So you’ve got two days to experience all that Spain’s beautiful capital has to offer? Well, the good news is that with 48 hours you’ll be able to see and do enough in Madrid to feel like you’ve really got a sense of this beautiful, lively city.
Here’s my rough guide to how to spend your precious hours to make the very most of Madrid.
Day One: Take in the Sights
Puerta del Sol
On your first day, why not go out for breakfast and start drinking in the city’s bustling atmosphere? The famous patisserie La Mallorquina is a delight for the eyes and the stomach, with thousands of cakes, pastries and breads all lined up neatly to sell. This is where the Madrileño come to buy their breakfast so it does get crowded, but if you can’t find a seat you can always step outside into the Puerta del Sol, Madrid’s huge pedestrianised square, to enjoy a bit of people watching as you eat.
After breakfast you should wander over to the city’s famous seventeenth-century square, Plaza Mayor. Although it does get touristy and crowded, this square, with its beautiful architecture and sense of history, is still an opportunity to imagine Madrid as it may have been centuries ago. Stop a while to watch the street entertainers and the crowds but don’t be tempted to visit any of the cafes or restaurants – their steep prices tend to reflect their location rather than the quality of their food.
For lunch you could drink in Madrid’s royal history while eating some delicious tapas at the Taberna Real. Formerly a residence for the staff of the palace, this bustling bar and tapas restaurant is a great place to experience authentic Spanish cuisine.
You can’t really come to Madrid without stopping off for a look at and a selfie outside the Royal Palace, the oldest royal residence still in use in the world. Built in 1736, its façade is grand enough to be worth the visit, even if you don’t go inside.
Parque del Buen Retiro
It’s well worth finishing your day of sightseeing with a visit to Madrid’s largest park. Full of statues, follies and fountains, this central park is a bustling Madrid landmark used by much of the population for somewhere to walk and chat on warm days and evenings. Wander around the Palacio de Cristal, a palatial glass building built in the nineteenth century to exhibit rare plants, before cooling off with a bit of boating on the park’s purpose-built lake.
Barrio de La Latina
Okay, after all that sightseeing you will definitely deserve a relaxing evening of tapas and refreshments. Madrid’s La Latina district is the city’s oldest quarter, with narrow cobbled streets and large squares. It is also a great place to go and experience the city’s vibrant evening tapas scene. Take a walk down Calle de la Cava Baja and you’ll find every other shop front is a tapas bar serving delicious, fresh tapas accompanied by a glass or two of tinto de verano, a delicious mixture of chilled red wine and lemonade.
Day Two: Explore the Shops
From food to fashion, Madrid, like most European capitals, has a wide variety of shopping opportunities ripe for exploration.
Mercado de San Miguel
Wandering around the beautiful, early twentieth-century covered market of Mercado de San Miguel is a great way to spend a morning in Madrid. From stalls selling amazing local hams and cheeses to fresh fruit and vegetables, the sights and sounds will have your mouth watering and your stomach ready for lunch. Luckily most of the stalls have stools on which you can sit and enjoy some of their delicious products there and then.
Having eaten your fill at the Mercado de San Miguel it’s time to settle down to some serious shopping: the best place to do this in Madrid is the Gran Vía. Madrid’s answer to London’s Oxford Street, the Gran Vía has a mixture of international retailers and, of course, the major Spanish fashion stores MANGO and Zara.
If seeing the same chain stores you have on your high street back home is not for you then it’s worth heading over to Malasaña, the cool, trendy district of Madrid, which is packed with independent shops and boutiques as well as cafés, bars and restaurants. This is a great place to shop if you’re looking for something hip and different to bring back home with you.
Stick around in Malasaña until nightfall and you’ll discover that it is where Madrid’s cool crowd like to hang out at night. The Calle Pez is packed with hip bars which pull a young, cool crowd and, like most bars in Madrid, stay open until the wee small hours.
Those who are looking for a big night out in Madrid will be in good company, as the Madrileño are famous for their ability to party through the night. The exclusive Barrio Salamanca area with its smart roof-top bars and upscale clubs is a great place to head if you want to play. You’ll find everything you want here for a great city night out.
How to Get to Madrid
As a capital city, Madrid has great transport links with flights from airports across the UK flying into Madrid Airport. Book a Shuttle Direct transfer in advance to take you the 12km from the airport to the city and your driver will deliver you anywhere in Madrid you choose to go.
Madrid is also at the heart of the Spanish rail network, with direct international connections to Paris and Lisbon. Don’t forget that Shuttle Direct can also provide transfers from major railway stations directly to your hotel.
Where to Stay
Catalonia Goya – Base yourself right in the heart of the exclusive shopping and nightlife area of Salamanca by staying in the cool Catalonia Goya. This stylish, modern hotel has sound-proofed rooms, sushi by room service and a café/bar downstairs.
Hotel Liabeny – Right at the heart of the action, just 200 yards from Madrid’s famous Puerta del Sol, is the Hotel Liabeny. The bedrooms are modern and stylish and, for those who aren’t too tired from sightseeing, there’s also a gym and sauna.
Catalonia Gran Vía – Indulge yourself at the Catalonia Gran Vía with its roof-top pool and sun terrace, set on one of Madrid’s most famous streets. There’s a restaurant and bar downstairs and the rooms are elegant and stylish with lots of polished wood.
About Shuttle Direct
Well-known for providing a reliable, friendly airport transfer service across Europe and North Africa, Shuttle Direct transfers offer a hassle-free option for travellers on a city break. Book online before you leave and your driver will be waiting at the airport to take you anywhere in the city you want to go.