Madrid is the perfect weekend trip if you’re looking for somewhere with variety. The weather is fantastic, the streets are filled with tourists and locals, and there’s so much to do in this vibrant city you’ll be spoilt for choice.
My recommendation if you’re going for a short trip to Madrid and want to see all the sights, is to get a weekend pass on a hop-on hop-off tour bus. There are two lines in Madrid, and cover the entire city, stopping at all the interesting sights like the Royal Palace (pictured above), and Puerta de Alcala (pictured below). You can get on and off the bus as you please, allowing you to see everything over a short period of time. A two day adult pass on the Madrid City Tour costs only 25 Euros, and makes travelling around the city a lot more convenient.
A weekend is nowhere near enough time to visit all the museums and tourist attractions, so do some research in advance and figure out what places you want to see. As the weather was so great when I visited, I decided to forego the museums, and opt for spending as much time outdoors as possible. Here were some of my favourites:
Where to stay:
As a popular capital city with thousands of daily visitors, picking a hotel is not easy. You’ll be spoilt for choice, especially when it comes to luxury accommodation in the city centre. I wanted to be close enough to all the major hotspots to avoid having to travel too far, but I also didn’t want to be in a noisy area as this was also meant to be a relaxing family break. I chose the area of Salamanca, known for it’s luxury high-end retailers and up-market properties. It’s close enough to the city (10 minutes on the hop-on hop-off bus), but offers the quiet relaxation of a luxurious neighbourhood. The hotel I stayed at was the NH Madrid Principe de Vergara, a four star hotel with all the elegance and simplicity of the NH chain. The room was spacious and offered everything you need, and the amenities were better than expected. However, the best thing about this hotel for me was the quality of breakfast; incredible variety including healthy and gluten-free options that you don’t find in most hotels. I’d recommend this hotel to anyone staying in Madrid and wanting to enjoy a relaxing city break.
Where to eat:
You cannot visit Madrid without experiencing the Mercado de San Miguel, the most traditional and historic food market in Madrid. This isn’t your average food market, let me assure you of that. The market, open every day until after midnight, offers an incredible culinary experience for visitors wanting a taste of Spanish cooking. Here you’ll find everything from traditional tapas including fried calamari, tortilla, octopus, and croquettes to freshly made paellas, caviar, oysters, cheeses and cured meats from all over the country. Then we get onto the deserts; everything from churros to macaroons, cakes and tarts, you name it! It’s impossible to describe this market without visiting it as it truly is a feast for the eyes and the stomach so make sure you don’t miss out on this experience.
For all the meat lovers, one of the best meat restaurants in Madrid has got to be Asador Donostiarra, a traditional Spanish restaurant with a fantastic atmosphere and incredible food. I’d recommend starting with a selection of Spanish starters such as Iberian cured ham, baby fried squid, Donosti scrambled eggs, grilled chorizo, manchego cheese and padron peppers. These are great for sharing and getting a taste of the traditional Spanish flavours. However, the main course can only be the ‘Chuleta de Ternera’, in other words the entrecote to share. The beauty of this dish is that you finish cooking it at your table. The meat arrives at your table in slices, simply seared and raw in the middle, accompanied by a hot plate. The waiter then melts some of the fat from the meat onto the hot plate and you simply finish cooking your meat on the plate to your liking. Not only is this quite a fun way to enjoy a meal, but the quality of the meat is incredible, and everyone can enjoy it to their liking, whether they prefer their meat rare, medium or well done. I really had no room left for dessert after all this, but this is such a great family run restaurant, they bring you a lemon champagne sorbet accompanied by two bottles of digestive liquor, biscuits and chocolates, all on the house!
During the day, I recommend taking a trip to Plaza Mayor and enjoying some food at the many tapas places around there. The custom here is to have a drink and a plate of tapas, then head on over to the next place for another drink and a snack. I couldn’t resist and ended up having too much at the same place and wasn’t hungry to try anything else. I enjoyed some Sangria, Calamari, Serrano ham and octopus. Delicious!
Where to shop:
The neighbourhood of Salamanca is where all the up-scale brands are like Armani, Versace, Hugo Boss etc. so is really a great shopping experience if you like luxury brands. I highly recommend visiting a small shopping centre in Salamanca called ABC Serrano, where you’ll find some unusual boutique style shops in a really beautiful traditional building.
If high-end shopping is not your thing, head over to Gran Via for some familiar high-street brands. The best thing about shopping in Madrid’s high street is that the familiar brands we’re all used to, like Zara, Mango, Bershka and Stradivarius, seem to have much more variety than you find outside of Spain and even more affordable prices!
This is just the start of what you can do in two days in Madrid, this vibrant city has so much to offer you’ll never get bored! Let me know if you’ve been to Madrid and what you got up to during your stay, I’d love to go again and try something new.