Madrid always proves to be a romantic place to land as elegant tree-lined boulevards mark your way from the airport to the city center, the odd statue sneaking its way above the branches. Closing in on the heart of the city, the roads become narrow, most of them made from cobbles. Your hotel is within this old area, barely a five-minute walk to the Plaza Mayor, Madrid’s grand 17th-century centerpiece. Check in, freshen up, and then grab a coffee with your guide on a cafe terrace. Ease your way into Spain and gain some historical perspective from the guide, before heading out into the city’s famed art scene.
The Prado is world famous, a museum of classical art that covers the very best of Spanish painters up until the 20th century along with the world’s finest collection of Flemish art. Explore the galleries and the masterpieces following the chronological artistic timeline. You could spend a full day here, but two hours is usually enough to get a feel for who is who and why such painting are so revered. You will likely be a little weary after your flight, so most of the afternoon is left free, although the private Thyssen-Bornemisza collection is a great complement to the Prado.
This evening you can head to the Plaza Mayor and stroll without a plan. Cafes and restaurants line this central square, their terraces emanating chatter and enthusiasm. Narrow pedestrianized roads jut out between the terraces, leading you towards the smell of coffee, chocolate, and tapas. One way to soak up the Spanish atmosphere is to hop between the tapas bars. Another is to dine at one of the small restaurants in the area, before returning to the Plaza Mayor for a glass of wine or short coffee later in the evening, when there’s a real hum to the atmosphere.