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Madrid layover ideas

I have a 15hr layover in Madrid in December. I get in at 3pm and leaving at 6am. I'll be traveling alone and it's my first time in Europe. Need some ideas on what to do, where to go etc. I'm a New Yorker so subway travel is second nature to me. Don't want to waste my time there. Any suggestions?

6 Answers

top answer by
Ross from Fort Collins

well thats a long layover! i love Madrid, it is my favorite big city, i will live there! getting from the airport to the historic area is easy and if your a new yorker ill spare you that (taxi,train,bus lol) i wouldn't try to do to much. i would pick one museum, or one major attraction, there is way to much to do, and i think most people including myself try to cram it all in and you just cant. pick three things within walking distance and be happy if you see two of them.

  my favorite thing to do is get lost and eat ham and drink wine. and next time I'm there i plan on just doing that. find an old bar in an ally with only old men in it and legs of ham hanging from the ceiling, then you have found happiness. the good spots always give free tapas with every drink, and they get better with every round!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Madrid (city)
5 thankscomments (2)

answered by
Travis from Kamloops

Madrid is a great city, and you can probably do a lot in the time you have. I would take the express bus service (5 Euro paid directly to the driver) which will drop you off in Plaza Cibeles (30-40 min ride with only one stop). From there you have the option to go to all the major sights - you can wander down the Gran Vía to the Plaza de España, down to the Royal Palace of Madrid, and back through the Plaza Mayor to the Puerta del Sol.

Definitely grab some food at the Mercado de San Miguel and sit and have a coffee along one of the major streets. Once it gets dark, Madrid really comes alive, with people meeting up and having fun in the main squares (Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, etc.) and along the main streets (Gran Via, etc.). Many places are open late at night and you could always grab a late dinner at a restaurant - many people don't eat until at least 9 or 10 (probably the best area to eat is the region just south of the Plaza Mayor along Calle Cava Baja. After your late dinner either stay at a hotel or just catch the Express bus back to the Airport (from either Cibeles or at Atocha Railway Station) which runs all night. ***note that the bus only runs from Atocha until 11:30pm

The art museums are great, and if you are really into art, then I would recommend them; however, if you just want to get a taste of Madrid, then the best way is just walking around and experiencing the city. 

**If you don't want to haul your luggage around, there is a left luggage place in Terminal 4 near the arrivals (I think it's 10 Euro per bag for the amount of time you'd need it)

Here is a link to a page with express bus info -

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Plaza Cibeles (attraction)
  2. Gran Vía (attraction)
  3. Plaza de España (attraction)
  4. Royal Palace of Madrid (attraction)
  5. Plaza Mayor (attraction)
  6. Mercado de San Miguel (restaurant)
  7. Calle Cava Baja (attraction)
  8. Atocha Railway Station (attraction)
  9. Puerta del Sol (attraction)
3 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Scott from Fort Collins

Hello Nellie! I would look to the Museo del Pradoif you like museums, world class art and such.  I believe they close at 7:00.  Then, I would work my way in and around Plaza Mayor, which has a Christmas Market that is fun to stroll around and through.  Puerta del Sol also has a huge Christmas tree set up and a good bustle with shopping around. I also really the vibe at Mercado de San Miguel There are numerous restaurants and tapas bars around Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol, where you can dip in and out for tapas as you're strolling.  If you're a wine drinker, look for Albariño from Rias Biaxas or, if you like reds, try a Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero.  If you can hang in there, find the Sherry Bar, La Venencia for a night cap.  Really cool old world vibe and a great end to a late evening, which should put you right to sleep for the flight home.  Hope that helps and safe travels!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Museo del Prado (attraction)
  2. Plaza Mayor (attraction)
  3. Mercado de San Miguel (restaurant)
  4. La Venencia (attraction)
  5. Puerta del Sol (attraction)
3 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Pamela from New Canaan, Connecticut

The Museo del Prado is a must see, but it's massive, and you could spend a whole day there.  Here's my two tips for best time management:

1.  Book your entrance ticket online ahead of time.  That way you won't risk wasting precious time stuck in a queue.

2. This is key:  On the Museo del Prado website, there is a page that lists 15 Masterpieces and where in the museum they are located.  The list includes El Greco, Velázquez, Goya, Raphael, Bosch, get the picture...all the important artists.  If you map out what you want to see ahead of time, you'll get the best bang for your buck, timewise, and still have plenty of time to explore more of Madrid  (If 15 isn't enough for you, there's 50 masterpieces listed on the back of the map brochure at the museum, with their locations. Even that will help to narrow down your visit.)

Madrid is might even want to go back when you have more time.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Museo del Prado (attraction)
  2. Madrid (city)
1 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Jacey & Scott from Fort Collins

Definitely head into town.  If you can secure tickets to the Royal Palace of Madrid, I really enjoyed it and thought it was incredibly preserved.  The Museo del Prado can be rather time consuming, but it is one of the best museums in the world and you can certainly spend the entire time you have between flights there if you enjoy art.  I prefer to talk around the city and experience it so you can actually say "you were there".  You could start in Parque del Retiro, which is absolutely lovely, then walk up to Plaza Mayor, visit Mercado de San Miguel for lunch or snacks (its fabulous and so much fun with all the different food stalls), then head over to the Palace.  It's a good walk to take in the city!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Royal Palace of Madrid (attraction)
  2. Museo del Prado (attraction)
  3. Parque del Retiro (attraction)
  4. Plaza Mayor (attraction)
  5. Mercado de San Miguel (restaurant)
1 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Taylor from Pennsylvania

Hola Nellie,

You've probably picked the best city to have a layover.  I would argue that Madrid rivals NYC as the city that never sleeps.  ; ) If you are into museums, I would try hitting one up.  The free hours at the Prado are 6-8PM and the Reina Sofia's are 7-9PM.  Take metro stop Atocha to get to either of them.  The metro system is super easy and especially coming from New York you won't have problems.  Before hitting the museums you should take a stroll through Retiro, one of Madrid's beautiful and most famous parks. It's right in the same neighborhood as the museums and there will be plenty of people out walking around even in December.  Definitely take advantage of late night eating and get some tapas.  Spaniards are very social and there are always people around.  I love the neighborhood La Latina to go tapa-ing.  Malasaña, Alonso Martínez and Chueca are also fun areas so I would head there for tapas or late night drinks.  The Mercado de San Miguel (near Sol) and the Mercado de San Antón (near Chueca) are nice spots to get tapas.   The last metro is around 1:30 so keep that in mind.  If you prefer to stay out later, there is an airport shuttle bus that leaves from the Plaza de Cibeles that you can take.  I think it's only 5 euro.  A trip to Madrid would also not be complete without eating churros and chocolate at San Ginés.  Get off at metro stop Sol to get there. You can stop in there whenever, but churros are usually eaten in the morning after a late night of galavanting.  It would be very madrileño of you to eat those and then hop on the bus or metro to get to the airport.

Another note: Since it's December the city will be in the Christmas-time spirit.  There's a Christmas market in the Plaza Mayor.  It's not the best European Christmas market, but it's fun to look around and people watch.  There is also a giant Christmas tree made of all lights that they put in Sol and there will be lights hanging across all the streets.  It's very beautiful and worth snapping a photo of. 

Enjoy and buen viaje!

comments (1)

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