This post was most recently updated on July 11th, 2016
Spain’s capital is a massive metropolis, brimming with culture, delicious food, millions of people, and of course, sangria! Yet with so much to experience, tackling a weekend in Madrid can seem almost impossible. This Madrid weekend guide is here to help you navigate through the best of what Madrid has to offer!
Maddy and I had the pleasure of exploring Madrid for an entire month. We rented the cutest little apartment in Lavapies, and from there, we walked the whole city, visited world-class museums, ate at dozens of great restaurants, and discovered all the cool bars.
Now, compared to our one-month stint in Madrid, one weekend seems rather short. But if that’s all you have, well, it’s better than nothing! In this Madrid weekend guide, we’ve handpicked the best places to see, explore, and eat, during one weekend in Madrid (Friday to Sunday). Let’s get started!
Day 1 (Friday): Madrid Weekend Guide
On Friday morning, start your day off early; there’s no time to waste!
Make your way over to Federal Café, in the popular Malasaña neighborhood, for a breakfast to remember. Federal is an Aussie-inspired Spanish restaurant that you can’t miss! The menu changes according to season, but you can always expect delicious, artisanal food from their kitchen. Dishes like baked eggs with jamón serrano, Manchego cheese, and freshly baked bread can be enjoyed at Federal – and for less than 10 euros, too!
La Plaza Mayor
A short walk away from Federal Café is one of the most important parts of the city: La Plaza Mayor. This unforgettable town square is over 400 years old, and its uses have been endless throughout its existence. Over the years, La Plaza Mayor has seen markets, football games, bull fighting, and even terrible occurrences like public executions and torture during the Spanish Inquisition. There, order una jarra de sangria at any of the restaurants with outdoor seating, do some people watching, and soak up the history and culture of Madrid.
Palacio Real de Madrid
Next, it’s time to make your way to the Palacio Real de Madrid. This is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family, but isn’t where they choose to live – so don’t expect to spot them there! The palace is huge and grand; it looks exactly how you’d expect a palace to look, in such a historical, cultured city. The gardens are beautiful, the buildings feature Baroque and Classic styles of architecture. History just oozes out of the entire area.
Next, it’s time for some homemade lunch from one of the most comfortable spots in Malasaña: Carmencita Bar. Carmencita’s menu is a twist on typical Spanish cuisine, but simplicity is always key. Burgers, salads, tostas, and small plates to share are the only items on the menu. Go for the Tucson Burger with grilled goat cheese, avocado, lettuce, and mayo, or opt for lots of small plates, from foie gras and hummus, to cheese plates and cured meats!
After lunch, you’ll have plenty of energy to burn off, and luckily, Malasaña is one of the best places to walk around. Malasaña’s hipster vibe means that there are plenty of interesting things to see; whether you like vintage accessories, handmade clothes, musical instruments, or old vinyls, this is the neighborhood where you’ll find all things awesome in Madrid!
Siesta OR Museo del Prado
In true Spanish custom, it’s time for your much-needed siesta. Your feet are probably a little sore by now, the energy you got from lunch has faded, and the sangria you drank earlier is lulling you to sleep. Don’t be ashamed; a nap will be just what you need to make it through the night! Plus, 2-5 p.m. is siesta time in Spain, anyway! OR if you’re feeling up to it, skip the siesta and visit the Museo del Prado, one of the greatest art museums in the world, featuring works by the likes of Goya, Velázquez, and El Greco. The choice is yours!
Dinner, drinks, and Flamenco
Your first night in Madrid calls for an introduction to the world’s flamenco capital. There are a ton of tablaos (flamenco bars), but the best one is Cardamomo Tablao Flamenco. Loved by tourists and locals alike, you can expect great service, classic food, and a world-class flamenco show. A night of flamenco, drinks, and traditional Spanish food will be the perfect introduction to Madrid!
Day 2 (Saturday): Madrid Weekend Guide
Light breakfasts are common in Spain. Simply a coffee and a piece of sweetbread are typical to eat in the morning. For breakfast, head over to the Museo del Ramón for a coffee and pan tumaca, which is basically a slice of bread with jamón iberico and tomatoes. Pan tumaca is easy to eat while walking, so take it with you!
Next, acquaint yourself with the Sol neighborhood, the most touristy area listed in our Madrid weekend guide. Located in the very center of the city is Puerta del Sol, one of the busiest plazas in the city. Sol is the place where tourists, locals, national and international cultures, and recreation all intertwine. In and around Sol, you’ll find movie theaters, famous monuments, department stores, popular international brands, cafes, and bars. Two hours will suffice to explore Sol and take it all in!
Mercado San Ildefonso
Once you’ve gotten to know Sol, it’ll be lunchtime, and time to move on past Gran Via and onto Calle Fuencarral. This is the place to be, because you’ll encounter the Mercado San Ildefonso. This food market is one of the best in city, offering artisan cuisines, ranging from traditional Spanish fare, to dishes with Mexican and Mediterranean flair. Great drinks will be found here, too!
When you’ve had your fill, leave the market and head east. Just across the street lies another famous neighborhood, Chueca. Home to the LGBT movement within the city, Chueca is a progressive place, featuring plenty of hip and eclectic coffee shops, and architecture from Madrid’s romantic period. Chueca is one of the most photogenic places listed in this Madrid weekend guide, with its flamboyantly dressed gays, bright-colored buildings, detailed architecture, and endless greenery.
El Parque del Buen Retiro
A short walk away from Chueca lies almost everyone’s favorite place to relax: El Parque del Buen Retiro. Much like New York’s Central Park, Retiro is always filled with people lounging, playing soccer, reading, or even rowing boats on the lake, yet the park is big enough to feel uncrowded. Your weekend in Madrid wouldn’t be complete without visiting Retiro, so make it a priority!
Drinks and tapas at Cava Baja
After the park, head back to your accommodation and get ready for an unforgettable night out. Saturday night means going over to Cava Baja, the city’s best tapas bar street. This will be a true local’s experience, filled with alcohol, traditional tapas, and lots of laughs.
Your first stop should be Posada de la Villa, followed by Casa Lucas, Taberna Txakolí, and finally, El Tempranillo. All of these tapas bars are musts! Yet if you’ve hopped to every bar and still want more, start hitting up some of the more “dive-y” places!
Day 3 (Sunday): Madrid Weekend Guide
A little hangover is not an excuse to get out of bed past 10 a.m.! Get up, grab a croissant, and get out. There’s lots more to do!
On Sunday morning, it’s essential to visit El Rastro in the neighborhood of La Latina. At the country’s most popular flea market, shop for some vintage clothes, handmade jewelry, and all sorts of antiques.
Mercado de San Miguel
After El Rastro, you’ll be starved. And Mercado de San Miguel is the answer! In this market, you’ll find food stalls featuring cuisine from around the world. No matter what you crave, you’ll find it here. The Mercado de San Miguel is basically a gastronomic haven that you won’t ever want to leave!
Next up, walk around Lavapies, the vibrant district known for immense cultural diversity. From Senegalese and Chinese, to Mexicans and Indians, about 80 different nationalities are represented in this small medieval quarter; it’s exciting, lively, and completely different than the rest of Madrid.
Stay around Lavapies for dinner, and make your last meal in Madrid a memorable one. Since much of Lavapies’ population hails from Africa, it’s only fitting that they’d have some incredible African restaurants. Grab a table at Baobab and prepare to taste Senegalese flavors you’ve never encountered before. The food at Baobab is loved by all – every bite bursts with exciting, unknown flavors.
Your Madrid Weekend Guide
Fitting every worthy restaurant, museum, bar, and plaza into one weekend in Madrid is nearly impossible. Trust us, we know. We lived there for a month and never ran out of fun things to do. However, with this Madrid weekend guide, you’re sure to get all of the absolute best of Madrid in one weekend – we guarantee it!
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What do you think? Have you been to Madrid before? What are your favorite things to do over the weekend in Madrid?