When planning a trip to Spain, Madrid makes for an ideal base city. As the capital of Spain, there is an abundance of museums, shopping, and historic attractions. With frequent cheap, direct flights from the United States, Madrid is an easy destination in which to start and end any trip to Spain. We planned 2 days in Madrid which allowed us to see most of the major tourist sites.
How to Spend 2 Days in Madrid, Spain
Flights to Madrid land at the Barajas Airport. You can pick up a free metro map and separate public transportation map while at the airport. To get to Madrid from the airport, take the Metro Line 8 (pink). It will only take you around 20 minutes to get to the Nuevos Ministerios stop. From there you can connect to several different lines, depending on your hotel location.
The metro in Madrid is extremely easy to use. Although you can Uber, taxi, or take the bus pretty much everywhere in Madrid, we were able to take the Metro or walk to all the sites on our itinerary during our 2 days in Madrid. Single metro ticket rides are €1.50, and 10-ride tickets are €12.20. These can be purchased at kiosks, ticket booths, tobacco shops, and newspaper stands.
Stay near Gran Vía street for great shopping or Paseo del Prado street for close access to the major art museums of Madrid. We stayed at the Hostel Gala which was near the old city center. Our room was a perfect location for late night walks, and we were also close to several metro stops. The rooms at Hostal Gala are affordable, and we had a great view of Plaza Santo Domingo. The downside of our stay was the outside noise at night (we were right over a tapa bar) and the shower was a bit small for our middle-age girth.
For great prices on the Hostal Gala or other top-rated Madrid hotels, use our Hotels.com links. You’ll get a great price, and we’ll earn a small commission. It costs you nothing extra!
Foods to Try
Tapas are a must in Madrid, and there are plenty of tapa bars to choose from! The smallest olives, called campo real, are a Madrid favorite. The tap water in Madrid is fine to drink. Ask for agua del grifo. For our complete list of foods to eat during your 2 days in Madrid, read What to Eat & Drink in Spain.
2-Day Madrid Itinerary
El Rastro Flea Market- If you happen to be in Madrid on a Sunday, check out Europe’s biggest flea market (Sunday only, 9-3pm) Watch for pickpockets because this is a prime area. It is best to go before 11am, but if you get there later (after 2pm), you can get some super bargains.
Palacio Real- Located on the western part of Old Madrid, this historic palace was used as a residence up until 1931. You can only see part of the palace, but we found the military museum fascinating (no photos allowed). The military museum is filled with medieval war artifacts, especially knight and horse armor. Allow 1-2 hours.
Hours- Open 10-8 daily (Oct to March until 6pm) Changing of the guard 11-3 pm Wed (every 30 minutes)
Cost- €10 audio guide- €4
Almundena Cathedral- a very nice cathedral right next to the royal palace. It is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Madrid. The entrance for tourists is located on the eastern side of the cathedral. The building of the cathedral was started over 100 years ago on the site of Madrid’s first mosque. The Spanish civil war disrupted the construction of the cathedral. It was finally finished in 1993. Allow around 30 minutes.
Hours- 10am-7:30pm, but closed for tourist during religious services
Cost- Free, but €1 donation is suggested
Plaza Mayor- Built in the 17thcentury, this beautiful public square was once used for bullfights, trials by the inquisition, and executions. One of Madrid’s best tourist information offices is located here. On Sundays, the Plaza Mayor hosts Europe’s biggest stamp and coin market. While on the plaza visit the famous bullfighting bar- La Torre del Oro.
Mercado de San Miguel- (just a minute walk from the Plaza Mayor) Originally built in 1916, the Mercado de San Miguel is the most popular tapa market for tourists in Madrid. At this gourmet tapas market, you can find over 30 different vendors selling tapas, desserts, hams, wine, beer, and especially delicious tapas. Tables are a premium, so do what we did. I stood near the tables on stakeout for an opening while Joe searched for food.
Museo Nacional del Prado– The Prado is Spain’s biggest art museum and considered one of the greatest art museums in the world. The museum has major works from Spanish greats such as Goya, Velazquez, and El Greco. The Prado also has the most Italian Renaissance paintings outside of Italy. This place is huge! We had been told to buy tickets in advance to avoid the long lines, but we were there, right before the morning opening, and didn’t have a long wait to buy our tickets. However, expect longer waits in the summer. No photos inside the museum are permitted. Comfortable shoes and the audio guide are a must! It’s also so large, it is easy to forget what rooms you’ve been in, so use the museum map to “check off” rooms as you go. Allow at least 3-4 hours.
Hours- Open 10-8 Mon-Sat, 10-7 Sun
Cost- €15, museum is free the last 2 hours of each day, €4 audio guide. If seeing the “big 3” art museums (Prado, Thyssen-Bornemiszais, and Reina Sofia), buy a combo ticket for €30.40 and save 20%.
Depending on how long you spend at the Prado and how much you like art, you might also want to visit:
Thyssen-Bornemisza- This museum has over 1,000 paintings including a great Impressionism collection.
Reina Sofia- Major works by Picasso (including Picasso’s Guernica), Miro, and Dali.
Parque del El Retiro- Located a couple of blocks behind the Prado, is the Parque del El Retiro. This 350-acres park is a tranquil oasis on the edge of the center center. It is home to over 15,000 trees, manicured gardens, and a variety of water features. It even has a large lake where you can rent row boats. After spending the morning touring art museums, we had a picnic at the park and rested our tired feet!
Gran Vía- If your feet are still functioning by the end of day 2 in Madrid, take a walk down Gran Vía. From the Parque del El Retiro, head north towards the Puerta de Alcala, a gate of the former walls of Philip IV. Then walk west down the Gran Vía, which literally means “Great Way.” Some of Madrid’s best shopping is along this street.
Have you been to Madrid, Spain before? We’d love for you to add your thoughts and recommendations. Have any questions? Please ask by commenting below! Keep up with all of our travel, camping, and cycling tips by following us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Leave us your email (blue box at the bottom of the post) to subscribe to our weekly newsletter and never miss a post!
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