The BEST Madrid Itinerary for 3 Days in Madrid, Spain

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If you’re looking for the absolute BEST Madrid itinerary for 3 days in Madrid, you’ve come to the right place! Having spent a total of four months living in Madrid myself, I quickly learned the cool things to do in the city that many visitors just can’t seem to get a pulse on.

There seemed to be a general consensus that Barcelona, Sevilla, Granada, and San Sebastian are “must-visits” in Spain (even poor Valencia didn’t make the cut). But many visitors seem to have strong opinions about Madrid – I heard everything from “skip Madrid” to “spend a week there.” So after my first couple of visits, I decided to move there and form an opinion for myself. Logic, right?

My conclusion is this: Madrid is not a city to be skipped! It’s filled with culture and history, beautiful buildings, delicious food, and a thriving art scene. You just have to know where to look – or have an awesome Madrid itinerary like this one ;).

Since most people only plan to spend 3 days in Madrid, I’ve put together this comprehensive Madrid itinerary for just a few days in Madrid. But I’ve also included even more activities and restaurants for those that are planning on spending four days in Madrid or longer.

3 Days in Madrid Itinerary

Before I delve deep into this 3 days in Madrid itinerary, know this: Madrid is a city for night owls. In fact, all of Spain is like this: Spaniards eat dinner at 10 PM and go to bed at 1 AM. Because of this schedule, nearly all tourist attractions don’t open until 10 AM (or 9 AM if you’re lucky). So, unless you’re a photographer eager to take photos of sunrise, your days in Madrid don’t need to start until 9 AM or so.


Madrid Itinerary: Day One in Madrid

Breakfast at San Gines

Spaniards don’t do big breakfasts: they’ll usually eat something small like toast with tomatoes, churros or a slice of Spanish tortilla (egg omelette with potatoes). So, if you want to have a true Spanish breakfast, then look no further than churros with chocolate at Madrid’s most famous churro shop, Chocolateria San Gines.

Open 24 hours a day, San Gines has been blessing Madrid with its exquisite churros since 1894. The walls of this cafe are decorated with photos of its visitors from around the world and just one bite of the crispy, lightly fried dough dipped in chocolate will remind you why you patiently waited in a line to eat breakfast here (the line does move pretty quickly, though).

It’s also worth noting that their “hot chocolate” is more of a thick, almost ganache-like chocolate that manages to be both rich and not too sweet. How? Magic, I guess. Anyway, I highly recommend heading here for breakfast on your first day since it’s a short walk from the meeting point for your free walking tour. Bonus: San Gines also serves coffee and juices for those that can’t function without that morning boost of caffeine (like me).


Free Walking Tour

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Plaza Mayor in Madrid

Did you know that lots of big cities offer FREE (tips-based) walking tours? I didn’t either, until my first solo trip back in 2015. It’s always the first thing I plan to do in a new city because it helps me get a pulse on the history and cool things to do – plus it’s an awesome way to get recommendations from a local guide!

I personally chose the Sandeman’s Walking Tour, which meets in Plaza Mayor, a short walk from San Gines. I highly recommend this walking tour – at 3 hours long, it offers an excellent overview of the history of Madrid. Plus, the tour guide is super fun. You’ll cover various aspects of “historical” Madrid (including how inbreeding led to the end of the royal family!) and focus a lot on architecture, as well. You can check out reviews here. Don’t forget to book ahead and to generously tip the guide at the end!


Lunch at El Cogollo de Descarga

Your walking tour will end around 1:30 PM or so at Plaza Isabell II, which is perfect lunch timing. Most Spaniards don’t eat lunch until 2 or 3 PM, but if it’s your first day in Madrid and you haven’t gotten used to the meal times yet, you’re probably starving (if not, you can explore the area around Plaza Mayor for a bit). For lunch, head to El Cogollo de Descarga, just 10 minutes away.

This restaurant was recommended to me by my Madrid Food Tour guide and is known for an incredibly filling dish called “cachopo.” A cachopo is an Asturian dish made of fried veal fillets with ham and cheese and is served with (fried) potatoes and peppers. You can request it be made without the ham if you also don’t eat pork but either way – prepare yourself for an instant food coma.

If that feels too heavy for your lunch meal, consider ordering the grilled octopus instead – that’s what I opted for when I came here and it was spectacular. Keep in mind that despite its proximity to Plaza Mayor, El Cogollo isn’t a touristy restaurant so English is limited here.

Note: if a sit-down meal for lunch doesn’t appeal to you, consider eating a bocadillo de calamares (calamari sandwich) from La Campana. It’s an inexpensive yet delicious snack (or meal depending on how many you order) and it’s perfect for those that want to make their Madrid itinerary extra budget-friendly. 


Royal Palace of Spain

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Palacio Real

Now that you’ve had your lunch, it’s time to soak up some (more) Spanish history. As the largest royal palace in Western Europe the Royal Palace of Spain is a must-visit on any Madrid itinerary. This grandiose palace contains over 3000 opulent rooms, decorated with original period pieces. Visitors have access to the Royal Armory, a multitude of paintings by famous Spanish painters, beautiful frescoes and tiles, and so much more. If you’re at all interested in history, art, or architecture, you’re guaranteed to be blown away by the Royal Palace. Be sure to get your ticket ahead of time to avoid the long line! Oh, and don’t forget to visit the free Sabatini Gardens next to the palace while you’re there. It has a separate entrance and is a great place to unwind after your palace visit.

Note: If you’re extra nerdy and / or short on time, consider booking a guided tour to the Palace instead! You’ll get to skip the line and get an insider’s guide to the history of the Palace and the royals who lived there. 


Sunset at Templo de Debod

Did you know that there’s a 2nd century Egyptian Temple in the middle of Madrid? Don’t worry, most people don’t! This temple was “rescued” from underwater submersion by Spanish archeologists when the Aswan High Dam was being built in Egypt. As a thank you, then-president Gamal Abdel Nasser sent Templo de Debod to Spain, block by block, where it was then reconstructed (although not 100% accurately). Still, a visit to the Debod Temple is a must-do on your Madrid itinerary. The temple itself is located on an elevated section of land, so not only does a visit include seeing the actual temple but it also includes awesome views of the city. These views are particularly stunning at sunset, so if you can make it to this temple by sunset on your first day in Madrid, do it!


Dinner at Sala de Despiece

I ate at a lot of restaurants during my four-month stint in Madrid but my meal at Sala de Despiece was definitely one of my top 5 favorites! This is foodie heaven for those looking to sample a creative and modern take on Spanish cuisine. Everything is made to perfection with beautiful plating, exquisite flavors, and attentive service. It’s totally worth the half-hour trek from Templo de Debod to get here!

There are two options for dining at Sala de Despiece: the reservations-only tasting menu located in a separate room (with seats for only 12 diners) or the regular build-your-own-tasting, if you will. The menu is incredibly varied: not only does it cater to a variety of dietary restrictions, but it also lists the origin and preparation style of each dish. I’m drooling remembering how good the chuletón (thinly-sliced steak) is.

Everything from the butcher theme to the creative (but not over-the-top) cuisine to the pricier-yet-still-reasonable prices makes Sala de Despiece an unforgettable dining experience! Note: Make reservations ahead of time!


Madrid Itinerary: Day Two in Madrid

Breakfast at Zenith

As much as I love the small Spanish breakfasts, I still prefer a hearty meal to start my day, especially when I’m traveling. If you’re like me, you’ve got to try the all day brunch at Zenith, an awesome restaurant in the hipster neighborhood of Malasaña. I love Zenith’s varied, international menu – it has everything from eggs Benedict to smoothie bowls to vegan toast, catering to a variety of dietary restrictions. The menu is reasonably priced and the restaurant (and plating) is gorgeous. What’s not to love?


El Prado Museum

After breakfast, make your way to the most famous museum in Madrid: the Prado! This is easily one of the most popular tourist attractions in Madrid and there’s no question why: the Prado has one of the largest art collections in the world. This impressive museum houses a plethora of art from the 12th to the 19th century, with noteworthy pieces from famous artists like Goya, Velazquez, and El Greco. You’ll likely spend a minimum of two hours here, but art lovers can easily spend the entire day marveling at all the works of art. For this vast museum, I strongly recommend purchasing a ticket ahead of time because there’s always a line. Alternatively, consider booking a guided tour of the museum instead, especially if you’re more interested in the highlights, anyway.

Note: If 20th century art is more your speed, consider visiting the Reina Sofia Museum instead.

Budget tip: The Prado is free to enter from 6 PM – 8 PM and Reina Sofia also has some free entry hours as well (check the website for exact times). 


Lunch at Taberna el Buo Chueca

Confession time: out of all the amazing Spanish meals out there, my favorite thing to eat is probably one of the most simple: Spanish tortilla. Spanish tortilla is a giant, fluffy egg omelette cooked with fried potatoes. It’s a two-ingredient dish but there are tons of lists out there ranking the best tortilla. My personal favorite is at a bar called Taberna el Buo. Tortilla is a must-try no matter how many days you’re spending in Madrid, unless you don’t like eggs or potatoes, you weirdo.

Anyway, most places in Spain actually just make a few large tortillas at the beginning of the day and you can go in and order a slice for around €3 or so. But at Taberna el Buo, tortillas are made fresh. Plus, the restaurant offers a full menu of different flavors of tortilla so you can get creative with your order. My personal favorite is tortilla de queso de cabra y cebolla caramelizada (goat cheese and caramelized onion) but you can’t go wrong with the original as well. Also worth noting: unless you order a slice of the original, you have to order the entire tortilla. Be sure to eat here with at least a few friends or be prepared to take some back to your hotel!


Plaza de Cibeles

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If Plaza de Cibeles isn’t the most beautiful plaza in Madrid, it’s certainly in the top 5. It’s home to the Madrid City Hall, a beautiful building with intricate architecture. The square is dominated by a magnificent fountain and flanked by impressive and iconic buildings dating from the end of the eighteenth up to the twentieth century. Stop here for a quick photo on your way to Retiro Park. It’s an iconic Madrid landmark that belongs on every Madrid itinerary.


Retiro Park

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I have another confession: Retiro Park is my favorite spot in all of Madrid. And given that it’s currently ranked as the #1 thing to do in Madrid on Tripadvisor, I guess many travelers and residents share my sentiment. The park is spectacular: super large, well-maintained and just an overall great vibe. There are also a ton of things to do in there as well. In fact, you could easily spend the entire day exploring the park. That being said, here are my top three places within Retiro you should NOT miss:

  • Estanque Grande del Retiro: Nearly all photos you’ll see of Retiro Park online are of the large Retiro Park Lake with the beautiful columns and statue in the back. This man-made lake is easily the most visited part of the park and definitely the most bustling. When the weather is warm, you’ll find lots of rowboats out (you can rent them) and plenty of vendors and performers along the surrounding path. It’s almost like the “town square” of Retiro.
  • Palacio de Cristal: Built in 1887, this building is one of the most beautiful examples of iron architecture in Madrid. Made of a combination of iron and ceiling-to-floor glass, it originally served as a greenhouse within the park. Now, it houses exhibitions from the Reina Sofia museum instead.
  • Puerta de Alcalá: Located at the Northwest corner of Retiro park, this Neo-Classical monument was built in 1778 and was once the main entrance to the city. This impressive arch is older than both the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and sits in the center of Plaza de Independencia, which connects three major streets of Madrid.

Because of the impressive size of Retiro Park, one of the coolest ways to see it is by Segway! You can book a guided tour by Segway here.


Sunset at Circulo de Bellas Artes

I know that day 2 of this Madrid itinerary is a tad packed, so if you don’t make it to the Circulo de Bellas Artes rooftop in time for sunset, that’s okay: it’s open until 11 PM anyway. No matter what time you visit, the €5 entrance fee will grant you access to spectacular 360 views of the whole city. Totally worth it in my opinion! There’s also a rooftop cafe and bar for those that want to order something. If you’d rather spend your money on drinks instead of an entrance fee, head to Gymage, a multi-functional space with a rooftop cafe, instead. The service there is so-so but the milkshakes are to die for.


Dinner at Restaurante Triciclo 

Apparently Triciclo is hard to get into nowadays, so be sure to make reservations ahead of time. When I went (at an odd time) with a couple of friends, we were able to get seated right away.

Triciclo is a modern fusion restaurant designed for groups. All their dishes are meant to be shareable, mixing and matching from three different categories: market fresh, traditional flavors, and international inspiration. The food is creative with a seasonally changing menu. Plus, for nearly all the dishes, you can order a full portion, half, or third – perfect for groups that want to sample a variety of items.

No matter what you order at Triciclo, you’re guaranteed a culinary delight!


Madrid Itinerary: Day Three in Madrid

On day three of your Madrid itinerary you have a couple of different itinerary options. One option is to take an all-day organized day trip to three popular cities: Avila, Segovia, and Toledo. I’ve personally visited all of these places and loved them. They aren’t too far from Madrid but feel a world away with a rich history and incredible architecture. If that’s something you’re interested in, this tour is particularly awesome. It’s long but you’ll cover a lot of ground. Book it here

If you’d prefer to explore Madrid at a more leisurely pace, then I’ve included a “day 3 in Madrid” itinerary below, which includes a few different activity recommendations based on your interests.


Brunch at Federal Cafe

At first glance, Federal Cafe looks like an inconspicuous cafe just outside Plaza Mayor. But this Australian-inspired spot takes their menu seriously and it shows: the coffee is to die for, there are tons of healthy breakfast options, and there’s both indoor and outdoor seating. Federal is actually a chain within Spain – I used to frequent the one in Valencia and there’s one in Barcelona, too. Anyway, I digress. The food is good, the ambiance is killer, and breakfast is served every day. Plus, it’s only a ten-minute walk from El Rastro.


El Rastro Flea Market (Sundays)

If you happen to be in Madrid on a Sunday, you’re in luck: El Rastro Flea Market in La Latina will be running and you’re in for a treat!

There’s no shortage of fun at Europe’s biggest flea market: every Sunday from 9 am – 3 pm Madrileños are treated to stall after stall of the most eclectic collection of items. I mean, El Rastro has everything from obscure painted skulls to skinny jeans to old CD’s. It’s a great place to purchase quirky souvenirs and keepsakes. Even if you don’t purchase anything, it’s still a fun market to browse and people-watch. This is pickpocket heaven though, so be super careful with your stuff. I always pack and use a lockable purse to err on the side of caution.


Explore La Latina

When you’re done with El Rastro (or if it’s not a Sunday), I recommend exploring some of Madrid’s coolest neighborhoods by foot, starting with the ultra-trendy La Latina. With its narrow, maze-like streets and ever-evolving collection of shops and restaurants, there’s always something new to see here. The northern part of La Latina (Cava Alta and Cava Baja streets) is considered the tapas center of Madrid, where you can sample of the best of Madrid’s traditional dishes. Some of the highlights of this neighborhood include Mercado de la Cebada, Real Basilica de San Francisco el Grande, and the food at Juana La Loca.


Stop by Corte Ingles Gourmet

Make your way north on your walk, towards El Corte Ingles on Callao. Consider following Calle de Carretas (Carretas street), where you’ll pass some Madrid highlights including Teatro Calderon, Plaza de Jacinto Benavente, and Puerta del Sol, the heart of Madrid.

As one of Madrid’s largest plazas, Sol is packed with people day and night, and serves as the center point from which to get to anywhere in Madrid. Not only do all the metro stations connect here, but it’s also a great place for shopping, restaurants, people-watching and photos. What’s more, there are always random street peddlers, small protests, and street performers here. There’s even a funny little statue of a bear pawing a tree (a symbol of Madrid).

If you’re peckish, stop at La Mallorquina for a pastry (the napolitana is famous!). Get lost, take pictures, wander through the side streets – now is your time to explore to your heart’s desire. End up at El Corte Ingles on Callao and head to the Gourmet Experience food court on the top floor for free views of the city. It’s also a great place to pick up a snack or shop – with 9 stories, there’s something for everyone at Spain’s biggest department store!


Shop on Gran Via 

If shopping is on your Madrid itinerary, you’re in luck. Pretty much any and every European brand you could possibly want to shop at is located on Gran Via: everything from Primark (insanely cheap basics) to Zara and beyond. It’s busy and bustling and excellent for window-shopping too. Consider stopping by the Telefonica Foundation, where all phone operations in Spain once ran (The Cables Girls, anyone?). This free museum not only covers the history of the telephone and telegraph but also has exhibits about digital technology and art. It’s really cool and a fun and quirky thing to do in Madrid. Once you’ve had your fill of Gran Vía, it’s time for lunch!


Lunch at Ojalá

Okay, yes, Ojalá was clearly designed to be Instagrammable with its colorful decor and fun lighting. It was designed by famous architect Andrés Jaque, after all. But trust me, that’s not the reason it’s on this 3 days in Madrid itinerary. I take food recommendations very seriously. They have a great menú del día (menu of the day) during lunch but it’s also a great place to stop for a snack or lighter meal if you aren’t super hungry. The mediterranean-inspired menu caters to a variety of dietary restrictions and there’s – get this – a beach bar complete with sand in the basement. How cool is that? Ojalá gets lots of points for food, originality, and decor while still being budget-friendly. Win!

Note: Another great on-the-go option for those that want more choices is Mercado de San Ildefenso, a collection of “modern street food” stalls serving a huge variety of cuisines. 


Meander through Chueca

After lunch, continue your walk to Chueca, the hip, LGBTQ+ neighborhood of Madrid. As one of the major nightlife hubs of Madrid, Chueca is trendy, fun, and just plain eclectic. It has a funky and rebellious style that’s evidenced in its cafes and buildings and perpetuated by the people that live here. Some of the highlights of this neighborhood include Fundacion Mapfre Recoletos (an art gallery with many works by Miró), Museo del Romanticismo (a museum focusing on the Romanticism period), and Casino Gran Madrid (the first casino to open in Spain).


Evening activity: Madrid Food Tour or Soccer Game or Flamenco Show or Cooking Class

In terms of your evening activities, I have four different recommendations based on your interests: a Madrid food tour, a soccer game (if one is playing) a flamenco show, or a cooking class. Let’s break down all four options (I’ve done them all at various points) you can decide accordingly.

Madrid Food Tour

The Madrid Food Tour was the first food tour I ever did. I’ve since done quite a lot (including Amsterdam, Cairo, Athens and Valencia, to name a few). Still, the Madrid Food Tour remains one of my favorites to date. You can read my entire review as to why here. But in a nutshell: it’s an excellent mix of history and food, and a great introduction to some of Madrid’s most delicious eats, including places you would have never encountered yourself. To date, some of my favorite Madrid eats include places I sampled on this tour. You can book it here.

Soccer (Fútbol) Game

Even though I’m not a big sports person, I’m well aware that Real Madrid is one of the best soccer teams in the world, which is why I made a point to go to a game when I lived in Madrid. What I didn’t know before moving there is that Madrid actually has two teams: Real Madrid (who plays at Santiago Bernebéu Stadium) and Atletico Madrid (who plays at Wanda Metropolitano). If either of these teams is playing while you’re in Madrid, you have to go to a game: the atmosphere is loads of fun and soccer fans take the sport very seriously. You can get tickets for a game here.

Alternatively, if there isn’t a game while you’re in Madrid, soccer fans can still do a guided tour of the Bernabeú Stadium all year round. Get your tickets here.

Flamenco Show

Firstly, if you’re already planning a trip to Southern Spain alongside this Madrid itinerary, then I recommend waiting and watching a flamenco show in Andalusia. Why? Because that’s where it was invented and you can get the full-blown authentic experience of watching a show in a cave. However, if Granada isn’t part of your Spain trip then you should definitely consider watching a flamenco show in Madrid – specifically, the show at Corral de la Moreria. This show has won countless awards by various organizations within Spain as being one of the best flamenco shows in all of Spain. No big deal. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind, unforgettable experience where talented dancers from all over Spain perform. Plus, you have the option of four different show times and you’ll get a magnificent four-course dinner as well. What’s not to love? Book it here.

Cooking class

If you’d like to learn how to make some of the delicious food you’ve been eating, then you should consider taking a cooking class! I did one when I was living in Madrid and learned how to make some seriously delicious eats like tortilla, torrijas, and more (you can read about my experience here). Although that particular class is no longer available, this one looks amazing and quite similar to the one I did. Learn more and book your class here

Madrid Accommodation: Where to Stay in Madrid

If it’s your first time in Madrid, I highly recommend staying in or around “Central Madrid,” meaning the Plaza Mayor and Sol area. A large majority of places you’ll be visiting are in not far from this area and are easily accessible by foot.

I’ve stayed at a few hotels in Madrid (and highly recommend B&B Hotel Madrid Centro if you really want to stay in a hotel), however I specifically recommend this Airbnb as one of the best accommodation choices in Madrid. It couldn’t have been more perfect: spacious, centrally located, budget-friendly, and newly-renovated, this apartment is awesome for travelers looking for comfortable local experience. It definitely gets my stamp of approval.

Alternatively, my other recommendations are below:

Sungate One Hostel (Backpack)

If you’re all about that backpacker life, Sungate One Hostel is one the best hostels to stay in! Located in the heart of Central Madrid, this social hostel has everything you’ll need: gender-segregated dorms, mixed dorms, private rooms, towels and linens, and more. There’s a reason Sungate has won hostel awards for multiple years in a row. To top it all off, they offer guided tours of the city, free group dinners and plenty of other activities. What more could you need?

Read Tripadvisor reviews | Book a Stay

B&B Hotel Madrid Centro Puerta del Sol (Mid-Range)

For accommodation that’s central and doesn’t break the bank, there’s no better choice than B&B Hotel Madrid Centro Puerta del Sol. This comfortable hotel features airy and spacious modern rooms, a delicious on-site restaurant with spectacular views, a friendly staff, and more. The service is excellent and the prices are incredibly reasonable as well.

Read Tripadvisor reviews | Book a Stay

Hotel Villa Magna (Splurge)

For those looking to visit Madrid in style, there’s no better place to treat yourself than Hotel Villa Magna, the 5-star hotel in the posh neighborhood of Salamanca. This luxury hotel boasts large and beautiful rooms with antique-style furniture, natural light, spectacular views, and a spacious tub. That’s not all. You’ll also find a spa center, on-site restaurant, health and fitness classes, and more. It doesn’t get better than this!

Read Tripadvisor reviews | Book a Stay


Bright, airy, and spacious, this centrally-located Airbnb is perfect for a small group of travelers who prefer the comfort of an apartment over a hotel room. This sparkling-clean accommodation is just a few minutes from Gran Vía and is equipped with two bedrooms, A/C / heating, coffee and tea, and plenty of natural light. Honestly, this Airbnb has everything you’d need for 3 days in Madrid and I highly recommend it!

Read reviews and book a stay


Additional Activities and Recommendations in Madrid

Planning on spending more than 3 days in Madrid? You’re in luck! I’ve included a few of my other favorite restaurants and things to do in the city for those that have more time in Madrid.

Fun things to do in Madrid

  • Parque Madrid Rio: This green space along the Manzanares River is another awesome park to people watch, play sports and even attend cultural events. Don’t miss the ultra modern Spiral bridge as well as the nearby Puente de Segovia.
  • Bike tour: Consider exploring Madrid a different way – by bike! This fun 3 hour tour will take you to some of the historical highlights of Madrid and you’ll get to sample some delicious tapas, too! Book it here.
  • Plaza de Toros: Bullfighting is Spain’s most controversial sport and despite the negative press about it, it’s only banned in Catalonia. That means you can attend a bullfight in Madrid but my personal stance is that you shouldn’t – most animal tourism is irresponsible tourism in my book. If you’re particularly curious, you have the option of visiting the museum and doing a tour of the ring itself and learning about the history of bullfighting and why Spain is so obsessed with it. You can get tickets for this tour here.
  • La Tabacalera: Located in the Lavapiés neighborhood of Madrid, this old tobacco-factory-turned-exhibition-space is a must-visit for lovers of urban and street art. It has a combination of permanent artwork and ever-changing exhibitions and a visit here is always a fascinating, non-touristy experience.
  • Cerro del Tio Pio: Here’s a secret most locals know: this grassy hill-top is the best place to watch the sunset in Madrid, hands-down. The reason I don’t recommend it as part of the 3 days in Madrid itinerary is because it’s far from the center – at least half an hour or so by train. Still though, the trek is totally worth it if you have some extra time in Madrid.
  • El Matadero: Once a slaughterhouse, the Matadero is now a cultural center, offering a range of activities and art exhibitions. Both the entrance and guided tours here are free (but need to be booked ahead). It’s well-worth checking their website to see what’s happening before visiting, though.
  • Parque Europa: Located an hour from Madrid, this fun park consists of miniature replicas of many famous European monuments such as the Eiffel Tower, Trevi Fountain, Little Mermaid, and more. It’s probably more designed for little kids but I had a blast spending a day here! Plus, admission is free.

Where (else) to eat in Madrid

  • Mercado de San Miguel: For those of you who like tons of options, then visit the Mercado – here you’ll find everything from cooked paella to gourmet goods in market-style stands. It isn’t the best food in Madrid, but it definitely satisfies the indecisive palate.
  • Bodegas Ricla: Bodgegas Ricla is a mom and pop tapas bar, known for its extensive wine collection. Come here for boquerones en vinagre (anchovies in vinegar), tostas de cabrales (toast with cooked blue cheese), and from the secret menu: albondigas (meatballs). If you’re like me and don’t drink, they also make a mean mosto.
  • Meson del Champiñon: Yes, it is 100% worth it to spend 6 euros on a plate of mushrooms because they are the best mushrooms you’ll ever eat in your life. I don’t even like mushrooms very much but I’ve been here at least three times. You can also get other tapas here, but…it’s all about the mushrooms.
  • El Abuelo: If you like shrimp and you like garlic then the sizzling gambónes al ajillo (shrimp with garlic) are a must-try. Bursting with flavor and delicious goodness, you might find yourself wiping your bowl clean with the complementary bread.
  • Lateral: With several locations around Madrid, Lateral is both trendy and affordable. It offers a combination of Asian-fusion and traditional Spanish tapas and has quite a few vegetarian-friendly items on the menu as well!
  • La Musa: For truly amazing tapas, look no further than La Musa in Malasaña. Run by the same restaurant group as Ojalá, this quirky Spanish-Mediterranean spot serves both a spectacular set lunch menu and an equally delicious tapas tasting menu for dinner. The menu has a mix of traditional and fusion tapas, with meal options for even the pickiest of eaters.
  • Nuria: If you’re ready for a break from Spanish / European food, Nuria serves some delicious, authentic eats in Malasaña.
  • Salon de Te al Yabal: This teteria (tea shop) in Southern Madrid is the perfect spot for tea lovers who love a chill vibe. With its Moroccan-style decor and dimly lit interior, this somewhat inconspicuous tea shop serves an impressive variety of flavors with a side of relaxation.
  • Lolo Polos Artesanos: Lolo Polos is an artisan popsicle shop with a few different locations around Madrid. They have a ton of different flavors and the popsicles are inexpensive and delicious, made of 100% organic fruit. It’s an excellent snack on a hot day in Madrid!
  • El Jardin Secreto: The food at El Jardin Secreto is pretty forgettable but its ambiance alone is what makes it worth a visit. Just stop by for a drink or dessert rather than a proper meal.  The interior is quirky and fun, making you feel like you walked into, well, a secret garden.


Best Time to Visit Madrid

Spain can be visited anytime depending on your interests, but if you’re planning to visit multiple cities (or even just Madrid), avoid the scorching hot summer and opt for spring or fall instead. It doesn’t get that cold in winter if you prefer to visit then, but expect some rain and shorter daylight hours. Avoid visiting during July and August – not only is it hot, but many restaurants and cafes are closed since the Spaniards themselves are on vacation.

  • March – June: The weather starts to warm up in March into April, making spring one of the best times to visit. May is the best month to visit for optimal weather and prices (as is September).
  • September – October: September, like May, is another great month to visit: the weather is still nice but most tourists are gone. Weather starts to cool down somewhat significantly in late October. By November, you can expect solid winter temperatures (at least by Spanish standards).


Transportation in Madrid

Madrid isn’t too large considering it’s a capital city and I find that the central part is really walkable. However, there are plenty of modes of transportation to get you from point A to point B.

  • Foot: Walk! Central Madrid isn’t really that large, and a lot of the neighborhoods are quirky and better explored on foot.
  • Metro or bus: For those who aren’t up for walking all around the city, you can purchase single ride metro tickets or a 10-ride pass. The metro is incredibly well-connected and an easy way to get all around Madrid. The same tickets can also be used on the public bus.
  • Bike: Madrid has an electric bike rental system for public use. There are 120+ stations throughout the city, so it’s incredibly well-connected and a really fun and easy way to get around Madrid. The system is called BiciMAD and you can learn more information about how it works on their website. Alternatively, if you’d prefer a guided tour around Madrid by bike instead, consider booking this biking and tapas tour.
  • Segway: I had to include a Segway tour option in here, of course! I’m pretty klutzy so I’ve never done this myself, but one day I hope to work up the courage to try it out, knowing that I will likely fall off at some point. Book it here.
  • Taxi: Taxis within Madrid can add up quickly and to be honest, there’s really no reason to use them (except to and from the airport) since public transport is so easy to use. Download the myTaxi app to pre-book cabs in Madrid.


Is Madrid Safe?

Just like in any big city, you have to be vigilant of your surroundings and belongings while in Madrid. Although Madrid is mostly safe, it’s notorious for crafty pickpockets who will swipe your phone or wallet if you look away from it for a second. I never had this issue when I was in Madrid (I wasn’t so lucky in Lima, unfortunately). However, I know several people who were pickpocketed in Madrid. So, this is your friendly PSA to: always buy travel insurance (World Nomads is my go-to), keep an eye on your belongings (especially if you’re taking public transport), travel with a lockable purse, not wander into sketch areas at night, and keep your valuables in your hotel safe. Be especially careful if you look like a tourist (i.e. you’re wearing a fanny pack, carrying a large camera or holding a map). Overall, Madrid is as safe as most major capital cities – just don’t be dumb or flashy.


Specialty Items to Pack for Madrid 

Generally speaking, there aren’t many specialty items I’d recommend for a trip to Madrid. In terms of wardrobe, a lot depends on when you visit. However, I’ve included a few items below that I brought along below.

  • Backpack: This backpack is hands down the best carry-on-sized backpack I’ve ever used for travel. Not only is it carry-on sized, but it’s also incredibly comfortable and easy to carry, even for a small-framed person like me. It has tons of pockets and compartments for organization, lockable zippers, and it’s weather resistant. If you really don’t think you can handle packing in a carry-on, then this one is just as comfortable but larger. You can also technically get away with using it as a carry on and the additional pack as your personal item. Win!
  • Locking Purse: Madrid (and several other cities in Spain) have an unfortunate pickpocketing problem, which is why I bring this handy lockable purse with me everywhere I travel. Is it the most stylish purse I’ve ever owned? No. Does it keep me from worrying about pickpockets? Absolutely. Plus, it’s surprisingly roomy – I keep my water bottle, camera, wallet, and other stuff in there and they fit no problem. Note: If you’d rather not purchase a purse, you can always keep your smaller valuables in this secret pocket scarf instead.
  • All-purpose sneakers: Last year, a friend of mine introduced me to Allbirds, these awesome wool sneakers that don’t make your feet sweat (even if you wear them without socks). Then I found out they’re made of Merino Wool, which explains the magic behind them. They’re cute, they’re functional, and they’re comfy AF. You can wear them to hike up a mountain or to explore a new city. They’re my go-to travel shoes and if they get dirty, I can throw them in the wash.
  • Travel Insurance: Yes, you need travel insurance for if things (hopefully don’t but often do) go wrong. I’ve been sick, needed stitches, crashed a rental car, had cash stolen and have dealt with luggage delays. Let’s just say I’ve learned my lesson about travel insurance the hard way. My go-to insurance is World Nomads cause they’re awesome and easy to deal with. Be sure to check out the different plan options to pick one that’s right for you!
  • Travel First Aid Kit: I love that this travel first aid kit is small enough to stick in your bag but still has tons of items in it. I’d remove the scissors if you aren’t planning to check your luggage, but otherwise, this is incredibly handy, especially if you’re going to be doing outdoorsy things.
  • VPN: For those of you who don’t know, a VPN (virtual private network) is a service that allows you to securely and privately route your internet through a server. Basically, it makes your internet think you’re in one place when you’re in a different one. Why do you need this? Well, if you want to access your bank account or any secure online account, the sites get super sketched out when you’re in a foreign country. NordVPN is my go-to because it works even in countries where VPNs are blocked. Yay for internet security!
  • Power bank: I don’t know if I’m a phone addict or what (jk, the answer to that is an unfortunate but resounding yes) but I legit don’t understand how people can travel without a power bank. You’re out and about all day and using your phone to navigate, take photos, and who knows what else. I always carry my Anker PowerCore while I’m out. It’s light, holds multiple charges, and charges phones quickly. Win!
  • Portable Travel Strip (optional): If you’re one of those annoying people charging your phone, laptop, and camera at the same time (read: me), bringing a small travel strip along makes powering your devices that much more efficient. I know I’m extra. Sorry, not sorry.
  • Insulated water bottle: I always bring a water bottle with me when I travel because single-use plastic sucks for the planet and buying lots of bottled water is expensive and inconvenient. You can totally drink the water in Madrid and I recommending packing a CamelBak Insulated Water Bottle and refilling it while there. This bottle is particularly awesome because it holds 20 oz and keeps water cold, which you’ll want if you’re visiting Madrid during the spring or summer.
  • Spanish Phrasebook: This Spanish phrasebook is more of a nice to have than a necessity, especially if you’re sticking to the touristy areas. However, you might find it particularly useful if you’re traveling through Spain independently, especially if you’re not at tourist sites.


There you have it. With just three days in Madrid, you can easily (and leisurely!) get a taste of Spain’s capital, and trust me – you’ll leave Madrid a little more in love with Spain.

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12 thoughts on “The BEST Madrid Itinerary for 3 Days in Madrid, Spain

  1. Sophie Nadeau | solosophie says:

    I’m SO glad you’ve written an article about Madrid as I’ve been hearing and reading a lot of conflicting information recently too! I think you may well have convinced me to visit…

    • Sally E says:

      Glad you found it useful Sophie! It’s honestly a GREAT city and I would move there in a heartbeat if I could. It’s definitely worth at least a few days :). Let me know if you’re interested in a promo code for the city guide app! You can use it for Madrid or any other city as well. Happy travels!

  2. Florence says:

    Hi Sally 🙂 This article about Madrid is perfect! I’ve been there already and like you I think it’s not a city to skip! You just don’t talk about 100 Montaditos, which is THE PLACE where every locals go on Wednesday and Sunday (to eat tapas) Have you tried? 🙂

    • Sally E says:

      Thank you Flo! I actually haven’t tried 100 Montaditos yet! Where is it located in Madrid? I will save it for next time I visit! Thanks for the recommendation 🙂

  3. Ellie - Flash & Frugal says:

    Hi Sally, This is really cool – I really like the pics of all the sights. I’ve been to loads of places in Spain but never here so I will look forward to making the trip!

    • Sally E says:

      Thanks Ellie! I’m glad you found it useful :). Definitely let me know if you make it out to Madrid! I’ve spent a good few weeks there and can offer plenty of recommendations as well! Happy travels!

  4. Karen Wanderlustingk says:

    I’d recommend going out in Malasana to all the rock bars. So much fun and one of them even gave us free homemade cake with a drink. 😀

    • Sally E says:

      Oh what! That sounds awesome! It’s an area I didn’t explore the neighborhood as much as I wanted to, so I’ll definitely spend more time there next time I’m in Madrid!

  5. Alok Singhal says:

    Haven’t been there yet, but makes me feel like packing my bags and just taking a flight right away! Very well narrated!

  6. Tilly Horseman says:

    I am in the group of people who LOVE Madrid, and I would go back in a heartbeat! I spent 4 days there a couple of years ago and only saw a fraction of everything I wanted to see. In addition to your best ‘Free’ things to do – make sure you check out the Temple de Debod and the views from here, particularly at sunset. Its gorgeous there! I can’t wait to return to the city!

    • Sally E says:

      Yesssss good recommendation! Funnily enough, I’m currently based in Madrid so I definitely need to update this list based off all the new places I’ve discovered. I agree with you though – such an amazing city! Thanks for reading 🙂

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