Is One Day in Madrid Enough?

“Is one day in Madrid enough?,” I wondered as we checked our travel plans to move onto the next city.

It wasn’t my first time in the capital of Spain and I had better expectations the second time around. I thoroughly enjoyed having a late night dinner (aren’t 9:45pm, which is typical there), knowing we weren’t rushing off to a site.

The culture is the main attraction here. But how long do you need to experience the city?

I realized what the appeal of Madrid is on my second trip there: it’s a city people live and work and where you can temporarily be a part of the culture.

It’s a thriving one with awesome cuisine and lots of delicious Spanish wine to go along with it. Sites are not overwhelming; I imagine most people have one to four things on their “wish list” when visiting. Our second trip had a bucket list item on it for Dan, which is why we found it absolutely necessary to start a two-week trip to Europe in Madrid.

Where is Madrid? 

It’s nearly smack dab in the middle of Spain. Madrid is where the Spanish monarch (achem, the king!) resides (he has virtually no power but the Spanish monarchy has been around for centuries and still survives) and is the center of the country’s economy. It’s the third-largest metropolitan area and city in the European Union.

Madrid has a major international airport and many train stations and routes to escape the city (or enter it from the suburbs and surrounding nearby cities) as well.

There are many things to do in Madrid, Spain. But people often wonder is one day enough in Madrid? We answer that question while showing you photography of this popular travel destination. From art, to food, and architecture attractions we have all the tips covered on Sometimes Home, including the best food hall in the city! Click through for more information! #Madrid #MadridSpain #RetiroPark

Is One Day Enough? 

The beauty of Madrid is its location, which provides easy access to other cities. Thus my answer to this question is somewhat vague, though my immediate response would be: “Yes, one day is enough if it’s a full 24 hours.”

Ideally, however, you could spend two nights and at least one complete day in the city to see all the best things Madrid has to offer.

If you’re including Madrid on a trip itinerary I suggest making it your home base for three to four days. This would allow you one day dedicated to Madrid and several evenings with days left for exploring some nearby cities.

Evenings in Madrid are important because if you do a day trip to a smaller, surrounding city and arrive back to Madrid anywhere from 8:00pm to 11:00pm, let’s say, you’ll still have plenty of dinner options.

There will be many restaurants still open at that hour when you arrive to your Madrid home base. That’s the beauty of Madrid! (Dinner is usually around 10:00pm in the city though you can eat earlier or later if you like.)

And you can also have breakfast or brunch in Madrid in the morning before you head out for a day trip because things in Europe don’t open as early as in the US, sometimes.

What Should You Experience in One Day? 

A trip to Madrid should include at least these five things:

  1. A visit to Plaza Mayor to people watch
  2. Time at a museum
  3. Tour of the Royal Palace
  4. …and the Cathedral Next Door)
  5. Food! Tapas, beer, wine and ham {if you eat meat} are a must!
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There are many things to do in Madrid, Spain. But people often wonder is one day enough in Madrid? We answer that question while showing you photography of this popular travel destination. From art, to food, and architecture attractions we have all the tips covered on Sometimes Home, including information on the Royal Palace area! Click through for all the information! #Madrid #MadridSpain #RoyalPalace

Walk Through Plaza Mayor and People Watch

Plaza Mayor literally translates to “main square.” That’s exactly what this beautiful location is. It’s a meeting location for tours, a place to grab a drink and enjoy the atmosphere or simply grab a seat by one of the lamp bases and people watch.

You’ll see the plaza is filled with people dining outside but, since I’m a practical person who doesn’t like to overpay, I always skip it since prices in the square are inflated. If you’re itching to live large but not pay for a meal, however, perhaps just grab a beer.

I suggest walking just a couple of blocks to get a calamari sandwich for a very delicious, affordable meal for about five euros, including a glass of wine and olives. I also suggest signing up for a free walking tour of the city, which most likely starts in Plaza Mayor.

There are many things to do in Madrid, Spain. But people often wonder is one day enough in Madrid? We answer that question while showing you photography of this popular travel destination. From art, to food, and architecture attractions we have all the tips covered on Sometimes Home, including information on hot spots like Plaza Mayor! Click through for all the information! #Madrid #MadridSpain #SpanishFood #PlazaMayor
There are many things to do in Madrid, Spain. But people often wonder is one day enough in Madrid? We answer that question while showing you photography of this popular travel destination. From art, to food, and architecture attractions we have all the tips covered on Sometimes Home, including information on hot spots like Plaza Mayor! Click through for all the information! #Madrid #MadridSpain #SpanishFood #PlazaMayor

Spend Time at a Museum

There are plenty of choices for wonderful museums to visit when you’re in Madrid. Here are three options:

I suggest the Reina Sofia to see Picasso’s world famous painting, Guernica. That was Dan’s life bucket list item and wow – did it leave us in awe. It’s quite incredible. I could have stared at it for hours.

No matter what museum you select, pay the extra couple of euros for an audioguide. You’ll get more out of your visit if you listen to the commentary on paintings that have it, especially Guernica.

There are many things to do in Madrid, Spain. But people often wonder is one day enough in Madrid? We answer that question while showing you photography of this popular travel destination. From art, to food, and architecture attractions we have all the tips covered on Sometimes Home! (Including where to find one of Picasso's most famous paintings!) Click through for the complete post! #Madrid #MadridSpain #SpanishFood #artmuseums #reinasofia #picasso

Tour the Royal Palace

The Royal Palace is huge and out of its hundreds of rooms there are about 20 guests can tour. You simply pay for admission and do a self-guided walk through. Audioguides are optional for an additional cost but I recommend getting one. (Entrance is free after 6:00pm for EU citizens.)

Don’t miss the view from the palace and adjacent gardens. When you look out from the terrace of the arched colonnade caddy corner to the palace you’ll feel transported to the Spanish mountains.

There are many things to do in Madrid, Spain. But people often wonder is one day enough in Madrid? We answer that question while showing you photography of this popular travel destination. From art, to food, and architecture attractions we have all the tips covered on Sometimes Home, including information on the Royal Palace area! Click through for all the information! #Madrid #MadridSpain #RoyalPalace
There are many things to do in Madrid, Spain. But people often wonder is one day enough in Madrid? We answer that question while showing you photography of this popular travel destination. From art, to food, and architecture attractions we have all the tips covered on Sometimes Home, including information on the Royal Palace area! Click through for all the information! #Madrid #MadridSpain #RoyalPalace

Visit Almudena Cathedral Next Door

If time allows, visit the catholic cathedral next to the Royal Palace. The first photo below was taken with the palace at my back, facing the facade of Almudena Cathedral.

It’s free to visit and the ceiling paintings inside its Neo-Gothic interior is modern and uniqeuly colorful. It’s unlike any church I’ve seen on all my travels. If you have even ten minutes I recommend taking a look inside.

Almudena Crypt next to the church costs two euros to enter and is certainly worth the minimal fee for an interesting visit. Allow about twenty to forty minutes to walk through the crypt, depending on the speed you choose to experience it, reading the tombs and such.

There are many things to do in Madrid, Spain. But people often wonder is one day enough in Madrid? We answer that question while showing you photography of this popular travel destination. From art, to food, and architecture attractions we have all the tips covered on Sometimes Home, including information on the Royal Palace area! Click through for all the information! #Madrid #MadridSpain #RoyalPalace There are many things to do in Madrid, Spain. But people often wonder is one day enough in Madrid? We answer that question while showing you photography of this popular travel destination. From art, to food, and architecture attractions we have all the tips covered on Sometimes Home! (Including where this beautiful church is!) Click through for the complete post! #Madrid #MadridSpain #SpanishFood #artmuseums #tapas #plazamayor #churrosThere are many things to do in Madrid, Spain. But people often wonder is one day enough in Madrid? We answer that question while showing you photography of this popular travel destination. From art, to food, and architecture attractions we have all the tips covered on Sometimes Home, including the best food hall in the city! Click through for more information! #Madrid #MadridSpain #CathedralCrypt

Visit Retiro Park

This well known park in Madrid is vast! There are many areas of the park from various gardens to tennis courts. As a tourist, I think the two best places to visit in Retiro Park is the lake with rowboats and the statue and colonnade you see in the photo below and the glass conservatory.

The coolest thing about the stairs by the lake (they’re just under the statue) is there’s usually someone selling cans of beer for a couple euros and often someone playing music. It’s the perfect place to watch the sunset (which is usually later in the evening in Madrid). This area is called, “Estanque grande del Retiro” on Google Maps.

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There are many things to do in Madrid, Spain. But people often wonder is one day enough in Madrid? We answer that question while showing you photography of this popular travel destination. From art, to food, and architecture attractions we have all the tips covered on Sometimes Home! This park view is worth a visit so click through for all the info! #Madrid #MadridSpain #SpanishFood #artmuseums #tapas #retiropark

The glass conservatory is called, “Palacio de Cristal.” It was built in the late 19th century and is currently operated under the Reina Sofia museum.

It is sometimes used for art exhibits and is made almost entirely of glass and iron, manufactured in Bilbao, northern Spain. The lake right next to Palacio de Cristal is great for photos too. I love the Weeping Willow trees that line the water in some spots.

There are many things to do in Madrid, Spain. But people often wonder is one day enough in Madrid? We answer that question while showing you photography of this popular travel destination. From art, to food, and architecture attractions we have all the tips covered on Sometimes Home! This park view is worth a visit so click through for all the info! #Madrid #MadridSpain #SpanishFood #artmuseums #tapas #retiropark

Eat Tapas, Drink Wine and Beer, and Have Churros and Chocolate (or Take a Food Tour)

The food is incredible all over Spain. Though I admit some of these spots are touristy, I believe they become tourist hotspots for good reason!

The food hall Mercado de San Miguel is a great place to go if you want to try a variety of Spanish foods. They have incredible olive creations (they’re bigger olives than you may have ever seen in your life!) and fresh burrata mozzarella.

There’s wine and cocktails a-plenty and fresh fish options to go with it. I love that they have unique finds specific to Spain here as well, like “gulas,” which most of the time is simply fish protein not the original baby eels. Trust me – it’s good!

Madrid Food Tours

The market is open daily from 10:00am to midnight, with two extra hours to eat Thursday, Friday and Saturday until 2:00am. The hours are slightly different on Christmas and New Year’s so be sure to check their website for details.

Also note it gets VERY busy here during peak times so be sure to bring a lot of patience if you’re visiting and watch your wallet/purse! You can never be too safe abroad.

There are many things to do in Madrid, Spain. But people often wonder is one day enough in Madrid? We answer that question while showing you photography of this popular travel destination. From art, to food, and architecture attractions we have all the tips covered on Sometimes Home, including the best food hall in the city! Click through for more information! #Madrid #MadridSpain #SpanishFood #FoodHall #MercardoSanMiguel
There are many things to do in Madrid, Spain. But people often wonder is one day enough in Madrid? We answer that question while showing you photography of this popular travel destination. From art, to food, and architecture attractions we have all the tips covered on Sometimes Home, including the best food hall in the city! Click through for more information! #Madrid #MadridSpain #SpanishFood #FoodHall #MercardoSanMiguel

If you’ve heard the rumors some Spanish bars provide “tapas” (or free small plates) in Spain you’ll be able to find that at a few select places in Madrid. They’re not everywhere as you may have been led to believe by food shows but you can find them. Dan and I ate our way through one street one evening where a local recommended three tapas bars.

  1. El Respiro (Address: Calle de las Infantas, 34, 28004, Madrid, Spain)
  2. El Pezvador (Calle de las Infantas, 9, 28004, Madrid, Spain)
  3. Da Meigas (Calle de Barbieri, 6, 28004, Madrid, Spain)

They seem to all start off with a plate of paella – and while we like it it’s not like these bars make the most delicious or authentic paella. So by the third bar we said, “Oh no thank you – we don’t like paella!” then they’d give us the next tapa on their obvious list in their head for order of tapas.

Granted if we were local and spoke Spanish we could perhaps have requested a certain tapa but we weren’t local and don’t speak the language.

If you want a great experience with a guide who can teach you about Spanish tapas, we can’t recommend Devour Food Tours enough.

There are many things to do in Madrid, Spain. But people often wonder is one day enough in Madrid? We answer that question while showing you photography of this popular travel destination. From art, to food, and architecture attractions we have all the tips covered on Sometimes Home! We also tell you where to get free tapas! #Madrid #MadridSpain #SpanishFood #cerveza #tapas

Spain is known for Chocolate and Churros (or Churros con Chocolate, in Spanish). There’s one very famous place you have to try them in Madrid. Again, it’s a bit touristy but it’s well known for this treat for good reason: San Gines.

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It’s open 24 hours a day, 365 days a week. Go during off times for the greatest chance there’s no line. And if there is a line…it’s rather large inside so you potentially won’t have to wait long. It’s been around since 1894 and they building and its design finishes are beautiful. (Address: Pasadizo de San Ginés, 5, 28013 Madrid, Spain)

There are many things to do in Madrid, Spain. But people often wonder is one day enough in Madrid? We answer that question while showing you photography of this popular travel destination. From art, to food, and architecture attractions we have all the tips covered on Sometimes Home! (Including where to find the best churros and chocolate!) Click through for the complete post! #Madrid #MadridSpain #SpanishFood #artmuseums #tapas #plazamayor #churros

If You Stay Longer…Take a Day Trip

There are a lot of options for day trips in Madrid. I suggest these three:

Also there’s more to see in Madrid and you can certainly fill many days there, especially taking a “slow travel” method to really immerse yourself in the culture and lifestyle. But again, one day is enough to hit the hotspots!

Madrid or Elsewhere? 

Also check out our article about Madrid versus Seville on the Department of Wandering.

Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post, which means we may earn a small commission if you click the link and proceed with a purchase. We truly only recommend products or services we personally use. 

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How much time would you spend in Madrid?
There are many things to do in Madrid, Spain. But people often wonder is one day enough in Madrid? We answer that question while showing you photography of this popular travel destination. From art, to food, and architecture attractions we have all the tips covered on Sometimes Home, including the best food hall in the city! Click through for more information! #Madrid #MadridSpain #SpanishFood #FoodHall #MercardoSanMiguel
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