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One Day in Madrid, Spain Itinerary

One Day in Madrid, Spain Itinerary

Have you ever visited a place you were so looking forward to, but everything seems to be working against you? That is how we felt when we spent one day in Madrid, Spain. Even before we got to the city things were against us. From the moment we were leaving to Madrid to the moment we were about to leave Madrid, it was one bad thing after another.

Still the city was beautiful and we had such an amazing AirBnB host that was accommodating to our circumstances. Those circumstances began when we were leaving Ronda after a day. We arrived at the train station in Ronda on the day of our departure thinking we would be able to book a train to Madrid no problem. Turns out they were all sold out.

We found a bus that would take us to Malaga where we would spend half a day and then we would take a night bus to Madrid. Not a horrible solution. And Malaga was a really nice unplanned stop in our Spain trip. However, this really limited our already limited time in Madrid.

We arrived in the city before the sun even rose. With our AirBnB host still sleeping, we searched for a place that was open other than the bus terminal that we could have some coffee. The place that showed up was the Chocolatería San Ginés. A Chocolateria founded in 1894 and open 24 hours a day. It was the best and most unexpected way to start our trip in Madrid.

Finally, the sun rose and we were ready to meet up with our AirBnB host. She let us in before she left for work and we quickly found the bed and took a quick nap before we set out into the city. The rest of the day was spent wandering the city as much as we could.

Here is what we did with our one day in Madrid, Spain.

One Day in Madrid, Spain Itinerary

One Day in Madrid


  • Arrived in Madrid before sunset and relaxed at the 24/7 Chocolatería San Ginés.
  • Checked into our AirBnB and started our walking tour at El Retiro Park.
  • Continued our walking tour through Gran Vía and got lunch in the Universidad area.
  • Visited Templo de Debod and enjoyed the crowds at Puerta del Sol.
  • Went to Botin for dinner.

What to See in Madrid in One Day

What We Did


What We Missed

  • Royal Palace of Madrid

  • We did not make it to the Royal Palace, the main residence of the Spanish royal family in Madrid that began construction in 1735. You can buy tickets to tour the various rooms filled with art and antiques. It receives a lot of great reviews and looks gorgeous to tour if you are interested in the art, antiques, and architecture of the 18th century.

  • Catedral de la Almudena

  • While you are at the Royal Palace of Madrid, you may as well visit this cathedral just next door to marvel at the stunning architecture of the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Madrid.

  • Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, National Archaeological Museum

  • Museo Nacional del Prado would be the museum you need to visit if you are interested in art. Largely considered to have the finest collection of European art from the 12th century. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía is the next museum you would visit for 20th century artwork, followed by Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum with more art from the 13th to 20th centuries. If historical artifacts are more your style of museum then you should visit the National Archaelogical Museum.

  • Santiago Bernabéu Stadium

  • It would have been amazing to see a Real Madrid FC game take place to just soak in that atmosphere of a soccer game.

  • Real Jardín Botánico

  • It seems like a botanical garden always finds its way onto our list of things we missed in various cities. It really is not something high on our list of attractions to visit especially when we have such limited time in a city. That being said, just because it is not for us does not mean that it is not for you.

Where to Eat in Madrid

What We Did

  • Chocolatería San Ginés

  • This place saved us on the night of our arrival. We did not want to spend hours in a bus terminal waiting for our AirBnB host to wake up so we found this place, open 24/7! Chocolate, churros, and coffee. Do you need anything else? It is also a historic place having been founded in 1894. A definite must-visit for all chocolate and churros lovers.

    Chocolatería San Ginés, Madrid, Spain

  • Botin

  • Talk about history. This restaurant is the oldest in the world! Opened in 1725, they have some excellent wine, cheese, and meats for any fine dining lover in a restaurant that looks historic from the small spaces to the old stone oven that they use. This place is pricey, but a great experience in of itself.

    Botin, Oldest Restaurant in the World, Madrid, Spain

  • Universidad Area

  • If you want some interesting choices to eat in a great environment, then you need to visit the Universidad area along the historical Gran Vía street. Here you can find some great bars and restaurants to eat at. We visited one for lunch. There are lots of choices so we suggest to walk there and tour around to find the right atmosphere for yourself.


What We Missed

  • San Miguel Market

  • This market was originally build in 1916 and was later saved in the 2000s by private investors. You can visit during its open hours to order tapas and various foods. This is the place you want to go for lunch to see the lovely architecture and the tapas culture.

Where to Shop in Madrid

  • Puerta del Sol

  • Puerta del Sol is a massive square and one of the busiest places in the city of Madrid. There are lots of shopping areas around this square and a perfect place to tour around if you were looking to shop while in the city.

    Puerto del Sol, Madrid, Spain

  • El Rastro

  • If you are visiting on a Sunday then you will want to visit this outdoor market filled with music and various gifts to purchase. While you are there you can visit the surrounding area for tapas restaurants and bars.

How to Get Around Madrid

  • Taxi

  • Taxis in Spain are reliable and fairly inexpensive. We only used one to speed up the traveling from Temple Debod to Botin for dinner. We also used a taxi when we were trying to leave the city, but more on that in the conclusion.

  • Walking

  • We walked nearly the whole time we were in Madrid. It is such a beautiful city to just get out and stroll around. From the moment we left the rented apartment to the time we came back for the night, it was a feast for the eyes. We always recommend just walking around a city as much as you can. Not only is it healthy for you, but it is also the best way to find hidden gems and to really soak in the city.

    How to Get to Madrid

    We took an overnight bus from Malaga to get to Madrid. Since Madrid is a major city in Spain, there is no lack of ways to arrive in the city. There is an airport, train stations, and bus stations coming from the surrounding areas.

Where to Stay in Madrid


We stayed in an AirBnB in a fairly nice area with a good location. However, would we return we would definitely seek out a spot closer to the Universidad area where there is the historic Gran Vía street or towards the central Puerta del Sol plaza where you could enjoy the night for much longer if that is what you are interested in.

Throughout our tour of the city we really did not find an area that we did not like. The place we stayed was in the top floor of a two floor apartment, it was cramped with it being the attic of a slanted roof, but it served the purpose of a place to stay. At $60 USD per night, we may have been better off finding something a bit better in a different area.

Best Time to Visit Madrid

We visited in April and thought it was a great time to see the city. It was not yet overrun with crowds of tourists and we felt we had a lot of space within the city. The only place where we felt crowded was in Puerta del Sol where there is a large square with lots of shops and is actually the busiest place in the city. Even with that being crowded, most of the people were local and not tourists it seemed.

It is also a great time to visit the city because the temperatures are still perfect for a stroll through the city, not too cold and not too hot. This makes it a great time to visit perhaps March to May and then again in the Spring say September to November.


We really did enjoy Madrid. It is just that the city did not enjoy us. Getting there was a pain for us. Then when we were leaving the city, the worst happened. Since we could not book a train out of Ronda on the day of, we decided this time that we would book a train in advance. This means that we had a deadline to meet on the day of our departure.

When we were leaving our AirBnB, we were told by our host to leave the keys on the counter of the kitchen. Well, I did that and took half of our bags to the bottom of the stairwell and went back for the others that were still in the apartment. Turns out though that when you close a door in Madrid, it locks automatically. With the keys and half of our luggage still in the apartment…

Cue the panic. We could not get into the apartment, the keys were on the counter, and our luggage just on the other side of the door and the train leaving in an hour. I hoped on the AirBnB website to chat with our host about the situation. She let us come to her work and grab her keys to open the door. Unfortunately her work was about twenty minutes away by taxi. Going there, coming back, and then getting to the trains station took about an hour and a half and we were late for our train ride to Valencia.

Did I mention that trains are pricey in Spain and we were out almost $200 USD for this mistake. So, Madrid was an experience for us. Maybe one day we will return and get some closure to this great city and spend more time to get to know it better. For now, this is our memory of Madrid.


We would love to hear about your experience while in Madrid or to answer any questions you may have about your future trip. Leave a comment below!


Have a comment or something to add to this article? Leave a comment below or send us a response by contacting us.


Check out more from our experiences in Spain here.


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