Despite having been to Spain various times in the past, we went to Madrid for our first time in a 24-hour whirlwind between flights. We packed in the sights on a hot summer day!

Where we stayed

We stayed at Barbieri Sol Hostel, and its best characteristics were the free breakfast and incredibly central location that served us well for exploring with limited time.

Choosing our route for the afternoon

As we were already located next to the central Plaza del Sol, we circled some main sights on our tourist map, and, despite the 95-degree Fahrenheit sunny weather, we set out with cameras and water bottles to go see the most famous sights. Our main goal was to see the palace and some parks.

Architecture in Plaza Mayor and nearby

We found our way into Plaza Mayor, which is a giant plaza walled off by buildings on all sides. It’s really interesting! It was so hot that not many people were out walking around. We continued for a few blocks to find the palace and basilica.

Royal Palace of Madrid

As we approached the palace and basilica complex, it was clear that we had arrived on a holiday. None of the buildings were open! However, we got to cool off on the basilica steps and listen to a live violinist. It was also cool to get photos of the palace plaza with no one in it.

Templo de Debod & Parque de la Montaña

One of the most unique sights we saw in Madrid was the Templo de Debod, an Egyptian temple that was moved stone-by-stone from Egypt as a thank-you gift to the Spanish government at one point. It turns out to be one of the most popular locations for sunset photos in the city, and that’s because it has a reflecting pool. Unfortunately, the reflecting pool was not filled with water when we were there, so we didn’t get the reflecting effect at any point.

Parque de la Montaña is an excellent park for taking a break and has a diversity of plants, grassy areas, locals hanging out with after-work bottles of wine, pathways and a vista of a good bit of the city where you can watch the sun go lower to the west. We came back for sunset.

While we did not see all of Madrid by any means, we made the most of our long layover and got a good taste of what Spain’s capital is like!