Explore Madrid the easy way with our itinerary for 3, 4 or even 5 days. From iconic cultural treasures to hidden corners full of charm, we will guide you through an unforgettable experience in the capital of Spain.
I love Madrid! So many things to do, incredible and interesting places to visit that you may need a week or more to get to know and enjoy every corner of this amazing city. However, unless you decide to move to Madrid for a while to get to know a lot, you can still see a lot in a few days.
After many visits that I have made and on several occasions I have stayed for about 3 months in Madrid, here I suggest an itinerary that can help you if you visit for 3, 4 or 5 days.
To start the days, if you don’t have breakfast where you stay, in Madrid you will find several places to have breakfast. From a simple Starbucks with a coffee and some pastry or something good, nice and cheap, like El Museo del Jamón, Vips or the El Corte Inglés cafeteria, or something more complete in a beautiful place like La Rollerie. Another great option, get churros and chocolate at Chocolatería San Ginés, a must visit! (or as a half day snack).
(some links will take you directly to the map with the location I recommend or to the official website of the place for tickets or other information)
Royal Palace of Madrid: Begin your visit in one of the most emblematic places of the city, the impressive Royal Palace. Explore the state rooms, gardens, and enjoy panoramic views of the city from its terraces. If you have extra time, visit, right in front, the Almudena Cathedral and the museum which also offers incredible views from the terraces.
Plaza Mayor: After visiting the palace, head to this central square with charming and historical architecture. Perhaps if it is your first time, eating in one of these open-air restaurants is not a bad idea, although it is super touristy, I recommend you better go to the next place (see afternoon point) to enjoy some tapas or visit Las Cuevas de Luis Candelas for something more complete, although there are several very good spots in the area. Another place to eat, the oldest restaurant in the world Restaurante Botín, I have never eaten there but the place is talked about very well. Just remember that after a certain hour many places including restaurants may close for siesta time, for example the one in Botín closes between 4pm and 8pm.
Mercado de San Miguel: Just a few steps from the Plaza Mayor, you will find this little market. It is the perfect place to try a variety of tapas and local delicacies, along with different drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic).
Museo del Prado: Spend the afternoon visiting one of the most famous museums in the world, the Prado Museum. It contains an impressive collection of Spanish and European art, including masterpieces by artists such as Goya, Velázquez and El Greco. The museum is huge, very interesting and a point not to be missed, but if you are on a tight budget, after 6pm (usually) admission is free, but you only have about 2 hours. If your option is to visit after 6pm, I suggest the following tour that I show on the map:
— Exit the Plaza Mayor towards Sol, there you will find the Reloj de la Puerta del Sol, the KM0 and the sculpture of El Oso y el Madroño. Continue the walk along Calle Alcalá until you reach the Fuente de Cibeles, not only is the fountain beautiful (and famous), but you also find Puerta Casa Ratoncito Pérez (for hispanics, this little mouse is our Tooth Fairy) and beautiful buildings such as Casa de América, the Bank of Spain or Palacio de Cibeles that has an excellent viewpoint. Then continue towards Paseo del Prado which is very pleasant under the trees, you arrive at the Fuente de Neptuno. There you can enjoy the view or deviate a little towards the Carillón Plus Ultra that if you arrive on time you can see the short show on the clock (12pm, 3pm, 6pm and 8pm). Follow the walk along the Paseo del Prado and you will arrive at the Museo Nacional del Prado. Do not miss some monuments abroad such as Goya or Velázquez.
Gran Vía: To end the day, walk along the Gran Vía, a lively avenue lined with theatres, shops and restaurants. It is an ideal place to enjoy the nightlife of Madrid. You find many shops, interesting places and yes, several theaters even Cinema. Do not hesitate to visit the rooftop of El Corte Inglés if you want to eat or drink something with a good view.
Parque del Retiro: Start your second day in Madrid with a visit to Parque del Retiro, a green oasis in the middle of the city. Take a boat ride on the lake, visit the Crystal Palace and relax in its extensive gardens. A beautiful place for a good walk. If the weather allows it, you can also rent a little boat and enjoy the view from the Estanque Grande de El Retiro (a pond).
Puerta de Alcalá and Cibeles: From the Retiro, walk towards Puerta de Alcalá and Plaza de Cibeles (main photo). These are two of the most iconic monuments in Madrid, and their surroundings are perfect for taking photos. If you already visited this area the day before, this time follow the path along Paseo de Recoletos until you reach the Museo de la Biblioteca Nacional y Plaza Colón. The museum is free and it’s amazing. Enjoy the beautiful square and then you can return towards Puerta de Alcalá going down Calle de Serrano which has a lot of famous shops. That is the Barrio de Salamanca, famous for its luxury boutiques and exclusive shops.
Museo Reina Sofía: Continue your artistic adventure by visiting the Reina Sofía Museum, another important contemporary art museum that houses works by artists such as Picasso and Dalí, with the famous “Guernica”. This is my favorite in the city. You can often see exhibits outside the museum at no extra charge. Every day after 7pm you can enter the museum for free (for 2 hours or so).
Tapas en La Latina: For dinner, head to the lively La Latina neighborhood and enjoy the tradition of tapas in the local bars. Stroll through the streets and discover the most authentic corners of Madrid’s nightlife. Safety pin! Don’t stay in one place, visit as many as you can.
Templo de Debod: Start the day visiting the Temple of Debod, an ancient Egyptian temple located in the Parque de la Montaña. The place is very nice and it is worth spending some time there.
Teleférico de Madrid: From the Temple of Debod, walk to the Madrid cable car and enjoy an exhilarating aerial ride with stunning panoramic views of the city. Before visiting, check their web site to make sure it is open the day you decide to go. The day I visited, I just enjoyed the view, we arrived at the park station Casa de Campo where we had a drink and return back to the other side.
Madrid Río: Enjoy a walk through Madrid Río, a linear park along the Manzanares River, perfect for relaxing. I would get to the first Puerta de Toledo to then walk to Madrid Rio where you will find points with a lot of history such as the Toledo Bridge that was built between 1719-1724, some points to eat something quick or a snack and in general a very modern park.
Estadio Santiago Bernabéu o Wanda Metropolitano: If you are a soccer/football fan, visit the stadium of Real Madrid (Santiago Bernabéu) or Atlético de Madrid (Wanda Metropolitano) for a tour and learn about the history of these great clubs.
If soccer isn’t your thing, and if you’re in the city on a Sunday, be sure to visit the famous El Rastro market. Another option is to visit another of the many markets that you find in Madrid such as the Mercado de San Antón o Mercado de San Ildefonso.
Cena en Malasaña o Chueca: End your last day in Madrid with dinner in the lively Malasaña neighborhood or in the well-known LGBT neighborhood of Chueca. Both places offer a wide selection of restaurants and bars for all tastes.
Shopping: Maybe you want to go shopping, Gran Vía is an excellent option but there are also several points that at least I love to walk and buy cute things. By the way, on the Gran Vía do not hesitate to enter UNIQLO (I remember that spot as a H&M), although the store is great, the place itself is beautiful, it used to be a theater a long time ago and the architecture inside is still a bit maintained.
Calle Fuencarral I think it’s my favorite for ‘window shopping’ and from time to time to buy little things. It has European and American stores, sometimes you find street entertainment like music and more.
Another option a bit far from the city center is to visit Las Rozas Village, an outdoor mall with lots of options. You can take a train from Atocha station in Madrid to El Pinar de Las Rozas with lines C8A, C8B or C10 or from Chamartín station lines C8A and C8B.
If you visit during the Christmas season, do not hesitate to visit the Plaza Mayor as it has a very nice little market.
Variedad: If you did not go to Las Rozas Village (since due to the distance it can take you morning and afternoon in the place), you can visit Plaza Santa Ana in the afternoon, which has some restaurants for tapas or wait until night to go up to the terrace of ME Madrid Queen Victoria. From that square, feel free to walk around the area, Barrio de las Letras, and then by Calle de las Huertas which has more restaurants and really nice bars. Also around that area, pay attention to the ground as you will find phrases that are worth stopping to read (in Spanish though). And if you are looking for more museums, on Calle de Cervantes you will find Casa-Museo de Lope de Vega.
Rooftop: In the city you can find a variety of bars and places for tapas everywhere, but when you walk you will not always see the rooftops that offer you beautiful views along with your food and/or drinks. For options your have Terraza del Círculo de Bellas Artes (pic below), Radio Rooftop Madrid or 360° Rooftop Bar at Riu Plaza.
Jardín El Capricho: Visiting this garden in the morning is not a bad idea. It’s beautiful and it’s not so touristy, a spot that many people ignore to visit, even when I’ve been in Madrid so many times, it took me a few years to visit it. You can take metro line 5 to El Capricho station and then walk about 5 minutes to the park. It has beautiful spaces for a nice stroll, statues, beautiful gardens and more.
Faro de Moncloa: After a walk in the park, enjoy views of the city from above by visiting this lighthouse with an observation deck. The hours are from Tuesday to Sunday, they open at 9:30 a.m. until 8 p.m., the last tour is at 7:30 p.m.
Flamenco: You cannot miss at least 1 flamenco night if you are in Spain. You’ll find several options, some with food and drinks, and others just the show. The last time I visited Madrid, since it was my (now) husband’s 1st time, we went to the Teatro Tablao Flamenco TORERO · Essential Flamenco, by chance since we were simply walking through the area and someone from the theater invited us and although I don’t usually fall for that, we thought the place was great. Another very popular option is Tablao Flamenco 1911 (at Tablao Villa – Rosa) that even the exterior is one of those points that you have to stop to take pictures of the facade.
After breakfast, visit the Estación de Atocha, which is beautiful, and take a train to visit Toledo for the day. The trip takes about 30 minutes so it is perfect for a 1 day getaway. I recommend you buy train tickets in advance and be at the station 15-20 minutes before so as not to miss the train, since you have to go through security and the station is quite large, and it can cost at least €16 for a single journey. (Check out my post about Toledo)
Another option for a day trip is to visit Segovia. For this city you have to take a train that leaves from the Estación de Chamartín, the journey takes a little less than 30 minutes and the cheapest ticket can be almost €10 one way. Again, I recommend you buy your ticket at least 1 week before as it depends on the day or season, they can sell out quickly.
If you ask me for 1 option between the 2 cities, it’s difficult since both are beautiful and very interesting, but I think I would choose Segovia first, but both are really worth it.