2 Days in Madrid: Highlights and Hidden Gems in 48 Hours

With so many things to do and see in Spain‘s capital, planning a trip of 2 days in Madrid can be challenging.

Also, if you are anything like me, you’ll probably want to see both the touristy and non touristy sides of Madrid. Lucky for you, here I have a fantastic itinerary only waiting for you to steal it!

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2 days in Madrid travel itinerary: things to do in Madrid Spain in 48 hours


PRACTICAL INFO FOR SEEING THE BEST OF MADRID IN 2 DAYS

WHERE TO STAY FOR 2 NIGHTS IN MADRID

On my many visits to the city, I got to stay at Airbnbs and guesthouses in different neighborhoods and see what each had to offer.

I stayed at a guesthouse called Hostal Maria Cristina (Calle de Fuencarral, 20). Apart from the perfect location near Gran Via Street, it ticked all the boxes for me, and I think you get excellent value for your money.

The room was spacious, super clean, and comfortable, and the staff was always welcoming (the reception works 24/7). Browse the latest prices and availability here.

I also stayed at a guesthouse called Hostal Ivor (Calle del Arenal, 24) near Puerta del Sol. It offers simple, clean, and comfortable rooms, so if you’re looking for basic and central accommodation, this could be a good choice.

Hostal Ivor’s reception works 24/7, and each and every one of the staff was friendly and helpful. Browse the latest prices and availability here.

Even though these are two highly popular areas, it’s important to know that you don’t have to find accommodation right on Gran Via Street or near Puerta del Sol. Madrid’s city center is enormous, and there are metro stations everywhere.

Other highly-rated and central accommodations include Hostal Alexis Madrid and Apartosuites Jardines de Sabatini, but you can also read my full guide to the best neighborhoods to stay in Madrid.

ITINERARY SUMMARY AND MAP

Day 1: La Mallorquina, Puerta del Sol, Plaza de Oriente + Sabatini Gardens + Royal Palace, Almudena Cathedral, San Miguel Market, chocolateria San Gines, Plaza Mayor + La Latina neighborhood, Parque del Oeste + Templo de Debod, dinner at La Latina neighborhood.

Day 2 option 1: Malasaña, Gran Via, Casa Alberto, art museum – Prado/Reina Sofia/Thyssen-Bornemisza, Retiro Park, Puerta de Alcala + Plaza de Cibeles, Casa Toni.

Day 2 option 2: Barrio de las Letras, Casa Alberto, art museum – Prado/Reina Sofia/Thyssen-Bornemisza, Retiro Park, Puerta de Alcala + Plaza de Cibeles, Casa Toni.

Click here to access the My Maps interactive map of this Madrid itinerary.

HIGHLY-RATED WALKING TOURS AND DAY TRIPS

If you want to change this itinerary a bit and see the city with a local guide, here are a few highly-rated tours you might like:

Since you’re only spending two days in Madrid, I recommend focusing on the city itself, but you can take one day trip if you really want to.

Most day trips are easily reachable by public transport (like Toledo or Segovia), but here are a few highly-rated guided day tours you can book:

A day trip from Madrid - Segovia
Segovia

WHEN TO VISIT

Spring and fall are the best seasons to spend a weekend in Madrid. In summer, it’s very hot, but at least it’s not humid, so you can definitely visit Madrid in July and August if you want.

This city is also an underrated winter break destination in Europe and an amazing European girls’ trip destination.

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GETTING FROM THE AIRPORT AND GETTING AROUND MADRID

There are several convenient ways to get from Madrid’s airport to the city center, and the city itself is seriously so easy to get around. Its metro system is well-organized, and there’s a station on every other corner and at the airport.

This itinerary is also very walkable (check out my travel sneakers roundup that would be perfect for this trip), so you don’t even need a 10-journey metro ticket (a few single tickets will probably be enough), but it’s good to know that it’s an option.

2 day in Madrid - Plaza de la Villa
Plaza de la Villa


2 DAYS IN MADRID – DAY ONE

BREAKFAST – PASTRIES AT LA MALLORQUINA BAKERY (CALLE MAYOR, 2)

Every local knows La Mallorquina bakery, which was established in 1894.

Not only does it serve amazing pastries, but it is also a cultural institution in Madrid with great historical importance as it was where people would gather to discuss issues like politics, art, and more.

That’s why there’s no better way to start your day than with a cup of coffee and freshly baked goods at La Mallorquina (the vanilla napolitana is a must!).

La Mallorquina bakery

PUERTA DEL SOL

Puerta del Sol is one of the most bustling squares in Madrid and a must-see spot in the city.

A few things to see in Puerta del Sol and around it include:

  • The statue of ‘El Oso y El Madroño’ (‘The Bear and the Strawberry Tree’) – a representation of the coat of arms of Madrid.
  • A statue of Carlos III of Spain.
  • The old post office building.
  • Kilometro Cero – a plaque on the ground symbolizing the center of Spain.
  • Street performances.

The entire area is also filled with cafes, restaurants, and shops for you to enjoy (though many restaurants here are tourist traps, so take that into consideration).

PLAZA DE ORIENTE, SABATINI GARDENS, AND PALACIO REAL

On your way from Sol to the Royal Palace, you can pass through Plaza de Oriente, which is a stunning monumental square. Here you can find statues of the Spanish kings, as well as beautiful gardens.

After spending some time in the square, explore the Sabatini Gardens for a while. The gardens are located near the northern facade of the palace, and you can enter them for free.

what to see in madrid spain in 2 days - Plaza Oriente

Finally, you can start your visit at the 18th-century Royal Palace, one of the most famous landmarks in Spain and the largest functioning royal palace in Europe. It is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family in Madrid, but it is only used for ceremonies at the moment.

Inside, you’ll visit different rooms like the library, the armory room, and the crown room. The palace is truly spectacular, so it is a must-see place when you only have 48 hours in Madrid.

Important to know: The daily visits to the Royal Palace are limited, so get your ticket in advance.

To visit the palace, you can either book a guided tour or purchase a ticket for an unguided visit with a specific timeslot.

Opening hours of the Royal Palace: October-March, all days, 10 AM-6 PM. April-September, all days, 10 AM-8 PM.

Tip: On certain days and hours the Royal Palace offers free admission – see all the details here. However, it can get very crowded during these times, and it doesn’t apply to guided tours.

things to see in Madrid in 2 days - Palacio Real
El Palacio Real

CATEDRAL DE LA ALMUDENA

The Almudena Cathedral is located right next to the Royal Palace. Its building plans had started over 100 years ago, but due to a long battled history, it was only completed in 1993.

It’s an impressive landmark in Madrid that mixes a variety of architectural styles, so I think it is a nice addition to a 2-day Madrid itinerary.

You can also pay a small fee to visit its museum and access its dome, which provides beautiful views over the Royal Palace.

Almudena Cathedral, Madrid

LUNCH – MERCADO DE SAN MIGUEL

San Miguel Market is an indoor food market loved by both locals and tourists (though it has become quite touristy).

I would say that the prices are mid-range (not cheap eats but still not overly expensive), and the atmosphere is vibrant and fun. The market tends to be packed during lunchtime, so just be prepared and be patient.

Recommended food: I loved the croquette stand because they had vegetarian options. With a beer on the side, it was a nice quick lunch.

DESSERT – CHURROS CON CHOCOLATE AT CHOCOLATERIA SAN GINES

I’m always a bit suspicious when it comes to the most famous places to eat at a particular destination because most of the time they just don’t live up to the expectations.

However, Chocolateria San Gines is truly my favorite place to eat churros with hot chocolate in Madrid.

Their churros are hot and crispy, and their chocolate is not too sweet, so together they form the perfect bite. You’ll also see that you can order porras, which are made from the same batter but are wider and softer than churros.

Where to eat when you visit Madrid in 2 days - churros at Chocolateria San Gines
My favorite churros at Chocolateria San Gines

PLAZA MAYOR AND LA LATINA NEIGHBORHOOD

Plaza Mayor is one of the most stunning squares in Europe and a famous square in Madrid. It houses some beautifully painted buildings, a statue of King Felipe the 3rd, and many restaurants and cafes.

From Plaza Mayor, pass through Arco de Cuchilleros and walk down Cuchilleros Street, from where you can continue and explore the entire surrounding neighborhood, La Latina.

It showcases the traditional side of Madrid, and you can wander through its charming old-town streets and squares (this is just a taste of the La Latina neighborhood, so feel free to explore it some more):

  • Plaza de Puerta Cerrada
  • Cava Baja and Cava Alta Streets
  • Plaza Paja and the Garden of the Prince of Anglona
  • Plaza de los Carros
Madrid what to do in 2 days - Plaza Mayor
places to visit in Madrid in 2 days - La Latina

PARQUE DEL OESTE AND SUNSET AT TEMPLO DE DEBOD

Parque del Oeste is only one of the many beautiful parks you can see in Madrid. Apart from walking and relaxing in the park, you should watch the sunset near Templo de Debod, an Egyptian temple dating back to the 2nd century BC.

During sunset time, the temple is illuminated, and the whole scenery becomes soft and romantic.

DINNER – BACK TO LA LATINA NEIGHBORHOOD

You cannot miss an evening of tapas and drinks in La Latina, especially if you only have 2 days in Madrid!

Evenings and weekends are the busiest times in this neighborhood since both locals and tourists are in search of good food and some wine or beer. Read this guide of the best places to eat in La Latina.



2 DAYS IN MADRID – DAY TWO

BREAKFAST – MALASAÑA NEIGHBORHOOD

Malasaña is a hipster-bohemian neighborhood of street art, trendy cafes and bars, and concept stores that not all tourists bother to explore.

So do yourself a favor and kickstart your morning in one of Malasaña’s many stylish and irresistible cafes like Ojala, Toma Cafe, or HanSo Cafe.

top things to do in Madrid in 2 days - Malasana

CONTINUE TO EXPLORE MALASAÑA

After having your amazing breakfast, wander the streets of this colorful neighborhood, and you’ll fall in love with it in a heartbeat. Some of the streets and squares I recommend exploring:

  • Calle del Pez
  • Plaza del Dos de Mayo
  • Calle del Espiritu Santo
  • Calle de la Palma
places to see in madrid in 2 days - street art
Street art in Malasaña

A REFRESHING TREAT – LOLO POLOS ARTESANOS (CALLE DEL ESPIRITU SANTO, 16)

If you’re visiting Malasaña when the weather is warm (or even if it’s not), treat yourself with artisanal popsicles at Lolo Polos Artesanos.

From orange and lemon to mango and cardamon to strawberry and plum, they offer a variety of fruity combinations perfect for a sunny day (many of them are vegan!).

GRAN VIA STREET

Perhaps the most famous street in Madrid, you have to walk along the Gran Via.

Besides cafes, restaurants, and shops, the avenue itself is architectural and beautiful. Some of the impressive buildings you can see on this avenue are the Metropolis Building, the Capitol Building, and the Telefonica Building.

what to do in Madrid for 2 days - Gran Via
Gran Via street

OPTION 2 FOR THE FIRST HALF DAY – BARRIO DE LAS LETRAS

Another neighborhood you can and should explore is Barrio de las Letras (my personal favorite). Besides its undeniable beauty and charm, this area has a huge cultural and historical importance.

Many literary icons like Cervantes and Lope de Vega have lived here at one point or another, and you can see quite a lot of statues, streets, and other landmarks dedicated to them.

Barrio de las Letras
A beautiful street in Barrio de las Letras

If you want to make the most of your time in this neighborhood, take this free walking tour that will introduce you to the history of Barrio de las Letras in the most fun way (it is temporarily not operated in English, but here’s a similar tour).

You will hear the best stories about some of the most important people in the history of literature, and your visit will be a lot more meaningful because of it. It was one of the highlights of my trip, and I think it’s one of the best walking tours in Madrid.

a building in Madrid
statue of Lorca

If you’re not into tours, I still recommend wandering around this charming area on your own. Some of the streets and squares you should see:

  • Plaza de Santa Ana
  • Calle Huertas
  • Calle de Alvarez Gato
  • Plaza de Jacinto Benavente
  • Calle de Lope de Vega
  • Calle de Cervantes

LUNCH – CASA ALBERTO (CALLE DE LAS HUERTAS, 18)

Don’t be overwhelmed by the noise or the number of people in this place because that’s exactly why you should have lunch here.

Whether you’re sitting at a table or nibbling on some tapas and beer at the bar (a very recommended and very Spanish experience), you’ll enjoy both the food and the authentic atmosphere of Casa Alberto.

Casa Alberto

THYSSEN-BORNEMISZA MUSEUM / PRADO MUSEUM / REINA SOFIA MUSEUM

Visiting an art museum is one of the top things to do in Madrid in 2 days. No trip to Madrid is complete without exploring these internationally famous museums, but since they are enormous, I would focus on just one.

They are all quite close to each other, so you can decide which one to visit while you’re there. If you’re not an art fan, you can skip this one out, but I personally recommend not to.

Skip the lines and get your tickets in advance:
Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum tickets or a Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum guided tour.
Prado Museum tickets or a Prado guided tour.
Reina Sofia Museum tickets or a Reina Sofia guided tour.

Tip #1: Each museum offers free admission on specific days and hours, which you can consult on my roundup of free museums in Madrid. However, it can get very crowded during these times.

Tip #2: If you REALLY love art and want to visit all of them, you can purchase a combo ticket or book this guided tour of all three museums.

EL RETIRO PARK

You can’t plan two days in Madrid and not spend a couple of hours in El Retiro Park.

Honestly, I’m not always a fan of the most famous landmarks of a particular city because they can be overrated, but El Retiro will surely win you over.

Madrid itinerary 2 days - Palacio del Cristal
Palacio de Cristal

You can easily spend 3 hours in this park, exploring both its green areas and its monuments:

  • Casita del Pescador (‘Fisherman’s House’).
  • Palacio de Cristal (‘The Crystal Palace’).
  • Retiro Park Lake and the monument of Alfonso XII.
  • Fountain of the Fallen Angel.

If you want to explore the park with a guide, book this segway tour or this guided walking tour.

Retiro Park

PUERTA DE ALCALA AND PLAZA DE CIBELES

On the corner of the park, you’ll find Puerta de Alcala, a neoclassical triumphal arch that was one of five main entrances to the city back when it was walled.

Not too far from there, you can also visit the impressive Plaza de Cibeles. It is surrounded by four remarkable buildings when the most iconic one is the Palacio de Cibeles, which is now functioning as the seat of the City Council of Madrid.

DINNER – CASA TONI (CALLE DE LA CRUZ, 14)

Let me start by saying – don’t judge a tapas bar by its cover. It may not seem like that on the outside, but Casa Toni is an incredible place to have dinner.

Even vegetarians (and vegans) will love it because it offers quite a few vegetarian tapas including grilled mushrooms that prove that Heaven is a place on Earth.

We even got some tapas and shots on the house, so I couldn’t have asked for a better experience on my last evening in Madrid.



I hope that my itinerary has shown you that if you want to visit Madrid in two days, it’s not impossible. It only means that you need to prioritize, but you can still enjoy and see the best of this marvelous city!

Read more about Madrid and Spain:

Do you love European city break itineraries? Check out my 2-day Berlin itinerary, 4-day Vienna itinerary, 4-day Budapest itinerary, 2-day Lisbon itinerary, and 2-day Brussels itinerary!



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About Or Amir

Hey, I'm Or! I'm a passionate traveler with a severe coffee, chocolate, and pastry addiction (or any other carb for that matter). Obsessed with anything Spain-related, I'm always planning my next trip (and the excitement alone can bring tears to my eyes, not that it's difficult to make me cry).

10 thoughts on “2 Days in Madrid: Highlights and Hidden Gems in 48 Hours”

  1. Love your blog I am planning to spend 2 days in Madrid. can you tell me on average how much to spend in 2 days with the listed activites and transportation

    Reply
    • Hi Malaki 🙂 It really depends on what is more interesting to you. You can spend a few hours in the Prado or only one hour. Same for any other activity.
      The easiest way to get around the city is by Metro, and there are more than enough Metro stations that it only takes a few minutes to get from one place to another. This itinerary can also be done by walking.
      Let me know if you need more information, and have fun on your trip!

      Reply
      • I’m so happy I stumbled upon your blog..it’s such a gem!! We’re going to Madrid on October and can’t wait to visit & try your recommendations. Thank you!! Your photos are beautiful! !

        Reply
  2. I asked on another page of yours about specific streets to browse in La Latina. i found my answer here so feel free to ignore my question I left earlier. 🙂 Once again, I am loving your blog.

    Reply
    • You just made my day! I really appreciate all your sweet words! Since you found this helpful, I’ll probably add these recommendations to the other post, so thanks for your feedback 🙂

      Reply

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