Jetting off to Madrid but not sure what to do when you get there? Here's our day-by-day guide to spending the perfect week in Spain's capital!
Spain's city that never sleeps
Madrid is not only Spain's largest city, but also the EU's third largest after London and Berlin. Although Barcelona may seem a more popular tourist destination, Madrid is equally bursting with magic and excitement, from stunning regal architecture to a raucous nightlife. The city has so much to offer that it can be a little overwhelming and hard to navigate. So we've devised a week-long itinerary to help you spend your time as best you can while in Spain's bustling capital.
Head straight to Madrid's old town in the very center of the city with its narrow, winding streets and cute gift shops. Take a slow stroll around the Plaza Mayor and admire the beautiful red buildings before heading off down a side street for a coffee. Pro tip: avoid the cafés in the square if you want to save your cents. Exit the square on the southwest side down Calle de Cuchilleros, and you'll come to the Sobrino de Botín, which is considered the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the world! In the evening head to the city's LGBTQ quarter, Chueca, for great tapas and lively bars.
Start off in the chic Salamanca district and admire the endless haute couture boutiques before stumbling upon a pastelería. Make sure to order a napolitana, the larger, Spanish version of a pain au chocolat. After breakfast, head to Retiro Park where you can spend hours strolling through the gorgeous, well-kept gardens, and even rent a row boat in the main lake.
After dinner, why not visit a rooftop bar? The Circulo de Bellas Artes has the best views over the city, particularly the famous Metropolis building, and is well worth the 4 EUR entry fee. Go just before sunset to watch the city gradually light up into the night.
Today's a day for visiting fancy buildings! First, enter the Almudena Cathedral for free, or a small donation, then head nextdoor to the Palacio Real, Europe's biggest palace. With 50 of its 2,800 rooms open to the public, it's a hugely popular tourist spot, and if you're willing to queue for a long time, EU citizens can get in for free at certain times from Monday to Thursday.
For lunch, why not head to the Mercado de San Miguel, a huge, old market building, where you can slowly make your way around an array of food stalls, picking up some delicious tapas and wine as you go. In the evening, don't miss the incredible sunset at the Templo de Debod, near the Plaza de España. This magnificent, ancient Egyptian temple is often the place of choice for wedding proposals and photoshoots.
Time to explore a little further afield. Toledo, situated just a 45-minute train journey from Madrid's Atocha railway station, was home to the royal court of Spain until 1561 when it was moved to Madrid. Toledo is home to many important historical buildings, from the Alcázar to the Cathedral, and was the capital of the old kingdom Castille before it merged with Aragon, creating the modern country we now know as Spain. The city's walls are bursting with culture and history, so much so that the entire area is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Spend the day wandering its streets and absorbing the beauty of this imporant Spanish city.