Madrid 3 Day Itinerary – Ultimate Guide and Travel Tips

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Madrid is the historic and cultural capital of Spain, the heart of the nation and a place that’s literally teeming with life and energy. This is the largest city in Spain and the third largest in the European Union, but even with so much to see and so much to do, the Spanish capital makes for a great city break and 3 days in Madrid will give you ample opportunity to delve into local life.

With this Madrid itinerary, you can explore most of the city center, visiting the country’s best museums and art galleries to get a great feel for Spanish history.

You’ll have plenty of time to eat and drink, enjoying the cafe culture during the day as you stroll through grand plazas and along famous avenues, before jumping into the nightlife by ordering great wines with even better tapas to accompany it.

There are palaces, markets, and much, much more to see in during a stay in Madrid. It will be an action-packed few days, but you’ll leave with a taste of the Madrid lifestyle that will stay with you forever, and you may find yourself returning for another visit, sooner rather than later.

To inspire your trip to the Spanish capital, here’s our guide to spending 3 days in Madrid.

Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Spain (Travel Guide)

Madrid Itinerary

3 Days in Madrid: Day 1

Your first of 3 days in Madrid will see you getting quickly acclimatized to local life, as you explore the heart of the city. Centro is the main, central district in Madrid, and here you can spend the day walking from one sight to the next.

In sticking to this area, you will delve into the country’s history, visit royal palaces and enjoy the lively, vibrant streets of the capital.

Plaza Mayor in Madrid

Plaza Mayor

The Plaza Mayor is the central square in Madrid, and it makes for an excellent starting point for your 3 days in Madrid. Plaza Mayor literally means ‘Main Square’, and here you can find a huge public space that dates back hundreds of years.

The square is surrounded by grand architecture, and if you ever get lost during your wanderings through the city, just try to head back here to get orientated again.

Our top recommended tours of Plaza Mayor:

Royal Palace of Madrid

Royal Palace of Madrid

A short walk from the Plaza Mayor, you can find the Royal Palace of Madrid, one of the most impressive buildings in the city. The palace is still an official royal residence and it is in fact, the largest royal residence in Europe.

The current palace dates back to the early 18th century, and although it looks marvelous enough from the outside, you can actually take a guided tour through the interior, to see the vast corridors, stately rooms and artwork inside too.

Our top recommended tours of Royal Palace of Madrid:

Gran Via in Madrid

Gran Via

From the Royal Palace, continue your stroll through Madrid, as you connect with the Gran Via. This is the main avenue that cuts through the city and is one of the liveliest parts of Madrid. Along the route, you can find bars, restaurants, shopping centers, galleries, and museums.

Our top recommended tours of Gran Via:

Madrid, Spain

Puerta del Sol

Before heading off to find some tapas and a few local drinks, finish your first day in Madrid by visiting the Puerta del Sol. This major square is close to Plaza Mayor, and you will have walked full circle through the Centro by the time you get here.

This is actually kilometer zero, where all distances in Spain are measured from, and it’s a square which has a special place in the heart of locals.

Our top recommended tours of Puerta del Sol:

Madrid Spain

Madrid Itinerary: Day 2

Your second day in Madrid will see you getting much deeper into the local history and culture, as you tour the different museums and galleries of the city. From the Museo del Prado to the Reina Sofia Museo, there’ s a lot to see.

Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain

Museo del Prado

The Museo del Prado is one of the highlights of a trip to Madrid, and locals will tell you that this is one of the most important museums in the country. It’s predominantly an art museum, but an extensive one that has one of the largest collections in Europe.

There’s an enormous range of works by Goya, as well as Diego Velaquez, and you can spend the entire morning walking through the exhibitions.

Our top recommended tours of Museo del Prado:

Reina Sofia Museo, Madrid, Spain

Reina Sofia Museo

The Reina Sofia Museo is another excellent art gallery and museum in Madrid, but rather than a focus on historic artists, you can see more of Spain’s modern art culture, with a particular focus on the 20th century.

The museum is home to many wonderful works by the likes of Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali, and again, you can spend several hours enjoying the exhibitions here too.

Our top recommended tours of Reina Sofia Museo:

Retiro Park, Madrid, Spain

Retiro Park

After a day of culture and history, when it’s cooler outside, head across to the nearby Retiro Park, one of the most extensive public parks in Madrid. The park is a real escape from the city, and you can find large areas of trees and greenery, as well as sculptures, fountains and more hidden within the city.

Our top recommended tours of Retiro Park:

3 Days in Madrid Itinerary

Weekend in Berlin: Day 3

The last of your 3 days in Madrid will be spent immersing yourself in the culture, as you visit markets, enjoy local food and if you are a football fan, explore the iconic stadium of the world-famous football club, Real Madrid.

Mercado San Miguel, Madrid

Mercado San Miguel

In the morning, head to the lively Mercado San Miguel, a covered market in the city center that has for the last century been a popular place to shop and to eat.

It has changed since its early days as a fresh produce market and is today focused more on local food, and you can enjoy some great breakfasts or local brunches, as you soak up the local atmosphere and shop for a few souvenirs too.  

Our top recommended tours of Mercado San Miguel:

The Bernabeu Stadium, Madrid, Spain

The Bernabeu Stadium

Spain is home to some of the world’s most popular football teams, and in Madrid, you can visit the vast home ground of Real Madrid. The Bernabeu Stadium is enormous and can host over 80,000 spectators.

If you can find tickets to a game if you’re in the city on match day, then you’ll have a loud and lively sporting experience, but most other days of the week you can also join guided tours of the ground too, to learn more about Real Madrid and their importance in local history.  

Get you entry ticket to Bernabeu Stadium today with Viator.

Flamenco in Madrid

Flamenco Show

Flamenco is an iconic Spanish dance that is found across the country. It didn’t originate in Madrid, but locals have over the years adopted the dance themselves and become masters in their own rights.

Spend your last evening in Madrid enjoying the colorful and vibrant dance at a local performance. It will be a fantastic way to end your 3 days in Madrid.

Our top recommended tours of Flamenco Shows:

Madrid Travel Tips

Madrid Street

Where to Stay in Madrid

Madrid is a big city, but the city center where the majority of the touristic attractions are found is still surprisingly compact, so you’ll want to make sure that you’re within easy reach of this area, and not too far out in the suburbs, so you can spend more time exploring and less time commuting.

Madrid has a huge range of accommodation options too, which is to be expected from an important tourist center, and you can find a suitable hostel, guesthouse or hotel for almost any budget.

Centro is the best area to stay when you have 3 days in Madrid, as this will ensure that you are mostly in walking distance of all the best sights that need to be seen on a first time trip to the city. Centro though can be more expensive than other areas, although if you don’t have a budget then you can also find the best hotels here.

If you are on a budget and don’t mind being in a neighborhood a little further out, then you can consider staying in Lavapies, which is home to some of the best museums and markets anyway.

If you are interested in nightlife, then the best area to base yourself for 3 days in Madrid is Chueca, where you can find some of the city’s best bars, taverns, and clubs.

Read reviews and check prices with our Hotel Search Engine, that gives you the best hotel deals found on the web. Our search engine pulls results from all of the major booking places, including Expedia, Hotels, Booking and more. All the options, all the deals, all in one place and just for you.

3 Days in Madrid Itinerary

Where to Eat in Madrid

Madrid is a gastronomical haven and regardless of whether or not you’re big on food when traveling, you’ll find plenty of unique and exciting dishes in the city to tantalize your taste buds.

With 3 days in Madrid, you’ll have plenty of time to sample a wide range of dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and make sure that you find the time to indulge an evening of tapas.

Head to the local eateries and bars, where more often than not a glass of wine will be accompanied by some unique tapas dishes, finger food that will keep you satisfied as you enjoy a few drinks.

For breakfast, indulge in Churros y Chocolate sugar-coated pastries served with thick chocolate dipping sauce. You’ll want to try Huevos Rotos, ‘Broken Eggs’, a Madrid special that takes fried eggs and french fries alongside chorizo and other meats.

Despite being landlocked you can also get some great seafood in Madrid, especially Calamares, while the city has some excellent hearty stews that are served with meat and potatoes.

Related Article: The Best Madrid Restaurants and Museums

Recommended Multi-Day Tours:

  • G Adventures Spain & Portugal on a Shoestring: Take an incredible 10 days to experience the best travel highlights of Spain and Portugal: art, culture, food (hello tapas!), and nightlife. Leave the typical big tour bus behind and reach these unforgettable destinations by train. All aboard for some serious (and life-changing) city-hopping through Iberia.
  • G Adventures Discover Moorish Spain: Discover the history and romance of Andalucia on this eight-day trip to five amazing cities, with plenty of free time to discover them. Explore Madrid’s famous museums, walk the cobblestoned streets of El Greco’s Toledo with a local historian, take a flamenco lesson in Granada, and embrace the region’s Moorish spirit in Granada and Córdoba. Some 1,300 years in the making, the fascinating culture of Moorish Spain will be sure to leave you wanting more.
  • G Adventures Best Of Southern Spain: With some destinations, you always have to compromise on something, whether it’s the cuisine, history, or just things to do. Luckily, in southern Spain, there’s no such thing. This tour covers the major highlights of Andalucia (southern Spain): the ornate palace of Alhambra in Granada, Córdoba (an architectural mainstay of Islamic culture), and the Andalucian capital of Seville, home of flamenco dancing. Pair it all up with time in Madrid and Barcelona, and you’ll never run out of fun things to do, eat, or see.
  • G Adventures Classic Spain: In Spain, a country that’s filled with flavor, artistry, and passion, there’s no such thing as going halfway. Start in the south, where the Andalucian capital of Seville will introduce you to the most firey of dances — the flamenco. Head north and get a taste of Spain’s Basque and Catalan provinces: vibrant Barcelona, unhurried San Sebastián, Logroño’s famous cuisine, cosmopolitan Madrid, and the mighty Pyrenees. Each region of Spain has its own distinct character, style, and language to offer. Get it all here.

More on Spain:

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About Lina Stock

Lina is an award-winning photographer and writer that has been exploring the world since 2001. She has traveled to 100 countries on all 7 continents. Member: SATW, NATJA, ATTA, ITWA

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