The city centre of Madrid is very flat so the majority of visitors won’t have a problem wandering on foot between Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor and Paseo del Prado. However, if you’d like to head further afield such as to visit the Santiago Bernabeu stadium or the bullring at Las Ventas you’ll need transport. There’s an excellent underground network in Madrid if you’re looking to get around on the cheap, otherwise you can book one of many city tours that show you the main sights from the comfort of a luxury, air-conditioned coach. Alternatively, at additional expense, you can hire a private guide and driver who will show you the city in style.
Madrid Coach Tours
There’s a good selection of city tours available to suit the interests of every visitor. The following tours include a general city coach tour with an English speaking guide and you can add on a visit to the Royal Palace or Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu Stadium according to your preference.
- Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour: Many visitors prefer to go it alone and see the city off their own back. If that’s you then you might consider getting a ticket for Madrid’s hop-on, hop-off bus service which travels a set route around most of Madrid’s main tourist attractions.
- Panoramic City Coach Tour: A popular choice amongst first time visitors to the capital is one of the various city coach tours which take in the main sights. Some of these include a visit to the Royal Palace.
- City Tour and Real Madrid Stadium Visit: This is the great compromise tour for football fans who can enjoy a tour of the highlights of Madrid with the wife knowing that a visit to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium is also part of the tour.
Madrid Walking Tours
If you’re staying in the centre of Madrid you can easily walk around many of the city’s main attractions with a reasonable level of fitness. As a sample itinerary you could head off one morning from Puerta del Sol and stroll down to the Royal Palace. From the Royal Palace head to Plaza de Oriente, Iglesia de San Francisco, Plaza de la Paja, the Ayuntamiento, Plaza Mayor, Calle Santa Isabel, Atocha Railway Station and Paseo del Prado where you’ll find Madrid’s three great art museums:
Finally, head for the Retiro Gardens to relax after a full day of sightseeing. Of course you can use your guidebook to learn about many of the sights you come across on your walk but there are local guides who can offer a fascinating insight into the history of old Madrid. Highly recommended is that you purchase a Madrid Card (see below) which not only includes entry into many of the city’s top attractions it also includes a walking tour led by an official English speaking guide employed by the Madrid Tourist Office. Another option is to hire a licensed tour guide who will take you on a walking tour of Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor then conduct a private tour of either the Royal Palace or Prado Museum according to your preferences.
The two most popular evening options are as follows:
- Flamenco Show and Dinner: In the evening a flamenco show is a popular choice for visitors and there is a good range of performances available ranging from large scale spectaculars for tourist groups to smaller shows in more intimate surroundings. The performance at the Tablao Torres Bermejas is always popular.
- Tapas and Wine Tasting: You can join a small group tapas bar crawl escorted by a knowledgeable local foodie who will take you to a selection of traditional tapas bars where you’ll be able to try a some typical dishes and local wines.
Private Madrid City Tours
If you’re looking for something more exclusive (but more expensive) then you might consider hiring the services of an English speaking tour guide in Madrid who will be able to show you around any of the main attractions. A vehicle and English speaking driver can also be arranged to transport you around the city. Here are a few suggestions of private tours you might enjoy:
- Madrid Sightseeing Tours: On these private tours your driver will collect you at your hotel and drive you around the main sights of the city. A popular extension to the city tour is to include a visit to the Royal Palace where you can meet our official city guide for a private tour of the Palace before being transferred back to your hotel.
- Madrid Artistic Tours: Private guides are available to provide official tours of the Prado Museum, the Reina Sofia Gallery and the Royal Palace, home of Picasso’s ‘Guernica’. Such tours can be personalised according to your preferences.
- Madrid Walking Tour: An interesting way to see the highlights of the city is to hire your own local guide who will take you on a walking tour of Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor then take you on a fascinating tour of the Royal Palace.
- Madrid Night Tour and Flamenco Show: An English speaking driver can collect you at your hotel and take you on a panoramic tour of the city by night. After the tour he will take you to Café de Chinitas which is one of the longest established flamenco venues in Madrid. Here you can enjoy dinner during the performance.
- Tapas Tour of Madrid: In Madrid there are some great tapas bars offering a vast range of tapas including ‘patatas bravas’ (deep-fried potato in a spicy sauce), tortilla (Spanish omelette), Calamares (deep fried squid rings) and excellent shellfish tapas arriving daily from the coast. On this tapas tour your resident English-speaking guide will take you on a tour of some of the capital’s finest tapas bars.
Day Excursions from Madrid
Time permitting you might also consider a day trip from Madrid to popular destinations near the capital such as Toledo, El Escorial or Segovia.