I fell in love with Spain from the moment I stepped off the Airplane. It’s definitely in my top 3 countries I’ve ever visited! Not only did I love the food, but I loved the people and the way of life here.
If you’re looking to visit Spain, the first thing you need to understand is how each day progresses. It’s a little different because the Spaniards have mastered the ‘siesta’. This is a break in the afternoon that originally began to escape the hottest times of the day and has evolved into a cultural norm to this day. This also allows Spaniards to have a large, long lunch, which makes sense because lunch is the biggest meal of the day here.
You typically siesta from 2-5 p.m. and during this time more business might be closed and even school children go home for long lunch breaks. This means that in Spain you stay up much later, typically not eating dinner until 9 or 10 p.m.!
I went to a tapas restaurant that didn’t even open until 8 p.m.
Because you’re staying up later, you’re also sleeping in later and enjoying a light breakfast a little later than normal. I fell into this routine so easily and grew to love my afternoon nap while traveling! When people take this nap they’re so lively at night and the nightlife in this city is fantastic. Walking around Madrid at 11 p.m. feels normal and you’ll see plenty of people on the streets with you.
Now that you know how a typical Spanish day works, you’re ready to jump into a nice weekend in Madrid!
9 a.m. Light Breakfast
Get up and get going because we have a big day ahead of us! Grab a cafe con leche (coffee with milk) and hit the road! This is their smallest meal of the day so you might grab a roll with jam or some other small bakery good, but don’t expect a lot from Spanish breakfasts.
10 a.m. Parque del Retiro
The first stop today is going to be at Parque del Retiro. This is one of the most beautiful spots in the entire city. You can walk through the park, ride bikes or even rent scooters to get around. There are beautiful ponds, trees and I even stumbled upon some ruins! It used to belong to the royal family which is one of the reasons the park is so beautiful.
The gem of this park happens to be the Monument to Alfonso XII, a huge monument situated on the edge of a lake. You can rent little row boats and soak in the sunshine! I recommend getting here early if you want to row boats because it’s immensely popular, and if you don’t you’ll be waiting in line to get access to a boat.
12:30 p.m. Lunch
All around the park there are wonderful restaurants where you can grab lunch. Take this chance to enjoy a traditional Spanish meal like Paella, Gazpacho, Patatas Bravas, etc. There is so much good food here, it’s hard not to indulge in all of it!
Read More: Tapas Tour in Madrid
2-4 p.m. Siesta
Take after the locals and enjoy a nice nap this afternoon. You’ll want it after eating a big lunch, and you’ll want to rest up for a late evening!
5 p.m. Puerta del Sol
Continuing with our little walking tour around the city, you’ll want to stop in Puerta del Sol. Here you can do a lot of shopping. Famous brands like Sephora and Apple are located here, but there are also souvenir shops and other boutiques.
This square is known for its pretty fountain and statue, and it often has street performers lined around the edge to entertain.
6 p.m. Plaza Mayor
A little more impressive than Puerta del Sol is our next stop, Plaza Mayor. Literally meaning ‘large plaza’ it’s no surprise this is a popular spot in Madrid. In the winter, this is where you find the city’s Christmas Markets (although they aren’t nearly as impressive as the ones you’ll find in Germany or Austria).
There are tons of souvenir shops here, and in the streets just outside the square you can find little boutiques selling scarves and clothes. I bought a really cute winter hat here! There are also lots of restaurants in the side streets.
8 p.m. Mercado San Miguel
One of my favorite things I did while in Spain was explore the San Miguel Market! This indoor market has been around for over 100 years. It’s pretty large and packed with visitors, but it is so worth your time to wander through and admire the tapas. I tried a seafood tapa that was delicious! I asked the server what he recommended because there were so many to choose from that I couldn’t decide.
Take this time to sample different Spanish foods and use this as your appetizer before dinner and enjoy a glass of wine. This market is open until midnight, so you can explore as long as you’d like!
10 p.m. Dinner
Take the time to enjoy a nice, long dinner with friends while you’re out. Try more food like these traditional peppers, grab some sangria and relax! Read my food guide to get ideas on what type of dishes to order while you’re out.
Remember, the Spaniards eat dinner very late. Some restaurants don’t even open until 8 p.m. so keep that in mind when making dinner reservations!
1 a.m. Nightlife
You can’t end the night without heading out on the town. Madrid is one of the best places for nightlife since these locals stay up so late. You can go to a Turkish hooka bar, traditionals bars and fun clubs all over the city. Most bars and clubs don’t even open until midnight or 1 a.m. so be prepared to stay up and stay out pretty late!
Read more about the best clubs in Madrid or CNN’s guide to going out like a local.
10 a.m. Coffee
Don’t skip your cafe con leche this morning! You’ll probably want it after last night. Make sure to get up and moving this morning because we’ve got even more to see and do in this fascinating city!
10:30 a.m. Madrid Cathedral
If you like admiring architecture, then the cathedrals in Madrid will blow you away. Like much of Europe, there are beautiful churches scattered across the city. I loved the main Catholic cathedral, located just outside the Royal Palace gates. You can enter the church from behind so just keep walking on the sidewalk until you see the statue of John Paul II outside.
11 a.m. Madrid Royal Palace
By far the number one thing I did in Madrid wasn’t even on my radar when I arrived. It wasn’t until I was standing outside the gates admiring the royal palace did I decide that I needed to see the inside. For just €11 I was able to explore the entire palace!
There are many rooms you can’t photograph inside of, but it is so worth to walk through. Every room is so ornate, including the detailed paintings on the wall whether they are inspired by wine, Asia or the Queen’s personal taste. You can walk through the main dining room that is still used to this day for formal banquets, and it holds 14 chandeliers! I felt mesmerized the entire time I was inside. I was just dreaming of how pampered I would be if I lived in the royal palace – a girl can dream, can’t she?
Aside from walking through the inside, you can explore the courtyard and walk through the gardens in the front of the temple. You don’t want to miss any of it.
1 p.m. Templo de Debod
If you’re looking for a great view of Madrid and the royal palace, then you’ll want to walk over to the Templo de Debod. This temple came all the way from Egypt, given to Spain as a gift less than 100 years ago. The temple dates back to the 2nd Century!
1:30 p.m. Lunch
Branch out and try something new at lunch today! If you’re hooked on the traditional peppers like I was, go ahead and order those as an appetizer to your meal.
3-5 p.m. Siesta
Enjoy a little nap this afternoon. Rest up and get ready for another fun evening.
5:30 p.m. Gran Via
The Gran Via is probably the most famous street in the city, with the Metropolis building being the most-photographed building in the entire city. If you love to shop, this is going to be your favorite street in Madrid. For all of you Primark-lovers out there, the Gran Via has a five-floor store! I spent over an hour in here!
Aside from shopping, you can also see Broadway shows here, stand-up comic clubs and plenty of restaurants.
This is also where they have the famous Christmas Lights Switch On the evening of the last Friday in November. I got to witness it! The streets were packed with people, DJs were playing music and television studios were broadcasting the event. It was the place to be and seemed like everyone in the entire city was out that night.
8 p.m. Tapas
You can’t go to Spain without devoting an entire evening to trying different tapas. This is traditionally done at a Tapas Bar. I ate at Lamucca, a hip tapas bar downtown. You’ll want to make a reservation otherwise the line will be out the door! We were waiting in line for the restaurant to open despite having a reservation.
Try a classic Spanish drink: red wine mixed with lemon fanta. It’s fantastic!
10 p.m. Flamenco Show
If you don’t know anything about traditional Spanish dancing, you’ll learn a lot at a Flamenco show! I had no clue what to expect but I was so pleased when the show started. It seemed to go by so quickly!
These men and women move their feet so quickly, I couldn’t possibly imagine how hard it is to dance the Flamenco. You can buy a ticket for just the show (mine include one complimentary glass of wine) or you can buy a dinner ticket. Waiters will serve your food during the performance so you can eat while you enjoy the show. I highly recommend seeing a show, and they normally only last about an hour.
11:30 p.m. Chocolate & Churros
The best way to end any night in Spain is by enjoying a tradition dessert! The Spaniards love churros and chocolate, and you can find them all over the city. Dip the churro in the warm chocolate, and then drink the chocolate once you run out of churros. This is a cheap and delicious snack!