Looking for things to do in Madrid? Our handy weekend guide has you covered – from iconic art galleries to inner-city parks, luxury shopping and late-night tapas.
Madrid is a city of multifaceted wonder, where classic buildings sit comfortably alongside modern bars and designer stores. Glitzy districts like Salamanca provide the glamour, while lush areas like El Retiro Park offer a calming antidote of tranquil natural beauty. Late-night dinners extend into the early hours and finish with drinks in buzzy neighbourhoods like Malasaña, home of the hipster bars. From authentic tapas to cultural exploration – here’s how to spend 48 hours in Madrid.
Evening: dine like a local at a late-night tapas bar
You’ve just arrived in Madrid but don’t rush out to dinner: the dining scene here doesn’t come alive until around 9pm. Keep things authentically Spanish with a date at a late-night tapas joint – your perfect introduction to the city. Maximalists will love Rosi la Loca, a brilliantly brash fever dream of brightly coloured walls adorned with oversized petals and fabulous fringed floral lampshades. Embrace your stumble down the rabbit hole and sip a cocktail from an Alice-in-Wonderland-inspired mug as you peruse the menu. This is not a case of style over substance: Rosi’s dishes taste as good as they look on Instagram. Quintessentially Spanish delicacies like Iberian ham croquettes sit alongside more daring tapas bites like beef bao buns – all served in a crazy, colourful style of course.
Madrid’s famed La Latina neighbourhood can be a little overwhelming if you’re not sure where to start – but we’re here to tell you to skip straight to Taberna La Concha. It’s the kind of blink-and-you'll-miss-it gem that has earned its excellent word-of-mouth reputation. The bar’s homemade vermouth finds its way into expertly mixed cocktails and pairs perfectly with classic tapas like pork cheeks in red wine sauce and tomato and mozzarella ensalada. For a truly old-school tapas experience, you can’t go wrong with Casa González. Doing a bustling trade since 1931, Casa González is proudly the longest-standing business in Barrio de las Letras. Grab a window seat by the deli counter and set yourself up for an evening of people-watching and delicious food. Tuck into peppers stuffed with salt cod cream, local hams and cheeses, all washed down with Spanish wines and, of course, vermouth.
Morning: tick off Madrid’s top sights
Shake off your late night with a brisque morning walk past Madrid’s most iconic sites. On foot is the way to explore Spain’s capital, a virtual treasure trove of architectural delights and buzzing plazas. Stroll through Puerta del Sol square, ticking off the famous clock atop the Real Casa de Correos building and domineering statue of Charles III on horseback. Grab an alfresco coffee at Plaza Mayor, then continue to the imposing grandeur of Catedral de la Almudena and the Royal Palace of Madrid (Palacio Real), one of the largest in Europe.
Afternoon: delve into Madrid’s Golden Triangle of Art
Three iconic art museums make up Madrid’s famous Golden Triangle: Prado Museum (Museo Del Prado), Reina Sofia National Art Centre (Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía) and Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum (Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza). At Prado Museum, you can find the most complete collections in the world of El Greco, Velazquez and Francisco de Goya. Reina Sofia National Art Centre is dedicated largely to 20th-century Spanish art and houses works by the likes of Picasso and Salvador Dali. Meanwhile, Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum started out as a private collection and now houses more than 1,600 paintings.
Evening: take a foodie tapas tour
Why eat dinner at one restaurant when you can taste your way through five? Take our four-hour tapas walking tour and immerse yourself in Madrid’s foodie scene with fervour. Your English-speaking guide will lead you from old taverns to hip hangouts as you learn about the city’s culinary roots and sample delicious mini meals. From cheese and olives to bocadillos de calamares sandwiches and a sweet ending of Spanish desserts, this is the tastiest tour around. Each tasting is accompanied by an alcoholic drink but if you have room left for cocktails, it’s worth stopping for a nightcap at the elegant Pictura bar at Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid.
Morning: take a stroll through El Retiro Park
Blow those vermouth-induced cobwebs away with a refreshing walk through Madrid’s famed El Retiro Park, the ideal antidote to the hustle and bustle of the city. Here, monuments, lush green spaces and galleries sit by side, inviting hours of exploration. The manmade lake in the centre of the park is a must-see and offers a picturesque spot for both boating and waterside relaxation. The park’s Palacio de Cristal is hands-down one of the best things to do in Madrid and houses a variety of exhibitions and art for your perusal. In springtime, the La Rosadela rose garden really comes into its own, while the various statues scattered throughout El Retiro make for fascinating viewing year-round.
Don’t miss out on grabbing churros for the road at Chocolateria San Ginés on the way to El Retiro. Serving decadently sticky churros and chocolate since 1894, this Madrid institution takes sweet breakfasts to giddy new heights.
Afternoon: go shopping in Salamanca
Welcome to Madrid’s most glamorous neighbourhood, where high-end local boutiques sit next to global designers like Chanel, Gucci and Dior. Even if your budget is strictly set to window shopping, the gorgeous buildings that house these luxury stores make a stroll through Salamanca worthwhile. Duck into side streets to check out local designers and don’t forget the classic high-street gems like H&M and Zara, which always seem to have better stock abroad.
Evening: immerse yourself in the nightlife of Malasaña
Malasaña’s hipster makeover has seen it soar in popularity with revellers in search of a good time. You’ll find bars playing all kinds of music, drawing a diverse crowd to its graffiti-lined streets. TupperWare Club embodies the neighbourhood’s spirit, switching effortlessly between jazz and house music as it serves drinks to fuel the dancing. 1862 Dry Bar is the perfect pitstop for creative cocktails, pouring pitch-perfect margaritas and more beneath a glittering chandelier. If you’re feeling brave, let Espit Chupitos call the shots – more than 600 of them, to be precise. Alongside its impressive offering of shooters, the bar also prides itself on its menu of 180 jugs and cocktail shakers.
Feature image: Pictura Bar at Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid.
For more Spain inspiration, read Hola España: How to Choose Your Spain Escape.