2 day Madrid itinerary
Madrid is a huge city. There’s lots to see and do, whether it’s trying the food, learning history, seeing architecture, meeting the people…the list goes on and on. But if you’ve only got a couple of days to spare, there are a couple places you can go to maximize your time. The following 2 day Madrid itinerary will give you a brief introduction to the amazing city that is Madrid!
This itinerary is designed to provide you with flexible suggestions of important places in Madrid that will inspire you to make your trip your own. Continue on to find out what to do in Madrid for 2 days to get a taste of history, gastronomy, the local culture, and everything you need to see.
First stop: Plaza Mayor
Located just 5 minutes from the center of the city, Plaza Mayor is the place to be for most anything that you’re looking to get out of your trip to Madrid. Souvenirs? Check. Tapas? Check. Instagram opportunities? Check. Plaza Mayor is an important part of Madrid’s history because it’s been the center of life for hundreds of years. It’s where Madrileños used to host their markets, go to shows, attend bullfights, and even where the Spanish Inquisition hosted their viewings.
If you hop on a tour of Madrid, you’ll learn that the square has burned down various times, so the buildings you see today are not original to 16th century Madrid. The exception to this rule is the butcher, who was the only one whose walls were not made of cheaply purchased, easily accessible wood. It’s clear to see which part of the square is original – it boasts a different color specifically for this purpose.
If you loiter in Plaza Mayor, you can find all things to do, like grab lunch or catch one of the many tours that meet in Plaza Mayor and travel all around the city. This is a great way to learn about the city’s history and culture, as well as to get some recommendations and coupons for nearby restaurants.
What to eat: Sobrino de Botín
Just outside of Plaza Mayor is the most important restaurant of your 2 day Madrid itinerary: Sobrino de Botín. This restaurant is the longest running restaurant in the world, and even operates using the same oven. Throughout Spain’s hard history, wars, and recessions, this restaurant has remained open to serve the people of Madrid. Also of note, this restaurant is proud to be the preferred restaurant of Ernest Hemmingway, who would dine there regularly!
Depending on the time of day, you may be able to just walk right in and be seated, but it’s recommended that you make a reservation beforehand. Once you’re seated, however, you’ll love the food! Although Sobrino de Botín is a tourist trap, the food is moderately priced and genuinely delicious. You can even try one of Spain’s famous meals, Suckling Pig, if you don’t have the time to travel to Seville, this dish’s origin.
Next stop: Gran Vía
From Sobrino de Botín, just 10 minutes away is Gran Vía, Spain’s most famous street! This is another great place to find just about anything you could be looking for: food, shopping, entertainment, beautiful architecture, or even just people-watching! While this street is ripe with tourists, you’ll also be amongst locals who are out and about to get some food, shop, or just spend time with friends.
One of the most recently famous parts of Gran Vía is the newly opened Primark. Primark is a British chain and the equivalent of America’s Target or Wal-Mart. If you’re looking for cheap shopping, or need some quick supplies like a jacket or hat, stop by Primark. While the quality isn’t the best, it’s an interesting experience and an easy place to stop by and pick up a bag.
After a long day of walking around, eating, and seeing beautiful Madrid, you deserve a treat! From Gran Vía, head 10 minutes Southwest and you’ll find Chocolatería de San Ginés. This chocolatería is famous among tourists and locals alike for, you guessed it, chocolate! More specifically, this is the place to go for Spain’s famous churros con chocolate.
When you arrive, don’t get turned off by the long lines; they know what you’re there for and they already have it ready for you. You may have a hard time finding seating, but all you have to do is find somewhere to park and you can enjoy your midnight treat. Midnight is right, because this is a popular place for Madrileños who need a pick-me-up during a long night out partying, as it’s open 24 hours.
Go inside and you can get a glimpse of the history of this chocolatería that’s been open since 1894. You know it’s gotta be good if it’s been open for over 100 years!
After midnight: Puerta del Sol
If you’re not tired yet, you’re in good company. Spaniards are known for a good party, and won’t be going out to the bars and clubs until midnight. If you want to party with the locals, head on down to Puerta del Sol, the center of Madrid. This plaza comes alive at night with Spaniards dressed to the nines and ready for a night out on the town! Puerta del Sol is generally where they meet up with their friends go out at night, so this is a great place to meet people.
If not to meet with people, Puerta del Sol is beautiful at night by itself. The buildings are lit up and the energy around the square is infectious. There’s no way you won’t have a good time, even if you just go out to grab a quick snack at a bar.
Day 2: Parque del Buen Retiro
Parque del Buen Retiro, or Retiro Park, is my favorite place in the city, which definitely puts it on the list of what to see in Madrid for 2 days. It’s a huge, elegant park with tons of opportunity. It originally belonged to Spain’s monarchs as the palace gardens (considering how huge the park is, one can only imagine how big the palace was), but was neglected and the palace destroyed as a war casualty. Today, it’s a beautiful public park.
Walk around, and you can find all sorts of life. You might stumble upon a Flamenco class, musicians, beautiful statues, or even just the gorgeous nature. Grab some good shoes and go for a stroll down the path with the locals walking their dogs. Then head over the Alfonso XII’s monument, rent a boat, and row lazily through the water alongside music and the warm Spanish sun.
If you get hungry in Retiro Park, I do suggest you go just outside the park and eat at one of the many small restaurants in the area. The food in the park is incredibly overpriced and not good quality, so while the ambiance may be nice, your mouth won’t be very happy. But, whether you eat or not Retiro Park is a wonderful, relaxing way to start your second day in Madrid.
Brunch at Mercado San Miguel
After you get some fresh air and a relaxing morning at the park, head over the Mercado San Miguel by Plaza Mayor. This market is a popular gathering area for both locals and tourists, and provides you with the opportunity to snack on all sorts of traditional Spanish tapas, already made to eat. You can spend the whole afternoon here, experimenting with the tastes of Spain, socializing with the locals, and enjoying the ambiance.
Mercado San Miguel is the place to try all the tapas you’ve dreamed of: patatas bravas, croquetas, calamares, tortilla de patatas…you name it, they’ll have it! If you try one thing, make sure it’s the tortilla de patatas. I know that the idea of putting potatoes between two slices of bread seems like carb overload, but it’s amazing!
The Royal Palace of Madrid
Finally, finish your 2 day Madrid itinerary at the Royal Palace of Madrid and the surrounding buildings to get a sense of architecture and history. This area has been the home to Spanish royalty in the past and now remains as museums. Visit these museums for antiques, history, and an understanding of how Spain came to be what it is today. You might also be able to catch a tour and learn even more history!
As aforementioned, Madrid is a large, complex city, and if you feel yourself wishing you didn’t have to leave so soon, I understand! The capital is a lot to offer, much more than one can experience in 2 days.