Last Updated on: 2nd April 2022, 10:30 pm
Only have one or two days in Madrid? Use this Madrid itinerary to plan the perfect one or two-day visit to Madrid!
To make things simple, here’s what you need to know to check out the most iconic places in Madrid in one day, plus ideas for seeing Madrid in two days.
Can’t read now? Pin for later!
Good to Know: This guide to the perfect 24 hours in Madrid comes to us from Valentina of Valentina’s Destinations.
Originally from Serbia, Valentina grew up in Chicago, and she loves hunting down local restaurants, unique experiences, and hidden gems all over the world.
Valentina has always been obsessed with researching, organizing, and planning her vacations. She knows that many people don’t have the time and energy to do this, but they still want to get the most out of their travels.
Valentina’s Destinations allows her to help other busy professionals maximize their experiences.
The Top 7 Most Popular Madrid Tours & Attractions
Where to Stay in Madrid
Unless you will only be coming on a one-day tour in Madrid and staying elsewhere, you will want accommodations in the city.
This will help you maximize your time in the city as well as give you a bit more of a local experience than those who can only jet in and out.
Best Budget Accommodation
The top budget accommodation in Madrid for budget travelers is the Hostal Artistic B&B. Their eclectic Mediterranean decor is perfect for low-key tourists and students.
Each room at the Hostal Artistic B&B has unique features, and it is within walking distance to all the top-rated tourist attractions.
Best Mid-Range Accommodations
With a mid-range budget, travelers will enjoy staying at NH Collection Hotels in Madrid. The NH collection hotels feature modern design elements and offer guests some exciting perks.
Best Luxury Accommodations
For more information about where to stay in Madrid, check out this detailed Madrid hotel guide.
Essential Travel Tips for a Short Trip to Madrid
Here are a few things you need to know before you visit Madrid, whether you’re coming to the city for a day trip from another location or you will be staying for a full 24 hours in Madrid (or a little longer).
Should You Spend One Day in Madrid or Two Days or More?
You may be wondering how many days to spend in Madrid? If you only can visit Madrid for a day, that’s fine! It’s a great introduction to the city and first-time visitors to Madrid will feel like they can get a real taste of the city.
Of course, for those wondering what’s there to do in Madrid, there’s a ton to do – much more than you can see in just twenty-four hours!
Therefore, there’s information included to extend your trip to two days in Madrid if you find you just don’t want to leave!
How many days in Madrid you have will affect how much you can see, but even a few hours in Madrid is better than no time here!
What Travelers Love about Madrid
Madrid is a fabulous European city to visit. Travelers flock to Madrid for art, history, food, and culture.
Its narrow streets team with life, beautiful views, and the scent of fabulous cuisine.
Art-lovers take advantage of Madrid’s Golden Triangle of Art. This includes Reina Sofia, Prado, and Thyssen-Bornemisza Museums. There’s also the Sorolla Museum and the Museum of Romanticism.
The most famous Spanish painters include Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, and El Greco. (You’ve probably heard of them).
History-lovers know that people have lived in the area that is now Madrid since the Stone Age, which means there are important historic places to go in Madrid from many different eras of Spanish history.
You can visit the world’s oldest restaurant in Madrid. Learn about the kings and queens that argued over its territory. Or, find unique art and artifacts at the National Archeological Museum or Cerralbo Museum.
Foodies know that Spain is home to tapas culture. You’ll enjoy tasting churros con chocolate, croquetas, and huevos rotos. There’s so much yummy food to try in Madrid, you won’t want to leave!
From enjoying cafes in the morning to shopping for snacks at the Mercado de San Miguel to dining in tapas bars at night, the food scene in Madrid is not to be missed!
Getting to Madrid
Madrid is the capital of Spain, located in the heart of the country. It’s easily accessible from many European and Spanish cities by high-speed train as well as buses.
Overseas tourists may consider flying into Madrid’s International Airport.
Called the Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport, it is located to the northeast of Madrid in the city’s Barajas district, which is only 12 kilometers from the Madrid city center.
You can arrange a private transfer to get from the airport to your hotel if you do not want to deal with getting to your accommodations on your own.
If you will have one day in Spain as part of a long layover, make sure that you will have time to go back through security (and potentially border control) if you choose to come into the city.
If you plan on renting a car and driving to Madrid as part of a larger Spanish road trip (or Spain and Portugal road trip), make sure to book your rental car ahead of time.
You will also want to make sure that you confirm with your car hire company about any border crossings you are planning for your trip.
I use Discover Cars for my rental cars, and I’ve had great experiences renting cars in Europe and on the Iberian peninsula.
How to Get Around Madrid
Madrid is a walkable city, but it’s easy to get around quickly and cost-efficiently by using public transportation (busses and subways).
There is also the Madrid Cable Car which connects the center of the city with Casa de Campo, a huge park full of green space for .
For offline navigation, save this Tourist Map of Madrid.
Get the Best Madrid Vacation Photos
If you are going on a special trip to Madrid, like a family vacation or couples getaway, you may want to leave making sure you have the best vacation photos!
You can use the service Flytographer to book a personal Madrid photo session so that you leave knowing you have amazing pictures to help you treasure the memories of your trip.
I used them in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and I loved how our family photos came out! In just thirty minutes, we were able to capture professional travel photos that will last a lifetime.
You can use the code HISTORYFANGIRL for 10% off your first photo session.
One Day in Madrid: Itinerary + Tips
You can see many of the city’s most famous tourist attractions in Madrid in one day. During the first day in Madrid you’ll visit Plaza Mayor, eat tapas, and watch the sunset at Circulo de Bellas Artes.
Here are all the must-sees for one day in Madrid. Note that it’s a VERY full day with an extra option for enjoying Madrid at night.
If you have two days in Madrid, you’ll can add in more arts and culture, plus even more food adventures! Look for what to do in Madrid in two days below.
How to Spend One Day in Madrid
During your first day in Madrid, you’ll walk through the historic Plaza Mayor and get a glimpse of lavish luxury at the Royal Palace of Madrid.
You’ll eat tapas and have drinks at a panoramic rooftop bar.
Breakfast at a Historic Landmark
Start your first day in Madrid off right, get breakfast pastries at La Mallorquina.
Spaniards a notorious for having a sweet tooth, so you’ll find an assortment of sweet cakes, cream pastries, and chocolate delights. There are also many savory items, as well as sandwiches and pies.
Dating back to 1894, this is more than a great way to start your day!
Address: Puerta del Sol, 8, 28013 Madrid, Spain
See the City’s Most Important Clocktower at Puerta del Sol
After you visit Plaza Mayor, you must head over to another important landmark in the heart of Madrid: the Puerta del Sol – or Gate of the Sun.
Puerta del Sol was originally the site of one of the famous gates to the city. Today, this is another public square and it’s where many major roads converge.
The most important building in Puerto del Sol is the Casa de Correos, known for its clock tower. The bells of this clock ring to denote the eating of the 12 grapes, a traditional new year celebration in Spain.
Address: Sol, Centro, Madrid, Spain
Continue Your Sightseeing at the Plaza Mayor
Next, you’ll take a short walk over to Plaza Mayor. In the 15th Century, this was where the central market of Madrid took place.
The architecture of the plaza, as seen today, is credited to reconstruction, as there were 3 separate fires that burned down the structures here prior to 1790.
You can get here with just a five-minute walk from Plaza Mayor. The most famous entrance is on the Calle Mayor, but it’s not the only way to arrive in style.
At Plaza Mayor, it’s hard to miss the bronze sculpture of King Phillip III. After all, this space was first built during his reign.
Today, Plaza Mayor is a major gathering place for tourists and locals alike. It’s an excellent place for people-watching, having coffee, or shopping for Spanish souvenirs.
Located in the city center, it’s a can’t-miss during your one-day itinerary!
Editor’s Tip: Anywhere in Spain where tourists gather, pickpockets tend to follow. Keep your guard up for pickpocketing while you are anywhere out in public in Spain.
I’ve even had waiters tell me to keep an eye on my cell phone while inside a restaurant since we were sitting close to a door!
Address: Pl. Mayor, 28012 Madrid, Spain
Peek into the 17th Century at the Casa de La Villa
Next, head over to Casa de La Villa. This historic building served as Madrid’s city hall from the 17th to the 21st Centuries. Inside, you’ll find 17th Century frescoes and remarkable stained glass art.
Ask your hotel to call ahead and inquire about their free walking tours. They often take place on Mondays at 5 PM, and they are given in Spanish and English.
Address: C. del Sombrerete, 26, 28012 Madrid, Spain
See Dazzling Art & Opulence at the Royal Palace of Madrid
Continue your self-guided walking tour by heading over to the Royal Palace of Madrid (or Palacio Real). This opulent mansion is the official residence of the Spanish Royal family.
Although, this is only so in name. Mostly, the palace serves as a venue for state ceremonies.
If you are lucky enough to visit on a Wednesday or Saturday, you may catch the formal changing of the guard.
The palace is an enchanting place to visit. There are over 3,000 rooms containing impressive artwork, elaborate furnishings, and ornamentation.
Since this is a popular place to visit, you can purchase a Skip-the-Line ticket so that you don’t get stuck behind crowds of tourists.
Budget Tip: Admission to the Royal Palace of Madrid is free Mondays through Thursdays between 4 and 6 PM.
Step inside the Royal Palace of Madrid for a visit. Highlights include the Royal Armory, Painting Gallery, and recently revealed Royal Kitchens.
The Royal Armory offers a peek into weapons and armor worn by some of Spain’s most famous kings.
The Painting Gallery features works from names like Velázquez, Goya, and Sorolla.
Finally, the Royal Kitchens are some of the oldest best-preserved kitchens of any European royal residence.
Address: C. de Bailén, s/n, 28071 Madrid, Spain
Feast on an Authentic Spanish Tapas Lunch
Take a break for lunch. Head to Juana La Loca for traditional Spanish tapas. Juana La Loca is most famous for its Spanish tortilla with potato, eggs, and onion confit.
You’ll find a healthy selection of seafood and vegetable-based tapas served alongside flavorful sauces and spreads.
Address: Juana La Loca, Pl. de Prta de Moros, 4, 28005 Madrid, Spain
Enjoy More Sightseeing in Madrid Old Town
After lunch, check out a few more important historic sites in the city center of Old Madrid.
You won’t have time to see everything, but you can choose the ones that interest you the most:
The Royal Theater (Teatro Real)
San Miguel Market (Mercado de San Miguel)
Basílica de San Francisco el Grande
Garden of the Prince of Anglona
C. de la Cava Baja
Plaza de España
Get a Glimpse of Ancient Egypt at the Temple of Debod
be sure to visit the Temple of Debod (Templo de Debod). You won’t find an Egyptian temple in most European cities, so this is a rare treat!
This ancient Egyptian temple (circa 2nd Century BC) was dismantled and rebuilt in Madrid.
At the time it was originally built, it was dedicated to the goddess Isis.
It was relocated when it was threatened in the 20th Century as a result of the proposed Aswan High Dam.
It was gifted to Spain as a token of appreciation for their diplomatic help in saving Egypt’s Abu Simbel Temples.
You can get here on public transportation using the Gran Via line, or you can opt for a taxi or rideshare.
Address: C. de Ferraz, 1, 28008 Madrid, Spain
Enjoy an Afternoon Rooftop Cocktail
Afterward, head to the Círculo de Bellas Artes for an evening cocktail and phenomenal panoramic view overlooking Madrid.
Círculo de Bellas Artes is a trendy spot, and one of the most Instagrammable places in Madrid. It’s a non-profit cultural organization and event venue as well.
Address: C. de Alcalá, 42, 28014 Madrid, Spain
Dine in Style at Habanera
Finally, you may consider the Habanera for an upscale dinner. Try to make a reservation in advance.
This venue has colorful and fun vibes and is another one of the best photo spots in Madrid.
Enjoy the exciting atmosphere and delicious dishes.
Address: Calle de Génova, 28, local Habanera, 28004 Madrid, Spain
Get an Introduction to Madrid Nightlife (Optional)
If you like to enjoy late nights when you travel, go on an adventure with a guided pub crawl of Madrid.
This is a fabulous way to meet people on your travels and see some of the most fun bars and nightlife spots in Madrid with the added safety of having a local tour guide who can show you the ropes.
You’ll also get to learn about the cocktails and drink specialties of the city, and, of course, sample them for yourself! Authentic sangria? Yes, please!
This is a great activity for couples traveling together or those looking for the top things to do in Madrid alone at night.
Note: If you only have 1 day in Madrid, you can follow this day to a tee, or you can look at the recommendations below for places to see in Madrid in 2 days and mix and match a bit.
While most of the most important places to visit in Madrid in one day are listed above on Day 1, you can always squeeze in one or two extra experiences from Day 2 so you can see as much as you can see Madrid in a day.
Two Days in Madrid: Itinerary + Tips
If you have the luxury of spending a second day in Madrid, you must indulge in the city’s arts and culture. Use this for your second day if you are looking for a 2 day Madrid itinerary.
While you don’t want to spend all your time in Madrid in museums, nothing compares to seeing a masterpiece firsthand. And Madrid is full of masterpieces!
Note: If you would prefer to spend your second day exploring somewhere nearby, you can go on a one-day trip from Madrid.
The most popular day trip from Madrid is the From Madrid: Toledo, Segovia, & Alcázar Small-Group Guided Tour.
How to Spend Your Second Day in Madrid
Start with breakfast on your own – either in your hotel or pick one of the wonderful Madrid cafes in the city.
Popular Madrid breakfast items include tostada con aceite, tomate, y jamón and tostada con mantequilla y mermelada.
Make sure to fill up, since you have a busy morning and a late lunch! Today’s a good day to make sure you have a few snacks with you for the road.
See as Much as You Can of the Golden Triangle of Art: Choose One, Two, or All Three Museums
Madrid has so many amazing museums, but even a Madrid 2 Day Itinerary can’t include them all!
Since you don’t have enough time to see every worthwhile Madrid museum, you’ll need to pick which museum to prioritize.
Consider visiting the museums within the Golden Triangle of Art. These are the three largest and most popular museums in Madrid, and they’re located near one another.
They also happen to boast some of the most famous European art ever produced.
You can try to spend a short time in each or see one in more depth.
Pro Tip: If you choose to go to all three museums in the Golden Triangle of Art, you can buy one Skip-the-Line ticket that will get you into all three museums!
Since we want to make sure you save as much time as possible, this will potentially save you a lot of time if you will be traveling to Madrid during the tourist season.
It will also save you up to 20% on the price of admission to all three museums when you buy a combined ticket.
Reina Sofia (Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía)
The Reina Sofia features a collection of 20th-Century artworks, named for Queen Sofia. (Not to be confused with Sofia, Bulgaria).
It’s one of the largest and most visited modern art museums in the world. The most prominent artists featured at Reina Sofia are Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali.
The most famous painting in the museum is thought to be Picasso’s 1937 painting Guernica.
If you will be going to the Reina Sofia and not all three museums, you can purchase your Skip-the-Line Reina Sofía Museum Ticket ahead of time.
Address: C. de Sta. Isabel, 52, 28012 Madrid, Spain
Prado (Museo Nacional del Prado)
The Prado is also known as the Spanish national art museum. It’s widely considered to have one of the world’s most impressive collections of European artworks.
The art you’ll find at Prado dates from the 12th Century to the 20th Century. Prado’s collection has origins in a royal collection from many Spanish monarchs.
Some of the important artists featured at Prado include Francisco Goya, Hieronymus Bosch, and El Greco.
Highlights from the Goya works include the Black Paintings.
Because of Spain’s continent-wide influence as part of the Habsburg and Bourbon dynasties, there are pieces from all over its former empire, including great Flemish and Italian works.
Also, be sure to check out their Diego Velazquez paintings –he is considered the most important Spanish painter of all time.
If you will be going to the Prado and not all three museums, you can purchase your Prado Museum Skip the Line Ticket ahead of time.
Address: C. de Ruiz de Alarcón, 23, 28014 Madrid, Spain
Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum (Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza)
The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum has a collection of over 1,600 paintings, and nearly 1,000 of them are on display at any given time!
This museum fills in the gaps between the Prado and Reina Sofia, featuring works from the 13th through the late 20th Century. You’ll get to see works in the Renaissance, Baroque, and Romanticism periods.
This museum offers a look at some of the finest examples of early Medieval art, specifically featuring the Dutch artist Jan Van Eyck.
Be sure to check out Trecento’s works for an excellent example of 14th Century Italian art. There are also some 20th Century avant-garde works that are true can’t-misses.
If you will be going to the Prado and not all three museums, you can purchase your Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza Skip the Line Ticket ahead of time.
Address: Paseo del Prado, 8, 28014 Madrid, Spain
Pro Tip: With three fantastic and extensive museums to choose from, you can’t go wrong! The hardest part will be deciding which museum to visit during your second day in Madrid.
Optional: If you can squeeze in just a bit more before lunch, consider a stop at Retiro Park (El Retiro Park).
Home to some of the most iconic landmarks in Madrid, you’ll want to make sure to walk by the Crystal Palace (Palacio de Cristal), roses of the Rosaleda (Rose Garden), the Monument to Alfonso XII, and see the rowboats on the central pond (Estanque Grande de El Retiro) in front of the monument.
Nearby you’ll find the Puerta de Alcalá and the Cibeles Fountain.
Walking a bit further afield, you’ll find the famous Madrid statue known in English as The Bear and the Strawberry Tree (el Oso y el Madroño).
Refuel at Casa Dani, one of Madrid’s Best Cheap Eats
After a long morning of exploring art and history, head to a late lunch at Casa Dani.
Opinionated About Dining rated Casa Dani as the third best place to eat cheap in Madrid, and 70th best place to eat in Europe! This place is beloved by tourists and local Madrileños alike!
In 2019, the restaurant won an award at the Gastronomy Awards of the Community of Madrid. They’ve also been reported to make the ‘best tortilla in Madrid,’ winning at the National Tortilla Championship in 2019.
If you aren’t convinced yet, consider that this is a family-owned and operated restaurant. It’s been around for over 25 years!
So, you’re tasting traditional recipes that have been passed down for generations.
Address: Cl. de Ayala, 28, 28001 Madrid, Spain
Chocolatería San Ginés
Next, you’ll want to get dessert at Chocolatería San Ginés for a revitalizing boost of cacao.
Chocolatería San Ginés is a must-visit place in Madrid, even for those without a serious sweet tooth.
This local establishment has been a staple of the city since 1894.
This is the most popular place to experience the favorite Spanish dish of chocolate con churros – churros with a thick, hot chocolate dipping sauce.
Order with ice cream and coffee for the ultimate indulgence.
Address: Pasadizo de San Ginés, 5, 28013 Madrid, Spain
Relax and Take a Siesta
Since you are in Madrid, you can now consider taking a siesta. A siesta is a short afternoon nap taken during the hottest parts of the day.
It is common for shops and restaurants in Madrid to close during the middle of the day for this reason.
Alternate: If you can’t stop, won’t stop, there are always a few more places you can add to your Madrid-in-2-days itinerary.
If you came to Madrid to see culture and get a little off-the-beaten-path, the Malasaña, La Latina, and Chueca neighborhoods are famous for dining, culture, and shopping.
You could also see if you missed anything from above and go back to visit, or save one of the three museums for the afternoon once you’ve had time to rest and recharge.
End Your Itinerary for Madrid in Style: with a Flamenco Show!
In the evening on your second day in Madrid, you must see a Flamenco show!
There are many clubs and bars offering flamenco shows, so it’s easy to find one last minute. However, you can also book one ahead of time since this is one of Madrid’s top things to see.
You can go to one that has dining options, or eat a separate dinner ahead of time.
Flamenco is a highly-technical traditional style of Spanish dance. It’s absolutely delightful to watch! UNESCO has even declared flamenco as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
5 Things to Pack for Your Trip to Spain
Along with sunglasses and sunscreen, make sure to pack these:
Get yours ahead of time, either a hard copy or on a Kindle.
An Unlocked Cell Phone so that you can use a Spanish sim card while here to help navigate public transportation and when you’re on the road.
A Backup Charging Bank. This is for your cell phone since you’ll be using it as a camera, GPS, and general travel genie.
A Great Day Bag so you can carry what you need with you (like your camera, snacks, water, sunscreen, cash, etc).
My current favorite is the Pacsafe Citysafe, which is especially great for tourist destinations because it has many anti-theft features designed to deter pickpockets plus RFID technology to keep your credit card digits safe.
It also transitions to a night bag more easily and won’t embarrass you if you go to dinner directly after sightseeing all day.
More Spain Travel Resources
Here are more Spain travel guides to help you plan your complete Spain trip!
Spain Country Guides
What to buy in Spain for the best souvenirs.
The best jokes about Spain and Spain puns for Instagram captions.
An interview about an important LGBTQ monument in Barcelona.
Beautiful quotes about Madrid for Instagram.
The best things to do in Mallorca in winter.
Spain is Included in these Round Ups
Before You Leave for Spain – Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!
Make sure you have a valid Travel Insurance Policy because accidents happen on the road.
I use World Nomads for my long trips to Europe, and I happily recommend them.
It’s especially important to get travel insurance if you’ll be hanging out in cities (like Madrid and Barcelona…ahem) where tourists can be the victims of pickpockets.
I have been a paying customer of World Nomads as far back as 2016, and I happily recommend them. If you get sick, injured, or have your stuff stolen, you’ll be happy to have the ability to pay for your medical bills or replace what’s stolen or broken.
Get a Travel Insurance quote for your trip.