Madrid in 12 Hours

When you have a layover in the Spanish capital… this is how to explore Madrid in 12 hours.

When we heard we would have a day’s stopover in Madrid, we took on the challenge of seeing what we could in a short amount of time.

Arriving at the airport we decided to put our bags into storage, fortunately our hold luggage was going directly to our next destination, which was Rome.

The facilities cost us 10 euros to put our hand luggage in storage while we took a small rucksack with us. We jumped on the train and arrived in to Madrid’s city centre!


Puerta del Sol

This is a square not to be missed. As one of the busiest in the city, ‘the gate of the sun’ is famous for the massive Tio Pepe sign and for housing the statue of a bear and a Madrone tree which is a symbol of the city.

It’s all about the Tio Pepe.

Chocolatería San Ginés

Did you really have the full Spanish experience if you didn’t indulge in a hot chocolate with Churros? This is the place to come for that fix. It’s true the turnaround is quick, so it’s not the kind of place you sit and chill for ages, but worth coming to sample some world class sweet treats.

San Gines is legendary!

Free Walking Tour

It has become somewhat of a tradition to find a free walking tour in every city we visit. Happily, Madrid does have a Sandeman’s free walking tour which if you’ve only got a few hours to sightsee is the best option. We started at Plaza Mayor in the city centre around 2pm for a tour that took 2.5 hours. It covered the history of the city and Spain, the city’s oldest restaurant, the Royal Palace, Oriente Square and Madrid’s Robin Hood! We did have an especially charismatic tour guide too which always helps. It’s pay as you feel and we gave our guide 20 EUR.

Walking tours start at 10am, 11am and 2pm from Plaza Mayor and book your spot online!

Our fabulous tour guide!

Spanish Broadway

After the tour we made our way to Gran Via which is one huge road in the city centre with lots of theatres, shops and places to eat and drink. Also, the unofficial home of the Mecca of all Primark’s (seriously it’s huge!) and an opulent McDonald’s. Find a good lunch spot here, choosing from hundreds of eateries or Maccy D’s of course.

Ooooh that Broadway rhythm

Museo Reina Sophia

If you can squeeze in a museum for a culture fix then this building hosts arguably Picasso’s most influential work. His mural the ‘Guernica’ was originally made to be shown in Paris in 1937 and depicts the horrors of war and the bombing of a Basque town in the Spanish Civil War. Simply put, it’s an exquisite collection of modern and contemporary art! If like Henry classical art is your thing, then the Prado Museum is for you.

🎫 Opening times are 10am – 9pm and closed on Tuesdays and costs 10 euros.

Reina Sophia

Atocha Train Station Tropical Garden

Rather nicely you can round your day off with a stop at this gorgeous train station just over the road from where the Guernica is housed. As you walk in, you’ll notice a huge tropical botanical garden with several thousand plants from all around the world. There’s even a fish and turtle pond to up the wow factor of this beautiful but bizarre addition to the station.

Why aren’t all train stations so pretty?!

Then all you have to do is get on the train and back to the airport or to wherever you need to go!

The Royal Palace

We hope you enjoyed this quick city guide, check out our website for more helpful guides and itineraries!

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