We recommend a well-informed wander, but if you feel you need a guide, or have particular interests, the main tourist office offers a range of walking tours (www.esmadrid.com/en/guided-tours-of-madrid). Tours in English focus primarily on Madrid’s history and art, but other options include architecture, and food and wine-tasting. Prices vary from 10€–15€ for a history tour to 75€–100€ for a gourmet walkabout.
A large number of agencies in Madrid book organized tours and excursions to sights and attractions both within and outside the city limits. Although your mobility and freedom might be somewhat hampered, some visitors appreciate the ease and convenience of being able to visit so many sights in a single efficiently organized day.
In the City
Bus Tours -- Many of the city's hotel concierges and all of the city's travel agents will book anyone who asks for a guided tour of Madrid or its environs with one of Spain's largest tour operators, Pullmantours, Plaza de Oriente 8 (tel. 91-541-18-07). Regardless of their destination and duration, virtually every tour departs from the Pullmantours terminal, at the above address. Half-day tours of Madrid include an artistic tour priced at 39€ per person, which includes entrance to a selection of the city's museums, and a panoramic half-day tour for 22€.
The hop-on, hop-off Madrid Vision Bus lets you set your own pace and itinerary. A scheduled panoramic tour lasts a half-hour, provided that you don't get off the bus. Otherwise, you can opt for an unlimited number of stops, exploring at your leisure. The Madrid Vision makes four complete tours daily, two in the morning and two in the afternoon; on Sunday and Monday buses depart only in the morning. Check with Trapsa Tours (tel. 91-767-17-43) for departure times, which vary. The full-day tour, with unlimited stops, costs 17€. Departures are from the company's main information and sales office on Calle Felipe IV, between the Museo Nacional del Prado and the Hotel Ritz. There are also several central stops throughout the center, including the Puerta del Sol and Plaza España, where you can pay for your tickets on the bus.
Organized Walking Tours -- If you're interested in organized walking tours of the city, the Patronato Municipal de Turismo (tourist office) provides English-speaking guides and routes that cover the history, monuments, and leading figures of Madrid. Their office in the Plaza Mayor can give you details and sell you tickets. Local travel agencies also sell tickets for various sightseeing tours in and around Madrid.
For something a little more out of the ordinary, check out the program arranged by Stephen Drake-Jones (tel. 60-914-32-03; www.wellsoc.org), an English former lecturer who's lived in the city for more than 30 years. His half-dozen erudite and slightly eccentric walks around old Madrid are pleasantly broken up by refreshments -- liquid and otherwise -- at local taverns.
Olé Spain Tours, Paseo Infanta Isabel 21 (tel. 91-551-52-94; www.olespaintours.com; Mon-Fri 9am-2pm and 3:30-8pm; Metro: Atocha), can also pair you with a tour guide for walking tours around the city. They also organize tours by minibus or coach -- depending on the size of the group -- to nearby cities like Toledo and Segovia.
If you like eating and drinking as well as walking and would like some local experts to show you where and how to combine the two, then contact Adventurous Appetites (tel. 63-933-10-73; www.adventurousappetites.com). The tapas bar tour is run by resident Englishman James Fraser; his trips depart from the statue of the bear and madroño tree in Puerta del Sol at 8pm, Monday to Saturday, and cost 50€ a head, including food and drinks in the first bar.
Outside the City
Toledo is the most popular full-day excursion outside the city limits. Pullmantours runs a tour from 55€ including lunch, that departs daily at 9:45am from the abovementioned departure point, and includes ample opportunities for wandering at will through the city's narrow streets. You can, if you wish, take an abbreviated morning tour of Toledo, without stopping for lunch, for 40€.
Another popular tour stops briefly in Toledo and continues on to visit the monastery at El Escorial and the Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen) before returning the same day to Madrid. With lunch included, this all-day excursion costs 75€.
The third major destination of bus tours from Madrid's center to the city's surrounding attractions is Pullmantours' full-day guided excursion to Avila and Segovia, which takes in a heady dose of interesting medieval and ancient Roman monuments. With lunch included, the price per person is 60€-80€.
You can also take the Tren de la Fresa out to Aranjuez for the day.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.