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!
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!
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!
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?
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.
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!
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!