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Europe City Break – How To Spend A Weekend In Madrid

sun streams through crystal palace at buen retiro park

Madrid is city of culture, history, and delicious food; what more could you ask for?! For a weekend in Madrid, you can see all the key sights of this beautiful Spain city over the course of just a couple of days. Here are my Madrid highlights from a winter city break! 

Day 1 – Depart from London & Explore Plaza Mayor 

We were up at crazy o’clock on a Saturday morning to drive to London Gatwick Airport for our weekend getaway to Madrid, but the early start was worth it for maximising tourist time and for the cheap ticket prices. Europe has plenty of great qualities, but one of my favourites has to be the proximity to and ease to reach other countries. Where else can you fly just a couple of hours and be in an entirely different culture so easily?!

A short two hour flight later with and we were in rainy Spain. Knackered from travelling and it still being early, we grabbed brunch and headed to our Airbnb for the weekend. A great little place to stay, we couldn’t have asked for a better location in the centre by La Latina Metro stop, as we could walk practically anywhere in the central city. An extremely affordable price too, at just £60 for two nights! Our host was busy while we were there, but the independence and freedom was a great chance to get out and explore for ourselves. We enjoyed a delicious spread of tapas at a sweet and authentic feeling restaurant just by Plaza Mayor, and afterwards had a chance to catch a light display in the square, just by chance!

Flight to Madrid

Early flight from London


Day 2 – Exploring El Rastro Market, Soaking up culture at Reina Sofía, & wandering Gran Vía

El Rastro Market

Our main day in the city was also rainy, but before the heavens opened we had a chance to explore the El Rastro market right around the corner. The usual flea market set up, but also there were arts and crafts from local artists and after finally deciding on a few gifts to buy, we wandered around the many beautiful antique stores open too.

It was a relaxing way to start the day and get amongst the locals on a Sunday morning of browsing. And even in a little bit of rain, the courtyard with indoor shops meant we could escape the drizzle and investigate the more unique hidden secrets!

A courtyard in Madrid of small antique

Courtyard & antique shops

Views over a courtyard of antique shops in Madrid

Shops courtyard and tower

Antique shops

Inside the antique shops

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

After feeling pretty accomplished for the day already, we aimed for the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía to explore the massive four storey building filled to the brim with some of the finest artworks on offer. Dalí, Picasso, (in particular, the extraordinary Guernica is housed here), Miró, and other fantastic international and Spanish artists’ works are displayed here. I love spending time in art galleries in new cities as I feel it gives a true sense of the city’s style and character. Madrid is no exception, and the carefully selected works on show here only prove how important art is to the city and nation’s history and culture.

The sheer size of the gallery makes for a tiring day out, and so we decided to grab some lunch there. This is way easier said than done, it took forever to find the restaurant, and once there we realised we were hugely unprepared for the fancy and expensive dishes on offer! Kaz practised his Spanish and ordered the cheapest thing possible while we felt completely on edge and out of place, when they brought over a bucket (yes, a literal bucket) of butter, much to our confusion, which only added to the ordeal. We laughed and joked about it, and it’s become a great story to tell now. So here’s our Madrid top tip: plan ahead if you want to go to the restaurant at the Reina Sofía!


Exploring the gallery


Butter anyone?!

Evening walks & tapas

Back to the room to refresh and relax before an evening out, and before we knew it our tummies were rumbling. We headed out to Puerta del Sol and to Gran Vía to see the main sights nearby such as the Metropolis Building, and Palacio de Cibeles (the old post office) before finding the best thing about Madrid: cheap, delicious food and drinks! El Tigre is somewhere I knew of from a previous visit to Madrid, and it is AMAZING. For just €5 you get your drink of choice (beer, sangria etc.) and with that comes a plate piled high with a variety of tapas! Word on the street had been that you can even get a second plate for lingering long enough, and as luck would have it me being a slow drinker meant that we were gifted two more plates. It more than made up for our pricey and unfulfilling lunch, and what better way to spend an evening than with tasty food, great drinks, and with the best company in a beautiful city?

Rainy Madrid

Rainy smiles!

Crossing in front

Madrid Street

The illuminated Metropolis Building at night in Madrid

Metropolis Building at night

Day 3 – Almudena Cathedral, Buen Retiro Park, & Depart Madrid

Almudena Cathedral & The Royal Palace of Madrid

Our final day in Madrid was what we had been waiting for: SUNSHINE! We packed up our things and left the Airbnb so we’d be prepared for our evening flight, and went full tourist heading to ALL the spots around the city. Through the stunning Plaza Mayor, all the way to the Almudena Cathedral and Royal Palace of Madrid.

From there we took ourselves back to El Tigre for lunch (that deal is just too good to resist) and after a very filling tapas session, enjoyed letting our food go down by relaxing in the beautiful Buen Retiro Park.

Sunny Madrid fountain

Para Gloria de las Artes monument outside the Palacio Real

The royal palace in Madrid in the sunshine

Palacio Real, Madrid

The brightly coloured ceiling design of Madrid's cathedral

Inside the cathedral

Buen Retiro Park & Palacio de Cristal

After sufficiently warming up in the sunshine, we looked around the park and found Palacio de Cristal, a beautiful, hollow building which houses occasional art exhibitions. The one we went to was a sound piece, so not much to really see, which didn’t matter as the glass structure gives you more than enough visual stimulation to see the beautiful park around you. We were glad to have so much spare time to not feel rushed for this day, and it meant we headed off to the airport feeling like we had really utilised our time in Madrid. Unfortunately, an hour delay on the flight meant we didn’t get home until verrrry late, a shame for me as I was working the next day!


Puerta del Sol


Buen Retiro Park


Palacio de Cristal

Inside the Palacio de Cristal in Buen Retiro park, Madrid

Inside Palacio de Cristal

Although it was a very brief visit, we still felt as though we saw plenty of the city and most popular attractions. I loved the mix of outdoor and indoor activities for all weather (we certainly had it all!), my favourites being the art gallery and park as both offer peaceful spaces for reflection and a real break from busy crowds – something that is often needed when I visit cities! I have no doubt that another trip will allow further exploration to some more hidden gems around the city, and especially in the warm months a chance to enjoy some more Spanish sunshine!

Have you visited Madrid? What are your favourite places? Let me know what you’d recommend for next time!

madrid weekend pin

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  • Reply
    04/04/2018 at 7:10 pm

    Great tips! I loved Madrid. My favourite part was the Retiro Park.

    • Reply
      04/04/2018 at 10:25 pm

      It’s a great spot! Perfect for a casual walk and watch the world go by 🙂

  • Reply
    Nerissa Templin
    04/04/2018 at 7:20 pm

    I’m looking at doing quite a few weekend trips to Europe this year, so this is super helpful! Thanks.

    • Reply
      04/04/2018 at 10:24 pm

      Sounds great! Where else are you planning to visit?

  • Reply
    04/04/2018 at 9:06 pm

    I absolutely LOVED Madrid! You have given a great list of things to do over a weekend there!

    • Reply
      04/04/2018 at 10:24 pm

      Me too! It’s such an awesome city 🙂 Thanks so much!

  • Reply
    04/04/2018 at 11:54 pm

    Ahhhh, Spain! I have never been, but it is on my list! Madrid looks so beautiful!

    • Reply
      04/06/2018 at 6:38 pm

      I wish I could see more because it’s got so many awesome things to offer! Hope you can visit sometime soon 🙂

  • Reply
    Planes, Trains and Champagne
    04/05/2018 at 12:04 am

    What a perfect weekend in Madrid! I went two years ago and it was amazing! I loved retiro park and palacio de Cristal! Beautiful city!!!

    • Reply
      04/06/2018 at 6:39 pm

      It certainly is a beautiful place! I was nervous that winter wouldn’t have the same feel as a summer trip but I was totally wrong!

  • Reply
    Jewels Rhode
    04/05/2018 at 12:11 am

    This convinced me to put Madrid even higher on my travel list. Looks like a beautiful city. You sure did maximize your time!

    • Reply
      04/06/2018 at 6:39 pm

      I’m really glad! It’s definitely worth a visit, and easy to fit in all the sights!

  • Reply
    Two Worlds Treasures Umiko Buhl
    04/05/2018 at 3:03 am

    I haven’t been to Madrid but it sounded a great place for having a short weekend getaway. The Palacio de Cristal looks really crystal clear. 🙂

    • Reply
      04/06/2018 at 6:40 pm

      It’s such a cool building, I thought it was a greenhouse at first!

  • Reply
    04/05/2018 at 3:54 am

    Madrid is my favorite place with all majestic buildings and vibrant streets. You have quite a lot of things on weekend, though it was rainy. Loved the vibrant Buen Retiro park pictures.

    • Reply
      04/06/2018 at 6:41 pm

      I completely agree, the architecture is so beautiful every street feels photo-worthy! Thanks very much 🙂

  • Reply
    04/05/2018 at 4:35 pm

    Never considered visiting Madrid outside of summer, great inspiration thanks

    • Reply
      04/06/2018 at 6:42 pm

      I hadn’t either! We got lucky with our last day of weather, otherwise it’d have been a shame to miss out on the city in all its glory!

  • Reply
    04/05/2018 at 4:36 pm

    Great tips, never thought of visiting Madrid in winter before, thanks for sharing

  • Reply
    04/05/2018 at 10:40 pm

    I spent a long weekend in Madrid last year in June and I had a blast. So many things to do and see. Probably one of my favorite Spanish cities.

    • Reply
      04/06/2018 at 6:43 pm

      June must have been sooo beautiful! Where else have you visited in Spain?

  • Reply
    Diana Chen
    04/06/2018 at 2:20 am

    El Tigre sounds amazing – I’m definitely bookmarking that for next time I’m in Madrid! I remember seeing the Palacio de Cristal but didn’t even know there were art exhibits inside! I had no idea what the building was used for. I was only in Madrid for a day, which gave me enough time to take a free walking tour of the city and see the main sights, but I’d love to go back and experience it more!

    • Reply
      04/06/2018 at 6:45 pm

      It’s seriously tasty food there (I think it all is though!). That sounds like a really great way to see a lot in a short amount of time! I always find that the more you explore cities like this the more you uncover to explore!

  • Reply
    Ana -
    04/07/2018 at 4:09 pm

    Oh I loved Madrid so much! Even more than Barcelona (yup I fall in that category) it’s such an amazing city and so many things to do and see. Did you go to San Miguel Market also? The tapas there.. mhm mhm mhm. You should check my blog for my 8 things to do in Madrid. Found some amazing places to go! If you plan to visit again (and you should) check it out 🙂

    • Reply
      04/07/2018 at 8:24 pm

      Me too! No we didn’t but you’ve got me sold with the mention of tapas, definitely heading there next time! Thanks that sounds great I’ll definitely check it out!

  • Reply
    07/19/2018 at 8:10 pm

    Definitely going to visit El Tigre! Sounds great 🙂

    • Reply
      07/19/2018 at 9:43 pm

      I’d highly recommend it! You’ll be well fed and watered for sure ?

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