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!

Take heed of siesta and mealtimes

It is important while perusing Spanish cities to remember that many shops and businesses will close midday for a siesta. Generally closing between 2-2:30pm and reopening between 5-6pm. On Sundays shops are generally closed all day.

Siesta may make eating out at a restaurant confusing especially if you are accustomed to mealtimes that are different from the Spanish.

Usually people eat a small breakfast (desayuno) early in the morning with a café con leche (espresso with steamed milk) and some pastries or toast, and maybe a juice or ”zumo de naranja!”

Next there is a small snack called ”almuerzo” around 10:30am-12pm. The schools I worked at both had a small break around this time for us to eat and have a coffee. This usually consisted of bread, meats like jamón, chorizo, and sliced ham or turkey, perhaps some cheese, and a fruit. Very rarely the cooks would make tortilla española, and it was always such a treat.

Lunch isn’t eaten until later, between 1:30-3:30pm or so. Called ”La Comida” which literally translates into ”the food,” this meal is appropriately the largest meal of the day. On the weekends you may see people out having this meal at restaurants accompanied by some vinos or cervezas. By the time people have Comida, the kids are out of school and back home. This is also when siesta takes place so after your big meal you too may want to take a nap, or go have a lie-down in el Parque Retiro.

Next, is merienda, another small snack as dinner won’t be until much later at night. This is more of an eating time for children.

Last but not least, for dinner there is the ”cena,” which is a light meal taken between 9pm and midnight. People may just go out for tapas or ”tapear” for the cena, ordering a drink (which often comes with a tapa) and then switching locations after each one.

Because of these meal time, if you are going out to dinner understand that the restaurant or the kitchen may have closed at 5pm, and won’t open again until 8:30pm. This is less common with international restaurants, and more typical of Spanish run joints. You can always ask for a places’s ”horario” or schedule.

Check out this page for a more detailed description of the schedule of typical Spanish mealtimes.