Madrid is electric, and if you want 48 perfect hours – you should be too…
If you’re looking for a long weekend within Europe, Madrid is up there with the best, and if you’re looking for a long haul destination with major charm that fits the bill for any traveler, it’s way up there too. Madrid is an extremely accessible and walkable city loaded with rich pride and history, that’s ever so neatly intertwined between heavenly tapas bars, laid back coffee shops, unique boutiques, galleries and plenty more that will keep you busy for much longer than 48 hours. Here’s how to divide, conquer and manage your time in Madrid. The 48 hour clock is ticking…
Madrid Barajas International Airport is the main airport in Madrid with direct flights from all over the world. Getting into town is extremely easy. You can grab an Uber or Cabify (the local version) from between €15-28. FYI – Uber will prompt you to add your passport number into your profile if you haven’t used Uber in Spain before, so have that number handy. You can also get the metro or a handy airport bus directly into the centre for €5. If there are more than 2 of you, the Uber may workout to be cheaper, or at the very least easier – but both are great options. Here are a few more useful tips to know before you land.
If breakfast is not included in your hotel rate, fear not, Madrid has an endless supply of great quality spots for coffee, pastries and famous Spanish eggs, but just be aware that many will not open before 9am. You’re bound to wander passed some tempting spots that are surely worth a try, but if you’re looking for more of a plan, these places are definitely worth a stop: La Bicicleta Café, Monkee Koffee, Toma Café, Hola Coffee, Federal Café or Randall Coffee Roasters. There are just too many good ones, but you can’t go wrong with any of the above. We’ve also put them and everything else onto a handy map for you at the bottom of the post.
One of the most popular attractions in Madrid, the one you’ve undoubtedly read about in your standard guide book, is the Museo del Prado. It’s huge, classic, iconic and full of super famous art, with a standard entrance fee of €15 per ticket. But unless you have a particular interest in pre 20th century European art with lots of Spanish gothic and renaissance works, we would recommend condensing your time, and perhaps visiting other museums instead. The area around the Prado is lovely and Thyssen is just across the way. The Museo Picasso and Museo de Arte Contemporáneo are both wonderful as well, and if “Guernica” is what you’re after – Reina Sofia is your spot. This stuff is totally personal to your art tastes and just depends on how much time you wish to spend in the galleries. Many people could spend a full day in just the Prado. We wouldn’t though ; )
That’s Spanish for markets, incase you were wondering, and no visit is complete without at least a couple included. One of the very best things about being in Spain, is the fantastic food and wine, and no meal time opportunity during your 48 hours should ever go to waste. For a nice late lunch, Madrid has a few top notch markets selling all kinds of meats, cheese, wine, fish, desserts and local delicacies. The most popular is Mercado de San Miguel, right next to Plaza Mayor which is definitely worth stopping by, even though it’s by far the most touristy. Once you’re in there it will be almost impossible to resist the food. If you’re looking for slightly more informed, underground options, Mercado San Anton is less crowded and offers everything, including a beautiful outdoor roof area to enjoy your lunch. And finally, Mercado San Ildefonso is great too, for a more hipster take on the Mercado. Whichever you end up at, you’ll be satisfied. Again, they’re all included in the Google Map at the end of the article. You’re welcome.
Parque El Retiro
After some wonderful tapas and wine for lunch, and as the heat picks up, it’s the perfect time for a cool walk around the beautiful, tree lined park – if you can resist a siesta. Filled with beautiful gardens, monuments and a lake where you can rent rowing boats, it’s an ideal place for a relaxing stroll and to take in the wonderful surroundings. Peak sun generally hits Madrid between 2-4 PM, so if you’re planning to skip the siesta in favor of a wander, be mindful that it’s probably a good time to rock some sunblock, or at least a hat. There’s a nice botanical garden in the park, but with so many beautiful free options, the €5 is probably better spent on wine.
Fresh, local and beautifully simple is the operating principle of Madrid’s inimitable, late night food scene. Yep, don’t expect to eat before 8:30 unless you want to wear a hat or t-shirt that says “I’m a tourist”. If you’re looking for beautiful tapas and glug worthy wine – which you really should be in this city – head to Calle de Ponzano. The whole street is lined with attractive places to eat and drink, including the ever popular Triciclo. Taberna Averias is a fun wine bar just across the street from Triciclo if it’s crazy busy, and is the perfect place to discover delectable Spanish wines and lip smacking tapas like salmon on toast, jamon, and the array of veggie specialties. Many of the places are small with standing tables, and won’t look like they do “real food” but you’d be very surprised what they crank out…
If you’re a bit fancy…
If you’re after more of a sit down with full menu dinner, try Restaurante Ten Con Ten, Amazonico, CEBO, Numa Pompilio, El Paraguas or Gofio – pricier than some, but make for a fun night and great dinner. And Mezcaloteca Corazón Agavero is great for cocktails afterwards. Remember, Spanish people like to eat late, so if you’re thinking about a 6pm dinner, the restaurant will likely be closed or empty – that siesta may have been a good idea after all.
This cool neighbourhood is a great place to get a little lost and let yourself zig zag up and down the picturesque streets. It’s filled with excellent coffee shops, including some mentioned above, as well as bakeries, boutique clothing shops and fun bars. Within the same vibe, the Chamberí district is a local favorite, with so much to love. You’re bound to stumble across a gem of a place. Don’t forget to look up as you wander to catch the pretty colored buildings. Perfect for the gram’.
To continue taking in the obligatory cultural activities so you can sound intellectually superior to your friends upon your return, it’s worth heading to the Royal Palace. The stunning building was the home to many iconic Spanish royals and if you’re looking to peep more than just the outside, a general admission ticket is €10 – although there are certain months and times of day where you can enter for free.
Shopping in a different city is aways fun, and Madrid doesn’t disappoint. Whether you’re looking for one off boutiques, flea markets, high end or just high street, it’s got it all. In the pursuit of happiness via shopping, the Salamanca neighbourhood has lovely, higher end shops. Malasaña neighbourhood is fun to wander and you’ll find some more unique one off boutiques and thrifts. El Rastro flea market is open on Sundays and is a great place to look around the different stalls, small shops and bars. Las Rozas Village is about a 30 minute drive from the centre and is full of designer outlets, if you’re into that kind of thing too. And if you’re looking for your standard high street, head down Calle Gran Vía. It will be hard to miss a Zara walking around the city, they’re everywhere, and yes, they really may have some “different” stuff.
If you’re a fan of real football, it’s worth checking to see if Real Madrid is playing, or for any die hards – perhaps even planning your trip around a match. The stadium is centrally located and is less than a €10 Uber from just about anywhere in town. Tickets, even last minute tickets are available directly from the club’s website. If they’re not playing, you can still take a tour of the stadium, locker rooms, pitch and museum – and of course buy an expensive t-shirt.
What’s your favourite thing to do in Madrid? Oh, and here’s a Google Maps link to all the places, with reviews!