Madrid is easily one of the most beautiful, well laid out, and cleanest cities I have ever been to. While of course there are some typical tiny European feeling allies, a great bit of the city is made up of massive streets, many filled with billboards reminiscent of Times Square. The Spanish charm however, is impossible to miss. And the food was absolutely delicious. Here is, in my opinion, the perfect 2 day itinerary for everything you must see in Madrid. And if you want to see how I didn’t stick to my own itinerary, read here.
Most flights from the U.S. will have you arriving in the morning, which I think is the perfect way to hit the ground running. After checking into your airbnb, hostel, or hotel (pinkies up) a typical Spanish breakfast should be next on your to-do list!
I ate at this small cafe called Taberna Rincon de Reyes just one block off Gran via near the Plaza de España stop. Nothing fancy, but most delicious coffee I’ve ever had (and I’m not a coffee drinker so this is saying something). Ironically it was Italian Roast, but so good whether you get “cafe con leche” like I did or “cafe solo.” I loved how quaint this place was, but anywhere you go, anywhere in Spain, GET A TOSTADA. My favorite was Tostada con jamon iberico –especially delicious in Madrid. They even have “museums” dedicated to ham! Not a bad choice for lunch either.
Once you’re caffeinated and well fed, it’s time to be a tourist. If you do make it to Rincon de Reyes, Templo de Debod is a short walk away, and such an awesome place to see. It was moved out of Egypt to be preserved in the middle of Madrid and is like nothing you would expect. The surrounding park is equally beautiful and there are some great views of the city.
Next hit up Palacio Real and get a perfect first day in Madrid instagram. Naturally the palace is beautiful, but the displays inside make it really worth it. Unfortunately the King and Queen no longer live here, but all official business is still done at the palace. You can take the metro, but honestly the tourist locations are centralized enough that you can walk everywhere. And take in the city streets while you’re at it.
By this time you’ll probably be hungry again and it can be difficult to find somewhere to eat between 2-5 since it’s typical siesta time. 100 Montaditos is a chain that is always open. And ya I know chain restaurant in Spain doesn’t sound great. BUT, it’s delicious! And popular with locals. I attribute some of the popularity to the 1,50 euro jarros of “tinto de verano.” Another must get, so refreshing in the Madrid sun.
After enough “montaditos,” (i.e., tiny sandwiches and patatas), and of course a few jarras you will want to have a small siesta. When in Madrid #amiright? Don’t make it too long, as I have learned the Spanish nights are even longer than Spanish days!
Once you have gotten yourself together, it’s a great time to see Plaza Mayor. This is the central plaza of Madrid and it’s always full of street performers, tourists, and locals alike. It’s a fun place to hang out, window shop, and scoop up some souvenirs. Most of the restaurants here are a little overpriced, but there is one that you can’t miss.
My cousin that has lived in Madrid for 10 years now, very casually recommended this restaurant. Botin is right off of Plaza Mayor. It wasn’t until we were leaving that we came to find out, IT’S THE OLDEST OPERATING RESTAURANT IN THE WORLD. And it’s very obvious why, the food was amazing. Easily one of my favorite meals. And the perfect atmosphere for simultaneously pigging out (literally, order the cochinillo) and getting lit, in a very classy way. It can be a little pricey, but you saved money eating at 100 montaditos remember??
After this, head over to Joy Nightclub. This was recommended to me by fellow travelers. Just make sure that you have a good pregame, the drinks are pricey. Luckily you’ve napped because the club closes at 6 a.m.
Start the morning by curing your hangover with another tostada and coffee! Then head over to Parque del Retiro for a relaxing morning. Do the row boats! Have some ice cream, play Pokemon go! As you will see all the locals doing. This park is beautiful and full of perfectly trimmed trees and and pretty gardens. During the summer Madrid is HOT so going before noon will keep you from sweating.
And don’t forget to check out Palacio de Cristal that is within the park, free, and pretty freaking cool. It’s entirely made of glass and contains some modern art exhibits.
This would be a good time for a lunch break. Near the park is a restaurant called Bodeguilla de los Rotos go there to eat “huevos rotos.” A.k.a. scrambled eggs with the option of basically anything you can think of mixed in.
From there you can walk to Reina Sofia or El Prado, two big art modern art museums close by. I chose Reina Sofia because, hello, that’s my name too. And it has the giant Picasso painting “Guernica.” If you love art, do both! And then take another siesta.
When you have recouped you will need to check out Puerta del Sol. Another plaza with tons of street performers and billboards. And of course the symbol of Madrid, the statue of the bear and the strawberry tree! There are also a lot of bars nearby, many serving tinto de verano. Try to find some good paella, and when you do, let me know!
You can always check out another club, OR find a botellon. There is almost always a festival going on (we happened to find one in lavapies). You can find out from any local. But even when there isn’t, botellons are common, no reason required. People are always congregating in public areas to drink and socialize so keep your eyes peeled and make some new friends.
Did I miss anything? Find a video version of our trip here.
Hi, I recognize those Madrid pictures. You must be having a good time there. You graduated from PSU, do you mean Portland State Univ.? My daughter graduated from UP. Her first two years of job hunting was hard. She then worked for AmeriCorp for one year, then two part-time jobs for another year before she got a full time job. It looks like you’re applying grad school? Wishing you all the best for your journey ahead.
I just recently got back from vacation, so I’m just wishing I was still there hehe.
I actually graduated from Penn State, I’m so used to everyone around me having the immediate association oops! But, yeah, currently in the brutal application process. Thank you so much!
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My daughter sent out lot of applications. She told me about one response that said, you are one of the 200 applicants for this job…. It seems like you’ll never get there, but….. wishing your dreams come true…
Omgosh! It is such a process, but I really appreciate your kind thoughts.
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