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On our trip to Morocco, exploring Chefchaouen, Fes, and the Sahara Desert our flight to Marrakech included a layover in Madrid. We’d have a full 12 hours of daytime to explore, from 9AM-9PM before having to be back at the airport for our flight. Here is our itinerary for getting the most out of one day in Madrid.
One Day in Madrid: How to Get There
While our one day in Madrid was due to a long layover on the way to another destination, Madrid is very close to other cities. You can spend one day in Madrid if you’re in Barcelona by taking the train over. The first train leaves Barcelona at 06:05AM with the last train back to Barcelona at 9:30PM. The train ride is approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes each way. We’ve done a quick turnaround like this before when taking the train from London to Paris. The earlier you book your train the cheaper it is with tickets as low as $30 each way.
From Barcelona you can also take a 1 hour and 30 minute flight to spend one day in Madrid. While it is an hour less than the train you’ll need to arrive at the airport earlier and go through extensive security that you won’t have to do via train. Round trip flights go for as low as $65 on Iberia Airlines. Click here for the websites with the best flight deal.
One Day in Madrid: Where to Store Your Luggage
If you’re team carry-on only like we are or if your luggage doesn’t go through to your final destination you can store your luggage at the airport. There is luggage storage in both Terminal 1 and 2 in Madrid’s airport. The storage shop in Terminal 1 is actually outside while the one in Terminal 2 is inside the airport. If you plan on taking the train to/from the city center, it’s best to store your luggage in Terminal 2. This is because the storage shop is right next to the train station.
As of November 2019 these were the prices to store your bags:
One Day in Madrid: How to Get From the Airport to the City Center
To get to and from the airport you can take a taxi which is a flat fee of 30 Euro. An alternative to save money is taking public transportation via the train/metro. Depending on the time of day your flight is this could take 35 minutes to an hour. We went this route to save money as a one day pass is 8 Euros per person and we could use it all day.
Your One Day in Madrid Itinerary
El Parque Retiro
As we’d already had breakfast on the plan when we landed we kicked off our one day in Madrid by heading straight to El Parque Retiro. After 12 hours of travel time the park was the perfect place to get fresh air and stretch our legs, especially with a child. Besides just walking around you can rent a paddle boat and go around the lake.
Puerta de Sol
Next we took the train to Puerta de Sol, the heart of Madrid. The square was filled with people dressed as Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Mario & Luigi and other characters to entice kids to take a picture so their parents can tip them! The square is at the heart of streets lined with department stores, restaurants and bars. It’s also home to a statue of the most famous symbol in Madrid, El Oso y el Madroño.
After taking in Puerta de Sol we walked over to Plaza Mayor for lunch. There are so many restaurants here, many having quite similar menus. Since we didn’t do any prior research we just sat down at a place we could find a seat, each restaurant was equally as packed. You can’t come to Spain and not eat paella so of course that’s what we ordered!
San Miguel Market
If you don’t have time to sit down and eat or want to try a variety of foods, just three minutes from Plaza Mayor is San Miguel Market. It’s a food hall with plenty of options and lots of wine! It was packed when we walked around, so packed we ended up just leaving. Trying to maneuver through it with a stroller was a bit of a task and everyone was bumping into each other. Maybe don’t come here during prime lunch time hours!
Royal Palace of Madrid
A six minute walk from the market is the Royal Palace of Madrid. Guided tours are available but we took the self guided one for 12 Euros, kids 5 and under are free. The palace is gorgeous but you’re not able to take photos inside in most rooms.
If you’re traveling with kids like I was across the street from the palace is a playground. If your child needs a break this is the perfect place. There are swings, slides, and a big open space.
Attend a Flamenco Show
We ended our one day in Madrid watching a Flamenco show! There was no way we could say we visited Madrid without seeing one. Most are dinner shows and I highly recommend making a reservation in advance. Since life got in the way before the trip I was mostly playing our day by ear and didn’t realize how necessary a reservation would be. I walked to three shows until I finally found one that wasn’t sold out at Cafe de Chinitas. The show was decent but I could tell why it wasn’t sold out and can only imagine what a better one would be like. Still we got our Flamenco fix just in time to head back to the airport to catch our flight to Marrakech.
Where to Sleep on Your One Day in Madrid if You Spend the Night
If your one day in Madrid includes an overnight stay there are plenty of options on where to sleep. On our flight home from Marrakech we had another layover in Madrid but this one was overnight. We chose to stay at The Walt Madrid, a central hotel walking distance to Puerta del Sol. The rooms were modern and clean and so was the rest of the hotel, we were very pleased with our choice. Here’s a video tour of our room:
If you ever have the opportunity to spend one day in Madrid, especially via a free layover don’t pass up the opportunity! There is plenty to see and experience in one day. Did you find this article helpful? Please share it!
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