How to get there?
Madrid is the Capital of Spain and located right in the middle of it. It can be reached by any city in Spain through a train, or you hop on a plane that takes you to Barajas. The Airport is enormous and receives and sends planes to almost any places in the world. Including to Europe and our favorite budget airlines land at the same airport.
From there it is just a short Metro ride into the city. You can also take a taxi; they charge around 30 Euros to go the center. The metro system in Madrid is excellent though and works perfectly. I highly recommend using it as it takes you everywhere you need to go.
In general, the public transport in Madrid is very good, and the buses even have Wifi.
Where to stay?
We were lucky enough to stay with family a few days and get a hotel in the epicenter of the city, the Gran Vía for a couple of days after that. As the public transport works so well, it almost does not matter in which area you stay. If you want to feel great vibes and hang with the cool kids get a place in Malasaña or Chueca, the last one is also a thriving queer neighborhood and one of my favorites. I will get to why.
However, you can stay anywhere close to a Metro, or a bus stop and you can explore the city. If you stay along the Gran Vía, you will be very centrical, and everything is easy to reach.
This street is like the artery of the city and is similar to the broadway filled with theaters and shops.
What to do?
So that is an excellent point to dive right in and get to explore this beautiful city. Other than Barcelona, Madrid is not very a touristic place, but there is still a lot to discover, do not let that fool you. Maybe that is what I loved about it so much.
Walk walk walk
In my opinion, walking is one of the best, if not the best way discover a city. Get to know it and feel the energy while wandering the streets and stop at parks, cafés and any place of interest.
So in Madrid, you can compare the walking with many stops, and you can discover the whole city center by walking and occasionally take the metro.
There are many routes you can take and detours you should consider to see some hidden gems.
Be aware that in winter Madrid could be very cold and in summer it can be very hot. It is mostly sunny though, so that is a big plus for a weekend full of walking the streets, squares, and parks.
Start your walk at the Plaza España and pay the enormous statues of Don Quijote and his Sancho Panza. As Cervantes is a significant Spanish author, it is not surprising to find his most famous characters in one of the main squares in Madrid.
Keep walking and turn to the Gran Vía, Madrid’s Broadway. This street is not just great for shopping, musicals and people watching, it also connects a lot of neighborhoods in Madrid and has a unique energy.
When you keep walking, make a stop at the movie theater Callao and dive into the streets to the Puerta de Sol. This square is the birthplace of Madrid, and you can visit the city’s famous bear statue and touch it for good luck. The square also marks the kilometer 0 of all the Spanish highways. That means distances are counted from here.
From here you can keep walking and make it to the famous Plaza Mayor. The square is the main one in Madrid an maybe the most touristic spot in the city. It is also the spot where enormous numbers of Spaniards gather every New Year’s Eve to celebrate the start of the new year together.
Keep walking around the main streets, and you have the main attractions in the center covered. It is lovely to watch the buildings and enjoy the architecture. Combine your walk with less touristic neighborhoods, and you will get the perfect Madrid Atmosphere.
If you need a green retreat walk around the Parque del Retiro or the river and discover the parks. You can even take a cable car and see the city from above. But that might be too much for a weekend.
While close to the biggest park make sure you have a look at the Puerta de Alcalá. It is one of the city gates that are still standing and one of the most famous ones. Many songs are written about it.
Of course, you can visit some of the museums like the Museo del Prado and the Museo Reina Sofia, especially on a rainy day it helps to spend some time inside. Are visit the Stadium or the Royal Palace. There is so much to see.
Make sure to include neighborhoods like Chueca, Malasaña, La Latina, Embajadores or Lavapiés on your walk to get some perspectives of different areas and people living in the city. Every single one has their vibes and specialties.
Being in Madrid on the weekend comes with a major perk: being able to visit the Rastro. It is a gigantic flea market that is held every Sunday in the neighborhood La Latina.
It is huge. The whole area turns into a place to discover gems and amazing items from furniture, books, and clothes all the way to food. It is the best venue for a Sunday walk and a coffee. Take your time because there is a lot to discover.
Many small stalls and shops sell not just antiques but also designer items and much more fantastic stuff.
Not far away is the Museo Reina Sofia, that is the current home of Picassos Guernica. And it is free on Sundays, so you can easily combine it with the Rastro.
Just a couple of blocks from the Gran Vía you will find the vibrant neighborhood of Malasaña. What used to be a working-class area is now one of the hip neighborhoods in the Spanish Capital. Bars, galleries, and unique stores are located in side streets and around beautiful squares, that the hipsters and alternative people in Madrid use to hang out and share a coffee and a drink. Even in Winter people tend to sit outside and catch some sun.
Malasaña is also home to alternative cinemas and small theaters, and I recommend to go during the day, and at night, the neighborhood is nice at any time.
Atocha is not just the main train station in Madrid but was transformed into a botanical garden. You would not want to wait for a train sitting under exotic trees and watch the tortoises swimming and hanging out. It is the best train station I have ever seen.
And close by there is a street full of vendors of antique books. Even for non-Spanish speakers, it’s interesting to see and get a unique souvenir, like a hand-printed postcard or other unique items.
The shop is located very centric and has a fantastic selection of T-shirts that are printed in the store. The motives show comic pop art adaptations or images that are connected to The city like a punk version of the Madrid-Bear.
It is nice to stop by and look at the artwork or to get a unique souvenir to remember the city.
Where to eat?
So there is this thing about Madrid: it is a food paradise. Every corner has a bar, a café or a restaurant, one or ten of them. People take the streets and go from one bar to another and eat, eat, eat and drink. There is this wonderful thing here, where you get a caña (small glass of beer) with every sandwich and olives with every drink. I told you, paradise.
Also, there is food from all over the world, if you are not into the local food, which you should. It is great. But for diversity, there is Chinese, Peruvian, Cuban and so much more to try. I think you could eat your way through Madrid, but that is not a task for a weekend, maybe for a lifetime.
So it was tough to pick my top choices, but I will give some highlights here.
The Markets are amazing because not only can you look at all the great food, but order from many booths and try out different kinds of food. And if you travel in a bigger group that is your chance to get something for everyone.
My two highlights are the Mercado San Miguel close to the Plaza Mayor and the Mercado San Antó in Chueca, due to its design and the new booths with amazing food. It goes way beyond traditional but is still a go-to for all kinds of Madrileños.
The Address of the Mercado San Antón:
C/ Augusto Figueroa, 24
The Mercado San Miguel is a bit more traditional but still amazing and goes way back. It is a good stop after visiting la Puerta de Sol and La Plaza Mayor.
2. Hidden Authentic Chinese Food
A Chinese restaurant in underground parking under the Plaza de España in the Middle of the Spanish capital might sound strange but is a hotspot for proper Chinese food.
And it is hidden but those in the know would queue outside, and it is worth it. Sticky buns, soup, and some real Chinese treats are waiting for you.
And the place exists since 1969.
3. The Fat Fish and Malasaña
El Pez Gordo (it means fat fish) was one of my Food Highlights. It is located in Malasaña. And it is not the only great place there. Walk around that street and pick the one that suits you most. There is not much you can do wrong.
Keep your eyes open for crowded places; you can rely on them. Also, keep in mind that people eat rather late so when you go out early, you might be the only one eating in the restaurant. I can recommend a lot of dishes in the Pez Gordo, but the fried Eggplant with honey stood out. They also have music and great wine, so there is almost nothing more to ask for.
You can find the Pez Gordo and other lovely restaurants here:
Calle del Pez, 6
Calle del Pez, 6, 28004 Madrid, España
4. Snacking in Bars
Madridleños have huge and wonderful bar culture. They go out a lot and meet in bars and small restaurants, have a drink and something to eat and take it to the next one. The best way to experience this great concept is, of course, to make friends with the locals and enjoy an authentic night out.
If want to take it further you can go to places like the Tabacalera or other hidden gems in the neighborhood Lavapiés. You will find spots for all tastes in Chueca, Malasaña, and Lavapiés.
There is much more to see and do in Madrid of course, and I will go back to explore more soon. I am looking forward to my next trip to this lovely city. For now, I will nibble some Jamón, Croquetas and Huevos rotos and dream of walking through the streets of Madrid.
Take a trip and enjoy your locally abroad Weekend in Madrid.