. There wasn’t as much going on, but it was still worth walking around. The Plaza is essentially a 5 minute walk from the Palace. Depending on where you are staying, you may have walked through it on your way there as well.

Plaza de Mayor in Madrid, Spain
Plaza de Mayor in Madrid, Spain

Lunch at San Miguel Market

Once you finish meandering through Plaza Mayor, head over to the San Miguel Market. It’s the perfect place for food for everyone. This food market has all kinds of food from churros to fish and everything in between. I was also able to get a blended cold coffee there which made me very happy. It’s busy and hectic, especially at lunch time, but that’s part of its charm. Purchase something from as many vendors as you want and get a tasting or two as well.

San Miguel Market
Have lunch at the San Miguel Market
Churros at the San Miguel Market
You can find heaps of Churros at the San Miguel Market

Rooftop Sangria at Circulo de Bellas Artes

Now that your belly is full of food, it’s time for sangria! Or, if you’re not into sangria (do those people exist?) perhaps another drink. When I travel, I love to get a bird’s eye view of city. It makes for a great photo and it helps me see how the city is laid out. From the San Miguel Market, walk over to Circle de Bellas Artes for a drink on the roof. If you don’t want a drink, then go for the views. It’s a 20 minute walk from the market so you’ll have time to walk off lunch. Feel free to go inside a couple shops as well on your way. 😉 Circulo de Bellas Artes cost 3 euros to go up, but you’ve got an elevator waiting for you and stunning views at the top. On a clear day like we had, you can see forever.

Circle de Bellas Artes for a drink on the roof
Visit Circle de Bellas Artes for a drink on the roof and stunning views
rooftop bar in Madrid
Take in the stunning views from the rooftop bar in Madrid

Paddle Boat at Parque del Buen Retiro

Next up, it’s time for a lovely afternoon of paddle boats at the park. From Circulo de Bellas Artes you are about a 10 minute walk over to Parque del Buen Retiro. Not only is this a beautiful park, but you can rent paddle boats as well. When we went, it was 8 euros for up to 4 people in one boat (it’s 6 euros if you go during the week or non-holiday days). They are very easy to paddle and provide for another lovely photo op. After paddle boating, spend some time wandering around the park, visit a few more shops and enjoy your afternoon because you have some great fun planned for dinner.

Paddle a boat around Parque del Buen Retiro
Paddle a boat around Parque del Buen Retiro

Dinner Tour of Wine and Tapas

Finally, dinner time has arrived which means it’s time for wine and tapas! I highly recommend taking a tour (they do both afternoon and evening ones) which will take you four different locations each with several tapas and a glass of wine. You’ll get to experience how the locals go about eating tapas and learn a bit of history as well. We loved this tour as it took us to places we definitely would not have found on our own and we got to meet a few other travelers which is always fun.

Book a Dinner tour of wine and tapas
Book a Dinner tour of wine and tapas to explore unique restaurants around Madrid

If You Have More Time

That wraps up the perfect one day itinerary for Madrid, but if you have more time, there is always more to see. On Sundays in Madrid, you can go to El Rastro which is a large flea market. There’s also a bull ring that you can tour as well if that’s your thing. Have you been to Madrid? If so, what did you do? Let me know in the comments!

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