48 Hours in Madrid
In Madrid, you’ll find extraordinary art collections, vibrant shopping areas, Spanish and international cuisine, and a pulsating street life. Two days aren’t enough to really experience the city, but here are a few suggestions to give you a taste of what the Spanish capital has to offer.
From the Art Walk to Hapsburg Madrid
Madrid is an exceptional destination for art lovers. Near and around Paseo del Prado, three of the world’s most prestigious art galleries can be found. The Prado Museum showcases a complete collection of Spanish paintings from the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century, in addition to an impressive anthology of Italian and Flemish works. Don’t miss Velázquez’s Las Meninas, Goya’s, The Third of May 1808, Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights, and Titian’s Bacchanal.
The Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum recounts the history of western art from the thirteenth century to the end of the twentieth. In its collection there are paintings by Caravaggio, Van Gogh and Rothko, among other artists. And the Reina Sofía Museum (MNCARS) tells the story of Spanish and European art from the avant-garde movements to the present, the focus of its collection being one of Picasso’s masterpieces, Guernica. It’s recommended to spend at least half a day, if not a full day, in one of these museums.
Very close by are the Botanical Gardens and the Retiro Park, where you can continue your day with a leisurely stroll. To go to old Madrid, it’s worth making your way up Calle de las Huertas, which cuts through the Barrio de las Letras (Literary Quarter), brimming with antique shops, tapas bars and charming cafés. Further down, Plaza Mayor is the epicentre of Madrid de los Austrias (Hapsburg Madrid). From here, in just 10 minutes, you can reach Plaza de la Villa, where the former City Hall is located, or Plaza de Oriente, with two of Madrid’s most iconic buildings: the Royal Palace and the Teatro Realopera house. In this part of the city, the views of the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range will take your breath away. Located just a short distance away, it’s easy to get to the Temple of Debod, a temple that originally stood in Egypt, whose gardens offer beautiful views of the sunset.
Tapas and signature cuisine
As well as Barrio de las Letras, another great place to go for tapas is La Latina district. Close by you’ll also findthe San Miguel Market which is lined with delicatessen stalls and bars serving raciones (dishes to share). In the area, there are many centuries-old taverns that serve typical local fare, like cocido (Madrid-style chickpea stew) or dishes from other parts of Spain such as Galicia, Asturias or the Basque Country.
You can find international food in the vicinity of Plaza de España, and more sophisticated restaurants in and around Gran Vía and Paseo de la Castellana.
The best shopping
International brands, traditional and specialised shops, innovative fashion and the creations of young designers all coexist on the streets of the city. In Barrio de Salamanca, especially along Calle Serrano and Calle Ortega y Gasset, many luxury brands can be found. At the other end of Paseo de Recoletos, around Calle del Almirante, there are shops brimming with style and personality. And right next to Gran Vía, where all the department stores are located, Calle de Fuencarral and the Triball neighbourhood show off young fashion trends in their shop windows.
Theatres and cultural activities
The city boasts a wide range of theatre offerings, hosting all sorts of performances in major venues such as Teatro Real (opera house), Lope de Vega, Teatro Nuevo Apolo, Teatro Circo Price and Teatro Español, among others. Its cultural calendar has featured major musicals such as The Lion King, Mamma Mia, The Bodyguard and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
Open 24 hours
Madrid is known the world over for its nightlife: theatres, musicals, flamenco bars, pubs and clubs where you can dance into the early hours.
Adding to this, some central hotels have turned their roof decks into sophisticated chill-out lounges overlooking the city, while a number of new bars serving refreshing cocktails have sprung up around the capital. This may be one of the best ways to wrap up your visit to Madrid, but there’s so much more to discover in the city that we’re sure you won’t be able to stay away for long.