You could spend a lifetime discovering the hidden sights, tastes and experiences of Madrid.
However, if you only have 3 days in Spain’s beautiful capital, that’s plenty of time to get a feel for the city. You’ll be able to experience the most important tourist attractions and even get off the beaten path to some of Madrid’s most authentic corners. Here’s how to spend 3 days in Madrid you won’t soon forget.
Morning, Day 1: Prado and Retiro
Start your 3 days in Madrid with a visit to the most famous of its many world-class museums. Even travelers who don’t know much about art will appreciate the stunning masterpieces at the Prado (Paseo del Prado, s/n). A relaxed visit is the perfect way to start your day and get to know a Madrid cultural icon.
When you’re done, head out to peaceful Parque del Retiro nearby for a stroll. As the most famous of Madrid’s many beautiful green spaces, it’s still big enough that it never feels crowded. If you’re traveling with kids (or even if not!), be sure to rent a boat and paddle around the picturesque lake in the center of the park.
Afternoon, Day 1: Market lunch and La Latina
Eat like a local at one of Madrid’s most colorful local markets! In fact, they’re often where you can find some of the best hidden restaurants in the city. If you’re coming from Retiro, head to Mercado de Antón Martín (Calle de Santa Isabel, 5), where you can enjoy everything from homestyle Italian cooking at Fiaschetteria La Saletta to exquisite oysters at El Tarantín de Lucía.
From there, head west into the beautiful La Latina neighborhood, a historic barrio in the center of the city that locals adore. This authentic little corner of Madrid is especially famous for its hidden plazas—try to see how many you can find as you walk off your lunch! And of course, don’t forget to join the locals for a beer on one of the many crowded terrazas for a true glimpse at local life.
Evening, Day 1: Devour Madrid food tour
Day one of your 3 days in Madrid is almost up! End it on a delicious note by joining us for a food tour in the evening. Eat your way around the city’s best tapas bars, get your fill of history and even take in a flamenco show! Your experience will arm you with knowledge of how to eat like a local throughout the rest of your 3 days in Madrid so you can make the most of every bite.
Morning, Day 2: Breakfast, Royal Palace & Almudena Cathedral
Buenos días! Start the second of your 3 days in Madrid with breakfast like a local in the city center. We’re big fans of Café de Oriente (Plaza de Oriente, 2) for their simple yet delicious Spanish breakfasts. Order a Madrid favorite—toast with fresh crushed tomato and olive oil—and wash it down with freshly brewed coffee or freshly squeezed orange juice.
From there, head to the grandiose Royal Palace (Calle de Bailén, s/n) to get a glimpse of lavish luxury. Spain’s royal family does not actually live in the palace. However, it’s still used for important ceremonies and an integral part of your 3 days in Madrid. Take the audio guided tour for more insight into this fascinating family and their majestic palace.
As you leave the palace, don’t forget to check out the stunning cathedral directly across the way. Almudena Cathedral (Calle de Bailén, 10) had been in the works for more than 100 years when it was finally considered completed in 1993! Despite being relatively young compared to other European cathedrals, its short history is full of many milestones. Spain’s current king and queen were married here in 2004!
Afternoon, Day 2: Lunch and Madrid Río
After a morning full of cultural insight, you’re sure to be hungry. Check out one of our favorite places to eat in the city center, or try one of the recommendations on your Devouring Madrid guide that you got after your food tour!
When you’re done eating, head south of the city center to Madrid Río. Locals love this incredible green space on the banks of the Manzanares River for its walking and bike trails, kids’ play areas, fascinating cultural exhibitions at Matadero Madrid and more. It’s just far enough off the beaten path that few tourists find their way there, but it’s also not too far from the city center.
Evening, Day 2: Sunset Teleférico ride
End your second day with stunning sunset views over Madrid on the Teleférico cable car. You’ll get a bird’s eye view of Madrid Río as well as the Casa del Campo park, as well as unique perspectives of the city itself. What’s more, a handy audio guide will narrate everything you’re seeing as you go, so you can truly appreciate the views!
Morning, Day 3: Plaza Mayor & Sol
Hard to believe, but your 3 days in Madrid are almost up! Start your last day at Madrid’s most emblematic square. Plaza Mayor gets quite touristy later in the day, but this must-see sight is quite calm in the mornings before the crowds.
From there, head up Calle Mayor to Puerta del Sol. Along the way, be sure to stop at El Riojano (one of the stops on our Ultimate Spanish Cuisine Tour) for hot chocolate and a delicious homemade pastry! Once you’ve arrived at Sol, be sure to take some time to stand in the exact geographic center of Spain (kilómetro cero, in front of the building with the clock tower) and take a picture with the bear statue!
Afternoon, Day 3: Lunch & shopping in Chueca
Head just north of the city center to the trendy Chueca neighborhood for one last local lunch. We’re big fans of Mercado San Ildefonso (Calle Fuencarral, 57DP Tapas), especially , but there are lots of incredible and delicious options around this area. When you’re done, walk around the neighborhood and pop into some of its hip boutiques, where you can find unique mementos to take home from your trip.
Evening, Day 3: Wine tasting & tapas
It’s been a successful 3 days in Madrid. We’ll drink to that! Cap off your experience with a wine tasting at one of our favorite wine shops and bars in the city. If you like what you taste, you can even pick up a bottle to take home. Now that’s what we call a delicious souvenir!
Finally, be sure to take one last tapas crawl through the city before you go. Now that you’ve spent 3 days in Madrid, you’re probably getting the hang of what it means to eat like a local. The cuisine is sure to be the number one thing you’ll miss about Madrid!
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Life is too short to speak one language and stay in one place. In 2015, this philosophy took her from familiar Ohio to sunny southern Spain. Usually drinking tinto de verano, reading Lorca, or attempting to dance flamenco (not all at once). Follow her blog, Viatic Couture, for more.