3 Days in Madrid: a fun itinerary through Spain’s Capital

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What we talk about in this article

3 days in Madrid - Almudena Cathedral and Royal Palace
View on the Almudena Cathedral and Royal Palace

Madrid, the capital of Spain, is a city with a rich culture, beautiful architecture, lively districts and mouth-watering cuisine. It’s no wonder that it’s a popular destination for travellers from all over the world. With just 3 days in Madrid, you can enjoy the beauty and energy of this city. Join me on this adventurous itinerary and get ready to explore the best of Madrid!

Where to stay in Madrid? The best areas and neighbourhoods

When it comes to choosing accommodation in Madrid, it’s a two-part question.

Madrid is a vast city with a variety of neighbourhoods, each offering its unique style, atmosphere, and attractions.

Is it your first time visiting the city? Choose a hotel in the centre (Centro district), Salamanca or Retiro, near public transport, and close to the main tourist attractions.

Recommended accommodation in Centro

Very nice budget option

3 Days in Madrid: a fun itinerary through Spain's Capital

Mid-range boutique hotel

3 Days in Madrid: a fun itinerary through Spain's Capital

Mid-range boutique hotel

3 Days in Madrid: a fun itinerary through Spain's Capital

High-end luxury

3 Days in Madrid: a fun itinerary through Spain's Capital

More accommodations options to check out

Madrid offers a wide range of accommodation options, from luxury hotels to budget-friendly hostels. For a unique and intimate experience, the city also boasts an array of boutique hotels, combining the traditional hotel chic style with contemporary decor and personalized service typically found in high-end hotels.

Day 1 in Madrid - History and good vibes

Kick-start your adventure in Madrid with a deep dive into its history and lively atmosphere. Your first day is a cultural ride that takes you through the corridors of time. From visiting the illustrious Royal Palace to strolling through the vibrant Plaza Mayor, Day 1 offers a perfect blend of historical grandeur and modern vibes.

So, lace up your walking shoes and get ready to walk the streets of Madrid.

Royal Palace - Palacio Real

Begin your day at the Royal Palace of Madrid, the largest palace in Western Europe, and one of the largest in the world.

This grand palace is the official residence of the Spanish royal family, but is open to visitors. This is a very popular attraction. Book your tickets for a tour in advance, so you don’t miss out.

A guided tour leads you through the lavishly decorated rooms, and beautiful gardens. Don’t miss the Throne Room’s colossal chandelier and the Royal Armoury’s armour collection.

Royal Palace in Madrid
Royal Palace

Almudena Cathedral

Continue your journey to the past by visiting the Almudena Cathedral, located right next to the palace. This beautiful cathedral blends different architectural styles and is a must-see. Take your time to explore the cathedral’s altar, crypt and chapels.

Don’t forget to climb the dome for breathtaking city views.

Almudena Cathedral

Puerta del Sol

After your visit to the Royal Palace and the adjacent cathedral, head towards Puerta del Sol, one of Madrid’s most famous plazas. Stroll around this bustling square.

Don’t forget to stop by the iconic Bear and Strawberry Tree statue, a symbol of the city. Take a break at one of the many cafés around the square and indulge in some people-watching.

Puerta del Sol

Plaza Mayor

Continue your adventure by venturing into the Plaza Mayor, a grand square filled with history. Its lively atmosphere and stunning architecture make it an unmissable part of your tour.

Here, you also find an array of cafés and shops to explore around its picturesque arcades.

Plaza Mayor

La Latina neighbourhood - Barrio de la Latina

End your day in the vibrant La Latina neighbourhood, famous for its delightful tapas bars. Explore the narrow streets and take in the Bohemian atmosphere of this charming area.

If you’re a foodie, this is the place to be to try out new foods and flavours.

If you really want to get a feel of the local culture, go to a flamenco show, a fun evening garantueed. 

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Day 2 in Madrid - Artistic side & relaxation

Day two is all about immersing yourself in Madrid’s notable art scene. From impressive museums to beautiful parks, this day will give you a taste of Madrid’s creative and relaxed side.

If breakfast isn’t included at your hostel or hotel, then start your day with a delicious breakfast at one of the many quaint cafés in Malasaña, known for its hip vibe and artistic atmosphere.

Cibeles Palace and fountain - Palacio de Cibeles

Make your way to the iconic Cibeles Palace and fountain, an architectural gem located in the heart of Madrid.

Explore exhibitions, visit lectures, participate in programs or go to a concert in the CentroCentro. This is the cultural exhibition centre of the Palace. The palace also houses the City Hall.

The iconic Cibeles Fountain, centred at the plaza, showcases the goddess Cybele, representing fertility and earth. It’s a must-see duo that captures Madrid’s grandeur and the perfect spot to snap unforgettable photos.

Tip: The Cibeles Palace’s rooftop bar offers some of the best panoramic views of Madrid.

Cibeles Palace

Gran Via

After your visit to the Palace, head towards the Gran Via, Madrid’s answer to Broadway, where you can shop, dine, and take in a show.

This bustling street is lined with stunning buildings and offers a great mix of high-end shops, local boutiques, and street performers.

Take your time to explore this vibrant area before grabbing lunch at one of the many cafés or restaurants.

Gran Via

Prado Museum - Museo del Prado

In the afternoon, make your way to the world-renowned Prado Museum, one of the most important art museums in Europe.

Admire masterpieces from artists such as Velázquez, Goya, and El Greco as you explore this impressive collection. 

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El Retiro Park - Parque del Retiro

After immersing yourself in the art scene, take a leisurely stroll through El Retiro Park, Madrid’s largest and most famous park.

Admire the beautiful gardens, read a book, rent a row boat on the lake, or simply relax and people-watch while enjoying some delicious street food.

Make sure to visit the Crystal Palace and the El Retiro Rose Garden (in May & June)

El Retiro Park

Chueca District

As the sun sets, head to the trendy Chueca district for a taste of Madrid’s vibrant nightlife.

Known as the city’s LGBTQ+ hub, this lively neighbourhood is filled with hip bars, clubs, and restaurants catering to all tastes.

Grab a drink and soak up the lively atmosphere before ending your day with some delicious tapas at one of the many eateries.

Day 3 in Madrid - Modern Madrid & Markets

On your final day, experience the modern side of Madrid. Today, we’ll soak up the city’s vibe, explore bustling markets, admire stunning architecture, and indulge in innovative takes on traditional cuisine.

Let’s dive into the energetic and eclectic charm of modern Madrid. Are you ready?

Santiago Bernabéu Stadium

First stop, the iconic Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. Even if you’re not a football fan, this impressive stadium is worth a visit for its sheer size and grandeur.

Take a tour of the stadium, including access to the pitch, dressing rooms, and trophy room. You might even see some players in action during their training sessions!

Opening hours: Daily from 10am to 7pm

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San Miguel Market

After the stadium, head to San Miguel Market for a gastronomic feast. This lively market is a foodie’s paradise, with stalls selling everything from fresh seafood and cured meats to Spanish omelets and churros.

Grab a bite to eat and a glass of wine while taking in the vibrant atmosphere of this bustling market.

Opening hours: Monday to Thursday from 10am to midnight; Friday and Saturday from 10am to 1am; Sunday from 10am to midnight

San Miguel market

Reina Sofia Museum

After lunch, head over to the Reina Sofia Museum, where you’ll find works by Picasso and Dali.

Don’t miss out on the famous “Guernica” painting, a powerful anti-war artwork that has become an icon of modern art.

The museum also features a variety of temporary exhibitions and installations throughout the year.

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Lavapiés District

For a taste of Madrid’s multicultural side, head to the Lavapiés district. This lively neighbourhood is filled with street art, international restaurants, and cosy cafés.

It’s also home to one of Madrid’s oldest flea markets, El Rastro, which takes place every Sunday morning. So, if you visit on a Sunday, you might want to put this district on your morning schedule.

Explore the winding streets and soak up the lively atmosphere of this diverse area.

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Top tours to do in Madrid

As you now already know, Madrid is rich in culture, history, and gastronomy. If you want to discover more, you can choose out of a wide range of high-quality tours.

From the comfort and adventure of Segway tours, and a bit more active bike tours, taking you through the historic streets and squares of the city in a fun and efficient manner, to wine tours that provide a deep dive into Spanish winemaking tradition, allowing you to taste some of the region’s finest wines. Not to forget the gastronomic tours, which immerse you in the heart of Madrid’s culinary culture, where each bite tells a story. And last but not least, the diverse walking tours that lead you through the many neighbourhoods.

The big plus about a tour is that you go places where you probably won’t go on your own, you meet new people and learn some cool insights from your guide.

A fun tour can be just what you need to upgrade your experience. As Madrid, like any big city, has so much hidden gems, waiting to be uncovered. It’s so nice to get to know another side of the city. 

Madrid: 3-day itinerary map

What to pack for Madrid?

When preparing for a trip to Madrid, you need just the right stuff, nothing more, nothing less. Whether you’re visiting in the scorching summer or chilly winter, having the right clothing and gear is essential.

Our Madrid packing list includes versatile items that cater to varying weather conditions, ensuring you stay comfortable and stylish throughout your stay. From lightweight outfits for summer days to cosy layers for cold evenings, we’ve got you covered. 

There is also a part about toiletries, medication, electronics and other essentials included. So, if you’re in doubt what to pack, just have a look!

Practical information for 3 days in Madrid

An adventure to Madrid involves a bit more than just packing a bag. Contemplate on the logistics

  • How will you journey to the city of Flamenco?
  • What’s the best way to navigate the labyrinthine city streets?
  • Is there a secret to saving a few euros when visiting the city’s must-see sights?

Let’s see!

How to get around in Madrid

Madrid has an excellent public transportation system, making it easy to get around the city. The metro and bus lines cover most areas of the city and are affordable options for getting from one place to another. You can also use ride-sharing services like Uber or taxis, but they may be more expensive.

To save money on transportation, consider purchasing a Madrid Tourist Travel Pass, which allows unlimited use of the metro, buses, and trains within the city center for a set number of days.

Madrid 3 day itinerary
Taxis at Cibeles Palace

How to get to Madrid

Madrid is well-connected to major cities around the world, with its international airport serving over 200 destinations. If you’re coming from within Europe, you can also take advantage of the high-speed trains that connect Madrid to other major Spanish cities.

How to get to Madrid from the airport

  • Madrid has one major international airport, Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport (MAD). The most convenient way to get to the city centre is by taking the Airport Express Bus, which runs 24 hours a day and takes approximately 40 minutes. Tickets can be purchased at the airport or online in advance.
  • Another option is to take the metro, which also runs from the airport to various neighbourhoods within Madrid. The journey takes about an hour and tickets can be purchased at vending machines located in the airport.
  • If you prefer a more direct and comfortable option, taxis are readily available outside each terminal. They typically cost around 30–35 euros and take about 20 minutes to reach the city centre.

Exploring Madrid by foot

One of the best ways to experience Madrid’s unique charm is by walking through its streets. The city is known for its beautiful architecture, lively plazas, and hidden alleys waiting to be discovered.

As your expedition across Madrid concludes, remember that it’s not only about the attractions you visit, it’s about the journey, the flavours, the conversations, and the unique energy that fills its streets.

We hope you enjoyed Madrid as much as we did, safe travels!

3 days in Madrid
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