Sightseeing with a free walking tour in Madrid

I recently took a trip to Madrid for a quick getaway to become acquainted with the city that I’d wanted to see for a long time.

As a solo traveller, I really wanted to find a way to see the Madrid on a budget whilst learning about the history and having a chance to meet fellow travellers. Fortunately, I was able to make the most of my MadridCard and a free walking tour with SANDEMANs to provide the opportunity that I was seeking.

I met the group led by Edward for an afternoon tour that would last 3 hours. Visitors can turn up on the day and book a place a few minutes before the start.

imageThe tour was a fantastic way to get my bearings of the city and hear some interesting information about the history of Madrid. It’s amazing just how much history Edward was able to share during the tour!

We started at Plaza Mayor and worked our way towards the cathedral and palace before finishing at Opera station.

The most famous part of the city and the starting point for most tours, Plaza Mayor was once host to bullfights, markets, and has even seen executions as part of the Spanish Inquisition. It’s now the location for a range of tourist shops, cafés, and restaurants that can be enjoyed day and night.

The tour highlights include Restaurant Botin – the oldest restaurant in the world according to the Guinness book of records.
To my delight, the tour also included seeing some meaningful pieces of street art that contain the motto for the city of Madrid: “Fui sobre agua edificada, mis muros de fuego son” which translates to “I was built of water, my walls are of fire.”
Street art, Madrid
Cathedral de Nuestra Senora de la Almudena is located opposite Palacio Real. Building work at the cathedral commenced in 1879 but was uncompleted until 1992, hence the array of mismatched building work – the vision of several architects through the centuries – now referred to locally as the ‘Frankenstein of museums’.
Cathedral de Nuestra Senora de la AlmudenaBehind the cathedral are the remains of the original Arab wall built by Madrid’s early medieval Muslim rulers. Some parts date back as far as the 9th century.
Arab wall, star of David and Cathedral, Madrid

Though Palacio Real is the official residence of the royal family, they don’t actually live at the address anymore; the palace is now used for official state functions.

Palacio RealTours are available at the palace for visitors wishing to experience the impressively decorated staterooms. The palace is free to visit on Wednesdays or any day of the week with the MadridCard.

I’m a big fan of walking tours when visiting a new city. They’re usually run by local guides that have great knowledge of the city and know some of the best routes away from the main tourist areas and in places that a tour bus just can’t get to. As it’s free, the guides are expecting a tip (not compulsory) but it’s good practice to offer something that’s within your budget.image

For the efforts of highlighting the important aspects of the city and providing an overview of the city’s history, it’s a great way to get a good orientation of the city that would be tricky to achieve with a guide book.

Have you tried a walking tour when visiting a city? Would you recommend them to other travellers?

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