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You know me, I love my city breaks and got my fill of them earlier this year in Cologne and Lille. But one place that tops the list of “great city break” ideas is Madrid. Madrid city breaks are great for lovers of food, art, shopping and history (so pretty much everyone!).
Madrid has evolved into one of Europe’s finest culinary capitals; maintaining its culinary traditions and embracing new cuisines. You can feast on tapas for lunch and then enjoy sushi or Mexican for dinner which wouldn’t have been the case not all that long ago!
Madrid is the capital city of Spain and is also the largest in the country. Madrid is known for its beautiful architecture, parks and as a place that’s home to some impressive European art. It makes a great city for a European city break whether you’ve only 36 hours in Madrid or longer you’re bound to find plenty of things to do in Madrid that’ll have you wanting to extend the duration of your Madrid trip.
Where is Madrid located?
Madrid is in Spain and more specifically it’s pretty much right bang in the centre of Spain. If you look at the map to the left you’ll see what I mean!
The Madrid time zone is Central European Time which means it’s one hour ahead of GMT.
Getting to Madrid from London
Getting to Madrid from the UK is super easy. It’s a popular destination and therefore there are regular, cheap flights between London and Madrid. You can also get the bus from London to Madrid too.
Flights to Madrid
If you’ve yet to decide on a date for your visit to Madrid, then be sure to sign up to Dollar Flight Club and see if they have any deals! They scour the internet every day and always manage to find incredible deals on flights all over the world. Once you’ve set your home airport(s) you’ll usually get an email every day with another awesome deal. You can sign up for free, but the best deals are sent to subscribers first.
If you know when you want to travel to Madrid, then I suggest using Skyscanner to find your cheap flights.
Flights from London to Madrid return can cost as little as £45 with RyanAir and take about 2.5 hours. With that price and short flying duration, there’s no excuse not to plan a short break to Madrid.
PS: I have a whole post here about how I find cheap flight deals all over the world.
Buses to Madrid
You can also get a bus between London to Madrid, however with flights so cheap and quick, getting the bus probably isn’t the best option.
If you prefer getting a bus to Madrid then you’ll get the bus from London’s Victoria Coach Station to Paris, and then catch another bus from Paris to Madrid, Estacion Sur De Autobuses. This journey takes about 25 hours and is usually more expensive than taking a budget flight with RyanAir or Easyjet.
I use Omio to check bus timetables, prices and buy tickets.
Where to stay in Madrid
- Budget: Hostal Atocha (private room) | Hostal Main Street Madrid (private room) | Room007 Select Sol
- Mid-range: Home Art Apartments | Hotel Plaza Mayor | Don Pedro Home
- Luxury: Plaza Espana Skyline | Gran Meliá Palacio de los Duques | Eurostars Suites Mirasierra
Madrid weekend break – the best things to do in Madrid
Here are a few ideas on how to spend your weekend in Madrid. Whether you have 48 hours in Madrid, just 36 hours in Madrid or more, here is a Madrid itinerary that’ll help you answer the question of “What to do in Madrid?”.
Plan for your Madrid trip with these helpful guide books:
Best Madrid Tours
If you’re looking to do something a bit more unique during your stay in Madrid, then check out these tours below. Personally, I’m a big fan of food tours. It’s always useful to have a local show you around the best food haunts in a new city (& you usually get some samples too!)
- Madrid Tapas Walking Tour
- Madrid Walking Tour
- Skip the queue to the Prado Museum
- Madrid Flamenco Show
- Madrid Royal Palace – Skip the queue ticket
- City Tour (Hop on hop off Madrid bus)
How to spend 48 hours in Madrid
Here’s a guide for how to spend a weekend in Madrid. This 2 days in Madrid itinerary, works well if you arrive late Friday night and are ready to start exploring for Saturday and Sunday (or whichever two days you’re there!). Of course, there’s plenty more you could do with two days in Madrid, but these are just a few of the top things to see.
Day one in Madrid
Head to Mama Framboise, a beautiful bakery which serves some of the best macarons outside of Paris. Yes, it might seem strange to be recommending you eat French food when you’re in Spain, but you can’t go wrong with a flaky pastry and coffee first thing in the morning and Mama Framboise’s signature framboise almond croissant is to die for. IT’s no exaggeration to say it’s one of the best places to eat in Madrid for breakfast.
After breakfast, head over to Palacio de Cibeles for a panoramic view of the city. I always like to climb up somewhere high at the beginning of a city trip to get my bearings and a feel for the size of the city.
From the top of Palacio de Cibeles, you’ll spot Parque del Retiro, your next stop.
This is the park all the locals go-to to relax and escape city life for a little while. Wander around the park, hire one of the rowing boats or pop into Palacio de Velázquez, the beautiful, old exhibition hall within the park, and discover one of the free art exhibitions.
Work up an appetite with a 30-minute walk over to Mercado de San Miguel.
This old building has been transformed into a tapas hall with floor to ceiling windows. Inside you’ll find oysters, Iberico ham, soft croquettes and yummy stuffed olives.
Dishes start from 1€ each and are best washed down with some sangria!
Time for a spot of window shopping! For the stylish boutiques, you’ll want to stroll down Calle del Piamonte or, for independent stores, head to Calle de Fuencarral or Calle Colon.
Try out Madrid’s varied cuisine by heading up to Punto Mx and indulging in Mexican food. Considered to be one of the best Mexican restaurants in Europe, Punto Mx makes all its tortillas fresh to order and the guacamole is made tableside. It doesn’t get much better than that!
BUT, if you’re someone who appreciates history and wants to be able to claim to have eaten at the world’s oldest restaurant then make sure to get reservations at Sobrino de Botín. Both the oldest restaurant in Madrid and the world, this restaurant is famed for its rustic Castilian cuisine, including succulent roast meats fired in an oven that’s close to 300 years old! An experience for sure!
Day two in Madrid
It’s Sunday if you’re having a weekend in Madrid. And that means it’s time to treat yourself to a rather indulgent breakfast of churros and chocolate!
Churros eaten, wander around the Plazas snapping photos of the stunning Spanish architecture. If you only have a day in Madrid, this is one area you should check out for sure!
Then, head over to El Rastro, an open-air flea market. You might not find much you want to buy but the hunt for that gem of an item is half the fun!
Take lunch at El Viajero, a three-story venue with a fantastic roof terrace. The roof terrace is always packed on Sundays due to the El Rastro flea market so you might have to wait a while but the food and the view are totally worth it.
Work off all that tasty tapas by renting a bike from one of the many rental shops throughout Madrid. Either cycle through the city or, if you fancy something a little bit different, head off on a trail along the Guadarrama or Alberche rivers. These trails are quiet and show you a different, more relaxed side to Madrid.
If you want to be sure you know where you’re going then check out one of these Madrid cycling tours:
Toast a great city break by heading 7 floors up to the roof terrace of the Circulo de Bellas Artes at Calle Alcala. Not only do you get another great view here, but you can also grab a cocktail.
Finish off the weekend with a final round of tapas and some of Madrid’s best. Head to Los Montes de Galicia. It’s one of the best restaurants in Madrid and the perfect way to toast to a brilliant weekend away!
More Spain travel ideas
- Road trip itinerary for southern Spain
- How to take a day trip to Gibraltar from Spain & what to do there
- Driving the Camino de Santiago. A Northern Spain Road Trip Itinerary