The capital of Spain boasts many beautiful plazas, parks, and excellent shopping. Of course, my favorite part of our time there was the food (we went into a market and I cried-this is not a joke). If you’re trying to do Madrid in 36 hours, rest assured, it CAN be done! Here are the highlights that you shouldn’t miss.
Stop at a market for tapas
We chose too visit the Mercado de San Miguel, even though we heard it was a little touristy, because it got rave reviews and it was near our place. We were SO glad to have chosen this spot, because it had so many options and was buzzing with both locals and tourists. Definitely try the blue wine (vino de azul) if you go here. I’ll be posting later about the best gluten free tapas to try, as well! This was a highlight of our time in Madrid.
Churro con chocolate at San Gaines (touristy but so worth it)
A line out the door, marble tables, fast service, and yummy food. What more is there to say? Tourists go during the day, so stop by at night or as late as possible for a less crowded/more authentic experience.
See the Gran Via
I call this the Broadway of Madrid, because there are a lot of billboards and theaters lining the walk. But it’s iconic, and there is some good shopping veering from the streets off of the Gran Via.
Walk along the Parque de Retiro (Crystal Palace optional)
We almost didn’t make it here because we were so exhausted, but it was gorgeous! Definitely make it a pit stop on your trip. Consider picnicking here for lunch or taking a siesta in the park. The Crystal Palace was amazing, and we are glad to have done it, however it is a far walk. Compared to the other things we saw, this wasn’t on my list of “must sees.”
Visit a museum (Reina Sofia or the Prado)
We opted to go to the Reina Sofia museum per a friend’s recommendation, and I am so glad we did! Admission is free for students under 25, children under 12, and for anyone past 7pm. They are closed on Tuesday though, so plan accordingly. But definitely make it to room 206 to see Picasso’s Guernica. It is MASSIVE in person, and hands down worth the trip to the museum! This was one of my favorite pieces of art I’ve ever seen in person. Unfortunately, we couldn’t take any pictures and the security is strict so we couldn’t sneak a great one.
Wander through some of the backstreets and alleyways
Take the time to wander while in any European city, but definitely create some space in Madrid for a great walk through old town and some of the neighborhoods. (We chose to eat at some places off the beaten path and carved out time to soak in the local culture. Worth every second and the miles of walking).
See the Plaza de Cibeles
We decided to visit a few cathedrals while wandering the streets of Madrid, but Almudena Cathedral (pictured here) was the most famous we saw. Definitely take the time to admire the beautiful architecture in at least one cathedral you pass, it’s incredible!
There is a ton of shopping in Madrid, from local boutiques to American chain stores. El Corte Ingles is a large Spanish department store that is a “must” for tourists, but I found it was more authentic to shop at the little boutiques we found along our route. The style is incredible in Madrid, so take the time to treat yourself (and save room in your suitcase for extra clothes/shoes).
Check out my food section to find some incredible places to eat while in Madrid!