Are you planning to spend three days in Madrid? In this travel guide, I’ll show you the most beautiful corners of the Spanish capital. Let’s explore the picturesque streets, stunning parks, and authentic Spanish delicacies together.
This guide includes everything you need for an unforgettable 3-day itinerary in Madrid – from insider tips to must-see attractions.
About the author, Vicki: As someone who chose Barcelona as my home and has been trying to explore every corner of Spain for years, I’m excited to share my personal highlights and secret tips with you. From Spain’s bustling must-see attractions to its serene hideaways far from the beaten tourist paths.
What to find out in this post
- 1 In a nutshell-Itinerary: How to spend 3 Days in Madrid
- 2 Madrid Facts
- 3 How to spend perfect 3 Days in Madrid – An Itinerary for 3 days
- 4 What to do in Madrid in 3 Days – Day 1
- 5 What to see in Madrid in 3 Days – Day 2
- 5.1 La Lavapiés
- 5.2 Museum Option 1: Museo Reina Sofía
- 5.3 Real Jardín Botánico – The Royal Botanic Garden
- 5.4 Museum Option 2: Museo del Prado
- 5.5 Fuente de la Cibeles
- 5.6 Museum Option 3: Museo Arqueológico Nacional – National Archaeological Museum
- 5.7 Puerta de Alcalá
- 5.8 Parque del Retiro
- 5.9 Optional: Fancy a taste of Madrid’s nightlife?
- 6 3 perfect Days in Madrid – Day 3
- 7 Madrid Transport – How to get around Madrid
- 8 The best time to travel to Madrid
- 9 The best Madrid Accommodation
- 10 FAQ about a trip to Madrid
In a nutshell-Itinerary: How to spend 3 Days in Madrid
- La Puerta del Sol
- Plaza Mayor
- Mercado de San Miguel
- Almudena Cathedral
- Palacio Real
- Las Letras Neighborhood
- La Latina Neighborhood
- La Lavapiés Neighborhood
- Option: Museo Reina Sofía
- Real Jardín Botánico
- Option: Museo del Prado
- Fuente de la Cibeles
- Puerta de Alcalá
- Retiro Park
- Option: National Archaeological Museum
- Option: Nightlife in La Latina or Chueca
- Templo de Debod
- Plaza de España
- Malasaña Neighborhood
- San Antonio de los Alemanes Church
- Gran Vía
- Chueca Neighborhood
Please note: I have included three optional museums on the second day. If you want to visit several of them, I recommend spreading them out over the other days.
- 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
The most popular activities & tours in Madrid
La Puerta del Sol
La Gran Vía
Getting there: Make sure to check for the best flight deals on Flight comparison sites like Skyscanner.
Transport on-site: 10-Ticket, Day Ticket (Título Turístico), or Hop on-Hop-Off Bus
Want to rent a car? You can find great deals on RentalCars.
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
Opening Hours Puerta del Sol: 24 hrs
Entrance Fee Puerta del Sol: free of charge
Metro Stop: Sol (L1, L2, L3)
The Puerta del Sol in Madrid, “the gateway to the sun,” is a popular meeting point for the Madrilenians and the starting point for many city tours. This is also where we start our self-guided walking tour of Madrid.
The plaza is surrounded by historic buildings, including the Real Casa de Correos and the Kilometer 0 point.
Take your time to look around and soak up the vibrant metropolis’ hustle and bustle before we move on to Madrid’s next historic square.
We start from the Puerta del Sol and stroll along Calle Mayor, one of Madrid’s most essential and famous streets, until we reach the Plaza Mayor. This square, whose history dates back to the 16th century, is surrounded by traditional restaurants and important landmarks.
Plaza Mayor can be reached via ten different entrances. The Arco de Cuchilleros is particularly famous and is often used as a photo opportunity.
Extra tip: Plaza Mayor is a great place to soak up the flair of the Spanish capital. However, you might want to have a coffee a little further on, as tourist prices can be expected here in the square.
Mercado de San Miguel
Opening hours Mercado de San Miguel: Sun – Thu: 10 am-midnight; Sat + Fri: 10 am – 1 am
Entrance Fee Mercado de San Miguel: free of charge
Metro Stop: Ópera (L2, L5), Sol (L1, L2, L3)
Right next to the Plaza Mayor, we discover the Mercado San Miguel. This historic market, an impressive glass and iron building, was built in 1916 and extensively renovated in 2003.
On two floors, the market offers a variety of fresh food and delicious meals and snacks.
Extra tip: After looking around, you can enjoy a cool drink or some delicious Spanish tapas at one of the tables outside.
Catedral de la Almudena
Opening Hours La Almudena: 10 am – 08 pm (Jul + Aug.: 10 – 09 pm)
Entrance Fee La Almudena: 1 € donation
Entrance Fee View Point Museum: 6 €
Metro Stop: Ópera (L2, L5)
Follow Calle Mayor to its end, and you’ll reach the Almudena Cathedral, a major attraction in Madrid right next to the Royal Palace. Although its planning began in the 16th century, construction wasn’t realized until the 19th century and was completed in 1993. The cathedral features a mix of neo-Gothic beginnings and a neoclassical finish.
Almudena, famous for the royal wedding of Prince Felipe and Letizia in 2004, boasts a modern interior.
Also of interest:
- The Cathedral Crypt
- The museum has a viewpoint offering a magnificent view over the city.
Opening Hours Palacio Real: Mon-Sat: 10 am-7 pm; Sun: 10 am-4 pm// October-March: Mon-Sat: 10 am-6 pm; Sun: 10 am-4 pm
Entrance Fee Palacio Real: 12 €
Free EntrancePalacio Real: for EU citizens: daily from 5 – 7 pm (4 – 6 pm in winter)
Tickets: Purchase your ticket on-site or online in advance via GetYourGuide
Opening Hours Campo del Moro: April – September: 10 am – 8 pm; October – March: 10 am – 6 pm
Entrance Fee Campo del Moro: free of charge
Metro Stop: Ópera (L2, L5)
The Palacio Real, the Royal Palace, is the official residence of the Spanish royal family. With 3,418 rooms on 135,000 m², it is the largest habitable palace in Europe (about twice the size of Buckingham Palace in London).
Although the palace is no longer used as a residence, it is still used for state ceremonies. Nonetheless, visitors can still gain interesting insights into the life of the royal family, especially in the impressive throne room and the magnificent staircase.
The complex is enormous, so if you want to see the palace from the inside, plan enough time for your visit.
Extra info: Unfortunately, photography is not permitted inside. And the security guards don’t necessarily react in a friendly manner if you try anyway.
Barrio de las Letras
The Barrio de las Letras, the Quarter of Letters, is a tribute to the Spanish heyday of the 17th century when famous writers such as Cervantes, Lope de Vega, and Quevedo used to live here. Many streets in the district still bear the names of these writers today.
However, the district is not only known for its literary history but also for its lively theater culture. Visit the Teatro Español or the Teatro de la Cruz, for example, to experience the cultural heritage of the Barrio de las Letras.
What to see in Madrid in 3 Days – Day 2
Barrio de La Latina
The La Latina neighborhood is one of Madrid’s most popular areas, especially as a nightlife district. Here, lively cafes, restaurants, and pubs serving Spanish specialties await you at every corner. The area is also highly popular with locals.
During the day, there’s much to explore in the neighborhood as well. For instance, you can visit the San Isidro Museum, located on Plaza de San Andrés and dedicated to the city’s patron saint.
Extra tip: Another highlight is Las Visitillas, a stunning viewpoint. From here, you get a fantastic view of the southern part of Madrid and the Almudena Cathedral – perfect for a memorable photo.
Not far from La Latina lies the La Lavapiés district, which delights visitors with its narrow, winding streets and medieval charm. La Lavapiés is one of the best neighborhoods in Madrid to visit, known for its traditional atmosphere and cultural diversity.
Ever since Madrid became the capital, the area has been a melting pot for immigrants from different regions of Spain, North Africa, and India. This multicultural character is particularly reflected in the district’s diverse food scene.
A special tip: If you are in La Lavapiés on a Sunday morning, you should not miss the open-air flea market at El Rastro de Madrid. It is considered Spain’s most popular flea market and attracts visitors with up to around a thousand stalls.
Museum Option 1: Museo Reina Sofía
Opening hours Museum Reina Sofía: Mon + Wed-Sat: 10 am – 9 pm, Sun: 10 am – 2:30 pm; closed Tuesdays. Click here for the current opening hours.
Entrance Fee Museum Reina Sofía: 12 €
Free Entrance Museum Reina Sofía: Mon + Wed-Sat: 7 – 9 pm; Sundays 12.30 – 2.30 pm
Tickets Museum Reina Sofía: It’s recommended to purchase your ticket online before arrival to avoid long lines or sold-out tickets on-site. You can find more information here.
Metro Stop: Atocha (L1), Lavapiés (L3)
The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, inaugurated by Queen Sofía in 1992, is a center for Spanish art. It exhibits impressive works by Spanish artists, including Picasso and Dalí.
Today, the Museo Reina Sofía is one of the most visited art museums in the world.
Vicki’s note: I have included three museums as options on your itinerary for your second day in Madrid. If you would like to see more than one of them, I recommend planning your visit for one of the other days.
Real Jardín Botánico – The Royal Botanic Garden
Opening Hours Real Jardín Botánico: 10 am – different, depending on the season. Find the exact opening hours here.
Entrance Fee Real Jardín Botánico: 6 €
Metro Stop: Atocha (L1), Banco de España (L2)
The Real Jardín Botánico, opened in 1755 by King Ferdinand VI, offers three floors of plants from Europe, America, and the Pacific region.
With over 5,000 different species of trees and plants, the botanical garden is the perfect place for nature lovers or for anyone who wants to relax in a green environment.
Museum Option 2: Museo del Prado
Opening hours Prado: Mon-Sat: 10 am – 8 pm; Sun: 10 am – 7 pm
Entrance Fee Prado: 15 €
Free Entrance Prado: Mon-Sat: 6 – 8 pm; Sunday- Holiday: 5 – 7 pm
Tickets Prado: It’s a good idea to buy your ticket online before you arrive to avoid sold-out tickets and long lines. You can find tickets online at GetYourGuide
Metro Stop: Atocha (L1), Banco de España (L2)
The Museo del Prado, one of the most important art museums in the world, presents art by international masters such as Albrecht Dürer and Rembrandt alongside Spanish works, which are complemented in the Museo Reina Sofía.
The Prado Museum is, therefore, an absolute must for every art lover.
Fuente de la Cibeles
On the second day of your Madrid adventure, make sure to visit the Fuente de la Cibeles. This stunning fountain, featuring the goddess Cybele, dates back to the 18th century and is fondly referred to as La Cibeles by the locals.
You’ll find it in Plaza de Cibeles, which is also home to the Palacio de Cibeles, one of the city’s most splendid buildings. Personally, it ranks as one of my favorite structures in Madrid.
Museum Option 3: Museo Arqueológico Nacional – National Archaeological Museum
Opening hours Museo Arqueológico Nacional: Tue – Sat: 09.30 am – 8 pm; Sundays and public holidays: 09.30 am – 3 pm; closed on Mondays.
Entrance Fee Museo Arqueológico Nacional: 3 €
Metro Stop: Retiro (L2), Serrano (L4)
Tourists often overlook the Museo Archeológico Nacional, or MAN for short. It houses one of the world’s most important collections of archaeological finds from prehistoric times to the 19th century. History buffs should definitely not miss this museum.
The exhibition’s main focus is on the various Mediterranean cultures, and it also offers art-historical exhibits, such as Greek ceramics, that the city’s other art museums lack.
Puerta de Alcalá
Near the entrance to the famous Retiro Park, which we will visit afterward, stands the Puerta de Alcalá, an impressive monument in the Plaza de la Independencia.
This place once marked the city limits and the beginning of the road to Alcalá de Henares, which explains the name “Alcalá Gate”. The gate was commissioned by Charles III and inaugurated in 1778 to replace an older, crumbling monument.
Parque del Retiro
Retiro Park opening hours: April – September: 06 am – 00 am; October – March: 06 am – 22 pm
Entrance Fee Retiro Park: free of charge
Metro Stop: Retiro (L2)
Retiro Park is Madrid’s green lung. The park offers an artificial lake, walking paths, and various beautiful gardens.
With the Glass Palace and Velázquez Palace, used for exhibitions, it is the perfect place for a quiet break and a walk in the countryside.
Extra tip: Get a sandwich or something tasty from a bakery or the supermarket and sit down for a little picnic in the sun while you end the day comfortably.
Optional: Fancy a taste of Madrid’s nightlife?
If your feet aren’t too tired and you’re up for more, consider heading back to the La Latina neighborhood to experience Madrid’s vibrant nightlife.
If you’re leaving Madrid tomorrow, I recommend visiting the Chueca district this evening (see next day’s itinerary).
3 perfect Days in Madrid – Day 3
Templo de Debod
Opening hours Templo de Debod: Tue – Sat: 10 am – 8 pm, Monday closed.
Entrance Fee Templo de Debod: free of charge
Metro Stop: Plaza de España (L2, L3, L10), Ventura Rodríguez (L3)
The Temple of Debod, an Egyptian temple from the 2nd century BC in the Parque del Quartel de la Montaña near Plaza España, is an often overlooked attraction in the heart of Madrid.
This Egyptian relic stands in Madrid as a gift from the Egyptian government.
It is well worth a visit, as marveling at such historic buildings outside Egypt is rare. For monument protection reasons, a maximum of 30 people are allowed inside at any time, and the maximum visiting time is 30 minutes.
Plaza de España
Metro Stop: Plaza de España (L2, L3, L10)
The Plaza de España, surrounded by the skyscrapers Edificio España and Torre de Madrid, is another important square in Madrid. It features a monument to the famous Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes, accompanied by his characters Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.
The square borders the famous Gran Vía and the Malasaña district, making it the perfect starting point for our walking itinerary for the rest of our day.
Barrio de Malasaña
The Barrio de Malasaña, Madrid’s alternative scene district, is a hotspot for street art, local art, design, books, and fashion. Enjoy a coffee in one of its charming cafés and explore the diversity of its small boutiques.
History buffs should also visit Plaza del 2 de Mayo, named after Manuela Malasaña, a local Madrilenian who fought against the French occupation in 1808. The archway of the former barracks still stands today as a reminder of this historical event.
Iglesia San Antonio de los Alemanes
Opening hours Iglesia San Antoni: Mon – Sat: 10:30 am – 2:00 pm
Entrance Fee Iglesia San Antoni: 2 €
Metro Stop: Callao (L3, L5), Chueca (L5), Gran Vía (L1, L5)
This often-overlooked church in Madrid is characterized by its fully frescoed interior. Consecrated by Philip III at the beginning of the 17th century, it initially served Portuguese pilgrims and was called Iglesia San Antoni de los Portugueses.
Later, at the end of the 17th century, it was renamed Iglesia San Antoni de los Alemanes in honor of the German Catholics who accompanied Charles II’s wife.
As we approach the end of our 3-day itinerary of Madrid, we turn our attention to another highlight: Gran Vía. Inspired by Parisian style, it was once the city’s largest and most significant street and still houses impressive buildings today.
Another important spot is El Círculo de Bellas Artes, one of Madrid’s leading cultural centers. From its rooftop terrace, you can enjoy a fantastic view of Gran Vía for a €4 entry fee.
Elsewhere on Gran Vía, there’s one main activity: shopping! So, if you’re looking for a souvenir, this is definitely the place to be.
Barrio de Chueca
Chueca, not far from Gran Vía, is a lively district famous for its LGBTQIA+ scene and its culture and architecture. Highlights include the Romantic Museum, located in an 18th-century city palace, and the modern Palacio de Longoria. Learn more about Madrid’s history at the local museum.
Chueca comes to life at night with excellent tapas and famous clubs such as the Museo Chicote, once a favorite of Hemingway. Chueca is the ideal place to enjoy Madrid’s nightlife one last time before heading home.
Madrid Transport – How to get around Madrid
Madrid is perfect for pedestrians, and if you follow this Madrid itinerary, very little public transport is required. Despite everything, if you have only little time at hand or aren’t good on foot, various means of transport are 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 subsequent transport. At night, you can take one of the night buses called Búhos (Owls).
Cercanías – Regional trains
If you want to take a look outside of the city center, 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 public transport in Madrid, you need a valid ticket. A one-way ticket costs between €1.50 and €2, depending on the distance and time.
For multiple journeys, it is worth buying a 10-trip ticket, which costs between €11.20 and €18.20 and can be used by several people. You can find all fare options on the official Madrid Metro website.
If your accommodation is located a little out of town or you are traveling with passengers with limited mobility or small children, a day or multi-day ticket may be a good idea.
Madrid savings tip: There is a 50% discount on 10-trip tickets until the end of 2024.
How to get from Madrid Airport to the City Center
There are several ways to get from the airport to the city (and vice versa).
- We opted for the Airport Express Bus, which departs every 15 to 20 minutes from Atocha Station and Plaza de Cibeles. At night, the bus only leaves from Plaza de Cibeles. A ride costs around €5, and you can buy your ticket directly from the driver.
- Alternatively, you can also take the metro or train to the airport. Metro line 8 (Pink) goes to the airport.
- With the Cercanías train, you can take line C1, which only stops at Terminal 4.
- You will need a special airport ticket for both modes of transport, which costs €3 in addition to the standard ticket.
The best time to travel to Madrid
Madrid in Summer
Summer can get very hot, 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 winter.
Madrid in Spring and Fall
It is usually warm but not too hot during this time of year. We had fantastic weather during our stay in early/mid-September.
The best Madrid Accommodation
The best budget accommodation in Madrid
Excellent budget accommodation at a low price right in the center of Madrid. The accommodation offers private rooms of various sizes and features.
Best middle-class accommodation in Madrid
This 3-star accommodation is one of the best-rated in Madrid. The cozy establishment is within walking distance of the famous Gran Vía and other city sights.
Best Luxury Accommodation in Madrid
This 4-star hotel is guaranteed to leave nothing to be desired. Located near the central Plaza Mayor, comfortable and clean rooms await you after a long day of sightseeing.
FAQ about a trip to Madrid
The more time you have, the better. Generally, you should spend at least three days in Madrid to see all the major attractions. We recommend spending five days in the Spanish capital and planning one- or two-day trips from Madrid.
Madrid is most famous for being Spain’s capital and geographical center. The city is the seat of the royal family and is known for the royal palace. Other famous sights include Retiro Park and the Museum del Prado.
Madrid, like other cities in Spain, is considered very safe. However, you should always be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on your belongings, as pickpockets are present in Madrid, especially in tourist areas, restaurants, and public transportation.
Whether you should visit Madrid or Barcelona depends entirely on your personal interests. Madrid is a typical Spanish city with many sights and is the seat of the royal family. In Barcelona, on the other hand, you can learn more about Catalan culture and visit the beach.
Madrid’s tap water is safe to drink. It is considered the best tap water in the country and is subject to strict quality controls.
Madrid, the Spanish capital, is about 625 km (380 mi) from Barcelona. Traveling that distance takes about six hours by car or about three hours by train. Therefore, the flight route between Barcelona and Madrid is considered the most popular in Europe.