Only a weekend in Madrid?! Destinations for a short trip

Heading to Madrid with limited time? Perhaps only a weekend? It may seem overwhelming to visit such a big city with so little time, but I promise you can enjoy Madrid on more than a superficial level. Read through this list for inspiration and the things I find to be most important on a tour through Madrid. I aim to help you personalize your destinations to your interests so that you can have a fascinating, enjoyable, and relaxing vacation in Madrid. Keep in mind that Spain takes a siesta, so many shops and exhibits (in the Matadero especially) may be closed.

Note: If you are around on a Sunday check out the section of my list called La Latina, and/or the Matadero market. I believe that going to one of the big markets with stands is a great way to interact with and enjoy the city and culture.

In Malasaña:

Go to Toma Cafe or La Bicicleta (depending on if you’d like the chill quite vibe of Toma or the boisterous cafe plus bar vibe of Bicicleta), Camacho (for a yayo), and you must go to El Rincón (for incredible tortilla).

Centro:

Go to El Riojano for mazapán and turrón (great gifts) and to San Gines if you want churros y chocolate. Five-minutes away from Puerta del Sol is Plaza Mayor, perhaps take the free walking tour that begins there.

Lavapiés:

Get a tapa on Calle Argumosa. Go to any of the typical Spanish bars or the Asturian bar that’s across the street from them. If you are hungry enough for a whole meal go to one of the the two Senegalese spots that I mention in the Lavapiés list.

La Latina:

Are you in Madrid on Sunday? Perfect! Go to El Rastro flea market in La Latina. After this, head straight to the Mercado San Fernando, which has a wonderful old fashioned feel, delicious food, and full of locals enjoying a tapa and spending time together.

Art:

Go to the Reina Sofia museum to see Picasso’s Guernica. Go to El Prado to see Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights.

If you have time and it’s the weekend, take the yellow line out to Legazpi to the Matadero, see exhibits, have a drink/tapa, and enjoy the cool outdoor market (Mercado de Productores) which is only on certain weekends, full of free samples and great gifts of typical Spanish artisan foods, and definitely worth checking out.

El Parque Retiro:

You must go to Retiro! Have a picnic, read a book, go to the crystal castle of Reina Sofia Annex, or just walk through.

Books!

Perhaps you need a book to read in Retiro or Toma Cafe? Never fear! If you want to find a great book to read in English, go to Desperate Literature. I can’t recommend them enough!

Madrid Barrio Guide

One of my favorite things about the city of Madrid is how very distinct each neighborhood or ‘barrio’ is. You can walk between the neighborhoods in the center or take the metro. For me, living in Malasaña, it would´t take more than half an hour to reach most of the places I would go. Remember that many Spanish businesses close each day around 14h-14:30h and open around 17h-18h for siesta. Siesta, my friends, is a blessing and a curse.

The barrios that I have written about so far are as follows…

Atocha

Malasaña

Sol

Embajabores

Chueca

Lavapiés

La Latina

Gran Vía

Lavapiés

This is easily one of my favorite barrios in Madrid, and is the first place I stayed while couchsurfing. It has a high immigrant population, and a hippy artsy feel. This is the neighborhood to go out for Indian or Senegalese food. There are many places and most all of them are delicious, but here are some of my personal favorites.

Indian food:
Calcutta, C/ Lavapiés, 48, 28012
Shapla 2, C/ Lavapiés, 42, 28012

Senegalise food:
Bar Colores, C/ Mesón de Paredes, 43 28012
Baobab, C/ de los Cabestreros, 1, 28012

Cafes: (these both happen to be adorable bookstores and have wifi as well; a very common kind of cafe in Madrid)
La Libre, C/ Argumosa, 39, 28012
La Fugitiva, C/ Santa Isabel, 7, 28012

Tapas/Bars:
I recommend all of Calle Argumosa for tapas and drinks in Lavapiés. There are many cute places to go for a tinto de verano or vermut de grifo.
Bar Automatico, C/ Argumosa, 17, 28012
Casa de Asutias (ask for una botella de sidra to share!) C/ Argumosa, 17, 28012

Mercado San Fernando, C/ Embajadores, 41, 28012 :
Visiting this market is a true Spanish experience. It is a building full of shops and stands selling traditional artisan goods such as olives, pimentón dulce, jamón ibérico,and orujo. There is a good quality and affordable wine shop that will refill your wine bottles when you bring them back. There are also food stands. I highly recommend the Greek food stand near the back of the mercado. On Sundays there are usually people dancing in the little plaza within the mercado; one week I saw polka and another some sort of Americana folk dance thing. On Sundays there are lots of locals having tapas, drinking beers, and having a nice time.

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Little terraza inside El Horno

Exercise/Dance Classes/Yoga:
Centro El Horno, Calle de la Esgrima, 11, 28012
I was a dedicated student at El Horno, a wonderful dance center near the metro Tirso de Molina, where I religiously took zumba class each week from Richard Quintana, and had just discovered the amazing Bollywood class taught by Ender Bonilla when I moved out of the city. I recommend getting an abono membership. There are many class options in this apartment complex converted into a dance center. These range from ballet to capoeira to pole dance to yoga to spin classes, and the basement is a complete gym.