City Center Walking Tour, Madrid

The oldest part of Madrid, Centro district is one of the most happening areas of the Spanish capital. A place of regular celebrations and festivals, it is also home to some of Madrid's major attractions, such as Plaza Mayor, Plaza de Espana, Plaza de la Villa, Puerta del Sol, as well as many cultural venues – theaters, museums and galleries. On this walk you will visit a good number of them.
You can follow this self-guided walking tour to explore the attractions listed below. How it works: download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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City Center Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: City Center Walking Tour
Guide Location: Spain » Madrid (See other walking tours in Madrid)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 15
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.5 km
Author: emma
1
Puerta del Sol

1) Puerta del Sol (must see)

Puerta del Sol ("The Gate of the Sun") square is one of the best known and busiest places in Madrid. This is the centre (Km 0) of the radial network of Spanish roads, located in the very heart of the city, not far from Plaza Mayor. The square is dominated by the monument to King Carlos III and the famous bronze sculpture of "the bear and the strawberry tree". Another key attraction here is the clock whose bells mark the traditional eating of the Twelve Grapes at a new year celebration that's been broadcast live on the Spanish national TV since 1962.

Why You Should Visit:
Indispensable for first-time visitors; the essence of Madrid and Spain – lively, boisterous, cheerful.
Many restaurants here serve food till well after midnight, and the pubs stay open till 3am on weeknights and till 4am on weekends.
Unlike other areas of Madrid, most retailers here don't close for the afternoon siesta.

Tip:
Make sure you know where your valuables are at all times.
Sight description based on wikipedia
2
Calle Mayor

2) Calle Mayor

Calle Mayor street runs from La Cuesta de la Vega to Puerto del Sol. Back in the Middle Ages this was the main street of Madrid housing shops of silversmiths, coopers and fletchers who used to sell their wares to the rich merchants passing by to the city center. Today, Calle Mayor is renowned for its boutiques, cafes and restaurants, much as for excellent street musicians and a number of peculiar buildings associated with historic personalities and events. At N° 48 you will find the Cervantes House Museum, a place where Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, #1 Spanish writer was born. N° 61 is the narrowest house in Madrid, measuring only 5 meters across. N° 88 went down in history in 1906 when the anarchist Mateo Moral attempted to kill King Alfonso XIII along with his bride on their wedding day by throwing a bomb from this house's top balcony. The royal couple was unhurt, but there were many innocent victims in memory of which a monument has been erected opposite the house.
Sight description based on wikipedia
3
Chocolateria San Gines

3) Chocolateria San Gines

Established in 1894, Chocolateria San Gines in Madrid is famous for its main course - churros con chocolate - deep-fried batter sticks served with hot chocolate. Also on the menu is a good selection of cakes. This place is ideal for a quick break on a sightseeing walk, to sit down and enjoy the crispy churro dipped into the hot, thick, dark chocolate, while watching the world go by for a while...
Opening hours: 24/24
Sight description based on wikipedia
4
Plaza Mayor

4) Plaza Mayor (must see)

Plaza Mayor, originally known as "Plaza del Arrabal", was built during the Habsburg rule period and is a central square of Madrid, located only a few blocks away from Puerta del Sol. Rectangular in shape, the square measures 129 by 94 meters and is surrounded by three-story residential buildings with a total of 237 balconies facing the Plaza, nine entryways and a ring of old and traditional shops and cafes under their porticoes. Casa de la Panadería, a municipal building, dominates Plaza Mayor. In the course of history, the square has hosted many different things, including markets, bullfights, soccer games, and even public executions of condemned heretics back in the days of the Spanish Inquisition. This place is excellent to hang out or start an interesting tour.

Why You Should Visit:
Perfectly symmetrical, highly detailed architecture, with a walkway to shield from sun or rain around its perimeter. This layout has been copied in squares around Europe and for good reason.
Very photogenic, and always full of people with cameras; also a great spot to have dinner and drinks and watch the world go by.

Tip:
If looking for something cheaper and just as good quality, try the restaurants and bars just outside the square.
Sight description based on wikipedia
5
Restaurante Sobrino de Botín

5) Restaurante Sobrino de Botín (must see)

The Botín restaurant, a famous eatery in Madrid, claims to be the "oldest restaurant in the world." It was founded by Frenchman Jean Botin and his spouse and was originally called Casa Botín. The restaurant was inherited by their nephew Candido Remis, thus explaining the change of name to Sobrino de Botín, which survives to this day. The famous painter Francisco Goya is said to have worked here as a dishwasher in his younger years and the place was also a firm favorite of Ernest Hemingway. It grew more popular after Hemingway's regular visits, and is said to be the place of the last scene of his novel "The Sun Also Rises." Botín is known for its excellent cuisine and great staff.

Tip:
You can also book the 'Botín Experience' which includes a tour of the restaurant prior to sitting down for your meal.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 1pm-4pm / 8pm-12am
Sight description based on wikipedia
6
Plaza de la Villa

6) Plaza de la Villa (must see)

If you would like a bit of quiet in the heart of busy Madrid, the best place to go is Plaza de la Villa, not far from Plaza Major. This small, medieval square is surrounded by lovely buildings, each with its own story. Among them is Madrid’s old Town Hall (Casa Villa), built in 1696 and renowned for its graceful stained glass windows and frescoes by Antonio Palomino. Remarkably enough, at some point, this building was used as a prison. Adjoining the town hall by an archway is Casa de Cisneros, an early Spanish Renaissance castle built in 1537. It boasts a Plateresque façade, quite rare in Madrid, and an outstanding collection of fine tapestries. The nearby Casa and Torre de Los Lujanes are supposedly the oldest buildings in the city; the tower dating back as far as the early 15th century. According to a legend, King Charles 1st imprisoned King Francis 1st of France here after the battle of Pavia in 1525. The reason for that the French King's refusal to show respect to and bow his head to the captor, upon which King Charles ordered the tower door to be lowered, so that Francis would have to bow when entering and leaving the building. That gave people an impression that the French monarch was indeed bowing to their king. In the center of the square stands a statue of Alvaro de Bazen, the Spanish admiral who planned the Armada and, remarkably, never lost a battle in his entire 50-year-long career. The statue was sculpted in 1888 by Benlliure and was set in the plaza in 1980.

Why You Should Visit:
Not a big plaza and there's nothing very touristy about it; rather, it is discrete and feels like stepping back in time which is very cool.
The buildings are quaint and well maintained; the garden in the centre is nice and well kept.

Tip:
Go at night when it is beautifully illuminated for an even better shot.
7
Mercado de San Miguel

7) Mercado de San Miguel (must see)

No holiday in Madrid is complete without a visit to the Mercado de San Miguel in the heart of the Old Town. It really is a must for gourmets and gourmands alike. The market is housed in a glass-fronted 20th-century Beaux-Arts building and is known as the Cultural Culinary Centre of Madrid. There are over 50 individual stalls, each run by a specialist in his chosen field, e.g. fresh fruit, vegetables, fish or meat. You can browse through the stands of locally grown fruit and vegetables where the odor of herbs and spices fill the air; nothing here has seen the inside of a freezer, none of the produce is ready-packed in plastic and the layout of the goods is an art in itself. The fish stalls display a vast range of rather ugly-looking seafood, fresh from the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea. Most of the produce on sale is Spanish, but you will also find charcuterie from France, Viennese Patisseries and a selection of fine European cheeses. The market also contains several cafes, restaurants and shops selling books on Spanish cuisine and kitchen utensils. The only thing a bit off-putting about this really great market is the number of signs forbidding potential clients from touching the produce, so you won’t be able to pick and choose your purchases.

Why You Should Visit:
To try from a seemingly endless variety of fresh tapas, paellas, seafood, produce, as well as cocktails and other interesting refreshing drinks.
The price is a little high in places but the quality is there and you walk away with a perfect introduction to "la gastronomía de España".

Tip:
Don't be afraid to ask for a taster if you are not certain of what you're ordering.
If you're going to use the restroom, make sure to keep a receipt from one of your purchases so you don't have to pay.
Also, watch out for pickpockets – after all, this is a popular tourists destination.

Operation Hours:
Sun-Thu: 10am-12am; Fri, Sat: 10am-1am
Sight description based on wikipedia
8
Calle del Arenal

8) Calle del Arenal

Before leaving Madrid, you would definitely want to stock up on small presents for family and friends back home and there’s no better place for that than the souvenir shops at Calle de Arenal (Sand Street) named so after the huge piles of sand that used to be stocked here during the construction of the nearby buildings. This mostly pedestrian street runs from Plaza Puerto del Sol to Plaza Isobel II and is full of gift and souvenir shops, cafes, restaurants, hotels, short-stay flats and hostels. Perhaps for this reason it always seems full of young tourists, who find the lodgings clean, central and not too expensive. In Spain the Tooth Fairy is a Tooth Mouse – called Little Perez – who slips into children’s bedrooms at night to take the fallen tooth the child has put under his pillow and to leave a small gift or coin in its place. According to a legend, Perez the Mouse once lived at N° 8 Calle de Arenal in a sweet shop. There is a plaque at N°8 attesting to that and the children all over Madrid send cards and letters to this address. The building now houses a small shopping mall on the ground floor and the Perez the Mouse Museum on the first floor, featuring theme mugs, notebooks and other souvenirs. Next door, at N°9, is the Palacio de Graviria, which is a cocktail bar during a day and a cabaret/dance floor/night club at night.
Sight description based on wikipedia
9
Plaza de Isabel II

9) Plaza de Isabel II

At the end of Calle del Arenal you will find Plaza de Isabel II, a large square sided by the Teatro Real. It is a popular meeting place for the young of Madrid. Apart from the illustrious buildings around it, the square is rather unremarkable with the statue of Queen Isabel II in the middle of a fountain at its center. The queen succeeded her father King Fernando VII to the throne when she was only three years old. This in itself wasn’t so extraordinary, as child-monarchs weren’t unusual; what was extraordinary is that the king’s successor was female. Part of the 6th century Salic Law stated that no woman could accede to a throne, but Fernando VII didn’t much like his brother Carlos, his natural successor, so he overruled the law and decreed that his daughter should reign after him. Obviously, he didn’t count on dying when she was only three and for eight years Isabel’s mother acted as a regent. The queen’s life wasn’t particularly a happy one – at the age of 11 her mother abandoned her, she got married at 16 to her homosexual double-first cousin, and had only five of her eleven children reach adulthood. Her uncle Carlos fought her for years over the succession of the Spanish Crown and she was disposed during the Glorious Revolution in 1868. Her son Alfonso became King Alfonso XII and Isabel was exiled to France, where she died in 1904.
Sight description based on wikipedia
10
Teatro Real

10) Teatro Real

While in Madrid you might like to spend an evening at the opera and you couldn’t do better than book your seats at the Teatro Real, the Royal Theatre just in front of the Royal Palace.

The Teatro Real is Madrid’s major opera house, finished in 1850 under the explicit orders of Queen Isabelle II, who was an ardent opera lover and who had grown tired of seeing the half-finished building in front of her palace. On the inauguration night (which just happened to be on the queen’s birthday) the famous Spanish contralto Marietta Alboni played the leading role in Donizetti’s “La Favorita”. In 1863 Verdi gave the Spanish premier of “La Forza del Destino” here.

During the exile of the Spanish monarchy the opera house was renamed the National Opera Theatre. From 1867 to 1925 it housed the Madrid Royal Conservatory. During the construction of the metro system nearby, the building suffered serious structural damage and was closed down in 1925.

The theater reopened after extensive repairs in 1966, but was used as a concert hall, until 1990 when, after further renovations, it regained its status as an opera house. In 1997 the stage was improved with 18 articulated stage-sets, making even complicated background scenery easier to install. The orchestra pit was enlarged and acoustics were greatly improved by the elevation of the roof.

Today the opera house attracts some of the greatest operatic shows on the European circuit and its 1854 seats are quickly filled, so don’t hesitate to book in advance.
Sight description based on wikipedia
11
Plaza de Oriente

11) Plaza de Oriente (must see)

While on holiday in Madrid you will surely visit the Royal Palace; if so, don’t miss a stroll through the Plaza de Oriente on the eastern (“oriental”) side of the palace.

The plaza is shaped like a rectangle with one of its long sides curved outwards; it was designed by Pascual y Colomar in 1844. The plaza has a series of small, beautifully tended gardens separated by gravel walkways leading to a central stone basin fountain with the equestrian bronze statue of Philip IV as its centerpiece. The statue was cast in 1843 by Pietro Tacca, who had the idea to make the back end of the horse very heavy and the front part very light, so that the horse would balance on its hind legs without toppling over before it was fixed to its stone base.

Around the plaza are rather disproportioned limestone statues. These represent the monarchs of Spain and among them are 5 Visigoth Kings and 15 Christian Kings. The statues were originally intended to stand on the palace roof and were sculpted in a fashion to look tall if you are looking up at them. When they were finished, however, it was decided that they were too heavy for the roof, so they were arranged around the plaza.

Why You Should Visit:
Beautifully decorated sculpture garden with a great view of the Sabatini gardens and the Royal Palace itself.
Many places to relax; you can even sit at one of the cafés and enjoy the quietness as no car traffic enters the square.
Sight description based on wikipedia
12
Palacio Real

12) Palacio Real (must see)

The Palacio Real de Madrid (Royal Palace of Madrid), also known as the Palacio de Oriente (The East Palace), is the official residence of the King of Spain in the city of Madrid, and it is only used for State Ceremonies. However, King Juan Carlos and the Royal Family did not reside in it, choosing instead the more modest Palacio de la Zarzuela on the outskirts of Madrid. The palace is owned by the Spanish State and administered by the Patrimonio Nacional, a public agency of the Ministry of the Presidency. The Royal Palace of Madrid is the largest palace building in Western Europe. It is located on Bailén Street, in the Western part of downtown Madrid, East of the Manzanares River. The palace is partially open to the public, except when it is being used for official business.

Why You Should Visit:
There are 25 rooms you can see in the interior of the palace and they are absolutely amazing, with original silk wallpaper, decorations, furniture, clocks, and other items.
The gardens and the views out the back are also very impressive but at night, the palace is lit up with 1000 lumen spotlights, making it the brightest building in the world.

Tip:
The audio-visual guides are really informative. If you want to see the kitchens you need to check the times as that is by guided tour only.
Do check the opening hours on your day of visit, as it might be closed early due to special occasions.
The Sabatini gardens can also be visited without having to enter the palace.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-6pm (Oct-Mar); 10am-8pm (Apr-Sep);
Box office and admission to the Palace close one hour earlier.
Sight description based on wikipedia
13
Catedral de la Almudena

13) Catedral de la Almudena (must see)

Opposite the Royal Palace, you will find the Catedral de la Almudena, a Baroque-style cathedral which is less than twenty years old.

This lovely church was designed by Marquis Francisco de Cubas. Construction began in 1879 on the site of a medieval mosque. The original plans gave the church a Gothic Revival style with a Neo-Classical cupola. One unusual feature about the church is its orientation – North-South, instead of the traditional East-West.

Construction limped along for over 50 years and it was abandoned entirely during the Spanish Civil War of 1936 to 1939. Work started again in 1950 under the direction of Fernando Chueca Goitia who adapted the original plans and gave the church its present-day Baroque style.

The interior of the cathedral is modern Neo-Gothic, with many small chapels and statues of contemporary artists in diverse styles. The crypt is Neo-Romanesque with a 16th-century image of the Virgin de la Almudena. In 2004 new paintings by Kiko Arguello were hung in the apse.

The cathedral was completed in 1993 and was consecrated by Pope Jean Paul II, a statue of whom is to be found in front of the building. Don’t miss the bronze doors by Sanguino which bear the legend of the discovery of the image of the Virgin in the 15th century.

Why You Should Visit:
Another gargantuan cathedral, and conveniently located across from the Royal Palace for some time effective sightseeing.
The museum section is a must for anyone interested in the history of the Catholic Church in Madrid.

Tip:
After viewing the beautiful altarpieces and magnificent vestments plus manuscripts of the clergy in the (paid admission) museum, you can ascend to the dome where views in all directions can be had. The climb also allows proximity to the oversized statues of saints perched on top.

Opening Hours:
(Cathedral) Daily: 9am-8:30pm
(Museum) Mon-Sat: 10am-2:30pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
14
Jardines de Sabatini

14) Jardines de Sabatini (must see)

Jardines de Sabatini cover over two hectares on the North side of the Royal Palace. They are named after Francesco Sabatini, an 18th-century architect who designed the Royal Stables, which once stood on the site of today’s gardens. The layout is based on the designs he made with the same idea in mind for the use of the land before the stables were built.

This layout is similar to classical French gardens that you would see on a grander scale at Versailles for example. Formal Neo-classical, with small walkways and neatly trimmed hedges in geometrical patterns, you will find a haven of peace here. The trees, which are also planted in geometrical patterns, include pines, cedars and magnolias, whose waxy flowers perfume the warm air.

The gardens, which were first opened to the public in 1978, are graced with statues from the palace itself and represent Spanish kings. There are several benches around the long rectangular pond and from there you have a good view of the North face of the Royal Palace.

Why You Should Visit:
To find a shady spot and have a rest especially on a hot Summer's day, or to enjoy the color show in Autumn.
A very convenient stop to make if seeking to combine visits to the Palacio Real and Museo Cerralbo.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-9pm; Free entry
Sight description based on wikipedia
15
Plaza de España

15) Plaza de España (must see)

Plaza de España is a large square, and popular tourist destination, located in central Madrid, Spain, at the western end of the Gran Vía. It features a monument to Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra and is bordered by two of Madrid's most prominent skyscrapers. Also, the Palacio Real (Royal Palace) is a short walk south from the plaza.

In the center of the plaza is a monument to Spanish novelist, poet and playwright Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, designed by architects Rafael Martínez Zapatero and Pedro Muguruza and sculptor Lorenzo Coullaut Valera. Most of the monument was built between 1925 and 1930. The tower portion of the monument includes a stone sculpture of Cervantes, which overlooks bronze sculptures of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. Next to the tower, there are two stone representations of Don Quixote's "true love", one as the simple peasant woman Aldonza Lorenzo, and one as the beautiful, imaginary Dulcinea del Toboso.

Why You Should Visit:
A typical tourist destination with nice sculptures, beautiful fountain and plenty of seats to sit, rest and watch the sunset/the world go by.
There are food vendors around and the streets surrounding have many cafés, bars and restaurants.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Madrid, Spain

Create Your Own Walk in Madrid

Create Your Own Walk in Madrid

Creating your own self-guided walk in Madrid is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Museums Walking Tour

Museums Walking Tour

Madrid is not only a big cultural center in Spain, but in the entire Europe as well. Having a great and interesting history behind, Madrid developed a vast culture over time. The city became world-famed for its museums and galleries. The following tour will guide you through the most famous museums in Madrid.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.4 km
Sol Souvenir Shopping

Sol Souvenir Shopping

It would be a pity to leave Madrid without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. We've compiled a list of gifts and souvenirs, which are unique to Madrid, that a visitor might like to purchase to reflect their visit.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.3 km
Salamanca Walking Tour

Salamanca Walking Tour

The Spanish capital is a vibrant metropolis made up of 21 districts. This walk brings you to and around one of them - Salamanca - one of the wealthiest and most expensive areas of Madrid, home to many foreign embassies and upscale venues. To see what else makes Salamanca a famous destination, take this walk and find out.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.4 km
Gran Via and Sol Walking Tour

Gran Via and Sol Walking Tour

Madrid is a vibrant metropolis full of taste, vigor, and wealth. This walk takes to two of the city's most prominent areas - Gran Vía and Sol – with the latter being Madrid's epicenter and a meeting place for locals and tourists alike. Gran Via ("Great Way") is a high-end thoroughfare in the heart of the capital, nicknamed Spanish Broadway for its numerous world-class shops and nightlife entertainment. To discover Madrid that never sleeps, take this walk and enjoy yourself.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.3 km
Buen Retiro Park Walking Tour

Buen Retiro Park Walking Tour

El Parque del Buen Retiro is one of the main attractions of the city of Madrid. Known to the locals simply as "El Retiro," the park is a favorite place to spend weekends and summer days and was considered a Royal Park up until two centuries ago. Highlights of the park include several fountains, palaces, monuments and arranged gardens. Discover this historical site step by step in the next self-guided tour.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.0 km
Nightlife Tour

Nightlife Tour

Citizens of Madrid are famous for being dynamic and very outgoing. Living in one of the liveliest cities in Europe, locals enjoy the nightlife, when Madrid transforms into an array of colors and music. Check out the most popular nightlife spots in Madrid in the next self-guided tour.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 km

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