Madrid has made a name for itself as a premier travel destination among the many other popular Spanish cities. Between the delicious cuisine, illustrious art museums, and detailed architecture, Spain’s capital has a charm that’s all its own. Even if you can only spare a long weekend, there are more than enough activities to fill up an entire three days in Madrid.
A fusion of the old and new, Madrid has expertly weaved modern luxuries within the city’s vibrant, historic setting. Whether you prefer rooftop bars, contemporary art, or royal pleasures, a Madrid vacation has something for everyone.
So, if you’re planning a short trip, you’ll need to make the most of your three days in Madrid.
Consult this three days in Madrid itinerary to plan an unforgettable vacation and see all the dazzling attractions Madrid has to offer.
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Is three days enough time to see Madrid?
Spain’s capital city has an old-world mystique that attracts six million tourists each year. There are plenty of museums, plazas, restaurants, and other notable landmarks worthy of your time. However, if you can only spare three days in Madrid, you’ll need to plan accordingly.
Three days in Madrid is plenty of time to see the city’s top attractions. Many landmarks are within central Madrid, meaning you won’t have to travel far between them.
However, some attractions, like the Ventas Bullring and the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, are not centrally located but still accessible by public transportation. Additionally, if you want to take a day trip from Madrid to Segovia, you may need to add a fourth day.
What attractions can I fit into three days?
Thankfully, three days is enough time to see most of Madrid’s main attractions. Some of the best things to see in Madrid include the city’s Royal Palace, The Prado Museum, El Retiro Park, the Madrid Zoo and Aquarium, and the Temple of Debod.
However, Madrid’s art museums are a pleasant surprise and even compete with the Louvre. Art lovers may choose to wipe their schedules and dedicate their time to the city’s museums. The Prado Museum, The Reina Sofía, The Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Palacio de Liria, and the National Archaeological Museum are all top museums. You can reasonably see two to three museums in addition to the other popular Madrid attractions.
Check out our three days in Madrid itinerary to plan your epic trip to Spain’s capital city.
Day one in Madrid
Morning – Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor
Photography by Farbregas Hareluya via Shutterstock
Start your first day in Madrid by exploring some of the city’s most famous monuments. First, begin in the Puerta del Sol square, also known as the “Gate of the Sun,” where you can admire the beautiful architecture and take pictures with the famous Bear and Strawberry Tree statue.
From Puerta del Sol, walk six minutes to Madrid’s other renowned square, Plaza Mayor. Surrounding this grand square are delicious coffee spots and restaurants, along with the famous statue of King Philip III on horseback. Walk around these squares to get a feel for Spanish architecture before arriving at the magnificent Royal Palace.
Photography by Analisisgadgets via Shutterstock
At over 135,000 square meters, The Royal Palace is the biggest royal residence in Europe and a must-see during your three days in Madrid. This majestic home of the Spanish monarchy is a must-see on your Madrid vacation. Consider choosing a guided tour to lead you through the 3,000 decadent rooms. Visitors can explore the famous portrait gallery, admire the weaponry in the armories, and float up the marble staircase. Plus, there are stunning views of Madrid from the upper levels of the residence.
If you have a few extra minutes to spare, stroll the Sabatini Gardens on the northern side of the Palace. These picturesque, well-maintained gardens are among the best things to see in Madrid.
⭐ Insider Tip: After starting your day feeling like Spanish royalty, join the common folk for some afternoon grub. The Mercado de San Miguel is near the Royal Palace and is an old, traditional market recently transformed into a modern cuisine experience. There’s something for everyone in the market, from sushi to paella, from oysters to pintxos!
Catedral de la Almudena
Right next to the palace is the city’s cathedral, Catedral de la Almudena. This cathedral is unlike many others in Spain, considering construction began in 1883 and only finished in 1993. Designed in a new gothic style, Catedral de la Almudena is painted in vibrant colors and adorned with modern statues. The cathedral’s main calling card is its beautifully painted ceiling, which will keep your head permanently tilted up. It’s free to visit the cathedral.
Barrio de la Latina
Finish your afternoon on your first day in Madrid by exploring one of the city’s most vibrant neighborhoods. Right near the cathedral is Barrio de la Latina, a maze of picturesque, winding streets perfect for bar hopping or souvenir shopping. These streets date back to the Middle Ages and are a must-see during your three days in Madrid. If you happen to be visiting on a Sunday, check out the neighborhood’s flea market, El Rastro, featuring local artisan crafts and goods.
Temple of Debod
As you round out your first day in Madrid, head back to the Royal Palace area to check out the Temple of Debod at night. This monument is free to visit and is one of the coolest things to do in Madrid. Originally a chapel in Nubia dedicated to the Egyptian gods Amun and Isis, the temple was abandoned during the area’s conversion to Christianity. It was then moved to Madrid to save the monument. The complex is gorgeous to wander and explore at night when the sun sets, and lights sparkle on the monument.
You can’t plan a Madrid vacation without making time for one of Spain’s best entertainments, a flamenco show. This fiery performance, paired with sangria and tapas, will satiate your appetite for Spanish dance and music. Allow yourself to be transported to the birthplace of flamenco, the South of Spain, as the stage is set to look like the Alhambra in Granada. All reviewers highly recommend this particular flamenco show for a passionate evening full of talent and fun.
Day two in Madrid
You’ve seen the sights and you have a rough idea of where you are. As much as you might want to spend the rest of your three days in Madrid drinking sangria, it’s time to get cultured.
Photography by Parque de Atracciones
Start off your day two in Madrid with a break from the history and the sightseeing and take a train to the extensive Casa de Campo. Then, bring your whole travel group to the city’s first and oldest theme park, Parque de Atracciones Madrid. There are roller coasters, water slides, and even a bungee jump experience to get your heart racing. If you brought your kids on your Madrid vacation, then show them Nickelodeon Land and take pictures with SpongeBob SquarePants. If you need to cool off, head to the Los Rápidos ride for some thrilling, watery fun. You can’t go wrong with a trip to the amusement park during your three days in Madrid.
Photography by Zoo Aquarium Madrid
After a full morning at the theme park, settle in for a leisurely stroll through Madrid’s most beautiful Zoo and Aquarium. Featuring over 330 different species, Madrid’s Zoo is home to koalas, pandas, eagles, and even aquatic species, like sharks and turtles. There are many educational activities throughout the park, so it’s perfect for the budding zoologist in your family or tour group. The Zoo and Aquarium are spread over 20 hectares, so you can take your time to observe the different species that have found a safe home in Madrid.
Photography by Hammam Madrid Experience
Finish off a full day of fun with a relaxing evening at the spa. This unique and unforgettable experience uses Moorish architecture and thermal baths to create a tranquil environment that is the perfect addition to your Madrid vacation. This specialized experience includes a 15-minute massage and 75-minute access to all the different thermal baths so you can fully enter vacation mode. Don’t hesitate to book this spa during your three days in Madrid.
⭐ Insider Tip: Dinner at Alcaravea Gaztambide. Waiting right next to the Hammam Spa is a delicious dining experience at Alcaravea Gaztambide. Enjoy a twist on traditional Spanish cuisine in this stylish and modern restaurant. Diners will immerse themselves in a gastronomic experience with all their favorite Spanish tapas and seafood on the menu. Be sure to book a reservation ahead of time, and definitely try the braised octopus! You can add dinner to your show, so if you want to take a break from the Calle Cava Baja and make your flamenco an even more Iberian experience, then choose the dining option.
Day three in Madrid
Begin your final morning in Madrid with a visit to one of Spain’s greatest arenas. Las Ventas Bullring, also referred to as Las Ventas or La Monumenta is where the biggest names in bullfighting, or toreo, compete every year. The bullring holds nearly 24,000 people and is the 3rd largest bullring in the world. This audio-guided tour teaches you the history of bullfighting and lets you walk where bull meets fighter. This is a great activity for the whole family and one of the best things to see in Madrid.
Photography by Prado Museum
The Prado Museum is Spain’s national art museum and features masterpieces from some of the top artists of Europe and Spain. The museum displays 1,500 paintings, spotlighting artists from the Spanish Golden Age, like Diego Velázquez. The Prado hosts some of the best classical European art in the world, and visitors can even see the earliest copy of Leonardo’s masterpiece, The Mona Lisa. Grab these tickets during your Madrid vacation for quick and easy access to this magnificent museum.
Continue your museum day with a trip to Madrid’s other famous museum, The Reina Sofía. This contemporary art museum features the works of Picasso, Rembrandt, Miró, and Dali. Once a former hospital, this modern art museum features many art pieces, including a sculpture collection with a bust of Picasso by Pablo Gargallo. The Sofía is notoriously popular, and these tickets can help you avoid waiting outside the museum in long lines. Be sure to go through the Express Lane to maximize your time during your three days in Madrid.
El Retiro Park
Photography by Ekaterina Chuyko via Shutterstock
Finish off your afternoon with a walk through the gorgeous El Retiro Park, comparable to NYC’s Central Park. As you wander through El Retiro, you’ll see the pristine Palacio de Cristal. This conservatory was built in 1887 and is entirely made of glass. It’s one of the most beautiful things to see in Madrid and is the perfect activity on a sunny afternoon in Spain.
As you exit the park, you’ll notice a neo-classical gate, Puerta de Alcalá. Designed by Francisco Sabatini in 1788 by order of the King, this gate is one of the five royal gates throughout the city.
⭐ Traveler Tip: One thing to remember during your three days in Madrid is that locals take siestas in the middle of the day. A siesta is a nap or break usually scheduled for the hottest time of the day. It’s not uncommon to see many small shops and restaurants closed between 2:00 to 4:00 pm. However, museums, plazas, and parks will remain open during this time. So, if you have any important errands to run, be sure to get them out of the way in the morning!
Plaza de Cibeles and Gran Via
Photography by Sean Pavone via Shutterstock
As the sun begins to set on your final day in Madrid, stroll down the city’s most famous shopping street, Gran Via. First, begin from the Plaza de Cibeles, another beautiful square with a fountain sculpture of Cybele, the goddess of nature. This square has become a symbol of the city of Madrid.
Then, walk down Gran Via, known as the Spanish Broadway, to complete your last-minute souvenir shopping and do a little bar hopping. If you fancy a little cinema or theatre, you may wander into one of the many Spanish theatres on the street.
⭐ Insider Tip: Complete your incredible three days in Madrid with dinner at Vinitus Gran Via Madrid. This elegant but industrial restaurant has a diverse range of menu items that will absolutely satisfy every type of eater. Enjoy the best of Spanish tapas, from veal to aubergine to burgers! Everything on the menu is a hit.
What’s the best way to get around Madrid?
Madrid is a vast city, so it can be tough to navigate. Thankfully, most of Madrid’s attractions are centrally located, so there’s only a small chance of getting lost. Regardless, consider taking public transportation as much as possible because city traffic can get very congested, and parking can be a pain.
🚇 How to get around Madrid by Metro
There are 13 metro lines in Madrid with 301 stations and three light rail lines. You can find a metro station by looking for a red and white diamond sign marked “Metro.” A ride costs €2.50 for a single journey, or you can purchase a 10-trip ticket for €12.20. A 10-trip ticket may be the best choice for your three days in Madrid since you’ll mainly be exploring Zone A, central Madrid. All tickets can be purchased at a metro station.
✈️ How to get from Madrid airport
The Madrid Barajas Airport is not too far from central Madrid, only a 25-minute car ride or 55-minute metro ride. However, if you’re looking for convenient transportation, then book a private transfer from the airport directly to your hotel. Rid yourself of all the stress of carrying your luggage on public transportation, and choose this convenient car ride to start your Madrid vacation off right.
Other ways to get around Madrid
You can choose either a one-day or two-day ticket on the Hop On Hop Off bus to quickly get around to all the top Madrid attractions. You’ll have access to two different routes with over 35 stops along the Modern and Historical routes.
The Madrid Tourist Card allows you to get unlimited rides on Madrid transportation (subway, light rail, buses, and trains) for a set number of days in either Zone A or Zone T.