48 Hours in Madrid

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Madrid is home to superb art collections, bustling shopping areas, eateries serving top-notch Spanish and international fare and a buzzing street life. It’s impossible to see the whole city in a weekend, but two days exploring the top sights is a great introduction to the Spanish capital.

From the Art Walk to Hapsburg Madrid

Madrid is a dream destination for art lovers and architecture buffs. Along the tree-lined Paseo del Prado boulevard, you’ll find three of the world’s greatest museums, and we recommend you allocate at least half a day for each of them:

The Prado Museum is home to an unrivaled collection of Spanish painting from the Middle Ages right up to the 19th century, in addition to masterpieces from the Flemish and Italian schools. Don’t miss: Velázquez’ Las Meninas and Goya’s Third of May, 1808, Hieronymus Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights, and Titian’s The Bacchanal of the Andrians.

The Thyssen-Bornemisza takes us on a journey through the history of European painting from the 13th century right through to the late 20th century. Its walls are lined with works by the likes of Caravaggio, Van Gogh, Rothko, Gaughin, Dalí and Georgia O’Keeffe.

Last but not least is the Reina Sofía, Madrid’s contemporary Spanish art museum par excellence. A collection of over 22,400 works spans much of the 20th century and includes artworks by Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí, Juan Gris, and the museum’s crown jewel: Picasso’s Guernica.

Palacio RealIn the area, you'll aso find the Botanical Gardens and the Retiro Park, where you can spend the afternoone enjoyinga leisurely stroll. To make your way to the old part of town, take Calle de las Huertas, which cuts through the Barrio de las Letras (Literary Quarter), brimming with antique shops, tapas bars and charming cafés. You'll eventually come to the Plaza Mayor square, which is the epicentre of Madrid de los Austrias (Hapsburg Madrid). From here, in just 10 minutes, you can reach Plaza de la Villa, where the former City Hall is located, and Plaza de Oriente, which is home to two of Madrid’s most iconic buildings: the Royal Palace and the Teatro Real opera house. In this part of the city, the views of the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range are breath-taking. A short walk from the Jardines de Sabatini, the gardens next to the Royal Palace, stands the Temple of Debod, a second-century Egyptian temple donated to Spain during the construction of the great Aswan Dam.

Tapas and signature cuisine

Mercado de San MiguelAs well as Barrio de las Letras, another great place to go for tapas is La Latina district. Close by you’ll also findthe San Miguel Market which is lined with delicatessen stalls and bars serving raciones (dishes to share). In the area, there are many centuries-old taverns that serve typical local fare, like cocido (Madrid-style chickpea stew) or dishes from other parts of  Spain such as Galicia, Asturias or the Basque Country.

You can find international food in the vicinity of Plaza de España, and more sophisticated restaurants in and around Gran Vía and Paseo de la Castellana.

The best shopping

Compras de lujo International brands, traditional and specialised shops, innovative fashion and the creations of young designers all coexist on the streets of the city. In Barrio de Salamanca, especially along Calle Serrano and Calle Ortega y Gasset, many luxury brands can be found. At the other end of Paseo de Recoletos, around Calle del Almirante, there are shops brimming with style and personality. And right next to Gran Vía, where all the department stores are located, Calle de Fuencarral and the Triball neighbourhood show off young fashion trends in their shop windows.

Theatres and cultural activities

The city boasts a wide range of theatre offerings, hosting all sorts of performances in major venues such as Teatro Real (opera house), Lope de Vega, Teatro Nuevo Apolo, Teatro Circo Price and Teatro Español, among others. Madrid can be defined as the great capital of musicals in Spanish with an extensive offer of musicals.

Plans for all the family

If you are on holidays with your kids, a good option is to discover the capital’s theme parks and amusement parks. You can also have a rest in one of the cafés especially designed for all the family. Madrid can be defined as the great capital of musicals in Spanish with a wide range of musicals with names such as El Rey León or Billy Elliot.

Open 24 hours

 El Corral de la MoreríaMadrid is known the world over for its nightlife: theatres, musicals, flamenco bars, pubs and clubs where you can dance into the early hours.

Adding to this, some central hotels have turned their roof decks into sophisticated chill-out lounges overlooking the city, while a number of new bars serving refreshing cocktails have sprung up around the capital. This may be one of the best ways to wrap up your visit to Madrid, but there’s so much more to discover in the city that we’re sure you won’t be able to stay away for long.

 

  • Check out our selection of original souvenirs to remember your visit to Madrid.

    Souvenirs from Madrid
  • Tienda Casa de la Panadería
  • Don't let a little drizzle ruin your visit! Check out all the things you can do in Madrid whatever the weather.

    Madrid in the Rain
  • Madrid con lluvia. Plaza Mayor
  • Download our bilingual Spanish-English guide to the flamenco bars belonging to the Madrid Association of Tablaos. It includes a basic glossary!

    Madrid for You: Flamenco (PDF)
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