Madrid, Spain. Traveling is always an exhilarating adventure, but in order to make the most of the experience it is far better to visit a site with a plan in mind. For a city like Madrid, there are various sights and locations to visit that make it unlikely to view them all at once. However, if you are making your way out to the capital of Spain for the weekend and are in need of a multi-stop guide, look no further. With my five-stop guide you can get to know five historic, renowned, and cultural attractions of Madrid all on foot by walking through Calle Alcalá.
Because this is a walking tour of Calle Alcalá, there is no need to worry about figuring out metro or bus lines to get you from one site to the next. Madrid is designed to be a walkable city, especially the main streets such as this one. The only two public transportation routes you should research through Google Maps are how to get to the first stop of the guide and how to get back to your hotel or hostel from the last stop. When online and typing the directions in, make sure your destination is the Royal Palace, your first stop.
El Palacio Real de Madrid
Easily accessible by metro through lines 5 or 2 (metro stop Opéra,) the Royal Palace is a fitting start to the tour. The Palacio Real is open to the public from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. every day during the summer. With tickets costing either 10€ or half of that if you are a student under the age of 25, visitors have the opportunity to visit 22 richly decorated rooms within the palace.
Aside from being the official residence to the Royal Family, the palace is also the site to conduct award ceremonies and banquets, as well as host the reception of royal audiences and the appointments of new foreign ambassadors of Spain. Recently it was the location where newly crowned King Felipe VI and his family waved to the Spanish people on the day of his coronation.
In total, the visit should last about an hour and a half. This means that by noon you should find yourself in the center of Madrid, the Puerta del Sol.
La Puerta del Sol
As you continue up Calle Alcalá you will find yourself in the city’s center, the Puerta del Sol. As the locals refer to it, “Sol” is the location to visit. From here there are many local bars, popular restaurants and historic shops perfect to buy gifts for loved ones back home. One of my favorite restaurants to visit in this area is Taberna Alhambra (found on Calle Victoria, 9), a spectacular restaurant with tapas on the house. For presents, I frequent La Mallorquina that is right in Sol. This bakery, founded in 1894, has a typical Spanish candy called violetas to purchase as well as scrumptious truffles that you can treat yourself to.
Before continuing on Calle Alcalá, take some time to visit these sites for some shopping and a quick snack. However, do not leave Sol without taking a picture with “El Oso y El Madroño.” This is the bear statue located in the plaza, which is Madrid’s official city symbol.
Plaza de Cibeles and the Museo del Prado
The third stop of this walking tour of Madrid is Plaza de Cibeles, a major hub to get to the museums that Madrid has to offer. However, for this particular tour you will want to head down the Paseo del Prado from Cibeles in order to get to the Prado Museum.
The Prado Museum is home to a fantastic collection of European art ranging from the 12th century until the 19th century. Here I recommend you see the Spanish art from the Baroque era. In the permanent collection, you can find countless works by Spanish painters such as El Greco, Diego de Velázquez, and Francisco Goya. With roughly two hours, you can certainly visit the rooms dedicated to the famous paintings of these artists.
The general entry fee for this museum is 14€, but if you are a student under the age of 25 with a valid ID you may enter for free. From Monday through Saturday, the museum is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and on Sunday it is open from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m.
El Parque del Buen Retiro
After making your way back to Calle Alcalá and walking up the street you will see the Parque del Buen Retiro. Known simply as Retiro, this is Madrid´s biggest and most historical park. Basically, Retiro is enormous and filled with many sights activities that can take up your entire day to see. For example, during this time you can rent out a boat for 8€ and paddle about the lake or visit the stunning Crystal palace that oftentimes has exhibitions to view.
However, for the sake of the tour it is best to visit the park as the spot for lunch. You can easily purchase a bocadillo (a sandwich) along the way up to the park and settle down on a bench or the grass and maybe catch a glimpse of the wild peacocks roaming around Retiro.
Plaza de las Ventas
The final stop of this walking tour up Calle Alcalá is the Plaza de las Ventas, Madrid´s bull ring. The summer season is the time to catch a bullfight, which consists of six bulls facing off against three matadors. In total, there are six rounds and each lasts about a half hour. Usually the bullfight begins at 7 p.m. and ends around 9 p.m., the perfect hour to find a restaurant in the Salamanca area (which you are in) and have a delicious dinner.
Tickets are about as expensive as you want them to be, as the arena offers a variety of seats. For only 5.20€ you can be seated in the highest row but still be able to see everything clearly.
Along with the bullfights, the arena offers a free tauromaquia museum to the public where visitors can learn about the history of bullfighting and prominent matadors that performed at this venue, as well as view numerous artworks by Picasso on this subject.
Madrid is a city definitely worth getting to know well, but it is indeed better to explore it culturally conscious of what it has to offer and how you present yourself. Hopefully when you visit, you can have a fulfilling and enriching experience.