Looking for the ultimate Madrid bucket list, but only have 2 days in Madrid? Then, you’ve come to the right place! My family fell in love with this city during our two-week Spain vacation even though our stop here was brief. Madrid is so charming you’re going to want to stay way longer than two days, but if that’s all you’ve got, you can still fit in all of the top things to do in Madrid into one awesome weekend! This Madrid itinerary tells you exactly what do in Madrid, Spain so you can have an unforgettable experience in the Spanish capital.
How to Spend 2 Days in Madrid
One of my favorite things about Madrid is how walkable it is! It is safe and super clean. Plus, all of the best places to visit in Madrid, Spain are clustered in the center of the city, making sightseeing in Madrid possible, even in just 2 days!
This free self-guided walking tour of Madrid breaks down Central Madrid into two parts that you can easily conquer over one weekend! If you don’t know where to go in Madrid, this map will be super helpful to you since it outlines my top ten things to do in Madrid. The two days are interchangeable and the route can even be broken up into more days if you’re looking for a slower pace, but for organization’s sake, I planned the left route for Day 1 and the right route for Day 2. You can find the full itinerary for each day below:
Length: 1 mile
Time: 28 minutes walking (although this is a full day’s itinerary if you stop to explore each destination)
1. Soak in ancient Arab baths and get a massage at Hammam Al Ándalus Madrid. This place is the best kept secret of all Madrid attractions! It is the ultimate Madrid destination if you just want to relax and recharge. Descending the steps from the reception area down to the Arab baths is like walking into the wardrobe from a C.S. Lewis book. Steam from the baths hits you immediately and the world around you begins to change. The baths themselves are shallow pools with marble flooring and the walls of the Hammam are covered with beautiful geometric tiling reminiscent of Moorish architecture. An atmosphere of tranquility is intentionally preserved through minimal speaking, the use of candlelight, and soft melodies playing throughout the baths. The thirty minute massage we received at the end of our session was the cherry on top of an unbelievably relaxing experience.
2. Grab a snack at Mercado de San Miguel. Or just walk around, enjoying the bustle and beauty of this popular market. I did both! There’s definitely some great food to be found here (although not all the Instagram worthy snacks are equal), but the vibrant energy of this busy market, along with the industrial/modern feel of its architecture, is what made this spot a must-see on my list.
3. Indulge in some more shopping at the smaller shops around Plaza Mayor. This big, open plaza is impressive, sure, but it can easily get overrun with tourists. Taking some of the side streets around the plaza led us to some quaint Spanish-made clothing shops that I returned to over and over again during our stay in Madrid. Almost all of the women’s clothing in these shops were made of light, breathable linen in delicate patterns of flowers or fading stripes- the perfect style to wear back home. It was a miracle I didn’t buy myself a whole new wardrobe!
4. Watch the sun set at the Royal Palace. Unfortunately, the day we went to visit the Royal Palace, it was closed for official business so we could not go inside, but the beautiful sunset that began just as we arrived made up for it. The courtyard/garden area that stretches out in front of the palace had a calming and romantic air to it at this time of the day. You could pick any gravel path and wind up amidst some vibrant plants and flowers. The Palace itself was impressive not only for its size, but also for its well preserved Old World feel. It is the perfect spot to sit back and watch the day come to an end (except the day isn’t really ending because it’s Spain and dinner is just starting).
5. Indulge in some shopping along Madrid’s Gran Via. Our airbnb was right off Gran Via so we frequented this main strip often. With all its shops, restaurants, and theaters, Gran Via reminded me of a less overwhelmingly crowded, noisy, and dirty Times Square. After spending hours meandering in and out of its stores, we would almost always find ourselves in one of the many 100 Montaditos restaurants along the strip. These places are great for casual dining with over 100 montaditos (little sandwiches) to choose from. And if you go on a Sunday or a Wednesday, each montadito is only 1 euro! (I bet you can guess where we ate every Sunday and Wednesday of our trip 😉 )
Length: 2 miles
Time: 39 minutes walking (although this is a full day’s itinerary if you stop to explore each destination)
1-3. Take a stroll through Retiro Park (including the Crystal Palace and La Rosaleda). This park is expansive and offers so much to do. When we were visiting, there was actually a book fair hundreds of booths long being held in the park, but sadly for me, all the books were in Spanish 😦 . We also grabbed some gelato by the Estanque grande del Retiro (a large pond), where we entertained ourselves watching the many tourists who thought renting a paddle boat on the pond would be a good idea… rowing those things is definitely harder than it looks. The Crystal Palace housed in this park is probably one of the most popular things to see in Madrid, and it did not disappoint. Walking around in this clear, glass structure feels like being in a life-size snow globe (minus the snow, of course). Everything about the park is intensified from this vantage point- the lush trees, the sunshine, and the dozens of singing birds. However, the most romantic spot in the park is La Rosaleda, which we stumbled upon accidentally on our way out. My sister and I *tried* to get some cute pictures of our parents together among all the blooming roses, but somehow we both photo bombed each other’s shots… Sorry, Mom and Dad.
4. Meander through rooms of famous artwork at the Prado Museum. There is SO much to see here, but we entered during free admission hours with only about an hour and a half left until closing so we stuck to the highlights. I am no art buff, but it was intriguing to see paintings by Spanish-born artists like Goya and El Greco that I probably couldn’t find anywhere in the U.S. (just a heads-up: Goya gets real creepy in his later paintings, like horror film type stuff). But for all the art lovers out there, the Prado Museum is one of the best places to visit in Madrid.
5. Take a tour of City Hall and visit its observation deck. Unlike every other activity on this list, visiting City Hall was not on our original itinerary. Only because an old friend pulled some strings to get us in after hours did we even get to marvel at this magnificent structure. This post-office building turned City Hall amazed me with its vast glass domes, ornate stained glass skylights, and delicately detailed facade. Add to this the extraordinary view of the city stretching all the way down Calle de Alcalá you take in from atop the observation deck, and it was one unforgettable experience. Of all the Madrid tourist attractions, City Hall is definitely one of the most underrated!
Where to Stay in Madrid, Spain
We stayed at Hellenhost Gran Vía V in Madrid, a clean and comfortable loft-style apartment located right off Gran Via, a major street that runs through the center of Madrid. From our accommodations we were able to walk to every destination on our itinerary. No taxis needed!
This apartment is suited with a full kitchen, a double bed, two twin beds, a sofa bed, and a washing machine. Other awesome amenities include free WiFi, a spacious and modern bathroom with a standing shower, and living room and dining room spaces. The apartment can readily sleep up to 6 people, but you can also request additional cots for a small nightly fee. This proved to be the perfect accommodations for our large group since one night we slept 7 people comfortably in this single apartment!
Like I mentioned, the location is what makes this hotel absolutely exceptional. Besides all the shops and restaurants along Gran Via, there is also a coin laundry a block or two away that may be beneficial if you are staying for an extended period of time. Also, check out the Chinese restaurant next door to this hotel that serves some of the best Chinese food I’ve ever eaten. Seriously! Ni Hao may not be on most people’s list of best places to eat in Madrid, but it should be!
Other Important Info: There is a parking garage a block or two away if you plan on driving to this hotel. The hotel manager(s) will meet you for check-in to verify your passports, give you the keys to your apartment, and help you get situated. If you need to contact them during your stay, they mainly communicate with guests through texting or WhatsApp (since there’s technically no front desk). Generally, they were pretty welcoming and helpful during our stay although their response time varied. I would definitely stay here again if I’m ever in Madrid!
Well, that’s 2 days in Madrid in a nutshell. If you’re traveling here, I hope you enjoy the Spanish capital as much as I did and don’t forget a good pair of walking shoes 😉 !
All photos edited by Caitlyn Cuello.