In Madrid, Spain
3 Day Madrid Itinerary
I’m pretty sure Spain cast a binding love spell on me on my first visit there. It’s a place I’m always eager to go back to and a place that captivates me more each time I visit. It spans 195,364 square miles complete with 17 extremely diverse and distinct autonomous regions, and at the center of it all is the timeless and beautiful, Madrid.
This spring I spent a week in Spain and began that trip with 3 days in Madrid. We had visited the capital city before but this trip was extra special because I was able to bring my parents along for the ride! Seeing their joy made me feel as much as excitement, if not more, than on my first visit.
Since it was their first time, I tailored this itinerary to cover a lot of the major sights in Madrid. If you’re a first timer, this is the guide for you!
Our Airbnb was in walking distance to everything in Madrid, we loved how centric its location was!
Link to Airbnb: Apartment in Madrid
Madrid 3-Day Itinerary at a glance:
- Breakfast: Mercado de San Miguel
- Plaza Mayor
- Palacio Real de Madrid (13€/pp)
- Catedral de la Almudena
- Templo de Debod (try to catch the sunset here)
- Dinner: Restaurante Botín
- Calle Gran Vía
- El Corte Inglés – The Gourmet Experience (rooftop eats/drinks)
- Drinks: Hotel RIU Plaza España
- Dessert: Chocolateria Valor
- Breakfast: Café Federal
- Puerta del Sol
- 0 km Madrid
- El Oso y el Madroño
- Palacio de Cibeles
- Puerta de Alcalá
- Parque de El Retiro
- Estanque Grande
- Palacio de Cristal
- La Roselada
- Museo Nacional del Prado (15€/pp)
- Drinks: Círculo de Bellas Artes Rooftop
- Lunch: Takos al Pastor*
- El Rastro (flea market but only open on Sundays)
- Dinner: Restaurante El Ñeru
- Dessert: Chocolatería San Ginés
- Breakfast: La Rollerie
- Estadio Santiago Bernabeu (12€/pp)
- Plaza de España
- Jardines de Sabatini
- Shopping in Calle Gran Via
Details on the above Itinerary:
Like any good foodie we started the day off with a very large breakfast. One of my favorites in Madrid at the Mercado de San Miguel. For me, this is the heart of all things food in Madrid. The hustle and bustle of everyone trying to order across the different food and drink counters makes me feel both overwhelmed and overjoyed all at once (if that’s possible). The market is loud and busy at all times but having so many different food options under one roof brings you back for more every time. It is definitely, a must-see experience when in Madrid. Plus, the food is worth a good shove here and there!
Right next door you have the beautiful Plaza Mayor. This day it was slightly obstructed due to a large stage in the center because they were setting up for an event.
A short walk away you will come up on Madrid’s Royal Palace and Almudena Cathedral. The moment you enter the plaza where these two marvels sit, I guarantee it will take your breath away.
If the outside of the Palcio Real left you wanting more you can take a tour of the inside of the palace for 13€ per person. The Royal Palace of Madrid is the official residence of the Spanish royal family at the city of Madrid. It’s even more opulent on the inside, with its gold trimmings, glass chandeliers, and statues and paintings galore. It is the largest functioning royal palace to date, and the largest in floor area in all of Europe. You can buy your tickets in the box office or online here: Royal Palace of Madrid Tour
If you want to see the beautiful inside of this cathedral, they only ask for a small donation in order to enter. It is so beautiful that this cathedral is where the wedding of the current king and queen of Spain took place in 2004.
We then rode electric scooters over to Templo de Debod. This is an ancient Egyptian temple from the early 2nd century BC that was donated to Spain by the Egyptian State and soon after relocated to Madrid in 1968.
Pro tip: Try to catch the sunset for the best views. Keep in mind, when we went in May the sunset was around 9pm in Madrid.
It’s time for dinner at Guinness World Record holder Restaurante Botín. Every dish on the menu is so delicious. It’s not only rich in flavors, but also in history. Their two signature dishes are the oven roasted suckling pig, and oven roasted suckling lamb. Both are oven roasted specifically with holm oak wood and in an oven that has been in operation since their opening day in 1725 (and yes, both are delicious).
Book your table here: Restaurante Botin
Next up, the famous Calle Gran Vía. This reminds me of a miniature version of Times Square in NYC. It is packed with world-renowned department stores as well as a great deal of restaurants and bars.
Pro Tip: Visit el Corte Ingles for the best views of Gran Via. There are a series of shops and bars on the last floor collectively called “The Gourmet Experience” where you can have a drink or a meal.
El Corte Ingles pictured above is the largest department store group in Europe and #3 worldwide.
If you continue to walk up Calle Gran Via you will end up at the Plaza de España. Another beautiful plaza in Spain where you will find the Hotel Riu Plaza España. The hotel has been featured on a lot of movies and shows-most recently the Netflix show “Elite” making it a very popular place to visit. The biggest draw if you’re not staying at this hotel is the breathtaking views from it’s 26th floor rooftop bar. We arrived on a Saturday night and the line was at least 50 people long, moving very slowly.
Pro tip: Pay 20€ and skip the line right to the elevator that will take you to the views!
To end the night, we went for some traditional hot chocolate and churros. We made it to Chocolateria Valor (recommended by my best friend) just before they closed, and it made for the perfect nightcap!
Breakfast at Café Federal. Full Disclosure, Jeremy chose this breakfast place because he saw a picture of Shakshuka in passing and was instantly sold. Everyone else had the traditional Shakshuka, while I had a variation of it with eggs, bacon, and potatoes in a deliciously cheesy sauce. The fresh orange juice, croissants, toast, and lattes were all very tasty!
Feeling energized after our meal we then went to Puerta del Sol. This large plaza is usually swarming with people but we got here very early on a Sunday and essentially had the area to ourselves which was such a treat! Your first stop here will be El Oso y el Madroño. In 1222 the bear and the strawberry tree image were used as a seal to sign a decree to end a dispute over land rights between the church and the city by King Alfonso VIII. It is now a symbol of an ancient Madrid.
Next place to see in Puerta del Sol is the Kilometro Zero. This marks the geographical center of Spain. The marker also sets the point from which distances are measured in Spain and the starting point to the country’s 6 national roads.
The walk from here to Palacio Cibeles and further on to la Puerta de Alcala is lovely. You really get to see all of Madrid’s beautiful architecture and history. You should aim to end up at the corner of the Calle de Alcalá and Calle Gran Vía at the beautiful Metropolis Building. Unfortunately, it was under construction on this trip, but I have added a picture from my last trip to appreciate its beauty without the scaffolding.
Continuing down Calle de Alcala you will come across the gorgeous Palacio de Cibeles building. Formerly this was Madrid’s main post office as well as telegraph and telephone headquarters. As of 2011, it serves as the City Hall.
Continuing your walk, you will come up on the Puerta de Alcalá. Erected in 1778, the triumphal gate was once the main entrance to the city of Madrid.
A few feet away is one of the many entrances to the Parque de El Retiro. The famed central park of Madrid. My best advice for Parque de El Retiro is to just wander and get lost in its beauty. I will highlight some of my favorite places within the park below, but make sure to stop and take in all the beauty while walking from place to place.
Then, there’s the beautiful and picturesque Palacio de Cristal.
Lastly, the beautiful rose garden, La Roselda.
If you exit on one of the westwards facing gates you can walk right from the park to the famous Museo Nacional del Prado. You will find famous works by Diego Velázquez, Francisco Goya, Hieronymus Bosch, and Leonardo Da Vinci (his first version of the Mona Lisa is here) just to name a few. The entrance is 15€ per person and you can book it here: Museo Nacional Del Prado.
If you want to visit another museum there’s the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía that we visited on a previous trip and enjoyed. You can buy tickets here: Museo Reina Sofia.
From here, I took everyone to one of my favorite rooftop bars in Madrid. It sits on the rooftop of the Circulo de Bellas Artes building. This bar offers the best views of the Metropolis and Palacio Cibeles buildings. I believe there’s a 5€ entry fee for the rooftop. We had some tapas and drinks for lunch here.
Pro tip: Try and go during Sunset for the most spectacular view of Madrid going from day to night.
We really wanted to have lunch at Takos al Pastor (another recommendation from my best friend) but turns out they closed for a month for vacation. Worth a try if they’re open, the tacos are 1€ each!
From here we went to Madrid’s famous Sunday flea market – El Rastro. If you’re in Madrid on a Sunday this is a must see and do. Beware, it will be crowded! You can find anything from car parts to souvenirs at the market. It makes for a very cool experience.
We then went to the bar at Restaurante El Ñeru where we watched a bull fight with the locals. We then proceeded to have dinner at one of the best places I have eaten to this date. Restaurante El Ñeru. It blew us all out of the water.
Nightcap at Chocolatería San Ginés for more churros and chocolate. This is quite possibly the most famous chocolate and churros location in all Madrid. Personally, I always think their hot chocolate is too rich and can get repugnant.
Breakfast at La Rollerie was astounding! You won’t regret going there for breakfast or brunch.
From here, we took the metro to the Real Madrid Soccer Club Stadium (Estadio Santiago Bernabeu). FYI, the stadium is currently undergoing renovations as of May 2022, so the outside is not very picturesque. The inside, however, is still striking! We mostly did this tour for my uncle who is a huge Real Madrid fan but if you’d like to do it here is a link to buy the tour tickets: Stadium Tour Tickets.
After the stadium, we took the metro back to Plaza de España and the Jardines de Sabatini. We laid out here and had a wonderful scenic picnic.
Pro Tip: Buy some ham, cheese, and chorizo at one of the many Museo del Jamon locations and enjoy a picnic in one of Madrid’s beautiful parks.
From the park, we did some shopping at Calle Gran Via.
Pro tip: Zara is Spanish owned so because there’s no importation fees or taxes it is substantially cheaper to shop at Zara in Spain. So keep that in mind, because we shopped here so much we almost had to buy another carry-on luggage to return.
It’s always a bittersweet moment when you have to leave a city you love. After 3 amazing days in Spain’s capital city we rented a car and drove south to the Andalusian region.
Catch my itineraries on the different Andalusian cities of Sevilla, Ronda, Nerja, Granada, and Malaga to explore the south of Spanish with me!
Want to head north-east instead? Click here for my itinerary on Barcelona, the cosmopolitan capital of Spain’s Catalonia region.
For an itinerary on a daytrip from Madrid to Toledo click here: Toledo Itinerary.