Madrid is a very big city with 3.4 million inhabitants and attracts over 6 million tourists every year. With a city this size and with that many tourists, it is easy to feel a bit lost when planning a trip there. But do not worry, here you will find many essential tips to visit Madrid and put your mind at rest. After some general tips, you will be able to discover some day trips that you can take from Madrid and the must-see landmarks of the city.
Essential tips to visit Madrid: general advice
When you choose your dates, keep in mind that the temperature gets very hot during the summer in Madrid and that this is when there is the highest number of tourists. Knowing that, it would be best to plan a trip for April, May, or October for example. The weather will still be very nice, but not too hot that it stops you from doing certain things. In addition to that, the hotel or rental prices will be significantly lower during these months than in summer.
Regarding the amount of time you should stay in Madrid, it depends. Four days is a good amount if you want to see the main places and get a feel of the city. However, if you are planning on taking a couple of day trips to explore a little of what is around Madrid, you should stay for a week.
The best way to get around Madrid is undeniably the metro. It is cheap, and you can choose among different types of cards. Other options are to take the bus or use taxis. You could also visit the city by bike, which is eco-friendly and convenient!
Consider purchasing the Madrid Card. This tourist pass allows you to visit over 50 museums and monuments in the city. You only pay once for the pass, depending on the amount of time you choose. For the 24 hours card, you will pay €47, and for the 120 hours card, it will be €77. This card is a great option for people who know they are going to visit a lot of places. However, if you prefer to take your time, this will probably not be worth it for you.
Essential tips to visit Madrid: take day trips
Day trips are great to include in your stay in Madrid. It makes you escape the big city and discover some gems without spending a crazy amount of money. Here is a selection of 4 of the best day trips that you can take from Madrid.
Essential tips to visit Madrid: day trip to Toledo
Toledo is only an hour away from Madrid by car. This World Heritage Site is a beautiful ancient city at the top of a hill on the banks of the Tagus River. Must-sees in Toledo include the Toledo Cathedral, an impressive 13th- century High Gothic cathedral. You should also spare some time to see the Alcazar fortress which overlooks the city, as well as the Greco Museum. For lunch, you will be able to discover traditional Castile-La Mancha cuisine.
You will arrive at Segovia from Madrid in a little more than an hour. Segovia is truly a magnificent city and is well worth a day trip during your stay in Madrid. The three main landmarks that you should not miss are the Roman aqueduct, the cathedral, and the castle. These three monuments are breathtaking and worth a few pictures. You should also know that the castle served as a model for Disney’s Cinderella Castle!
The Royal Palace of Aranjuez is just under an hour away from the capital city. This palace is a former Spanish royal residence that opened to the public in 1931. Its history as a royal residence began in the 16th century when the construction of a grand hunting lodge started. The building was modified several times through the years, with parts added or altered. This allows a big diversity of architectural styles such as Renaissance, French Empire, or Rococo for example. There are numerous rooms to discover: salons, offices, bedrooms, and of course the gardens.
The town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial is 50 minutes away from Madrid. It is at the foot of Mount Abantos. The main must-see in this town is El Escorial or the “Royal Seat of San Lorenzo de El Escorial”. This enormous Renaissance complex functions as a basilica, royal palace, monastery, pantheon, library, and more. You will also be able to go to the Valley of the Fallen, a monumental memorial for reconciliation where dictator Franco was buried until 2019. You can also go on a hike on Mount Abantos or in the woods surrounding San Lorenzo de El Escorial. This day trip combines nature and culture.
Essential tips to visit Madrid: must-see places
This Royal Palace is the official residence of the Spanish royal family. However, it is nowadays only used for state ceremonies. The main tip if you are planning on visiting the Royal Palace of Madrid is to buy your ticket online. You can choose the date and time of your arrival and if you want an audio guide or not. Prices are very affordable, the base price is €6, and many people can benefit from a reduced price such as students, children, or unemployed people.
The National Archaeological Museum houses many items, from Hispanic prehistory to the Modern Age. You will also be able to see some Greek, Etruscan or Roman cultural remains. The ideal amount of time to spend in this museum is about two and a half hours. So you can absolutely plan to visit other landmarks the day you visit the National Archaeological Museum. Almost everyone who has visited this museum agrees that it is underrated and deserves more attention.
The full name of this park is Parque del Buen Retiro, which means “Park of the Pleasant Retreat”. The Retiro Park is one of the largest of the city and only became public in the late 19th century, before which it belonged to the Spanish Monarchy. There are many beautiful features in this park that you will want to see, and no doubt photograph in the process. You should go see the lake with the Alfonso XII monument behind it. You also will not want to miss the Crystal Palace, a glass building with various exhibitions to be found inside.
The Prado Museum is the main Spanish national art museum, with about 3 million visitors every year. This museum is conveniently situated in central Madrid and is known to have one of the world’s finest collections of European art from the 12th century to the early 20th century. In order to have the best experience possible, you can choose to buy a Skip the Line Ticket. If you want to learn about the art in more depth, you can also attend a guided tour.
The Gran Vía street, or “Great Way” in English, is an esplanade in central Madrid. It goes from Calle de Alcalá to Plaza de España. This famous street is one of the most important shopping areas in Madrid. You will find many hotels, shops, movie theaters, and more. In addition to the many services the Gran Vía offers, it also has beautiful architecture. Indeed, it is a great example of early 20th-century revival architecture. You will be able to buy some souvenirs in this street or do some regular shopping.