Madrid site-seeing tour

Spain, Madrid Guide (A): Madrid site-seeing tour

Let me take you on a tour of Madrid's top site-seeing spots including the Palacio Real, Almudena Cathedral, Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol, Gran Vía, Plaza de Cibeles, Puerta de Alcalá and Retiro Park. Along the way, you can divert from the tour to visit the San Francisco El Grande Basilica, as well as the Prado or Thyssen Museums, or go shopping on Calle de Serrano.
This article is featured in the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" on iTunes App Store and Google Play. You can download the app to your mobile device to read the article offline and create a self-guided walking tour to visit the attractions featured in this article. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and it works offline so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Walk Route

Guide Name: Madrid site-seeing tour
Guide Location: Spain » Madrid
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Article (A))
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 3.0 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.8 km
Sight(s) featured in this guide: Palacio Real   Almudena Cathedral   Plaza Mayor   Puerta del Sol   Gran Vía   Plaza de Cibeles   Puerta de Alcalá   Retiro Park  
Author: Erin Ridley
Author Bio: As an American living in Spain, and married to a Spaniard, I've had the unique opportunity to experience the country from a native's point of view. I’ve been to just about every corner of the country and relish in sharing Spain's top spots, best kept secrets, culture and cuisine.
Author Website:
Palacio Real

1) Palacio Real

Bienvenidos a Madrid and welcome to the first stop on your tour, the Palacio Real, or the Royal Palace. This is the official residence of the King, although unofficially he does not actually live here, but at a palace just outside of Madrid the city. While the location of the palace dates back to a 10th century Moorish fortress, the construction of the present day palace did not begin until 1738 and was finally finished in 1755. Now, the palace is just used for formal receptions and state...
Almudena Cathedral

2) Almudena Cathedral

The Almudena Cathedral – so pretty and classic from the outside, so oddly modern from the inside. Plans to build a cathedral dedicated to the patron saint of Madrid, Almudena, date back to the 16th century when the capital of Spain was moved to Madrid. Despite this, construction did not actually begin until 1879. This construction was then delayed on various occasions due to the Spanish Civil War and lack of funding, so it wasn’t until 1993 that the building was finally finished and became...
Plaza Mayor

3) Plaza Mayor

Entering the grand Plaza Mayor in the past, you might have seen bull fights or public executions take place, but now you are more likely to see it filled with terrazas where you can enjoy tapas and drinks, or during the holidays filled with kiosks overflowing with nativity figurines. The origins of the plaza trace back to the 14th century when the square was know as Plaza de Arrabal. In 1580, however, after Madrid became capital in 1561, Felipe II took charge of the project to remodel the busy...
Puerta del Sol

4) Puerta del Sol

Welcome to Puerta del Sol. This is truly the heart of Madrid, and is in fact from where all distances on the Spanish radial network of roads are measured – if you are on a freeway and see a kilometer marking, it is likely from a little spot in Puerta del Sol that it is measured. If you look on the ground in front of the building with the big clock, you will indeed see this small marker identifying it as the center. Note that this is not the exact geographic center of Spain, which is actually...
Gran Vía

5) Gran Vía

Here you will find one of Madrid’s busiest streets – the Gran Vía, which began construction in the early 1900s and was finally completed in 1929. The large avenue was built in order to provide a means to cross the city east to west, from Calle de Alcalá to Plaza de España. The street is known for its shops, architecture, and many theatres - some of which still run shows, and others which have been converted for other uses (in fact, on your way to your next stop, if you have time, stop by...
Plaza de Cibeles

6) Plaza de Cibeles

Welcome to my favorite plaza in Madrid – Plaza de Cibeles. In its center is a fountain with the Roman goddess of nature, Cybele, which sits on a chariot pulled by two lions. Entering the plaza you will see that it intersects a large paseo (or walkway) – Paseo de Recoletos is off to the left and Paseo del Prado heading to the right. This long, tree-lined paseo (which to the north turns into the Castellana) is filled with flowers and terrazas, and provides the perfect shaded path for walks...
Puerta de Alcalá

7) Puerta de Alcalá

Walking the gradual incline of the Calle de Alcalá, the Puerta de Alcalá reveals itself in the distance in the Plaza de la Independencia. Its construction was commissioned around 1774 by Carlos III who had originally arrived in Madrid in 1769 via a prior gate that existed in the same area. This previous Puerta de Alcalá, which sat slightly to the west, was built of brick in 1599 in anticipation of the arrival of the wife of Felipe the III, Margarita of Austria, from Valencia. The original...
Retiro Park

8) Retiro Park

Now you’ve arrived at your final destination – El Parque del Retiro – one of the city’s two green lungs, as they say (the other being Casa de Campo, which is a large park on the western side of the city). The park was originally commissioned in the 1630s by the Count-Duke of Olivares when its main features included its gardens and particularly its small lake which you can now set sail on in one of the rented row boats. The park has been host to many events over the years, from mock naval...

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