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Madrid in 2 Days: everything you need to know

I know well that two days are record time to visit any place. However, here I tell you some plans to live every minute to the fullest in this city with the best itinerary.

Carolina Morales

Carolina Morales

8 min read

Madrid in 2 Days: everything you need to know

Almudena Cathedral | ©antonio filigno

A short trip to the magnificent Madrid, can become an unforgettable experience. A city with a cultural and historical catalog so varied that it can satisfy any taste. In order to get the most out of your 48-hour visit, I advise you to plan your itinerary to perfection, starting by finding out about the different transportation options from the airport to the city.

If there is something that can boast the capital of Spain is its sunny days, both in winter and summer, as well as the variety of places and plans that Madrid offers its visitors. Of course, in case you miss something, you already have an excuse to return as soon as possible.

Day 1: Welcome to Madrid

Sightseeing bus tour through the streets of Madrid| ©Son of Groucho
Sightseeing bus tour through the streets of Madrid| ©Son of Groucho

For this short getaway, time is of the essence. A look at the major tourist and cultural attractions of the city can help you define which are the most interesting places for your traveling personality. The good thing about Madrid is that it wins you over at first sight and any plan can be unforgettable.

Start the day with a tour by bus or by bike

A good guided tour through the heart of Madrid can show you the most iconic places of the city and bring you closer to enjoy the architecture and the atmosphere of this great Iberian city.

In this sense there are two options that can fit your lifestyle and that will guide you in deciding which places you want to visit in more depth and detail in Madrid.

A first option is to go to the Prado Museum and from there take a tour that will allow you to board an air-conditioned double-decker bus and tour the most emblematic streets and corners of the city.

From Cibeles to Plaza Mayor or from Puerta de Alcalá to the Royal Palace, this tour offers different alternatives of routes, schedules and an audio guide system in different languages, to fit any agenda.

Another option is to tour the heart of Madrid by bicycle. Although it involves an extra physical effort, it gives you the chance to enjoy the city at your own pace and see the major tourist attractions, while enjoying the vibrant capital of Spain.

Book your bus tour in Madrid

Visit the Prado Museum

Prado National Museum| ©Hellotickets
Prado National Museum| ©Hellotickets

You have two days, but knowing certain emblematic places becomes the possibility to get to know a city that is a living jewel. A visit to the Prado Museum is almost a must to appreciate the splendor of European art in all its expression.

Being one of the most appreciated wonders of the world by locals and tourists, I recommend you to buy tickets in advance to make your experience more productive and to be able to appreciate the works of great artists such as Velázquez, El Greco, Rafael, Goya, Rubens or El Bosco.

If your itinerary includes this emblematic museum, do not hesitate to schedule a lunch or dinner nearby, in the restaurants near the Prado Museum you will have an unmissable gastronomic offer.

Book your visit to the Prado Museum

Travel back in time to the past by visiting the Barrio de las Letras

On your way out of this experience, you can travel to Madrid's past, visiting the Barrio de las Letras, a community famous for being the place of residence of a long list of writers, artists and characters who were part of the Castilian Golden Age, where the arts and literature enjoyed the peak of the political and military development of the Spanish Empire.

Don't miss the Royal Palace

Entrance to the Royal Palace| ©Edmund Gall
Entrance to the Royal Palace| ©Edmund Gall

And if history is still your adventure, you can also take a peek into the legacy of a city that is torn between the past and modernity. Visiting the sumptuous Royal Palace is the perfect occasion to appreciate the Arab architecture that blends with the baroque, revealing this city's heritage to humanity.

Inside the Royal Palace you can walk among halls that hold the artistic expressions of classics such as Goya and Velásquez, as well as admire the stupendous collection of royal coats of arms and armor, which have earned the title of being one of the most complete in European history.

Some other places you have to see in Madrid that fit in this tour I recommend are the Fuente de Cibeles, no more than 10 minutes walk from the Prado Museum; the Naval Museum and the Círculo de Bellas Artes.

Buy your ticket to the Royal Palace

Visit the San Miguel Market or go on a gastronomic tour

The soul of a city is known through its colors, smells and flavors, that's why a gastronomic tour is a must in your itinerary. Squid sandwiches, Madrid stews, tapas and wines, are just an appetizer for all the possibilities that will take you to know not only the cuisine of Madrid, but the whole flavor of Spain.

The gastronomic tours in Madrid are usually popular because, normally, they are guided by locals specialized in friendliness and knowledge of the local cuisine and that will make this excursion a unique moment.

A good idea is the centuries-old tradition of visiting the Mercado de San Miguel, a lively and active space that has been emerging as one of the favorite places for locals and visitors, with more than 20 restaurant options, committed to offering quality tapas for all tastes.

Book a gastronomic tour of Madrid

Day 2: In the city of gates and museums

Puerta del Sol| ©Hugh Llewelyn
Puerta del Sol| ©Hugh Llewelyn

The Puerta del Sol, the Puerta de Alcalá or the Puerta de Toledo, are just some of the famous Madrid doors that have served as inspiration to artists of various kinds. An eternal invitation that evokes the arrival of outsiders to a city that was formed in the coexistence of a Jewish, Arab and Christian heritage.

Free walk with your morning coffee

Touring the main places of Madrid is usually an economical and outdoor plan that gives the opportunity to appreciate the wonders of the city as the Gran Via or the Fuente de Cibeles, spaces that define the personality of this cosmopolitan and modern city. In them you can enjoy restaurants, cafes, outdoor terraces and markets to buy curiosities and typical souvenirs.

You can also have your morning coffee and enjoy a stroll through El Retiro, undoubtedly one of the most beautiful parks in Spain.

Resume your museum plan by visiting the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum

Among the many museums in Madrid, the National Museum Thyssen-Bornemisza, is an alternative that I recommend on this second day and you will find just 10 minutes walk from the Retiro Park.

This museum is a public institution that houses one of the most important pictorial collections in Europe, with nearly 900 works of art, collected over seven decades by the Thyssen-Bornemisza family.

You can check opening hours and rates of the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza to not miss its permanent collection, as well as its temporary exhibitions.

If your tastes are eclectic, visit Ikono Madrid

Ikono Madrid can be a tempting option to continue your tour. This is a space of about 600 meters, which has been gaining fame among locals and foreigners attracted by experiential spaces and diverse sensory experiences.

An expedition that mixes the best of the digital world, the multimedia universe and the interactive experience that allows you to disconnect from the outside and immerse yourself in a unique experience. Inside you will find from ball pools to walks through magical forests that offer visitors a unique experience.

It is worth remembering that it is advisable to book in advance the entrance to Ikono Madrid, as it is considered one of the first futuristic museums in Europe, suitable for adults and children alike.

Buy your ticket to Ikono Madrid

Immerse yourself in the past in the National Museum of Anthropology

National Museum of Anthropology| ©Zaqarbal
National Museum of Anthropology| ©Zaqarbal

Traveling to the past, and if you are one of those followers of the discovery of America and its implications in Spanish culture, you should visit the National Museum of Anthropology, inaugurated in 1872 by King Alfonso XII.

Its facilities house a large collection of objects related to pre-Hispanic cultures and other Spanish colonies around the world, which today are the foundation of many nations.

Experience the nightlife of Madrid

Madrid's nightlife is usually intense. A good musical journey or alleys that await legends and ghosts await us.

  • Nights of sevillanas and flamenco, melodies considered the deepest expressions of Spanish culture. The heritage of many ancient nations in a territory that drew it between the chorus of the cantaoras and tablaos, which between tapa and drink offer an unmissable spectacle. While your skin crawls, you can also enjoy flamenco dance classes or musical history, accompanied by specialists of this cultural expression, its origins and diversities... and olé!
  • Tour of the Holy Inquisition: But not everything is bliss in the city of the sun, which was also the scene of one of the darkest stages of humanity: the so-called Holy Inquisition. A night walk among alleys and catacombs, which takes you to know that ghostly and gloomy side through the oral storytelling of stories and legends that endure from those times until today.
  • Ghost tour: Another popular tour among visitors is about the ghosts of Madrid. The tour starts at the Linares Palace, where the landscape also reveals the secrets of the house of the seven chimneys. Betrayals, grudges and hatreds between characters of Spanish history that hide some real secrets that you will discover at your own pace, enchanted by the Ghost of Goyito, and will be the window to the stories of a haunted Madrid since 1571.

Buy your ticket to a flamenco show

Theater night in Madrid

Another ideal alternative for your visit in Madrid is to go to a play or comedy monologue show. The theater in Madrid offers a varied agenda between musicals, comedy, magic shows or cabaret type. The options are many and you can live a magical night to end this Madrid getaway.

Some tips about your visit to Madrid in two days

Downtown Madrid| ©Nicolas Vigier
Downtown Madrid| ©Nicolas Vigier

Two days can fly by, but if you have an organized itinerary, you will be able to enjoy amazing places and see the highlights of Madrid. So that you can do everything you have planned, here are my final recommendations for putting together your 2-day plan in Spain's capital:

  • Check the security measures and entry requirements for each of the places you want to visit such as museums, galleries, restaurants, etc. This will allow you to prepare yourself to avoid mishaps in the activities.
  • Make sure you have information in advance about availability and maximum capacity in each place. Booking in advance can often be a good way to ensure a quiet entrance to the main tourist attractions of the city, especially if you are going for only two days.