48 Hours in Madrid – Where we stayed, ate and played

Madrid is always a good idea, well, that’s my friend Lucy’s theory and she’s sticking to it. Madrid is one of her all time favourite cities and she has been a ton of times.

So when she said she was planning a visit to the Spanish capital while she was seeing family in the UK, I took one for the team and stepped in to be her travel buddy.

Madrid was everything I’d imagined and more. We only had 48 hours so we packed it with as much eating, drinking and enjoying as we could possibly manage – so much so that it’s too much to tell you in one blog post. So here’s a little Madrid taster – where we stayed, ate and played.

Where we stayed

Hotel Emperador

Find it on Google Maps

Location, location, location! The Hotel Emperador is literally slap bang in the middle of all the action in Gran Via and honestly, I don’t think we could be in a better spot. Kudos to Lucy for such a top pick, she’s stayed here before and now I know why she is so keen to return. Nothing is more than a 15 minute walk away and it’s the perfect base from which to explore Madrid.

It’s not the most modern or trendy hotel but it’s clean, well located and remarkably well priced for a four star. As the hotel knows we’re celebrating Lucy’s birthday, we are lucky enough to get an upgrade to a Junior Suite which at 42 square metres is super spacious with light wooden floors, modern soft furnishings, a marble bathroom and huge windows looking out on to Gran Via. We are a bit worried about the noise being on the main drag and all but the room is super quiet – we don’t hear a sound!

The jewel in the crown in this hotel though has to be the rooftop terrace and pool. As the mercury tips 30 plus on the two days we are in town, you might not be surprised to find that we spend most of our time up here and why wouldn’t you?! I mean look at that pool!

The views from up here are amazing, it’s too hot to explore on foot so most of my sightseeing is done from up here on the rooftop. There are plenty of loungers around the pool and the terrace (including in the shade) and a full bar/restaurant serving lunch and dinner. Let’s just say we make very good use of the bar to (sun)bed service!

What We Did

In a nutshell… Not much. Unless you count sun baking as an activity. In our defence with the mercury hitting 34 degrees we only have energy for a little retail therapy, not least because the shops are well air conditioned!


Shopping in Madrid could be a full time job and when the mercury is rising, it’s a great way to beat the heat. We spend most of our time in Primarni AKA Primark and this has to be the biggest Primark I’ve ever seen! It makes the one in Oxford Street in London look small in comparison. You won’t be surprised to find neither of us come out empty handed, I could not leave these cavapoo socks behind!

Where We Ate

Mercado de San Miguel

Find it on Google Maps

We’re very considerate travel buddies and so on this trip, we take turns of choosing things to do. As Lucy is the Madrid expert she gets first pick and we head to San Miguel Market, just a stone’s throw from Plaza Mayor.

Dating back to 1916, this cast iron building his is like a giant food hall on steroids – with all the taste of Spain under one roof. It’s a food lover’s delight!

I regret my life choice’s having eaten lunch earlier in the day because to take full advantage of the market, you really need to come with an empty stomach! Undeterred though, we do a walk through of the market mentally adding delights to our edible wish list.

There are bars dotted around too selling local beers, sangrias, aperol and local wines but when it comes to seating, it’s a bit of a free for all. Be prepared to eat while you walk unless you are lucky enough to score one of the few tables or find a perch at one of the bars.

Keep your receipts from the food and drink vendors because you’ll need to show a receipt to use the bathroom (which is located down the stairs at the rear of the market) otherwise you’ll need 50c to pay for the privilege of the facilites!

Santa Eulalia Boulangerie

Find it on Google Maps

Lucy tells me that she has not had a decent cup of coffee since she arrived in the UK so we head here to Santa Eulalia boulangerie to rectify the situation and of course, to indulge in some baked treats.

The bakery is traditional on the outside and spacious and modern on the inside and it’s dog friendly too. We take a while to decide on which pastries to choose because both Lucy and I are easily distracted by dogs, especially this one who looks so much like my Teddy, lots of my friends messaged me to ask if I had really taken Teddy to Madrid. Truth be told, Teddy would have been Lucy’s first choice of travel buddy!

Eventually we settle on a cinnamon scroll for me, an ensaimada con crema (a type of pastry originating from Mallorca) for Lucy and an apple crufin because neither of us can bear to leave it behind.

We grab a little table by the window which is the perfect spot to dog watch and enjoy our morning delights and talk about how we didn’t choose the Madrid life, the Madrid life chose us!


Find it on Google Maps

Lunch is Lucy’s pick and we’re at one of the three locations of Divorare and this one is the closest to our hotel. We know we’re in the right place when we see the queue out the door!

Divorare is famous for it’s Italian foccacia sandwiches which went viral on Instagram so Lucy has set her heart on the mortadella pistachio pesto sandwich and I opt for the salt beef with smoked provolone and pepidivorare sauce.

Honestly, the sandwiches here are so enormous one would easily feed two people but in the spirit of research we think we need to try two – yes, we totally took one for the team. Both sandwiches are outsize and outstanding but we both prefer the mortadella because in such a big sandwich, the pastrami is a bit heavy. Are the sandwiches worth the hype? Most definitely!

There’s limited seating inside but plenty of places nearby to eat if you take away, just be sure to take some of the complimentary napkins and wet wipes!

Pez Tortilla

Find it on Google Maps

A trip to Pez Tortilla was on both our wish lists. Unknowingly we’d been sitting in a bar across the road from Pez the previous night, watching all the comings and goings and wondered what could be luring in all the patrons – we knew it was something good because the place was packed!

We had a little laugh when we find ourselves outside the place we were so curious about the night before and it’s as packed when we arrive as it was the night previously. It’s full of locals and I’m afraid my Duolingo level Spanish might not suffice.

There’s limited table space here so you have to have hawk eyes to grab a table or muscle in and squeeze yourself a spot at the bar. The menu here is simple – tortilla and croquettes and of course, booze.

The serves of tortilla are generous and come with a side of crusty bread to mop up all the juices. We order some ham croquettes and some brie and parmesan tortilla. It’s a bit of a bun fight and a balancing act where we try to make space for and eat all our dishes until someone kindly gives us their table.

The tortilla is good (surprisingly so with a runny centre,) and prices are reasonable and although it’s busy, frantic, full and full on, it’s an experience.

HanSo Cafe

Find it on Google Maps

We’re keen as mustard to try this cafe as every time we pass, it’s always so popular. This Korean run coffee house does not disappoint. Inside is super modern with cool vibes. We arrive early for brunch and by the time we leave, the place is packed.

The coffee is exceptional and the food is made for instagram only it tastes as good as it looks. If we hadn’t run out of time, I’m pretty confident we’d be back to work our way through the menu!

If you’re still here, thanks for joining me – and Lucy – on this whistlestop tour of Madrid. If you have any questions or tips for next time (because there will definitely be a next time) hit me up in the comments. Oh and stay tuned for part 2, coming soon!

Linking up with Min for Wednesday Words and Whimsy