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Best of Madrid in 2 days (or 3)!

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Madrid was the last stop on our first Europe Trip, and what better place to have the closing ceremony to our dream extravaganza than the Spanish capital itself? So here’s my endeavor to bring to you the best of what to do in Madrid in 2 days.
We planned to stay in Madrid for three days, which included a day-trip to Toledo, so essentially we had just two days to explore Madrid (given that we reached our hotel in the afternoon). Many people who have been to Madrid say that there is nothing to do beyond the palace, well what can I say? Either their expectations are way beyond my humble standards or maybe they didn’t know what to explore. Go through my story and decide for yourself.

Madrid in 2 Days – Day 1 itinerary

Plan: Madrid Palace, Almudena Cathedral, Royal Monastery, West Park, Temple of Debod, Plaza de Mayor

This is what we covered on day 1 after we left our hotel at 4 pm. Did someone say there is nothing to see in Madrid? We honestly didn’t love the hotel as much as the others in Europe as you might have read in our Euro-trip review. What we loved, as usual, was the helpful staff at IBIS and the location. It stands near the metro station with some open-air eateries nearby and the much-needed Carrefour for the budget-conscious travelers. We had bought a 3-day transport pass from Madrid central railway station which made our intra-city transport free.

Madrid Palace

We took a metro to Opera Station from where Madrid Palace is just a 5 minutes walk. All other places we had on our list for the day were walkable. Spanning 135,000 square meters with 3418 rooms, Madrid Palace is the largest palace in the world. It is the official residence of the royal family, although, is now used only for ceremonial purposes. The palace was love at first sight – the pristine white building with a vast courtyard overlooking the country-side and the mountains located far away is hard not to fall for. The entry ticket is 11 Euros (14 euros for a guided tour) but you don’t need a ticket if you just want to stroll around and take this kind of pictures.
The Royal Palace of Madrid, called Palacio Real in Spanish replaced the medieval Alcazar which was burnt to dust in the 18th century. It was built over 100 years by the four architects, Filippo Juvarra being the first. King Charles III was the first to reside in this architectural marvel.
We did buy a ticket and enter the palace, and while we witnessed the grandeur of the monument inside, we wondered how much of the wealth must have come from the former colonies. Well, we don’t know the answer, but what exists now is an unbelievable spectacle. We walked into the ornate halls,  the lavish dining rooms, the throne room, and the other residential areas. Photography is prohibited inside many of the private rooms so I can share only those which we were allowed to take.
View from Madrid Palace courtyard | Best of Madrid in 2 days
Amazing view from the courtyard of the Palace
Madrid in 2 days | Madrid Palace
The promenade in front of the Palace .. yaa I look rather stupid here

Madrid in 2 days | Madrid Palace

A travelogue of Madrid won’t be complete without the mention of these fabulous musicians who are kind enough to entertain us for free, near the Palace , at the public squares and at the metro stations.

Almudena Cathedral

Right across the grand palace stands the Cathedral of the Virgin of Almudena, the Catholic church of Spain. When the capital of Spain was transferred from Toledo to Madrid in the 16th century, the seat of the Catholic Church still remained in Toledo. Although the plans of this church in Madrid were in place since then, the expansion and administration of the Spanish Empire were prioritized and the construction of the Cathedral finally began in 1879 (Source). While entry to the church is free, you are expected to drop minimum 1 Euro per person in the donation box. There’s no reason to miss this picturesque temple (yes, it was referred to as a temple on the board near the donation box) when you are at the Madrid Palace.
Madrid in 2 days | Almudena Cathedral

Royal Monastery of Incarnation

Founded by the Queen of Austria, this was built adjacent to the former Alcazar (now the Royal Palace). It had a passageway only for the Royals directly connecting to the palace. A part of the monastery is now an art museum and the other part is a beautiful Baroque church. It is an 8-minute walk from the palace, although if you have taken a tour inside the entire palace, by this time you would have already walked long enough for sore feet. As much as we love architecture, you may understand that on our last lap of the Europe trip, by now we were done with art museums and churches, so we went directly to the West Park

West Park and the Temple of Debod

The West Park, about 2.5 km from the palace is not just the most charming park I have seen, but also historically significant. Spanning over 100 hectares, the park is dotted with events of history.The trenches and bunkers made during the Spanish Civil War and the site of the two-day siege of the military barracks on 18-20 July 1936. At this site stands the Temple of Debod, the ancient Egyptian temple from 2nd century BC which was gifted to Spain by the Egyptian government. The picture of the temple was alluring enough to make to our planned itinerary, however, unfortunately, was closed for a few days due to maintenance activities when we went.
Madrid in 2 days | Temple of Debod
This is the Egyptian temple at its best! Unlike others, this one is sourced because I loved the angle. Check out my original click on Instagram

 

Madrid in 2 days | West Park
View from the West Park

This is one of the free- entrance public parks in Madrid where people come in the evening with their family and pets to stroll, run and rewind. We walked around the park looking at the cute puppies, enjoying the scenic beauty and forgetting our sore feet. There are many more important sites in the park which include the cable car, rose garden for annual exhibition, Institute of ceramic technology and many more. Studded with evergreen trees on lush green slopes, the park is famous for its essentially English landscape.

Casa de Campo is the largest park of Madrid and is five times larger than the Central Park in US. When in West Park don’t miss the cable car ride to the Casa de Campo park

Dinner at Plaza Mayor

As the warm sunny day came to a close we walked into the throbbing city center (Main square)at Plaza Mayor. The construction of Plaza Mayor began in 1617 during King Phillip’ III’s reign. If you want to experience Madrid’s culture, food, and lifestyle, this is the place to be. It is the social and cultural hub of Madrid. It is speckled with bakeries, chocolate shops, restaurants, flea market, and live performances. This is where we had our first taste of authentic sea-food paella in a quaint underground restaurant. On our way back we walked to another famous plaza nearby, the Puerto del Sol from where we took a metro back to our hotel.

Have 3 days in Madrid? Take a Day-trip

On the second day, we decided to take a day trip to Spain’s former capital and currently a UNESCO world heritage center, Toledo. We reached Puerto del Sol once again to book our tour tickets. You can check the details of our trip in my post about the walking tour of Toledo. On our way back we bought special cookies and chocolates, and a small cake on our way because it was my birthday! You can also take a day trip to Segovia  or Seville, which are other beautiful historical cities near Madrid. We had a stroll around Plaza de Espana after out day trip
Madrid in 2 days | Plaza de Espana

Day 3 in Madrid – Soak in the city

Our original plan included a trip to Santiago Bernabeu, the stadium of Real Madrid Football Club, but we dropped that off our list. That’s because we had already been to Camp Nou in Barcelona. However, hardcore fans of Real Madrid cannot and should not let go of the chance to visit the home of one of the world’s greatest football clubs. If you are a fan of Real Madrid or Ronaldo you can check out The Real Madrid Story and Christiano Ronaldo’s Biography now available on Amazon. So on our last day in Europe, we woke up a little late, had breakfast and started our lazy tour of the city, with a heavy heart.

The National Archeological Museum in Madrid

Madrid has some outstanding museums for art and history lovers, but by this time we had already been to six museums in the last 14 days. So, while we loved walking in the city, looking at the gorgeous museums, we didn’t enter any of them except the National Archeological Museum. The choice was simple – it was unique, different from anything we have seen so far on our trip, it was about the world and about evolution. The entry fee of 3 Euros seemed peanuts compared to the experience that the museum offered. With four floors each dedicated to an era of history – Prehistoric, Ancient, Medieval and Modern history. There are actual remains excavated from sites of Spain and North Africa which are preserved in the museum and 3-D videos explaining each of the exhibits. In our 2-hour trip to the museum, we could only cover the pre-historic and ancient history.
We came back to this museum again in the evening just to rush through all four floors and like taking a roller-coaster ride through thousands of years of human history before the museum closed. Note that the tickets that you buy are valid for the entire day, irrespective of how many times you want to enter and exit. For me, this tour was special and ranks at par with my Louvre experience. Yes, it’s a very personal choice, and it’s biased simply because it was so different, but trust me you would love this (even if not as much as the Louvre, it’s like comparing apples and oranges anyway).
Madrid in 2 days | Museum of Archeology
Other important places within a distance of 4km from here are the National Library(the archeological museum is just behind this) and the Golden Triangle of Art formed by the three great art museums of Madrid – Museo Del Prado, Museo Thyssen, and Reina Sofia museum. The walking tour map below shows all these spots and has the places we visited highlighted.
Madrid in 2 days | Museum Walking tour map

Puerta del Alcala

The gate of Alcala is regarded as the first such victory arch built in Europe in the post-Roman era. It is older than the iconic Arc De Triompe in Paris. It stands in the beautiful Independence Plaza, another public square, which is, at the center of Madrid’s museum map.
Madrid in 2 days | Alcala Gate

El Retiro Park

Just beside the Alcala gate is arguably the most beautiful park in Madrid – the Retiro Park. This green oasis spread over 125 hectares also has some spectacular monuments, statues, and an artificial lake. You can see artists painting at the corners and live performances by street dancers. The delightful scenes bring flashbacks of the Victoria Memorial to a fellow Calcuttan. Well, this one is five times larger than our Victoria memorial garden though.
Madrid in 2 days | Retiro Park

Madrid in 2 days | Retiro Park

When in Retiro Park do not miss the Palacio de Velázquez (named after its architect) and Crystal Palace of Madrid. They are both stunning pieces of architecture and adds to the charm of the park’s landscape

Puerta del Sol – Gate of the Sun

Another famous public square, Puerta del Sol was one of the gates of the Madrid in the 15th century. It was named after the rising sun decoration and its orientation towards the East. Here you will see the tourist help desks, souvenir shops and walking tour guides. You will also see some of the iconic statues of Madrid – Phillip III statue of 1616 and Madrid’s official symbol “The Bear and the Strawberry tree”. Being an important place, there are a lot of security officers seen on duty here.
Madrid in 2 days | Sol Gate
So here I’m standing in front of 2 iconic figures – the symbol of Madrid and the Bells of Sol Gate

Flamenco show at Tablao Flamenco Almonte

I love dancing (a LOT), so when it came to celebrating my birthday in Madrid, it was a no-brainer. Flamenco is the most famous Spanish dance form which involves creating music with feet. That’s what I knew from the little I saw on television.
The Tablao Almonte is located in Calle de Juan Bravo. It has daily shows at 9:30 pm which can be booked online. The website wrongly shows two slots- 8 pm and 9:30 pm though. Honestly, the place looked a bit shady from outside, and the change of timing didn’t help with the first impression. But the ambiance inside was a pleasant surprise. With dim lights and a lot of family and couple guests we felt comfortable as soon as we entered.
The show was mind-boggling, extremely complex and nothing like the “Senorita” dance shown in Bollywood movies. The music was created live by a guitarist, a vocalist, and two outstanding Flamenco dancers. This, according to me was the highlight of our 3 days in Madrid
Explore the best of Madrid in 2 days. The Royal Palace, the picturesque parks, the public squares, the culture and the food - Explore and experience the Spanish Capital #backpacknxplore #Spain
When in Spain, never miss the Flamenco. Pin the image to read later

Places we missed in Madrid

We had created a bigger itinerary for Madrid in 2 days but we could not visit all of them. Here are a few more attractions that you can add to your Madrid itinerary.
Railway Museum – One of the largest railway collection in Europe
The Madrid City Hall also called the Palace of Communication. If not enter, at least make sure you see this spectacular monument up close. Somehow we missed this although it was up there on our charter.

And of course one of the art museums in the Golden Triangle of Art in Madrid

The best thing about Madrid is that you can see many places on foot. Besides, some of the best places have free entrance. I loved Madrid for the sunny weather, the beautiful architecture and of course the cleanliness. What do you think? Does Madrid really have too less to offer? Tell me in the comments. Read our Europe Trip round-up to know more about the hotels we stayed in, the travel cards we used and the food we had.
What to do in 2-3 days in Madrid.. The Royal Palace, the picturesque parks, the public squares, the culture and the food - Explore and experience the Spanish Capital #backpacknxplore #Spain
This is the City Hall of Madrid. Like it? Pin it!

P.S. I didn’t forget to mention bull-fighting. It’s an integral part of Madrid’s culture, but I’m just ethically against it. (As I’m against quite a few things in my own culture).

Other Details of Interest for your Madrid Trip

How to reach?

Madrid is the capital and most accessible city in Spain, so reaching it is not difficult. You can visit there with your Schengen Visa, the details of which can be checked on my post How to plan your Europe Trip.

Where to stay?

We stayed in IBIS budget hotel which was family-friendly and pocket-friendly. It’s a large city by European standards so choose to stay near the metro station for ease of conveyance. Check out all available options directly from Booking.com.
You can also check Hostelworld.com for hostels

Recommended books and movies for Madrid tour

A short history of Spain Spain travel guide for an Indian traveler 
Lonely Planet travel guide LP travel guide for Spain&Portugal * 

Fiction – Asterix in Spain 

Check out other posts on our Europe series and subscribe to our blog for your weekly dose of wanderlust! 

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This post comes in Week2 of #MyFriendAlexa – a blogging challenge with myself. I am taking my Alexa rank to the next level with BlogChatter. 
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35 Comments

  1. Borders & Bucket Lists September 19, 2018

    I've never been to Madrid, which is surprising since I feel like I've hit up every Western European capital, but it looks amazing! I'd love to check out the palace and the gate of the sun!

    Reply
  2. Anwesha Guha September 19, 2018

    After reading your post, I so want to go to Spain. If I ever make it to there, I will definitely visit the capital city.

    Reply
  3. Josy Austin September 19, 2018

    Goodness. You managed to cram soooo much into your two days in Madrid!

    I have only visited the city for a couple of nights for a business trip. I did manage to eat amazing food, and walk around the pretty streets in the evening, but I missed almost all of these sights! (Oops!)

    Toledo sounds like a lovely place to explore too…So I guess I need to go back to both!

    Reply
  4. Claire September 19, 2018

    It sounds like we have similar interests, I would LOVE to go to that Archaeological Museum (I've been studying prehistoric Gaul, randomly) – and try all the local desserts! What kind of special cookies and chocolate are local to Madrid?

    Reply
  5. Well, I don't understand why people said there's nothing beyond the palace. You proved them wrong. I've never been to Spain, but maybe people said that because all those huildings aren't as grande as the ones in Toledo or Seville?

    Reply
  6. Authentic Food Quest September 21, 2018

    Wow, you packed quite a bit in for only two days. I love your detailed itinerary of what to do in Spain. Visiting the palace in Madrid and hanging out at Casa de campo would be two experiences I'd love to have. Beautiful pictures and very inspirational. Can't wait to go back to Spain soon.

    Reply
  7. Unknown September 22, 2018

    Great post as we are going to Spain next April. Yes on a tour however we do have extra time in Madrid.

    Reply
  8. Maheshwaran Jothi September 24, 2018

    Spain is one place in my list for long, but could never make it happen.
    Thabks for the insights. Will keep an eye for next opportunity.

    Reply
  9. arv! Jpr September 24, 2018

    Madrid and Barcelona are high on my list. Next year, maybe!

    Reply
  10. Supriya September 24, 2018

    Really superrb…. amazing trip in pics

    Reply
  11. Roshan Radhakrishnan September 24, 2018

    Prawn kichuri.. Haha. First time I'm hearing that in my life as a description for Paella.

    Lovely indepth article.

    Reply
  12. Sinjana .Ghosh September 25, 2018

    Thanks for your comment. I think they compare it to Barcelona which is the other big city with a busy airport and indeed has a lot to offer.

    Reply
  13. Sinjana .Ghosh September 25, 2018

    Surely.. We stayed in spain for 7 days on our Europe trip and loved it. For any questions on Madrid or Barcelona I'm just a ping away

    Reply
  14. Sinjana .Ghosh September 25, 2018

    Haha.. I know, but somehow we came up with this analogy and it stuck with us. I have started putting prawns in our khicdi these days

    Reply
  15. Sinjana .Ghosh September 25, 2018

    Toledo is awesome for a day trip. I could have stayed there for one night too if I had known earlier that it would be this beautiful

    Reply
  16. ALL ABOUT THE WOMAN September 25, 2018

    I've never been to Madrid and this comes like a super handy guide after reading your experience. Thanks for sharing. #dewreads
    #MyFriendAlexa

    Reply
  17. Dipika September 25, 2018

    Oh! Madrid is beautiful, love the way you have explained it in your post. Looks so real. @gleefulreads #MyFriendAlexa

    Reply
  18. Sinjana .Ghosh September 26, 2018

    Thanks so much Josy. It's difficult to cram so much on business tours. We had the whole day to ourselves. I still feel we missed so much bcoz we were a little tired in the last lap of our 15 day packed euro trip

    Reply
  19. Sinjana .Ghosh September 26, 2018

    Thanks a lot.glad that u liked it

    Reply
  20. Alison September 27, 2018

    We just spent 4 days a bit further south in Granada and Málaga. It was so beautiful, I'd love to go back and explore Madrid.

    Reply
  21. Per October 2, 2018

    I’d love to go to Madrid. It’s one of few European capitals left on my list. How about going to a football match? I’m crazy about football and Madrid is one of the best cities in the world for that?

    Reply
  22. Annick Lenoir-Peek October 3, 2018

    I also hate it when people automatically say there’s nothing to see – you found plenty in Madrid! The Egyptian temple looks gorgeous – so a shame that it was closed. I’ve been to a few flamenco shows and I think they’re generally in questionable looking places! But you’ve got to see one.

    Reply
  23. Lisa October 3, 2018

    I love Madrid! It's like my second home, and I always love to return. Retiro Park and the views from there are memorable. And as it the Templo de Debod; always a stunning sight to see, and with so much history behind it too.

    Reply
  24. Kavey October 3, 2018

    Thanks so much for sharing your suggested itinerary for Madrid in two days. It's a city I once visited a few decades ago but really want to revisit as I don't have very strong memories and my husband hasn't been at all. On the first day, I think we'd follow similar to you to do the palace, cathedral, monastery and Egyptian temple. I think we would likely leave Toledo for another trip or move on there after Madrid, so I think your day 3 would be good for our day 2, but I might skip the football club! I think some time in local food markets would be essential for me!

    Reply
  25. Anita Zych October 3, 2018

    So many things to do in Madrit! It's a shame but I have been all around Spain but never in the capital. I would go for the boats for sure, they look like such a romantic experience

    Reply
  26. diana chen October 6, 2018

    I only got to visit Madrid for a day and basically did what you did on Day 1 of your trip. There’s obviously so much more to do and see than that, so I’d love to go back and get the full experience. One thing I’ve always wanted to do but never had the chance to while I was in Spain was to watch a Flamenco show! So cool that you got to do that and sounds like such a fun and special experience.

    Reply
  27. Sinjana .Ghosh October 6, 2018

    Thanks Diana. Yes, the trip was amazing and Flamenco was a peak

    Reply
  28. Eazy Nazy October 8, 2018

    wow you have covered a lot in 2 days and have shared some amaizng fun experiences. This will save a lot of time for everyone who is planning a trip to Madrid.

    Reply
  29. Amanda November 15, 2018

    I've seen a lot of Madrid itineraries lately, but you guys seemed to pack in a LOT of sightseeing in such a short amount of time! I've never been to Madrid myself yet, but only a few of these were on my list. Clearly I need to update it! Not sure why, but the Puerto Del Alcala drew me in the most. Just simply beautiful and soaked in history. Great tips!

    Reply
  30. Lisa November 15, 2018

    Of the many times I've been to Madrid, I still haven't visited Palacio Real! I have however, been many times to Retiro Park and Plaza Mayor. It's a wonderful city with so much rich history. I also never tire of seeing Templo de Rebod; it's always stunning!

    Reply
  31. Krasen Jelyazkov November 16, 2018

    It is normal you can't visit everything in a city, especially cities like Madrid. You will always miss something. Btw, in my experience, the museums are most time consuming destinations. I always try to plan at least 3-4 hours for a museum, especially if it is a big museum. Anyway, what you have visited and seen is quite a lot! 🙂

    Reply
  32. Blair Villanueva November 16, 2018

    Madrid is also the city I wish to explore because it is connected to our Filipino heritage. We are colonized by Spain for the last 300years and we consider Spain as our former Motherland. It would be lovely to pay a visit and learn more about many places.

    Reply
  33. Daniel November 16, 2018

    I have visited Madrid before but still found this post on Toledo quite fascinating. I even learned a few new things. It's a great decision to spend more time in Toledo and appreciate this beautiful part of the historical city. Covering so many places in 2 days is really impressive! I think this article is a must-read for anyone planning to visit Madrid

    Reply
  34. Traveling Translator November 17, 2018

    Funny, my husband and I were talking today about finally going to Madrid to visit a friend soon. We spent one day there a couple years ago to catch a flight and it was just enough to see the main sights, but we didn't see half of what you shared. Your post will definitely come in handy on our next trip!

    Reply
  35. Meenakshi J November 19, 2018

    O wow…such a useful and interesting post as usual,Sinjana. The captures do complete justice to an ancient place like madrid. The symbol of Madrid and the Bells of Sol Gate pic is quite interesting. I also would have headed straight to the Archaeological museum for sure.I am sure you must have had a great time there 🙂

    Reply

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