Have a few hours to kill during your layover in Madrid? Fear not! Activities abound just beyond the airport’s walls.
While it’s hard to become a pro at Spain’s capital in a day, there are plenty of gorgeous parks, amazing tapas bars and delicious local dishes you can devour in just a few hours. Take advantage of your layover in Madrid, and check these quick (but classic!) hot-spots off your list.
Photo Credit: Brianne Garrett
Take a Quick Trip to Puerta del Sol
Sol is Madrid’s most famous square and it’s just a quick ride from the airport on the Cercanías train. With such easy access from the airport, there’s no excuse not to visit Sol during your layover in Madrid.
Step out of the station and into the heart of downtown Madrid. Snap a photo in front of Madrid’s most iconic statue, the bear and strawberry tree, or join crowds of people watching street performers in action around the square.
If you’re looking for something more low-key, you’re in luck. When you know where to look, you can walk to a variety of quality bars and restaurants in no time.
But keep in mind—as this is the heart of downtown, there are a few too many tourist traps around! Our Ultimate Spanish Cuisine Tour takes you to some of this area’s best kept secrets.
Have a Pastry at La Mallorquina
Take a few moments to indulge in a flaky napolitana or a sweet and fruity rosquilla right on the edge of the Puerta del Sol plaza. La Mallorquina is known for its traditional desserts and is a great stop during a layover in Madrid. This pastry shop is a must-try for all those with an insatiable sweet tooth.
Pick up a chocolate-filled croissant to snack on as you explore the enchanting streets of the city center or stay awhile and order a café con leche to go along with your mouthwatering pastry. Other favorites are brazo de trufa, a truffle cake roll, or palmeras, crispy, thin puff pastries often topped with chocolate. If you’re not into sweets, go for a savory croissant filled with ham and cheese!
Pro Tip: While La Mallorquina is busy at all times of the day, trust us when we say it’s worth the wait. Grab a number near the stairs in order to snag a table upstairs! Our favorite thing to order? A thin croissant stuffed full of heavenly dark chocolate. You can even ask if they have one fresh out of the oven (they usually do!).
Address: Calle Mayor, 2
Take a Food Tour
If you’ve got limited time in Madrid, one of the best ways to maximize your experience is ask for a bit of help in what to see! Food tours are the perfect way to get an inside look at all Madrid has to offer.
With our Tapas, Taverns & History tour, for example, you’ll get a taste of four of the city’s best tapas bars and a fascinating and entertaining historical walking tour of Old Madrid—all in just a few hours!
Another great option is the Behind-The-Scenes Botin Lunch & Prado Museum Tour. Anyone with limited time in Madrid knows what two of the must-visit places are: the Prado Museum and Botin, the oldest restaurant in the world! Combine both during your layover in Madrid in this exclusive small-group tour of six people. You’ll save time with us by skipping the line at the Prado. Once inside, you’ll get so much more out of our guided 1.5 hour tour with an expert than you would wandering around by yourself. Finish off this essential Madrid experience with a classic vermouth in a tavern followed by an unbelievable three-course meal at Botin. And just like that, in around four hours you’ll be able to call yourself a true Madrid expert!
Stretch Your Legs at Retiro Park
Retiro offers the best of both worlds: nature and art, all in one. Escape the busy city streets to experience the monuments, sculptures, and galleries that rival museum exhibits worldwide. The park also houses a peaceful lake where you’ll find many visitors relaxing with a good book, enjoying the nice view or taking a rowboat for a spin. As the most famous park in the city, it’s a great place to visit during a layover in Madrid.
Don’t leave Retiro without taking a walk inside the Crystal Palace. It’s as elaborate and eye-catching as it sounds, and is one of the true gems of Retiro. Even better—it’s free to enter!
Have a Caña at a Classic Tapas Bar
You just can’t visit Madrid without enjoying a refreshing caña, a small draft beer. This favorite Madrileño pastime is a fantastic way to experience the city just like the locals do. Raise your glass for a toast to your short-but-enjoyable layover in Madrid before you have to catch your next flight.
Pro tip: Pair that caña with one of the many delicious dishes Madrid is known for!
Stroll Through Mercado de San Miguel
Mercado de San Miguel is easily the most famous market in Madrid and is absolutely worth a visit—especially if you’re only in the city for a few hours. Endless selections of tapas, wine, fruits, cheeses and desserts are beautifully displayed, making it pleasantly difficult to decide what to try first. No matter the time of day, the San Miguel Market is always buzzing with people from all over the world anxious to sample both its local and international products. Open continuously from 10:00 am to midnight (2:00 am on weekends), it’s a great option for a visit during a layover in Madrid, day or night. Our advice? Try a refreshing glass of vermouth right at the bar with our friends La Hora del Vermut. It’s the quintessential Spanish aperitif, and it’s certainly making a comeback right now.
Address: Plaza de San Miguel
Craving more? Our Madrid food tours are the perfect way to get to know the city. Our tours offer a two-fold experience: a chance to learn about the rich culture and history of Spain while enjoying some of the best food and drinks in the city—and we do it all in just a few hours!
Featured Image Credit: Brianne Garrett
Brianne Garrett is a lover of storytelling in all of its forms. Interning with Devour Tours during her Madrid study abroad experience allowed her to continue this pursuit, where she had the opportunity to merge her love of journalism with her passion for food, wine and Spanish culture. Currently, at the New York-based Wine Spectator, she continues to write about all things wine and food. Brianne has also written for a variety of publications such as Chowhound, CNET, USA TODAY, and is an alumna of Boston University. You can check out her work at briannegarrett.com.