Things to do in 4 days in Madrid
Let’s start our 4-day trip in Madrid. In short, we will visit these places. Although, later in the post, I will add explanations and some other places to enjoy different experiences.
- Day 1: Historic Center, Puerta del Sol, Casa de Correos, Banco de España, Plaza de España, Reina Sofía Museum and Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Gran Vía, Malasaña neighborhood, San Antón Market, Chueca neighborhood.
- Day 2: Prado Museum, National Archaeological Museum and Botanical Garden. Retiro Park, Walk through the Castella – Cibeles and Neptune Fountain – Madrid City Hall.
- Day 3: Sorolla Museum, stroll through the Salamanca neighborhood and stores, tour of the Santiago Bernabeu stadium, climb the Space Tower, dinner and show.
- Day 4: San Miguel Market, Almudena Cathedral, Royal Palace, Barrio de la Latina, Opera Square, play in Gran Via.
Day 1 of this 4 days in Madrid itinerary
Madrid is home to a number of museums, some of which are unique in the world. Whether or not you are an art enthusiast, you have to visit them just to take in their magnificent structures and architecture.
The most iconic buildings in the city are located in a strategic area called “the Art Triangle” in the Paseo del Prado (lower part of the famous Castellana right next to the Atocha station). But before we get to that, let’s start at the beginning.
Summary of the first day:
- Puerta del Sol.
- Bank of Spain.
- Madrid City Hall.
- Thyssen Museum.
- Reina Sofia Museum.
- Gran Vía.
Puerta del Sol
I recommend you start your 4 days in Madrid itinerary at kilometer 0. It is on one side of the most iconic square in the city, and surely you feel like taking a picture. Walk through the Puerta del Sol square, where the building of the Community of Madrid is located, where the clock is located, and where every year the Spanish welcome the new year.
From here, you can walk through the “central” part of Madrid, strolling through the surrounding streets. One of my favorites is to walk up Calle de Alcalá until you come across the recently inaugurated Four Seasons Hotel. It is an impressive building for which they have respected the style of the old buildings in the city. In this walk, you will begin to discover the architecture so characteristic of the capital, redoubt of the most prolific years of the aristocracy.
Bank of Spain and Madrid City Council
Going down Alcalá Street a little more towards Paseo de Recoletos, you will find two of Madrid’s most emblematic places: the building of the Bank of Spain (closely guarded by the Army Headquarters with a lush rose garden) and the Post Office Building, Madrid City Hall.
The Bank of Spain, looks imposing on the corner of Calle Alcalá number 48 with the Cibeles fountain. It is not only admirable for its facade, but you can also enjoy its interest. Guided tours are free, but you have to sign up for the waiting list here.
The building of Correos-Ayuntamiento de Madrid, is really impressive. Whether by day with the sunlight or at night with the careful lighting it enjoys, it is worthy of admiration. The Cibeles building has six floors where the political life of the city is developed, as well as cultural and leisure activities. It hosts exhibitions, markets, and even summer cinemas. Upstairs, on the rooftop, there is a bar-restaurant whose best feature is undoubtedly its panoramic views over the city.
Since we are in this part of Madrid, a few meters away, we can visit two of the most important museums in the city: the Thyssen Bornesmisza and Reina Sofia. They are two great representations of the art and culture of Madrid and Spain. In them, there are always very interesting permanent and temporary collections.
The Thyssen Bornemisza Museum is a clear example of an absolute commitment to art. With one of the most impressive collections of paintings in the world (which started in 1920), this museum is open every day to offer its visitors a unique experience. Inaugurated in 1992, the government acquired a year later a part of this splendid collection for the delight of all.
In addition to its interior, the museum is located in another of the city’s emblematic palaces, in this case the Palacio de Villanueva, an elegant neoclassical building. The terrace and its cafeteria are very nice to have a tea or a refreshing drink after the visit.
If you are interested in art, you will surely be interested in this guided tour of the Thyssen.
Reina Sofía Museum
A little further down, facing Atocha Street, is another of the big ones, the Reina Sofia Museum. Here contemporary art and modernity prevail, highlighting its permanent collection with works from the late nineteenth century to the present. Its temporary collections are a firm commitment to very attractive “different” art as well as artists with other motivations and ways of expressing themselves.
It was also inaugurated in 1992 (a great year for art in Madrid) and is located on the old General Hospital of Madrid, designed by the architect José de Hermosilla (XVIII century).
After these visits, it will be a good time to eat. In Madrid, if there is something, there are restaurants, and all of them (or at least the vast majority) are exquisite. There is something for every taste, type of food, budget, location, etc.
Gran Vía and Chueca
After you leave the museums, I recommend taking a stroll along the Gran Via, which you can access by the Paseo del Prado and Recoletos. You will find shops and interesting buildings on this very representative street, as well as tourist-friendly eateries. However, Chueca is a neighborhood located a little further on, just one street behind the Gran Via.
Enter it, and you will discover another world of art, freedom and uncovered curiosity and of course, very different restaurants and tops. In this neighborhood you will find one of the most visited markets in the city, San Antón, which in its upper part offers some food stalls and restaurants with very typical food.
Right in front of its entrance, in the heart of this neighborhood, there is a tavern that I like very much. You can eat all the traditional dishes of Spanish cuisine. Above all, everything is homemade. It was called “Tienda de Vinos y Comestibles” or maybe it was the usual sign. It is also surprisingly affordable.
Since we are in Chueca, what better way to cap off this first day than to stroll around, take in the energy of the area, discover all the unique and varied places it has to offer, and enjoy a beer, cocktail, or some improvised tapas—which is also a really fascinating way to let yourself go.
Another way to discover the neighborhood is by booking this free tour of Chueca, which also includes the Malasaña neighborhood.
Day 2 of this 4 days in Madrid itinerary
It’s time to begin the second day of our 4-day Madrid itinerary. But before heading out, is there a better way to start the day than going to enjoy a delicious and healthy breakfast? Madrid is full of traditional bars where you can eat toast and coffee, but it has also evolved into a place with wide variety of healthy breakfast places that I personally love (here are some recommendations to start the day well).
For me, a nice, comfortable, and straightforward breakfast establishment is a must. Since our route begins at the Prado Museum (it’s best to rise early today to maximize the day), I suggest Etual Café and Osom Coffee, two local specialty coffee shops with excellent coffee that also serve delicious croissants and toast.
Summary of the second day:
- Prado Museum.
- National Archaeological Museum.
- Royal Botanical Garden.
- El Retiro Park.
- Fountain of Neptune.
- Cibeles Fountain.
The Prado Museum
Now we enter the wonderful artistic world of the Prado Museum. This museum is truly unique and exceptional, and even if you don’t love art, you really have to see it if you spend 4 days in Madrid.
Inaugurated in 1819 under the reign of Ferdinand VII as a natural history museum, today it is one of the most important art museums in the world. It houses unique and representative works of universal history. I recommend it because during the visit, through each painting, you discover and learn a lot about the history of Spain, with works dating from the twelfth century to the nineteenth century.
It houses an impressive permanent collection, allowing other temporary ones to add value to what already exists. All this within a majestic building of neoclassical architecture designed by the architect Juan de Villanueva in the eighteenth century.
The museum offers guided tours, lectures, and educational activities for the general public. My recommendation is to get your ticket in advance to avoid the long lines that form at the door. You can also book this guided tour of the Prado Museum.
National Archaeological Museum
Since we’re already visiting museums, another one that is of great interest and is also relatively close to the Prado is the National Archaeological Museum. So much so that it is best to go from one to the other, taking a walk, where you will find a breathtaking view of the Puerta de Alcalá.
On the famous Serrano Street, number 13 specifically, is this museum that was renovated just over 10 years ago. A museum that today houses treasures of world history from prehistory to the Middle Ages, highlighting stages and cultures such as Iberian, Celtic, Roman, Visigothic, and Arabic in the Iberian Peninsula. Founded in 1867, it is located in a building designed by the architect Francisco Jareño y Alarcón. Today, this space is an architectural icon of the city.
Surely, after these two museums and the walk to them, you’ve worked up an appetite. A few meters from the National Archaeological Museum, in the Plaza de Colón, is a different space called Platea, where eating is not only delicious but also different and fun. It is an old theater with gourmet food stalls arranged around it where you can choose your food.
Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid (Botanical Garden of Madrid)
The afternoon will be a great time to enjoy it among plants and flowers. After spending the morning inside the two buildings (the museums), what better than strolling outdoors in one of the most beautiful places in the city? The Royal Botanical Garden of Madrid is located between the Paseo del Prado and Retiro, in a privileged enclave. With an extension of 8 hectares in the heart of the historic center, the Royal Botanical Garden has housed, since 1755, more than 5,500 species of flora from around the world.
Inaugurated by Carlos III, today it is one of the most special and energetic spaces in the city. Inside, you will find different routes to know it in detail and discover all the species that inhabit it, including the magnificent and unique greenhouse (I’m in love with it) and the bonsai garden.
One of the secrets of this garden is its cafeteria, which has a terrace inside the space. Here you can have a romantic snack (even if you go alone, as in my case) and enjoy a delicious tea with a delicious cake that, if you are not careful, you will share with the birds that live there.
You can buy the ticket in advance, taking into account that the price of admission is around $7 and that their schedule is:
- November to February: 10:00h – 18:00h.
- March to October: 10:00h – 19:00h.
- May to August: 10:00h – 21:00h.
- September: 10:00h – 20:00h.
The Buen Retiro Park
Just outside the Botanical Garden, you will find one of the entrances to Retiro Park, an essential place to visit in Madrid in 4 days. Let’s take advantage of this short distance to first see the Casón del Buen Retiro, which is one of the two buildings that survived the destruction of the Buen Retiro Palace.
On this side, to the east, are several of the most representative doors of the Retiro, through which you can access it. They are the doors of the Fallen Angel, Murillo, Felipe IV, and Spain.
Around the park itself, there are other gates through which you can exit later.
Once inside the Retiro, it is time to let yourself go and walk through its more than 125 hectares. It is the most interesting thing about this park, considered the lung enjoyed by all of us who live here (it is one of the largest urban parks in Europe).
Within it are points to approach and get carried away with just “being.” Some of them are the Great Pond, the monument to Alfonso XII, and the Crystal Palace.
Street music, children skating, athletes exercising, or people reading will be some of your companions on this walk. Be sure to soak up this park’s energy.
Although it is a park, the Retiro has a schedule (depending on the season). It usually opens at 6:00h and closes between 22:00h and 00:00h. Always take into account the inclement weather because it can affect its opening or closing. Finally, if you are interested, you can book a guided tour of the Retiro.
When you’ve finished this walk, it may be time for dinner. In the neighborhood that borders the park in its eastern part, there are plenty of places where you can eat delicious food. In fact, I would like to recommend a wonderful cheese shop that is right next door, QAVA Cheese Shop. Here, you can have a drink while tasting rich and exclusive cheeses.
Neptune and Cibeles
If you still feel like it, it is always a great time to stroll around Madrid at night. From here, especially in spring and summer, it is very nice to go down again to Paseo de Recoletos and visit the fountains of Neptuno and Cibeles, which are always beautifully lit.
These fountains also have a special meaning for football fans (Cibeles for the Real Madrid fans and Neptuno for the Atlético de Madrid fans), so do not miss the opportunity. Madrid at night is another something else.
Day 3 of the 4 days in Madrid itinerary
We are now on the third day. Perhaps the fatigue is already setting in because the last two days have been very intense, so today I propose something more relaxing. You have already visited the most emblematic places, like the great museums and locations such as Puerta del Sol, Puerta del Alcalá, and others, so today we are going to make other plans.
Summary of the third day:
- Salamanca neighborhood.
- Sorolla Museum.
- Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
- Espacio Tower.
- Musical in Gran Vía.
Salamanca neighborhood and Sorolla Museum
If you want to visit yet another museum, you can start the day by visiting the Somalia Museum. This one is a little different. The museum is located in one of the most posh neighborhoods of the city, the Salamanca district. This area, besides being the cradle of luxury stores and big brands, is an iconic area of Madrid because in it are located some of the most important embassies in the international environment.
The neighborhood was founded in the mid-nineteenth century and is linked to the urban development of Madrid during the reign of Isabel II (she included it in his expansion plan and creation of new neighborhoods). It was named after Dr. José de Salamanca y Mayol, an important financier of the time who went bankrupt on three occasions.
The previously mentioned Sorolla Museum is located in this area’s middle-upper section. It is one of two peaceful, lovely places where I enjoy spending time, along with the Museum of Romanticism (in the Justicia district).
If you haven’t had breakfast yet or if you get hungry, you will be able to choose from a wide range of specialty cafes. Religion Café is a must, and you will love it if you try their Blue Tea Latte and, of course, their Eggs Benedict.
If you are a shopaholic and feel like doing a bit of shopping, here you can at least contemplate the most iconic luxury brands. You will also find others that are more common and affordable, with large spaces representative of the brands.
Santiago Bernabeu Stadium
Leaving behind the Salamanca neighborhood and heading to the upper part of Madrid (perhaps less visited but also very interesting), we arrive at a sacred place for many football enthusiasts. The Santiago Bernabeu Stadium is one of the most visited places in the city, and now, after years of work and renovations, it looks impressive again.
The building is shared by the Real Madrid Museum and the stadium itself, which you can visit with a guided tour. If you happen to visit Madrid when there’s a match or a concert, it will always be a unique opportunity to enjoy a great show.
In fact, if you want to have a different experience, the stadium houses several restaurants where you can eat while overlooking the intense green grass. The sensation (I say this from experience) is very attractive, whether you are a Real Madrid fan or not.
If there is something interesting about Madrid, it is its skylines, and from above, it’s a totally different city. The rooftops of Madrid are a special attraction (at least for me) that can be seen and admired from the Espacio Tower.
It is one of the famous four towers that are located at the end of Paseo de la Castellana (well, now there are five towers). Built in 2009, it has now changed its name to Emperador Castellana Tower. It is the fourth-tallest skyscraper in Spain, with a height of 224 meters and 56 floors.
Its striking glass-covered facade is stunning. Reaching the top and taking in the city views offers a new perspective on Madrid. Furthermore, gourmet markets, including live music performances, are arranged on the first level of the towers, contingent upon the season.
Watching a show in Gran Via
Having finished the day, I want you to enjoy your last night in Madrid in style. Many people come to Madrid and want to enjoy a musical, and here, there is always something going on for all tastes.
This part of Madrid has one of the biggest show selections I have ever seen, including comedy, dance, and theater performances. I could suggest a musical, but as they are constantly changing, my advice would be to check the schedule before you arrive, pick your favorite, and make sure you don’t miss this unique opportunity.
Visiting the theaters in Gran Via at night bears resemblance to Broadway in New York.
Day 4 of this 4 days in Madrid itinerary
And to cap off this itinerary, I thought it would be a good idea to take a walk through the most historic and traditional part of Madrid. We will go to the area of the Royal Palace, the Almudena Cathedral, and the neighborhood of La Latina.
Summary of the fourth day:
- Royal Palace.
- Almudena Cathedral.
- La Latina neighborhood.
- Plaza Mayor.
Royal Palace of Madrid
One of the most impressive places to see in Madrid in 4 days is, without a doubt, the Royal Palace. Beyond the current monarchy, the reality is that it is a space that breathes history into every corner. It is located in the Plaza de Oriente, where some of the most representative international receptions take place.
Its history dates back to the ninth century, when it was the site of a great Muslim fortress. It was Philip II in the sixteenth century who decided to build in it the current palace that would be the residence of the Spanish monarchy (currently it is not).
It is a unique example of Baroque architecture, and you can visit its Gala Halls, the Throne Room, the Hall of Mirrors, the Royal Armory, the Gala Dining Room, the Royal Chapel, and the Royal Pharmacy, among other rooms.
The Royal Palace can currently be visited on your own with the purchase of an entrance ticket or by booking a guided tour from 10:00h to 16:00h or 18:00h, depending on the day and season of the year. Tickets are usually around $15. I recommend comparing them in advance here.
It can be visited free of charge (EU citizens and Latin American citizens) from Monday to Thursday from 16:00 to 18:00 (access until 17:00).
The Cathedral of the Almudena
This magnificent cathedral is located on Bailen Street, just opposite the Royal Palace. Outside the realm of religion, this is an amazing complex to explore in Madrid in 4 days.
Its construction dates back to 1879, although it was not completed until decades later, in 1993, due to a series of challenges and changes in the design over the years. Pope John Paul II consecrated it in 1993.
Its construction combines a wide variety of architectural styles, including neoclassical, neo-Gothic, and neo-Romanesque, which gives it an eclectic and unique look. The three main doors are presided over by a large rose window at the top, making them unique.
Its interior is highly acclaimed and is composed of tall columns, stained glass windows, and a series of chapels that make up its entirety. Today, it is the main church of the Archdiocese of Madrid and is used for important religious ceremonies such as royal weddings and state ceremonies.
It can be visited for free (a donation of $1 is requested) and also with guided tours from Monday to Sunday from 9:00 to 20:30.
If you are interested in visiting these two buildings accompanied by a guide, take a look at this guided tour of the Royal Palace and the Almundena, which lasts 4 and a half hours.
To end this day, and since we are in this neighborhood of Madrid, what better than to enjoy one of the most traditional neighborhoods, La Latina? Madrid, with its medieval roots, is characterized by its network of narrow streets and local taverns, where you can enjoy an authentic Madrid vermouth.
With a unique bohemian atmosphere and an enviable nightlife, it is the neighborhood we all want to enjoy at some point. Going for tapas in Plaza de la Cebada or, of course, spending Sunday morning in El Rastro after having chocolate with churros for breakfast in San Ginés or around Plaza de Ópera, is the most authentic plan.
Another good way to explore the neighborhood is by booking this tour of La Latina.
From there, walking to Plaza Mayor and enjoying its essence and life will be the perfect combo. Do not miss its arcades and everything that takes place there. Built during the reign of Philip II in 1617, it was known as the Plaza del Arrabal. It is characterized by its baroque style, with three floors of red brick buildings, wrought iron, and some frescoes depicting historical and mythological episodes. The center of the square is presided over by an equestrian statue of Philip III, added in the 19th century.
Over the centuries, Plaza Mayor has been hosted a wide variety of events, including bullfights, royal celebrations, markets, and cultural festivals.
Today, the Plaza remains a very active and popular place. It is surrounded by restaurants, souvenir stores, and craft stalls. Visitors and locals gather in the square to enjoy outdoor dining, listen to street music, and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere. It often hosts temporary markets and special events throughout the year. One of the most famous is the Christmas Market held during the holiday season.
In addition, Plaza Mayor is a good place to enjoy your last dinner in Madrid, specifically in San Miguel Market? It is that market where, besides being able to buy fresh produce, you can enjoy the most authentic cuisine in a unique environment. The market is made of glass and always has a great atmosphere.
Where to stay in Madrid
One of the essential steps when planning your trip is to choose a place to stay. The city center and surroundings are obviously great options to stay in Madrid.
The offer is very wide and diverse for all tastes and budgets. If you are looking for an affordable option, here is a good selection of central and cheap hotels in Madrid.
Some central hotels that we recommend are:
Here, you have more options if you are looking for luxury hotels in Madrid.
Other places to visit in Madrid
In addition to all these emblematic places, some for leisure and others for nature, there are plenty of places to discover in Madrid.
If you are going to plan another itinerary on your own or want to add other places, I also advise you:
- Visit the Temple of Debod.
- Stroll through the neighborhood of Las Letras.
- Malasaña neighborhood.
- Salesas area (which is my favorite part of Madrid).
- Visiting the Círculo de Bellas Artes rooftop.
- Stroll through the Campo del Moro.
- Surround yourself with books at the National Library.
The Conde Duque Cultural Center or the ABC Museum of Illustration are also highly recommended and are very close to the Palacio de Liria, which has another great collection of impressive paintings.
Finally, if you are more into alternative art and you bet on incipient artisans, find out if during your visit there are markets in Matadero de Madrid or the Railway Museum (they are very interesting and fun, especially the Mercado de Motores in the latter with craft stalls, music, food, and gastronomy).
Eating in Madrid
I want to end by talking about the city’s gastronomy. As I said, there are many restaurants, but do not leave without trying the most typical of this cuisine. Even if it is summer, why not go for a good cocido? It is very good. Also, you can expect to be served an authentic tortilla de patatas (Spanish omelet) pretty much at any bar. You can also go to the famous Brillante de Atocha to enjoy a good calamari sandwich.
No matter the season, during your stroll, you will always find in any corner pastry shop seasonal traditional sweets (fritters, crown of the Almudena, torrijas, etc.). That regenerates to continue with any route.
Map: 4-day Madrid itinerary
In the following map, you can see all the places to visit organized by day:
This concludes my 4 days in Madrid itinerary. I have tried to bring together the most representative places, adding other unique points of interest that are at the end.
If you have fewer days to visit the city, do not miss this my Madrid 3-days itinerary.
If this is your first time in the country, this complete Spain travel guide will be of great help. And when you finally make it to Madrid, feel free to share your experience in the comment section.