Madrid in 48 hours

Castellano Català

Madrid. Madrit. Madrí. Trusting the wisdom of Wikipedia 🙂 Europe’s third largest city after Berlin and London.

We inaugurated this new section for travellers, explaining what to do with 48 hours in Paris. Today we want to do the same with Madrid. Since most of us probably have already visited this beautiful city many times, we want to give you  some suggestions and alternatives to enjoy Madrid somehow beyond the ordinary and squeeze its maxima. Our suggestion for a two day trip is the following:

Day 1 – Museums and art galleries
So we reach the first museum! The CentroCentro Cibeles de Cultura y Ciudadanía “5Cs” (Cibeles centre for culture and cityzenry), a contemporary cultural centre located in the old Palace of Communications, which in its origin was the headquarters of the post national service (Correos). Built in the early twentieth century with a neo-gothic style inspiration and distinctly modernist, specially inside, it has a lavish floral decoration. It was the precedent of such style in the urbanism of Madrid during that period.
Cibeles Centre. Façade. Own photography.
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Cibeles Centre. Own photography.

feminis-arteInside the museum we see the amusing contrast between the old and the new, past and present, art and contemporary culture in a historicist structure. In addition to exhibitions of all kinds (in our case we found the sample of PhotoEspaña and Feminis-Arte, an exhibition of feminist video art) the Cibeles Palace offers film festivals and other activities, being one of the most alive centres of culture in Madrid, without having to envy the “three big monsters” or intellectual triad: Prado – Reina Sofia – Thyssen, which are in the same street and come by, allowing the visitor the possibility to organize an entire day in the same space. Reaching the street of Moyano, a promenade full of second hand book-shops with many different topics, we can stop at the bar El brillante, located just next to the Art centre Reina Sofia, and enjoy the real and typical squid sandwich.

  • In the afternoon we change the neighbourhood: now Malasaña!

Malasaña is a centric quarter where art and alternative styles dominate and which, as is happening in many cities, is starting to become overcrowded. However it still has all the charm it had in the past. There we find different museums like the Museum of City History and the Museum of Romanticism. We will focus on this latter. Located in a nineteenth century neoclassic small palace, it started as the collection of all the donations that counts and marquises gave to the State. It contains furniture collections, paintings, sculptures and decorative arts. In 2001 it was closed to relocate and reform the space so that it become a house museum. It was reopened in 2009.

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Museum of Romanticism. Own photography.
Museum of Romanticism. Own photography.

Today we find what would represent a mansion from the nineteenth century, with explanations and contextualizations of utensils, furniture and paintings of famous people of the city or the historical period. The last stop in the afternoon is for Espositivo, a small gallery close to the Gran Vía avenue. It is an alternative space led by seven young photographers that perform exhibitions and other activities. When we were there, they presented a photography sample of the Madrid subculture, a tour through the most rotten and punk face of the city, made by different collaborators of the team. You can check some here.

Day 2 – markets and book-shops

The second day starts in El Rastro, one of the oldest markets of Spain and the most emblematic of Madrid. It opens Sundays as well as festival days, and it is specialized in antique furniture, second hand books and collector rarities although also common goods as clothes and fruit can be bought. It is located in the quarter of la Latina, specifically in a street that used to locate the tanneries, near to the old slaughterhouse. When the workers transported the leather pieces from the slaughterhouse to the tanneries, they left a trail (trail = rastro in spanish) in the streets, from where probably the name of the market comes.

Near El Rastro we find the quarter of Lavapiés, also known by its born-and-bred character, a popular style that is exemplified in the novels of Perez Galdós. The folkloric face of Madrid, the majas and a picaresque atmosphere surrounds it. Gradually it became a young people quarter, specially up to 70′,  with a strong social and neighbouring movement.¹

We turn now to Tabacalera, a self-managed cultural centre in the old cigarette factory. Organic product markets, workshops, exhibitions, film festivals… we visited an exhibition in which we saw, among others, works by Eugenio Merino, Christo and Ernesto Neto in an industrial unit resembling more a factory than a museum; a dialogue between works, pieces and space.

The next stop is the municipal market of San Fernando, also in Lavapiés. A local market where between fish and meat we can find a curious small shop: La casquería.
There you can find books, which are sold by their weight! In fact, all quarter to Plaza Tirso de Molina (Tirso de Molina square) is full of charming book shops, second hand coffee-bookstores with specific topics (history, politics,…) A literarly set that make the are a vital point of all book lovers.
The end of tour takes us a little further, to the quarter of Legazpi, which tilts the Manzanares River. There we can find the Matadero – Centro de Creación Contemporania (Matadero – Centre for Contemporary Creation). It is a centre for art, creation, investigation, exhibitions, workshops, cinema, study rooms, library, two cafeterias, theatre and even a concert hall.
A cultural giant that thinks about contemporary culture, located inside the building that was the slaughterhouse in the early twentieth century.  With a modernist style, it consists of 48 buildings and 165,415 square metre², it is an example of how an old factory can be rehabilitated and reused  to give it a second life.

We chose museums and book shops mainly. Still such a big city always has thousand of places to visit, so we hope that at least we have encouraged you to make your own 48 hours in Madrid.

Text and photographies: Guiomar Sánchez Pallarès
Cover picture: Puerta de Alcalá

¹ Wikipedia: Veksler, Bernardo (2004). Lavapiés: Pasado presente y futuro de un barrio cosmopolita (Primera edición). Madrid: Vision-Net. pp. 68–72. ISBN 84-9770-993-4.
² Matadero, web:

Un pensament sobre “Madrid in 48 hours

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