Whether you heart gorgeous palaces and historic architecture, beautiful parks and public squares, amazing art and museums, or delicious food and wine, you’ll fall head over heels for Madrid. Discover plenty to love about this charming Spanish city and plan the best ever trip to Madrid.

Your Madrid Itinerary

Grab your walking shoes and get ready to hit the sidewalks in Madrid. There’s a ton to pack into just one day, so prepare to be a teensy bit overwhelmed by the sheer beauty and deliciousness of the city.

Late Morning: Fuel Up With Coffee

When in Madrid, it’s important to stick to the locals’ schedule. Madrid is known for being a late-night hotspot, so you’ll want to get a little extra rest in the morning so you can hang long after the sun goes down. After you’ve gotten plenty of beauty sleep, head out and coffee up at one of Madrid’s best cafés.

If you love beautiful old haunts where you can practically inhale the history, put Café Gijón at the top of your list. It’s been a favorite for Madrileños since 1888, when the café first opened its doors. You can still get a mean cup of coffee and a pastry here, all while soaking up the literary atmosphere. Nearby, Café Comercial is even older, as it dates back to 1887, and just about every Spanish celebrity has graced the café with their presence. Go grab a cup of coffee and take in all the fascinating history.

If you’re need a few extra pastries to really get your day started, spin over to La Mallorquina. This is one of Madrid’s most popular bakeries and is stuffed to the gills with ham and cheese croissants, mind-blowing cakes, and traditional pastries.

Temple debod
The Temple of Debod in Madrid.

Noon: Immerse Yourself in Art and History

Next, take your pick from Madrid’s many art museums and historic sites. If you’re feeling artsy, start at the Prado Museum, Madrid’s largest and oldest art museum. It’s easy to get immersed in the thousands of gorgeous paintings and sculptures here, so pick a few must-sees, like Velázquez’s “Las Meninas” and Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” to guide your visit.

If you’re in the mood for modern art, make your way to the Queen Sofia Arts Center, which is home to tons of Dalí and Miró paintings as well as Picasso’s gigantic and jaw-dropping “Guernica.” Prefer a more intimate art viewing experience? Go to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, a palatial spot that’s home to everything from 12th-century religious paintings to 20th-century surrealist masterpieces.

If you have a little time left, take a tour of the Royal Palace of Madrid. You’ll get to tour a few of the palace’s 3,000 opulent rooms, see where Spain’s kings ruled, and even see historic arms and armor.

Buen retiro park
The Buen Retiro Park in Madrid.

Afternoon: Kick Back in a Sunny Park or Public Square

Madrid has no shortage of green parks or public squares, so make plenty of time to get out and enjoy them. If you’re looking for a place to go for a casual stroll, set your sights on Retiro Park, which was once a royal retreat. Today, everyone is welcome, and there’s plenty to do. Paddle around the lake on a rowboat, take a spin around the glass-enclosed Crystal Palace, pose with the peacocks at the Cecilio Rodríguez Gardens, or inhale the intoxicating fragrances throughout the rose gardens.

If you love flowers and plants, you’ll also want to stop by the Royal Botanical Garden, which is conveniently located next door to the Prado Museum. This gorgeous spot has three themed terraces with ornamental plants, medicinal plants, herbs, trees, and greenhouses.

Looking for a public square with plenty of history? Don’t miss Plaza Mayor, an open plaza that’s surrounded by colorful architecture and home to countless cafés and tons of events. Nearby, Puerta del Sol marks the center of the city and a popular gathering place for virtually everyone in the city. You’ll find a couple statues and fountains here, but the real draws are the shops and cafés that line the plaza.

Evening: Indulge in an Incredible Meal

Madrid has an amazing culinary culture, and this city will knock your socks off, no matter your food preferences. If you’re feeling something light, head over to Mercado San Miguel, which is right around the corner from the Plaza Mayor. This glass-enclosed market has a bit of an industrial feel, but you’ll feel right at home in the convivial atmosphere. Wander from stand to stand, treating yourself to huge helpings of olives, tiny sandwiches, seafood morsels. Grab a glass of wine and mingle with the locals.

If you’re ready to rest those weary feet, chose one of Madrid’s top restaurants for an indulgent meal. Try Spain’s version of comfort food at Los Asturianos, which specializes in fabada, a pork and veal stew. Treat yourself to a three-star Michelin meal at DiverXO, which takes avant-garde cuisine to a whole new level. Fill up on Spanish tortillas and other classic tapas at spots like Pez Tortilla and Casa Dani or check out one of the newest hotspots in town, like Materia, which specializes in reinvigorating long-forgotten dishes and flavors.

Teatro real
The Teatro Real in Madrid.

Late Night: Have a Few Drinks, Madrid-Style

No evening in Madrid is complete without at least a few glasses of beer or wine. Sip one of the city’s best custom cocktails at Del Diego, have a few beers at La Musa Latina, or sample Spanish wines at Díaz Y Larrouy. If you’re up for a few dance moves, head over to the Malasaña neighborhood for some of the city’s best clubs.

Want to focus on sweets instead? Go to Chocolatería San Gínes, a storied spot that has been serving the city’s best churros and chocolate since 1894. It’s open 24 hours a day and always a fun place to finish your evening.

Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport Guide

Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport (MAD) has served as Madrid’s main hub for air travel since 1931. The airport has experienced a long list of expansions and updates since then, and today about 50 million passengers fly through Barajas Airport. The airport features four terminals accessible by foot, though you’ll need to take the underground train to access the satellite terminal.

Madrid’s airport serves dozens of airlines, and some of the largest include Air Europa, American Airlines, easyJet, Iberia, LATAM, Norwegian Air, Ryanair, Vueling, Wamos Air, and Wizz Air. From here, passengers can reach all major European destinations, along with Asian cities like Beijing and Delhi, Middle Eastern cities like Amman and Dubai, African destinations like Cairo and Addis Ababa, South American cities like Santiago and Lima, and North American destinations like Montreal and Miami.

Santiago bernabeu stadium
The Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in Madrid.

How to Get to and From Barajas Airport

Barajas Airport is about 10 miles northeast of the center of Madrid, so transit to and from the airport is relatively easy. Planning to rent a car and tour rural Spain? It’ll take you just 20 minutes to drive from the airport to the center of town. It’s also easy to get a taxi to and from the airport. If you’re trying to get into the city, you’ll find taxi stands in the arrivals area of each terminal.

Prefer public transit? That’s easy, too. Depending on your point of reference in Madrid, you might want to take the Madrid Metro, the city’s public bus system, or the RENFE train. Each option will take you from the city to the airport and vice versa in about 20 to 30 minutes. You can expect to pay around €5 for a public transit ticket.

What to Do at Barajas Airport

Need a bite to eat before you hop on your flight or after you land? Deli&Cia has quick and healthy sandwiches and salads, while Espression Lavazza has all your favorite coffee drinks. Have a beer or two at one of several Mahou bars, grab a few sushi rolls at Fly & Fishhh!, or sit down to some contemporary tapas at Gastrohub.

Want to grab a few high-end souvenirs from your stay in Madrid? Head over to the MAD Fashion Hub to shop designer fashions, jewelry, and cosmetics. Or maybe you’d prefer to relax in style? Head to one of the several Priority Pass or airline lounges to grab a drink and a snack without the crowds. If you have a flight delay or a long layover, you can even sleep in the airport. Head over to Air Rooms to book a bed for a few hours or an overnight stay.

Alternatives to Barajas Airport

If you’re flying into Madrid from afar, Barajas Airport is your best option by far, unless you really want to see Spain’s countryside. The next closest air travel hub is the Salamanca Airport, located about a two-hour drive west of Madrid. Other airports within driving distance include the Valladolid Airport, which is about two and a half hours north, and the Badajoz Airport, which is about three and a half hours southwest.

Almudena cathedral
The Almudena Cathedral in Madrid.

Where to Stay in Madrid

No matter your lodging preferences or your budget, it’s easy to find the perfect place to stay in Madrid. Check out the coolest private rentals, the best hostels and the top boutique hotels in Madrid.

Top Hotels in Madrid

Why book a chain hotel when you can plan a boutique stay in Madrid? The Principal is one of the fanciest spots in town, and it’s also an awesome place to see and be seen. Relax in your contemporary room, away from the hustle and bustle of the city, or get dolled up and chill out in style on the hotel’s rooftop terrace.

Madrid is effortlessly stylish, and there’s no better place to experience this firsthand than at Hotel Unico. This is where old-world glamor meets contemporary style, and you’ll love everything from the spacious rooms to the library.

Urso Hotel & Spa is tucked away in Chueca, one of Madrid’s hippest neighborhoods, but you’ll definitely want to seek it out. Whether you want to stretch out in your stylish room or book a treatment at the on-site Natura Bissé Spa, this one is a winner.

Best Hostels in Madrid

Hostels are perfect for making new friends and for saving a few bucks, but they aren’t all created the same. Take a look at a few of the best hostels in Madrid before you book.

Traveling on a budget? Hang your hat at Safestay Madrid, a luxury youth hostel with prices that won’t break the bank. If it sounds like a dream, it sort of is. This place has free city tours, free Wi-Fi, an on-site cinema, and a bar for socializing.

Mola Hostel is another popular pick, and you can choose private rooms or group rooms that fit your whole crew. With social events every day, group activities, local tours, pub crawls, and a location right in the middle of everything, you’ll never be bored here.

Also right in the center of town, the Hat Madrid is the city’s first boutique hostel. You’ll love sipping your morning espresso on the sunny terrace, using the free Wi-Fi to map out your day, and being five seconds from Madrid’s Plaza Mayor.

Coolest Private Rentals in Madrid

When you base yourself in a private rental in Madrid, you can spend your stay pretending like you live in one of the coolest neighborhoods in town. If you’re looking for high-end luxury, look for gorgeous flats in Salamanca, a neighborhood that’s packed with designer stores and jewelry shops.

Looking for a super trendy neighborhood that’s decorated with colorful street art and filled with equally colorful characters? Look for an awesome apartment in Chueca or Malasaña and prepare yourself to want to stay here forever.

Want to immerse yourself in tapas and Spanish culture? Search for a great spot in some of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, like La Latina and Barrio de las Letras. No matter which you pick, you’ll love fitting right in with the locals.

Whether you’re staying for a weekend or a week, there’s so much to discover in Madrid. Get inspiration and plan every moment of your visit to Spain’s capital city on GoDoTrip.