Madrid Weekend: The Best Itinerary For 48 Hours In The Spanish Capital
Are you planning a Madrid weekend?
Over the last three years, I have spent around 9 months in Madrid because my brother and sister-in-law moved there. Many friends travelling through Europe and to Spain have asked me for travel tips and recommendations, so I am finally sharing this guide on my blog! Here are my top recommendations for the best ever Madrid weekend or 48 hours in the Spanish capital.
Now for the perfect Madrid weekend itinerary!
Table of Contents
Madrid Weekend – Day 1
My favourite breakfast in Spain is tortilla or Spanish omelet. It is is an omelet made with potatoes and onions. If there is a restaurant or bar in Madrid famous for having “the best tortilla”, I have tried it. My favourite tortilla would be at Casa Dani in Mercado de la Paz, which is in Barrio Salamanca. The closest Metro stop would be Serrano on the 4 metro line. Another tortilla suggestion would be Bar Ceveriz across from Mercado San Miguel.
I don’t think a visit to Madrid is a real visit without going to Parque del Buen Retiro or most commonly known as Retiro. It is amazing and not just for tourists, locals love it too. Especially on Sundays. You will see families and groups of friends gathered in the park, exercising, having a picnic, or just hanging out. It is located close to the Prado Museum and other popular attractions so definitely squeeze in a visit.
Palacio Cristal inside Retiro Park
My family lives just a few blocks from Retiro in Barrio Salamanca so I’m very lucky! I visited during my round the world trip visit in 2011 and when my family moved, I visit several times a week. I also ran through the park to get some exercise and spent many days here just relaxing. It’s a must-visit destination, not to mention it’s free! Be sure to visit Crystal Palace within the park, which has art exhibits in collaboration with Museo Reina Sofia. There’s a rose garden, play areas for children, restaurants, cafes, a library, and even a nightclub!
Visit One Or A Few Of Madrid’s Great Museums
Right near Retiro are some of Spain’s greatest museums like the Prado, Reina Sofia, and Thyssen-Bornemisza. Definitely, have a visit to see some of the Spanish Masters’ work in the Prado or Picasso’s Guernica at Reina Sofia.
Ready For Lunch?
Stop at one of Madrid’s popular mercados for lunch. Check this post for the best markets in Madrid. Want to experience the traditional Spanish lunch? Go to a restaurant that serves a menu del dia or menu of the day. The Spanish’s biggest meal of the day is at lunch where a restaurant will usually serve a 3 or 4-course meal for a set price, usually under 15 Euros.
Mercado San Miguel
Take A Step Back In History
Visit the Royal Palace of Madrid (outside is fine) and then walk through Sabatini Gardens. On Saturdays, from 11-2 pm you can see the Changing of the Guard.
If you want to visit the palace, click here to purchase tickets in advance. I visited a few years ago without a guide. I found the palace to be a bit underwhelming.
You don’t have to attend mass to admire Catedral de la Almudena, a gothic-style cathedral next door to the Royal Palace.
Shot with my GoPro to get that wide effect
Templo de Debod
Stop For Photos At Templo De Debod, ancient Egyptian temples that were gifted to Spain by Egypt. Spain helped Egypt when the Nile River was flooding and in return, they gave them these temples.
The symbolic center of Spain and kilometre zero, where all the radial roads of Spain begin. When you visit you will most likely see entertainers as well as some sort of protest. There has not been a single day I visited Puerta Del Sol when there was not a protest. Sol is also where the ball drops at midnight for New Years in Madrid, which is the biggest celebration in Europe. Puerta del Sol is one of the busiest places in the city with one of the busiest metro and commuter train stops.
Helpful tip: Don’t have data? There is an Apple store or Sephora where you can snag free WiFi in Sol.
The statue of the Bear and strawberry tree
Plaza Mayor is a public square in the heart of Madrid and originally used as a marketplace. Now it is lined with shops and restaurants (very touristy ones) and hosts the Christmas market as well as other events and installations.
Merienda means snack in Spanish! Have the classic Spanish churros y chocolate or maybe tapas and a caña (small glass of beer) or glass of tinto (red wine). This will tide you over till the late Spanish dinner at 10 pm.
Helpful tip: The most popular place for churros y chocolate is Chocolateria San Gines. There are often lines so if waiting is not your thing, I also liked Los Artesanos 1902. They have milk chocolate or vegan chocolate option also and no line!
Chocolate and churros
A favourite of mine – croquetas
The Spanish usually eat a bigger lunch and a smaller dinner but that may not work for you if you’re used to eating a bigger dinner. There are many places to have dinner in Madrid at any budget, you have your pick of budget-friendly food to Michelin starred meals. You can eat in another market or choose a proper sit-down restaurant. Dinner time in Spain is usually around 10 pm so if you find yourself in a restaurant at 7 or 8 pm and it’s empty, don’t think the restaurant is bad, it’s just not the normal eating time.
I can eat tortilla at any hour! Dinner at Las Tortillas de Gabino
Michelin chef Dani Garcia’s Bibo in Madrid
Tandem in Barrio Las Letras
Drink Or Dance The Night Away
I can’t actually recommend a nightclub for dancing because I haven’t been but nightlife is huge in Madrid. There’s actually a nightclub in Retiro called Florida that I want to try, just so I can say I went to a nightclub in a city park.
Photo by: My Little Madrid
Madrid Weekend – Day 2
Breakfast, see above. Brunch exists in Madrid but it is served at restaurants quite late which is not really the point of brunch. I would recommend finding a place open for breakfast and just skipping the whole idea for brunch unless you’re having it in a hotel.
A cortado at Hola Coffee
El Rastro – Sundays
If you are planning a Madrid weekend, I highly suggest visiting El Rastro. It’s an open-air flea market in the La Latina neighbourhood on Sundays. It spans several streets and you can find many unique things like touristy gifts or antiques. There is a main road which sells more new things geared for tourists but my favourite vendors are on the side streets. My best advice is to get there early to avoid the crowds and be mindful of your belongings. Also, barter!
Explore different neighbourhoods
I love all the different neighbourhoods in Madrid. Malasaña is a bit hipster with cool shops and bars. Chueca is the gay-friendly area. Lavapies is a working-class neighbourhood with a lot of different ethnic restaurants and shops and up and coming galleries. Barrio Salamanca is the posh neighbourhood with luxury designer shops. La Latina is a historic area filled with tapas bars, rooftop bars, and the weekly Sunday market, El Rastro (see above).
Walking through Malasaña
Chueca, Madrid’s gay-friendly neighbourhood
I’m sure you have worked up an appetite after visiting El Rastro. Now it’s time to snack and drink! La Latina has excellent tapas bars.
A favourite merienda of mine! A caña and croquetas
Caña and tortilla at Juana La Loca in La Latina
If you’re into shopping, there are many places to get your fill in Madrid. Want to visit the big European brands? Go to Gran Via, which would be similar to shopping along Broadway in NYC’s Soho. If you have money to burn, head to Barrio Salamanca and shop along Calle Serrano and Calle Juan Ortega y Gasset at the luxury retail shops. Malasaña which is on the hipster side, you will be able to find shops for a younger audience. Chueca, the gay-friendly area, also has some fun and unique stores.
I do buy some clothes when I’m in Spain but mostly because I have not packed properly and need to buy things for extra warmth. My favourite items that I have brought back are culinary items because I like to cook. I bought a pan for specifically making Spanish tortilla, as well as olive oil. Please note some food items cannot be brought back to your home country (ie. jamon to the USA).
Shopping in posh Barrio Salamanca
A Gorgeous View
Love taking in a good view? I do!! Azotea (rooftop in Spanish) del Circulo de Bellas Artes is a popular one. It costs 4 Euros to go up but definitely worth it. There is a line to go up and down (to ride the elevator) but depending on the time you go, it can be short or long. I timed my visit for sunset. I didn’t have a spectacular sunset but it was still awesome. You can also order food and drinks if you are hungry or thirsty.
Another place for a great view is the Faro de Moncloa. It’s super touristy but I loved it. It’s only 3 Euros to go up but I definitely think it’s worth the price.
The view at Azotea del Circulo de Bellas Artes
Flamenco – I can’t recommend a flamenco place because I have only ever watched flamenco in Seville but Las Tablas and Cardamomo Tablao are popular.
You can watch a futbol (soccer) game if there’s a match on! This is still on my list of things I need to do. The two main teams in Madrid are Real Madrid or Atletico Madrid. Real Madrid plays at Santiago Bernabeu and Atletico at the new Wanda Stadium. You can do tours at the stadiums even if there is not a match on.
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Let me know if you follow this Madrid weekend itinerary or have questions!
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