A perfect itinerary for 2 days in Madrid, Spain: full city itinerary with best things to see, food stops and practical travel tips – Updated 2020
Madrid is a wonderful destination for a weekend break.
Packed with sightseeing opportunities yet easy to navigate even for the first time traveler, Madrid has stunning museums, gorgeous sights and delicious food.
I know Madrid well: its charms (and a local friend) have brought me to the city more times than I care to count and, over the course of the years, I have learned what the perfect Madrid weekend looks like.
Today, I am sharing it with you: this is my guide to 2 days in Madrid, Spain.
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Are 2 days in Madrid enough?
How much you can see in Madrid depends largely on your interests.
If you want to get a sense of the city and see some of Madrid’s main sights and one museum then yes, two days are enough.
However, if you want to also visit Madrid’s world-class museums as well as explore the city then no, two days are unlikely to be sufficient.
In this Madrid itinerary, I have mixed city sightseeing with museums stops to give you an idea of how much you can fit in.
What is the way to get around Madrid?
The best way to get around Madrid is by public transport and specifically by metro.
The Madrid metro system is clean, easy to use and efficient: you can get tickets at the airport and use them to discover the whole of the city with confidence.
Large parts of the city center are also easy to enjoy on foot.
What is the best area to stay when visiting Madrid?
The best area to stay in Madrid for sightseeing is the city center.
Look specifically at the area around Plaza de Santa Ana and the area of Retiro for the most pleasant and convenient atmospheres.
Top things to do in Madrid in 2 days
Madrid has a plethora of attractions, many of them close to each other and easy to see even in just a short amount of time.
In 2 days, you should be able to visit most of these sights but only include one or maximum two museums (one per day).
In our Madrid itinerary below you will see what we recommend to fit in but we also wanted to give you a list of Madrid’s top attractions should you want to swap one museum with another.
This is our selection of what to see in Madrid.
Plaza Mayor: a wonderful, enclosed square with stunning architecture, an iconic Madrid location appearing on all travel guides and worth a stop
Royal Palace of Madrid: a beautiful palace in the city center, this is one of the most famous attractions in Madrid for lovers of castles and regal architecture
Museo del Prado (Prado Museum): one of the most beautiful in the world, this is a treat for art lovers and hosts some of the most interesting masterpieces from painters such as Velasquez, El Greco, Murillo, Goya and many of the masters of Italian and Flemish schools
Thyssen Bornemisza Museum and Collection: a world-class gallery with stunning artworks spanning many centuries from the Middle Ages to Picasso
Museo Nacional de Arte Reina Sofia: a wonderful museum collection art from the XIX century on
El Retiro: Madrid’s main park, perfect to escape the busy streets of Madrid in its large green spaces.
Templo de Debod: probably the most unusual sight in the whole of Madrid, this is an Egyptian temple right in the heart of the city!
Puerta del Sol: a famous square tight in the center of the city, buzzing with tourists yet home of beautiful architecture
Gran Via: one of the many shopping streets in Madrid, perfect for a fashion fix
Tapas restaurants: no trip to Madrid can be complete without tasting the city’s amazing food, find our recommendations below!
Please note: the restaurants in this post reflect my personal experience of the places. I have not been compensated in any way shape or form for including them.
2 days in Madrid: Itinerary
We love starting our weekend in Madrid in the area of Plaza de Santa Ana, in the city center.
This is a lovely square, filled with cafes, restaurants and small play areas for kids and a great first stop.
Originally built in the XVI century, it is one of the oldest squares in Madrid, but was destroyed by Napoleon’s brother in 1918 and only acquired its current look in 18148.
It is a wonderful square, overlooked by the Teatro Espanol and by the statues of two important Spanish personalities: play writer Pedro Calderón de la Barca (1600 – 1681) and Federico García Lorca (1898 – 1936), poet and dramatist, killed by the Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War.
From here, you can take the short walk down to Porta del Sol.
This is one of the most famous squares in Madrid and is it both beautiful and crowded: I usually recommend to spend little time here yet to add it to your itinerary and see what the fuss it is all about.
The main things to see here are ‘El Oso y El Madroño’, a 20 ton statue of a bear eating fruits from a tree and the so called ‘km cero’ (Kilometer Zero), the radial center of all the roads in Spain.
Puerta del Sol is close to Gran Via, which is a great shopping street in Madrid so if you come this way, you can also add a shopping spree.
For lunch, I recommend you make your way to the area of Plaza Mayor, just down the road.
Plaza Mayor is one of the most famous in Madrid and a truly beautiful one. The square is fully enclosed by stunning buildings with front porticoes and while it is very much a tourist spot, it is hard not to love.
I recommend you spend some time here but avoid stopping in the restaurants on the square.
Rather, explore the streets nearby and allow yourself to get lost: these are narrow, meandering road full of restaurants and local charm, a touristy yet very pleasant part of the city.
For lunch, you can choose one of the so-called ‘caves’ the restaurants below Plaza Mayor or you can head to one of the most popular lunch spots in the area, Mercado de San Miguel (San Miguel’s Market).
The Mercado is a lovely spot, especially if you arrive early enough to beat the crowds.
The market has lots of wonderful lunch places serving Spanish fare and is a lovely place for a foodies stop or a drink.
I recommend you devote the afternoon to two attractions, the Royal Palace and the Temple of Debod.
The Royal Palace is a beautiful place and it is open to the public (you can buy tickets here).
The visit is worth it and I also love spending some time looking at it from the outside, while sipping coffee and tasting cake in Placa de Oriente.
The elegant Cafe de Oriente is quite a treat and the views over the square and the palace lovely!
This is a lovely spot also if you are visiting Madrid with kids: the large, green square is perfect for them!
The interesting Almudena cathedral also nearby.
From here, I highly recommend you take a stroll to the Temple of Debod.
This is a real Egyptian temple that got relocated to Madrid in and it is stunning (and so out of place!), inside and out!
Absolutely worth seeking it out!
For the evening, I highly recommend resting your tired legs in the wonderful Madrid hammam before heading for tapas.
The hamman is right in the center, and it is a wonderful indulgence of hot water, steams baths and massages, a spa experience mixed with cultural nuances like no other!
Finish your day with tapas nearby or catch a taxi to the good Restaurante Bar Tomate in the area of Chamberi, then have a drink in one of Madrid’s rooftop terraces (I love the one of the Reina Victoria Hotel on Plaza de Santa Ana)
Madrid day 2
For your second morning in Madrid, I recommend you plan a visit to one of the city’s museums.
Whatever you choose, you can rest assured you will see work class art in gorgeous surroundings.
Madrid’s museum tend to cluster in the same area and are surrounded with great lunch options.
If you want something special however, I do recommend you stray slightly to the North of them and check out Platea: this is an old cinema now turned food hall and it is one of the most beautiful stops for foodies!
In the afternoon, I recommend you take a break from the city’s busy streets and head to the Retiro park, a wonderful green area in the center of Madrid.
The Retiro is vast and can be a destination in itself or but it is also a wonderful way to get to one more part of Madrid worth seeing, the beautiful Atocha station.
Atocha is the main train station in Madrid and it is a worthy place to see if you like architecture.
The station dates back to 1851 and is made of glass and iron.
Tall plants decorate its main hall and make it a wonderful stop both if you are using it as jump off point to Toledo (train to Toledo go from here) or just as a sightseeing opportunity in itself.
From here, you can easily regain the city center and I recommend in particular you plan a last stop near Porta del Sol and in particular at the famous Chocolateria San Gines.
This is a cafe specializing in hot chocolate and churros, fried sugary batter you dunk into the chocolate and while touristy, it is a place you do want to add to your 2 days in Madrid.
Try to avoid the busiest times if you can, it does get busy.
For you last evening in Madrid, you can simply have tapas in the city center (Los Huevos de Lucio is a good address) or in La Latina area or opt for a flamenco show.
While not originally from Madrid, the city is said to have amazing shows since many performers flock to the capital city to make a name form themselves.
If you are interested in this powerful form of expressive dance, this can be a wonderful way to end your 2 days in Madrid!
I hope you found this itinerary useful and it helped you plan how to spend 2 days in Madrid. Safe travels!
This post was originally published in 2016 and has now been fully updated