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Destination Madrid | 48-Hour Food Lover's Guide to Exploring Madrid's Best Sights and Eats

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Madrid Travel Spotlight: 48 Hour Itinerary for Foodies

Welcome to Madrid. One of the most incredible cities on earth. A visit to Spain's capital city will bring everything you hope, and more. Expect a vibrant city, with a blend of rich history, cultural diversity, and a lively urban atmosphere that sets it apart from other European capitals.


From the grandeur of the Royal Palace and the Prado Museum's artistic treasures to the bustling energy of Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor, Madrid offers something for every traveler. Wear comfortable shoes to make the most of your visit, as this city needs to be explored on foot to uncover hidden gems in its winding streets and cozy squares.


For the food lover, during your trip to Madrid, you'll be immersed in some of the world's most iconic foods. Unbuckle your belt because this 48 hour itinerary for the food lover in Madrid will have you eating every chance you get. To best enjoy Madrid's culinary scene as we always recommend, venture beyond the tourist hotspots and the places mentioned online to discover authentic tapas bars and local markets. Make sure to understand when Spaniards eat. Lunch is the most important meal of the day, and Madrilenos are famous for eating supper, their fifth meal of the day, very late. Don't get swayed by the flashy spots. Look for locals and go where they go. They will always know best.



48 Hour Itinerary for Foodies in Madrid, Spain

Day 1: Morning

Start your day with your first breakfast, Desayuno, which is eaten between 7am-9am. This is a lighter meal and we'd recommend beginning with a very traditional pan tumaca (tomato bread) or tortilla (Spanish omelette with potatoes and sometime onion). Now that you have fuel for the day, let's get going! Let's start with a visit to the majestic Royal Palace. Marvel at its opulent rooms, expansive gardens, and stunning views of the city. The Royal Palace stands as a testament to Spain's rich history and royal heritage, serving as the official residence of the Spanish royal family. Built in the 18th century, it showcases stunning architecture, lavish interiors, and significant cultural artifacts, making it a symbol of Spain's monarchy and a must-visit for history enthusiasts and tourists alike. Afterward, stroll through the Sabatini Gardens for a tranquil break amidst sculpted hedges and beautiful fountains. For Almuerzo, your second breakfast eaten between 10am-11am, head to a local café and indulge in a classic churros con chocolate. These deep-fried dough sticks are lovingly coated in sugar and cinnamon, then dipped in thick, velvety chocolate. Enjoyed as a sweet treat in the evening, or breakfast - we think it's a perfect way to start your culinary journey in Madrid.


Related: Video call a top chef from Spain into your kitchen for a private date night. Rated "Best Of" by WSJ and Rolling Stone Magazine. Make Paella together in a fun and relaxed evening you'll never forget.


Day 1: Afternoon

Museum lovers have several options while in Madrid. We recommend enjoying at least one, but which one you choose is really up to your passions. We recommend starting your afternoon by exploring the world-renowned Prado Museum, home to masterpieces by Velázquez, Goya, and El Greco. With over 8,000 paintings and thousands of other pieces, it truly is one of the world's most important museums.


After soaking in the art, take a leisurely walk through Madrid's most famous greenspace, Retiro Park. Madrid's green oasis is loved by locals and tourists alike. Originally a royal garden, Retiro Park is a peaceful retreat with its scenic pathways, elegant fountains, and picturesque gardens such as the Rose Garden and the French Parterre. While there, you must stop by the Crystal Palace, an architectural gem within the park, before heading to La Latina neighborhood for lunch. Lunch is eaten at 2pm.


With narrow, winding streets lined with centuries-old buildings adorned with wrought-iron balconies, the La Latina neighborhood is one of the best for lunch in Madrid. La Latina is famous for tapas bars and some of the city's best food experiences. It's where locals and visitors alike gather to enjoy a wide array of Spanish delicacies. If you're visiting on a Sunday, you'll be there to enjoy the El Rastro flea market, a wonderful way to explore local artisans and food vendors. While here however, it's a good place to find a traditional Cocido Madrileño, a hearty chickpea-based stew with various meats and vegetables, served in three courses. Yes, one dish is served in three courses! During the first course, the broth from the stew is served with small noodles (fideos). This flavorful broth whets your appetite and prepares you for the heartier courses to come. For the second course, the chickpeas and vegetables from the stew are served, often with some of the meats like chorizo, morcilla, and jamón. This course is substantial and showcases the earthy flavors of the chickpeas and the richness of the meats. Finally, the remaining meats (chorizo, morcilla, jamón, etc.) are served on a platter, typically alongside the vegetables. This course allows you to enjoy the different textures and flavors of the meats on their own or with the vegetables. It's an experience, and in Spain - lunch is most important. After lunch, head back to your accommodations for a siesta.



Day 1: Evening

As the sun sets, make your way to Puerta del Sol and admire the bustling heart of Madrid. Make sure to keep your eyes open for a small marker outside the Royal Post Office building. It's the marking point for where all Spain's national roads begin!


For dinner, venture into the lively Huertas neighborhood, also known as the Literary Quarter, and pop into Viva Madrid for a pint. Huertas is home to one of the oldest bars in the city. Scour menus, look at where you see the locals go, and find a good spot for tapa. The must haves include Gambas al Ajillo (garlic shrimp), Patatas Bravas (fried potatoes with spicy sauce), Pulpo a la Gallega (Galician-style octopus), Boquerones en Vinagre (fresh anchovies marinated in vinegar, garlic, and parsley, served cold) and Tortilla (a potato omlette). The key to a fabulous tapa experience is to explore new flavors, so don't stop after you've had the aforementioned, keep eating and discovering Spanish flavors. Sangria tends to be a bit more tailored to tourists, so skip it this round and opt for a tinto de verano, a red wine spritzer. End your evening with a stroll through the vibrant streets of Malasaña, known for its eclectic bars and nightlife. Get lost and stay out later than you should.


Day 2: Morning

Start your second day with a visit to the Mercado de San Miguel. This historic market, located near Plaza Mayor, dates back to the early 20th century and has been beautifully restored to showcase its original iron structure and glass walls. It's not just a place to shop for fresh produce and gourmet goods, it's a hub for gastronomic experiences. Here you can sample a variety of Spanish delicacies. This market is so popular, it now boasts more yearly visitors than the uber popular Prodo Museum.


Don't leave without trying Jamon Iberico (Iberian ham), chorizo, manchego cheese, croquetas (fried croquettes filled with béchamel and different fillings) or local oysters. Next, visit the Plaza Mayor, Madrid's grand central square lined with cafes and shops, perfect for people-watching and soaking in the city's atmosphere.


Day 2: Afternoon

Explore the winding streets in the area of Plaza Mayor to find a place to with Bocadillo de Calamares. This simple yet irresistible sandwich consists of crispy, fried squid rings served inside a crusty bread roll. Enjoyed as a snack or a light meal, Bocadillo de Calamares showcases Madrid's love affair with seafood and humble ingredients. It's considered an absolute must-eat when visiting the city. Alternatively, while in Plaza Mayor, you can try to get into Botín, the world’s oldest continuously operating restaurant. Try their famous roast suckling pig.


After lunch, museum lovers could head to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum to explore its impressive collection of European art. If shopping is more your thing, then you may choose to opt take a leisurely stroll down the Gran Vía, Madrid's bustling shopping and entertainment district. Gran Vía rivals any main street in NYC, and as Madrid's best known street, it's also referred to as the "street that never sleeps." Here you'll find everything from popular clothing stores to restaurants and nightclubs. It's modern Spain. Take a break from your shopping for a coffee break at a traditional cafetería and savor a torta de aceite, a delicate olive oil pastry.


Day 2: Evening

For your final evening in Madrid, immerse yourself in Spanish culture with a flamenco show. There are a number of shows throughout the city, many just meant for tourists, but there are a few gems in the city including Cardamomo, which hails the best flamenco performers in the world. They offer a show and tapa package which includes local meats and cheeses. Alternatively, you can find a place after the show to enjoy the country's most famous dish, Paella. While this culinary gift from Valencia is best eaten in the home city, any trip to Spain would be amiss without enjoying a Paella. Pro tip: the more elaborate a Paella, the more likely it's a tourist version. A true Spaniard prefers to have the shells removed from seafood. Another note, a vibrant bright yellow rice often means a subpar showing of this iconic dish.


After dinner and a show, take a leisurely walk through the beautifully lit Puerta de Alcalá and Cibeles Fountain, soaking in the city's charm by night. Head back to your hotel room and wish you had a third day in this incredible city.


And last but not least... if you find a bonus few hours, there's no better way to experience the city than to see it from above. For a panoramic view of Madrid, head to the Teleférico cable car or the rooftop terrace of Circulo de Bellas Artes.




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Destination Madrid | 48-Hour Food Lover's Guide to Exploring Madrid's Best Sights and Eats

Updated: Jun 24