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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 much to learn and the best way to do it are the guided tours of the city.

1. Tour of Historic Madrid and the old town

Central Madrid from the air
Central Madrid from the air

This historic tour of Madrid and its old town will take you through the essential places in the center of Madrid: to know the Madrid of the Austrias, the cathedral of la Almudena and the most iconic squares and streets of the capital. During the tour of approximately two and a half hours, your guide will tell you stories and details about the buildings and the historical figures that are the protagonists 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 Barrio de las Letras

Malasaña on a summer day
Malasaña on a summer day

Barrio de las Letras is located a few meters from the Puerta del Sol and you will know it by the literary inscriptions you will see engraved on the roadway 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 Barrio de las Letras, your guide will tell you about the anecdotes and the character of figures such as Valle-Inclán (I recommend you read 'Luces de Bohemia' before the tour), Lope de Vega or Cervantes. The Spanish Golden Age (so-called because of the flourishing of letters and arts) is the protagonist of the tour.

Itinerary on foot

  • Puerta del Sol
  • Calle de la Cruz and its "trompe l'oeil".
  • Álvarez Gato and the 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. Madrid Ghost Tour

Palacio de Linares | ©David Short
Palacio de Linares | ©David Short

This Madrid Ghost Tour: is one of the most original tours there is, 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 the center of Madrid. You can take the tour whenever 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 in Madrid; if you have never heard of ghost stories like those of Goyito or Maria, now is the time to discover them.

Itinerary

  • Linares Palace
  • Cibeles Fountain
  • Paseo de Recoletos
  • Gran Vía
  • Plaza de Santo Domingo

4. Tapas tasting tour with wine tasting included

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

Not everything in Madrid is stories and famous people. The gastronomic culture is as much a part of this city as Kilometer Zero or Cibeles. This gastronomic tour of Madrid 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 tour for small groups you will enjoy the company of a local guide who will show you which tourist traps to skip and instead take you to the places the locals usually go.

5. Tour of the Inquisition in Madrid

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

An important (and unpleasant) period of Spanish History was that of the Inquisition and Madrid was one of the main scenarios of this massacre. We must always remember the past to try to learn from our mistakes as a society and that is why this tour is not only popular with those visiting 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 at the Plaza Mayor and from there the walking tour of Madrid of the Inquisition covers 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 Bernabéu

The excitement of a match
The excitement of a match

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

In addition to visiting the Real Madrid stadium's stadiums, pitch, benches, and presidential box and learning more about its history, the tour will also take you aboard an air-conditioned bus to visit places such as 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 touring it on foot possible but quite tiring; on the other hand, the city has many areas adapted for bike riding. This tour allows you to take in more points of interest thanks to to the tour of Madrid by bike (whose rental is included in the price) and without having to renounce to the advice of a specialized guide. It also includes the tasting of tapas 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 Majestic Madrid

Museo del Prado | ©Francisco Aragão
Museo del Prado | ©Francisco Aragão

Still leaving from 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 several of the city's main museums are located). During two hours a local guide will explain to you 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 since 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
  • The Palace of Santa Cruz

9. How to organize your city tour in Madrid

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

Book in advance

For an optimal experience, all guided tours in Madrid have a certain number of seats. 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 find these two places or any other place where the tour takes place. The best way to get around in Madrid is by metro as it connects practically every corner of the city quickly and easily.

Schedules and dates

The tours are usually available all year round, although not every day of the week (you will see the specific times before booking). On when to do them: don't even think about doing a tour of Madrid in July and August when temperatures in the capital can reach more than 100 ºF. 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 essential for this type of tour. 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 cash to pick yourself up with a coffee.

10. Guided tours of Madrid's famous sights on Madrid tours

Catedral de la Almudena | ©Eric Titcombe
Catedral de la Almudena | ©Eric Titcombe

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

Surely, many of these places will catch your attention and you will want to visit them more in-depth. I recommend you to investigate guided tours to the most famous monuments and buildings of 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: Royal Palace Tours.

11. Other tours in Madrid that might interest you

Acueducto de Segovia | ©Pedro
Acueducto de Segovia | ©Pedro

Madrid has a lot to see and to know, 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 that you try a guided tour to other cities within walking distance of the capital, have stories and mysteries to discover. You can read more about the excursions available from Madrid here: Other Day Trips from Madrid.

If you want to go directly for my favorites, Segovia and Toledo, are, in my point of view, the most attractive. Here are the best guides to organize your visit: Segovia Day Trips from Madrid and Toledo Day Trips from Madrid.

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