Madrid has so much to offer; it could take a lifetime to explore it all. Unfortunately, you’re probably stuck in school or at work for most of the year. So here’s a schedule that fits all of Madrid’s main sights into a mere 48 hours. You’ll be able to enjoy churros, Madrid’s most visited plazas, some of the world’s most famous paintings, beautiful views, the oldest restaurant in the world, a stroll in the park, a lot of shopping, and dancing until the sun comes up.
Taste Madrid’s Famous Churros
Start your morning off at Chocolatería San Ginés, which is open 24 hours and has been around since 1894, located perfectly in central Madrid. While Chocolatería San Ginés does attract crowds of both locals and tourists, the line moves quickly and is worth the wait. The most popular dish to order is churros with chocolate, but make sure you’re hungry, because the smallest possible order consists of six churros with a teacup of melted chocolate. A waiter at the chocolatería explains, “we have the best churros in town, and we always have. From breakfast to late hours of the night, we have customers coming in for our famous churros”.
Walk Around the Old Madrid
Only a two-minute walk from Chocolatería San Ginés, your first stop should be Plaza Mayor. This historical landmark is a must-see in Madrid because not only is it four centuries old, but it also gives a sense of one of the oldest spots in town. The Casa de la Panadería, a breathtaking gold and red-orange cultural and municipal building, takes up the majority of Plaza Mayor. Here, you can find street artists and local shops, and a four-minute walk will take you to Puerta del Sol, one of the most visited and most central squares in the city. This open space provides a place to sit or walk around the busy streets, which are lined with shops, street performers, and people dressed in costumes. The plaza also holds the famous bell which rings in the eating of the Twelve Grapes at the beginning of each year. Seven minutes of walking will take you to Madrid’s Royal Palace. Head into the gardens next to the palace, rest for a while on a bench, and take in the view.
From the Trendy Malasaña to One of the City’s Arteries, Grand Vía
Choose from a variety of foods at Mercado de San Ildefonso, in the heart of the Malasaña neighborhood, for the ultimate trendy dining experience, just a twenty-minute walk from the Royal Palace. There are three vibrant floors of wooden tables to choose from, an outdoor patio, neon signs, and dozens of food options, so you’ll have a hard time picking what to eat. Visitors can walk around the market and try all of the free samples they want before making a decision. If traditional Spanish food is not for you, enjoy one of the endless alternatives. Simply order your food from whichever vendor you prefer, pay, and find your seat; someone will bring your tray right over to you.
Once lunch is over and you’ve regained your energy, take a stroll around Malasaña, Madrid’s creative, hipster neighborhood. Spend time wandering through its cobblestone streets and boutiques, all of which are totally Instagram-worthy. The shops and bars here are one-of-kind, including Tipos Infames, a mix between a bookstore and wine shop, La Pecera, an ice cream shop with fish-shaped cones, record shops, art galleries, and thrift stores. Malasaña is a mesmerizing neighborhood, so it’s so easy to wander around forhours.
Just next to Malasaña is Gran Vía, an upscale street full of shops, restaurants, and bars. You can spend hours here just walking around, shopping, and taking in the beauty of the street. Check Pull & Bear, a clothing store exclusive to Spain, which could be described as a mix between H&M and Urban Outfitters. This street has an upscale but welcoming atmosphere, as it is full of high end stores, restaurant, and bars, as well as countless tourists and local shops. Don’t forget to look up to discover some great 19th-century and Art Deco buildings.
Dinner with a View and Dancing to Dawn
Enjoy dinner and drinks at Azotea del Círculo de Bellas Artes, a rooftop in central Madrid with unbelievable views. Only a nine-minute walk from Gran Via, this restaurant offers excellent food with a variety of options. You definitely have to make a reservation, however, which you can do on their website or in person. The photos you’ll get and the exciting ambience are worth how pricy the drinks are, which is about nine or ten euros for a cocktail.
If you’re up for it after dinner, a short taxi ride away is Teatro Kapital, a popular spot to go clubbing in Madrid on weekends. Kapital’s pricy entry fee, around 20 euros, includes a drink and access to the club’s seven floors, all with different types of music, from house music to Latin music to karaoke. Teatro Kapital is known as one of the best clubs in Europe, so the experience is worth the money. As for dress code, you will find people wearing pretty much anything- from t-shirts and denim shorts to fancier dresses and heels.
Discover Some of the Best Paintings in the World
Start your day off with breakfast at El 17 de Moreto. Offering muffins, bread, and omelettes, this restaurant provides both light and heavy options to give you energy for your long day of exploring Madrid’s most famous museum, el Museo del Prado, just two minutes walking from the restaurant. Filled with paintings created by some of the most well-known artists in the world, the museum’s rooms have a sophisticated, open environment. Its black and grey marble floors and gold and black frames are elegant yet inviting. Some of the most interesting rooms in the museum are Room number 12, home to Velázquez’s Las Meninas, Room numbers 34-38, home to some of Goya’s works, and Room number 56B, home to Fra Angelico’s The Annunciation. Mónica Monmeneu, who works at the museum, revealed, “We have a selection of 50 masterpieces, so it takes about three hours to see them all. If you are here and want to see everything, I’d say to stay between three and five hours.”
Have a Siesta Under the Ancient Trees of Retiro Park
After your dose of art, take a walk around beautiful and serene Retiro Park and enjoy the greenery after a mere six-minute walk from the museum! Grab lunch to-go, or stop in a grocery store for some wine, bread, and cheese, and enjoy your meal outside in the shade, which is an inexpensive option. Find a quiet spot in the shade of the trees and enjoy a traditional Spanish siesta after eating. Next, you should head to the Palacio de Cristal, a picturesque all-glass building, in the middle of the park, which is an awesome spot. You can enter the palace daily from 10am-10pm for free and photograph and study its stunning architecture.You can also rent a rowboat in the Retiro Park lake, which would cost a mere six euros on weekdays and eight euros on weekends. While it may get hot in Madrid’s relentless sun, the water provides a relaxing breeze.
Have Dinner at the World’s Oldest Restaurant and Dance the Night Away
Sobrino de Botín was founded in 1725 and part of what makes this restaurant so special is that it’s the oldest restaurant in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Sitting between walls of brick in an old-fashioned restaurant like Sobrino de Botín resembles a trip back in time. Make a reservation in advance to confirm a table, and make sure to order the signature dish, the Suckling Pig.
Joy Eslava is only six minutes by foot from Sobrino de Botín. It is located in a beautiful theatre in Madrid’s historical center, and offers different themes and DJs every night of the week. The entry fee for the club is usually between 10 and 15 euros, including a drink, but there are often people outside the club offering a coupon for free entry. Joy Eslava is open every day of the year, so you don’t have to worry about missing out on this gem. The club is lively, upbeat, and beautifully lit, and the dress code, described as casual/smart, is flexible. People wear everything from nice jeans or shorts to elegant dresses. Put your name on the guest list online for free entry before a certain time in the night.
When you decide to go back to the hotel, make sure to stop just around the corner at San Ginés one last time and have some chocolate with churros. It would be the perfect end to your 48 hours in Madrid.
Chocolatería San Ginés; Pasadizo San Ginés, 5; Opens 24 hours; Metro Sol.
Mercado de San Ildefonso; Calle de Fuencarral, 57; Sun-Wed 12pm-Midnight, Thurs-Sat 12pm-1am; Metro Tribunal.
La Pecera; Calle Velarde, 2; From 17.00 to 22.30; Metro Gran Vía.
Tipos Infames; San Joaquín, 2; From 11.30 at 15.00 and to 17.30 to 22.30; Metro Tribunal.
Azotea del Círculo de Bellas Artes; Calle de Alcalá, 42; Mon-Thurs 9am-2am, Fri 9am-3am, Sat 11am-3am; Metro Banco de España; Fee 4 Euros.
Teatro Kapital; Calle de Atocha, 125; Thurs-Sat Midnight-6am, Closed Sun-Wed; Metro Atocha; Fee 20 Euros (Includes one drink).
El 17 de Moreto; Calle Moreto, 17; From 8am to Midnight; Metro Atocha.
El Museo del Prado; Paseo del Prado, s/n; Open from 10am-8pm on Monday through Saturday and 10am-7pm on Sundays. The museum is free every Monday through Saturday from 6pm to 8pm and every Sunday and holiday from 5pm to 7pm; Metro Banco de España; General Fee 15 Euros. If you are under 18 or a student between the ages of 18 and 25 with a valid student ID, you can skip the long line, go right into the ticket office, and receive free entry any day of the week.
Retiro Park; Plaza de la Independencia, 7; From April to September from 6 am to 12 pm. From October to March from 6 am to 10 pm; Metro Retiro.
Sobrino de Botín; Calle Cuchilleros, 17; Sun-Sat 1pm-4pm, 8pm-Midnight; Metro Ópera.
Joy Eslava; Calle del Arenal, 11; Sun-Thurs Midnight-5:30am, Fri-Sat Midnight-6am; Metro Ópera; Fee 10-15 Euros.