Most attractions on this page are free with the Madrid Card, apart from the food. The Madrid Card gets you in for free in most of Madrid's major attractions. Its recent drop in price makes it an essential way to enjoy Madrid. The Five-Day Madrid Card costs under 15€ per day.
See also: Spain Tours Departing from Madrid
1. Madrid Suggested Itinerary: Day 1
Breakfast Get a leisurely breakfast in Plaza Mayor. Normally such tourist traps should be avoided as they have a great setting but serve bad food at inflated prices. But 6€ instead of 3€ for coffee, a croissant and an orange juice is better than 30€ for a mediocre meal you could have got for 15€ elsewhere.
Noon As a new arrival in the city, a general guided tour is a must. Some visitors to Madrid don't see what all the fuss about, as the city doesn't have the "wow factor" of Barcelona. But the pretty and interesting bits are there. A tour shows you them.
I recommend the Discover Madrid guided tours. At the time of writing there were ten tours (including three seasonal tours). Check out the Essential Madrid (Itinerary I) for your first day, which starts at midday every day except Sunday. If it's a Saturday, you can also do a cycling tour. The tours are cheap, and are free with the Madrid Card.
If noon isn't convenient for you, you can book a separate Madrid Guided Tour (book direct).
Lunch As you've just arrived, why not splash out? El Botin has the dual accolade of being the oldest restaurant in the world (the Guinness Book of Records says so) and Ernest Hemingway's favorite restaurant (he describes it as the best restaurant in the world in the book The Sun Also Rises). With the Madrid Card you get a complementary half-bottle of wine per person with your meal.
Afternoon Stop for a coffee or a beer in Plaza del Oriente, in front of the Royal Palace and Cathedral. Then take a tour of the Royal Palace. The Madrid Card gets you in for free and there's no need to stand in line.
Late Afternoon Are you interested in bullfighting in Madrid? Then head across town and take the bullfighting tour at the bullring, also free with the Madrid Card. Will you be in Madrid on a Sunday in spring or summer? Then there might be a bullfight (not included in the Madrid Card). Enquire at the bullring about tickets.
If bullfighting isn't up your alley, hang around the Madrid de las Austrias area and explore. Interested in flamenco? The music store El Flamenco Vive is a great place to buy some music.
2. Madrid Suggested Itinerary: Day 2
Breakfast The classic Spanish breakfast is chocolate con churros. But these days a lot of cafes serve churros cooked hours earlier with powdered chocolate. For the real deal, visit the Chocolateria de San Gines near Sol for freshly-made churros and chocolate.
Morning Visit the Madrid's main post office at Plaza de Cibeles, one of the most splendid buildings in Madrid. From here you can walk up to Gran Via, Madrid's most famous street. Today, shopping is the main occupation of those walking along Gran Via, but the grand buildings hint at the street's glorious past.
Make your way towards Plaza de España from here, either following Gran Via all the way down or by meandering through the streets on either side. On the right you have Malasaña and Chueca; on the left you have the Sol district.
Take your pick of the sights here:
Lunch Malasaña and Chueca are great for cheap lunch time "Menus del dia" (meals of the day). Check out my list of the best restaurants in Madrid that have such a menu. Alternatively, get tapas. In this part of town you have the most hectic tapas bar in Spain, El Tigre, where a small beer gets you a whole plate of tapas for free, and you also have wine and ham at Stop Madrid.
Evening The hippest nightlife in Madrid is in Malasaña. Just don't head into the bars until at least 10pm. Most bars don't get going until midnight.
3. Madrid Suggested Itinerary: Day 3
Breakfast Breakfast in Spain is typically taken hurriedly, stood at the bar in a cafe. Go to any cafe after about 8am to partake in the ritual. Or take a look at this list of my favorite breakfasts in Madrid.
Morning A morning walk in the Retiro before it gets too warm is a great way to pass an hour or two in the morning. Then walk down the Paseo del Prado to the Atocha train station. It's more than just a train station, as you'll see...
Lunch An institution in Madrid is the Calamare sandwich at El Brillante. If you're not enamoured with squid rings, there is plenty more to eat here.
Afternoon Have you heard about Madrid's excellent art museums? Two of Madrid's most famous art museums See one of the two main museums in the afternoon. Take your pick of these two, but come back for the other one another day!
- Prado National Museum for pre-20th century art
- Reina Sofía National Museum and Art Centre for modern art.
Evening Explore the Huertas area. The main attraction of this barrio is the nightlife. Read more about this area here: Huertas
4. Madrid Suggested Itinerary: Day 4
Area(s) Explored Today: La Latina
Morning By now you've seen most of the major areas of Madrid. What do you want to see now? Are you a sports fan? Then visit the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. Hate Real Madrid? Then visit their rivals at Atlético de Madrid.
Want more museums? The following all have free entry with the Madrid Card:
Andén 0, Lope de Vega House Museum, Casita Museo de Ratón Pérez, Cerralbo Museum, MUICO. Museo Colecciones ICO, Aeronautics and Astronautics Museum, Museum of the Americas, Outdoor Sculpture Museum, Wax Museum, History Museum, Spanish National Library Museum, La Almudena Cathedral Museum, The Museum of the City., The Royal Mint Museum, Museum of origins, Railway Museum, National Museum of Romanticism, Costume Museum, Geomining Museum, Museo Lázaro Galdiano, Reina Sofía National Art Museum, National Museum of Anthropology, National Museum of Decorative Arts, The National Science and Technology Museum, National Museum of Natural Science, Prado National Museum, Museo Naval, Sorolla Museum, Bullfighting Museum, The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and The Blind Museum.
Late Afternoon Visit La Latina. Check out the plaza and church of San Andres and the Basilica of San Francisco. You have two great options here for food - either paella at Arrozal or tapas on Cava Baja.
Evening If you want to see live flamenco, you have a few options in this area. You can have flamenco with all the pomp and ceremony, in which case you should choose a tablao, or go for something more low key at La Solea. Read more about Flamenco in Madrid.
5. Madrid Suggested Itinerary: Day 5
But why not take a day trip out of Madrid? Some of Spain's finest smaller cities are close to Madrid. The Madrid Card gets you in for free at the El Escorial Monastery, the resting place of hundreds of years of Spanish monarchs, and the nearby Valle de los Caidos, where Spain's twentieth century dictator, General Franco, is buried. Or how about the Roman aqueduct and fairytale castle of Segovia, Toledo, city of the three faiths, or the UNESCO-protected turrets and city walls ofAvila? Read more about these and other Madrid Day Trips.