Madrid is an energetic and dynamic city that never sleeps and with gourmet food from all over the world which is to die for.The capital of Spain, this city is often overlooked by tourists on their way to Barcelona or to Seville, but this city has a lot to offer regarding food, culture, arts and history. Whether you have a top stop off in Madrid or enjoying a weekend (or romantic weekend) in Madrid, we are going to explore the city of Madrid. This 48 hours Madrid itinerary with help whether it’s a quick trip or a weekend in Madrid.
This guide is perfect for those who only have 48 Hours in Madrid – A 2 Day Itinerary. We will show you what to do in Madrid, where to stay, what to eat and how to get around.
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The Best Time to Visit Madrid
Madrid is most beautiful in the springtime and autumn. The best times to visit Madrid are in April – June and then again from September to October.
It’s best to avoid the summertime in Madrid, being landlocked there is a little breeze, and the city is often a ghost town in July and August as all the Madrileños flock to the seaside to avoid the stifling heat of the Madrid summer. You can almost hear the tumbleweeds rolling down the streets.
Springtime is lovely as the tree-lined streets give the city a fresh and vibrant air. Madrid ranks as one of the top greenest cities in Europe, with 45% of the town dedicated to green spaces, parks and gardens. If you have allergies to pollen, springtime might not be the best time to visit.
Autumn and early winter are excellent times to visit too, with temperatures in the 20s and bright sunshine.
How to get around Madrid
The best thing about the city is that it is made for walking. Most of the centre is accessible on foot, and Madrid has an excellent metro system that is one of the most efficient services in Europe, connecting the city and making it the ideal way to get around.
The metro offers a tourist pass starting from €8.40 for a one day pass up to €35.40 for a seven-day unlimited travel pass which allows you to get around by metro or bus. Alternatively, you can buy a ten journey pass for just €12.20 which I recommend for your short stint around the city.
Recently, the Madrid metro has introduced a metro card, which can be purchased at any station or at Barajas Airport called the Tarjeta Multi. This card costs €2.50 and is charged with credit. The two processes are done simultaneously upon purchase.
Where to stay in Madrid
The best place to stay in Madrid is around the centre in neighbourhoods such as Chueca, Malasaña, Sol, La Latina or Tirso de Molina. This will allow you to get around the main sites easily and save you time on transportation. With the boom in tourism of recent years, Airbnb rentals have sprung up everywhere around the centre, and prices have increased, with apartments from around €50 or €60 a night. We have also written an extensive guide on Where to Stay in Madrid.
As the nightlife in Madrid is legendary, you’ll only really need your room for sleeping.
If you’re looking for a budget room in the centre of Madrid here are a few accommodation ideas:
The Hat – Calle Imperial, 9, Madrid City Centre, 28012. This trendy hostel could not be better located, right next to Plaza Mayor and within walking distance of everywhere. Here you can find clean, Nordic design, free wifi and 24-hour reception as well as a hidden gem: a big terrace frequented by locals on the rooftop with views over the city. Single bed in dorm rooms from €20 per night.
Toc Hostel Madrid – Plaza de Celenque, 3 5º, Madrid City Centre, 28013. Central, clean and well designed, this hostel offers private rooms from €86 per night as well as the option for dorm beds from €19 euros per night.
Woohoo Hostal Madrid – C/ Concepción Arenal, 6, 3º planta, 28004. Another centrally located Hostel, just 60 metres from Gran Vía and a five-minute stroll to Puerta del Sol. The rooms and dormitories at Woohoo Hostal are equipped with TVs, lockers for rent and toiletries. Double rooms with a shower can range from €50 per night
Room007 Chueca Hostel – Calle de Hortaleza, 74, 28004. Chueca is one of the upmarket and trendy districts of Madrid, and this stylish Hostel has double rooms starting at a steal of €65 per night. Some of the trendiest bars, restaurants and nightlife are just on the doorstep. This is also the gay district in Madrid and is one of the more expensive neighbourhoods with upmarket shops and independent designers.
Things to do in Madrid in 48 hours – A 2 day itinerary
So, you only have 48 hours. Madrid has so much to offer that after this taster I’m sure that you’ll want to come back for more. Here is my perfect two-day itinerary.
Wake up and have a traditional Madrileño breakfast or a brunch if you like. The traditional breakfast is usually slices of toasted bread topped with crushed tomato with a hint of garlic, accompanied with a café con leche (coffee with milk). For breakfast with a view drop into Café de Oriente, Plaza de Oriente 2, right opposite the Royal Palace where you can try the toasted bread or tostada con tomate y aceite to give you the energy for your busy day ahead.
From there you can take in the Royal Palace and walk towards the famous Almudena Cathedral to take in the Romantic architecture of the city.
You can leisurely stroll to Sol square, which is the heart of the city and also one of the most touristy places in the city. The square was established in the 16th century and is the home of “kilometre 0” where all radial roads from Madrid begin, the slab is easy to miss, situated just in front of the clock tower on the historic Post Office building. The plaque was originally placed in 1950 and replaced again with a newer stone in 2002, which was turned 180 degrees around by mistake during the reformation of the square; this was later corrected in 2009.
On the far end of the square, there is a statue of a bear and a tree known as “El oso y madrono” the symbol of the city. The square is also famous for being the location where everyone gathers on New Year’s Eve to watch the countdown and swallow grapes for every chime of the clock until midnight.
From Sol, you can easily walk to Plaza Mayor and to Lavapies, voted the world’s coolest neighbourhood by Time Out and the multicultural hub of Madrid. This neighbourhood is an immigrant neighbourhood where Spanish people live side by side with Africans, Indians and Asian immigrants. The restaurants and streets are lined with Indian restaurants, small authentic bars and shops selling African spices.
Lavapies is also THE place to see graffiti. If you wander down to Embajadores for lunch in Mercado San Fernando, Calle de Embajadores 41, to visit one of the best places to try different local and international food. Most tourist guides would tell you to visit Mercado de San Miguel, which is a famous market that is incredibly touristy, overpriced but still worth a visit. However, San Fernando is where the locals go. Here is where you can sample tapas or order from different stalls and eat for 10 euros per person while rubbing shoulders with the locals; there is also a craft beer stall with beers from around the world.
Just around the corner from Mercado de San Fernando is the Tabacalera, one of the best places to see Madrid graffiti. This building was an old tobacco factory that has now been transformed into a space for public art, every year artists are invited from around the world to paint the external walls of the factory.
From here you can walk towards the famous Retiro park to have a nap on the grass or stroll around the manmade lake, visit the crystal palace (Palacio de Cristal), the only sculpture in the world of Lucifer, the fallen angel, atop a fountain and escape the hectic city into this peaceful green space.
You can enjoy a leisurely walk down Calle Alcala, but don’t forget to look up! Madrid has an incredible skyline, and many buildings have sculptures on top of them, including the unique statue of a clumsy fallen angel by Sculptor Miguel Ángel Ruiz Beato called “Air Crash”.
Here in Calle Alcala, you can find the perfect place to watch the sunset, on the rooftop of the Circulo de Bellas Artes. For only 4 euros you can go up to the roof and get one of the best views of Madrid. This is the perfect place to enjoy a cocktail while taking in the spectacular views over the city, before dinner.
Spanish dinnertime is late, usually around 21:00 or 22:00, so it doesn’t matter if you have a late start. If you prefer to dine early, you may find that a lot of restaurants are shut until at least 20:00.
If you want to experience the local cuisine, there are many places to go while avoiding the tourist traps.
Casa Labra, Calle de Tetuán, 12, 28013. This little authentic restaurant is always teeming but is famed for its standing bar. Tucked away from Puerta de Sol, you can find a great atmosphere and delicious food, Madrileño style. Here you can eat side by side with locals and eat pieces of fried cod accompanied by hearty Spanish vermouth. Be careful as the Vermouth goes to your head!
La Ardosa, Calle Colón, 13, 28004. In the trendy district of Malasaña, this timeless restaurant has existed for more than 100 years and serves delicious food at fantastic prices. Here you can savour salmorejo, the famous cold soup from Cordoba and Spanish tortilla cooked to perfection, just a little gooey on the inside.
After dinner, it is time for drinks, and the best places to go are Malasaña, Chueca or Calle Huertas. One of my favourite bars for sipping cocktails in style are:
Prices range from around 8 euros a cocktail and up. There are endless bars and clubs all throughout the city centre, “there are more bars in Madrid than stars in the sky” a famous saying goes, and you can party until the early morning light.
After that late night, you probably want to have Madrid’s most famous hangover breakfast in the legendary San Gines, Pasadizo de San Ginés 5, famed for their churros and hot chocolate. The traditional restaurant is beloved by local partygoers and tourists alike (it stays open all night long), and the walls are adorned with autographs from famous celebrities including Hollywood actors who have also savoured this delicious treat.
Next, you can take a walk to Atocha and visit the museums such as the Prado Gallery or the Reina Sofía Museum, both are incredible museums that house some of the most famous and influential artworks in the world.
Alternatively, if it is a Sunday you can visit the famous Rastro Fleamarket in La Latina, just steps away from Tirso de Molina and La Latina metro, you can find some bargains and souvenirs here but beware of pickpockets!
After visiting the market, you can do as the locals do and head to La Latina which is bustling on Sundays and weekends. Here there are many restaurants and bars where you can sip Vermouth and watch the world go by.
One of the most famous restaurants in La Latina is Casa Lucio, Calle Cava Baja 35, 28005. This rustic styled restaurant has hosted the former King, Juan Carlos, Bill Clinton and Penélope Cruz and a whole host of other celebrities.
Casa Lucio is renowned for its huevos estrellados, broken runny eggs on a bed of salty fried potatoes. There are other traditional Madrileño dishes to try as well such as callos (offal) or cocido (Madrileño stew).
Afternoon and Night
After lingering over a sobremesa in La Latina (sobremesa is the tradition of talking and drinking after the meal has ended, a custom in Spain), you can pop into the different bars in La Latina to enjoy the heady vermouth or excellent wine and beer on offer.
Once you’ve had your fill, you can walk over to Plaza de España and visit the Egyptian temple from 200BC that was reconstructed in Madrid as a gift from the Egyptian government. If you are lucky and catch the sunset, you can relish the beautiful reflection of the temple on the still waters of the ponds.
Finally, it’s time to finish your 48 hours in Madrid on a high note, with another spectacular terrace just a few minutes from the Temple. Gingko Sky Bar, situated on the rooftop of VP Plaza España hotel is one of the most spectacular rooftops, stylish and chic and a perfect way to end your Madrid adventure… unless you decide to continue dancing and drinking the night away, of course!
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Tours in Madrid
If you would like to do a walking tour in Madrid, there are several options. You can opt for the traditional free walking tour of Madrid, which would take several hours and covering the history and sites of the centre. Head to Puerta del Sol to find several guides offering free walking trips or book in advance through Sandemans. Leaving a tip at the end of the tour is customary.
There are also alternative tours for food lovers, with Devour Madrid. This tour will introduce you to Madrid’s foodie scene and take you around the taverns and bars for a whistlestop tapas tour to give you a taste of what Madrid has to offer. Prices start from €50 per person depending on the tour.
Finally, for a tour with a difference for the street art lovers out there, Cool Tours Spain has a tour that skips the historical sights altogether to take you on a walk through Madrid’s edgy street art scene in Lavapiés, The tour also includes a La Neomudejar, the modern arts centre and La Tabacalera, mentioned in the 48 hour itinerary. The tour lasts around two and a half hours and costs €15 per person.
Recommend budget tours in Madrid:
- Madrid Tapas Night Walking Tour – Food tour
- Toledo and Segovia Tour with Alcazar Entrance from Madrid
- Madrid Bike Tour
- Small-Group Wine Tasting Day Trip from Madrid
- Madrid Cooking Class: Paella and Tapas
- Madrid Walking Tour, Including La Latina and Lavapiés
- Madrid Winebars and Gastropubs Tour
- Madrid Highlights Walking City Tour
- Madrid Royal Palace Expert Guided Tour with skip-the-line access
- Hop on Hop off Madrid Tour
Get your guide is a Great company, that often offers heavily discounted tours! Check out a few options below:
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