Madrid, not only the capital but next to Barcelona, also the most popular city in Spain. But it’s not just the attractions in Madrid that are absolutely worth the trip – with its beautiful parks, typical Spanish streets, and delicious food, a trip to Madrid is always a special experience. Since there is so much to see in the city, you should try to spend at least 3 days in Madrid.
In the following, we will take you to the most interesting places and the most beautiful sights on our Madrid itinerary 3 days and give you some helpful travel tips along the way on how to make your three days in Madrid even better.
What to find out in this post
- 1 Madrid Facts
- 2 Madrid Transport – How to get around Madrid
- 3 Best time to travel to Madrid
- 4 How to spend perfect 3 Days in Madrid – An Itinerary for 3 days
- 5 What to do in Madrid in 3 Days – Day 1
- 6 La Puerta del Sol
- 7 Plaza Mayor
- 8 Mercado de San Miguel
- 9 Muralla Árabe
- 10 Catedral de la Almudena
- 11 Palacio Real
- 12 Barrio de las Letras
- 13 What to see in Madrid in 3 Days – Day 2
- 14 Barrio de La Latina
- 15 La Lavapiés
- 16 Museo Reina Sofía
- 17 Real Jardín Botánico – The Royal Botanic Garden
- 18 Museo del Prado
- 19 Fuente de la Cibeles
- 20 Puerta de Alcalá
- 21 Option: Museo Arqueológico Nacional – National Archaeological Museum
- 22 Parque del Retiro
- 23 3 perfect Day in Madrid – Day 3
- 24 Templo de Debod
- 25 Plaza de España
- 26 Barrio de Malasaña
- 27 Iglesia San Antonio de los Alemanes
- 28 Gran Vía
- 29 Barrio de Chueca
- 30 The best Madrid Accommodation
- 31 FAQ about a trip to Madrid
- Capital of Spain
- The third biggest city in the EU
- Geographical, political, and cultural Center of Spain
- ca. 3,2 Million Inhabitants
- Home of the Spanish King
Madrid Transport – How to get around Madrid
Madrid is perfect for pedestrians, and if you follow this Madrid itinerary, there is very little public transport required. Despite everything, if you have only few time at hand or aren’t good on foot, there are various means of transport available.
Metro & Bus
The easiest way to get around the city is by metro and bus. There are various lines and directions, and you usually don’t have to wait more than 10-20 minutes for the next transport. At night you can take one of the night buses, which are called Búhos (Owls).
Cercanías – Regional trains
If you want to take a look around outside of the city center as well, the Cercanías is the best choice. Just be aware that depending on your destination’s zone, you may need another (more expensive) ticket. You can buy your ticket at any Madrid train station.
To use the public transport of the city, you need, of course, a valid ticket. Depending on travel time and route length, a single ticket costs between € 1.50 and € 2. If you want to save money and need several trips, you should buy a 10-seat ticket. It costs € 12.20 and can also be shared between several people. Those who have planned many trips during their time in Madrid can also switch to a day pass or multi-day ticket. Another option is to go with the Hop-on Hop-Off Bus to reach all the important sights. You can find more information on this tour and tickets here.
How to get from Madrid Airport to the City Center
There are several ways to get from the airport to the city center (and vice versa). We chose the Airport Express Bus, which leaves every 15 – 20 minutes from the Atocha Station and Plaza de Cibeles. There is also a night bus, but only from Plaza de Cibeles. The cost of the express bus is € 5. You can get your ticket directly from the bus driver.
Another option is to get to the airport by metro or train. By metro, take line 8 (Pink) to get to the airport. By train (Cercanías) you can take the C1 to the airport. The Cercanías only stop at Terminal 4. To get to the airport, you need a special airport ticket for both the Metro and the Cercanías, which is slightly more expensive than the normal tickets.
Best time to travel to Madrid
Madrid in Summer
It can get very hot in the summer, especially in July and August. The two months are also the driest. You can find the highest amount of tourists.
Madrid in Winter
Although Madrid’s winter is generally milder than in Central Europe, snowfall can occasionally occur. Even though it is usually comfortably warm in the sun, it is much more likely to experience rainfall and clouds during the winter months.
Madrid in Spring and Fall
During this time of year, it is usually still warm, but not too hot. We had amazing weather during our stay in early/mid-September.
How to spend perfect 3 Days in Madrid – An Itinerary for 3 days
What to do in Madrid in 3 Days – Day 1
La Puerta del Sol
Metro-Station Puerta del Sol: Sol (L1, L2, L3)
La Puerta del Sol (The Gate to the Sun) is one of the most famous squares in the city and probably the most popular meeting place of the Madrileños (that’s what Madrid’s inhabitants are called – in English, by the way, Madrilenians). The square is the central starting point of many city tours and can help orient yourself between the things to see in Madrid in 3 days. Some beautiful historic buildings surround the Puerta del Sol. The most famous of these is probably la Real Casa de Correos. But also the kilometer 0-point can be found there.
This place’s name is quite unusual for a Spanish square, as the names of these usually begin with “Plaza.” It is believed that the name Puerta del Sol belonged to an entrance to a fortress that stood here in the 16th century.
Madrid Scam Alert: You will probably find some people dressed up trying to sneak into your pictures or convincing you to take a picture with them. Be aware that those pictures are not for free and later they will ask you for money.
From Puerta del Sol, we follow Calle Mayor (main street), one of Madrid’s most famous and important streets, until we arrive at the next famous square of the city: the Plaza Mayor. The history of this plaza goes back to the 16th century. In addition to traditional Spanish restaurants, you will find some of the city’s main attractions around Plaza Mayor. By the way, Plaza Mayor has different accesses – 10 to be precise. The most popular and most photographed of them is the Arco de Cuchilleros.
Mercado de San Miguel
Opening Hours Mercado den San Miguel: Sunday – Thursday: 12 pm – 10 pm, Friday + Saturday: 12 pm – 11 pm
Metro-Station Mercado de San Miguel: Ópera (L2, L5), Sol (L1, L2, L3)
Right next to the Plaza Mayor is the Mercado San Miguel. This old market, mostly made of glass and iron, was built in 1916 and completely renovated in 2003. On 2 floors and almost 1,200 m², you will find many fresh foods and delicious Spanish desserts and snacks. In its new state, the market can best be compared to Mercat de la Boqueria in Barcelona.
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The Muralla Árabe, also known as La Muralla Musulmana de Madrid, is the remnant of a fortification built in the 9th century. It was created at the time of the Muslim rule on the Iberian Peninsula – hence the name. The remains of the walls are considered to be Madrid’s oldest surviving construction.
Catedral de la Almudena
Opening Hours La Almudena: Monday – Saturday: 10 am – 02.30 pm; Closed on Sundays
Entrance Fee la Almudena: free of charge
Entrance Fee la Almudena Aussichtspunkt and Museum: 6 €
Metro-Station la Almudena: Ópera (L2, L5)
If you follow the Calle Mayor until the end, you will reach another Madrid sightseeing highlight: the Cathedral la Almudena. Located next to the Royal Palace, it is considered the most important cathedral and one of the most instagram-worthy spots in Madrid.
Although the planning of this impressive cathedral was in full swing as early as the 16th century, construction just began in the 19th century. La Almudena was completed in 1993. Even though the church was planned and begun in the neo-gothic style, it ended up being finished in Neoclassical style to suit the neighboring royal palace. In 2004, the cathedral was on everyone’s lips worldwide as the Spanish Crown Prince Felipe of Spain married his Letizia there.
The interior of the cathedral is surprisingly modern and has décor by iconic painter Kiko Argüello.
Besides the crypt, there is also a museum in the cathedral, which is particularly popular for its vantage point, from which you have a magnificent view of the city.
Opening Hours Palacio Real: April – September: 10 am – 08 pm; October – March: 10 am – 06 pm; Opening Hours can differ.
Entrance Fee Palacio Real: 13 € (new Price since May 2019) / 12 € in Low Season
Tickets Palacio Real: You might want to buy your ticket or book your tour in advance online to avoid sold tickets or waiting in long lines. You can find some great tours here.
Opening Hours Jardines del Campo del Moro: April – September: 10 am – 08 pm; October – March: 10 am – 06 pm
Entrance Fee Jardines del Campo del Moro: free of charge
Metro-Station Palacio Real: Ópera (L2, L5)
The Palacio Real (Royal Palace) is, as the name implies, the seat of the Spanish royal family. On 135,000 m², there are 3,418 rooms, which make the palace the largest in Europe still used (for comparison, the Palacio Real de Madrid is about twice as large as the Buckingham Palace in London).
Even though the palace is no longer used as the residence of the Spanish royal family today, but only for state acts, you can still find out a lot about the royal family’s life there. Probably the most impressive rooms of the palace are the throne room and the imposing staircase.
Until the 18th century, there was an Alcazar in this place, which was also already used by the royal family. However, it was destroyed by fire, and subsequently, the construction of the Palacio Real, as we know it today, was commissioned. The palace’s construction took many years so that three different architects were involved in its construction.
Barrio de las Letras
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The Barrio de las Letras (Quarter of the letters) is still reminiscent of the fact that many important writers lived there during the Spanish heyday (in the 17th century). Many of the streets and alleys in this area have been named after important literati. Cervantes, Lope de Vega, and Quevedo lived in this part of Madrid, just to say some names. In addition to literature, this neighborhood is also popular for its theatrical culture. Check out the Teatro Español if you’re in the Barrio de las Letras.
What to see in Madrid in 3 Days – Day 2
Barrio de La Latina
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The La Latina district is one of Madrid’s most popular areas. Especially for going out, this part of the city is perfect. You will find exciting cafés, restaurants, and pubs with typical Spanish food and drinks at every corner. Many locals also use this area to go out. Several small streets lead you through La Latina.
But even during the daytime, La Latina is worth a visit. You can, for example, discover the Museum of San Isidro in the Plaza de San Andrés. This is the patron saint of the city. Another highlight of the neighborhood is Las Visitillas, one of the most beautiful viewpoints in the city. From here, you can perfectly overlook the southern part of Madrid, and you can also shoot a great photo of the La Almudena Cathedral.
Not far from La Latina is the district La Lavapiés. Similar to La Latina, there are many narrow winding streets. La Lapiéz is considered one of the city’s most traditional neighborhoods in Madrid and enchants with its medieval flair. Also, La Lavapiés is known for its cultural diversity. When Madrid was named the capital of Spain, many immigrants moved there. Not only from the surrounding parts of the country but also from North Africa and India. Up to today, the neighborhood is known for its multicultural flair. Even in the food scene of La Lavapiés, the diverse cultures and countries of origin can be easily recognized.
If you come here on a Sunday morning, you should definitely visit El Rastro de Madrid. This is an open-air flea market, which by the way, is considered the most popular flea market in the country, with up to 3500 stalls selling their crafts.
Museo Reina Sofía
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Opening Hours Museum Reina Sofía: Monday + Wednesday – Saturday: 10 am – 09 pm, Sunday different; Closed on Tuesdays. Click here for detailed opening hours.
Entrance Fee Museum Reina Sofía: 10 € on-site; 8 € online
Tickets Museum Reina Sofía: You might want to buy your ticket or book your tour in advance online to avoid sold tickets or waiting in long lines. You can find some great tours here.
Metro-Station Museum Reina Sofía: Atocha (L1), Lavapiés (L3)
This museum, whose full name is Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (National Museum of the Arts Center Queen Sofía), was named after the Spanish Queen Sofía inaugurated in 1992. Inside the museum, you will find many impressive works by Spanish artists. Among others, there are works by Picasso and Dalí. Even before the famous museum’s inauguration, there was already an art exhibition at the same spot. Today, the Museo Reina Sofía is one of the most visited art museums in the world.
Real Jardín Botánico – The Royal Botanic Garden
Opening Hours Real Jardín Botánico: 10 am – depending on the month and the season. Check the current Opening Hours here.
Entrance Fee Real Jardín Botánico: 6 €
Metro-Station Real Jardín Botánico: Atocha (L1), Banco de España (L2)
The Real Jardín Botánico was opened in 1755 by King Ferdinand VI, but at that time, it was still located at the other end of the city. A few years later, in 1781, however, the Royal Botanical Garden was relocated to its present location in the city center under Charles III.
There are three levels in the Botanical Garden, each planted with plants from Europe, America, and the Pacific. Over 5000 different tree and plant species can be found here today. If you are interested in nature or just want to take a nice walk in a green environment, this is an amazing place for you to visit.
Museo del Prado
Opening Hours Prado: Monday – Saturday: 10 am – 08 pm; Sunday: 10 am – 07 pm
Entrance Fee Prado: 15 €
Tickets Prado: You might want to buy your ticket or book your tour in advance online to avoid sold tickets or waiting in long lines. You can find some great tours here.
Metro-Station: Atocha (L1), Banco de España (L2)
The Museo del Prado (Museum of the Meadow), like the Museo Reina Sofía, is an art museum and is considered one of the most important museums in the world. In addition to many important Spanish works displayed in the Museo Reina Sofía, the museum also exhibits works by foreign artists such as Albrecht Dürer or Rembrandt. Art lovers should not miss this impressive museum.
Fuente de la Cibeles
Another amazing Madrid attraction that you should definitely not miss is the Fuente de la Cibeles. This impressive fountain represents the divine mother, Cybele, who was once worshiped by the Greeks and the Romans.
The Fuente de la Cibeles, or La Cibeles, as the Madrileños call it, was built in the 18th century under Carlos III’s orders to make the city a little more beautiful and attractive. In the Plaza de Cibeles, where the fountain is located, you can also find the Palacio de Cibeles, one of the most impressive buildings in the city (Definitely one of our favorites!).
Puerta de Alcalá
Very close to the Retiro Park entrance, about which we will talk later, is the Puerta de Alcalá. This is an impressive monument standing on the Independence square (Plaza de la Independencia) of the city.
In the past, the city boundary used to be located at this spot, and the road to Alcalá de Henares started here. Hence the name “Alcalá Gate.” The 44 m wide and 22 m high gate was commissioned by Charles III and inaugurated in 1778. The purpose of this monument was primarily to replace the broken monument that stood there beforehand.
Option: Museo Arqueológico Nacional – National Archaeological Museum
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Opening Hours Museo Arqueológico Nacional: Monday – Saturday: 09.30 am – 08 pm Uhr; Sundays: 09.30 am – 03 pm
Entrance Fee Museo Arqueológico Nacional: 3 €
Metro-Station Museo Arqueológico Nacional: Retiro (L2), Serrano (L4)
The Museo Archeológico Nacional, also abbreviated as MAN, is often overlooked by tourists. However, it houses one of the most important collections of archaeological finds globally from the early period to the 19th century. History buffs should not miss this museum. The exhibition’s main focus is on the different Mediterranean cultures, and it also presents art-historical exhibits that can’t be found in the other art museums in the city, such as Greek ceramics.
Parque del Retiro
Opening Hours Retiro: April – September: 06 am – 12 am; October – March: 06 am -10 pm
Entrance Fee Retiro: free of charge
Metro-Station: Retiro (L2)
With 125 hectares of land, the Retiro Park is considered the largest park in Madrid and is often referred to as the city’s green lung. In addition to around 15,000 trees, there is an artificial lake where you can row around with a small boat, paths to go for a walk or run, and various gardens that have been planted in a variety of styles, such as the Jardines de Cecilio Rodríguez, an Andalusian-inspired garden.
There is also a glass Palace in Retiro Park, the Velázquez Palace used as a showroom by the Reina Sofía Museum. The Parque del Retiro is just perfect for getting away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. During our stay in Madrid, we liked to come here to have a relaxed lunch (just bring some sandwiches with you) and to enjoy the fresh, tasty fruits that can be found everywhere in Spain.
3 perfect Day in Madrid – Day 3
Templo de Debod
Opening Hours Templo de Debod: Tuesday – Saturday: 10 am – 08 pm, Mondays closed
Entrance Fee Templo de Debod: free of charge
Metro-Station Templo de Debod: Plaza de España (L2, L3, L10), Ventura Rodríguez (L3)
This gem, located in the heart of Madrid, is often overlooked by tourists. This Egyptian temple from the 2nd century BC, however, is absolutely worth a visit. How often do you have the chance to see such a historical Egyptian temple without traveling to Egypt?
The temple is located in the Parque del Quartel de la Montaña near Plaza de España. Due to the preservation order, however, only 30 people can be inside the temple at the same time. For this reason, a maximum of 30 minutes applies to your visit.
How is it then that an Egyptian temple stands in the middle of Madrid? The temple was a gift from the Egyptian government after a dam was built at its former location. So that the Temple of Debod doesn’t sink into the water, it was transported to Madrid.
Plaza de España
Metro-Station Plaza de España: Plaza de España (L2, L3, L10)
The Plaza de España (Spanish Square) is one of the largest and most important squares in the city. The square is surrounded by two skyscrapers, Edificio España and Torre de Madrid, both of which have been completed in the 50s.
In addition to a green area and a water basin, a large monument is dedicated to the famous Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes. It shows the famous poet and his most famous fictional characters Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.
The Plaza de España is a great starting point as it borders both the most famous street of the city, the Gran Vía (read more about it later in this guide) and the Malasaña neighborhood, which we will look at next.
Barrio de Malasaña
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The Barrio de Malasaña is the city’s alternative and trendy district, comparable to Gràcia in Barcelona. There are mainly small local shops for art, design, books, and fashion in addition to street art. Enjoy a Café con Leche in one of the many cute cafés and see what the small boutiques have to offer. But for history buffs, this neighborhood is definitely worth a visit as well. Visit the Plaza del 2 de Mayo and learn more about the history of the place. The neighborhood was named after the Madrileness Manuela Malasaña, who played an important role in the uprising of 2nd May 1808 against the French occupation. Even today, the archway of the former barracks reminds of this historic event.
Iglesia San Antonio de los Alemanes
Opening Hours Iglesia San Antoni: Monday – Saturday: 10.30 am – 02 pm
Entrance Fee Iglesia San Antoni: 2 €
Metro-Station Iglesia San Antoni: Callao (L3, L5), Chueca (L5), Gran Vía (L1, L5)
Also, this church is not part of every Madrid Itinerary. However, this church is a pretty special one, indeed. Its surface is completely decorated with frescoes – it simply offers a lovely picture to its visitors. After its inauguration in the early 17th century by Philip III, it was firstly used by the adjacent Hospital for Portuguese pilgrims. For this reason, they first decided to call it Iglesia San Antoni de Los Portugueses at that time.
However, at the end of the 17th century, the church was handed over to the German Catholics, who accompanied Charles II’s wife. So the name of the church became the church of San Antoni de Los Alemanes instead.
The end of our Madrid tour is getting closer, and that’s why we want to see yet another highlight of the city. Built on the Parisian model, this street was once the largest and most important street in the city. But even today there are many important and impressive buildings located. The most famous of those is probably the Edificio Metrópolis (Metropolis House), built at the beginning of the 20th century for the Spanish insurance company La Unión y el Fénix.
Anyway, also the Edificio Telefónica is an essential element of Gran Vía. Another important building is El Círculo of the Bellas Artes, one of Madrid’s most important cultural centers. Here you will also find a wonderful vantage point over the Gran Vía. To go up to the roof, you pay € 4 entrance.
Barrio de Chueca
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This neighborhood, very close to Gran Vía, is a very open and lively neighborhood. Not only in the LGBT scene, Chueca is internationally known. Even if you are interested in culture, history, or architecture, you shouldn’t miss this part of Madrid. In addition to the Romantic Museum, located in an 18th-century city palace, the Palacio de Longoria, a beautiful modernist building, is a real highlight of this district. In the History Museum, you can learn more about the history of Madrid.
But also, at night, you might want to stop by in this neighborhood. Here we ate the best tapas during our stay. Some bars and clubs in Chueca have also gained international fame, such as the Museo Chicote, in which already Hemingway was a guest. So you can really enjoy the nightlife of Madrid on your last night in the Spanish capital.
The best Madrid Accommodation
Best Budget Accommodation in Madrid
Bed in dorm
1,3 km from Puerta del Sol
0,2 km from Metro Príncipe Pío
AC, heater, hairdryer, towels
Best Middle-Price Range Accommodation in Madrid
Standard/ Deluxe Double or 3-bed rooms
0,6 km from Puerta del Sol
0,2 km from Metro Gran Vía
Air Conditioning, Flat-screen TV, Soundproofing, Hairdryer, Refrigerator, Fan, Heating, Towels, Clothes rack
Best Luxury Accommodation in Madrid
0,1 km from Puerta del Sol
0,1 km from Metro Sol
Balcony with a view, Flat-screen TV, Air Conditioning, Iron, Soundproofing, Seating Area, Washing Machine, Heating, Sofa, Wardrobe/Closet, Clothes rack, Cleaning products, Sofa bed, Hairdryer, Kitchenette, Refrigerator, Kitchen, Dining area, Electric kettle, Microwave, Oven, Stovetop, Coffee machine, Toaster, dining table, towels
FAQ about a trip to Madrid
How many days in Madrid?
The more time you have, the better. Generally, you should spend at least 3 days in Madrid to see all the major attractions Madrid has to offer. We recommend you spend 5 days in the Spanish capital and plan 1-2 day trips from Madrid.
What is Madrid famous for?
Madrid is most famous for being the capital of Spain and the geographical center of the country. The city is the seat of the royal family and is therefore known for the royal palace. Other famous sights of the city are the Retiro Park as well as the Museum del Prado.
Is Madrid safe?
Madrid, like other cities in Spain, is considered very safe. However, you should keep an eye on your belongings at all times, as there are some pickpockets in Madrid, especially in tourist places, restaurants, and public transport.
Madrid or Barcelona?
Whether you should visit Madrid or Barcelona depends entirely on your personal interests. Madrid is a typical Spanish city with many sights and the seat of the royal family. On the other hand, in Barcelona, you can learn more about Catalan culture and visit the beach.
Can I drink the tap water in Madrid?
The tap water in Madrid is safe to drink. In fact, it is considered the best tap water in the country and is subject to strict quality controls.
How far is Madrid from Barcelona?
The Spanish capital Madrid is located about 625 km from Barcelona. This is equivalent to about 6 hours by car or a nearly 4-hour train ride. The flight route between Barcelona and Madrid is therefore considered the most popular in all of Europe.
Interested in Spain?
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