Madrid’s stunning architecture, mouthwatering tapas and vibrant nightlife make for an excitement-filled weekend of fun. With a budding hipster scene and plenty of art, fashion and shopping, the city's voracious energy is contagious. However, it’s not very Mediterranean to rush, so here’s how to enjoy 48 hours in Spain's capital like a local.
9:30 AM - BREAKFAST AT CHOCOLATERIA SAN GINES
PASADIZO SAN GINES, 5
Keep in mind that the Spanish day starts off later than most, and even at 9:30, the streets will be decidedly empty. Don’t worry if your jet lag combined with the Spanish tradition of blackout shades keep you snoozing until 10. Once up, start the day off right with a local breakfast of chocolate y churros. These delicious fried sticks of dough aren't great for your waistline, but dipping them into steaming hot mugs of thick, gooey chocolate is heaven, so who cares!
10:30 AM - PLAZA MAYOR
JUST OFF CALLE MAYOR
Burn off that decadent breakfast with a brisk walk through Madrid’s main square, the Puerta del Sol, and down to one of Madrid’s most impressive plazas, The Plaza Mayor. The square features three-story buildings with 237 balconies, dates back to 1577 and has been the location of markets, bullfights, football games and even public executions during the time of the Spanish Inquisition. Nowadays, it’s a sunny spot to snap some photos, but pass on food or shopping as it’s a bit of a tourist trap.
11:00 AM - MERCADO DE SAN MIGUEL
PLAZA DE SAN MIGUEL, S/N
In typical Spanish fashion, it’s time a morning caña, or little beer break (yes, drinking before noon is 100% acceptable and in fact, encouraged). Pop into the Mercado de San Miguel for a glance at fresh cheeses, cured meats, crispy fried sardines and other tapas delights and enjoy wandering the market to get a feel for the Spanish cuisine and culture.
11:45 AM - ALMUDENA CATHEDRAL & ROYAL PALACE
CALLE DE BAILÉN, S/N
Head back down Calle Mayor toward Madrid’s Almudena Cathedral and Royal Palace. Completed in 1755, the 3418 room palace claims the title of Europe’s largest palace by floor area. Those on a budget can skip the 10 euro entrance fee to enjoy the white marbled statues out front and the perfectly-manicured labyrinths of the Sabatini gardens.
2 PM - LUNCH AT LATERAL
PLAZA SANTA ANA, 12
Lunch in Spain is eaten late, especially on weekends — and is often the largest meal of the day. While restaurants typically open for the midday meal around 1 pm, it’s not uncommon to see locals rolling in around 3:30 or 4 pm. Lateral's specialty is tostas: various tapas perched atop toasted baguette slices. Sit outside if possible, and order the salmon with brie, goat cheese with red pepper and juicy pork with caramelized onions. Wash them down with glass of the house wine, LAN Rioja. An optional siesta is to follow, of course.
4:30 PM - TELEFERICO DE MADRID
PASEO DE PINTOR ROSALES, S/N
The Teleferico, Madrid's cable car, is a wonderful way to see sparkling city from up above. The ride goes from Casa de Campo, Madrid’s biggest green space to Templo de Bod, a park encasing an ancient Egyptian temple. The trip takes only 11 minutes each way so you can hop off to enjoy a nature break before returning to the urban jungle.
6:30 PM - SUNSET AT CÍRCULO DE BELLAS ARTES ROOFTOP
CALLE DE ALCALÁ, 42
Madrid boasts magical sunsets, and the absolute best place to catch one is from the roof of the Circulo de Bellas Artes building with panoramic views of the city. You can see Madrid’s most famous street, Gran Via, the Retiro Park, the Atocha train station, the four famous skyscrapers and even the snow-capped Sierra de Guadarrama mountains on the outskirts of town. Plan your trip accordingly, as winter sunsets occur around 6 pm, while summertime is closer to 10 pm.
9:30 PM - DINNER AT AMARGO
CALLE PEZ, 2
Keeping with the late eating schedule, dinner can start as early as 9 PM, but 10 PM is more common. Head downstairs to the trendy cave-like basement of Amargo, where they serve ceviche out of fish bowls and the wine flows like water. Located in the hip Triball neighborhood, this is one of the best spots to enjoy delectable Spanish gourmet cuisine in a cool ambiance. Consult their website as there are often live musical performances. Reservations are recommended.
11 PM - DRINKS AT DRY BAR 1862
Calle Pez 27
Though perhaps a bit late, the gin tonic has arrived in Madrid and is wildly popular. The best spot to sip one is at 1862 Dry Bar, which has hundreds of top shelf bottles stashed in the basement. Friendly bartenders will help you select the perfect cocktail for your mood as you admire the electric clientele set.
9:30 AM - MAMA FRAMBOISE
CALLE DE FERNANDO VI, 23
Be prepared to drool over the most decadent, exquisite pastries you've ever tasted. Deciding what to order may just be the toughest part of your day...an almond croissant? Violet macaron? Crumbling apple tart? Pair your sweets with a steaming cafe con leche or one of the many Harley and Sons teas on offer.
10:30 AM - MUSEO DEL PRADO
PASEO DEL PRADO S/N
No trip to Madrid would be complete without a visit to one of the most famous art museums in the world, the Prado. Featuring art from the 12th century through the early 19th century, head straight for the famous Francisco Goya and Diego Velázquez section and don't miss the famous Garden of Earthly Delights, showcasing all of life's temptations. (Bosch, 14th century).
12:30 PM - PARQUE DEL BUEN RETIRO
PLAZA DE INDEPENDENCIA, 7
The Retiro is a relaxing, regal escape from the hustle and bustle of Madrid's streets. You could spend all day in the park taking a yoga or boxing class or renting bikes and having a picnic. Make sure you visit the lake (row around if time permits) and the Crystal Palace, a building made entirely of glass that showcases modern art exhibitions.
2:30 PM - LUNCH AT MARICASTAÑA
CALLE CORREDERA BAJA DE SAN PABLO,12
Yummy bites in a trendy setting, on weekdays, you can enjoy daily a lunch special which includes a drink, appetizer, entree, and dessert for under $14. Although everything on the menu is fabulous, the duck confit drizzled in apple, pear and wine tops the list.
4 PM - REINA SOFIA MUSEUM
CALLE DE SANTA ISABEL, 52
Two art museums in one day may sound excessive, but the modern art at the Reina Sofia is completely different than the Prado's classic collection. You don't need to spend hours here, but make sure to see the Dali, Picasso and Miro sections. La Guernica, Picasso's masterpiece depicting the civil war is one of the most iconic and mesmerizing paintings in all of Spain.
6 PM - SHOP YOUR HEART OUT
CALLE ALMIRANTE OR CALLE VELARDE
While there's always Zara or Mango, coming back with an original find is even better. Check out some of the higher end shops along Calle Almirante such as Bel Air or Sita Murt for one-of-a-kind Spanish clothing and accessories. Head over to the funkier Calle Velarde if you'd prefer to shop second-hand, while great finds for both men and women can almost always be had at La Mona Checa, Williamsburg and Magpie vintage shops.
8 PM - COCKTAILS MERCADO DE SAN ANTON
CALLE DE AUGUSTO FIGUEROA, 24
This three-floor market is perfect for pre-dinner drinks and a snack. On the first floor, you'll find gourmet items to take home, while the second floor offers Spanish, Greek and Italian tapas to sample, and the third floor consists of a sexy outdoor terrace with a full-service restaurant.
10 PM - DINNER AT LE COCO
CALLE BARBIERI, 15
A quirky, eclectic local gem, if you are starving, try the oxtail lasagna for a hearty and savory meal. Save room for dessert, though, as the selection of home-baked cakes and tarts is extensive. Reservations are recommended.
11:30 PM - PLATEA
CALLE DE GOYA 5-7
Enjoy a nightcap at Platea, which was once a theatre and now offers four floors of musical entertainment, dancing and acrobatics. The higher you go, the more elaborate it gets, the perfect spot to end out your time in Madrid.
WHERE TO STAY: ONLY YOU MADRID
CALLE DE BARQUILLO, 21
This intricate boutique hotel was once a former palace, and its old-world grandeur combined with sleek, modern interiors designed by Lázaro Rosa Violán make it a magical place to stay. Located at the edge of the cool Chueca neighborhood, the Only You has a trendy, underground ambiance that makes it perfect for visitors hoping to get a more local feel of the city.