One of the most pleasant ways to spend time in Madrid is to stroll through the streets of the old town. You can make couple of itineraries and take a different street each time.
I take one of the side streets from Gran Via and go down to Plaza Puerta del Sol, the Sun Gate Square. I turn right and start my walk to the direction of the Imperial Palace. This street, Calle del Arenal, has been turned into a pedestrian street and it’s lined up with shops on both sides, as street ends I reach to another square which is the Opera Square, the Teatro Real stands there at one side, I check the posters of the current plays, then pass the Opera square and head to the Imperial Palace, before I arrive at the gate of the palace I pass through the Imperial garden, it is built in French style, trees are rigidly cut to look the same, sculptures of the important personalities stand one by one as you walk the park. The big area in front of the palace is the Plaza de Oriente. The Imperial Palace is not where the Royal Family lives at the moment, but it’s open to visitors. I skip the visit and go back to the direction of the Sol Square again.
These streets of the old town are a joy, they open up to little squares, while you are walking you’ll be reading some phrases on the ground, they give you information about the historical personalities who lived here, one of them gets my attention, it’s a note about Cervantes, says ‘he witnessed a triumph in the war with Turks on Mediterranean waters in 1571.’
As you will pass through the streets of the old town you will enjoy the elegance of the buildings in their brownish colours, the light cutting the narrow streets and the little squares you come across. Take your time, by the time you reach the market of Mercado San Miguel, you can try the tapas at its food corners. If you come around 22.00, you can see how Spanish start their night, when the days is already finished in other European cities. From the Market of San Miguel I go to the Plaza Mayor, the big square with several entrance gates. And it stuns me every time I visit!