The central area of Spain’s capital city is small enough that you can see a lot in a short amount of time. Here’s how you might want take advantage of a quick 48 hours.
Start the morning with a stroll through Plaza Mayor, Madrid’s 15th-century market square.
Then pop into Mercado de San Miguel for a breakfast of fancy tapas — and while you’re there, don’t forget look up to admire the 1916 iron-and-glass architecture.
If it’s open when you walk by — and if you still have room — it’s worth stopping for super-thick hot chocolate and churros just a few blocks away. at Chocolatería San Ginés. Then head north up to Iglesia de San Antonio de los Alemanes, which is one of the most incredible churches I’ve ever seen.
This small baroque wonder is covered tip-to-tail in 17th century frescoes — it’s like a Spanish version of the Sistine Chapel. And once you’re done gaping at the walls and ceiling, you can quickly move from the sacred to the profane by walking over to Madrid’s famous shopping street: the Gran Via.
The Gran Via isn’t just for shopaholics; it also boasts a wide range of impressive architecture.
From here, it’s a bit of a walk to the Hotel Riu, where view from the 27th floor is worth every penny of the entry price.
Make sure you’ve had lunch before you head over to the Temple of Debod, because once you reach this 2nd-century BC edifice, you’re in for a looooong line. But there are only four Egyptian temples outside of Egypt, so a visit inside is a rare opportunity.
Finish with a nighttime walk past the Royal Palace …
… and the Almudena Cathedral.
If you have the energy, I’d recommend stopping in to see the interior of the cathedral (below, top left). Just a few blocks away, you can also pay quick visits to the Iglesia Catedral de las Fuerzas Armadas (below, top right, which has some super-problematic saving-the-heathen children colonial statuary), and the Basilica Pontifica de San Miguel (below, bottom left).
End the day with some well-deserved flan! My very favorite was at Casa de Diego, not far from Plaza del Angel.
Start by wandering the small streets of the old city center.
You don’t need a destination at this point — just take in your surroundings, everything from the magnificent doors …
… to the hand-painted tiles that serve as everything from shop advertisements to street signs.
As you make your way east, swing by the fantastic 18th-century Cibeles Fountain and 19th-century Cibeles Palace.
Then make sure you have a ticket in hand for the Museo Nacional del Prado, arguably one of the world’s best-known art museums.
You’ll find all sorts of European masterworks here.
From the Prado, it’s a short walk to the Retiro, a fantastic city park.
You can wander all over the paths here …
… and I would make sure to see the Grand Pond (Estanque Grande del Retiro) …
… and the 1887 Glass Palace (Palacio de Cristal):
For a truly special dinner, make reservations at out-of-the-way La Ancha Restaurant. If you’re there in October, you’ll be able to order the best tomatoes of your life!