Perfect 2 Days In Madrid Itinerary (+ Tips!)

Planning to spend 2 days in Madrid? You’ve come to the right place!

The capital of Spain, Madrid offers up a beguiling combination of history, art, and culture. With this itinerary, you’ll discover everything to see, do, and eat in Madrid as you drift through its stunning outdoor plazas.

Madrid is a genteel capital, a hub of culture and old world elegance. It’s a beautiful thriving city studded with tree-lined boulevards, art-filled museums, and lavish palaces.

Madrid is a compact and lively collection of quaint small villages and tapas bars, and home to a buzzing nightlife.

Palacio de Cibeles in Madrid Spain
the beautiful Cibeles Palace

Many travelers use Madrid as a gateway to Spain’s other destinations, the Art Nouveau beauties of Barcelona or the Moorish treasures of Andalusia.

But the grandeur and intimate charms of Madrid deserve your attention, if only for a brief visit. Judging from the crowds on my recent visit in March, travelers are beginning to really appreciate Madrid.

This Madrid itinerary assumes you’ve flown in and settled into your accommodations, and are ready to go around 10:00 am or so.

Puerta del Sol
Puerta del Sol

Overview Of 2 Days In Madrid Itinerary

Here’s a quick glance at what you can see in two days:

  • Historic center
  • Mercado San Miguel
  • Prado Museum
  • Plaza de Cibeles
  • Gran Via
  • Flamenco show
  • Royal Palace
  • Almudena Cathedral
  • Plaza Mayor
  • Reina Sofia
  • Retiro Park
  • Salamanca
  • Food tour
icturesque street in the historic center
picturesque street in the historic center

2 Days In Madrid Itinerary

Historic Center

Settle into Madrid’s vibrant vibe with a stroll in Madrid’s historic core, the pedestrianized Calle de las Huertas and the emblematic main square of Puerta del Sol.

You may want to book a 2 hour guided walking tour of the historic center to get oriented.

Puerta del Sol

Puerta del Sol means the Sun Gate. It’s essentially Madrid’s Times Square, buzzing with people.

The square is a mostly pedestrianized wide open space. It’s a popular spot for political demonstrations and celebrations.

Bear and the Strawberry Tree statue in Puerta del Sol
Bear and the Strawberry Tree statue

The buildings are a harmonious blend of yellow cream colors, wrought iron balconies, and shuttered windows.

The equestrian statue in the middle honors King Charles III. He’s considered the best mayor of Spain and was responsible for decorating the square with beautiful fountains.

You’ll also find a heraldic symbol of Madrid, the bronze statue of the Bear and the Strawberry Tree. Historically, the square is also significant as the Kilometer Zero, the central point for all radial roads in Spain.

There’s a great pastry shop in the square, La Mallorquina. They will wrap your treat in pretty pink wrapping paper.

La Latina

Then, head into the La Latina neighborhood.

It’s a historic neighborhood in the heart of Madrid known for its narrow cobblestone streets, lively atmosphere, and rich cultural heritage. There are tapas bars and eclectic restaurants.

After strolling around, sit down for lunch. A couple good places to try are Botin or Casa Labra.

Botin is billed as the world’s oldest restaurants. It’s been operating since 1725.


Though it’s famous, it’s not a tourist trap. You’ll get a good meal. Just be sure to make reservations.

Casa Labra is tucked into a side street near Sol and has been a Madrid institution since 1860. It’s famous as the place where the socialist party was founded, while discussing politics in back rooms.

There is one bar for ordering drinks (try the vermouth) and one bar for ordering tapas (the salted cod was amazing).

If you’d prefer churros and chocolate instead, head to Chocolatería San Ginés. It’s been serving churros and chocolate since 1894. It’s a famous spot among locals and tourists alike.

the Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid's gourmet food court
Mercado de San Miguel

Mercado San Miguel

Alternatively, for lunch, you can walk 7 minutes to the Mercado de San Miguel.

The market is housed in a historic glass and iron building. San Miguel is the perfect place for adventurous eaters who like to stroll and snack on ready-to-go high end treats.

You’ll find traditional tapas, seafood, charcuterie, cheeses, olives, Spanish wines, pastries, and chocolate. I tried the tapas, tacos, croquettes, and empanadas over two visits.

You could also book a lunchtime tapas tour and gain insight into Spanish culinary traditions.

Velazquez entrance to the Prado Museum, a must visit attraction with 2 days in Madrid
Velazquez entrance to the Prado Museum

Prado Museum

In mid-afternoon, head to the masterpiece-filled Prado Museum. It’s one of the world’s best museums.

Housed in a grand Neo-Classical building, the Prado is Spain’s cultural jewel and one of the world’s most celebrated museums. It boasts Europe’s finest and most sensuous painting collection.

The Prado houses art from Spain’s glory days, the 16th and 17th centuries. It’s a surprisingly worldly and cultural collection from a time that included the Spanish Inquisition.

The Prado’s artistic anchors are the holy trinity of Spanish painters — Goya, Velazquez, and El Greco. You’ll also find plenty of Rubens, Raphaels, and Rembrandts.

The museum holds some of Europe’s greatest masterpieces — Velazquez’ Las Meninas, Fra Angelico’s Annunciation, Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, Durer’s Adam and Eve, and Goya’s Family of Charles IV, The Third of May, and Nude Maja.

Some art historians consider Las Meninas the world’s finest painting.

Don’t miss the haunting Black Paintings by Goya in the subterranean gallery. If you’re a Goya devotee, you may want to inspect his frescos in the San Antonio de la Florida Chapel, where he is also buried.

Click here to book a must have skip the line ticket for the Prado. The museum is very large. You may want to book a guided tour to ensure you see the highlights.

main gallery in the Prado Museum
main gallery in the Prado Museum

Plaza de Cibeles

Then, stroll north of the Prado to Plaza de Cibeles. It’s another of Madrid’s emblematic squares. This Neo-Classical beauty is home to some stunning architecture.

The Buenavista Palace is the oldest building in the plaza. The Cibeles Fountain shows the Greek goddess of fertility, Cybele, seated atop a chariot being pulled by lions.

The masterpiece of the square is the magnificent Cibeles Palace. Formerly the post office headquarters, in 2007, it became Madrid’s city hall.

Cibeles Fountain in Cibeles Plaza in Madrid
Cibeles Fountain

An interior patio, the Galeria de Cristal, has a 30 meter high ceiling made of 2,000 glass triangles.

For a few euros, you can take in the views from the 8th floor terrace. You can have cocktails and food with a dollop of views across Madrid’s city center.

Click here to book a guided tour of the palace.

In the evening, for 5 euros, head to the rooftop terrace of the Circulo de Bellas Artes to watch the sun set over the city. It’s a classic thing to do in Madrid.

You’ll have breathtaking views and the iconic photo shot of the Gran Via.

the Gran Via, the most famous street in Madrid
Gran Via, the most famous street in Madrid

If you want to be with the beautiful people, instead try the terrace of the Melia Hotel or the Ritz Four Seasons for a sunset drink .

Then, head to the old time-y La Venencia for a sherry. This sepia-toned sherry bar was once frequented by Ernest Hemingway and hasn’t changed in years.

End your day with a progressive tapas dinner in the lively La Latina neighborhood. The Spaniards call this grazing stroll a tapeo.

Calle Cava Baja
Calle Cava Baja

The Calle Cava Baja is just a few blocks south and east of the Royal Palace. It’s one of Madrid’s coolest streets, flanked by a series of colorful buildings.

A three block stretch is crammed with authentic tapas bars and restaurants, from contemporary to traditional.

You might also consider ending your day with a flamenco show. Seatings are typically at 8:00 pm and 10:00 pm.

Click here to book a ticket at the legendary Torres Bermejas theater. You might also consider Las Carboneras, where the flamenco dancers improvise their moves every night.

street in Lavapies

On day 2, head to Madrid’s Lavapies neighborhood.

It’s known for its multicultural atmosphere, artistic vibe, and street art. It’s got a bit of an edge.

Have some breakfast at Pum Pum Cafe or Murillo Cafe. Or, just grab some freshly ground coffee at one of the Toma Cafe locations.

the Royal Palace, a top attraction to visit with 2 days in Madrid
the Royal Palace

Royal Palace

Once caffeinated and fueled up, take a tour of the sumptuously decorated Royal Palace, Palacio Real, which opens at 10:00 am. The sumptuous interior rivals Versailles in grandeur. To visit, you’ll want to book a ticket or tour in advance to avoid long lines.

You can choose either a skip the line guided tour or an unguided timed entry slot.

The Royal Palace is one of Europe’s greatest palaces with thousands of themed rooms, a king’s ransom of gilding and chandeliers, and luxurious tapestries.

The actual number of rooms is a mystery. I’ve heard estimates varying from 2,000 to 3,418. The latter number is what my guide told me.

in the courtyard of the Royal Palace
in the courtyard of the Royal Palace

The magnificent palace is also renowned for its frescos and stunning artwork. You’ll find paintings by many artistic luminaries — Velazquez, Goya, Rubens, El Greco, and Caravaggio.

The Throne Room is a Rococo riot of red velvet walls and illusionistic ceiling frescos. The Royal Chapel is gorgeous and home to the palace’s most famous fresco — The Coronation of Mary — is in the dome.

Almudena Catheral
Almudena Catheral

Almudena Cathedral

Adjacent to the palace is Almudena Cathedral, the wedding venue of the King of Spain. Opened in 1993, it’s a massive white and gray building that’s free to enter, with a requested one euro donation.

Head in the side entrance to see the Neo-Gothic interior. Check out the colorful frescos in the apse.

There’s also an ancient 15th century gilded altarpiece and Spain’s largest crypt. The entrance to the crypt is on the left side of the cathedral.

You can also climb the staircase to the top and see for miles around. The tower is only open until 2:30 pm, so keep that in mind.

Then, walk a bit north from the palace along Calle de Bailen to Plaza de Espana. There, you’ll find the famous Cervantes monument, featuring the novelist’s famous characters, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.

Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor

Continue to Madrid’s elegant arcaded Plaza Mayor. The 17th century Plaza Mayor is the beating heart of Madrid.

The square is enclosed by a series of three story residential buildings with arcades at the ground level and balconies on the upper floors. They were build in the Spanish Herrerian style.

The square once hosted bullfights and is the perfect place to grab a (rather overpriced) coffee. The oldest building, the 17th century Casa de la Panaderia, has some exquisite frescos.

In the center is a statue of Philip III on horseback. It’s a magnificent piece designed by the Florentine sculptor Giambologna.

Fun Fact: The statue was once quite smelly. The horse’s mouth was an open hole and sparrows and birds flew inside. When the horse was hit by a bomb in the stomach, the dead birds were discovered.

Three minutes from Plaza Mayor is Puerta Cerrada, a plaza with bright painted murals.

Metropolis building on Gran Via
Metropolis building on Gran Via

Gran Via

Gran Via is a famous shopping street in Madrid, close to other sightseeing attractions like the Plaza de Cibeles and Plaza de Espana. (The most upscale shopping area is still in Barrio Salamanca.)

Pop into a fantastic little bookstore on Gran Via, Casa del LIbro.

Recent renovations have made the Gran Via more pedestrianized, with wooden benches to plop down on.

For lunch, head to a hip new spot in Madrid, Miski Restobar. Miski Restobar is located on the ground floor of an old building in the Malasana district about 300 yards from Gran Via.

It’s a ridiculously cool architectural space. It serves up modern takes on European, Latin American, and Asian dishes.

 Miski Restobar off Gran Via
Miski Restobar off Gran Via

For your afternoon on day 2, choose between visiting more of Madrid’s iconic museums or exploring Retiro Park and Madrid’s tony Salamanca neighborhood.

If you’re on the museum trail, Madrid has two more absolutely world class museums on the Paseo del Prado, the grand museum boulevard.

Head to either the Reina Sofia or the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. You can try to do both. But it may cause serious museum fatigue.

Reina Sofia

Opened in 1992, the Reina Sofia is the heart of modern art in Madrid. It’s Madrid’s most popular museum, and well-curated to boot. There’s a special focus on Spain’s favorite sons, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali.

Picasso's Guernia, must see attraction with 2 days in Spain
Picasso, Guernica, 1937

The star of the Reina Sofia is Guernica in Room 206. It’s Picasso’s grim depiction of the Nazi bombing of Guernica Spain in 1937.

In the room, you’ll also find photographs of the work in progress, taken by Picasso’s paramour Dora Maar.

If you didn’t lunch at Miski, the Reina has a lovely restaurant offering brunch and lunch goodies. The cafe takes its name, NuBel, from the name of the building’s architect Jean Nouvel. NuBel means beautiful cloud.

Just behind the Reina Sofia, you’ll also find nearly 40 contemporary art galleries lining the Calle del Doctor Fourquet.

Click here to book a skip the line ticket for the Reina Sofia. Click here for a guided tour of the magnificent museum.

 the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum
the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum is housed in the Villahermosa Palace. The collection is one of the world’s most impressive private art caches, second only to the British Royal Collection.

Opened in 1994, the Thyssen (pronounced Tee-sun) museum offers something for everyone.

Mixing contemporary and classic, the museum covers every major period in Western art, from the Italian Renaissance to Pop Art. It also has an important collection of 19th century American paintings not found elsewhere in Europe.

This is where you’ll find some fan favorites — Impressionists, Post-Impressionists, German Expressionists, Abstract Expressionists, and Surrealists.

Click here to book an entry ticket. Click here to book a guided tour.

Retiro Park

If you’re not a fan of museums, instead take a bucolic stroll in Retiro Park and the adjacent Salamanca neighborhood. Retiro Park, El Retiro, is Madrid’s most popular green space. It opened in the 1700s as a retreat for the royal family.

El Retiro is filled with royal remnants, wonderful monuments, and fountains. There’s the Crystal Palace, the Alfonso XII monument, gardens, statues, and a man-made lake to explore.

The stunning Crystal Palace is made almost entirely of glass. It hosts temporary art exhibitions. Currently, the interior is under renovation.


Then, walk through Retiro to the upscale residential neighborhood of Salamanca.

Salamanca is a shopper’s paradise, home to tony shops and Spain’s most expensive street, Calle Serrano. You’ll find both international, Spanish, and niche brands.

the Crystal Palace in Retiro Park
the Crystal Palace in Retiro Park
the pretty Heritage Madrid Hotel in Salamanca, with a Michelin restaurant and garden terrace
the pretty Heritage Madrid Hotel in Salamanca

If you’re looking to treat yourself to a fantastic meal, Salamanca has fantastic restaurants.

Two of Madrid’s best restaurants are in this area on Calle Jorge Juan, Alkalde and El Paraguas. There’s also the Michelin-starred options, Ramon Freixa Madrid and Mario Sandoval, and the Philippe Starck designed Ramses Bistro.

El Rastro

As an alternative to El Retiro, you could head to El Rastro in the Lavapies neighborhood. There, you’ll find antique shops and a bustling Sunday street market you can peruse for vintage finds.

In your quest for hidden treasure, weave in and out of the side streets to find the secrets stalls. Just be sure to watch your wallet here.

sculptures and garden furniture in an antique store in El Rastro
antique store in El Rastro


Madrid has one of Europe’s best night scenes, if you’re a night owl.

It’s a late night city that never really sleeps, so there are many evening options.

Chueca or Food Tour

Start your night with a glass of vino at Angelita Madrid or Valgame Dios, bars in the trendy Chueca neighborhood of central Madrid.

look at this flower shop in the neighborhood of Chueca
look at this flower shop in the neighborhood of Chueca

If you want to have dinner in this area, try Mercado San Anton where you can choose from international cuisines. Or grab some tacos at Tepic or Asian food on Reina Street.

In lieu of a restaurant, you may want to take a tapas and wine tasting tour.

Or check out this 3.5 hour historic walking tour + dinner or this 4.0 hour tapas, taverns, and history guided tour.

I took the tapas tour and my guide, Montse, was excellent, weaving in tidbits of history as we strolled. Once you find a spot at the bar, if you can, hold onto it for dear life!

Madrid also has a hopping beer scene. The most famous beers are Cerveza Cibeles and Cervezas La Virgen.

Temple of Debod in Madrid, dating from the 2nd century B.C.
Temple of Debod

Temple of Debod

If you didn’t get your sunset view on day 1 because of jet lag, head to the Temple of Debod. This authentic Egyptian monument dates from the 2nd century B.C. It’s located in West Park, the Cuatrel de la Montana Park.

The shrine is dedicated to the goddess Isis. It was donated by the Egyptian government in 1968. At night, it’s lit up to beautiful effect, a pleasing contrast against steel skyscrapers.

Alternatively, if you opted for the Thyssen-Bornemisza instead of the Reina Sofia in the afternoon, the Reina Sofia is open from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. You can visit before your late Spanish dinner.

Ten minutes from the Reina Sofia is a romantic underground wine cellar serving up modern tapas, the Bodega de los Secretos.

If you’re a culture buff, consider taking in a show on Gran Via, which is Madrid’s equivalent to Broadway. Gran Via houses Madrid’s major theater venues, including the world famous Lope de Vega.

undulating ceiling at Madrid Airport
ceiling of Madrid Airport

Tips For Spending 2 Days In Madrid

1. How To Get To Madrid

Madrid in an easy place to fly into. You should have loads of flight options, many at good prices.

If you fly into Madrid, you’ll arrive at Adolfo Suarez Madrid Barajas Airport. You can get to the city center via train, bus, metro, or taxi.

Taxi is the easiest and it will cost around 30 euros. You can also book a private transfer, which I always find handy.

You can also reach Madrid by high speed train from Seville, Barcelona, and Valencia.

aerial view of Madrid and its La Latina district at sunset
aerial view of the La Latina district

2. How To Get Around Madrid

Madrid is a fairly big city. But you can walk to the main attractions in the historic center.

Other than that, the easiest way to get around is by metro. The metro is clean and reasonably easy to use. If you are doing more than one ride, buy the 10 ride pass.

You can also hail metered taxis or find them in taxi stands throughout Madrid. They’re white cars with a coat of arms with a bear

Madrid is also becoming a bike friendly city. You can rent bikes in the big parks. The bigger streets have bicycle lanes.

There are plenty of other fun ways to get around Madrid too. You can book:

principal facade of the new Four Seasons Hotel
facade of the Four Seasons Hotel

3. Where To Stay In Madrid

You’re spoiled for choice for excellent hotels in Madrid. New luxury hotels seem to open up every month.

You can stay at classy well-established hotels like The Westin Palace Madrid, the Four Seasons Hotel Madrid, or the Mandarin Oriental Ritz.

The Ritz is newly renovated and now has a spa and champagne bar. The Four Seasons has a rooftop restarts helmed by famous chef Dani Garcia.

Some other options are:

If you want to stay in Salamanca, a beautiful new hotel just opened, the Rosewood’s Villa Magna. It’s newly revamped and housed in a historic landmark.

buildings in central Madrid

4. When To Visit Madrid

The best time to visit Madrid is spring or fall. Winters are chilly (but not Arctic cold) and summers are hot.

In August, the city is scorching. If you plan to visit then, be sure to bring sunscreen!

If you are planning a 2 days in Madrid winter visit, you should time it to coincide with the Three King’s Parade. It’s one of the biggest and fanciest in all of Spain. It takes place on January 5th, the traditional gift giving day in Spain.

5. Is Madrid Safe?

You won’t encounter major crime in Madrid. It’s a fairly safe place, safer than Barcelona, even at night.

But you may encounter pickpockets. I even had a friend have his phone swiped right off the table in a nice restaurant.

cafe in Madrid
cafe in Madrid

It’s best to wear a money belt or PacSafe backpack to safeguard your wallet and belongings.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my 2 days in Madrid itinerary. You may find these other Spain travel useful:

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