If you are planning a trip to the Spanish capital, 2 days in Madrid is a good amount of time to start with.
You can see a lot in 48 hours in Madrid and fit in plenty of tapas and vermút in that time. Of course, more time is always needed in a city of this size, so if you can spend three days here that would be even better.
The great thing about Madrid is that it’s easy to navigate. The metro here is clean and well connected around the city. It’s also very affordable at about €1.50 per trip.
It’s also compact enough in the center of the city that you can get to most of the best tourist attractions in less than 20 minutes either by foot or by metro.
Getting to Madrid
If you are flying into Madrid, you will likely land at the Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport (Code: MAD). This is the main airport where both large international flights from the US and Canada all the way down to budget RyanAir flights land.
It is very easy to get from the Madrid-Barajas Airport to the city center. Check flight information and get the best prices on Kiwi.com here.
The cheapest and quickest way is to hop onto the metro. This is also a great time to pick up a metro card.
You need to get a metro card in order to ride the metro, there are not individual tickets for each ride. You also need to pay a €3 tax per person in order to come and go from the airport on the metro.
If you are traveling on your own, you can pay €17 for the card, the airport fee, and 10 rides on the metro. This is the most economic option if you will be using the metro a lot during your two days in Madrid.
This is even more economical if you are traveling with two people. It’s unlikely as one person that you will take the metro 10 times, but you will probably take it five times.
Two people can share the metro card during your trip, all you need to do is add one more person to the card which you will do at the machine at the airport. You can put the machine into English, so it’s very easy to do. There is also an attendant working there who can help you figure out the machine if you are having a problem.
For two people, the card costs just over €20 and includes two people’s airport exit tax, the card, and 10 rides on the metro (so five rides each).
The metro is available in terminals 2 and 4.
There is a bus from the airport to the city center that makes three stops after leaving the airport, O’Donell, Plaza de Cibeles, and Atocha Train Station (it does not go to the last stop overnight).
The bus is called the Exprés Aeropuerto (Airport Express). It runs 24 hours a day. During the day the bus runs every 15 minutes and overnight it runs every 35 minutes.
These buses cost €5 and take about 40 minutes to get to the city center.
Check the airport website for exact times since they change somewhat regularly. The website also lists some other city buses that you can take into the city center depending on which terminal you land in.
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Getting Around Madrid in Two Days
Madrid has an excellent public transportation network and the single metro card that you picked up at the airport will allow you to access all of the modes of transport including the buses.
If you didn’t take the metro from the airport, you’ll need to pick up a card from most machines around the city. Just find a machine that has this sticker on it.
If you plan to use the metro, you’ll want to get an app on your phone that allows you to figure out what route to take before you hop on the metro. I didn’t see many maps of the full metro network in many of the stations, so it can be hard to know where you will need to change without having access to it.
The Madrid Metro have their own app which I found very helpful. You can download it here. It doesn’t just show you the route by metro, it also tells you about the buses and light rail network if that is a better option for your journey.
Where to Stay for 2 Days in Madrid
If you are only going to be in Madrid for two days, you want to be as central as possible. We stayed right near Gran Via and we could hop on the metro or walk to the biggest attractions around Madrid.
These are my top picks for cute boutique hotels and mid-range spots around the city.
If you prefer a budget option, OK Hostel in the La Latina neighborhood is clean and the staff are very friendly. We stored our bags there for a little bit when we check out of our hotel earlier in the day and got a little tour.
- Soho Boutique Opera – Soho Boutique Opera is one my favorite hotels in Madrid. It is the perfect place to base yourself for two days in Madrid thanks to its central location. You can walk to La Latina, the Royal Palace, and tons of great tapas bars and restaurants nearby. It’s incredibly affordable with rooms starting as low as €55 per night. Book a stay at Soho Boutique Opera here.
- Hotel Liabeny – Hotel Liabeny is another great city-center hotel. It is located in the Puerto del Sol area of the city. You can wake up and head straight out onto one of the city’s main boulevards or hop on the metro and get to wherever you want to go. Room start as low as €75 per night. Book a stay at Hotel Liabeny here.
- Letoh Letoh Gran Via – Letoh Letoh is a stylish design-conscious hotel that feels far more expensive than it really is with rooms starting as low as €95 per night. Located right on the Gran Via and close to all of the action, you won’t regret staying at this fantastic Madrid hotel during your trip. Book a stay at Letoh Letoh Gran Via here.
Ultimate 2 Days in Madrid Itinerary
Now that you know how to get to Madrid and what methods to use to get around during your two days in Madrid, let’s get planning that itinerary, shall we?
Most places that I have listed are linked below so that you can find them on Google Maps. When I travel, I love to have all of the best places to eat, drink, and explore pinned on my Google Maps so that I can visually see where I am and what places I’m close to.
Day One in Madrid Morning
Depending on where you are staying in Madrid, you’ll likely want to start your day with a good cup of coffee. There are two places near Plaza de España that I absolutely loved.
I’m not sure why both are so interested in being specialty coffee shops, but they are indeed incredibly delicious.
If you are trying to choose one of these that does great breakfast as well as great coffee, then The Fix is the one to opt for. They have fully-cooked breakfast options as well as some great healthy fruit bowls on offer alongside their seriously good pour-overs.
Pulso has nice sweet options, so if you like pastries to start your day, then this will be where to want to head.
Temple of Debod
After fueling up, you will be very close to the Temple of Debod. The Temple of Debod is an ancient Egyptian temple that was first built in 200 BC. The temple was given to Spain by Egypt as a gift in the ’60s. It was taken apart in Egypt, brought to Spain, and put back together piece by piece just as it had been when it sat along the Nile.
The temple is free to enter, so sometimes there is a bit of a line, but it goes quickly and is well worth visiting if you enjoy history of this type.
Royal Palace of Madrid & Cathedral de la Almudena
From the Temple of Debod, you can walk a short distance to the Royal Palace of Madrid.
You can tour the inside of the palace which has over 2,000 rooms (some say they aren’t even entirely sure just how many rooms there are in here!). You can also explore the gardens. Of course, it depends if the royal family is home as to how much is open on a given day, but you can pre-book tickets to tour it here.
The final stop before lunch is right next to the Royal Palace and that is the Cathedral de la Almudena. This cathedral has one of the most beautiful ceilings I have ever seen inside a church.
This cathedral is actually quite new compared to other cathedrals around the country. That is because back in the 16th century, Toledo was the capital of Spain, not Madrid. When the government changed the capital to Madrid, the Church of Spain decided that it would keep the main cathedral in Toledo.
The Cathedral de la Almudena wasn’t consecrated until 1993.
Day One in Madrid Lunch
While you are in this part of the city, there are two lunch spots that you should consider
Head to La Bola for the city’s most traditional dish, cocido Madrileño. This is a dish that consists of two courses. First, you have the broth with noodles. Then the rest of the stew which contains slow-cooked meats and chickpeas is served alongside a wonderful paprika-rich salsa and pickled chili peppers as well as one of the best bread rolls I’ve ever had.
One serving of the cocido is enough for two people to share.
El Anciano Rey de los Vinos is a traditional old-school restaurant that serves up one of the city’s most beloved dishes, oxtail stew, but in a unique way. They stuff the tender oxtail meat inside a pastry and fry it to crispy perfection.
They also have other traditional dishes like a tortilla, gambas (shrimp), chorizo cooked in cider, and the oxtail stew in its traditional form as well.
Day One in Madrid Afternoon
If you didn’t get a chance to see everything listed above before you got hungry for lunch, then you should definitely head back and make sure to see the palace, the cathedral, and the Temple of Debod.
From here, make a slow walk over the Puente de Segovia or the Segovia Bridge. This stone bridge was originally built in the 1580s and this area around the river is a gathering place for locals. There are paths along the river to walk, which is wonderful on a sunny day.
You can stop at Madrid Río Park which is home to different events throughout the year. It’s also just a nice place to walk around and relax after a morning of sightseeing.
If you walk north along the river after you’ve crossed the Segovia Bridge (so the river is now on your right), you will be able to get a nice view back over the city and you’ll eventually make your way to Casa de Campo, one of the city’s largest parks and old royal hunting ground.
You can wander around the park if you’re not feeling too tired. You can then cross back into the city over the Puente del Rey or the King’s Bridge. From here it’s definitely time for a snack, don’t you think?
Plaza Mayor & Churros
Make your way over to Plaza Mayor, which is one of the city’s main plazas. It’s home to tons of different cafes and bars and it’s also home to some seriously stunning architecture. You can pull up a chair at any of the cafes and have a beer in the sunshine or you can head to one of the most famous churro spots in the country.
Chocolatería San Ginés is the place to go in Madrid for a mug of hot chocolate and a plate of churros. If you’re not familiar with churros, they are basically long thin donuts that you dip into rich dark chocolate. In addition to churros, I also recommend trying the porras, which are thicker and a bit more aerated than the churros.
Day One in Madrid Tapas & Evening
Make your way over to one of the city’s most famous tapas streets, Cava Baja. You will find tons of fantastic places not only for a delicious vermút, but for some of the best food you’ll have during your entire trip to Madrid.
It’s worth noting that most tapas bars around the city are open from about noon-4pm and then they reopen again from 8pm-midnight.
Here are some of the spots I highly recommend checking out:
- La Concha: This place is especially fantastic for their vermút which they make themselves. I also love their tapas, particularly the bacalao!
- Diaz y Larrouy: This is where you want to come if you love wine and want to sample a wide variety of Spanish wines from around the country. They have a huge selection of tostas which is a slice of wonderful fluffy bread topped with just about anything you can think of.
- Posada de la Villa: This is more of a restaurant and a fantastic one to finish the night at, but they also have a bar downstairs with drinks and tapas if you would prefer to keep this tapas tour going all night.
- La Perejila: This is one of the best places on the street for their free tapas, which means it’s also one of the busiest. Order a few drinks and enjoy each of the different delicious snacks they bring out. Any tostas you order will be HUGE.
- Los Huevos de Lucio: If you want to try the drunken Madrid classic, huevos rotos or broken eggs, then this is the place to finish the night. This dish is basically a plate of perfectly fried French fries topped with runny fried eggs and any meat of your choice (with chorizo it’s truly magical). They also have a nice wine selection.
Day Two in Madrid Morning
I hope that you got a good sleep after all that walking, because you’ll need plenty of energy to enjoy your day out around Madrid on day two.
Day two of this two-day Madrid itinerary starts with the Gran Via.
I recommend starting at Callao metro station and walking east towards Banco de España. This way you can take in all of the stunning buildings along the Gran Via.
It is often referred to as the Spanish Broadway. It’s where you will find tons of the city’s best shopping, a large number of theaters and restaurants, and beautiful architecture like that of the Metropolis Building.
Paseo del Prado
Once you get to the end of the Gran Vía, you’ll be surrounded by some of the most incredible architecture in Madrid. This includes the Bank of Spain and Palacio de Cibeles. Turn onto Paseo del Prado in either direction and you’ll be bombarded with even more beauty.
I would recommend turning left first because there are fewer things this way. The main things to see in this direction are the National Library and the National Archeological Museum.
You can stop into the Archeological Museum to see some incredible artifacts that have been uncovered around Spain. Tickets are only €3 per person.
As you head in the other direction you will come back to the Fuente de Cibeles. Keep walking until you get to the Museo del Prado. Depending on your priorities and how you want to spend your evenings (I wanted to spend mine inside a Tapas bar), you can head into the museum now and explore for a few hours.
Tickets cost €15 per person and do not need to be pre-purchased online. However, if you are much more interested in saving money and seeing art for free, you should pre-book your tickets at least three-to-four days in advance and come back at night.
Every day between 6pm and 8pm, the Prado Museum offers free entry. However, they only have a limited number of tickets due to Covid restrictions (this may change going forward, but it’s never a bad idea to pre-book anyway). You can pre-book your tickets here.
El Retiro Park
If you are going to save the museum until the evening, you should head straight into the nearby El Retiro Park.
El Retiro Park used to be a leisure park that belonged to the Royal Family until the late 19th century when they handed it over to the city as a public space.
Inside the park, there are tons of walking and jogging trails. There are bike paths and benches to relax on. There are group gym classes going on and rollerbladers setting up cones to weave their way through.
There is a lake where you can rent a rowboat and paddle around. Next to the lake is a beautiful cafe where you can sit outside in the near-constant Madrid sunshine and have a beer.
Keep walking deeper into the park and you will find the Palacio de Cristal, named and modeled after the original Crystal Palace built in London’s Hyde Park for the 1851 Great Exhibition.
Come out at the other end of the park near the Atocha Train station and get yourself ready for a delicious lunch.
Day Two in Madrid Lunch
There are two amazing places to have lunch in this area of the city depending on what you are in the mood for and what your budget is.
The budget-friendly quick lunch can be had at Bar El Brillante. This place is best known for its bocadillo de calamari or fried squid sandwich. The bread roll that it comes in is perfectly flaky and crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.
The calamari is perfectly fried and a little squeeze of lemon is all this needs to be the perfect midday meal. It costs €6 for one sandwich, but they are huge and could easily be split between two people unless you are truly ravenous.
The second spot that I absolutely love that hovers a little bit more around €10-15 per person is Bodegas Rosell. This could be a budget spot if you opt to go alcohol-free and just have food.
But if you have it in the budget, I highly recommend having a glass of their vermút. They are one of the few places left that still have it on tap and it is so very delicious here.
The main reason people come here is for the croquetas de jamon or ham croquettes. Croquetas are a popular food here in Madrid and for good reason, it’s a ball of cheese sauce and meat that has been breaded and fried, what’s not to like?
The ones here are particularly fantastic and should be part of your order. This is the perfect place to come if you are traveling with two or more people. You can get a bunch of plates to share and really sample the best of what’s on the menu. I also personally loved the bacalao here.
Bacalao is salted cod and most restaurants do something different with it. At Bodegas Rosell they have removed much of the salt, leaving you with thin slices of fish that are firm and perfectly seasoned. They then coat it in rich, smooth, high-quality olive oil and serve it with a basket of fresh crusty bread.
Day Two in Madrid Afternoon
After lunch, you won’t be far from the Atocha Train Station. This is well worth stopping into for a few reasons.
There has been a train station in this location since 1851, although the oldest trainshed still remaining now is from 1892. This train shed no longer has any tracks in it and is now the hub of the station where you can visit a tropical botanical garden.
There are cool bars and restaurants inside, but it’s really all about seeing this garden and then heading up the escalators to get a view from above.
From here, if you haven’t already been to Parque el Retiro, then I highly recommend heading there while there’s still daylight.
Art lovers also shouldn’t miss visiting the Reina Sofia Museum. This gallery isn’t quite as famous as the Prado Museum, but it has some of the most incredible paintings from artists around Europe.
If you’ve had enough of the museums and you saw El Retiro in the morning, then hop on the metro and get yourself to Legazpi metro station.
This neighborhood is a bit more residential and a little bit out of the city, but there are a few things around here that you may want to check out.
The first is Matadero Madrid. Matadero used to be a meatworks and livestock marketplace.
The buildings date back to the early 20th century and the current use couldn’t be further from it’s slaughterhouse roots. Now, Matadero Madrid is a community and art space home to a theater, cultural center, and art gallery.
There are events throughout the year including live music, an ice rink in the winter time, and art festivals.
You can also simply wander around or grab a bike rental and head towards the river. Carry on through the cultural center until you get to the other side where the riverwalk is.
This is a beautiful place to spend the latter half of a sunny Madrid day. As you walk along the river with the river on your left side, you’ll come across tons of parks along the way.
Head past the Puente de Toledo or Toledo bridge and then turn right back towards the city and grab the metro from Piramides metro station back into the city center.
Day Two in Madrid Evening
Your last evening in Madrid should be dedicated to tapas bar-hopping in Barrio de las Letras or the Literary Quarter. Anywhere that writers loved to go, especially the likes of Hemingway, must’ve been good places to drink. Barrio de las Letras is no exception.
Wander down Calle de Huertas to explore places like El Sur de Huertas and Taberna Maceira. I loved beers and tapas at Los Gatos and La Dolores, both are fantastic tapas bars that get very busy with the after-work crowd.
In the other direction, you have the amazing Malaspina where the tapas are so big you don’t even need to order food, and the sweetbreads at Casa Toni will make you believe that you never need to eat white meat again.
Finally, no trip to this quarter is complete without a stop at La Venencia. This old-school sherry bar doesn’t serve anything other than a few different varieties of sherry.
They tally your drinks up behind the counter and they serve a few different types of cured meats and olives, but otherwise, that’s it. No photos and no tipping allowed.