Madrid in one day and it rains? So it happens. Rain happens to all of us, when we travel, whether we like it or not.
It doesn’t have to botch your trip though, especially if you’re in the indoor gem rich Madrid. We recently had a 12-hour layover when coming back from a weekend in Extremadura, so we decided to put on our explorers’ hats and see where the city took us.
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Madrid in one day: Airport to Madrid
We were coming back from the million tree hanami in Extremadura and had to catch a late flight from Madrid to Barcelona, so 12 hours in Madrid were a good opportunity to explore the city.
Getting from the airport to Madrid city center is easy.
Both shuttle buses and trains run directly from all Madrid airport terminals (T1 to T4). It takes the express shuttle bus some 30 minutes to reach the Atocha station, and the ticket costs 5 euro.
1. Puerta de Atocha Train Station
Madrid in one day should absolutely include a stop at the tropical garden inside Madrid’s train station. The superb botanical garden is a real sight for tired eyes!
No matter how overcast Madrid was, we could enjoy the canopy of tropical trees surrounded by a pond where turtles lazy around waiting to be photographed.
The 4.000 square meter garden is filled with several thousand plants, including 260 different species from America, Asia, and Australia. Possibly the most impressive is the palm from Madagascar, so big it almost reaches the glass ceiling.
There are paths that criss-cross the garden and several cafes around the sides, just enough for a coffee break before starting off in Madrid.
2. Reina Sofia Art Museum
It’s all relative when it comes to museums, especially art museums – not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea. But if there’s a serious case of deluge happening outside, you can head next to the Reina Sofia Museum, just across the street from the train station.
Tradition and modernity coexist in this space. The museum is especially known for its Dali and Picasso exhibitions, Picasso’s Guernica being the undisputed star.
Note that the museum is closed on Tuesdays
Alternative: La Casa Encendida
If you’re not in the mood for a mainstream museum, the contemporary art center at La Casa Encendida may be the thing for you – to try out different seasonal experiences, such as a DJ audio immersion session. Also, it beats sitting in a cafe for a couple of hours!
Note that the center is also closed on Tuesdays
3. Palacio Reial
The Royal Palace is an obviously must-do for Madrid in one day, and especially convenient if the weather’s bad.
Madrid’s Palacio Real is the largest royal palace in Europe, and one of the most stunning fusions of classical and baroque styles.
Did you know it’s built on the site of a IX century Moorish castle?
The palace was the private residence of kings and queens of Spain for generations. Nowadays, however, it’s mainly used for official state functions.
We only visited the Armeria, since the palace was closed for one month of renovations, starting that very day, so I can ‘t speak about the rest.
Still, the Armeria was a rather unexpected visit, accommodating perhaps hundreds of armures – of both horses and riders – the intricate details on some even bordering on art.
You can also add a visit to the royal kitchen. If that’s your thing.
4. Cripta de la Catedral de la Almudena
This amazing architectural gem supported by over 400 columns gave us shelter against the cold winds sweeping Madrid that morning. 3 degrees Celsius in April, that’s climate change for you.
Here’s a little-known fact: The Almudena Cathedral (to which the Crypt belongs, as a separate building) was the first cathedral outside of Rome ever to be consecrated by a Pope – Pope John Paul II, in 1993.
Only one century old, the Crypt inside the Almudena Cathedral, located right next to the Royal Palace, is a hidden gem even for locals.
The solemn classical music surrounding the rows of columns and reverberating against the beautiful stained glass windows was just what I needed after the cold and wind waiting outside the door.
Resting place for the living and departed alike.
5. Mercado de San Miguel
Less than a 5 minutes walk away from the palace, at Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid’s equivalent to Barcelona’s Boqueria, you’ll find the beautiful glass and cast iron market, very convenient for a snack on the go.
6. Plaza Mayor
Plaza Mayor is located next to the market. Since I’m only human, I also get the occasional traveler’s fatigue, especially when it comes to XVII century architecture, so I did not find the square that much impressive.Although the building in the image above, called Casa de la Panadería, was rather distinctive.
You may hear about the famous Sobrino de Botin – a Spanish tavern listed as the world’s oldest eatery in the Guinness Book of Records. While it’s worth stepping inside and having a quick look, be on your way – there are plenty of other places offering great food at reasonable prices.
Both the market and the plaza are just a short walk from the Palace, meaning you won’t suffer out in the rain for too long.
7. Temple of Debod
Beautiful surprise, to find Egyptian vestiges in Madrid!
Built in the 200 BC, Temple of Debod was a gift from Egypt to Spain, as a sign of gratitude for the help provided by Spain in saving the Abu Simbel temples. It was rebuilt in the 1970s in Parque del Oeste near the Royal Palace and it’s one of the few works of Egyptian architecture that can be seen outside Egypt.
While not exactly something to add to a rainy itinerary – the sight of the lit temple reflecting in the waters in the evening is quite spectacular.
A good place to finish off a full day in Madrid.
Have you visited any of these places, or do you have other tips? Leave your comments below!