48 Hours In Madrid

July 21, 2022

Madrid, the sumptuous and airy capital of Spain is often overlooked as a travel destination, although it packs an inspiring experience for those who wish to discover its charm and hidden treasures. While it would take a long time to explore everything this city has to offer, if you have only 48 hours to spend in Madrid, there are certain places and experiences you should not miss. With its large boulevards and elegant architecture, its parks and museums, Madrid might seem a little rigid at first, but by wandering the side streets and less-known areas, you can discover a lively and welcoming atmosphere, with charming flea markets and live music bars. Madrid truly is an astonishing destination that awes and inspires those that take the time to unravel its secrets. Here are some of the best things to do if you have 48 hours in Madrid.

Start your journey from Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor

Surrounded by enchanting mansions and palaces with porticoes and the mounted statue of King Philip III, Plaza Mayor sits at the heart of Madrid and makes for the perfect spot to start exploring the city. Once the center of old Madrid and the largest square in the Habsburg quarter of the city, this lovely pedestrian area features interesting buildings like the Casa de la Panaderia, built in the 16th century and renovated along the centuries. Although an elegant destination for a morning coffee today, the square was always surrounded by bad luck with three consecutive fires striking the area in the past.

Visit the Royal Palace of Madrid

Royal Palace of Madrid

Probably the most famous and popular tourist destination of Madrid is the Royal Palace and for good reasons. It is worth visiting this magnificent sight to discover the history of royalty in Spain, from King Charles III to Alfonso XIII. It is one of the largest palaces in the world, with over 3,400 rooms and spaces, some of them being open to the public. It will take a few hours exploring the halls of the palace, the most important highlights being the lavish Throne Room, the impressive Main Staircase, the Royal Armory, the Painting Gallery, the Royal Kitchen, the Royal Chapel, the Gasparini Salon, the Halberdiers Hall or the Changing of Guards that takes place some days. In front of the Royal Palace, travelers can also admire the unique Almudena Cathedral, with its superb architecture and troubled history, only considered completed in 1993 after more than a century under construction.

Admire the masterpieces of Prado Museum

Prado Museum

Considered one of the best and richest museums in the world, no visit to Madrid would be complete without seeing the masterpieces of the Prado Museum. It holds a fascinating collection of paintings, sculpture, drawing and other art pieces of immense value. The Prado has some of the best European art pieces on display and a visit of the museum will reveal astonishing treasures like the paintings of Francisco Goya, El Greco, Rubens, Titian, Diego Velasquez, Albrecht Durer, Raphael, Caravaggio and many other masters. The Spanish, Italian and Flemish schools of painting are best represented inside the museum, with many other interesting temporary exhibitions on display.

Enjoy the tapas at Juana la Loca Restaurant

Juana la Loca Restaurant

One of the best places to enjoy delicious tapas in Madrid is the Juana La Loca Restaurant, located in the Puerta de Moros Square, close to the city center and the Royal Palace. This is one of the most popular and appreciated foodie destinations in the city, acclaimed for its delightful and authentic cuisine. It offers a rich menu that includes traditional and reinvented dishes, as well as a very welcoming atmosphere. Among its most popular dishes, be sure to try the oxtail fajita with sun dried tomatoes, barbecue sauce, provolone, puffed rice and lime drops. The wonderful food should be paired with an authentic Spanish wine.

Relax in the enchanting Retiro Park

Retiro Park

After a wholesome meal, nothing works best than a walk in the lovely Parque del Buen Retiro or simply the Retiro Park. It is the largest green space of Madrid and features an impressive amount of interesting things to see and do, while it is also a very relaxing area. Once being a retreat of the royal family, the park includes beautiful monuments, galleries, statues, lakes and several buildings, while also having a network of enchanting alleys. The best attractions of the Retiro Park include the Crystal Palace and its small lake, the Velasquez Palace, the large lake where people can rent boats, the monument of King Alfonso XII, the rose garden, the fountains and others.

Do some shopping along Gran Via street

Gran Via street

One of the most elegant streets of Madrid is located in the center of the city, leading from the Calle de Alcala to the Plaza de Espana. This large avenue is often surnamed the “Broadway of Spain”, featuring superb turn of the century architecture and many commercial venues, making it the perfect shopping destination in the city. Many of the famous Spanish and international brands have shops along this long avenue, including the second biggest Primark store in the world, Zara, H&M, Swarovski, Lacoste and many others. These are also many upscale cafes and hotels along this impressive street of Madrid.

Discover the art in Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

Another piece of the rich cultural heritage of Madrid can be discovered inside the marvelous Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. It is located on the famous Art Walk of Madrid, together with several other interesting museums, including the Prado. With over 1000 works of art on display, this museum is a great addition to the experience of the Prado for those passionate about painting, including amazing masterpieces from the Middle Ages to the late 20th century. Among the most important painters represented are Jan van Eyck, Rubens, Caravaggio, Durer, Canaletto, Monet, Degas, Picasso, Chagall and others.

Take a stroll in the Botanical Garden

Botanical Garden

For a more relaxing activity in Madrid, the enchanting Royal Botanical Garden is a great destination, where travelers can admire the multitude of plant species, from the most common to the most exotic. A veritable delight for the senses, the botanical garden of Madrid is located next to the Prado Museum and the Retiro Park, opened in its current location more than two centuries ago. Today, it houses an extensive display of wonderful plants, both in open air and inside greenhouses that create different habitats for plants outside of Spain.

See the famous Santiago Bernabeu stadium

Santiago Bernabeu stadium

One of the most famous football stadiums in the world and the home of Real Madrid team, Santiago Bernabeu is visited mostly by those passionate about this sport, but regular travelers can also find it extremely inspiring. A tour of the stadium usually includes panoramic views from the stands, field level visits, the history of the club and the trophy room, as well as other areas. While a tour is certainly worthwhile, one of the greatest experiences is attending an official match on this legendary temple of football.

Book a table at El Sobrino de Botin Restaurant

El Sobrino de Botin Restaurant

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, this restaurant is the oldest in the world and is an inspiring historical attraction on itself. Founded back in 1725 the Casa Botin restaurant stands on the same place as an older inn, serving the same exquisite quality of food over the centuries. While booking a table at the El Sobrino de Botin might seem daunting, it is well worth the effort in order to enjoy one of the best dinners in your life. The most famous dishes are the roasted Segovia suckling pigs and the roasted lamb in Castilian style. These and other delights are served in an authentic atmosphere of the basement dining room, together with superb wine pairings.

Watch an intense Flamenco show

Flamenco show

While the passionate spectacle of Flamenco originates in the region of Andalusia, Madrid is an excellent destination for the best Flamenco shows in the world. This magical experience includes intense dancing choreographies, thrilling music performances and wonderful vibrant costumes. There are many places to attend such unique events, some of the best Flamenco venues in Madrid including Las Carboneras, Corral de la Moreria, Casa Patas, Villa-Rosas and others.

Evening walk around Templo de Debod

Templo de Debod

One of the most intriguing monuments of Madrid is the Templo de Debod, a piece of Egypt in the heart of the Spanish capital. The Egyptian shrine once stood close to Aswan and was gifted to Spain, being dismantled and relocated in Madrid, close to the Royal Palace. The temple is surrounded by a pond and is beautifully lit at night, offering a striking reflection of ancient history. There are plans to cover the monuments in the future in order to better protect them from the elements.

If you've got the time to spare, why not try out one of these top 10 day trips from Madrid, or check out our top tips for tapas or paella while you're in town.

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