WHERE TO STAY IN MADRID | THINGS TO SEE | SUGGESTED ITINERARY | WHAT TO EAT | HOW TO TRAVEL
Madrid is a bustling capital of Spain swaying in history and present smoothly. Its so far my most favorite city in Europe (so you can imagine how I excited I am to share everything about this gorgeous city with you all 😄💚). It’s rightly said that you can leave Madrid but it never leaves you …..
PS. IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THIS FANTASTIC CITY, CHECK OUT MY ARTICLE ON FUN FACTS ABOUT MADRID
Madrid has lot to offer from world class museums, historic monuments, vibrant night life, one of the world’s best shopping, and luscious food from all corners of the world. The real energy of this city lies in its people and the love they have for their culture. Any short trip is not good enough to experience real Madrid completely but you can still cover maximum attractions and get a decent feel of the city in 2 days time. So lets dive into that….
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Where To Stay In Madrid ?
Madrid is an enormous city but all the major attractions just like any other European city, lies within the circular, pretty much walkable range of the city centre. SOL could be considered as the centre of Madrid. Below is the map of all the major central neighborhoods and pretty much all you would need to know for your two day visit.
- SOL ; As I mentioned earlier Sol is the city centre for maximum tourist attractions, shopping and transport. Plenty of old and new restaurants are located here. If I had to describe Sol, I would say its like TIME SQUARE of Madrid. (As its the centre, hostels/hotels could be little pricey)
- GRAND VIA; Although its not the separate neighborhood but has a separate metro station and only 5 minutes walk away to Sol. Could be considered as part of the city centre. You can find plenty of hostels and hotels here. I stayed at MUCHO MADRID Hostel. (If you are looking for a quite room, at a reasonable price but excellent location you can consider this hostel). I really enjoyed my time and wouldn’t mind staying here again.
PS- If you are looking to stay at airbnb, use my code and get upto €38 off .
- CHUECHA; Also known as gay neighborhood, Chuecha has the trendiest nightlife of the city. Its very close to gran via and has fabulous restaurants, outdoor terraces, and boutiques making it one of the best places to go out in Madrid.
- MALASANA; Its neighbor to Chuecha, and undoubtedly the hippest neighborhood of Madrid. Graffitis on walls, high end tattoo parlors, urban trendy cafes, bars, restaurants and vintage shops could be seen all around this neighborhood. Even if you don’t stay here its a great place to spend your afternoons.
- HUERATAS; Also known as Barrio de las Letras, this neighborhood is just 5 minutes away from Sol and perfect point to start your night out in Madrid. Filled with some upscales, some divey bars, amazing restaurants, it comes alive at night. Walking down the street of Hueratas will take you to Paseo del Prado where most of the museums and sight seeing activities are located.
- SALMANCA; This is the most upscale neighborhood of Madrid. If this was in New York, I would call it an ‘upper east side’ mainly because its located above Retiro Park (just like central park in NY). Its home to high end stores, prime real estate and top notch restaurants. If you have deep pockets and looking for a posh, quite neighborhood, Salmanca should be your choice.
- LA LATINA; Its cute, traditional neighborhood of Madrid filled with old architecture and finest local cuisines. If you want to experience what 18th century Madrid looked like, look no further.
HOW TO Get Around IN MADRID?
Madrid is the largest city in Spain but thankfully is very well connected via metros, buses and trains. Madrid’s metro system is one of the largest in Europe connecting the entire city and is undoubtedly the most reliable and cost efficient option. One way ticket is €1.5- €2 depending where you are traveling to or you could get 10 tickets for €12.2. Uber also operates in the city.
ADVICE; Once you are in the centre, all the attractions and central neighborhoods could be explored on foot. I won’t suggest getting 10 tickets right away. Its a good idea to explore the city while walking first and maybe then get a metro card if needed. (I made a mistake of buying 10 tickets on my first day but never really used them lol)
WHAT TO EAT IN MADRID (VEGETARIAN/VEGAN)
- CHOCOLATE AND CHURROS ; This has to be my number one on the list. If there is one sweet treat you can’t leave Madrid without, its Hot Chocolate with Churros. Oh man I can’t think of anything better than crispy, fried to perfection, dusted with sugar Churros dipped in thick and sinfully delicious hot chocolate 🤤 🤤 Best place to have them is at Chocolatería San Ginés. This place is like mecca of churros. Their hot chocolate is so thick you will need a spoon to lick it off (no kidding). And guess what, its open 24/7. I went there for breakfast and also for a midnight snack at 3😝( sorry not sorry haha)
- TORTILLA DE PATATAST ; This is Spain’s national dish and fortunately is vegetarian (contains eggs though). There are several places you can try them but I will recommend going to Bar Cerveriz because of the location (Plaza de San Miguel, 2)
- PATATOS BRAVAS ; How can you go wrong with deep fried potatoes dipped in cheesy or spicy sauce? Its a great side dish served as tapas in bars. I would recommend going to Mercado de San Miguel .
- PIMIENTOS DE PADRON; These are fried green peppers could be found in almost all tapas bars (served as side dish). Though they look spicy but they aren’t really (I know my desis reading this would be slightly disappointed lol)
- VEGAN/ VEGETARIAN FRIENDLY RESTAURANTS ;
Shi-Shang ( one of my favorites in Madrid). Its located at Gran via and serves all you can eat veggie buffet. Other places you can go to are Abonavida, Viva Burger, Artemisa (vegetarian lasagne is really good). Off-course there are plenty others, these are few I went to and really liked.
Get Insured Before Traveling To Madrid
I never ever travel abroad without a travel insurance. Really ! In case something goes wrong , you must have a travel insurance. Frankly speaking, it will be stupid to head off to a new destination without one.
I will recommend World Nomads. Simply because they are backed by reputable insurers, 24-hour assistance providers and offer travel insurance to travellers from over 140 countries.
Even if you don’t get one from World Nomads, make sure to get your travel insurance sorted before you actually start traveling.
THINGS TO SEE IN MADRID
- PUERTO DE SOL;
As the name suggest, this is a public square and probably the most busy area of Madrid. This could be an excellent starting point for you travel itinerary as it lies literally at heart of the city and all the major attractions are either left or right from the square. It comes alive in the evening with abundance of live performances by street artists and musicians, smalls restaurants, shops and bars. Once you are here, don’t forget to notice the clock at the top of Casa de Correos (where city’s famous new year’s countdown happens) & El Oso y el Madroño (statue of bear and the strawberry tree) which is the official symbol of Madrid and one of the prominent tourist spot.
- MUSEO NACIONAL DEL PRADO (Prado Museum)
This is one of the most popular art museums of the world. There are overwhelming collections by renowned artists like Velázquez, Francisco Goya, El Greco, and many others but the most famous is David Victorious over Goliath by Caravaggio. The entrance fee is €15. Personally I am not very big on museums and hence chose not to skip this but if you plan then I would advice buying the tickets online as line can be gruesome long.
- PLAZA DE CIBELES;
Another famous square with fountain in the centre surrounded by 4 marvelous buildings: the Bank of Spain, Palacio de Linares, Palacio de Buena vista and the Cybele Palace. If you are walking from Puerto de Sol towards Prado museum you will most likely cross this.
- RETIRO PARK
Also known as El retiro, this is the largest park of Madrid. Till 19th century it was reserved for Spain’s royalty, later opened to public. Its few steps away from Padro museum and personally my favorite spot in the city. This park is hugggeee, it has a small lake inside where you can rent a tiny boat to paddle around for few euros, a small pond, a crystal palace made entirely of glass, rose garden, statue walk and plenty more. If you are visiting in summer, you might encounter some cool concerts happening in the park.
- MERCADO SAN MIGUEL
If you are looking to immerse yourself in local culture, look no further. This should be a must if you are visiting Madrid. Its a market located in central madrid, few hundred meters from Gran via offering superb options in Spanish and international cuisines. From variety of fresh fruits, wine, tapas, sea food and meat, it has lot for every kind of foodie. I was little skeptical to go in first as I am a vegetarian and options in local cuisine are very limited but to my surprise I had a great time. (can always get a glass of red wine and some tapas😉) TIP; Its relatively pricey but I would still suggest going mainly for the atmosphere if not food.
- ROYAL PALACE OF MADRID
The Royal Palace of Madrid is the largest palace in entire Europe just after palace of Versailles. Having visited both, I feel Versailles is more beautiful but this is no less. Its definitely worth going. Its the official residence of King Felipe VI, though he doesn’t live here and mostly the palace is used for royal ceremonies and state dinners. There is also a cathedral in the premise and you need to buy a separate ticket. (If you are on a budget I won’t suggest buying the ticket for the cathedral but definitely don’t skip the palace). Cost; €12. Official Website
- PLAZA MAYOR
This is another Madrid’s famous plaza located at the heart of old town with a grand arcade square filled with tons of coffee shops, open bars, restaurants. Everything is slightly overpriced. (tip; as you walk outside the plaza, you will reach mercado san miguel which has more and better options for food and drinks)
- TEMPLE OF DEBOD
Although lot of tourist skip this but I feel this is another must visit in Madrid. Its an authentic Egyptian temple built in 2nd century Debod, rebuilt in Madrid in 1972. Temple itself is not big but the locational is incredible. Its located at this beautiful park call WEST PARK, very close to the royal palace. ( TIP; Go for the sunset ). Trust me you will not forget the view of sun falling below the horizon. I went there for both my evenings in Madrid and still feel it wasn’t enough.
- GRAN VIA
This buzzing avenue is full of life from entertainment, food , shopping, culture , it has everything. In the day time the streets are filled with shoppers both local and tourist and in the night you will find Madrid’s top night clubs here. Its a great place to enjoy the lifestyle of true Madrilenian.
Though Madrid is not the homeland of traditional flamenco genre but being the capital it has flourished some great flamenco artists and performances. There are abundance of options to choose from and you can’t complete your trip to Spain without a flamenco show. I went to this late night restaurant called Clan for a FREE flamenco. Okay, so you’ll need to buy a drink, but you get to watch the authentic flamenco performance and was so worth it. (TIP; If you are also traveling to Seville, which I highly recommend lol, you can skip Flamenco in Madrid).
- Hot Air Ballon (Optional only if you have an extra day)
Its little offbeat but a fun experience to do when in Madrid. There are two places you could take a hot air balloon ride close to Madrid. One is TOLEDO and other is SEGOVIA. I took the one through Get your guide. It’s was a fun one time experience. Details here.
SEGOVIA & TOLDEDO
If you have a spare day and don’t want to spend money on hot air ballon ride, I will still suggest visiting SEGOVIA and TOLEDO.
Toledo is an imperial city and was the capital of Spain till 16th century, has intriguing mix of three cultures, “Islam, Christianity and Judaism” which could be seen in its architecture, streets, museums and its definitely worth exploring.
Segovia is another small town located not very far from Madrid famous for some valuable UNESCO landmarks including the famous Alcazar.
Both the towns have good train connectivity to Madrid. But If you are planning to visit both on the same day (which I did), I recommend booking a tour with pick and drop service to Madrid, as transportation between both the towns is not as easy. This is the one I took.
- Day 1 ; Start your day at Puerto de Sol, ( don’t forget to get your picture with the bear statue ) —-> Head to Chocolatería San Ginés for breakfast —–> Walk towards Padro Museum via Plaza de Cibeles. After spending few hours exploring the museum —-> Retiro Park. If you are looking for a fun way to spend the night, go to CHUECHA .
DAY 2 ; Start your second day by going west of Puerto de Sol to Plaza Mayor-—> Mercado San Miguel for food—-> Royal Palace —-> Temple of Debod (for sunset)—> Gran via to spend your last night in Madrid.
Have fun collecting memories in Madrid ❤️❤️. If you find this article helpful please like and share further 😊👍
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