Day 1 - See how the locals live
Madrid is right in the centre of Spain. It is thanks to this location that it is Spain’s capital. It is also the liveliest of all the Spanish cities and the locals, known as ‘Madrileños’, are just as much an attraction as some of the architecture and museums. Upon arriving in Madrid, check into your accommodation and go for a stroll and see how the locals live. They like to drink coffee during the day and then party hard at night.
After frequenting yourself with some of the city, make your way to Sol which is right in the centre. All around the area are shops if you fancy treating yourself. Also around Sol are an array of cafés in which to grab a coffee. This will give you another opportunity to watch Madrid life sail by. Also in Sol is Plaza Mayor. This is the city’s largest square and is packed with cafés, shops and bars. Something which makes it particularly impressive are the murals around the square. You won’t find it hard to spend a whole afternoon there.
Madrid’s nightlife is legendary. It goes on well into the wee hours of the morning and you probably won’t make it to bed until well after 3am. The area between Puerta del Sol and Plaza de Santa Ana is eternally popular, particularly Calle Huertas where pubs, traditional tavernas and theatre cafés line the streets.
Day 2 - Monasteries and the most famous team in the world?
Madrid city centre has enough to offer any visitor for a short break, but it is always worth exploring what is on the outskirts of the city. If you do this you will come across Monasterio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial in the town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, which is 50 kilometres northwest of the city.
Built in the second half of the 16th century by King Phillip II of Spain to mark the Spanish’s victory over the French in August 1557, a monastery, two palaces, and a library was built in the entire complex. It is best known for its symmetrical design and as the burial site for many famous Spanish kings and queens. And once inside it is difficult not to be impressed by the stately rooms and paintings from such masters as Tintoretto and Dürer.
The easiest way to get to the monastery is by hopping on a train from Charmartin Station to El Escorial and then getting a bus from there.
If you are lucky enough to be in Madrid during the months when the Spanish League La Liga is on (end of August until June annually), then don’t miss the chance of seeing one of the world’s most famous teams in action. Home to some of the most famous footballers in the world such as Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and Luis Figo, Real Madrid play their home games at Santiago Bernabéu situated at Concha Espina 1. Madrid’s other team, Athletico Madrid play their home games in Vicente Calderón at Paseo Virgen del Puerto 67.
Games are usually played in the evening so if you decide to go on a little excursion from Madrid for the day you should get back in for a game. And keep note that they are usually played on Saturdays or Sundays.
Day 3 - From Museo del Prado to the park
Situated on Paseo del Prado, Museo del Prado is widely regarded as one of the world’s best art museums. It houses over two and a half thousand works of art dating from the 1400’s right up to the 1800’s. While a lot of the emphasis does lie with the great Spanish artists such as El Greco, Goya and Velazques, you will also have the opportunity to see hundreds of works by Flemish and Italian artists including Botticelli, Mantegna, Bosch, Rembrandt and Ruebens. A visit to this museum is a highly enjoable way to begin the day.
Whether of not you decide to spend a full day there is up to yourself. If looking at painting after painting becomes a little too tiresome for you, just across the street from the museum is Real Jardin Botanico, one of the nicest of the city centre parks. There are over 100 species of trees in the park and over 3,000 types of plant. A ‘must do’ for nature lovers.
That evening visit the area around the Gran Via. Here you will find an abundance of bars and nightclubs. It’s so popular and busy at night time that you are bound to see traffic jams at around 4am! Going from Cibeles Square to Plaza de Espana, this huge street can be a tad tacky at some points but is worth a look.
Day 4 - Toledo
Another town not far from Madrid is Toledo. Dating back as far back as before Roman times, this medieval city is full with old narrow streets (sometimes with cars flying up and down), and an array of attractions.
La Catedral de Toledo which is situated in the old city can’t be missed. Built between the 13th and 15th century, this gothic cathedral has burial chambers of kings, amazing art and, of course, you can always sit and gather your thoughts if you wish.
The city’s other big drawcard is the alcázar, an ancient fortress which was destroyed constantly under siege in the Middle Ages and the Spanish Civil War, and was totally destroyed in 1535. The views over the city from here are the best in the city.
If you have any time remaining after seeing the city’s premier landmarks, an old church called Iglesia de Santo Tomé, Puente de Alcantara, one of the entrances to the old city, and Puerta de Bisagra (another one) should be paid visits. But, what’s more than likely to happen on a day out in Toledo is that you will walk around the fascinating winding streets for most of the day.
*Note: Even though Toledo is approximately 1 hour outside Madrid it is well worth the visit and is connected well by both bus and train services.
Day 5 - Tasty views, then Tapas Bars
After seeing so much of Madrid on foot, your feet will need a rest. The best place to do so is at Madrid’s observatory tower which offers amazing views over the city called the Faro de Moncloa (Light of Moncloa). Located in the university district the building stands at 302 feet high and, as well offering fabulous vistas of the city, it’s a nice way to get away from the bustling streets in the city for about an hour or so.
Going up the Faro de Moncloa won’t take up a whole morning, leaving you with loads of time to visit the Palacio Real (Royal Palace). Lived in by the Royal Family until 1931, today the palace is used for official state visits. Altogether there are over 3,000 rooms in the palace, more than any other European palace and each one is decorated with great opulence. It also is home to one of the largest libraries in the world, as well as a very serious collection of weapons and armoury dating as far back as the 15th Century. Today it is open to the public and organised tours take approximately two hours. After walking around the palace for a while, you could find yourself lazing in the gardens for some of the afternoon as they are perfect for doing so, plus they offer some amazing views of Madrid.
If you still have some time left after visiting both the observatory deck and the Royal Palace (which is pretty likely), take some time to do a spot of shopping. The best known area for shopping is between Sol and Gran Via. Serrano Street, up from Plaza de la Independencia in the north east of the city is especially good for clothes shops and if you are going to be in the city on a Sunday, make sure and visit the El Rastro flea market.
A great way to spend a night in Madrid is by hopping from one ‘tapas bar’ to another. Tapas is a Spanish culinary speciality, but bars serving it usually sell beer also. By going on a bar crawl it is a good way to mingle with some locals, rather than visiting all the city’s touristy spots night after night.
Something which is totally unique to the Spanish capital are bars which don’t open their hours until 3am! Wherever you hear the phrase ‘tres de la madrugada’, this means that the certain event in question doesn’t begin until that time.