My visit to Spain last month began with 48 hours in Madrid. I was most surprised by how French the city looks and feels, but after brushing up on my Spanish history, I learned that Philip V was in fact, French by birth and wanted to feel at home when he ascended to the throne! Madrid served as an excellent introduction to Spain before we made our way farther south in Andulcia.
In the barrios of Cortes or Salamanca. We stayed in an Airbnb in Cortes within walking distance of many of the major sights. We appreciated the historic charm of the neighborhood and found it to be quiet in the evenings. Salamanca is an upscale residential neighborhood in close proximity to Madrid’s best shopping. I would avoid being anywhere near Gran Via, which was loud, dirty, and overrun with tourists.
See & Do
The Prado Museum’s collection rivals that of the Louvre with European masterpieces from the 12th through 20th centuries. Not to be missed: Valezquez’s Las Meninas and Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights (unfortunately off-view when we visited!).
On the opposite end of spectrum is the Reina Sofia which houses Spain’s modern and contemporary masterpieces. Not to be missed: Picasso’s Guernica (of which you cannot take pictures).
Take a stroll through the immense Retiro Park to people watch the inhabitants of Madrid and to admire the beautiful grounds.
Like Buckingham Palace, Madrid’s Royal Palace is the official residence of the Spanish royal family. It’s easy to spend a couple hours here meandering through the lavishly decorated rooms.
Catch an early dinner of tapas at Bar Tomate.
Compare Madrid’s famous churros at Chocolat Madrid and Chocolatería San Gines.
Grab a jamon y queso bocadillo for a take-away breakfast from La Mallorquina.
Have a leisurely lunch of tapas at Restaurante TriCiclo (one of the best meals of the trip!).
Good to Know
Check online for free museum entry times. We visited the Reina Sofia for free as there’s no entry charge from 1:30pm to 7pm on Sundays.
While Europeans are notorious for late dinners, Spaniards take it to another level! Most restaurants open at 9pm for their first dinner seating, which can be challenging when you’re jet lagged.