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Hola! Let’s embark on our DIY Free Walking Tour in Madrid to discover the top sights. From Plaza Mayor to the Prado Museum, our Free Walking Tour Madrid highlights the best things to see. Easily navigate your way through lush parks and ornate squares, passing some exquisite Madrid architecture along the route.
Madrid Free Walking Tour: 10 Best City Sights
On our first two visits to Madrid, Spain, we were on quick, 24-hour layovers. Both times, we dashed to see the sights of Madrid as quickly as we could. Our Madrid sightseeing was done haphazardly – and it was more of a sprint than a Madrid Walking Tour.
However, when we returned to the Spanish capital for a longer stay with friends, we were anxious to show them the best sights in Madrid. We compiled a list of the Top Madrid Landmarks, grabbed a Madrid Tourist Map and designed a Walking Tour Madrid Route that provided the perfect introduction to the city.
To help other travelers find their way to the top Madrid sights, we are sharing our Madrid tour for free!
Self-Guided Free Walking Tour Madrid
Our self-guided, free walking tour of Madrid is perfect for travelers who are limited on time (or on a budget) and like to explore at their own pace. Budget travelers and independent travelers will find our outlined self-guided walk for free tour of Madrid particularly helpful.
How To Use This Madrid Walking Tour Free Guide
We’ve outlined 10 sights to see in Madrid – including ornate plazas, decorative churches, food markets and famous museums – in the form of a Madrid Self-Guided Walking Tour. For step-by-step directions, use our Walking Tour Madrid Map and provided link to Google Maps directions.
We include the top sights in Madrid on our walk; for each sight, we include information and history about the point of interest, a link to Google Maps so that you can easily find your way and other pertinent details of the attraction.
To better use this guide as a Madrid Trip Planner, we have included a link to a Madrid Walking Map at the end of the post.
Additionally, we provide pertinent Madrid sightseeing advice and tips that will help you plan your perfect trip.
1 Day in Madrid Sightseeing
Our walking tour of Madrid Old Town is 4.5km (less than 3 miles) in length. For ambitious travelers, the walk can be completed in about 1 hour – but we recommend allowing at least 2 hours. Of course, the duration of the self guided walking tour will depend ultimately on your interests and pace.
In fact, visitors can plan a full day of sightseeing in Madrid, Spain by entering all the top attractions highlighted in our walk. The top sights in Madrid to visit (which are on our route) are the San Miguel Mercado, Almudena Cathedral, Royal Palace and Prado Museum.
On our most recent trip, we had 2 days in Madrid to enjoy the best sights. Visitors who have one day in Madrid – or one week in Madrid – can use our Madrid Free Walking Tour for the best place to start their exploration.
Madrid Tour: What You Will Need
Before you set off on your trip to Madrid, make sure you are properly packed! We have a few tips for things you will want to bring for Free Walking Tours Madrid – but get your Free Packing Checklist to make sure you have everything in your suitcase or backpack for your vacation to Spain!
Walking Shoes for Madrid
Madrid is a walkable city, but only with the right travel shoes! For our Self-Guided Madrid Walking Tour, we recommend wearing comfortable walking shoes. I like these by Columbia – and Kris wears Merrell shoes for urban walks.
Travel Camera for Madrid Photography
Madrid is a beautiful city! Rather than using your phone to capture the sights, we recommend upgrading to a real camera. We use a DSLR Canon Rebel, which is a great starter camera (and, even better, it comes in a complete kit – which is why it ranks as one of the best cameras for budget travelers!).
Madrid Weather Gear and Day Pack
Summers in the city are sunny and warm. Bring sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat on your walking tour of Madrid. We also recommend carrying a refillable water bottle; this collapsible water bottle is perfect for travelers!
WiFi Connection (or Paper Tourist Map of Madrid)
To be able to follow our Free Walking Tour Madrid (and the walking directions provided in the Google Maps link), you will need an internet connection.
Rather than paying the high fees through cell phone providers for international data packages, we recommend investing in a pocket WiFi hotspot.
We travel with a GlocalMe Mobile WiFi Hotspot. It allows us to connect up to ten devices at one time (which makes it ideal for families or groups traveling together) and it doubles as a portable charger. However, what we love about GlocalMe is that we can purchase data plans online or use a SIM card…so we can be connected from the moment we touch down off that long flight!
Visitors traveling without WiFi can print our Map of Madrid Tourist Attractions and Walking Route. However, for a more detailed map, we recommend purchasing a Map of Madrid City Center – like this one! – in advance of your trip.
Be sure to Pin, Bookmark or Save our Walking Tour of Madrid so that you can access it during your trip to Spain!
Walking Tour Madrid, Spain
Ready to start your Madrid Free Walking Tour? Lace up your shoes and let’s go! Begin touring Madrid at the lively Puerta del Sol. Use this link to Google Maps for Walking Directions.
#1 Puerta del Sol
Marking the 0 km point for six roads in Spain, the square is home to the iconic clock tower – which is the center point of Madrid’s New Year celebrations.
The name of the square, Puerta del Sol, translates to ‘Gate of the Sun’ – as city gates featuring the sun used to stand on the site.
Puerta del Sol is a very busy area: business men rush through, tired tourists rest and street performers – everything from people dressed up as Disney characters to Egyptian statues – work for tips. It’s quite the spectacle.
#2 Plaza Mayor
MAP. The second stop while city sightseeing Madrid is Plaza Mayor, a vibrant square, which is enclosed by a three-story building featuring picturesque iron gated balconies (237 of them, actually!). The perimeter is lined with cafes, each with outdoor seating and inflated prices – although, they are still difficult to pass up just for the people watching.
Street performers roam the square finding a variety of ways to entertain the international crowds. In the winter, Plaza Mayor is occupied by a Christmas market with decorations dazzling and lights flashing.
#3 Mercado de San Miguel
MAP. Stop #3 on our free walking tour Madrid is the modern, upscale marketplace, Mercado de San Miguel. Featuring fresh produce, meat and fish and tasty prepared delicacies, the market is busy throughout the day.
Spend time squeezing your way through the crowds to peer into the cases of fine cheeses, divinely crafted desserts and beautifully displayed fruit. If something is too tempting to pass by (like the goat cheese and sauteed onion creations at the tapas stall), stay for a bite before continuing your Madrid tour.
Pro Tip: For a real taste of Madrid, consider joining a culinary tour that explores the best gastronomy of the city – and includes a stop at Mercado de San Miguel. We highlight more guided walking tours of Madrid at the end of the article.
#4 Plaza de La Villa and Old Town Hall
The quaint square features the 17th century Town Hall building, called Casa de la Villa de Madrid. It occupies an entire side of the square and is fronted by a pretty, fenced garden.
Opposite Casa de la Villa is Casa de Los Lujanes, which has a short tower that dates to the 15th century – and ranks as the oldest civil building in Madrid.
#5 Almudena Cathedral, Madrid
MAP. Next up on your Madrid city walk is the massive, but relatively modern, Almudena Cathedral. More impressive than the size is that it took 100 years to build – and was only just completed in 1993. The Madrid Cathedral was consecrated by Pope John Paul II and is topped with a dome that measures 65-feet across.
Pro Tip: The cathedral is open to visitors, but they request a small ‘donation’ of 1 Euro at the entry.
#6 Madrid Royal Palace and Gardens
The Royal Palace, which seems to go on forever, is one of the top Madrid landmarks. It is the largest palace in Europe with 2,800 rooms and almost 1.5 million square feet. The palace is open to visitors (for a fee).
Pro Tip: If you want to visit the palace and are trying to see Madrid in a day, be aware that there are often long lines to get inside. Be sure to purchase Skip-the-Line tickets in advance.
The Sabatini Gardens are located on the north side of the palace and are open to the public (for free). The meticulous gardens are an easy escape from the sightseeing trail. The gravel walkways, laid out in a grid, pass by fountains and provide stellar views of the Royal Palace.
Campo del Moro Gardens
While we love the Sabatini Gardens, one of the best places to walk in Madrid is in the vast Campo del Moro gardens that sit behind the Royal Palace. The garden was designed by Philip II and features decorative elements – like the Conchas Fountain and Tritons Fountain.
The gardens are free to enter and they often host concerts that are free to attended as well. Plus, they have public toilets!
#7 Plaza de Oriente, Madrid
MAP. Stop #7, Plaza de Oriente, is just across the street from the palace – but we have made it a separate stop in our Walking Tour Madrid Free Guide because we think it deserves an up-close look.
The square was designed in 1844 and is lined with statues, trees, shrubs and a fountain in the center. The equestrian statue is of Philip IV and the statues around it represent the Spanish kings that were crowned at the Royal Palace.
The pretty plaza sits between the palace and Teatro Real. The ornate opera house, which is often just referred to as El Real, dates to the early 1800s and to this day is one of the premier European theaters.
Plaza de Oriente is a great place for relaxing, people-watching and taking a quick break from walking around Madrid.
#8 Gran Via, Madrid
MAP. All Madrid walks should include the city’s most famous street, Gran Via, which is why we included it on our Madrid Self-Guided Walking Tour!
Walking along the wide Gran Via just feels classy. The street is known for its early 1900s architecture and boasts many upscale shops – but it is also referred to as Spanish Broadway for its exciting Madrid nightlife.
#9 The Prado Museum and Retiro Park
MAP. The next stop is one of the best museums in Madrid: The Prado. Founded in 1819, the Prado Museum features a grand collection of renowned artwork – most notable is Las Meninas by Velazquez. Many consider the Prado to be one of the greatest art museums in the world.
There is an admission fee to enter the museum and we recommend purchasing a Skip-the-Line ticket. However, some of the money-saving Madrid sightseeing cards might include entry into the Prado. Visitors short on time who want to see the museum highlights can join a Prado Museum tour.
Pro Tip: The Prado has free entry from 6-8pm Monday-Saturday and from 5-7pm on Sundays and holidays, so if possible, continue your Madrid Walk and circle back during one of those times.
Retiro Park, Madrid
Behind the museum is Retiro Park – one of the best parks in Madrid. It’s a stop on many free walking tours in Madrid, because it’s an absolute must-see!
The 300-acre park was originally designated for royalty, but has been open to the public since the 18th century. The grand Retiro Park features a variety of gardens, paths, ponds and statues. In addition to the impressive statue-lined walkway and the Great Pond, it is lovely to just spend time wandering the paths (and well worth a longer detour from our Madrid city tour).
#10 Plaza de Santa Ana, Madrid
MAP. The final stop on our walking Madrid tour is Plaza de Santa Ana – a square that quickly became our favorite square in Madrid.
The Santa Ana Plaza is home to the 17th century Teatro Espanol, the oldest theater in Madrid. Yet the cafe-lined square has a quaint, neighborhood feel to it. In the winter, a large illuminated Christmas tree casts a blue, wintry hue over the square at night.
This completes our Walking Tour of Madrid! Now, give your feet a rest and enjoy a glass of Spanish wine at one of the cafes on the plaza.
Madrid City Tour Map & Walking Directions
Use our Map of Madrid City Center to route your way to the attractions highlighted in our Walking Tour. This link to Google Maps can be used for step-by-step Walking Directions.
Pro Tip: Our Walking Tour Madrid Attractions Map Route can be printed; click on the image to enlarge it, right-click outside of the image and select Print.
Interactive Madrid Walking Tour Map
This link to our interactive Tourist Map Madrid features the highlights of each attraction listed in our walking tour. Simply click on any of the markers to expand the side bar for more information.
More Things To Do in Madrid, Spain
We outlined the Best Walking Tour Madrid for Free that highlights the best of the city. However, there are a few more Madrid things to do that you might want to add to your itinerary.
Madrid Guided Tours
While we enjoyed sightseeing Madrid on our own, there are many guided tours in Madrid that can help lead the way. If you would like the company of an expert guide (and fellow travelers), consider one of these highly-rated guided tours for your trip to Madrid.
- Small-group Madrid Tour and skip-the-line Palace entry – Book now!
- Retiro Park and skip-the-line Prado entry – Book now!
- Madrid Spanish Inquisition Tour – Info here!
- Private tours for the Best of Madrid (Book here) and Secrets of Madrid (Book here!)
- Madrid Street Art Tour – Get Info!
- Book a Guided Madrid Free Tour with New Europe Tours (just keep in mind that on Guided Free Tours Madrid, tips are expected!).
Money-Saving Sightseeing Cards
Some of the sights on our Madrid Self-Guided Walking Tour require an entry ticket. To save money, consider purchasing a Madrid sightseeing card that will that includes entry to top sights and attractions in Madrid, as well as other discounts.
Madrid Sightseeing Tips
There are many options when it comes to visiting Madrid – as there is so much to see and do! In addition to the sights, a few of the top things to do are Flamenco dancing, tapas tastings, neighborhood wandering and soccer matches.
With live music and steamy dances, Flamenco shows are a top Madrid attraction. Visitors can attend a performance at one of the legendary tablaos. Reserve your seat!
Tapas and Wine Tour
The gastronomy in Madrid is divine – especially when it comes to tapas – the much adored culinary treat. Spend an evening with a local guide on a small group tour to discover the best tapas and wine in Madrid. Join the tour!
Madrid Neighborhood Discoveries
Visitors can also get off the beaten path and navigate through Madrid’s best neighborhoods. We like to wander the streets of Chamberi to the north – or walk south to Parque Rio Madrid Arganzuela, a riverside park of paths, bridges and cafes.
Planning Your Madrid Itinerary
Creating an itinerary for Madrid is a big task – but we are sharing some advice that will make it much easier!
With sights located within easy walking distance, tourists can see a lot with just 1 day in Madrid. That said, we don’t think one day in Madrid is enough! We recommend spending at least two days in Madrid…if not longer.
We have outlined the top things to do in Madrid in 2 days in our One Week Spain Itinerary. If you are wondering what to do in Madrid for 3 days, we suggest taking a day trip from Madrid (see options for top day tours below!).
Travelers visiting from overseas can find our best tips for trip planning in our guide for How To Plan a Europe Vacation. We share need-to-know info and advice from our personal experiences.
As you begin to plan your trip, organization is key! Stay on top of all the details with our printable Travel Planner.
Madrid Day Trips and Multi-Day Tours
Find the best day tour for your trip on Viator – and book it in advance to ensure you get a spot!
Multi-Day Tours from Madrid can include several top Spanish cities. Find one of the tours from Madrid that visits the places you most want to see – or use our travel guides to plan the perfect trip.
Travel Tips for a Trip to Madrid
Now that you know what sights to see in Madrid and are well on your way to creating the perfect Madrid trip plan, we have a few final tips for your trip!
Where To Stay in Madrid, Spain
We think the best place to stay in Madrid is in the heart of the city, where it is easy to get around on foot. All throughout Madrid, there is a wide range of hotels, hostels and holiday apartments.
There are many Madrid Hotels to choose from in – or close to – the city center. Take a look at these top-rated hotels (based on guest reviews) for your upcoming trip to Spain.
Only YOU Boutique Hotel
Just 15 minutes from both the Prado Museum and Plaza Mayor, Only YOU Boutique Hotel boasts a superb location. The hotel, which is housed in a 19th century palace, is chic and classy. Check rates and availability for your stay!
Gran Melia Palacio de los Duques
Located near the Royal Palace, Gran Melia Palacio de los Duques is an extraordinary hotel featuring a historic private garden, a wellness center and gym. Check rates!
Catalonia Las Cortes
Centrally located near the Prado Museum and Retiro Park, Catalonia Las Cortes features large rooms and modern amenities. Check availability!
Budget travelers might find most hotels in Madrid to be on the pricey side. Don’t despair! Start your search for one of the highly rated Madrid hostels here.
Madrid Vacation Rental
We have found that staying in apartments can sometimes be less expensive than hotel rooms – with the added benefit of a kitchen and, usually, more space. However, this is not always true for shorter stays (with high cleaning and service fees) – so always check that final price closely.
Getting to Madrid, Spain
Madrid can be reached by plane, train, bus or car. We have arrived to Madrid from Lisbon and Porto by air to the Madrid-Barajas Airport (MAD) – as well as by train from Sevilla and Barcelona to the Atocha Train Station.
To get between destinations when flights are not feasible, we usually rely on public transportation. Trains are great, but can get expensive on high-speed lines. When traveling on a budget, we recommend using FlixBus – as it is economical, clean and comfortable.
We aren’t keen on driving abroad, but renting a car can often save time and money (especially when traveling with more than two people) – and it allows for greater discovery. Use our Tips for Cheap Car Rentals.
Getting around Madrid
Madrid is an incredibly walkable city – which is why it is easy to follow along on our Self Guided Free Madrid Walking Tour.
Furthermore, Madrid is well-connected by a public transportation system that includes the Metro, Rail and Buses.
Spain Travel Insurance
We think travel insurance is essential! It can come in handy during flight delays or in the unfortunate event of lost luggage. However, it can be imperative if travelers fall ill or get injured abroad. If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your vacation to Spain, travel protected with World Nomads.
We want to know: What are your favorite Madrid sights? Is there anything you would add to our Self-Guided Free Madrid Walking Tour? Give us your best tips and advice in the comments below!
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