Planning Your Time
Madrid's most valuable art treasures are all on display within a few blocks of Paseo del Prado. This area is home to the Museo del Prado, whose collection amasses masterworks by Velázquez, Goya, El Greco, and others; the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, whose eclectic contemporary art pieces include Picasso's Guernica; and the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, whose collection stretches from the Renaissance to the 21st century. Each can take hours to explore, so it's best to alternate museum visits with less intellectually rigorous attractions. If you're running short on time and want to pack everything in, recharge at any of the tapas bars or restaurants in the Barrio de las Letras (behind the Paseo del Prado, across from the Prado).
Any visit to Madrid should include a walk through the historic area between Puerta del Sol and the Palacio Real. Leave the map in your back pocket and wander through the Plaza Mayor, Plaza de la Villa, and Plaza de Oriente, pausing to marvel at some of the city's oldest churches and convents.