48 Hours in Madrid: Things to do in Madrid in 2 Days

Madrid is one of our favourite cities to visit in Europe. Spending 2 days in Madrid will give you a good amount of time as an introduction to this marvellous city. For us, we just love the vibrancy, the food, the shopping, the museums, and the great weather. So, it means Madrid’s major attractions and places to visit are available in any season.

The Perfect 2 Days in Madrid

madrid skyline

Madrid Skyline

If you’re not familiar with the culture of Spain, it may leave you feeling a little disorientated.

What do we mean?

Well we mean your body clock may get a little out of whack.

You see, these wonderful people of Spain like to eat late breakfast, stop for an afternoon lunch and siesta, to emerge again in the evening for tapas or a late supper at 10 pm. But don’t worry, as long as you know what to expect, why not just adapt for your 2 days in Madrid, to enjoy the experience.

We suggest you break up your day for your city tour of Madrid into morning, afternoon and evening. This way you can easily cover Madrid’s points of interest and best things to do quite comfortably.

What to See in Madrid

We are walkers; we love discovering a city by taking our backpack and slipping on our walking shoes. Madrid makes it so easy to visit places of interest on foot.

You can wander around Madrid through some of the city’s wonderful plaza’s, palaces, shopping areas and food districts. The architecture of Madrid is some of the most stunning in the world, so be sure to look in all directions.

So let’s get started on our 48 hours in Madrid itinerary. 

Day One – Places to Visit in Madrid

Morning Walk of Madrid Main Attractions

almudena cathedral madrid

Almudena Cathedral

If you haven’t had time for breakfast, or want to eat with the locals, then why not start your 2 days in Madrid with a Tostada and Coffee. This simple breakfast at most cafes is a toasted baguette, drizzled with olive oil, spread with crushed tomatoes and sprinkled with salt and pepper. Superb! And if you need a coffee with milk, just ask for a Cortado.

Puerta del Sol

Puerta del Sol dates to the 15th century and is probably the busiest and most famous plaza in Madrid. You will find yourself just standing to look at all the stunning architecture.

But the plaza is best known for its famous Bear and Strawberry Tree statue, this is the coats of arms symbol of Madrid dating to the middle ages.

Plaza Mayor

This amazing plaza is a rectangle shaped space surrounded by three-story residential buildings with 237 balconies facing the Plaza. Thanks to the Hapsburg empire, the residential buildings are something to behold.

Often there are market stalls within the plaza, and there is always street entertainment to admire.

Mercado de San Miguel

Mercado is another word for market, and the Market of San Miguel built in 1916 is a must see during your 2 days in Madrid. The enclosed and covered building is the most popular market in Madrid.

Enjoy lunch and wine from the gourmet tapas with over 30 different vendors selling their wares. We decided to grab ingredients for a picnic later in the day.

Almudena Cathedral

You may have visited plenty of churches on your travels but visiting the Cathedral is a must do in your 2 days in Madrid. The building of the cathedral started in 1879 and completed in 1993 after building stopped during the Spanish Civil War. The cathedral will impress you with its modern Neo-Gothic interior and Baroque exterior.

Puente de Segovia

A short walk from the Cathedral you can find the Segovia Bridge rewarding you with great views back over Madrid in both directions.

Time for Lunch and a Siesta?

When you consider lunch is roughly 2.30pm to 4.30pm don’t be surprised if you find some of Madrid’s major attractions close their doors. No worries, there is still plenty of options for you.

Perhaps enjoy a picnic in the gardens of Plaza del Oriente while sitting amongst its sculptures of the different kings and queens as you take in the view of the beautiful Teatro Real Opera. Madrid is famous for the arts, ballet, opera and flamenco music.

Or treat yourself to a long lunch at one of the many cafes and restaurants. But choose wisely, you only have 48 hours in Madrid!

Afternoon Highlights of Madrid

royal palace of madrid

The Royal Palace of Madrid

Are you feeling refreshed? There’s so much more to see.

Plaza de la Armeria

You may get confused thinking this is the Palace, but it is the Armoury Square. It makes a great viewpoint for photos of the Palace and the Cathedral. For tickets to the Palace, just walk around the corner to the ticket office.

Royal Palace of Madrid

One of Madrid’s top attractions is the Royal Palace so you must not miss this off your 2 days in Madrid itinerary. It would have to be Madrid’s most beautiful building and the largest royal palace in Western Europe. The Palace became a residence in 1764, 30 years after the previous Palace burnt down. It is styled on Versailles and is a magnificent building with the interior taking 100 years to furnish. Today the Royal Palace is only used for state occasions.

A visit to the Royal Palace of Madrid has to be one of the top things to do in Madrid.

Jardines de Sabatini

The Royal Gardens of the Palace are open to the public to enjoy with fountains, beautiful flower beds and a wonderful view of the Palace.

Temple of Debod

Now you may be wondering why there is an actual ancient Egyptian temple located in Madrid. This is probably one of the more unique sights you’ll see during your 2 days in Madrid. The story is one of generosity going back to the 1960’s. Some temples in Egypt were under threat because of the Aswan Dam construction.  When UNESCO asked for help to save many archaeological monuments, Spain responded, and as a result of a call to help Spain provided, Egypt gave this temple to Spain.

And while you are here, make sure to take in the views from the park back over the city of Madrid.

How are you feeling? Time for some shopping?

Gran Via

Gran Via is the major boulevard through the centre of Madrid and is home to many major shopping stores. For some of the top known brands, start at Plaza del Callao as this will give you the option to walk down Calle de Preciados and return along Calle de Carmen. That is unless you get distracted by the many boutique shops.

Chocolatería San Ginés

As dinner in Spain doesn’t start until at least 8 pm and shopping does need energy, why not try a favourite of Hot Chocolate and Churros at Chocolatería San Ginés. Churros are fried dough sticks coated in sugar and taste great when dipped in a cup of thick hot chocolate. Your taste buds will so enjoy this tasty delight. And it makes a welcomed break from shopping.

Evening in Madrid

evening in madrid

Madrid at night

So how do we find some of the best eating places to try the local cuisine? Often it’s because we get lost when we are trying to find a restaurant recommended in an online review. What ends up happening, is we see a busy small restaurant where the food prices are reasonable and open the door to find out more. And we often end up being delighted with our choice.

One of the best places we found during our 2 days in Madrid was around the old streets near Plaza Mayor and Plaza de la Villa. If you are not feeling too confident with making choices, then Madrid offers some wonderful Food Tours.

Day Two Must Sees of Madrid

Morning Visit – Best Museum in Madrid

arc de triomphe madrid

Arc de Triomphe

Prado Museum

Now, you may or may not have heard of the Prado Museum. But if visiting Madrid for 48 hours, even if you aren’t an art lover, then we can still recommend you take the time to visit Prado Museum.

Why?

The Prado Museum is the National Art Museum of Spain with a collection of the best European art dating back to the 12th century. It will not disappoint.

The best way we found to visit the museum is to book a ticket online as the queues can be so long. With only 2 days in Madrid, you cannot be wasting time in a line. 

And if you happen to be in Madrid on a Sunday, then the entry is free from 5-7pm, but you need to get there at least 1.5-2 hours before as the queue is long. There is an alternative queue at the front of the building where you pay half price at €7.50 to enter from 5-7pm. We found this was the best option unless you are on a tight budget.

Thyssen-Bornemisza Museumornemisza Museum

A visit to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum is for you art lovers as the museum collection of over 1,600 paintings was once the second largest collection of private paintings. The collection is vast and interesting as it covers so many various styles so anyone visiting can enjoy the collection.

Time for a break and a bite to eat.

While there are cafes and restaurants nearby, we again suggest opting for a picnic lunch as we have a great spot for you to enjoy.

Afternoon in Madrid

el retiro park madrid

El Retiro Park

El Retiro Park

This park is large and an enjoyable place to have some time out or to enjoy a picnic. The park is alive with people walking, sitting, enjoying rowing on the pond, or just relaxing and listening to entertainers.

A walk amongst the trees and pathways will lead you to find the Crystal Palace.

And whatever the season, the park is a must-see, particularly in late autumn when the trees and colours are spectacular.

City Hall (Communications Palace)

This amazing building is on a busy roundabout, and the building reminded us of Russia’s architecture known as The Wedding Cake. You can’t miss it.

If you are in Madrid on the first Wednesday of the month, entry is free otherwise the cost is €2. We arrived at 10.15am for a 10.30am opening and had no problems with the queue. From the entrance, you take the lift to the 6th floor and then it’s only a short climb up four flights of steps for a 360-degree view of the city.

Some Madrid attractions you can see from here is the Buenavista Palace now housing the Spanish military and the Puerto da Alcazar triumphal gate.

Mercato del Gato

We always love shopping for local products, not necessarily souvenirs. So, when we came across Mercato de Gato, we found we could browse lots of shops in the one place to buy artisan items like jewellery and clothing.

Enrique Tomas

A non-touristy thing to do during your 2 days in Madrid is to enjoy a local beer and a delicious sandwich. One place we can highly recommend is Enrique Tomas known for its ancient method of curing meat known locally as jamon. The guys in the shop will slice up some jamon for a platter or a sandwich. And with a beer or coffee, it is just perfect.

Madrid at Night

madrid at night

Plenty of cool Madrid bars to choose from

2 days in Madrid wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Malasana area known to locals as the Literary Quarter. Here, we found the ambience more relaxed to wander the narrow streets. We found a small restaurant spilling out into a plaza underneath the trees to enjoy Tapas and a Sangria.

Make sure you try some local specialities like Patatas Bravas (spicy fried potatoes), Marinated Anchovies and Boquerones (whole anchovies). And ask the waiter to choose a local beer and wine to for you to complement the meal. It just makes the experience so much better.

We hope we have inspired you of what to see in Madrid in 2 days making it a great place to visit. It’s is a vibrant, friendly city and has so many things to do for 48 hours in Madrid. If staying longer, you can always check out more of the best Madrid experiences and why not look into day trips from Madrid to Aranjuez, Madrid to Toledo and Madrid to Segovia ensuring you will want to stay longer.

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Do you only have 2 days in Madrid? Don't miss the best highlights by using our 48 hours in Madrid itinerary. Including the must-see Madrid sights and more.

Do you only have 2 days in Madrid? Don't miss the best highlights by using our 48 hours in Madrid itinerary. Including the must-see Madrid sights and more.

About the Author

Hi, we are Terry and Maura – TravelKiwisRediscovering Travel at 50. Leaving behind the 9-5 at the age of 50 to live a lifestyle of travel enjoying road trips and housesitting. So far, 51 countries and many wonderful travel destinations. We hope to inspire you to realise you can travel often, stay longer and experience more. Follow us on Instagram and Pinterest.

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