When I first arrived, I wasn’t a huge fan of Madrid’s majestic attractions. That’s because not only did I get lost for over an hour and a half while searching for my hostel (not one of the best hostels in Madrid for solo travelers), but when I finally did get there, I had to lug my rolling bag up three flights of stairs.
Once I finally started touring Madrid, someone picked my pocket and I lost some of my money.
***Madrid is a safe city for solo travelers, but pickpockets can be a problem. Therefore, as you do your very own DIY Madrid Center Sights Walking Tour, keep your bag in sight at all times by using a high-quality, cross-body day bag. Also travel as lightly as possible by leaving. some cash and credit cards at your hotel. This way, if you do get pickpocketed, you’ll still have some money available to you. Lastly, do all your map and travel research before you leave for the day because a confused tourist attracts pickpockets like a flippin’ moth to a flame.***
I was super annoyed, wanted to punch Madrid in the face, and basically leave immediately since solo travel in Madrid really was biting the big one.
But once I finally got over my irritation:
I let a wave of Madrid beauty wash over me as I stopped to enjoy a variety of iconic things to do in Madrid in 3 days, like sitting in a vintage cafe with a plate of churros and cup of hot chocolate by my side.
I could also enjoy a peaceful stroll through the galleries of the Prado Museum and let the mastery of such talent and artistry engulf me with its beauty.
In this post, not only will we learn about Madrid, but we’ll find some of the best attractions for single travelers who want to spend two weeks or 2 days in Madrid.
You’ll also discover where to eat alone in Madrid, learn some essential Madrid travel tips, and even get a sense of what going out alone in Madrid is really like.
So get ready for some amazing Madrid tourist attractions, as well as some secret Madrid highlights too!
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1. Museo Nacional del Prado
Museums are the best for solo travelers since you’re supposed to be quiet anyway. So there’s no need to uncomfortably chat up a stranger to avoid any awkwardness associated with traveling alone.
But what if you hate museums?
For reals though, why all the praise for an art museum?
Well, the Museo del Prado isn’t just your average art museum. The Prado has one of the world’s best and largest collections of art, with over 7000 paintings in its private collections, 1500 of which are on display at any given time.
Now in case you’re not art history major, because I absolutely am not, they have a plethora of paintings by artists that are so immortal, that even I know who they are.
You know, epic ballers like Velázquez and Goya.
***If you need a place to stay in Madrid but don’t want to break the bank, then some of the best hostels in Madrid for solo travelers include Cat’s Hostel, Sungate ONE, La Posada de Huertas, and Room007 Chueca.***
2. Plaza Mayor: The Heart of Madrid’s City Center
Plaza Mayor is a stunning, enormous square of open space that serves as a refreshing contrast to the often narrow and crowded streets of Madrid (Don’t forget to stop by Mercado San Miguel and try some of the delicious food right next door to Plaza Mayor).
A must-see Madrid attraction for any solo female traveler (or solo male traveler) since this square is probably one of the most charming spaces in all of Spain.
Hosting an impressive array of architecture:
Plaza Mayor has a resplendent grandeur that makes this place the focal point of Madrid, and, conveniently, home to the city’s main tourist office (I am so directionally challenged that I doubt I would find the office, even with the central location).
Look Closely at the Balconies Above:
You’ll see a charming array of frescoes that were inspired by the former Royal Bakery because yeah, who doesn’t like carbs?
The frescoes here aren’t actually from the 17th century and date way back to a time when cell phones were the size of bricks and when Bill Clinton did not have sexual relations with that woman. Yup, we’re bringin’ it back to 1992.
At That Time:
Government officials snazzified the plaza because Madrid was named the 1992 capital of Culture, oh la la.
While in the Area:
Visit the Market of San Miguel (aka Mercado de San Miguel), one of the most popular markets for tourists in Madrid.
Why is this Market (with awesome tapas bars) so popular?
Originally built in 1916, this historic covered market has over 30 different vendors that sell a wide variety of gourmet tapas, baked goods, and wine, making this the perfect stop for any solo traveler who doesn’t want to awkwardly eat alone.
3. Centro de Arte Reina Sofia
Ehh, it’s all right. I mean it’s just home to one of Spain’s most famous pieces of art so no big deal.
I jest obviously because seeing Picasso’s work entitled Guernica (room 206 on the 2nd floor) kind make me weak in the knees. Definitely a little swoon worthy for sure.
And unlike the Prado, which focuses on classical pieces of art:
The Centro de Arte Reina Sofía displays primarily displays the contemporary art of Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró and more.
I just get excited when I actually know who a famous artist is!
Centro de Arte Reina Sofia uses this funky theme approach that results in works of art by Picasso or Miró being scattered throughout two floors of the building.
So be prepared for the weirdness and grab a map when you enter the museum (you could also take a tour of the museum if you want to make things EVEN easier).
4. Churros and Chocolate: Stick a Fork in Me, I’m Done
Let’s take a moment to honor the immortal beauty that is the Churro.
This sweet piece of long, fried dough has been charming the hearts and stomachs of late night partiers for as long as anyone can remember.
You must order a churro and then dip it into a cup of sweet, molten, and awesomely delicious hot chocolate. It’s kind of like hot fudge, only less sweet and with a thicker consistency.
Please be aware that the Churros in Spain, which are small and unsweetened since you dip them in chocolate, are nothing like the ones in the US. Here in the United States churros are thicker, longer, and covered in a hearty layer of cinnamon and sugar.
So, where can you find the best churros in Madrid?
Well, the most iconic place to go is Chocolatería San Ginés, which dates all the way back to 1894. This famous Chocolatería is hidden along a tiny side street that is adjacent to Plaza Mayor. So yes, it’s pretty easy to find.
This quaint chocolateria oozes charm with nostalgic decor that uses marble tables, vintage lamps, and mirrored walls to evoke the subtle charm of decades gone by.
***Other great places to snag some churros and chocolate are Chocolatería Valor, Churreria Siglo XIX, Los Artesanos 1902, and La Antigua Churrería.And no, none of these places are any vegan guide to Madrid, except Los Artesanos 1902 but that’s because they are total rockstars.***
5. Templo de Debod at Parque Oeste: Walk Like an Egyptian
When I planned my Madrid trip:
I didn’t expect to add an Egyptian temple to my Madrid itinerary.
But that’s exactly what I did since watching the sunset at Templo de Debod at Parque Oeste is truly amazing and is oen of the best places for going out alone in Madrid.
Gorgeous is a total understatement since Templo De Debod is truly mesmerizing under the glow of the setting sun and with a charming, panoramic view of Casa de Campo, from this lovely, elevated hilltop.
So sit back, relax, and enjoy gazing up at the stars as they come to life before you.
***If you’re looking to kill time before sunset, explore the park across the street. There you’ll find some outdoor vendors that sell some pretty cool merchandise. Yeah, I choose poorly and got a useless polka dot scarf so don’t be like me.***.
6. Parque de Buen Retiro
Like Central Park, this green space is a large and beautiful, natural oasis that has become an enchanting symbol of an amazing city.
Unlike it’s US counterpart, Parque de Buen Retiro has an orderly layout that is dotted with marble monuments, landscaped lawns, and elegant buildings, giving this park a distinct, European feel.
Be Prepared Though:
This place is insane during the weekend. I was bombarded by men hawking cheap sunglasses while an entire Mariachi band was playing music in the background.
This park is enormous, so it is relatively easy to escape this intense urban chaos by exploring Palacio de Cristla, Jardin de los Planteles, and La Rosaleda or the Rose Garden, which has over 4000 roses.
Also visit the park’s iconic, artificial lake, where rowboats freely bob along the surface and a massive, Monument to Alfonso XII regally stands in the background, flanked by a pair of marble lions.
***If you have time, check out Fuente Egipcia which is decorated with sphinxes (Legend has it that there is buried treasure here from Felipe IV. So we can do a real life, National Treasure, Spanish style).***
***You can also check out Madrid’s oldest tree, a Mexican conifer that was planted in 1633, just inside the Puerta de Felipe IV.***
7. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza
I know you might be a little museumed out but I swear, this one is different from all of the other museums on this list.
The neat thing about the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza is that rather than displaying an in-depth collection of one artist’s work, this museum showcases a diversity of art that represents different artistic styles and compositions.
You’ll see a ton of paintings from epic, badass artists like Van Gogh, Monet, Sisley, Renoir, Pissarro, Gaugin, Cezanne, and Degas (Psst! You can skip the line and get your tickets in advance here).
***Stop in Room 5 to see Italy’s Piero Della Francesca and a Portrait of King Henry VIII by Holbein the Younger (Even if you’re not an art buff, you’ll recognize this piece).***
***Also visit the ground floor because room 46 displays Joan Miró’s Catalan Peasant with a Guitar and Jackson Pollock’s Brown and Silver. A great place for any contemporary art lover to explore. ***
8. Palacio Real: Pinkie’s Up Because We’re Fancy!
When I got to Spain, I totally forgot that they had a royal family. Whoops.
But I’m super glad they do because this palace brings opulence to a whole new level.
Why all the glitz and glam?
Supposedly, Felipe V was pissed that the old palace burned down on Christmas Day in 1734 (talk about the worst gift ever). To make himself feel better, Felipe decided to build a palace that would make any other European, royal residence, look like a shack.
And that’s why this Italian, Baroque style residence has something like 2800 rooms. Yup, that would be one epic game of Marco Polo. You’d have to use smoke signals!
Perhaps the piece de resistance of the entire palace is the Salón de Gasparini, with an ornately decorated, stucco ceiling and walls covered in are richly embroidered silks.
***Worried about solo travel loneliness? As a die hard. anti-social introvert, this has never been a problem for me. However, if you’re worried about loneliness, there are a ton of resources available that can help solo travelers in Madrid meet people. Meetup is a great website that gives visitors information about local events where you can meet people and make new friends. Madrid also has a variety of walking tours, food tours, and Flamenco tours that are a great way to meet new people.***
9. Tapas in La Latina: A Divine Culinary Delight for Anyone Who Doesn’t Know Where to Eat in Madrid Alone
Tapas time, because I LOVE a good Tapas bar!! Nom nom nom.
But in case you have no idea what a tapas restaurant is, let me explain. At these lovely restaurants, they serve small plates of food that you share with friends.
I can taste as many dishes as I want because I’ve convinced myself that tapas are so small that I can order my plates of food by the dozen. Yup, denial is a beautiful thing.
And while the tapas in La Latina neighborhood are the stuff that foodie dreams are made of, this Madrid neighborhood has so much more to offer than Tapas.
Not only is this neighborhood one of the oldest in Madrid, but it is also one of the coolest with a series of charming boutiques that are set against a historic, medieval style streetscape.
Before you leave though:
It is mandatory because you will be graded, to visit Calle de la Cava Baja for some of the best tapas in Spain. Also wander downhill, to Lavapiés, and explore the beating heart of multicultural Madrid,
***If you have a hot minute, and are looking for more Madrid day trips, do some train travel and check out the El Rastro flea market on Sundays or the incredible Basílica de San Francisco El Grande. You can also hop the train and add Barcelona or Valencia to your Spain itinerary. ***
10. Ermita de San Antonio de la Florida
So in case you didn’t:
Spain is a very Catholic country. Therefore, how could I not put a super cool church like Ermita de San Antonio de la Florida in this Madrid travel guide?
Phew, glad we agree!
Because this church is well worth a visit, even if you’re Damion himself. Richly decorated with resplendent frescoed ceilings that were recently been restored to their pristine, former glory, this exquisite church is one of those places where you kind of has to pick your jaw up off the floor.
Before you leave:
Visit the two small chapels in the Southern end of the complex and marvel at some fantastic examples of Goya’s work in its original setting (circa 1798 and truly amazing to behold). In this work,