Last Updated on 26/08/2019 by secretmoona
Located at the heart of the Iberian Peninsula, Madrid is not only the capital of Spain but a cultural hub. It is a vibrant city with stunning architecture, great shopping and delicious tapas but more important it is the ideal destination for art lovers. With the abundance of things to do and see in the city, planning the perfect weekend break in Madrid might prove difficult but hopefully, you will find this article useful.
Let’s get started on our Weekend break in Madrid.
Planning your trip to Madrid
When to visit Madrid?
The best time to visit Madrid would be in spring or autumn. Madrid can be extremely hot in summer (temperatures are around 35 ° C.) and very cold in winter.
How long to stay in Madrid?
Madrid is a liveable city with lots of cultural and sociable activities. Therefore it is ideal for a weekend or a short stay. Alternatively, you can extend your stay and spend few days in Seville.
On foot: You can easily walk to most places in Madrid. Actually walking is the best way to explore the city.
By Bus or Metro: Madrid has one of the cheapest, best and thorough transport system.
Where to stay in Madrid
Choosing where to stay is an essential part of creating the perfect trip, especially when planning a weekend break. You want to find an accommodation that’s centrally located, close to transport and making it easy to get to the main attractions. That’s why the two hotels I booked in Gran Via were perfect regarding location.
Hotel Madrid Centro managed by Melia
Hotel Madrid Centro managed by Melia is located on the east side of Gran Via. The hotel is decorated only with an emphasis on contemporary decor. Since the lobby is quite small, the hotel took great care in decorating the breakout area, creating a welcoming and cosy feeling. Despite facing on the busy Gran Via, the room was quiet.
Calle Gran Vía, 72, 28013 Madrid – Standard rooms around £85
Hotel Madrid Gran Vía 25, managed by Meliá
The second hotel was Hotel Madrid Gran Vía 25, managed by Meliá. The prime benefit of this hotel is its excellent location. Situated just by Gran Via station, it makes it easy to get anywhere (on foot, by bus, metro or taxi) Everything is literally at the foot of the hotel.
Gran Vía, 25, Madrid City Centre, 28013 Madrid – Standard rooms around £90
What to do during your weekend break in Madrid
If you have read some of my previous articles, you will be aware that I like to walk. Madrid is a great city for walkers as most of the places of interest are within walking distance. The city is full of hidden gems that shouldn’t be missed and the best way to discover them is on foot. With my camera and (tourist) map of Madrid in hand, I was off to explore the Spanish capital. Here are some of the things you can do during your two days in Madrid.
Madrid is a vibrant city with grand architecture, great shopping and delicious tapas
Puerta del Sol
Probably the busiest plaza in Madrid, Puerta del Sol (Spanish for “Gate of the Sun”) dates back in the 15th century. Pass by the tourists to admire the architecture, graze at the famous Bear and Strawberry Tree Statue (el oso y el madroño) and take a picture at Km 0, a plaque symbolising the centre of Spain. The area is filled with shops, restaurants and is where all the street performances are happening,
Puerta del Sol, Madrid, Spain
The Plaza Mayor is the central plaza in Madrid and has been the theatre of multitude event. This rectangular-shaped plaza is surrounded by amazing three storey residential buildings with 237 balconies (all facing the plaza). It’s no wonder it’s one of the most visited plazas! The square houses a statue of King Felipe as well as many restaurants filled by tourists despite the expensive price tags.
Plaza Mayor, 28012 Madrid
Where else can you get the best of the Spanish fashion? The answer is Gran Via: the answer to London’s Oxford Street. With big high streets brands like Mango, Zara or Massimo Dutti, the Spanish capital is the perfect place to change your wardrobe. The boulevard is also known as the “Spanish Broadway”, due to a good number of theatres like the Lion King.
While wandering through Gran Via, to protect yourself from the scorching sun, you can pop over to the top floor of El Corte Inglés. This food hall has incredible views over the city.
Gran Via, Madrid, Spain
El Retiro Park
Parque del Buen Retiro is one of Madrid’s must-see attractions. The park used to be a retreat for the Royal Family. Now, it’s enjoyed by locals and tourists since it makes for the perfect afternoon stop or even a day out with several gardens, monuments, exhibitions and a lake to explore. You can rent a boat and paddle for a couple of euros. Don’t forget to stop and admire the Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) an amazing building made of metal and glass.
Parque del Retiro, Plaza de la Independencia 7, Madrid
With more than 50 museums, Madrid is the cultural capital of Spain. Staying only 48 hours in Madrid might not be enough to visit all of them but visiting the Museo Nacional del Prado is highly recommended. With the most collection of Spanish paintings in the world, the national art museum will not disappoint.
Paseo del Prado (s/n) Banco de España. Hours & Prices: Monday – Saturday, 10:00 – 20:00; Sundays and bank holidays, 10:00 – 19:00. General entry 14€; free entry daily during the last two hours before closing.
Madrid has a beautiful architecture that can be enjoyed while wandering through the streets. Don’t forget to wear comfy walking shoes though! With so many restaurants, bars, galleries, shops and charming balconies, you will have lots to check out and see.
Looking for non touristy things to do in Madrid?
What to eat in Madrid
No trip to Madrid would be complete with a taste of churros and tapas. Chocolate con churros are enjoyed at any time of the day; delicious as a mid-morning or late evening snack. For the crispiest churros and creamier hot chocolate, head to Chocolatería San Ginés.
Mercado de San Miguel
Not far from the Plaza Mayor and its expensive restaurants is Mercado de San Miguel. Head there for a taste of Iberian food from seafood to cheese and fruits galore. Tourists flock this market for the food and also to admire the architecture (the carved wood and industrial style lighting give it a distinctive look). The market was renovated in 2009 into a gourmet tapas food hall. The covered market is trendy, especially with tourists so a must-see during your two days in Madrid. The market is a heaven for foodie so go there slightly before lunchtime to be able to grab the best seats. Feast on gourmet tapas and Spanish drinks. Try gambas al ajillo (garlic prawns) or any costs de cosas de picar (things to pick). If you can’t get a seat, you can catch your tapas/food to eat in the nearby park.
Plaza de San Miguel, s/n, 28005 Madrid – Sun-Wed 10am-midnight, Thurs-Sat 10am-2am
Go for tapas in La Latina
Tapas are a synonym of Spanish food. To have a taste of tapas in the most traditional setting, head to La Latina. Calle Cava Baja, lined with bars an restaurants is the street where locals and move from bars to bars.
Barrio de La Latina, Madrid, Spain
Mercado de Anton
Another worth market visit is Mercado de San Antón. This market is more visited by the locals and prices are friendlier. It has more of a food court vibe than a traditional market. The first floor is aligned with restaurants. You can grab little tapas dishes from various shops and eat at the high tables. Alternatively, you can head to the top restaurant to enjoy the view if the city, especially around sunset.
Calle de Augusto Figueroa, 24B, 28004 Madrid – Mon-Sat 10am-10pm; Sun 10am-3pm
Madrid was a lovely surprise. The city reminded me of a very laid back Paris with a very authentic Spanish feel to it. Are you planning a weekend break in Madrid or you have already been?
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23 thoughts on “How to spend a weekend break in Madrid”
Haha, I totally could have used this post when I was in Madrid. I was so clueless! Didn’t even see Puerta del Sol…
Thanks for reading Annemarie, I missed a bit too. A good reason to go back! 😉
We love southern Europe, this is great for planning a longer holiday in Spain!
I love Madrid and really enjoyed this guide. Infact I think I’ll be taking it with me next time I visit. A great informative read with lovely photography!
I love Madrid, though I have only been once and my camera got stolen… It’s somewhere I want to go back to. I really want to explore Parque del Buen Retiro more, it was a little too cold when I was there. I also didn’t realise just how many museums there were in Madrid.
I couldn’t have been able to write Madrid in a better way. Great recommendations.
There is a huge ‘flea’ market on a Sunday that goes on for miles thats worth exploring too. I can’t remember the location but it’s not far from Gran Via I think.
Thanks Louise. I will have a look as I am planning to return soon and I live flea markets!
Love this post, great to know! My partner went to Madrid for a work event and managed to try some amazing places to eat but didn’t see much of the city, so we plan to go back together soon!
Great tips as always! The Prado is one of my favourite museums. Madrid on a sunny winter’s day is my idea of travel perfection! Such a special city.
How lovely! It looks like you had a beautiful weekend in Madrid! I especially like Parque del Buen Retiro. I think I would send forever there.
I haven’t been to Madrid yet, but it seems like such a great city to explore and get lost in. El Retiro Park looks gorgeous as are all the colourful buildings. Thanks for all the visual inspiration!
These pictures remind me of the metropolitan area of Barcelona. Are they pretty similar cities? Obviously besides not having a beach.
The city plaza, museums, shopping and food – this is the perfect way to spend a weekend in Madrid. Your guide is so detailed, I’ll definitely keep this in mind whenever I plan to visit Madrid. Great post.
Madrid looks like such a amazing city to visit! I love the look of its old colourful houses and El Retiro Park seems beautiful, I really can’t wait to explore more of Spain on my future travels 🙂
Great recommendations, Madrid has lot to offer and is ideal for even a city break!
Thanks for sharing, I will keep this post for my next trip to Madrid
Thank you Mohamed, I am happy to hear that! Happy travel!
Love all the beautiful photos of Madrid! I was there nearly 20 years ago, but it’s still just as beautiful and fascinating now, by the looks of it. Thanks for sharing!
Madrid is one of those cities we like to pick a few things to do on each visit. Your post has given me some ideas for our next visit. We love exploring the plazas and taking in the vibe around us. But we will have to plan a visit to the Parque del Buen Retiro for a relaxing day. Maybe even take a boat out for a bit.
Retro is excellent and great for a half or full day. There are so much things to do there! Hope you visit soon.
Love Madrid, it is such a great city. We did a food tour when we there a few years ago and it was epic. Learnt so much about the city and the cuisine. Plus it was super tasty!
I have not tried out the food tour yet but the few times I went to the city, I made sure to hit the food markets.