Spain,  Travel

Madrid 2-Day Itinerary

Oh Madrid, how I miss you! Madrid was one of my favorite locations on my trip and it was actually our first stop in Spain. It was so rich with history, amazing food, and even better people. I will start by letting you know that all of Madrid is walkable, especially if you stay in the city center (save money on metro and buses whoop whoop). Keep reading below for a full play-by-play of our most adventurous days in Madrid! Hopefully, this will help you plan your own upcoming trip.

Where to stay

Madrid was one of the locations where we stayed in a hostel. This choice was due to the expensive pricing for hotels in the area and the housing ordinance that effectively wiped out around 95% of Madrid homes from Airbnb ability. We stayed at Sungate ONE hostel in Centro, Madrid (a perfect location walking distance to everything). I picked this hostel because it was the cheapest I could find with the most perks. I booked through booking.com and got a great price at 241 euros for 3 nights! It had free dinners and also had group nightly outings to local dance clubs. Most attractively, we were able to have a private room in the hostel, only sharing bathroom areas that were also ‘private’ (no stalls).

Day 1

Our first full day in Madrid was for exploration and viewing the city sights closest to our hostel.

Free Walking Tour – 3 hours

Sungate offered guest sign-up for a free walking tour and the tour guide picked us up at the hostel. After grabbing a churro prepared by the hostel staff we were off to explore and learn about Madrid. This tour was amazing, I wish we could have gone on more tours like it throughout our trip. These tours are open to the public regardless of where you stay and they most all begin in Plaza Mayor. It gave us so much more insight in Madrid’s history than trying to navigate ourselves. Some notable stops on our tour were Plaza Mayor (Madrid’s old square), Plaza de la Villa (Townhall), the Royal Palace, and the oldest operating restaurant in the world; Sobrino de Botín

Lunch and Puerta del Sol – 2 to 3 hours

After a couple of hours of walking and learning the history of Madrid, we worked up quite an appetite so we sought out a place for lunch. It was our first full day in Spain so we had to go somewhere with Paella; the famous Spanish rice dish you can’t leave Spain without trying. I also had a sangria (my drink of choice in Spain) and Andrea had her usual pina colada. The restaurant we visited was directly across from our hostel which was just steps away from Puerto del Sol.

Puerta del Sol is the center of Madrid, lined with expensive shops, restaurants, and street performers. It’s surrounding streets are the same, offering many shopping options and restaurants. It’s very lively; it is just as crowded at midnight as it is during the day. You could spend hours walking along the streets that stem from Puerta del Sol, window shopping (we’re on a budget), and eating all the sweets offered.

Sabatini Gardens – 1 hour

After walking around centro and admiring the storefronts and street preformers, we returned to the Royal Palace we had visited on our tour to take a walk through the Sabatini gardens. The gardens are adjacent to the palace’s north side and offer a great view of the palace. We decided to take a break and sit around the water feature for a while and relax. It was a gorgeous day outside and just admiring our surroundings was so relaxing after a day of activity.

Temple of Debod – 1 hour

Our last stop of the day was Temple of Debod, which, if you’ve done some research, you’ve seen people pose in front of for the gram. It is a great location for pictures during sunset. As you can see in the photos, we made it before sunset but still got a great view. You can actually pay to go inside the building and walk through the doorways but it didn’t seem something to stretch our budget over. The view was satisfying enough, and we took a break to sit and soak it all in.

After a walk back into the area of our hostel we decided to end our day like we did most days on our trip; with gelato. After grabbing gelato and taking a small detour to visit Madrid’s 5 story Primark store, we returned to our hostel for some rest.

Day 2

Day 2 began a little later since we decided to sleep in but our focus was to visit Retiro park where we spent most of our day.

Plaza de Cibeles – In passing

Plaza de Cibeles is one of the main square in Madrid, found at the intersection of 2 major roads; the Paseo del Prado and Calle Alcalá. The intersection has a large fountain in the center and is home to the Cybele Palace (Palacio de Cibeles), the current seat of the Madrid City Council. This plaza and palace was an awesome sight to see en route to Retiro Park. These streets that make up the square are also dividers of the different districts; Centro (where we stayed), Retiro (where we were going), and Salamanca. This is a major traffic hub but it made for a scenic walk.

Lunch – 1 hour

Once we got closer to the park we decided to find a place to eat in Plaza Independencia, the plaza right outside Retiro’s entrance. There were a few restaurants in the area and we went to each to look at their menus (which are usually posted in front of the restaurant ). Our focus when looking was typically what restaurant had something we thought we’d like for the best price. This day we decided on the restaurant Cappucino, which was a great choice. It was not nearly as pricey as the surrounding restaurants (but not very cheap either) but also very nice. I got their spring rolls which I would definitely recommend.

King Alfonso XII Monument & Lake – an hour and a half

Our first stop at the park was the large artificial lake that is home to the monument memorializing King Alfonso XII. This lake is unique in that you can rent rowboats to wade in for about 45 minutes. This was one of my favorite spots, it was so beautiful and a great spot for pictures. It was more interactive since we got to actually steer the boats ourselves. To rent one boat for the 45 minutes it was only 8 euros since it was a weekend, on weekdays it is 6 euros.

You rent per boat rather than per person which I think makes it attractive for groups. I would say theres room for about 4-5 people comfortably. The boat rental had a line which was a little daunting but it moved faster than we thought it would. The boats are open for rent between 10:00 AM and 8:30 PM during summer but the times change depending on the season.

Palacio de Cristal del Retiro – 30 to 45 minutes

The glass palace or Palacio de Cristal was our next stop in Retiro park and one of my favorite sights our whole trip. Made solely from glass and a metal frame, it was originally meant to be a greenhouse but is currently just for visitor’s enjoyment. There are also a few statues in it as well. This was also a great place for pictures because it is so unique and beautiful. I suggest going around sunset or golden hour before sunset to get some awesome pictures. There is no charge for entry but they ask you to limit your time so everybody gets a chance to go in.

La Rosaleda – 1 hour

La Rosaleda, the rose garden found in Rotiro park was our last official stop in the park. The rose garden is arranged in a circle and features archways covered in vines and roses, making you feel like your in a Disney movie. It has a few benches so you can sit and soak in all the beauty. Yet another Retiro park location great for pictures.

After leaving the rose garden we walked around the park some more and found a nice place to sit in the grass and chill before walking back.

Círculo de Bellas Artes Rooftop – 1 hour

After taking some time to rest at the hostel we went to the rooftop bar atop Círcula de Bellas Artes. This rooftop gave us an amazing view of Madrid and had an awesome vibe as well. There were bar tables scattered throughout but also couch and lounge seating. There was also an area with fake grass, pillows, and low tables to sit around on the grass. It was a great way to start our night out with a couple of drinks. To go up to the rooftop you had to purchase tickets at 4 euros each. The drinks were not cheap by any means but that is to be expected of a fancy rooftop.

Night Out in Madrid

After having some drinks at the bar we decided to go to a local night club. A friend that was in Madrid for study abroad suggested a club called Moondance. To get in it was 10 euros but that included our first drink. When we got there, there were not many people there but that soon changed. The music was more EDM than what I would’ve liked but I still had an awesome time.

Our focus on our trip was to make sure to see and do the things important to us in each location. I find that in a lot of itineraries people try to stuff things in for every hour of the day. Here, we took a different approach, making sure to see things at the top of our lists while also valuing our time and energy. I hope this itinerary not only provides some guidance but helps make your days more enjoyable than exhausting.

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