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Puerta del Sol
Puerta del Sol

The best Madrid city tours

Fancy a guided perambulation around the Spanish capital? Take a look at our selection of awesome city tours

Written by
Time Out editors
&
Rhys Thomas
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Madrid is one of the liveliest capitals in Europe. Not only is the city is steeped in history that goes back to the days of Moorish rule, but it's also buzzing with excellent shops, galleries and attractions, plus a stupendously good food scene. But, as with most capitals, you might feel a bit overwhelmed by all the things to do and see. That's why we suggest you take a look at these Madrid city tours, where a guide will help make things more approachable and accessible. Whether its a foodie journey through the city's top tapas joints, or a sojourn out of town to medieval heritage sites, there's something for every last visitor to Madrid right here. So get on your bike, feet, segway, whatever... and get the real insider, knowledge-full way of exploring Madrid. Did we mention the tapas tour yet? 

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The best city tours of Madrid

Madrid city Segway tour

These two-wheeled modes of transport are becoming increasingly popular in cities everywhere – and you can see why, since they offer such a leisurely way of travelling the streets. These three-hour tours kick off in Plaza España, before your tour guide leads you on to the Paseo de Prado, the huge El Retiro park and the Royal Palace. Along the way, you’ll learn much about Madrid’s history. The groups are limited to ten people which means you'll be able to ask all the questions you've ever had, not to mention the segway-ing won't be as chaotic as it could be. 

Madrid private walking tour: very best of the city centre

This four-hour walking tour will take you around the streets of the capital. The guide will meet you at your hotel or whatever location you choose, before taking you on a journey through the medieval centre of Madrid. Expect lots of winding passages and beautiful historical buildings that date back to the rule of the Hapsburgs. So if you want something on foot, this might be the one for you. You can also customise the tour to suit your interests, so you'll be sure there's something fun to be doing. 

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Bike tour of Madrid

Fancy pedalling your way around the Spanish capital on a bicycle? We highly recommend it: cycling is a fantastic way of covering ground quickly, without being sealed away inside a tour bus or private car. This one-hour tour by Ensegway Madrid will take you from their office – near Opera station – to El Retiro park, then into Madrid Río and over to Templo Debod. The guides promise a few sights largely unknown by tourists along the way. The benefit of a bike tour is you can cover the ground nice and speedy too, so you'll be able to see a lot more . And there's refreshments included. Exercise, knowledge... all good things! 

Private walking tour in Madrid

A good one if you don’t fancy getting stuck at the back of a large-group tour. This private tour gives you the chance to move from sight to sight in Madrid at your own pace, and getting proper face-to-face time with your guide. Pitched as a ‘stroll’, it kicks off at 10am at the statue of 'The Bear and the Strawberry Tree' in Puerta del Sol, and goes on a journey that takes in landmarks including the literary neighbourhood that is the Barrio de las Letras, the Royal Palace and and San Ginés Church. 

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Skip-the-line Prado Museum private tour

Fancy seeing some of Europe's finest pieces of art without having to deal with the hoi polloi? Of course you do. Which is where this private tour of the Prado Museum comes in very handy. For an hour and a half you'll be walked around Spain's national gallery, marvelling at the 9,000+ paintings, sculptures, sketches and whatnot. And of course you'll get to skip the line. After all, who wants to queue? The private guide will ensure you actually learn more than those annoying descriptions on the wall that don't really tell you anything, also. This is the way to museum. 

From Madrid: full-day Ávila and Segovia tour

Madrid is teeming with history – but there’s just as much outside the capital, and not that far away either. This tour will take you out to the nearby historical cities of Ávila and Segovia, both of which are filled with heritage sites to explore. You can walk along the former’s 11th-century walls and peek inside its Romanesque-style churches, and gaze in awe at the latter’s aqueduct, which is over two milliennia old. Not for nothing is Segovia a UNESCO World Heritage site. It'll take you the entire day, but it's sure an experience you'll never quite forget – trust us, you haven't seen Madrid like this before. If you're especially geeky about these areas you'll also be very glad to hear you have your own personal wiki on board (a tour guide) and you'll be able to pop into some of the main spots. 

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Madrid tapas experience walking tour

One for those who love digging into Spain’s world-famous bar snack cuisine. The origins of tapas are unclear and much-debated, but are popular with natives and visitors alike. This three-hour 'tapeando' tour takes you across three top tapas bars, and as you tuck into a complimentary dish at each one, you’ll discover a bit of culinary history too. You’ll even learn the secret art of pouring Asturian cider. The perfect foodie tour. Plus, you know, you're walking it off so you can go (iberico) ham on the food and drink. Go on, you're on holiday! 

Madrid Royal Palace 90-minute guided tour

Madrid's Royal Palace is a sumptuous 18th-century wonder, and a real treat to explore. This 90-minute tour will take you on a journey through a selection of the residence's 3,000 rooms, during which you'll learn more about Spanish monarchic history. Highlights here include the Throne Room, with its gorgeous ceiling painted by the Italian Renaissance master Tiepolo, and the Royal Chapel, with its collection of beautiful stringed instruments. It's a lot to take in, sure, but you obviously won't be able to see it all in one go – so just think about the highlights and see them, you'll want to come back soon enough anyway! 

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Las Ventas Bullring and Museum tour

Whatever you think of this bloody sport, tauromachy – or as it's better known, bullfighting – is an integral part of Spanish heritage. In this 55-minute tour, you'll explore the Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas, the country's largest bullring, and its adjoining museum. This is a chance to learn more about the centuries-old tradition, as well as notable spectators who have rocked up here over the decades, including Picasso, Jean Cocteau and Ernest Hemingway (who wrote an entire book about bullfighting, 'Death in the Afternoon'). Not a bad day's work that. Some big old buildings to marvel at, decent foods, good landmarks. It's a top way to spend a day in sunny Madrid. Plus you know, you can pop into the museum, who doesn't like a good museum. 

El Escorial Monastery and the Valley of the Fallen

After meeting in the capital's city centre, you'll be taken by coach out to the royal palace of San Lorenzo de El Escorial in the northwest. Once home to the Spanish monarch, El Escorial is now a hugely popular tourist attraction. Thankfully, your guide will have skip-the-line tickets for you, so you can see the Monastery, the Cloister of the Four Evangelists, the Palace of Philip II, Pantheons of the Royal Family, the Chapterhouses and the Basilica without waiting. This tour also includes the option to add a trip around central Madrid or the city of Toledo in the south. Plus, the guide will know their stuff so you're getting a very decent bit of knowledge thrown in too. It's a good way to get out of the city for a day too. 

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