Madrid has such a wide array of attractions and activities to choose from, it can be hard to find where to start. On a two-day trip to Madrid you need to take advantage of the food on offer, the art and of course the culture. Luckily many of Madrid’s delights can be found within a small area, so you can pack a lot into your two days. An extensive transport network can get you to sights further out, such as Real Madrid’s stadium.
There are three world-renowned art museums in Madrid’s Golden Triangle, which can’t be missed. These feature works by Spanish painting giants such as Velázquez, Goya and Picasso. Outdoors, the spectacular Parque del Buen Retiro is a welcome breathing space, and was originally designed as a royal retreat. Madridleños enjoy eating and will happily while away hours with family and friends doing just that. There are a grand choice of eateries, so you can try everything, from gourmet innovation to street-side tapas bars.
When they say Madrid is a city that never sleeps, well it’s partly true – party goers in Madrid often stay out till 6am. Experience Madrid the local way by dancing the night away until the metro starts running again.
INSIDR recommendation highlights on our interactive map of Madrid
What you should not miss if you spend two days in Madrid
The paintings of Spanish legends can be found in the halls of this late 18th century building. Velázquez and Goya play a prominent role in making this one of Europe’s must-see museums. Gaze in awe at Velázquez’s evoking masterpieces and at Goya’s ‘Black Paintings’ of the Spain’s rebellion against the French. Due to the museum’s origins, the collection also includes Flemish works such as Rubens’ The Recognition of Phililpoemen.
Picasso’s Guernica at the Reina Sofia Museum
Picasso’s representation of Germany’s bombing of Guernica in Spain’s Basque Country, was originally displayed in Paris. This is a mammoth painting in both sentiment and actual dimensions. It spreads nearly eight metres wide and 3.5 metres high, covering one full wall of Room 206.06. Picasso painted this dramatic canvas and displayed it at the Paris International Exhibition (1937) to warn of the impending effects of war.
Parque del Buen Retiro
A breath of fresh air in a sometimes stifling city, Madrid’s Retiro Park covers more than 120 hectares with gardens, a boating lake and architecture from the 19th century. Wander through the Cecilio Rodríguez gardens in their Andalusian style or experience the fragrance of the Rose Garden. The cast wrought iron and glass Crystal Palace hails from 1887, when it was used to propagate exotic plants.
Day one in Madrid
Recommended things to do and see on your first day in Madrid
Try the typical Spanish treat of chocolate con churros for breakfast if you can stomach it. San Gines is open 24 hours every day. Donut-style sticks are served with a mug of thick chocolate to dip the churros in. After you’ve had your fill, walk it off in a short jaunt (20 minutes) to the Prado to see the masterpieces of Goya, Velázquez and Rubens.
Choose from healthy options for lunch at MoretoGreen, just behind the Prado on Calle Moreto. After lunch, stretch your legs at the Park del Buen Retiro (Park of Good Retreat). Stroll where royals strolled, as this now-public park was originally a royal retreat. For a relaxing experience, take a rowboat out on the serene lake and don’t forget to check out the wrought iron and glass building for exotic plants.
Head out for dinner at the oldest restaurant in the world, Sobrino de Botin. If you’re still running on meat juice walk 20 minutes to Plaza de Chueca or take metro line 5 from La Latina metro stop. Chueca is straight and gay-friendly with many bars and nightclubs. For an eye-opening experience, try the drag queen show tour by Visit Chueca. Alternatively, try the lively jazz at Bogui Jazz on Calle del Barquillo.
Where to stay on your first night in Madrid
Recommended activities for your first day in Madrid
Day two in Madrid
Recommended things to do and see on your second day in Madrid
Choose the typical Spanish pan con tomate (toast with pureed tomato) and a café con leche (white coffee) for breakfast, then make your way to the Reina Sofia art gallery and make sure to see the huge and important Guernica canvas by Picasso. Discover everything from Cubism and Dali’s surrealism to post-war-influenced artworks here.
After lunching, take the metro up to the Santiago Bernabeu football stadium for a tour. Pose in the famous players’ dressing rooms and admire the shiny trophies of one of the world’s greatest football teams. Walk down the tunnel to the pitch where internationally-recognised football celebs have played. If not a football fan, the immense 18th-century Royal Palace on Calle de Bailen is packed full of art and antiques.
Before the sun begins to fade, head over to the ancient Temple de Debod for sunset. The perfect spot to reflect on the day’s events and the Egyptian temple’s vast history in an orange hue. Next stop is to ir de tapas (go for tapas) – Spain’s favourite pastime. Calles Cava Alta and Cava Baja in La Latina district are atmospheric streets with an abundance of tapas bars. If you have time catch an authentic Flamenco show with Maria Larroca’s tour.