Madrid is Spain’s capital city, and with a population of 3.2 million, it is bursting with life and culture. Madrid is a hugely popular city break for those with a love of incredible architecture, beautiful gardens, and great food. This is the perfect three-day Madrid itinerary for any Madrid first-timers, enabling you to hit all hot spots.
3 Days in Madrid – Day 1
Arrive and Get Acquainted
With only three days in Spain’s capital, you should arrive as early as possible. Although early flights tend to be the most expensive, they always work out the most effective for getting the most from your whistle-stop city break. So, spend the morning finding your hotel and wandering around the local area, familiarising yourself with the sights and sounds of a new city.
The image of the Plaza Mayor is one of the most recognisable in the whole of Madrid. The red brick buildings surrounding the large square provide a striking focal point for tourists visiting the city. Incredibly, the square was officially opened in 1620, during the reign of Philip III, whose statue now stands proudly in the centre of the square. Plaza Mayor originally hosted markets but now provides one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. It is a must-see on your first trip to Madrid and is the perfect starting point for a tour of the city.
Royal Palace with Gardens
Just a six-minute walk away is the incredible Royal Palace. Amazingly, this is the largest functioning royal palace in the whole of Europe, and still serves as the official residence of the Spanish royal family. Skip the line tickets can be purchased for as little as €13, giving you an excellent opportunity to enjoy a slice of history and some magnificent architecture.
Catedral de la Almudena
Next door to the royal palace is the stunning Catedral de la Almudena. This catholic church in the heart of the capital began its life in 1879. This immaculate building was not complete until 1993, which is unsurprising when you see the intricacy involved with such a piece of architecture. Of course, the cathedral itself is free to enter. However, tickets to the museum cost just €7 and give visitors a fantastic insight into the country’s history. This ticket also grants admission to the dome, which offers spectacular city views.
Churros in Madrid – not exactly groundbreaking, but a must-do on your three-day trip to the city.
In the Spanish capital, churros are eaten at all hours of the day. In my humble opinion, however, they make the perfect mid-afternoon snack. Best eaten with a tub of rich melted chocolate whilst people-watching in the heart of the city. There are spots all around the city serving great churros. If you’re looking for a gluten-free option, head to Maestro Churrero.
Dinner At Roostiq
On your first evening in the city, head to the fantastic Roostiq. This is a trendy spot, so I recommend booking in advance to ensure you can taste the delights they offer. Considering the quality of the food, I felt Roosiq offered incredible value for money. €100 enabled us to share a starter and enjoy two delicious mains, two fabulous desserts and a perfect bottle of red.
All the food was delicious but there were two stand-out offerings for us. The first was Roostiq’s signature dish, Torreznos Roostiq. This beautifully crispy salty pork dish was recommended by our friendly waiter and was the perfect way to kick off our evening. But, the pièce de resistance was the incredible homemade cheesecake. Served with amaretto shot to pour over, it was indeed one of the most amazing desserts I have ever tried. My recommendation here though – do not get one of these to share. This cheesecake is luxurious, decadent, and everything you could wish for in a sweet treat. It is not to be shared, but to be devoured alone.
Day 2 – 3 Days in Madrid
You’ve spent your first day getting accustomed to the city and sampled the incredible food on offer, so now it’s time to fully immerse yourself in Madrid’s culture. This will be a very busy day, so make sure you’re wearing something comfortable and fuel up on a big breakfast before leaving the hotel.
Your first stop of day two is Retiro Park. You should enter through the main entrance to get a snap of the famous Puerta de Alcalá. Retiro Park is a must-visit on every three-day trip to Madrid, regardless of the season. It is a true oasis in the heart of a bustling city. Covering 125 acres, the expansive green space is extremely popular with tourists and locals. Make sure you check out Palacio Cristal, a genuinely magnificent sparkling conservatory nestled within the 15,000 trees.
Exit the park through the main entrance and follow calle gran via (one of Madrid’s busiest roads) for around 30 minutes. Take your time, enjoying plenty of window shopping along the bustling centre of the capital. Continue on this street until you reach Plaza de Espana, your second stop of the day. Marvel at the large fountain centrepiece and make the most of this tranquil green space, surrounded by on of the busiest roads in the whole country.
San Miguel Food Market
Now, for my favourite foodie spot in the city, San Miguel food market. Is this place filled with tourists? Absolutely. But for a good reason, it’s amazing! Over thirty stalls fill this beautiful building, sharing the best food and drinks the city has to offer. So enjoy €3 glasses of wine whilst nibbling on fresh calamari and delicious cured meats, watching the world go by.
Temple of Debod
Your fourth and final spot of the day is the Temple of Debod. This incredible Egyptian sculpture was gifted to Madrid as a sign of gratitude. This area does get very busy at sunset, but well worth it to enjoy this incredible attraction in the gorgeous golden hour light. Head to the highest point of Parque Del Oste to enjoy fantastic views over the city.
Three Days in Madrid – Day 3
Las Ventas Bullring
Bullfighting is a huge element of Spanish culture and something you’ll see plenty of references to during your three days in Madrid. Las Ventas Bullring is the largest stadium in the capital and the place many consider to be the true home of bullfighting.
Bullfighting is extremely polarising and not something I wanted to witness. However, the building is magnificent and worth the trip to enjoy the magnificent architecture. Alternatively, multiple concerts are held here each month which is a great way to enjoy the incredible atmosphere.
Santiago Bernabéu Stadium Tour (Or Game if You’re Lucky!)
Even if you’re not the biggest football fan, the Real Madrid Stadium has to be on your three-day Madrid itinerary. The stadium is easily accessible on the metro, with plenty of bars and restaurants nearby to grab something to eat or drink before or after your tour. A tour is excellent for all football lovers, allowing you to explore the stadium at your own pace.
However, attending a game is the best way to experience the Santiago Bernabéu. The atmosphere is electric, an excellent bucket list activity to enjoy in the Spanish capital. The Real Madrid website can be pretty tricky to navigate, though, releasing tickets very close to the match day. You can purchase tickets from third parties, but be prepared to pay a premium for the simplicity. The third option is to buy tickets directly from the stadium on the day, which is the most straightforward (and cheapest) option.
Dinner: Tapas Tour of Madrid
No trip to Madrid is complete without fully exploring the culinary delights. Madrid is a city best explored on foot, so a guided tour of the city’s best spots is not completely necessary. Instead, wander the streets as the sun sets, grabbing tastes of Jamon, Patatas Bravas and croquetas at each establishment that steals your attention.
However, if you fancy getting to know the history a little deeper, and exploring some spots a little more off the beaten track, then book yourself onto a guided tapas tour. Many options are available, allowing you to enjoy the best tastes of the city.
Sport in Madrid
Attending a football match is not usually top of my list when planning a weekend away. However, I simply could not turn down the opportunity to see one of the most famous football teams in the world. As someone who very recently got to grips with the offside rule, I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. The atmosphere was buzzing, and it was evident the club is extremely used to accommodating overseas tourists.
The stadium is easily accessible using the city’s clean and efficient metro system. There are plenty of spots to enjoy a glass of red wine and a few tapas plates beforehand. Tickets can be booked through the official Real Madrid website; however, an ID membership is required, which must be arranged before the tickets come on sale. I (foolishly) bought tickets through a reselling website. Although this allowed me to secure the goods, it meant I was hit by extortionate fees, so I would not recommend it. The most straightforward way to purchase Real Madrid tickets is to simply show up on the day and buy them from the box office. Unless it is a hugely popular derby game, there should be ample available seating in the sunning 80 thousand capacity stadium.
If football is not for you, there are plenty of other sports happening in Madrid. Basketball is hugely popular here, along with cycling, tennis and, of course, bullfighting.
Food and Drink in Madrid
The Spanish structure their days very differently from those in the UK or USA. Everything happens much later in the day, so don’t expect to experience much life in the capital before 10 am. Although keen photographers will be eager to capture imagery in that blissful morning light, most attractions will not open until mid-morning.
The atmosphere in Madrid is very relaxed, and you will never feel rushed to leave a bar or a restaurant. Service can be slow but friendly, and mealtimes are a social event that should be savoured rather than rushed. I would recommend making dinner reservations no earlier than 9 pm. Arriving before this, you may find yourself alone in an empty restaurant.
The food, however, is a massive part of the culture in Madrid – the city is every foodie’s dream! Therefore, it is typical to receive small tapas dishes when ordering alcoholic drinks, often small meat and cheese plates. The city can be tricky to navigate as a vegetarian, with most local cuisine centred around meat dishes, especially pork. However, many vegan and veggie restaurants are popping up, such as La Encomienda and Level Veggie Bistro
Three Days in Madrid – FAQs
When Is the Best Time to Visit Madrid?
The warmest months in Madrid are June through to September, where the days are long, sunny, and rarely dip below 20°C. However, these are also the busiest and most expensive months. I visited in April, and it was perfect. The city was bustling with domestic tourists, and the weather hovered around a pleasant 15°C. So, consider April, May, or even October for a slightly calmer and more affordable trip.
How Do I Get From the Airport?
It is very easy to get from the airport to your hotel in central Madrid. The metro system is extensive and easy to navigate. Tickets can be purchased from the machines at the metro system inside the airport and costs just €5 per person. A taxi will cost around €40.
How Expensive Is Madrid?
As with most cities, Madrid is as expensive as you want to make it. However, it is a highly walkable city so you do not need to spend much on transportation. Food and alcohol will likely be your most significant expense. Expect to pay around €100 for a two-course meal with wine for two at an excellent central location. However, there are many street food vendors where street food can be picked up for as little as €5.
Madrid Itinerary – How Many Days in Madrid?
Three days in Madrid is perfect for first-timers. It gives you enough time to hit all of the hot spots such as the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, Retiro Park and the Royal Palace. However, if you’re planning on heading out of the city of day trips, 5 or 6 days would be ideal.
Cash or Card in Madrid?
Of course, almost everywhere will accept cash in Madrid. However, I used my trusty Monzo card. Be sure to have a few Euros with you for small payments such as tips. Otherwise, use your Monzo card to pay for everything without attracting a single overseas fee.
How Easy Is Madrid if I Don’t Speak Spanish?
Madrid is a metropolitan city, and many people in the town speak English. However, in lots of smaller cafes and restaurants, you will not find an English menu and should not rely on servers speaking English. Learn a few basic phrases and get comfortable with Google translate, and you will be absolutely fine.