Travel guide: Madrid in 48 hours
Madrid is full of life. Its small streets and large parks are usually packed with locals who are enjoying the sun, the many shops or the great bars and theatres. But it is only at dusk when Madrid really wakes up. Everybody seems to go out in the evening and enjoy the final bits of the day, resulting in pleasant chatter and laughter all around the active neighbourhoods!
We’ll probably always stay loyal with our first Spanish love, the city of Barcelona, but Madrid did a great job at showing its beauty!
Within this itinerary, we summarize our top attractions while spending 48 hours in Madrid!
- Currency: Euro (EUR)
- Language: Spanish
- Airport: Madrid-Barajas Airport, connected to the city centre via a convenient metro line.
Despite Madrid’s perfect metro connections, we decided to enjoy the sunny weather and walk around the city. Nothing new for us though, we love exploring a city by foot! However, if you want to save your breath for some late night flamenco dancing, there are metro stations at most of the popular sights.
Plaza de Colon
We started our day at the famous Gran Via, also known as Spanish Broadway due to its variety of shopping opportunities and vibrant nightlife. Making our way to the Plaza de Colon, we got the first feel of Madrid’s lively streets.
Speaking of, the Plaza de Colon is probably a good example of a lively square! The constant stream of cars along the large roads is impressive and crossing the massive square from one side to its diagonal opposite took us at least 15 minutes. With all this hustle and bustle, you would almost miss the large Colombus monument!
El Retiro Park
A green walking space next to the large avenues brings you to the Puerta de Alcalá. This famous monument brings you straight to the entrance of one of Madrid’s most beautiful parks!
Madrid’s many green spots provide an excellent break from the excessive sightseeing and the bustling city life. The Retiro Park is probably the largest and most central park in the city centre. It’s massive!
Apart from relaxing on the many green fields, you can catch a glimpse of the beautiful Glass Palace, refresh yourself around the many fountains or even row a boat in a small lake!
When you’re all relaxed and done boiling in the sun, stroll down the avenue towards the nearby Prado Museum. Madrid’s most popular sight and one of the largest art galleries in the world could easily keep you occupied for a few hours.
The museum’s layout is as dazzling as its art collection so make sure to take a map at the entrance. Now pick your favourites to save yourself some time!
Puerta del Sol
Take the metro if you are in need of a rest, or if you are like us and fancy a late afternoon walk: take some small, less crowded streets up to Plaza Puerto del Sol! This is Madrid’s central square and a popular hotspot where locals meet each other, hold manifestations or sit down and watch the crowd.
Apart from a rendezvous place, the square has some interesting landmarks such as the kilometre zero plaque where Spain’s six national roads officially start and the famous El Oso y El Madroño, a statue of a bear symbolizing Madrid’s origins.
Mercado San Anton
If you feel hungry at this point, the Mercado San Anton is only a short walk away. There are a few Mercado’s, or food markets, around the city but we enjoyed this smaller one more than the popular ones. Service was super friendly and personal and the food was delicious!
Temple of Debod
Find yourself a nice restaurant to enjoy some tapas and once the sun has set, enjoy an evening walk around the Parque del Oeste. The park’s highlight is the Debod Temple, which is wonderfully lit at night.
This temple was donated to Spain by the Egyptian government as a sign of gratitude for the Spanish help in saving a few ancient temples. The Debod Temple was completely dismantled in Egypt and rebuild from the ground up in Spain! Imagine that!
We started the day with a walk around the Sabatini Gardens. As a part of the Royal Palace, they offer spectacular views on the King’s former residence and are a perfect peaceful start of the day!
Despite not being the actual residence of the King of Spain, this palace holds so much history it is definitely worth a visit. Its exterior is equally impressive as its inside and a visit might take a few hours. At least, if you want to visit the entire palace, its armoury and its gallery!
The palace itself is simply stunning and unlike anything we’ve seen before. Each room is a true gem and the tour amazed us from beginning to end! If you visit one thing in Madrid, the Royal Palace does not disappoint!
Seen the large lines to enter, it’s definitely worthwhile to buy your ticket in advance!
Plaza de la Villa
Walking a few small streets, we ended up at this pretty little square. Enclosed by wonderfully preserved baroque buildings, the Plaza de la Villa breaths history. If you’re looking for a postcard-worthy picture location, look no further!
Mercado San Miguel
If somebody did not notice by now that we just love food markets, this might be another clue. The Mercado de San Miguel is one of the oldest and most famous markets in Madrid. Tapas, fish, desserts or a fine glass of wine, its wide variety of different stalls is impressive, but so are its crowds.
We loved the old construction and however the food was good, we found this Mercado too much of a tourist hotspot that was too packed to really enjoy it.
As soon as you enter the Plaza Mayor through its cobbled streets, the grandeur of the plaza overwhelms you. The warm colours of its impressive buildings and the lively street scenes hit you instantly.
The history of this square dates back to Middle Ages and today the plaza is popular with tourists and locals alike. It even houses a Christmas market during Winter!
End your afternoon back in the surroundings of the Gran Via. With its many rooftop bars, its shopping facilities and many theatres and cafes, there is no shortage of interesting activities to end your day!
All our Madrid travel tips gathered on the map:
What we liked
- The various parks and gardens around the city are a true joy to explore. Enjoying the good weather while relaxing on the many green spots was something we appreciated a lot.
- Despite being a large touristic city, we never felt unsafe. Police and security officers are everywhere, day and night.
What we disliked
- Madrid’s traffic is nothing like we’ve seen before. Rome has pretty chaotic traffic streams, but in Madrid, everybody with a car seems to do their own thing. The sound of cars honking and tooting is Madrid’s continuous background melody.
- Many of the museums we visited and tours we took did not allow any photography inside. There are worse things, but for photo maniacs like us, it is unfortunate not to have some souvenirs to look back at (and also explains the few interior pictures in this article).
Your own tips to share or questions to ask?