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!

Sol/El Centro

The center of Madrid, and a big tourist trap, I do not recommend spending much time in Sol if you can avoid it, though it is definitely worth a gander. Ultimately there are two main reasons (besides seeing the plaza of Puerta del Sol) that a sane person would venture into this barrio.

Sugar:

El Riojano, Calle Mayor 10, 28013.
This is a sweet shop that opened in 1854 and continues to use many of the same recipes from over 100 years ago! Lots of traditional Spanish candies are sold here such as turrón and mazapán. There is also a little tea shop hidden in the back that you mustn’t miss!

Chocolatería San Ginés, Pasadizo San Ginés, 5, 28013.
Go here to try the traditional treat of churros y chocolate.

Plaza Mayor: This Plaza is certainly a tourist trap, but also definitely worth walking through on your tour of Madrid. The buildings in the square are beautiful and old. In the wintertime there is a big Christmas market in Plaza Mayor, and a huge nativity scene that people line up to see. You will see many stands selling figurines and boards with moss growing on them. These are for people to build their shop window or home’s nativity scene on. There is a great free walking tour of Madrid that begins in this plaza.