One Day in Madrid, Spain – The Best Things to Do

Madrid was easily one of our favorite European cities.  Though Madrid is commonly overlooked by tourists hoping to enjoy Spain along the coast, this is definitely a destination Kevin and I recommend adding to your bucket list.  Madrid is full of Spanish history, high-end shopping, beautiful cafes, lush gardens and more!  Below is our list of places you will want to visit during your one day trip to Madrid, Spain.

What to do in Madrid, Spain with 24 Hours or Less

Retiro Park

Retiro Park is one of Madrid’s largest and most visited parks.  Located on the edge of the city only a few blocks from Alcala Gate, Retiro Park is 350 acres and filled with things to do and see.  In the center of the park is a peaceful artificial lake that many enjoy exercising around in the morning hours.  In the afternoon, this area is packed with people enjoying the sites and local vendors selling their merchandise. 

Monument Alfonzo one day in madrid spain instagram location
Alfonso XII Monument on the eastern edge of Retiro Park.

Next to the lake, on the eastern edge, you can find the famous Alfonso XII monument.  The monument is 98-feet high and 190-feet wide and is definitely something you’ll want to see while exploring the park. 

Palacio de Cristal del Retiro, this place is STUNNING.  One day in madrid
Palacio de Cristal del Retiro, this place is STUNNING.

Additionally, Retiro Park is home to the Palacio de Cristal del Retiro or The Glass Palace of Retiro.  The palace was built in 1887 by Ricardo Velazquez Bosco and is easily one of the finest examples of iron architecture in the area.  The Glass Palace is located only a short walk from the lake and free of charge for visitors.  The Glass Palace is open from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm every day. However, Kevin and I recommend getting there as early as possible because there is usually a long line to get into the palace.

The inside of Palacio de Cristal del Retiro.  The entire palace is made of glass and iron, how cool!   Palacio de Cristal one day in madrid inside
The inside of Palacio de Cristal del Retiro. The entire palace is made of glass and iron, how cool!

Alcala Gate

Alcala Gate is another must-see monument in Madrid.  Located in Plaza de la Independencia, Alcala Gate was originally built to mark the eastern border of the city.  Alaca Gate is bisected by Alaca Street and stands alone in the middle of a lush garden.  Surrounding the gate are a number of restaurants that are always crowded with people enjoying the good food and even better views.

Alcala Gate.  One day in Madrid, Spain. Instagram worthy places. What to see in Madrid.

Protip: If you are planning on eating at one of the restaurants surrounding Alaca Gate make a reservation in advance, especially if you are planning to eat after 8:00 pm.

The Royal Palace of Madrid

The Royal Palace of Madrid embodies the history of Spain.  Once the home of Spanish royalty such as Charles III and Alfonso XIII, the royal palace is full of historic memories.  Though the royal family no longer resides within the palace, it continues to be recognized as the royal residence. 

The Royal Palace of Madrid - one day in spain
The entrance of The Royal Palace of Madrid. You must purchase tickets to have access to this area.

Not only is the palace gorgeous but the palace gardens, commonly known as the Sabatini Gardens, are even more beautiful.

The Sabatini Gardens.  The Royal Palace of Madrid grounds. One day in Madrid, Spain. Instagram worthy places. What to see in Madrid.
The Sabatini Gardens, where you can enjoy this fabulous view of The Royal Palace of Madrid.

Protip: Visiting the inside of The Royal Palace of Madrid does cost a small entrance fee of 7.00 – 13.00 euros per person.

The Royal Palace of Madrid.  The Royal Palace of Madrid grounds. One day in Madrid, Spain. Instagram worthy places. What to see in Madrid.

Temple of Debod

The Temple of Debod, located at the edge of the city in West Park, is another well-known site in Madrid.  The temple is an ancient Egyptian temple that was rebuilt in Madrid after the Great Dam of Aswan was created.  This temple is free to visit and open to the public.

Kevin and I recommend getting there early though since we arrived around 6:00 pm and there was a very long line to get into the monument.

The Temple of Debod.  West Park Madrid. One day in Madrid, Spain. Instagram worthy places. What to see in Madrid.
The Temple of Debod, Kevin and I recommend going early if you want access to the temple or at sunrise/sunset if you want to view it in pretty lighting.

The Neighborhood of Malasana

If you like trendy, hipster neighborhoods then Malasana is not one you’ll want to miss.  The small neighborhood is vibrant and full of amazing Instagram worthy shops and cafes that you’ll want to see for yourself.

Mercado de San Miguel

Looking for somewhere with great drinks and even better food, head to Mercado de San Miguel.  Mercado de San Miguel is over 100 years old and one of the main gastronomic markets in the world.  The market is full of tasty Spanish treats such as Iberian ham, local cheeses, fresh seafood brought in daily, and more. 

Mercado de San Miguel.  One day in Madrid, Spain. Instagram worthy places. What to see in Madrid.

Kevin and I enjoyed tapas from the mozzarella bar, Mozheart, and empanadas from La Hora del Vermut.

Mercado de San Miguel.  One day in Madrid, Spain. Instagram worthy places. What to see in Madrid.
Mercado de San Miguel.  One day in Madrid, Spain. Instagram worthy places. What to see in Madrid.

El miniBar

Kevin and I stopped here after exploring the Royal Palace of Madrid and loved this bar!  El minibar is located near Plaza Mayor and Mercado de San Miguel. This bar is famous for its delicious cheap eats, cold drinks, and wonderful sangria. 

For those traveling on a budget or just hoping to enjoy authentic Spanish tapas, this place is a MUST!

El miniBar.  Cheap eats in Madrid. One day in Madrid, Spain. Instagram worthy places. What to see in Madrid.
We totally recommend El miniBar, this place was incredible!

Must See Cafes

PSA: Kevin and I were in Madrid for only one day and therefore unable to enjoy all of these cafes. However, we have heard really good things about each one.

La Bicicleta Cafe

Located in Plaza de San Ildefonso, La Bicicleta Cafe is a local cafe booming with students, locals, and tourists.  La Bicicleta offers free wifi and a fun and welcoming environment as well as delicious treats and beverages.

Federal Cafe

Though Federal Cafe is a chain throughout Spain, Kevin and I definitely recommend checking it out!  Along with its Instagram worthy atmosphere, Federal Cafe is known for its white chocolate and raspberry layered sponge cake and its flat white.

Plantate Cafe

Plantate Cafe is another cafe known for its Instagram worthy atmosphere and decor.  Here you can enjoy delicious eats such as avocado toast while relaxing among the array of plants.  Not hungry? No worries, Plantate Cafe also offers great drinks such as cold press coffee and various herbal teas.

Toma Cafe

Toma Cafe is not one you’ll want to pass up.  Known for its hipster vibe and freshly made treats this little cafe has a lot to offer.  Kevin and I recommend trying a mocha or caramel iced latte paired with a slice of whatever loaf cake was baked fresh that day. 

Terraza Cibeles

Terraza Cibeles is a wonderful cocktail bar located on the sixth floor of Madrid’s iconic Cultural Center.  Though cocktails are pricer here than at other bars, the view of the square below makes the extra euros per glass worth it. 

Terraza Cibeles.  One day in Madrid, Spain. Instagram worthy places. What to see in Madrid.

Protip: If you want a good seat overlooking the square make sure to arrive early. Terraza Cibeles fills up quick!

Looking for something to eat, right next to Terraza Cibeles on the sixth floor, is Palacio de Cibeles.  Palacio de Cibeles is a beautiful restaurant offering traditional Spanish cuisine made by the wonderful Chef Adolfo Munoz.

If you are looking for something more laid back, Coleccion Cibeles is located on the second floor of the Cultural Center and offers tapas and wine. 

Pizza at El Trebol

Most of you won’t go to Madrid and eat pizza, but for those of you that do, El Trebol is a must!  El Trebol is located on Calle del Noviciado and is a small restaurant offering Argentinian style pizza!  Kevin and I went here after enjoying a few drinks at Terraza Cibeles and loved it!  We enjoyed a spinach and cheese and ham and cheese empanada in addition to two local beers for only 12.00 euros!

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Summary

Planning a trip to Spain and only spending one day in Madrid, let us help you plan the perfect itinerary. Madrid has so much to offer such as The Royal Palace of Madrid, Retiro Park, The Temple of Debod, numerous cafes and eateries and much more!

Below are a few of our favorite places in Madrid, Spain. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

  1. Retiro Park
  2. Alcala Gate
  3. The Royal Palace of Madrid
  4. Temple of Debod
  5. The Neighborhood of Malasana
  6. Mercado de San Miguel
  7. El miniBar
  8. Must See Cafes
  9. Terraza Cibeles
  10. Pizza at El Trebol

Have any recommendation we didn’t mention in our post? Feel free to leave a comment below. We love to hear about new places to add to our itinerary for next time!

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Taylor Mathers

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