Walking Tour of Madrid, Spain
Madrid is an elegant city, built during a time of great Spanish prosperity and reflecting that wealth. It is extremely large, but the major tourist area is reasonably compact and can be covered on foot. Ideally, divide this walking tour into two pieces and visit the western part of the city on one day and the eastern section on another. Or, do the entire walking tour in one day as an orientation, then return to particular sights on subsequent days.
My walking tour begins at the city’s main gathering place, the Plaza Mayor, a huge and very dignified square which once hosted public events such as, bullfights and executions. Sip coffee or beer in one of the many outdoor cafes on the plaza to enjoy the ambience and to people-watch, or browse the many shops for Spanish treasures.
Exit the square to the north on Calle de Toledo, then turn right on Calle Mayor which leads into the Puerta Del Sol, another very busy gathering place and Kilometer Zero for all distances in Spain.
Continue straight ahead on what is now Calle de Alcala which joins with the city’s main street, Gran Via, before they enter the large traffic circle known as Plaza de la Cibeles. Spend some time admiring the beautiful statue and fountain of the Roman goddess Cybele in a chariot pulled by lions. The buildings behind the fountain are also graceful and elegant, adding to the scene (who would think that the largest building is the Post Office).
Continue past the circle to the next plaza which features the imposing Alcala Gate. From here, head south on Calle de Alfonso XII to enter Retiro Park on your left. What used to be the grounds of a former Royal Palace are now the playgrounds of the people, and a popular place it is. Stroll the vast park, noticing, in particular, the Alfonso XII Monument, on the lake, and the Crystal Palace.
Exit the park on its western side, where you entered and continue westward on almost any street to reach the Paseo del Prado where you will find Madrid’s most famous and one of the world’s greatest museums, the Prado. Browse the extensive collections, then exit and turn left to the next large open area, in front of Atocha Station.
From here, take Calle de Santa Isabel, on the right, to another museum, Reina Sophia, which contains Picasso’s Guernica, a painting that some consider the greatest ever.
After your visit, go back to the station, turn right, then right again on Ronda de Atocha, then right onto Calle de Embajadores to the Plaza de Cascorro, then right onto Calle de Toledo. On your right, check St Isadore’s Cathedral, a Baroque, twin-towered church.
Continue north to Calle Mayor and take a left to visit the Palacio Real (Royal Palace), Spain’s answer to Versailles. This grand residence has some 2,000 rooms. Highlights include the Throne Room, the Porcelain Room and the Royal Armory which contains the finest collection of weapons in all of Spain.
From the palace, head east on Calle Mayor and right on Calle de Toledo back to the city’s main square and your starting point.