A Perfect Weekend in Madrid

Travel Itinerary

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Rebecca Cetta
Itinerary by: Rebecca Cetta
9 days ago
Traveller
Duration: 2 days

Looking for the best way to spend a perfect weekend in Madrid? Look no further. This guide has everything you need to know about all the best spots in one of Europe's most culturally diverse and lively cities. Madrid, where the fast-paced grind of city life meets the mellow vibe of Spanish life and culture. Jam-packed with exciting activities and sights to see, Madrid is an absolute must-see. Whether you are an art fanatic, a foodie, fashion devotee, or "siesta" enthusiast, Spain's largest city is the perfect location for you. I lived in Madrid for over a year and the best way to describe it is a city of "artistic chaos". The first settlements in Madrid date back to the Muslim age over one thousand years ago, and each wave of occupation brought new styles of architecture, art, and culture. In this itinerary you'll get the chance to see how Madrid has transformed over the centuries, from the era of the Romans, to the Spanish Civil War. The streets are clean and easy to walk on and each neighborhood is rich with traditional Spanish culture. You'll also see a heavy Arabic influence in the old town, with Chinese, Indian, and Middle Eastern culture woven into the bones of the city. Madrid is a melting pot of traditions and customs from all over the world. Madrid is a well-connected city with a clean and efficient transportation system. The metro is easy to navigate and cheap to use, only 12-14 euros for ten trips on the metro, train, or bus. You can travel through the whole city within 40 minutes on the metro, and all of downtown can be reached within 25-30 minutes of each edge of the city. Download the Transporte Madrid app or Moovit app for route options and schedules. Need a taxi? Uber is all over Madrid, but I would also recommend downloading the FreeNow app for more ride options. Important things to note: Tapas. If you don't know what Tapas are, you will quickly learn. Tapas are what the Spanish call finger foods. They are usually small snacks you pick at while to drink at a bar. Normally they are Spanish olives, crackers, bread, or even a small piece of a Spanish omelette! If you order a cerveza at the bar, the waiter may bring some tapas to your table. The best part? They are FREE! Another important thing to remember is the importance of a siesta. It's not simply a nap time, it's a planned schedule for the day. Many small stores and shops will close between 1 and 3 and open back up a few hours later. This goes to show how the Spanish prioritize rest. With all of this in mind, you're ready to have a perfect weekend in Madrid! Photo by Florian Wehde from Unsplash

Day 1

08:00 - 10:00
Puerta del Sol
Sol, Madrid, Spain
All roads lead to Sol, as some here say. Puerta del Sol, Madrid, is the heart and "sol" of the downtown area, with endless places to explore, shop, eat, and enjoy. Sol is home to iconic statues "El Oso y el Madroño", Equestrian Statue of Carlos III, and so much more. Being a cultural hub of art, history, and architecture, Puerta del Sol is the perfect place to begin your tour of Madrid. Walk the cobblestones streets and see some breathtaking views, explore one of many art and history museums, stop into a carnicería for some world-famous jamón, or sit back and relax with a cold glass of sangria. There are also restaurants with food from around the world and things to enjoy for speakers of all languages. Whatever you want Puerta del Sol has it. Hungry? Check out 'Freedom Cakes Cafe', a retro, VEGAN cafe with colorful sweets and treats. They also have a large breakfast and lunch menu for all types of eaters! Thirsty? Visit 'Garden of Salvador Bachiller', a unique and hidden gem in Sol. Relax on a rooftop garden with a fresh cocktail and tapas to make your stay in Sol complete. Photo by Álvaro Bernal from Unsplash
Article By: Rebecca Cetta

10:00 - 11:00
Plaza Mayor
Pl. Mayor, 28012 Madrid, Spain
Just a few short steps west of Puerta del Sol is the main square Plaza Mayor. At one time, Plaza Mayor was the very center of Old Madrid, making it one of the most historical spots in Madrid today. Known as the "Tourist Center" of Madrid, Plaza Mayor is an astonishing square filled with traditional restaurants and markets surrounded by a wall of art and history. Stroll through the maze of street vendors, snag your place on a city walking tour, and enjoy some of Spain's traditional Paella! "Gustos Madrid" is one of the best spots in Plaza Mayor to try some authentic Spanish Paella. This classic dish is made with rice, vegetables, chicken, seafood, and a wild blend of spices cooked in a very specific pan. The dish is actually named after the pan it is cooked in: a Paellera! Traditionally, the paella is cooked in the large paellera and placed in the middle of the table and guests eat directly out of the large pan. No dishes wasted! In Plaza Mayor you'll see many diners with giant paelleras in the middle of the table. Don't worry, that's how it's supposed to be! Plaza Mayor is the best place to see all of Spain's food traditions come to life, especially holiday foods! During the holiday season, Plaza Mayor is full of traditional Christmas markets that add a festive vibe to the classic square. The holidays are very important to the Spanish people. While Christmas is widely celebrated, another popular holiday in Spain is Three Kings Day. In early January, children all over Spain get ready for the celebration of the Three Wise Men and wait for the Magi to leave presents on the night of the 5th. They celebrate this special day by attending the large Three Kings Day Parade in the city center and eating some Roscon. Roscon is a festive sweet bread shared by the whole family. By tradition, a small trinket is baked inside the bread and whoever gets the piece with the trinket pays for the meal! Photo by Eduardo Rodriguez from Unsplash
Article By: Rebecca Cetta

12:00 - 14:00
Palacio Real de Madrid
C. de Bailén, Madrid, Spain
A few blocks away from the lively streets of Sol and Plaza Mayor lies the beautiful Royal Palace. Surrounded by stunning gardens, fountains, and art exhibitions, the Royal Palace is one of Madrid's most elegant and charming spots. While the Royal family doesn't currently live there, the Palacio Real is a popular location for ceremonies and celebrations. It is also the largest fully functioning Place in Europe! Step back and time and see Spanish royal history come to life. Stroll through Campo de Moro behind the Palace and get lost wandering the dirt paths, relax by the Fuente de Los Tritones, and marvel at the traditional Spanish Chalets. The Palace grounds are the perfect place to learn all about Spanish art and culture. Next to the Royal Palace sits the Catedral de Santa María la Real de la Almudena. This Baroque-style Cathedral is known for its gorgeous domes and colorful interior. Make sure you are dressed modestly if you wish to enter. Photo by Eduardo Rodriguez from Unsplash
Article By: Rebecca Cetta
Standard 10.00 EUR

12:00 - 13:00
Teatro Real
Pl. de Isabel II, 28013 Madrid, Spain
Directly in front of the Palacio Real is the iconic Teatro Real, a prominent Opera house built in 1818. After more than thirty years of planning, the theater was finally open to the public in 1850 with Donizetti's ¨La favorite¨, being the inaugural performance. The Teatro Real quickly became one of the most prestigious opera houses in all of Europe, hosting some of the world's most renowned opera singers, composers, and performances. You can take a breathtaking tour of the main concert hall or see a live show. The installation of the metro system in Madrid caused damage to the building and prompted renovation and restoration. The renovation, however, wasn't completed until the 1960s. It then reopened to the public as a concert hall and is still active to this day. If you're lucky, you can see the Spanish National Orchestra and hear a performance of a lifetime! Photo by Jorge Franganillo from Flickr CC BY 2.0 License
Article By: Rebecca Cetta
Standard 7.00 EUR

14:00 - 15:00
Muslim Walls of Madrid
Emir Mohamed Park, Parque Emir Mohamed, 28005 Madrid, Spain
Constructed in the 9th century by order of King Emir Muhammad I, these walls were built to protect the old citadel of Mayrit (Madrid), where the Palaceo Real lies today. Though many were destroyed during the Spanish Civil War, some sections of the wall remain completely intact even twelve hundred years later. The best spot to view the walls is in Emir Mohamed Park right next to Almudena Cathedral by the Palacio Real. These walls are the only surviving pieces of the original city of Madrid. Step back in time and see where it all began! Photo by Luis Garcia from Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0 License
Article By: Rebecca Cetta

15:00 - 16:00
Mercado de San Miguel
Pl. de San Miguel, 28005 Madrid, Spain
Mercado San Miguel, located just south of Plaza Mayor, is every foodie's dream come to life. This indoor Spanish market has a traditional atmosphere with a modern twist. Enjoy gourmet Spanish tapas, an assortment of beer, wine, cheese, and sangria, and indulge in some decadent desserts. With over 30 vendors selling food made from the heart, your palette and soul will be satisfied with every bite. Come hungry! Since opening in 1916, San Miguel Market has become a beacon of Spanish cuisine. It celebrates the diversity of food and cooking styles from every region in Spain and amplifies the importance of gastronomy in the Spanish community. Food is what brings people together, and Mercado San Miguel is the perfect example. The wine slushies are a MUST! Photo by Mattia Panciroli from Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0 License
Article By: Rebecca Cetta

Day 2

09:00 - 11:00
Museo Nacional del Prado
C. de Ruiz de Alarcón, 23, 28014 Madrid, Spain
Museo Nacional del Prado, or Prado Museum, is considered one of, if not the most, famous museums in all of Europe. Located one street over from Retiro Park, Museo Nacional del Prado is home to some of the most esteemed and world-renowned pieces of art. It is well known for its vast and exemplary collection of 18th-century Spanish art and the Spanish Royal Art collection: collections gathered by Spanish royalty over the past 800 years. This iconic museum is home to collections of some of the greatest artists in the world: Francisco Goya, El Greco, Diego Velázques, and more. Spend your afternoon soaking up inspiration and walking through the halls of Spanish history. Built in 1785, the original purpose of the musem building was to house the Natural History Cabinet under King Charles III. His grandson, King Ferdinand VII, decided it would serve better as the Royal Museum of paintings. In 1819 it opened to the public for the first time as the Museo del Prado. In just over 200 years, the Prado Museum has exhibited more than 2,300 paintings. In fact, the collection was growing so fast that the museum had to be expanded... twice. As one of the most popular museums in the world, Museo del Prado welcomes 2 to 3 million visitors per year. This museum is an absolute priority to have a perfect weekend in Madrid. The museum is FREE monday to saturday between 4 pm and 6 pm, and sunday between 5 pm and 7 pm. Students with identification get free entry as well! Be sure to check out the incredible Real Botanical Gardens to the south of the museum for only 6 euros! Photo by Fernando López from flikr
Article By: Rebecca Cetta
Standard 15.00 EUR

11:00 - 13:00
Retiro Park
El Retiro Park, Plaza de la Independencia, 7, 28001 Madrid, Spain
Parque del Buen Retiro, or Retiro Park, is one of the largest and most popular spots in Madrid. Since its opening to the public in the mid-1800s, Retiro Park has become a relaxing getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city. Once you cross the threshold into this new world you are met with crisp and clean fresh air, a multitude of walking and running paths, patios and grass areas to relax, and the sweet sound of nature for miles around. Admire the breathtaking Rose Garden of Retiro, take a boat ride on the lake by the monument of Alfonso XII, walk through the architectural icon of the Crystal Palace, and step into an artist's dream at the Velzázquez Palace art museum (10 euros). With so much to do in Retiro Park, you can comfortably stay for the whole day. At the Northwest entrance of the park lies the Puerta de Alcalá, one of the iconic monumental archways in the city center. Be sure to check out some of the restaurants along the lake for some of the best sangria and churros con chocolate you´ll ever have! Many art, culture, and food festivals are set up along the pathways of the park during the summer to celebrate local artistry and small business in Madrid. Keep your eye out! Photo by Ömer Karakus from Unsplash
Article By: Rebecca Cetta

13:00 - 15:00
Reina Sofia National Art Center Museum
C. de Sta. Isabel, 52, 28018 Madrid, Spain
The Reina Sofia, ¨Queen Sofia¨, National Art Center, located near Madrid's Estacion del Arte, opened its doors in 1990 to celebrate 20th Century Spanish art. As part of the ¨Golden Triangle of Art¨ in Madrid, along with the Prado Museum, the Reina Sofia Museum houses some of the most famous works of art in the 20th Century. Artists like Picasso, Salvador Dali, Gris, and Miro are featured in the Museum's tribute to Modern Art and Culture. Picasso's ¨Guernica¨, is one of the most famous paintings in the museum. Guernica, painted in 1937, is an example of one of many anti-war paintings by the Spanish artist. The paitning is in response to the bombing of the Basque city of Guernica by the Nazi's and Fascitsts, by order of Spanish Nationalists, during the Spanish Civil War. Picasso's painting was used as a political statement to oppose the war and many of Picasso's paintings, such as the Weeping Woman, are linked to anti-Franco movements. Photo: Museoreinasofia, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Article By: Rebecca Cetta
Standard 10.00 EUR

15:00 - 17:00
Calle Gran Vía
C/ Gran Vía, Madrid, Spain
Just north of Sol lies Madrid's most famous street. Gran Vía, literally meaning 'big road', is the best spot for shopping and entertainment. Filled with name brand stores, boutiques, tapas bars, cinemas and theaters, and iconic hotels, Gran Vía really is a one-stop shop in the heart of Madrid. Here modern shopping meets antique architecture and style. Step inside the beautiful Teatro Rialto and catch a classic show, or if you're feeling brave, walk through the crowds in Primark, a five-story hub of fashion. Be sure to check out Casa del Libro, the Book House, for all your literary desires, Ella Sky Bar for a fantastic rooftop dining experience, and Celicioso for some amazing gluten free baked goods! Also in Gran Vía are the iconic Metropolis building and Schweppes sign. Get your cameras ready! Photo buy Carlos Zurita from Unsplash
Article By: Rebecca Cetta

17:00 - 19:00
Malasaña
Malasaña, Madrid, Spain
Malasaña is one of the most trendy, hip, and bustling neighborhoods in downtown Madrid. Filled with coffee shops, edgy bars, and vintage clothing boutiques, this neighborhood is the absolute best meeting spot for young adults. There are also many used clothing stores and eco-friendly cafes and shops lining the cobbles-stone streets; perfect for the environmentally-conscious shopper. The overall vibe of Malasaña is pretty simple: Take care of the earth and look great while doing it! Tourists and locals alike love the pop-up markets, book shops, Museum of Contemporary Art, and stunning works of architecture throughout the neighborhood. Malasaña is named after Manuela Malasana, a 15 year old girl who was executed by the French in 1908 in Plaza del Dos de Mayo for taking part in the uprising against Napoleon's occupation of Spain. This was during Spain's struggle for independence. Malasaña is also the birthplace of Madrid's underground art movement in the 1980's. The famous "movida" movement revolutionized new art and culture in Spain. If any "barrio" symbolizes revolution, Malasaña is the one. Have a perfect cocktail in '1862 Dry Bar' or enjoy a bagel and shop used books at 'J&J Books and Coffee'. With plenty of bars and nightlife, Malasaña is the perfect place to end your weekend in Madrid. Photo by Sergio Rodriguez from Unsplash
Article By: Rebecca Cetta

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About the author

Hello people of the world! My name is Becca and my mission and passion in life is to see as much of the earth as I possibly can. This big beautiful planet has given me so much, and I want to see all that it has to offer. My expertise is traveling on a budget, travel apps, and picture spots!

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