Recently, I had the opportunity to travel around Spain a bit and one of my destinations was the magnificent country’s capital, Madrid. Although I have visited it on other occasions as well, I was giddy with excitement as it is one of my favourite cities. There is so much to see and do in Madrid that one single visit is simply not enough. Let’s not forget that it is the biggest municipality in Spain after all. Unfortunately, on this visit I only had one day to wander around this spectacular city, therefore I had to plan my trip carefully in order to make the most of it. And I have to say that I had a blast! So, if you find yourself in Madrid with little time on your hands, here is a suggestion of how to spend 1 day in Madrid.
Where to eat in Madrid
Plaza Cristino Martos 2, 28015 Madrid, Spain
I started my visit relatively early so around 9 o’clock I was in the centre of Madrid. There are people who wake up in the morning chirping like happy birds. This is not me! If I don’t have a nice cup of steaming coffee I am grumpier than the Grumpy Cat. So, naturally, the first thing I did was to look for a nice café where I could also have a hearty breakfast. I didn’t have to walk for long before stumbling onto the perfect place.
Only a short walk from the centre, Mur Café is a little jewel that I’m so happy that I discovered. The first thing that you notice when you enter the café is the quaint atmosphere with beautiful, old-fashioned furniture. There is an option to sit inside or on the little terrace. I chose to sit inside because I spotted a comfortable armchair that had my name on it. There were quite a few people there, most of them eating breakfast, which I considered to be a good sign. As soon as I sat down, one of the waitresses came to take my order. I ordered a big coffee con leche (1.9€) and a breakfast bagel (7€). The coffee came right away and the bagel about 10 minutes later. Needless to say, it was delicious. The bagel, freshly made, was filled with cooked ham (jamon), cheddar cheese, a fried egg and chips on the side. The portions are generous, however, the people next to my table had the most mouth-watering slices of cake. I have a sweet tooth so I couldn’t help it and ordered a zanahoria cake which is carrot cake (4€). It was probably the best carrot cake I have ever eaten.
What I loved: Friendly and attentive staff, beautiful décor, relaxed atmosphere and affordable prices. I will surely return to Café Mur.
Calle de San Bernardo 120 | Metro Quevedo, Chamberí, 28015 Madrid, Spain
At around 1:30 pm my poor feet needed a rest, so I decided on a quick lunch before I continued my touristic marathon. Restaurant Mandioca caught my attention because of the beautiful façade and the fact that it has a lot of plants inside. I later found out that this restaurant whole-heartedly promotes healthy eating and prides itself with the quality of the ingredients and dishes offered.
I was still kind of full from the hearty breakfast earlier so I only ordered a Sumauma salad (14.50€) which contained iceberg lettuce, quinoa, smoked salmon, avocado, pickled onion and toasted almonds. I have to say that it was very flavoursome and that indeed the ingredients were as fresh as they could be.
What I loved: Beautiful décor, there was a lot of light in the room, the plants brought the place to life, the staff was very attentive, my salad was delicious and the other dishes I saw on the neighbouring tables looked great as well.
Calle SAL 3, 28012 Madrid, Spain
While on my visiting spree, this artisanal ice cream shop caught my eye. It is a tiny place but definitely has its own charm. I got a Ferrero Ice Cream (3.80€) which was amazing.
Calle del Cardenal Cisneros 1, 28010 Madrid, Spain
I was attracted to this place because of the enticing smell of seafood. And I didn’t regret it. Bocavante is a restaurant that combines fresh seafood and sandwiches, taking it to a new level. I ordered the small Chipiron sandwich (7.5€) which contained grilled squid with some sort of lettuce, pickled onions, 2 types of delicious sauces in a black brioche bread. It was an explosion of flavours.
Calle Gran Via 9 | Access through the Hotel Catalonia Gran Via, 28013 Madrid, Spain
This place was recommended to me by a friend who has been here one year ago and loved it. BLoved is the restaurant of a small hotel called Hotel Catalonia Gran Via. The décor is very modern and sleek but at the same time extremely welcoming. The restaurant specific is a blend of International, Mediterranean and Spanish cuisine. The menu is rich with dishes ranging from rice and pasta to elaborate seafood dishes and juicy steaks. They also have a number of interesting starters and deserts. I skipped the starter because I suspected that the main dish would be quite generous and I was right. I ordered the Paella Valenciana (18€) accompanied by a glass of sangria. It was probably one of the best paellas I’ve eaten while in Spain. I later saw that one of their signature and the most interesting dish is the Sierra de Guadarrama beef which is served on a hot Himalayan stone. Basically, you get to cook your steak the way you want to. It looked like a lot of fun and I’ll be sure to order this the next time we come here.
What I loved: the furnishing and décor, our waiter was such a pleasant character, a lot of care for the plating of the dishes and the taste, the music was very pleasant.
What to do in Madrid in one day
Plaza de España
Only a short walk from where I had breakfast, I started my visiting marathon with Plaza de España, a popular touristic destination situated at the intersection of Gran Via and Princesa boulevards. Right in the middle of the plaza, there is a beautiful monument dedicated to Cervantes built in 1915. You will also see statues of Don Quijote and Sancho Panza. The square has a big fountain and a pond which were a blessing and a pleasure given that it was a hot day.
Next to the plaza there are 2 imposing buildings: EdificioEspaña (117m), one of Spain’s most recognizable skyscrapers, the eight tallest building of the capital city, built in 1953 in a Neo-Baroque style and Torre Madrid (142m), an imposing tower built in 1957 by the same company.
Plaza de España is an oasis of relaxation, with people strolling or having a picnic, I simply felt recharged.
About 4 minutes on foot from Plaza de España is one of the most important museums in Madrid, Cerralbo Museum. It is the former residence of the Marquis of Cerralbo who donated it to the Spanish nation along with more than 50.000 valuable objects including paintings, furniture, ceramics, watches, sculptures, weapons, tapestries and much more.
The museum is stunning, a true capsule in time that will offer its visitors a glimpse into how noble families from Madrid lived during the 19th century. My favourite was the museum’s Ballroom. There were also a number of movies shot here like The Age of Innocence or The Leopard, to name just a few. At the entrance, visitors are given a notebook with information on the most important objects, since there are no tags with information. All my admiration goes to the authorities for taking so much care into preserving this magnificent building.
8 minutes from the Cerralbo Museum, I found an authentic ancient Egyptian temple. It was built in the 2nd century in southern Egypt and dedicated to the Goddess Isis. In 1960, as a sign of gratitude for Spain’s help in saving the temples of Abu Simbel, Egypt donated the temple of Debod to Spain in 1968. It stands in the beautiful West Park and the good news is that the admission is free.
Royal Chapel of St. Anthony of La Florida
From the Cerralbo Museum to the Royal Chapel it was exactly 16 minutes on foot, quite a nice stroll I might add. I am a fan of Goya’s paintings so I couldn’t pass on the opportunity of visiting this chapel famous for the breathtaking ceiling and frescoes by Francisco Goya. It is also his burial place.
Puerta de San Vicente
On my way to the Royal Palace, I saw this beautiful gate that caught my attention. It was originally built in 1775 following the project of architect Francesco Sabatini but since then it has been dismantled and rebuilt 3 times. The last time it was rebuilt in 1995. It is a truly imposing structure and a landmark that attracts many tourists.
Royal Monastery of La Encarnacion
This was actually an unplanned stop. But there was something about the sobriety of the façade that attracted me. The interior is astonishing, with many works of art and relics like the blood of St. Januarius and of St. Pantaleon. The building is old, dating back from 1616, and was built by Friar Alberto de la Madre de Dios for Queen Margaret. I am glad to have discovered this remarkable jewel with its sublime frescoes on the ceiling and beautiful sculptures.
The Royal Palace of Madrid
The main jewel of my trip was definitely the Royal Palace. It is the largest Royal Palace in Europe, containing 3.418 rooms filled with priceless objects. Even before I entered the palace, I got the chance to admire a small part of the gardens surrounding it. The interior is very sumptuous with many exhibits of immense historical value. Out of the 3.418 rooms, only a small part is open to the public, but even so, I didn’t get the chance to see it all on this occasion.
The tickets are not expensive, I paid 13€ for the ticket and another 3€ for an audio guide in English. By the way, on Wednesdays starting from 6 pm, the entrance is free but there is a huge queue.
The Royal Palace is a must-see if you are planning a visit to Madrid, but reserve at least 2 hours in order to be able to fully enjoy and take in what you see.
Where to stay in Madrid
A&B Hostel Principe Pio
Paseo del Rey 6, 28008 Madrid, Spain
Because my visit to Madrid was short, I only needed a few hours of sleep before I had to leave so I chose a hostel that was conveniently located in the centre of the city – the best neighborhood in Madrid to stay at when you are in town only for a short visit. I was pleasantly surprised with A&B Hostel Principe Pio. It was clean, and had decent facilities.As luck had it, I stayed alone in a room with 2 bunk beds. The bed was fairly comfortable and had a lamp and 2 electricity plugs plus free Wi-Fi. For (almost) 1 night, I paid 22€.
I have to say that this was one of the best days while visiting Spain but, I’ll have to admit probably the most tiresome. I chose to do this itinerary on foot. It is amazing how many little things you can discover while walking. This also gives you the chance to interact more with the locals. All in all, it was a fantastic experience, one that I will surely repeat, as Madrid has so many things to offer its visitors.
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