At the heart of the Iberian Peninsula, along the Manzanares River, lies Madrid. This capital city has successfully preserved its historical neighborhoods and landmarks. So what can you do with 2 days in Madrid?
Our guide walks you through the must-visits of:
- Plaza Mayor
- Puerta del Puente
- Cibeles Plaza
- Royal Palace of Madrid
- Almudena Cathedral
We chose Segovia as our off-the-beaten-path destination as the city is famous for its three main landmarks. Did you know that the medieval castle in Segovia was an inspiration for Disney’s Cinderella Castle?
Si la vida fuera una ciudad, sería Madrid which means “if life were a city, it would be Madrid”.
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Where is Madrid?
Madrid, the second-largest city in the European Union and the capital of Spain is the political, economical, and cultural hub of the nation. The city is also home to two major football teams, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, both international football teams.
With the Mediterranean to semi-arid climate, the city enjoys cool winters and sunny summers. There are frequent frosts and rainfall between December and February while July and August are the hottest months.
In terms of Madrid, the World Tourism Organization sits at Madrid with the city welcoming at least 11 million tourists annually. The bulk of tourists come from the United States, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Germany with the Golden Triangle of Art museums attracting the crowds.
The earliest known settlers on the Iberian Peninsular were the Capetani, a pre-Roman group of settlers who occupied the highland ranges. The archaeological remains of some Roman villas and a Visigoth Church have also been found.
However, written historical documentation began in the 9th century when the Arabs called the area Mayrit. The original walled city began as a fortress and a military outpost. The city was an agricultural one with a population of 2,000 people.
The city became prominent when King Philip II moved his capital from Toledo to Madrid in 1561. History changed as suburbs and the population grew outside the medieval walls. By the 17th century, leading artists and writers flocked to Madrid.
Madrid became a modern city when Charles III cleaned up the city and its government. Among his legacies include installing street lights, stone pavements for the people, and employing people to patrol the streets at night.
The city went through a period of modernization with chemical-pharmaceutical, metallurgical, and electromechanical industries setting their base in the city. Today, the city is home to six million people and is one of the most important cities in the European Union.
With major sporting events, concerts, and an active and diverse nightlife, the city is a must-visit, whether it is for longer stays or a short break.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on their website, mentions that citizens of the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland and their family members may enter Spain using their national identity card or passport. Citizens who require a visa to enter Spain are listed in the Official Journal of the European Union.
Spain is the second-largest country in the European Union with Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, and Seville being the popular cities for tourism. It is also one of the largest member states of the European Union.
A Schengen Visa gives you the right to enter Spain and other member states of the European Union, although you may be asked several questions about your purpose, length, and accommodation in Spain. For a Spanish Schengen Visa, you would need:
- A Spanish Visa Application Form
- Two Passport photos
- A valid passport
- Spanish travel health insurance
- Round-trip flight itinerary
- Proof of accommodation, and
- Proof of sufficient financial means
Or, you could apply for a Spanish Visa using iVisa which has an easy and traveler-friendly visa application process, round-the-clock customer service, and secure and safe data centers with state-of-the-art security systems.
How do you get around Madrid?
There are several ways to get around in Madrid. It helps that the city has a reliable subway system, an efficient metro, and an organized bus network that includes late-night buses. Madrid is also one of the few cities that has an electric bicycle network which makes it a commuter and pedestrian-friendly city.
The best way to get around Madrid is by using the Madrid Metro. It is one of the best in the European Union as it consists of 12 metro lines and 3 tram lines. 300 stations link the city, the airport, and the suburbs. The trains begin at 6.30 am and end at 1.30 am with trains passing by every 2 minutes during peak hours.
This is ideal for those looking for a scenic option. Although it is not as fast as the metro, the buses are an excellent way to see the city. The EMT Madrid buses run from 6 am to 11.30 pm, Mondays through Fridays, and from 7 am to 11 pm on weekends. Night buses run from 11.30 pm until the early hours of the day for those looking to enjoy the nightlife that the city has to offer.
Taxis are another best way to get around Madrid if you are looking for convenience. The taxis here are white with a diagonal band on the front door with the city’s emblem on it. With about 16,000 taxis, hailing one isn’t difficult.
A healthy and environmental-friendly way to get around the city is by using BiciMad, a comprehensive electric bike service with 2,964 bicycles and 264 stations throughout the city. For tourists, you can sign up as an occasional user to avail of the 1,3, and 5-day passes.
Uber, BlaBla Car, and Cabify are the other best ways to get around Madrid. Another ride-sharing option is which gives you the option to pick your rides at the lowest prices. If you are looking for a luxurious ride, Blacklane limousine service is the one for you.
Is 2 days enough for Madrid?
Yes, 2 days is enough for Madrid. It gives you enough time to visit the city’s must-visit tourist sites, without any shopping or museum visits.
Mercado de San Miguel
The first of our 2 days in Madrid is the Mercado de San Miguel or the San Miguel Market. This 100-year-old market began as a wholesale market. Today, it is a gourmet tapas market with more than 30 vendors selling tapas, baked goods, olives, and cheese from all over Spain.
When did Mercado San Miguel open?
The market was first opened in May 1916 and underwent refurbishment in 2009. After recent renovations, internationally renowned chefs have joined the ranks to offer the finest gourmet cuisine to the public.
The second of our 2 days in Madrid is the Plaza Mayor. This plaza is about 250 meters or an easy 3-minute walk from San Miguel Market. This was once the main square of Old Madrid and was built in the 16th century.
The three landmarks to look out for are the equestrian statue of Phillip III at the center of the square, and Casa de la Panaderia which is a striking building that was once a bakery. The last landmark is the El Arco de Cuchilleros which are the nine entrances to the plaza.
Why is Plaza Mayor Madrid famous?
Plaza Mayor Madrid is famous for its Christmas Market which has been held continuously for the last 150 years. The market is also famous as a meeting place for celebrations and historical events.
Gateway of the Sun (Puerta del Sol)
The third of our 2 days in Madrid is Puerta del Sol or Gateway of the Sun which is the center of Spanish roads. This public square is about 400 meters or an easy 5-minutes walk from Plaza Mayor. When here, look out for the KM 0 signage. On the eastern side of the square, you can find The Bear and The Strawberry Tree sculpture.
This sculpture represents the Coat of Arms of Madrid. The statue reminds the people of Madrid of their resilience and strength.
What is the name of the very center of Madrid?
The name of the very center of Madrid is Kilometer 0 at Puerta del Sol.
Plaza de Cibeles
The fourth of our 2 days in Madrid is Plaza de Cibeles. This plaza is about a kilometer or a 15-minute walk from Puerta del Sol. The landmark of this square is the Cibeles Fountain which depicts Cybele, the Greek Goddess of Fertility and Nature seated on a lion-drawn carriage.
The Cybeles Palace is another landmark here which is now the headquarters of the Madrid City Council. The other major buildings here are the Bank of Spain building, Buenavista Palace, and the Linares Palace.
El Retiro Park
The fifth of our 2 days in Madrid is El Retiro Park. The park is about 450-meters or an easy 5-minute walk from Cibeles Plaza. This park is one of the largest parks in Madrid and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site combined with Paseo del Prado.
The formal avenues which you see as you walk the park were laid out during the 16th century while the gardens were extended during the early 17th century. As you enter the park, look out for Retiro pond, an artificial pond in a semi-circular colonnade with the statue of King Alfonso XII on the top of the central core.
The Rosaleda rose gardens are next to the Fountain of the Fallen Angel which represents Lucifer falling from Heavens. Other monuments include the Buen Retiro Palace, the Crystal Palace, and the Paseo de las Estatuas which are decorated with statues of the kings from the Royal Palace.
How much does it cost to go to El Retiro Park?
Entrance to El Retiro Park is free and is open from 6 am to midnight from April to September and from 6 am to 10 pm from October to March. You can explore the park either by foot, bike, or Segway.
Is El Retiro bigger than Central Park?
Yes, El Retiro is bigger than Central Park in terms of size. El Retiro is about 350 hectares while Central Park is only 341 hectares. El Retiro is also the fifth-largest park in the world after Villa Borghese in Rome.
Royal Palace of Madrid
The sixth of our 2 days in Madrid is the Royal Palace of Madrid or Palacio Real de Madrid. This palace is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family, although it is now used for state ceremonies. With 3,418 rooms, it is the largest functioning palace and the largest, by floor area in Europe. The palace was originally the Alcazar of Madrid, a Muslim-era fortress built in the 9th century.
What is around the Royal Palace of Madrid?
The Prado National Museum, El Retiro Park, the monument of Filippo IV, the Royal Armoury of Madrid, and the Almudena Cathedral are some of the must-visits around the Royal Palace of Madrid.
Can you take pictures in the Royal Palace of Madrid?
The only photos you can take are of the grand staircase and the hallway outside the rooms. Beyond that, no photography is allowed as this is a fully functioning palace.
The seventh of our 2 days in Madrid is the Almudena Cathedral. This Roman Catholic Church is about 100 meters or an easy 3-minute walk from the Royal Palace of Madrid. Although the foundation stone was laid in 1883, the church was consecrated in 1993 during Pope John Paul II’s visit to Spain.
Is Almudena Cathedral free?
While entrance to the cathedral is free, an entrance fee of €6 ($6.10) is charged to enter the museum and crypt. A reduced fee of €4 ($4.10) is given to senior citizens, students, and groups.
Puerta de Alcala
The eighth of our 2 days in Madrid is the Puerta de Alcala. This gate is about 1.5 miles or a 30-minute walk from Almudena Cathedral. This Neo-Classical triumphal gate is one of Madrid’s iconic landmarks that was built this monumental gate to replace an older and smaller gate nearby.
The gate is one of five royal gates that provided access to the city of Madrid. While the walls of the gate that looked towards the city have sculptures of war trophies, flags, weapons, and breastplates, the outer walls are ornately decorated with the city’s royal coat of arms. You can see this gate at the northeastern entrance of El Retiro Park where the Crystal Palace is within walking distance.
Palacio de Cristal
The ninth and last of our 2 days in Madrid is the Palacio de Cristal or the Glass Palace of Madrid. This conservatory is within El Retiro Park, which is about 800 meters or a 15-minute walk from Puerta de Alcala. This beautiful cast-iron structure was meant to be a greenhouse to exhibit flora and fauna from the Philippines.
Today, the building is used to exhibit temporary art exhibitions and is part of the Reina Sofia Museum.
Do you need tickets for Palacio de Cristal?
No, you do not need tickets for Palacio de Cristal. There is no entry fee to visit this palace and it is open every day. The opening hours vary depending on the season that you are visiting.
Segovia, a historical city about an hour’s drive from Madrid is the perfect day trip. This city on the northern slopes of Sistema Central is known for its three historic buildings, all of which are part of our day trip.
Alcázar of Segovia
Our first optional trip for 2 days in Madrid is the Alcázar of Segovia. This medieval castle rises above a rocky crag that is above the confluence of two rivers. The castle is Spain’s most distinct castle as it resembles the bow of a ship. The castle symbolizes the Old City of Segovia and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
If you look closely, you can see that this castle has some resemblance to the Cinderella Castle in Disney. The Disney Castle was inspired by the Alcázar of Segovia.
Why is the Alcazar of Segovia important?
The Alcazar of Segovia is important as it was the fortified palace for the Kings of Castile. Queen Isabella, I was also crowned here. The Alcazar was a fort that commanded city views from where it sits above the river.
Can you go inside the Alcazar of Segovia?
Yes, you can inside the Alcazar of Segovia. Do note that there is a separate entrance fee for each of the areas. The entrance fee for the Palace and Museum is €5.50 ($6) while the entrance fee for the Tower of Juan II is €2.50 ($3) while the complete entrance ticket costs €8 ($8) per person.
Aqueduct of Segovia
Our second optional trip for 2 days in Madrid is the Aqueduct of Segovia. This aqueduct is about 1 mile or a 5-minute drive from the Alcázar of Segovia. The aqueduct was built during the second half of the 1st century and was used to transport water from the Frio Rio River to the city.
The aqueduct is made from unmortared granite blocks. A reconstruction of this bridge happened during the 16th century with 36 arches being rebuilt.
When did they stop using the aqueduct of Segovia?
The aqueduct was no longer in use from the mid-19th century onwards. Today, the structure remains a historical and much-loved landmark of Segovia.
Our third and last optional trip for our 2 days in Madrid is Segovia Cathedral. The cathedral is about 800 meters or a 10-minute walk from the Aqueduct of Segovia. This Gothic-style church built in the 16th century is dedicated to Virgin Mary.
The cathedral is located on the highest point in Segovia, which makes its bell tower stand out as a watchtower. This beautiful church is best viewed at night when it illuminates the Segovian sky.
Why is La Catedral de Segovia important?
La Cathedral de Segovia is important because it is one of the last Gothic churches built and devoted to Virgin Mary and San Fructus.
Who is buried in Segovia Cathedral?
Crescentius of Rome, Saint Fructus, and his siblings, Saint Valentine, and Saint Engracia are buried in Segovia Cathedral.
What part of Madrid is the best to stay in?
Whether you are a first-timer or a regular to Madrid, deciding on the best place to stay can be a hassle. With so much to see with 2 days in Madrid, the choice of place to stay makes a lot of difference. This is why we have curated our top 5 best hotels to stay in Distrito Centro in Madrid.
If you are a first-timer, then Distrito Cento or the Central District is the best place to stay in. This is the oldest section of the city and is filled with medieval streets and grand squares. It is within a short walking distance of Gran Via, Madrid’s must-visit shopping street.
Pestana Plaza Mayor
Our first choice for 2 days in Madrid stay is the Pestana Plaza Mayor. This 89-room hotel beautifully combines 17th-century Baroque architecture with 21st-century amenities. All rooms come with luxury toiletries, free WiFi, and a daily newspaper. Guests loved the friendly and helpful staff, the excellent location right on Plaza Mayor, and the clean, nice, and quiet rooms.
Our second choice for 2 days in Madrid stay is the Hotel Atlántico. This 80-room hotel is located on Gran Via and is easy to spot as it has a French dome on its roof. The hotel is an easy 5-minute walk to the many tapa bars, restaurants, and shops in Madrid. All rooms come with a minibar, a safety deposit box, air-conditioning, and an en-suite bathroom.
Some rooms come with balconies with views of the Gran Via. Some positive reviews mention the excellent location, clean rooms, and welcoming staff.
Vincci The Mint
Our third choice for 2 days in Madrid stay is Vincci The Mint. This 88-room hotel is a contemporary hotel that is different, fun, original, and full of nooks and crannies at every corner. All rooms come with free WiFi, a hairdryer, a safety deposit box, and terraces. Some rooms have balconies with city views.
Some positive reviews spacious rooms, ideal location, and the lovely staff. Guests also loved the breakfast, clean, and quiet rooms.
NH Collection Gran Via
Our fourth choice for 2 days in Madrid stay is the NH Collection Gran Via. This 94-room hotel is located on Madrid’s busiest shopping street, the Gran Via. All rooms are a combination of modern and classic decoration and are soundproofed. Every room comes with climate-controlled air-conditioning, an espresso coffee machine, rain showers, and a kettle.
Some rooms come with views of the Gran Via. Guests loved the excellent location and friendly staff. Other positive reviews mention the clean rooms and incredible rooftop bars as well as beautiful room decorations. Guests also loved the central location and the fact that the hotel was within walking distance of major attractions within the city.
VP Plaza España Design
Our fifth choice for 2 days in Madrid stay is the VP Plaza España Design. This 214-room modern hotel has 9 different types of rooms to choose from. Some rooms have terraces while others have their private gym, the choice is yours. The positive reviews include the helpful front desks, comfortable beds, and spacious rooms.
Guests also loved the delicious breakfast and the excellent location. Reviews also commended the staff who go above and beyond to ensure guests are well-taken care for.
Frequently Asked Questions on Madrid
Yes, we know you have more questions and we have the answers. These are our answers to other questions which you have about Madrid. We hope you find these helpful and informative.
Is Madrid safe at night?
Yes, Madrid is safe at night for tourists and solo female travelers. Use your common sense and always take precautions with your personal belongings. Be careful of pickpockets around major tourist landmarks. Snatch theft is also common among womenfolk, keep your purses and bags with you.
To be safe, do not accept any unsolicited drinks from anyone you don’t know. Be wary of scammers and taxi drivers who force you to pay a fixed price, although the fare table is visible.
Why is Madrid so popular with tourists?
Madrid is popular with tourists as it is a cosmopolitan that has a rich historical past. It is also one of the best capital cities for arts. The city is also known as the City of Palaces, Churches, and Convents.
Is Madrid a boring city?
Yes and no. Like any capital city, Madrid is a city that lacks a soul. It has become a rather nice place to live, than visit. While Madrid is unique, it lacks the colors of Seville and the spirit of Barcelona. To compensate, Madrid does have a vibrant nightlife and delicious food.
While it does have the standard must-visits, the city is not dull and has to be on your list of cities to visit in Spain, at least once.
Are taxis in Madrid safe?
Yes, taxis in Madrid are safe. The drivers do not speak English, so it is best to have the address written. Tips are not expected, although they are appreciated. And, at night, it is better to call for a taxi, rather than hailing one
What month is the hottest in Madrid?
June and August are the hottest months in Madrid with temperatures reaching highs of 43.7°C (110.7°F) in summer. The city has hot and sunny summers. As the weather becomes unbearable, it is best to avoid visiting in summer.
What is the best month to visit Madrid Spain?
The best months to visit Madrid are during the autumn months of September till November and the spring months of March to May. During these months, the temperatures are pleasant and the crowds are thin. These are the best times to visit the parks and gardens that dot the city. The city is alive with festivals of the Holy Week and the patron saint of the city.
Can you visit Madrid without speaking Spanish?
Yes, you can visit Madrid without speaking Spanish. It’s best to learn a few basic words as the older population still speak Spanish. You may have better luck speaking English in the tourist areas and among the city’s younger population.
Is it OK to skip Madrid?
No, don’t skip Madrid. Madrid is a beautiful city with charming people. The museums, the Royal Palace, Almudena Cathedral, and Plaza Mayor are worth the visit. If you are an art enthusiast, Madrid has the Golden Triangle of Art. These are the Museo Del Prado, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum which are within the main boulevards of Madrid.
Do I need a car in Madrid?
No, you do not need a car in Madrid. This is because the public transportation is excellent, there are plenty of taxis, and the city center is walkable. If you are planning a day trip to Segovia, then a car is necessary.
Can you wear shorts in Spain?
Yes, you can wear shorts in Spain. There are no rules or dress codes that say you can’t wear shorts. Shorts would be comfortable during the summer months. However, you can’t wear shorts to churches as there are strict dress codes when entering religious places.
Is Madrid worth visiting?
Yes! It is worth visiting. Here’s why:
- Pedestrian-friendly. With stunning architecture at every corner, you can take your time to absorb the sights and sounds of this amazing city. The best part, is you do not need to rely on a car when the public transportation is efficient and clean.
- Food. From delicious tapas bars to the San Miguel Food Market, you can’t come to Madrid without trying its food. You can be sure of a hearty meal when in Madrid as there are plenty of food stalls, kiosks, bars, and restaurants all over the city.
- Nightlife. From clubbing to bar-hopping, Madrid’s nightlife is as varied as the city’s. A plus point is that the wine and alcohol are cheap. And, the city does come to life as the sun sets, so you can always enjoy late-night dining or clubbing.
- Golden Triangle of Art. The three main art museums which gave Madrid its nickname are Prado Museum, Reina Sofia, and Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum. These three museums were recently added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
- Ideal Balance between Nature and City. Despite being the capital city of Spain, Madrid has found the perfect balance between nature and modernity. With plenty of green lungs across the city, getting a breather is not difficult at all.
With beautiful landmarks, delicious food, and lively nightlife, Madrid is one of the most affordable cities to visit in Europe. From Roman structures to the Crystal Palace, Madrid has something for everyone. The question is, when are you visiting Madrid?