Unlike most European capitals, Madrid has a surprising shortage of travel guides. Arguably underrated, the Spanish city grows on you each time you visit it. That said, its sprawling nature can make it hard to know where to start. Which is where I come in. Here's how to do Madrid in 48 hours and €200.
Stay: at the Hat Madrid. The hostel version of a design hotel – the Hat is located in the central and popular La Latina neighbourhood, and makes the perfect base to explore one of Europe's sunniest capitals. Sunlight permeates the hotel, which is run on biomass, brightening up everything from the white cave walls to the sunny sixth floor rooftop. With a bar in the foyer, rooms are spotlessly clean with free wifi, friendly staff and strong water pressure. Private accommodation starts at €120 and our room included a smart TV.
After dropping your bags, head to La Rollerie for a traditional Spanish way of breaking the fast – crunch sourdough bread with olive oil, diced tomato and jamon. Orange juice and coffee included.
Bread with tomato, ham and a coffee: €6
Continue your stroll until you reach Retiro Park. Madrid's main (and biggest) park is a hive of activity. Explore on foot or hire cycles and pedal your way around the labyrinth of paths. I'd recommend making like a tourist and renting a row boat on the lake for 45 minutes. It's arguably the best €8 you'll spend.
Leave Retiro Park at Plaza de la Independencia to see the famous arch, Puerta de Alcala. Head back past Harina and enjoy some empanadas for lunch. Try to resist the pastries if you can – I don't blame you if you can't!
Two empanadas: €6.
Continue your walk back through Puerta de Sol, where you can veer right up towards Gran Via and peruse the shops. Or turn left and head back to the rooftop for a well deserved drink. The sixth floor rooftop makes the perfect spot to catch some afternoon rays accompanied by an Aperol Spritz or Sangria.
Walk along Cava Baja – the street famous for tapas and small plates. Choose to have a progressive dinner here – enjoying small bites and a glass of wine at a few of the many options along the street or head around the corner to El Viajero. Go straight up to the rooftop and try to nab yourself a table. I highly recommend the octopus, patatas bravas and croquettes washed down with tinto de verano – similar to sangria but loosely translated to 'summer red'.
Dinner: €40 for two
Day one total: €57
Hit the ground running and head past Almudena Cathedral to the Royal Palace. After admiring it from outside, pop next door to the Sabatini Gardens. Exit onto Cuesta San Vicente and walk down to the Campo del Moro Gardens where you'll get an incredible view of the manicured gardens climbing all the way up to Royal Palace – cameras at the ready.
Walk back up to Federal – for a great Aussie breakfast ... I'm sorry but there are some things we really just do better, like Vegemite and Avo on toast.
Leave room for an egg tart at Mercado San Miguel while marveling at the array of Spanish delicacies on offer. Resist the urge to have a second breakfast. Now would be a great time to pick up an inflight snack however!
Egg tart €2
If you've still got some time left head down to El Rastro where the famous open air flea markets are staged every Sunday. Enjoy the last of your Madrid moments wandering around the stalls filled with clothing and antiques, soaking up the local culture before saying adios and heading back to the airport via the express shuttle from Atocha or Plaza de Cibeles.
Airport Express Shuttle: €5 each way
Day two total: €23
Have you been to Madrid? What was your fondest memory of the Spanish capital city?
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