The itinerary is planned for a weekend, arriving on Friday afternoon and leaving on Sunday evening. If you would like to do this same itinerary another day of the week, make sure to check out the opening hours of the museums and top attractions before your visit, as these can vary.
Once you have left your luggage at the hotel, head to Puerta del Sol. This central plaza is one of the most famous in Madrid and the busiest parts of the capital. After observing the statue of the “Oso y el Madroño” and other renowned symbols like the KM 0, we recommend taking a walk down the nearby shopping streets like Calle Preciados and exploring the well-known Gran Vía.
If you want to visit El Rastro Market on Sunday, we recommend doing as many things as possible on Saturday to make room for the flea market on Sunday morning.
The day begins bright and early in Puerta del Sol to see the city’s main symbols (if you haven’t already seen them on your arrival), such as the Kilometre zero and the statue of the bear and the strawberry tree (Oso y el Madroño). Once you have seen the Puerta del Sol, take the street “Calle Arenal” until you get to the Teatro Real (Royal Theatre), colloquially known as “Ópera”.
In front of the Opera House is the Plaza de Oriente, a remarkable square designed during the nineteenth century. If you walk through the plaza you will see the largest royal palace in Europe, the Royal Palace of Madrid, which you can visit taking a guided tour of the building. After leaving the royal residence, head to the Almudena Cathedral, Madrid's Catholic cathedral, which is located next to the Palace.
If you take Calle Mayor, you will get to Plaza de la Villa, a square in the historic center of Madrid that used to house the city’s town hall. Continue walking down Calle Mayor until you get to Plaza Mayor, a great place to go for “tapas” or to have a typical “bocadillo de calamares” (a calamari sandwich). The nearby Calle Cava de San Miguel also offers numerous restaurants.
If you haven’t yet visited Gran Vía, continue down Calle Mayor to get back to Puerta del Sol and walk down Calle Preciados, one of Madrid’s main shopping streets, until you get to Plaza de Callao. From there turn left down the impressive Gran Vía and walk to Plaza de España.
If you’ve already seen Gran Vía, we suggest taking an alternate route to Plaza de España. Walk back to the Royal Palace and take the stairs that lead down to the Jardines de Sabatini (Sabatini Gardens). These charming gardens offer a beautiful view of the Palace. Turn your back to the Palace and walk through the park until you get to the exit. Keep walking away from the Palace down Calle de Bailén, until you get to Plaza de España, a popular tourist destination with a large monument of Miguel de Cervantes.
From the square, take Calle Ferraz in the same direction until you get to the Parque del Oeste and the Temple of Debod. The temple was donated by the Egyptian state and dates back to the early second century BC. We suggest relaxing in the park after visiting the shrine, at least until the nightfall. The park sits on a hill overlooking the Casa de Campo (Madrid’s largest park), which makes it one of the best spots to watch the sunset.
We suggest heading back to Plaza de España for dinner. There are plenty of good restaurants and bars around the square and lining the adjacent streets.
The first stop on Sunday morning is the Banco de España metro station or Plaza de Cibeles (if you are staying in the centre and don’t need to take the metro). In the middle of the square is the striking Cibeles Fountain, a symbolic monument of the city and other famous buildings like the Bank of Spain and the Cybele Palace. Take the Paseo del Prado and to your left, you’ll see the Bolsa de Madrid (Madrid Stock Exchange) and the Monumento a los Caídos por España (Monument to Those Fallen for Spain), in Plaza de la Lealtad.
If you keep strolling down the Paseo del Prado you’ll come across two of the city’s most renowned hotels, the Ritz and the Palace hotels. The buildings are separated by the splendid square, Plaza de Cánovas del Castillo, where the elegant Neptune fountain stands.
A few steps away from the square, on the left side of the street, is the Prado Museum, the most important Spanish national art museum. The gallery houses masterpieces by Velázquez, El Greco, Bosch, Goya and Rubens.
Once you have visited the museum, keep heading down Paseo del Prado, walking past the Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid (Royal Botanical Garden) until you get to Atocha, Madrid’s main railway station. This is where the 11 March terrorist attacks took place.
Take Calle Alfonso XII until you come upon the Retiro Park. The park on Sundays is packed with people going for a stroll, children, musicians, magicians and other street artists, especially if it is sunny and warm. The park also offers interesting things to see like El Palacio de Cristal (Glass Palace).
After exploring the Park, head to one of its main entrances, the Plaza de la Independencia, where the Puerta de Alcalá stands. It is one of Madrid’s most emblematic symbols. After taking a few photos of this striking triumphal arch, take Calle de Alcalá towards Plaza de Cibeles. From here, you can either visit Plaza de Castilla and the Cuatro Torres (Four Towers), one of Madrid’s most modern areas. If you prefer to continue discovering the city’s main museums, we suggest heading to the Museo Reina Sofía and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. If you are a football fan and would like to visit the Real Madrid’s football stadium, why not take the metro to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium?
Over 2 days in Madrid?
If you are in Madrid for over two days, as well as visiting the Rastro Market, you can also go to the Parque de Atracciones (Madrid’s oldest amusement park), the Madrid Zoo Aquarium or see a Flamenco show in one of Madrid’s most famous “tablaos”. The capital of Spain is a city that never sleeps and offers endless things to do and places to visit.
Another option is to visit some of Madrid’s most beautiful surrounding towns, like Toledo, Ávila, Segovia, El Escorial, el Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen) or Aranjuez.