If you have just 2 days in Madrid you had best make the most of it.
Spain’s capital city is the largest in the country and attracts many visitors, keen to get a taste of its vibrant culture and learn more about its history. Yet Madrid somehow retains a far more authentic feel than many other popular Spanish cities.
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If you have been wondering what to do in Madrid in 2 days, you will find yourself spoiled for choice. It is home to some of the best museums, architecture, and parks in the world.
There are lots of cool and enchanting neighborhoods to explore and an eclectic food scene, with trendy coffee shops and excellent restaurants.
To make it easy for you to plan your visit, we have put together this itinerary for spending 2 days in Madrid. It includes our suggestions for the best places to see each morning and afternoon of your stay.
We’ve also shared our favorite spots to eat and some of the best accommodation options in the city, with ideas for every budget.
On the first of your 2 days in Madrid you’ll visit some of the city’s most iconic squares, see its incredible royal palace, and explore its cathedral.
Start your two days in Madrid with coffee in Malasaña, a lively neighborhood in the center of the city. We recommend heading to Misión Café, a high-tech coffee bar that also serves incredible food!
Once fortified, it’s time to explore the Puerta del Sol (Sun Gate) – Madrid’s most popular public square.
This is where you will find the famous El Oso y el Madroño – The Statue of the Bear and the Strawberry Tree, made from stone and bronze. This is the most revered symbol of the city and a popular spot for locals to meet and chat.
You can also see Spain’s Kilometre zero here – a stone slab marking the geographical center of Spain, from which the distances of its national roads are measured.
Take time to wander down the surrounding streets, indulging in some window shopping and enjoying the many street performances.
The next stop is the Teatro Real (Royal Theatre), known to locals as ‘Ópera’. In front of it, you’ll see the 19th-century Plaza de Oriente, which you walk through to visit the Royal Palace of Madrid.
One of Madrid’s most important attractions, this is the largest royal palace in Europe and a must-see when in the city.
Words cannot describe the beauty of its interior, adorned with incredible artworks and home to the royal crown jewels of Spain. Book a guided tour to get the most from your visit (this will also allow you to skip the VERY long line!).
It is easy to spend several hours in the palace, exploring the banquet hall, throne room, royal apartments, and gardens. Sadly, though, you’ll need to leave your camera in your bag – photography is strictly forbidden inside the building.
For lunch, make your way to the nearby Plaza Mayor, an iconic square built early in the 17th century and another popular meeting place for locals.
Be sure to try a ‘bocadillo de calamares’ (calamari sandwich) and admire the baroque architecture surrounding you as you dine.
After lunch, take the short walk back towards the palace to visit Almudena Cathedral, located right next door.
This cathedral looks old, but construction actually started in the late 19th century and wasn’t completed until the 1990s.
The building was finally consecrated in 1993, and a royal wedding was held there in 2004. Previously, the royal family had to get married at a church on the other side of Madrid!
Your next stop is Plaza del Callao, located between Calle Preciados and Gran Via, a 15-minute walk away. It is a delightful mixture of old and new, with historical buildings like the Placio de la Prensa and the Carrión building, along with huge digital advertising billboards reminiscent of Times Square!
From there, stroll along Gran Vía towards Plaza de España. Here you’ll discover the memorial of Miguel de Cervantes, Spain’s most famous writer.
You can see a sculpture of Cervantes himself, beneath which stand the bronze sculptures of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.
As the sun goes down, head towards the Parque del Oeste (Western Park), home to the enchanting Temple of Debod.
This authentic Egyptian temple dedicated to the goddess Isis was donated to Madrid by the Egyptian government. It dates back to the early second century BC and was initially erected next to Aswan.
It makes a beautiful spot to enjoy the sunset, with the park itself located on a hill overlooking the Casa de Campo.
For dinner, return to the Plaza de España and take your pick from one of the excellent restaurants around the square or surrounding streets.
The second of your two days in Madrid will be spent exploring one of its world-class art museums, sampling the fare at its incredible food market, then relaxing and reflecting at the city’s stunning parks.
When seeing Madrid in 2 days, visiting at least one of its art museums is a must. These are located along the Paseo del Prado and include the Prado Museum, the Reina Sofía National Art Museum, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum.
Because you only have a weekend in Madrid, we would recommend devoting all your time to the Prado. Widely acclaimed as the best art museum in the world, it houses over 1300 artworks, including masterpieces by Rubens, Raphael, El Greco, Francisco de Goya, and many more.
This is a vast museum, and even if you pass through its collections reasonably quickly, it will take you a few hours to see everything. It is entirely navigable on your own, but for the very best experience, we would recommend booking a guided tour.
Not only will this give you skip-the-line access, but it will also ensure you see all of the most important pieces and understand their significance.
Your guide will explain the context of the paintings you see and their stories, making your visit so much more memorable and enjoyable.
At the end of the morning, take the 20-minute stroll via Carrera de S. Jerónimo to the Mercado de San Miguel for lunch. The name ‘market’ is slightly misleading, as this is essentially a food hall – and one of the best (and busiest!) you will ever encounter!
Dating back 100 years, it sells gourmet treats and features stalls owned by some of Madrid’s very best chefs. The variety is enormous, with everything on offer from manchego and jamon to delicious Venezuelan corn pockets known as ‘arepas’.
After lunch it is time to relax in one of Madrid’s most renowned parks – El Retiro. Once used exclusively by Spanish royalty, it was opened to the public in 1868.
Its 118 hectares of green space have been one of the most popular spots in the city for locals and visitors ever since.
It is easy to while away an afternoon here, wandering among the ponds, rowing on the lake, or even indulging in a siesta! Be sure to visit the 19th-century Crystal Palace, which frequently houses exhibitions, and check out the lakeside Monument to King Alfonso XII.
You will also find a beautiful rose garden – La Rosaleda – at the southern end of the park, and numerous play areas throughout for children. Weekends are particularly good for families, and you can see shows at the puppet theater almost every Saturday and Sunday.
After leaving the park, take a short walk to the Royal Botanical Gardens nearby. It has four graded terraces and contains more than 5,000 species of plants and trees.
Some special collections also include the bonsai trees donated by Felipe González.
After seeing the best of Madrid in 2 days, a fitting end to your visit is to book tickets for a flamenco show at Cardamomo. With its exciting, passionate performances, this venue is considered one of the best in the city.
It also offers excellent traditional dinners and tapas.
Alternatively, check out the record-breaking Sobrino de Botín – the world’s oldest continuously operating restaurant. Dating back almost 300 years, it still serves original recipes from when it was founded!
Are 2 Days In Madrid Enough?
Madrid is an exciting city with much to explore, and it would be easy to spend 5 days here without seeing all that it has to offer. Nevertheless, this itinerary for 2 days in Madrid will give you more than a taste of its culture, history, art, and cuisine.
But do remember that this guide is based on two full days in Madrid. If you arrive in the city late in the day or have an early departure time, we recommend adding an extra night to your stay.
Where To Stay In Madrid
The accommodation options in Madrid are diverse. Whether you are traveling on a shoestring or treating someone to a romantic weekend, you can always find something to suit your budget!
Here are some of our favorite places to stay.
Best Budget Accommodation
Ideally located for this itinerary, Hostal Foster is just off the Gran Via and 100 yards from Santo Domingo Metro Station.
The rooms are clean, modern, and brightly decorated, with free wifi, plasma TVs, and DVD players. Rooms do not include breakfast, and there is no restaurant, but there are plenty of eateries and bars in the immediate area.
Best Mid-Range Accommodation
Also boasting a fabulous location is Ii Castillas Madrid, just 350 yards from the Puerta del Sol district.
The rooms are simply furnished but very comfortable, and the hotel has its own restaurant serving traditional Spanish food. There is an option to include breakfast in your room rate.
We also recommend trying out DNorte – the restaurant adjacent to the hotel. It offers wonderful grilled meat and fish and has a beautiful dining room with wooden accents.
Best Luxury Accommodation
If you want to treat yourself or someone special, then look no further than the magnificent Gran Hotel Inglés.
Set in a 19th-century building, this 5-star hotel is a stone’s throw from Puerta del Sol. The rooms are opulently decorated in art-decó style, and the restaurant is excellent, serving contemporary Madrid-style cuisine.
Offering a range of rooms and suites, the hotel has all the amenities you’d expect at this price point, including a spa, wellness center, and an onsite gym.
Final Thoughts On Two Days In Madrid
We hope that this itinerary for 2 days in Madrid has helped you plan your visit. Following our guide will allow you to experience what makes this city so special and soak up its uniquely vibrant atmosphere.
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