We arrived in Madrid around noon, our train pulled into Atocha Station amid large industrial buildings and widely spaced homes. Thirty minutes later we popped up on Gran Via from the metro system, surrounded by the honking horns of eight lanes of traffic and sidewalks crowded with tourists toting multiple shopping bags. It felt as if we’d been plopped down in the middle of Times Square without a map or any sense of where to go.
Our accommodation (Hospedaje Romero) was located only a few blocks down from the metro stop, a wonderful cozy room close to everything that also miraculously offered some well-received quiet from the hustle and bustle just outside the ornately crafted doors. The building was absolutely lovely and featured an antique wooden lift encircled by a marble staircase. We felt a bit too grimy for a place so nice – especially considering we hadn’t had an opportunity to do laundry in quite a while, instead opting for the classic backpacker odor everyone knows and loves. That night clean clothes won out over exploration. We made the short three block trek to the nearest laundromat (a sign perhaps?), which our lovely hosts had promptly called around to find before we had even pulled our smelly clothes out of our bags.
With fresh clothes and a good sleep we set out to explore Madrid our first morning. Our hosts had provided us with a map upon arrival and had pointed out some areas of interest (I love when they do that), so it was easy to come up with our walking route – starting from Gran Via heading East, circling back at the Plaza de Cibeles to hit the Mercado de San Miguel (indoor market with tapas) for lunch, and ending with a visit to the Palacio Real and Madrid Cathedral.
Below is a map that shows the walk – click on the blue markers for more information about the sights and attractions on this route! We’ve also included some photos below that we snapped while wandering Madrid along this route.
View Madrid Walking Tour in a larger map
As we made our way along Gran Via we were amazed by the sheer number of architecturally stunning buildings so deserving of our undivided attention – making it nearly impossible to take everything in and simultaneously sidestep the busy shoppers that crowd the sidewalk.
Overall, 4-6 hours is plenty of time to take pictures and sample some tapas along this route; if you want to explore any of the attractions in detail or do some shopping definitely add in a few hours. With all that Madrid has to offer, a walk like this is a perfect introduction to the city!
Have you ever traveled to Madrid? Did you like the city as much as we did? Let us know in the comments!