A Getaway Itinerary for Madrid, Spain

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There is simply something about Spain that’s just…magical. From the coastal beaches of Barcelona to the great food found in the country’s capital, Spain has something to offer everyone. Madrid, however, deserves its own shoutout. As the country’s capital, the city offers a balanced mixture of traditional life, pop culture, and fine art, all easily accessible thanks to the comfort and convenience of a cosmopolitan city. Plus, let’s be real — there’s something deliciously special about dining on tapas and fine Spanish wine on the reg. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know if you’re planning a trip to Spain. 

mercado san miguel

^ One of the cute finds in Madrid’s famous Plaza de San Miguel! 

How to get there

Norwegian Airlines operates non-stop flights from JFK Airport for a rather reasonable price. The seven-hour overnight flight takes off around 12:00AM and lands early in the afternoon {in Madrid}, so for travelers who are able to sleep on the plane, the schedule allows for plenty of time for an extra half day’s exploration. It takes about 40 minutes to get to the city center from the airport by bus {Exprés Aeropuerto}, which runs every 15 minutes during the day and every 35 minutes at night and costs only €5.

Where to stay

Tótem Madrid Hotel {Calle de Hermosilla, 23} 

hotel totem madrid

{Photo credit: @hoteltotem}

This boutique hotel has become one of the city’s trendiest properties. The chic decor has a  1920’s style, with a mixture of early modern elegance and an avant-garde touch. Rooms of six different sizes are available, including a double room that young couples can comfortably fit in and two spacious family suites that would accommodate bigger parties. It’s located at the heart of Salamanca, the high-end shopping district. It also has an eclectic cocktail bar and restaurant. 

Airbnb Plus 

Travelers who would like to have a full kitchen without compromising the luxuries of a high-end hotel can book a stay through Airbnb Plus, a relatively new Airbnb program that allows hosts to apply to receive a “Plus” certificate that recognizes listings with exceptional quality and style. After all, it’s a great way to take advantage of Madrid’s great markets by fixing a simple, elegant meal using top-quality gourmet ingredients bought directly from local vendors.

See More: Weekend Getaway: London, United Kingdom 

Things to Do

This gorgeous Spanish city has no shortage of things to do, so be sure to check out some of these must-see places and visit the spots below.

Visit the Museums

el prado

^ One of Picasso’s works in the Prado! 

Madrid has three of the world’s greatest art museums, the Prado {Calle de Ruiz de Alarcon, 23}, the Thyssen Bornemisza {Paseo del Prado, 8}, and the Reina Sofia {Calle de Santa Isabel, 52}. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the volume of fine art, so the rule of thumb is to focus on just one museum a day. If you are in a hurry and only have time for the highlights of each, some of the must-sees include “The Garden of Earthly Delights” at the Prado, “Guernica” at Reina Sofia, and “Portrait of Giovanna degli Albizzi Tornabuoni” at Thyssen Bornemisza.

Go to the Parks

Madrid is known for its majestic parks, with their sprawling lawns, carefully-tended gardens, and well-designed architectures. Go to Retiro Park {Plaza de la Independencia, 7} early in the morning for a relaxed jog. Climb up to Parque del Oeste {Paseo de Moret, 2} right before sunset to enjoy a panoramic city view, and visit the Temple of Debod {Calle de Ferraz, 1}, an Egyptian temple transplanted to Spain. In late spring, when the roses are in full bloom, the Real Jardín Botánico {Plaza de Murillo, 2} is a burst of velvet and ivory. Visiting parks is a great way to immerse yourself in the vibrant Madrid lifestyle, as locals also love these public spaces for exercise, meetups, or simply people watching. Plus, most of these public spaces are free {with the exception of the botanical garden, which costs €4per person}.

Take a Walk Through Local Neighborhoods

sunset madrid

^ The gorgeous sunsets you’ll find walking around in Madrid.

Forget about having to spend money Uber. Madrid has a wonderful public transportation system that connects its various neighborhoods seamlessly. If the weather is sunny and breezy, as it is most of the time, it’s easy to walk. Wander along the city’s winding streets and grand boulevard, and get lost among the countless gourmet food stores, trendy boutiques, and eccentric galleries. Plus, each neighborhood has a different vibe. Malasaña, the nightlife area, is electric and funky, while the residential areas such as Lavapiés and Chamberi remain laid-back and serene. For high-end shopping, go to Salamanca, while Cortes offers a more easy-going experience — the narrow streets are lined with elegant boutiques, cute craft stores, and cozy eateries. The city surely has a little bit of everything and for everyone.

Read More: {Long} Weekend Getaway: Porto, Portugal

What to Eat

Now, on to the food. Spain is known for its delicious food scene and tapas galore. Madrid is no different, housing some of the tastiest dishes + restaurants right in the heart of the city.

mercado tapas

{Photo credit: @mercadosanmiguel}

For Budget Eats + Beer

For a quick afternoon snack, go to Casa Revuelta {Calle de Latoneros, 3} right off the Plaza Mayor, the city’s major public space, for their famous fried cod. From mid-afternoon until late evening, the bar is always swarmed with locals. Make yourself a space at the counter and order some fried cod. Wash it down with a glass of beer before heading out to your next stop. Alternatively, stop by Mercado de San Miguel {Plaza de San Miguel} for a variety of bites that can be eaten on the go.

For Coffee 

Boconó Specialty Coffee {Calle de Embajadores, 3 Local Izquierdo} is a third-wave coffee roastery serving silky espresso drinks. There are also plenty of breakfast options here, including Spanish classics such as tostada con tomate, aceite, y jamón {toast with tomato, olive oil, and ham}, or modern fares such as toast topped with avocado mash or smoked salmon.

For Tapas

The bustling La Latina neighborhood is dotted with tapa bars and small restaurants, and Calle De Cava Baja, a narrow street only 10 minutes away from the Plaza Mayor probably has the highest concentration of them. Wander into any of these little bars and order whatever looks appealing in the glass cases. For a sit-down experience, try Lamiak {Calle de la Cava Baja, 42}, which offers easy-going small dishes with a Basque twist

For a Higher-End Tapa Experience

The casual but slick dining space at Juana La Loca {Plaza de Puerta de Moros, 4} fits any occasion from romantic dinners to spontaneous meetups. The dishes are largely contemporary takes on authentic varieties. Of course, there are Spanish classics such as a creamy tortilla española {Spanish omelet}, a rich frittata-like comfort dish made of caramelized onions, thinly-slice potatoes, eggs, and cheese. For “fancier” dishes, try their “composed” ravioli layered with truffles, cream, mushroom, and fresh pasta, or smoked sardines on a bed of creamy fresh cheese. 

For Fine Dining

At a price point of €30-50 per person {excluding drinks}, Sala de Despiece {Calle de Ponzano, 11} is surely a bargain for a fine dining experience. There are no tables here, guests sit at the bar and watch their servers assemble their famously innovative dishes right in front of them. Diners can enjoy savory beef strips caramelized with blowtorches and garnished with brightly-flavored relishes, or bite into a pool of oozy cream of burrata mixed with nuts, cherry tomatoes, and freshly ground pesto. It’s a feast for both your eyes and stomach.

Have you visited Madrid? What were some of your favorite things about the city? Let us know in the comments! 

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Written by:

Yiwei was born and raised in China. She has lived extensively in Beijing and Hong Kong, before finally settling down in New York. She moved to Hoboken after a few years in Westchester and immediately felt at home here. Two years ago, she left her job at an investment bank to travel the world and explore her interests, and has since then taken on a few freelancing gigs in career coaching, college admission consulting, and writing. When she is not wandering wildly in the streets of Europe, Asia, or Latin America, she can be found sipping an espresso in one of Hoboken's coffee shops or trying out restaurants in Hoboken and Jersey City area.


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