3 Days in Madrid Itinerary

17 min read
3 Days in Madrid Itinerary

Considered as one of the liveliest city's in Europe, Madrid is the capital city of Spain and has everything you could ever want to create a great vacation. Madrid is a dynamic city and is a perfect place to explore Spanish culture and history.

Madrid is an amazing city that is full of memorable experiences! Madrid is well-known for its historical architecture, elegant boulevards, never-ending food markets, parks and squares, and it's fantastic nightlife! It also has many museums and lovely neighbourhoods that you can easily roam around and get lost in.

This 3 day Madrid itinerary is full of activities and ideas that will help you to plan the best 3 days in the city. If you are visiting Spain for a longer trip and putting together your Spain itinerary, consider adding a couple of days in Barcelona - another must-visit Spanish city.

Nestled on the banks of River Manzanares, Madrid has been a capital city of Spain since the 17th century. Its name originates from the Arabic phrase 'Place of Water' or Magerit, which was the ancient name of Madrid. Later it was renamed to Matrit and eventually became Madrid.

The city can be visited at any time of the year, even in winter. If you are flexible with your travel dates, I recommend travelling in the late spring or early autumn when the weather is the most refreshing. Summer months are hot and long, allowing you to see even more in three days in Madrid than during other seasons.

Getting around Madrid is hassle-free and affordable when compared to other European cities. If you are staying in the city centre and plan on using public transportation just for essential journeys, I suggest getting a 10-trip ticket pack valid on buses and metro. I recommend this option for budget solo travellers.

  • 3 day itinerary
  • Average of 7 stops per day

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Madrid Map

Using the map of Madrid, you can explore all the days and stops.

Get to Know Madrid

Reina Sofia Museum exterior view, Madrid, Spain

Madrid is the place where your Spain trip has to start. It has numerous sights that will allow you to learn more about Spanish culture, history, and traditional Spanish food.

The first day of this three day Madrid itinerary will start at the historic Atocha train station where you will have the chance to enjoy a traditional Spanish breakfast. Later, you will visit several famous museums (Reina Sofia Museum and Prado Museum), the magnificent Madrid Botanical Garden, the always green El Retiro Park and end your day with a tapas food tour.

All of these Madrid sights are close to each other, easily walkable, so don't worry about public transportation. Make sure to dress comfortably and wear shoes suitable for long walks. I also suggest bringing a bottle of water and sunscreen if you are travelling during the summer.

If you have got a Madrid City Pass, don't forget to bring it with you as it guarantees free entry to the museums and allows you to skip the museums' queues.

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Atocha Train Station, Madrid, Spain

Have breakfast at Atocha Train Station

Established in 1851, Atocha Train Station was the first train station in Madrid. Today, it is one of the largest train stations in Spain. Located at the Plaza del Emperador Carlos V, Atocha railway station is within walking distance from Reina Sofía museum, Botanical Garden and El Retiro Park.

The train station is well-known for its mini tropical garden which has several thousand plants from various continents. Around the tropical garden, you will find cosy cafes.

All cafes serve a fantastic traditional breakfast so you won't be disappointed. I suggest having breakfast at El Botánico - it's a good price, it has an Instagram-worthy setting and delicious food.

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Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid, Spain

Learn about art at Reina Sofia Museum

Opened in 1992 and named after Queen Sofia, Reina Sofia Museum or the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia is one of the largest museums of contemporary art in the world.

Located on the Art Walk, the museum is filled with 20th-century art including works from Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro. It is mainly dedicated to Spanish artists, so it is an excellent place to learn more about Spanish art.

The museum has more than 22,400 artworks so you will need quite a bit of time to see everything. It can take from one hour to three hours to walk around the museum (not including shopping time and coffee break).

If you are short on time or not particularly interested in art, I suggest purchasing the museum's catalogue. Also, check for maps and so you chose a route with the artists that are the most interesting for you.

Even if you don't like art, it is impossible to exclude this magnificent museum from your Madrid travel itinerary!

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Royal Botanical Garden, Madrid, Spain

Stroll around Madrid Botanical Garden

The Madrid Botanical Garden is known as the Real Jardin Botanico, or the Royal Botanical Garden of Madrid. It is a massive botanical garden located close to the Prado National Museum, Reina Sofia Museum and El Retiro Park.

Founded in 1755, the botanical garden houses more than 90,000 plants and flowers, and 1,500 trees. The garden also has herbarium with a million entries, research facilities, a library and the archive with around 10,000 drawings and several thousand living plants.

Madrid Botanical Garden offers daily guided tours that take you through its greenhouses and hidden corners. If you aren't keen on taking a tour, you can stroll around the botanical garden at your own pace. Just don't forget to visit the greenhouses that are definite highlights of the garden!

Opening hours differ depending on the season, so check the website before your visit.

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Prado National Museum, Madrid, Spain

Explore Prado National Museum

The Prado National Museum, or Museo Nacional del Prado, is the main national art museum in Spain. It is located in central Madrid and is reachable from various parts of the city.

Established in 1819, Prado Museum is known for having the finest collection of European art that dates from the 12th century. On its walls, you will find the finest works of Spanish, Italian and Flemish schools such as Velázquez' Las Meninas and Goya's Third of May, 1808.

The museum collection consists of 8,600 paintings and more than 700 sculptures. You can easily spend 3 hours trying to see everything. If you are short of time or just want to see the museum's highlights, see its website for suggested walking routes.

Prado Museum has a gift shop and a cafe where you can have a light snack or take a break. The museum also offers guided tours that can be booked online or at the ticket booths by the entrance.

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Neptune Fountain in Madrid, Spain

Have lunch by Neptune Fountain

Located in Paseo del Prado, Neptune Fountain is one of the most beautiful fountains in the city. It is a perfect spot to relax, eat packed lunch and enjoy views of historic the Westin Palace and the Ritz hotels.

Neptune Fountain is my favourite spot to eat lunch after exploring several museums. There are numerous takeaway restaurants and cafes nearby. I suggest visiting Tinto y Tapas Bar if you want a good selection of authentic Spanish tapas. Note, this tapas bar is a little bit out of your way.

Another recommended place is Murillo Cafe, which is located next to the Prado Museum. Established in 1927, the restaurant serves an impressive variety of traditional Spanish food and beverages. Be aware that Murillo Cafe is more expensive than Tinto y Tapas Bar.

Also, if you are spending a weekend in Madrid, Neptune Fountain could be too crowded, so come before or after lunchtime.

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El Retiro Park, Madrid, Spain

Relax at El Retiro Park

Covering around 125 hectares and housing more than 15,000 trees, El Retiro Park or Buen Retiro Park is one of the largest parks in the city and Spain.

The park is home to various monuments (such as Monument to Alfonso XII), sculptures, fountains, themed gardens and even has an art gallery. The most well-known monument of the park is Puerta de Alcalá - a 5-arched gateway that marks the main entrance to the park.

Another popular park's attraction is Palacio Cristal or Palacio de Cristal, which was modelled on the Crystal Palace in London. It is a spectacular art gallery that often holds exhibitions organised by the Reina Sofia Museum.

When the weather is nice, you can even rent a boat and enjoy the park views from the lake. The park becomes lovely during sunset so pick your spot in advance.

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Go on a night food tour

If you still have some energy left, then you can't miss a tapas night walking tour. Adventurous Appetites is a friendly local company that organises the best food tours around Madrid's hidden local restaurants.

The tapas night food tour consists of several bars and restaurants hidden in narrow alleys and mainly known by locals. You will have a chance to taste various Spanish delicacies from different regions. During the tour, your guide will explain to you interesting facts about Spanish food and wine culture.

Consider going on a night tour if you want to beat the daytime heat, explore the city during the day and experience the bar culture at night!

Typically, the first drink and tapas are included in the tour price, but you will have to pay for yourself at other bars. Expect to spend an additional 35 euros for tapas and beverages.

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World-Famous Landmarks in Madrid

The Royal Palace of Madrid

Your second day of this 3 days in Madrid itinerary will focus on the most famous landmarks in Madrid and Spain. You will be able to visit some of the best historical Madrid sights; the medieval Segovia Bridge, the magnificent Royal Palace of Madrid, and the fascinating Madrid Cathedral. You will also be able to taste traditional churros from one of the oldest chocolateria in the city, enjoy everyone's favourite Plaza Mayor, and end your day with a good mojito from one of La Latina neighbourhood bars.

Visiting these European landmarks will give you more knowledge about the city's history, art, architecture, and their importance to Spanish history. All of these sights in Madrid are popular among tourists and locals, so I highly recommend to begin your day quite early as it can get very crowded.

Make sure to have breakfast before you start, dress comfortably, and appropriately for visiting sacred places (such as the cathedral), and be prepared to walk quite a bit. If you want to save time, you could take public transportation between stops.

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Segovia Bridge, Madrid, Spain

Stop by Segovia Bridge

Built over the Manzanares River, Segovia Bridge, or the Puente de Segovia, is the oldest bridge in Madrid. This 9-arched bridge is also one of the finest pieces of architecture in the city.

The construction of the bridge began in 1582 and finished in 1584. It is made of granite and decorated in numerous ornaments. Today, Segovia Bridge is still in use and surrounded by fountains. It is also a popular location for photos, so it can be very crowded when the weather is nice.

It has amazing views of Segovia and surrounding river parks. I suggest crossing the bridge and having a lovely morning walk by the river. You can find cafes where you can buy a sandwich and a drink if you haven't had a chance to eat breakfast.

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View of the south facade of the Royal Palace of Madrid

Get fascinated by the Royal Palace of Madrid

The Royal Palace of Madrid (Palacio Real de Madrid) is the official residence of the Spanish royal family though it is only used for various state ceremonies.

The Royal Palace was home to the Kings of Spain from Charles III to Alfonso XIII. It consists of over 3000 rooms including the Throne Hall, the floral-themed Gasparini Room, the Royal Chemist room filled with cabinets, the Royal Chapel and more.

The palace was built in baroque and classicism architectural styles, which often grab tourist's attention. Tickets are available online, and I would recommend you book them far in advance (don't forget to use the Madrid City Pass).

If you are on a budget and have to skip the Royal Palace tour, don't worry, you will get spectacular views even from outside.

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Catedral de la Almudena, Madrid, Spain

Be amazed by Almudena Cathedral

Catedral de la Almudena, also known as Santa María la Real de La Almudena, is one of the most beautiful Catholic churches in Madrid.

The cathedral was completed in 1993 and in the same year, it was consecrated by Pope John Paul II on his trip to Spain. The Neo-Gothic interior of the cathedral is filled with sculptures of contemporary artists. You will also find paintings painted by famous Kiko Arguello.

Almudena Cathedral also has a small museum containing mosaics, Episcopal symbols and vestments. The ticket to the museum is combined with an entry to the dome which showcases spectacular views of Madrid.

Note, you can enter free of charge to the cathedral, but you will have to pay for the museum and crypt.

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Enjoy the most delicious churros at Los Artesanos 1902 Chocolate

A visit to an authentic churros cafe has to be included in everyone's what to do in Madrid in 3 days list. I can't imagine a Madrid itinerary without a stop at good churros place.

Los Artesanos 1902 Chocolate or simply Chocolateria 1902 is a cafe relatively close to lively Puerta del Sol square and Plaza Mayor. Established in 1902, the family-run cafe specialises in traditional churros - Spanish deep-fried doughnuts served with chocolate, condensed milk or caramel.

Chocolateria 1992 makes churros fresh every day and serves them with chocolate made using an authentic recipe (no Nutella in this cafe!). If you don't like sweet things for lunch, you will find other traditional Spanish dishes suitable for a quick lunch such as sandwiches and baked goods.

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Plaza Mayor - Main Square of Madrid

Explore Plaza Mayor

Located in the Hapsburg district, the Plaza Mayor is a popular tourist attraction that offers great restaurants, gift shops, and magnificent local cafes. It is also one of the most well-known squares in the city.

Plaza Mayor was first built in 1580 in the centre of Old Madrid. It used to be filled with various stalls offering a wide variety of goods. Today, it is a perfect place to relax and go shopping.

I recommend visiting several gift shops which have plenty of authentic souvenirs for a very good price and even cheaper than anywhere else in Madrid.

Be aware of your belongings as pickpocketing is very common around the square.

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Have tapas and cocktails in La Latina neighbourhood

La Latina neighbourhood, or Barrio de La Latina, is a district known for the best beer on tap, tapas, and mojitos. The neighbourhood is filled with bars that have comfortable terraces where you can relax and socialise.

If you are spending a weekend in Madrid, you can expect La Latina to be one of the busiest parts of the city. I would also suggest booking a table in advance if you have a particular tapas bar that you want to dine in.

Want some recommendations from my side? Try visiting a Los Huevos de Lucio tapas bar - aesthetic interior, affordable tapas and mojitos!

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Discover Something New

Temple of Debod at Night, Madrid, Spain

On the last day of your Madrid 3 day itinerary, you are going to visit places that are usually overlooked by tourists. You will have the chance to see a quiet and very green part of Madrid.

This day covers a big park with a cable car (Casa de Campo), a buzzing local market (Mercado de San Miguel), an extraordinary museum (Museo ABC), an unexpected Egyptian temple in the middle of the park (Temple of Debod) and an entertaining flamenco show with dinner.

This day is more relaxing so you can take your time and explore on your own pace. You will be able to 'taste' Madrid's local culture.

Be aware that for this day you will need to use public transportation, so make sure you have your 10-trip ticket or Madrid tourist pass.

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Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid, Spain

Go shopping at San Miguel Market

Mercado de San Miguel (San Miguel Market) is one of the largest covered markets in Madrid. It receives about 10 million visitors per year. It was originally built in 1916 and renovated in 2009. Since its opening, the market has become a popular attraction for locals and tourists.

Located in the centre of Los Austrias district, San Miguel Market is a heaven for food lovers. You can find everything there, from Iberian ham to fresh seafood brought from the coastal areas of Spain every morning.

If you come relatively early in the morning, you will be able to avoid local crowds and taste fresh seafood. I highly recommend arriving with an empty stomach as there just too many things to try.

Before you leave, don't forget to buy traditional Spanish wine for yourself and your friends or family. This market is the best place for it!

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Museo ABC

Located in Malasaña neighbourhood, Museo ABC is a small free-entry museum that has a collection of graphic art and illustrations. It can’t compete with the famous Madrid galleries, but it is a very cosy and light museum that will help you to explore the world of graphic art and illustration.

The museum has two large exhibition halls, restoration workshop, glass room for events, striking coloured cafe and the bookstore. Its layout is straightforward to follow, and there is plenty of information to guide you through the museum.

An hour should be enough to see everything.

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Temple of Debod, Madrid, Spain

Temple of Debod

Located in the Oeste Park, Temple of Debod is an ancient Egyptian temple dating back to the 2nd century BC. It is one of the places that you can't omit from the places to visit in Madrid in 3 days list.

The temple was donated to Spain by the Egyptian government and is famous for being one of the few Egyptian architectural wonders that can be seen outside of Egypt. The entry to the temple is free of charge.

It gets very crowded around sunset, so the afternoon is the best time to visit the temple. You will be able to avoid the crowds and enjoy a relaxing atmosphere.

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Have lunch at Casa Mingo

Casa Mingo restaurant is famous for its roasted chicken (apparently, it is the best in Madrid) and cider. It is conveniently located close to the Temple of Debod, in Principe Pío. The restaurant is one of the most popular restaurants in the area.

Casa Mingo restaurant has two terraces (backyard and front garden) that are always filled with people, including families, couples, senior citizens and tourists. The restaurant is always full as it offers very affordable prices and homemade Spanish food.

If you don't want to splash out on the lunch or are planning to travel on a budget, Casa Mingo is the right place for you.

I recommend booking a table in advance, especially if you are travelling on the weekend. You can always ask your hotel receptionist if they can ring the restaurant and reserve the table for you.

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Visit Casa de Campo Park

Covering more than 153,552 hectares, Casa de Campo Park is the biggest park in Madrid. It can be easily reached by walking from the city centre. Another way to get to the park is by taking the cable car from Oeste Park (where Temple of Debod is located) to Casa de Campo Park.

Casa de Campo means 'country house' in Spanish. You will find lots of trees and a wide variety of fauna that will make you feel like you are in a dense forest. The park also has a boating lake, the Madrid Zoo Aquarium, an amusement park, outdoor pools and gorgeous walking trails.

It is a perfect place to relax before you move on to the last stop of this Madrid in 3 days itinerary.

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Watch flamenco show at Tablao Flamenco Torres Bermejas

Flamenco is Spanish music, played on the guitar and accompanied by dancing and singing. It originated from the southern part of Spain and is performed all around the country on tablaos - a wooden floor for the performance installed in 'theatres'.

I believe that when visiting Madrid, a flamenco performance can't be missed from any what to see in Madrid in 3 days list. During my visits to Spain, I have visited many tablaos, but my favourite one remains Tablao Flamenco Torres Bermejas.

It is the most important tablao in the world. Located in the historical city centre of Madrid, Tablao Flamenco Torres Bermejas offers a variety of top-class performances.

Torres Bermejas fascinates everyone with its unique and stunning rooms, decorated with Arabic motifs, tiles and wooden ceilings. The interior also resembles the Alhambra in Granada.

Besides the flamenco show, visitors can enjoy high-class Spanish cuisine that is usually included in the ticket price. You can enjoy your food and drinks while watching an impressive flamenco performance. Make sure to purchase your tickets before your trip as they sell out pretty quickly.

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In Summary

This 3 day in Madrid itinerary covered historic and hidden gems of the city that can't be missed while travelling to Madrid. It is suitable for all types of people, including senior travellers and families. Slight adjustments might be needed.

Madrid is a cultural and historic city filled with grand buildings, green parks, lively squares and markets. You can spend a full week and still find interesting places to visit. If you have a little bit more than just 3 days in Madrid, consider visiting popular sights such as Gran Via street (shopping district filled with expensive shops, theatres and sculptures) and El Rastro de Madrid (a well-known flea market where you can find anything you can think of).

The city also has great links with other cities and towns. If you make your base in Madrid, you can make several day trips to various destinations such as Segovia, Toledo, Cuenca, Alcala de Henares, Salamanca and the underrated town of Chinchon. Just make sure to purchase a Renfe Spain Pass that allows you to travel for free on Renfe trains (excluding sleeper trains) for a specific number of days.

I hope this 3 day Madrid itinerary has been useful to you and has helped you to find exciting places to visit. Forget about all the planning, just remember to bring your camera and a good mood, and enjoy your hassle-free trip!

This article was edited by Loredana Elena and was first published on Jun 9, 2019 14:15 UTC.

Written by Agne Civilyte

031226hug WRITER I am a Lithuanian living in the UK and trying to travel all around the world. I love visiting places that are still not well-known to tourists. My favourite part of the world is Southeast Asia as I can find beautiful mountains and temples there. My absolute favourite country is South Korea as I feel at home there.

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