Looking for a great weekend escape that combines arts, culture, fantastic food and great nightlife? The Spanish capital has all that and more. Plus, it’s close enough for a weekend getaway and a weekend is plenty of time to discover what this city has to offer. Tempted?
We’ve racked the brain of our Spanish content writer here at Liligo HQ, Miguel, to find out the best things to do in Madrid from where to eat, what museum to see, where to go out for beers and really how to get the most out of a weekend trip to the Spanish capital. Here are his tips.
Practical info for visiting Madrid
- Find the cheapest flights to Madrid that you can. From London that should be pretty easy with airlines like Ryanair, easyJet and Vueling all flying to Madrid Barajas Airport (MAD). Even Norwegian Air flies direct from London.
- The easiest way to get around the city is the Madrid Metro. The best thing is to get a tourist 3-day transport pass for Zone A (€18.40). You can buy this at any Metro station. Remember, if you travel to and from the airport by Metro, you’ll have to pay an extra €3 since it’s out of Zone A but the 3-day tourist transport ticket covers this cost. For more info, check out the Madrid Metro website.
- When to go? The truth is, there is no bad time to visit Madrid (a cliche, we know). The only thing to know is that, in summer, it is very, very hot in the capital. Spring and autumn are best, hotels are cheapest then too. Just make sure your weekend trip doesn’t coincide with any major sporting event.
Friday: Guernica, tapas and Madrid’s alternative nightlife
On Fridays, from 7pm to 9pm entry to the Museo Reina Sofia is free. This is your chance to see Picasso’s famous Guernica without spending a penny. Even if you’re not a fan of art, two hours is plenty of time to check out this painting, which is reason enough to visit Madrid, and a few others by Spain’s great artists like Dalí, Miró and others.
After a bit of culture, it’s time to eat. Don’t art galleries always make you hungry? From the Reina Sofia, Madrid Chueca neighbourhood is but a stone’s throw away and there’s plenty of choice for tapas and cañas there. Chueca is famously Madrid’s gay neighbourhood with loads of trendy bars and cafes. Start at a place called “El Tigre,” a popular student eatery which serves tapas with every drink.
Saturday: sightseeing around Madrid and then party time
Carpe diem! There’s nothing like starting the day off with a good breakfast: churros with chocolate. The Chocolatería San Ginés near Plaza Mayor is the perfect place. After that, you’re ready to hit the city’s major sights:
- The Palacio Real with its Sabatini gardens
- The Templo de Debod
- Plaza Mayor (which you will have seen at breakfast)
- Plaza España with its Don Quixote and Sancho
- Almudena Cathedral
- Puerta de Alcalá
End your day of sightseeing with a view over the entire city. Where? From the roof of the Círculo de Bellas Artes. It’s definitely worth the €3 entry fee!
Since it’s Saturday night, there’s only one thing you can do: head to one of Madrid best discotecas. Try Kapital, Joy Eslava, La Riviera, El Sol… and if the nightclubs really aren’t your thing then there’s nothing wrong with discovering some of the city’s most ambient bars.
Sunday: Madrid’s museums, el Rastro and el Parque del Retiro
Since its “museum day,” we can only recommend you check out one of the city’s “Museos del Jamón.” These local spots are not only cheap but delicious. Order a ham sandwich or a cheese platter to start your day.
Once you have your strength up and your hangover under control, it’s time to hit the museums. Visit the Museo del Prado or the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Pick just one, because seeing two major art museums in one day is just art overload, even for an enthusiast.
Next it’s time for a little shopping. Head to Madrid’s most famous market, El Rastro. It takes place every Sunday from 9am till 3pm in the Embajadores neighbourhood (Metro stops: La Latina, Puerta de Toledo or Embajadores). Since its founding in 1740, El Rastro has been the place to find just about anything in Madrid from souvenirs to antiques.
There’s no better place to enjoy the rest of your weekend in Madrid than in the park. In the centre of Madrid you’ll find a beautiful green oasis called Parque del Retiro. You can either rent a rowboat and drift around the little lake or visit the Palacio de Cristal. There are also dozens of statue and promenades.
What do you love about Madrid? Any favourite spots?