Spain’s colorful capital is packed with things to do, but what if you only have two days?
A short weekend break in Madrid is a great way to get a feel for the city and its way of life. It’s an easily walkable city, but also served by an impeccable public transportation system. This makes it quite simple to see both the tourist sights as well as get off the beaten path. Here’s how to spend 48 hours in Madrid to make the most of your short time!
Morning, Day 1: Take a food tour
A walking tour is a great way to start getting the lay of the land once you arrive in a new city. Take it a step further and eat as you go! Our Ultimate Spanish Cuisine Tour will take you through the heart of Madrid’s emblematic city center. You’ll start the morning in iconic Plaza Mayor, catch a glimpse at the Madrid of the past in Plaza de la Villa, marvel at the stunning Royal Palace and more. Along the way, you’ll learn all about Spain’s unbeatable gastronomic scene and try some of the most emblematic dishes for yourself! It’s a great way to start off your 48 hours in Madrid and get a taste (literally!) for the city.
Afternoon, Day 1: Visit Puerta del Sol
After your food tour leaves you back where you started in Plaza Mayor, head east up Calle Mayor. After just a few minutes, you’ll come to Puerta del Sol, the quintessential plaza to check out if you only have 48 hours in Madrid. Here, you’ll see the famous oso y madroño statue—a bear eating fruit from a strawberry tree. It’s a real-life version of the city’s coat of arms and one of the most famous statues in Madrid.
Before you get to the statue, however, be sure to look for a small stone slab on the ground outside the old Royal Post Office building. This marks Kilometer Zero, which is where all of Spain’s national roads begin. Congratulations, you’re standing in the exact geographic center of Spain!
Take a walk in the park and visit the museum
Keep going east on Calle San Jerónimo until you get to Parque del Buen Retiro. Once a private luxury garden for Spanish royalty, it’s now the most famous of Madrid’s many beautiful parks. If it’s a nice day, consider renting a boat in the small yet beautiful lake in the center of the park!
The park also gives you relatively close access to Madrid’s three outstanding art museums: the Prado (Paseo del Prado, s/n), the Reina Sofía (Calle de Santa Isabel, 52) and the Thyssen (Paseo del Prado, 8). Each is different and absolutely incredible in its own way. We highly recommend visiting at least one during your 48 hours in Madrid!
Evening, Day 1: Drinks with a view
After exploring culture at one (or more!) of the museums, head north on Paseo del Prado up towards Plaza de Cibeles. Stop for a few minutes here to marvel at the incredible Madrid City Hall building and the Cibeles Fountain. Turn left on Calle de Alcalá and get to the Círculo de Bellas Artes (Calle de Alcalá, 42) as evening settles in over town. Entrance to the seventh-floor terrace will set you back €3, but it’s more than worth it for the stunning views of downtown Madrid at sunset. Order a cocktail and watch the city take on the magic of the night.
Dinner like a local
You’re in what many would consider to be the tourist center of Madrid. While that may be true, you still have plenty of options for eating like a local! After all, the food is (in our humble opinion) one of the best parts of your 48 hours in Madrid. You might have to squint, but you’ll actually find quite a few local, family-run restaurants in the neighborhood that have proudly retained their charm and authenticity.
Morning, Day 2: Brunch and shopping
Your 48 hours in Madrid are halfway up, but you still have a fun day ahead of you! Start Day 2 by heading just north of the city center to the trendy Chueca neighborhood. Off the beaten path yet full of vibrant local life, this is the perfect place to grab brunch.
To walk off your meal, stay in Chueca or head just east to the ritzy Salamanca barrio. Both are among the best shopping districts in a city famous for its shopping scene. Chueca is home to dozens of charming bohemian boutiques, while in Salamanca you’ll find some of fashion’s hottest labels.
Afternoon, Day 2: Local market lunch and a lesser-known museum
Despite its location in glamorous Salamanca, Mercado de la Paz (Calle de Ayala, 28) gives a down-home, local feel from the moment you step inside. Since 1882, it’s been one of Madrid’s most humble and authentic local markets and a great place to eat during your 48 hours in Madrid. We recommend heading to Casa Dani, one of Madrid’s best market restaurants, for fried-to-perfection calamari and a slice of tortilla that will melt in your mouth.
After lunch, take in more culture at one of Madrid’s lesser-known yet equally fascinating museums. Step back into Spain’s artistic past at the Museum of Romanticism (Calle de San Mateo, 13) or go back in time even further to prehistory at the National Archaeological Museum (Calle de Serrano, 13). Another incredible art museum is Museo Sorolla (Calle General Martínez Campos, 37), a beautiful tribute to one of Spain’s most underrated painters in his very own former home.
Evening, Day 2: Catch an Egyptian sunset
Nope, we’re not kidding! The Temple of Debod is an actual Ancient Egyptian temple that the government of Egypt relocated to Madrid as a gift to Spain. Aside from being a must-see during your 48 hours in Madrid, it’s an especially incredible place to catch the sunset. Head behind the temple itself for stunning views of the Almudena Cathedral, the Royal Palace and the Casa del Campo park.
Not sure where to eat on your second evening in Spain’s capital? Take one of our evening food tours to round out your 48 hours in Madrid! Whether you’re a history buff or flamenco aficionado, we’ve got a tour for you. End your 48 hours in Madrid on the most delicious note possible!
Life is too short to speak one language and stay in one place. In 2015, this philosophy took her from familiar Ohio to sunny southern Spain. Usually drinking tinto de verano, reading Lorca, or attempting to dance flamenco (not all at once). Follow her blog, Viatic Couture, for more.