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Madrid Tours

Touring Madrid with a specialized guide will help you discover the city's best kept secrets.

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

8 min read

Madrid Tours

La Cibeles and Palacio de Correos | ©Gregorio López

The history of Madrid is not only its buildings and streets; the history of Madrid is its people and the events that took place in it. From this I can assure you that there is a lot to learn and the best way to do it are the guided tours around the city.

1. Tour of Historic Madrid and the old town

Downtown Madrid from the air
Downtown Madrid from the air

This historical tour of Madrid and its old town will take you to the essential places in the center of Madrid: to know the Madrid of the Austrias, the Almudena Cathedral and the most iconic squares and streets of the capital. During the approximately two and a half hour tour, your guide will tell you stories and details about the buildings and historical figures of Madrid's history.

Itinerary on foot

  • Puerta del Sol
  • Plaza Mayor
  • San Miguel Market
  • Plaza de la Villa
  • Almudena Cathedral
  • Royal Palace
  • Royal Theater

2. Tour of the Barrio de las Letras

Malasaña on a summer day
Malasaña on a summer day

The Barrio de las Letras is located a few meters from the Puerta del Sol and you will know it by the literary inscriptions that you will see engraved on the road along it. It is known for being the neighborhood in which lived illustrious figures of Spanish literature and today also for being one of the most lively areas of the capital.

During this two-hour tour of the Barrio de las Letras in Spanish, your guide will tell you about the anecdotes and character of figures such as Valle-Inclán (I recommend reading 'Luces de Bohemia' before the tour), Lope de Vega or Cervantes. The Spanish Golden Age (so called because of the flourishing of the arts and literature) is the protagonist of the tour.

Itinerary on foot

  • Puerta del Sol
  • Calle de la Cruz and its "trompe l'oeil" (trompe l'oeil)
  • Álvarez Gato and Esperpento Street
  • Santa Ana Square
  • Church of San Sebastián
  • Las Huertas Street
  • Convento de las Trinitarias Descalzas (Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians)
  • Quevedo Street
  • Lope de Vega House Museum

3. Tour of the ghosts of Madrid

Linares Palace| ©David Short
Linares Palace| ©David Short

This is one of the most original ghost tours in Madrid, precisely because there is no guide. When you make your reservation online you receive the instructions to access through your phone to a series of recordings that tell you spooky stories set in different parts of downtown Madrid. You can take the tour when you want and at your own pace; the route is marked and the recordings are dramatized by actors.

You will be surprised by the amount of legends about paranormal phenomena that Madrid has; if you have never heard of ghost stories like those of Goyito or Maria, you will discover them on this tour.

Itinerary

  • Linares Palace
  • Cibeles Fountain
  • Recoletos Promenade
  • Gran Vía
  • Santo Domingo Square

4. Tapas tasting tour with wine tasting included

Tapas in Madrid| ©Salomé Chaussure
Tapas in Madrid| ©Salomé Chaussure

Not everything in Madrid are stories and famous people. The gastronomic culture is as much a part of this city as Kilometer Zero or Cibeles. This gastronomic tour is designed for you to taste several wines and up to 12 different tapas while strolling through the capital.

The tour lasts three hours. As it is a small group tour, you will enjoy the company of the local guide who will not show you the so-called "guiris" bars but those where the locals usually go.

5. Tour of the Inquisition in Madrid

Plaza Mayor| ©Jorge Franganillo
Plaza Mayor| ©Jorge Franganillo

An important (and unpleasant) period in the history of Spain was the Inquisition and Madrid was one of the main scenarios of this massacre. We must always remember the past in order to try to learn from our mistakes as a society and that is why this tour is not only popular with visitors to Madrid but also with those who live in the city.

The two-hour tour is focused on this dark historical period and therefore chooses the places in medieval Madrid that were most relevant during the Spanish Inquisition in Madrid. It starts and ends in the Plaza Mayor and from there the walking tour of the Madrid of the Inquisition goes through points of interest such as the Palace of the Incarnation, the Plaza de Santo Domingo where the dungeons of the Holy Office were located or the Plaza de la Cruz Verde where the impious were executed.

6. Tour of Madrid with entrance to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium

The emotion of a match
The emotion of a match

If you ask someone outside Spain what they know about the city of Madrid, there is a high percentage of chances that they will name Real Madrid and some of its players. This soccer club is an emblem of the city and that is why this tour combines sightseeing in Madrid with a visit to the Santiago Bernabeu stadium (entrance included, but not to attend a match).

In addition to visiting the dressing rooms, the field, the benches and the presidential box of the Real Madrid stadium and learning more about its history, the tour will also take you aboard an air-conditioned bus to visit places like the Puerta de Toledo, the Royal Palace, the Almudena Cathedral, Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol, Paseo del Prado, Cibeles, Puerta de Alcalá or the Las Ventas bullring. This tour lasts four hours.

7. Bike tour with tapas tasting included

Plaza de la Villa| ©Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
Plaza de la Villa| ©Jean-Pierre Dalbéra

The size of the city of Madrid makes walking around it possible but quite tiring; on the other hand, the city has many areas adapted for cycling. This tour allows you to take in more points of interest thanks to the tour of Madrid by bike (whose rental is included in the price) and without having to give up the advice of a specialized guide. In addition, it includes tapas tasting to replenish your strength during the tour.

Itinerary

  • Retiro Park
  • Cibeles Fountain
  • Puerta del Sol
  • Plaza Mayor
  • Plaza de la Villa
  • Royal Palace
  • Almudena Cathedral
  • Cebada Market
  • Barrio de las letras

8. Tour of the majestic Madrid

Prado Museum| ©Francisco Aragão
Prado Museum| ©Francisco Aragão

Still leaving the center, this tour moves away from the more historical Madrid to focus more on the cultural Madrid of the Barrio de las Letras and the so-called Paseo del Arte (along which are several of the main museums of the city). For two hours a local guide will explain the secrets of the architecture of the 20th century, the Bourbon dynasty and the literature of the Golden Age.

This Majestic Madrid Tour is especially recommended for art and literature lovers, but anyone can enjoy it as the explanations of the local guide who leads the tour are completely accessible to the general public.

Itinerary of the tour

  • The Plaza Mayor
  • The Barrio de las Letras
  • The Paseo del Prado
  • Cibeles Palace
  • Santa Cruz Palace

9. How to organize your city tour in Madrid

Strolling through the Retiro| ©Pierre-Arnaud KOPP
Strolling through the Retiro| ©Pierre-Arnaud KOPP

Book in advance

For an optimal experience, all guided tours in Madrid have a certain number of places. When you know the day and time you want to do the tour you can book your place online and then you will be sent information via email with everything you need to know about the tour or the meeting with your guide.

Meeting point

The main meeting points for these tours are usually either Puerta del Sol or Plaza Mayor. Regardless of where you are staying in Madrid it will be easy to locate these two places or any other where the tour takes place. The best way to get around in Madrid is the metro as it connects practically every corner of the city quickly and easily.

Dates and times

The tours are usually available throughout the year, although not every day of the week (you will see the specific times before booking). On when to do them: eliminate from your mind the months of July and August when temperatures in the capital can reach 40 degrees Celsius. Autumn and spring will be the best times to enjoy these walks as in winter there can be rainy seasons in Madrid.

What to bring

Comfortable shoes and water are the essential elements for this type of tours. Keep in mind that it can get very hot in Madrid and it is best to wear loose clothing and protect yourself not only with a hat but also with sunscreen if you travel to the Spanish capital in the warmer months. The longer tours have a stop in the middle; bring something loose in case you want to recharge your batteries with a coffee.

10. Guided visits to the most famous sights on the Madrid tours

Almudena Cathedral| ©Eric Titcombe
Almudena Cathedral| ©Eric Titcombe

During the different tours of Madrid you will see places whose entrance is not included in the tour such as the Royal Palace, the Royal Theater or the Almudena Cathedral (in the latter case you can enter for free, but you may not have time during the tour).

Surely, many of these places will capture your attention and you will want to visit them in more depth. I recommend you to look into guided tours of the most famous monuments and buildings in the capital. Among all of them, the most worthwhile in my opinion is the one to the Royal Palace; you can read more about it in my article: Madrid Royal Palace Tours.

11. Other Madrid tours that may interest you

Segovia Aqueduct| ©Pedro
Segovia Aqueduct| ©Pedro

Madrid has a lot to see and learn about, but its geographical location also allows you to take advantage of a visit to the city to visit other nearby places such as Segovia or Toledo. If you liked the experience of a guided tour of Madrid, I recommend you to try a guided excursion to other cities that within a short distance from the capital, have stories and mysteries to discover. You can read more about the tours available from Madrid here: Other Day Trips from Madrid.

If you want to go directly to my favorites, Segovia and Toledo are, in my opinion, the most attractive. I leave you here the guides to organize your visit: Segovia Day Trips from Madrid and Toledo Day Trips from Madrid.

If you prefer to make the most of the city, the tourist bus of Madrid is highly recommended: it allows you to move around the different points of interest without missing its wonderful views while you take a break from the long walks. Check here how it works: Madrid Hop on Hop off Bus Tours.