3-day Madrid itinerary
Ready to get to know Madrid in 3 days? Let’s begin!
- Day 1: Puerta de Alcalá, Plaza de Cibeles and Madrid City Hall, Puerta del Sol, Chocolatería San Ginés, Plaza Mayor, San Miguel Market, Catedral de la Almudena, Palacio Real, Temple of Debod.
- Day 2: Retiro Park, Real Jardín Botánico, Reina Sofía Museum, Prado Museum, Barrio de las Letras, Círculo de Bellas Artes.
- Day 3: La Latina, Teatro Real de Madrid, Gran Vía, Plaza de España, Malasaña, Chueca.
Day 1 – Madrid in 3 days
On your first day in Madrid, I am going to suggest you to walk from the Puerta de Alcalá to the Temple of Debod, passing through some of the most emblematic places in the city, such as the Puerta del Sol or the Plaza Mayor.
First day in Madrid:
- Puerta de Alcalá.
- Plaza de Cibeles and Madrid City Hall.
- Puerta del Sol.
- Chocolatería San Ginés.
- Plaza Mayor.
- San Miguel Market.
- Catedral de la Almudena.
- Palacio Real.
- Temple of Debod.
Puerta de Alcala, first stop in this Madrid 3-day itinerary
Start the day visiting one of the most iconic places in the city: Puerta de Alcalá. You will not find an itinerary of Madrid in 3 days that doesn’t include this place and it plays a very important role in Madrid’s history.
It is located in Plaza de la Independencia and was one of the five ancient royal gates that gave entrance to the city. It was designed by Francesco Sabatini and inaugurated in 1778.
Plaza de Cibeles and Madrid City Hall
Once you have finished visiting Puerta de Alcalá, it is time to continue along Calle de Alcalá until you reach Puerta del Sol. Although you must first make a mandatory stop at Plaza de Cibeles, where you will find the famous Cibeles Fountain, the which has witnessed multiple triumph celebrations for Real Madrid.
There are several important buildings in the vicinity, such as the Cibeles building, the Bank of Spain, the Linares Palace and the Buenavista Palace. Probably, the one that catches your attention the most is the Palacio de Cibeles, a building that houses the Madrid City Council. On the eighth floor, you can visit the Mirador de Madrid, a terrace with 360º views.
Puerta del Sol
We’ve arrived at Puerta del Sol, one of the most emblematic and important places in Madrid. Something that I love about this corner of the city is that it is always full of life. Some of the busiest streets in the city all meet here, such as Alcalá, Mayor, Arena and Preciados. Because of this, I am sure that you will pass by the square more than once.
Inside Puerta del Sol there are several places that you cannot miss. Among them are Kilometer Zero, the statue of the Bear and the Strawberry Tree, the equestrian statue of Carlos III, the Royal Post Office and the Mariblanca. The famous La Mallorquina pastry shop is also located there. Be sure to go in and taste some deserts. I love chocolate palm trees.
Right now the square is not very pretty as it’s under renovation. We will have to wait some time to see it shine in its maximum splendor again.
Chocolate with churros in San Ginés
One of the most classic gastronomic stops in Madrid is stopping at the Chocolatería San Ginés. Here you can enjoy one of the best chocolate with churros in Madrid. Especially in the colder months, it is so yummy!
Plaza Mayor, one of the best places to visit in Madrid in 3 days
Continue until you reach Plaza Mayor. It is one of my favorite places in the Madrid and stands out for its beauty. In addition, it is another of the great essentials to see in Madrid in 3 days. Throughout history this square has hosted numerous and diverse social events.
The first building built in the square was the Casa de la Panadería. It was built by Diego Sillero around the year 1590. Of the original building, only the basement and the ground floor are preserved. In addition, Casa de la Panadería served as a model to build the rest of the buildings in the square.
Apart from its attractive symmetry and the beautiful color of the facades, the statue of Felipe III located in the center of the square will also catch your attention.
Lastly, I must say that it is quite typical to sit in a bar in the square or its surroundings to eat a squid sandwich. If you’re hungry, be sure to try it.
San Miguel Market
Very close to the Plaza Mayor you will find the Mercado de San Miguel, opened in 1916 as a food market. In 2009, it became a gastronomic market, becoming the most popular in the city.
It is one of those markets that, even if you do not intend to eat something, it is worth taking a short walk in to see the many stalls full of delicious and very appetizing tapas. It’s a bit pricey but the food is delicious.
Catedral de la Almudena
Continue your journey through Madrid de los Austrias until you reach the Almudena Cathedral, built between 1883 and 1993. It has different architectural styles: the exterior is neoclassical, the interior is neo-Gothic and the crypt is neo-Romanesque.
Be sure to come closer to appreciate the Cathedral’s facade and stroll through the Plaza de la Armería. It is also possible to visit the interior of the cathedral by paying a small donation of 1 euro. It is open from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (in July and August it opens until 9:00 p.m.).
Royal Palace of Madrid
We continue our visit by going to the Royal Palace of Madrid, the official residence of the kings of Spain. Currently, they do not live here but in the Palacio de la Zarzuela.
It is the largest palace in Western Europe and one of the largest in the world. It has 135,000 square meters of space and houses up to 3,418 rooms. The Main Staircase, the Throne Room, the Hall of Halberdiers, the Gasparini Room, the Royal Pharmacy, the Throne Room, the Royal Kitchen and the Royal Chapel stand out.
It is possible to visit the interior of the Royal Palace on your own. If you prefer, you can also book a guided tour of the Royal Palace.
Royal Palace of Madrid entrance fee: €13 (general admission), €7 (reduced admission: citizens between 5 and 16 years old, students up to 25 years old and over 65 years old). Admission is free from Monday to Thursday from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. (last access at 6:00 p.m.). In winter, it is from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Hours Royal Palace of Madrid:
- From Monday to Saturday: 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. (last access at 6:00 p.m.).
- Sundays: 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (last access at 4:00 p.m.).
Sunset in Templo de Debod
I can’t think of no better place to end your first day in Madrid than in Temple of Debod, an Egyptian temple from the 2nd century BC. donated to Spain by the Egyptian government. The best thing about this place is the atmosphere that there is every afternoon. You will see many people walking or sitting on the grass, waiting for the sun to set.
Day 2 – Madrid in 3 days
The second day of this 3-day Madrid itinerary continues through El Retiro, which I recommend you go to in the morning. After taking a walk through the park, it’s time to make some of the most important cultural visits in Madrid.
Second day in Madrid:
- Retiro Park.
- Real Jardín Botánico.
- Reina Sofía Museum.
- Prado Museum.
- Barrio de las Letras.
- Círculo de Bellas Artes.
Walk through El Retiro Park
El Retiro is the heart of Madrid and one of the best places for the people of Madrid to go for a walk. It’s a must-visit place on your trip to the Spanish capital. I recommend you lose yourself on the different paths of the park. However, there are certain places that you cannot miss. Like the Estanque Grande, the monument to Alfonso XII and the Crystal Palace.
Other places that I recommend visiting in El Retiro are the Palacio de Velázquez, where there are usually very interesting exhibitions, La Rosaleda and the Cecilio Rodríguez Gardens.
Apart from walking, you can rent a bike and explore the park, take a boat ride on the pond or take a guided tour of El Retiro.
Real Jardín Botánico (Royal Botanical Garden)
Next to El Retiro Park, you’ll find the Royal Botanical Garden, which I recommend you go to for a brief visit. Here you will find a beautiful garden and a greenhouse with 5,000 species of plants. The Royal Botanical Garden has more than two centuries of history and offers a scientific approach. In my experience, it is a very interesting and relaxing visit.
Royal Botanical Garden of Madrid entrance fee: €4 (general admission), €1 (reduced admission: students between 18 and 25 years old, large families and over 65s).
Madrid Royal Botanical Garden opening hours:
- From November to February: 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
- March and October: 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
- From May to August: 10:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
- September: 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Reina Sofía National Art Center Museum
The following stop will be at the Reina Sofía National Art Center Museum, an essential place to include in your Madrid 3 day itinerary. Whether you like going to museums or not, the Reina Sofía is a must on your route through Madrid. It is located in Atocha, in a neoclassical building that served as a hospital from the 16th century to 1965.
The interior of the museum houses a collection of modern and contemporary Spanish art. One of the most important works you will find is Pablo Picasso’s Guernica. There are also works by other renowned artists, such as Dalí, Miró and Juan Gris.
Reina Sofía Museum entrance fee: €12 (general admission). On Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, admission is free from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. On Sundays admission is free from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. You can check all the information about entrance tickets here.
If you prefer, you can book a guided tour of the Reina Sofía.
Reina Sofía Museum opening hours:
- Monday: 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
- Tuesday: closed.
- From Wednesday to Saturday: 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
- Sunday: 10 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Prado National Museum
We head from one museum to another. Welcome to the Prado National Museum, the most visited museum in Madrid and in Spain. As I mentioned with the Reina Sofía, whether you are a fan of museums or not, if you have never been to the Prado, you have to go. It is well worth it.
In the Prado Museum, you will find the best collections of artists such as Velázquez, El Greco, Goya, Tiziano, Rubens and Bosch. Do not miss the following works: The Second of May 1808 by Goya, The Third of May in Madrid by Goya, Las Meninas by Velázquez, The Knight with the Hand on His Chest by El Greco, The Garden of Earthly Delights by El Bosco, The Naked Maja by Goya, The Three Graces by Rubens and Saturn Devouring His Son by Goya.
Prado Museum entrance fee: €15 (general admission). From Monday to Saturday, admission is free from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. On Sundays and holidays, admission is free from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. You can check all the information about the tickets here.
If you prefer, you can book a guided tour of the Prado Museum.
Prado Museum Hours:
– From Monday to Saturday: 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
– Sundays and holidays: 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Stroll through Barrio de las Letras
After visiting both museums, you most likely need a breathe of fresh air and a drink. I can’t think of a better plan than to take a walk through the Barrio de las Letras. Stroll the streets of this famous Madrid neighborhood as you pass by places such as Plaza de Santa Ana, Calle de las Huertas, the Lope de Vega House-Museum, and the House of Cervantes.
Sunset from the rooftop at Círculo de Bellas Artes
On your second day, I recommend watching the sunset from Círculo de Bellas Artes. You can also go before sunset or at night. It is a very beautiful place at any time of the day. It is one of the most popular rooftops in Madrid. For this reason, expect to queue at the entrance.
Rooftop of Círculo de Bellas Artes entrance fee: €5 (general admission).
Rooftop of Círculo de Bellas Artes hours:
- From Monday to Thursday: 12:00 p.m. – 01:00 a.m.
- Friday and Saturday: 10:00 a.m. – 02:00 a.m.
- Sundays: 10:00 a.m. – 01:00 a.m.
Day 3 – Madrid in 3 days
On the last day of this Madrid 3-day itinerary, I recommend you walk through some of the most famous neighborhoods in Madrid: La Latina, Malasaña, Chueca, etc. Do not forget to walk through Gran Vía from one end to the other, making a special stop at Plaza de España, where you can go up to a rooftop to see the city from above.
Third day in Madrid:
- La Latina.
- Teatro Real de Madrid.
- Gran Vía.
- Plaza de España.
Walk through La Latina neighborhood
Start your third day with a walk through the neighborhood of La Latina. If your visit on a Sunday, do not hesitate to visit the Rastro de Madrid. I recommend you go early to be able to explore it calmly. Other places that you cannot miss in La Latina are Mercado de la Cebada, the Royal Basilica of San Francisco el Grande and Casa Lucio.
Once you finish visiting La Latina neighborhood, it’s time to go to Gran Vía. First, make a stop at Plaza de Isabel II to observe the Royal Theater of Madrid, inaugurated in 1850. If you wish, you can visit the interior. You will be accompanied by a guide who will tell you the history and interesting facts about the theater.
Madrid Royal Theater entrance fee: €10 (general admission), €8 (discounted admission).
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday: at 10:00 a.m. and at 12:00 p.m. (the visit at 12:00 p.m. does not include access to the main hall); Wednesday: 2:00 p.m.
Walk through Gran Vía, a must visit in any Madrid 3-day itinerary
Head to Gran Vía and take a walk through this iconic street in Madrid. It is likely that you have passed through it before your third day in the city since it is one of the main avenues of Madrid. In it you will find a good variety of shops and restaurants. Not to mention the incredible musicals.
As you walk along Gran Vía, you have to stop by Plaza del Callao, a place that houses the emblematic Callao Cinemas. Go up to the top floor of El Corte Inglés de Callao to see this corner of Madrid from above. It does not disappoint!
Plaza de España
Plaza de España is located at one end of Gran Via. It was recently remodeled and converted into a very welcoming space. In the center of it you will find the Cervantes Monument. Although what is really interesting is the surroundings of the square, where several rooftops with great views of Madrid are located. I recommend the Riu hotel and Ginkgo Sky Bar terrace.
Stroll through Malasaña neighborhood
Ready to get to know one of the most modern neighborhoods in the Spanish capital? Welcome to Malasaña, one of the best neighborhoods to visit in Madrid. Did you know that the name, Malasaña, was is in honor of Manuela Malasaña, heroine of the uprising of May 2, 1808? The young woman was murdered in one of the streets of the neighborhood by French troops.
Malasaña was also the epicenter of Movida madrileña. Today it has a very youthful and modern atmosphere. Its streets are full of restaurants, charming shops, terraces, art galleries and specialty cafes. I’m sure you’ll love getting lost in every corner of this neighborhood.
Visit Chueca neighborhood
I recommend ending your visit in Madrid with a good walk through the Chueca area, another of the essentials of Madrid in 3 days. It is another neighborhood which offers a wide variety of terraces where you can sit down and have a drink, art galleries, markets, etc. Its charming atmosphere invites you to walk its streets and sit in one of its squares. Do not miss Plaza de Chueca and Mercado de San Antón.
You can book this free walking tour that will take you through Malasaña and Chueca with a guide.
Where to stay in Madrid
Any area located in the center is a good place to base yourself in the city. In any case, the areas that I most recommend to sleep in Madrid are the following:
- Malasaña: search for hotels in the area.
- Chueca: search for hotels in the area.
- Puerta del Sol: search for hotels in the area.
- Gran Vía: search for hotels in the area.
On the other hand, if you want to have a high-level stay, don’t miss my selection of luxury hotels in Madrid.
Map to visit Madrid in 3 days
I have created this map to help you plan your Madrid 3-day itinerary.
You will be able to see marked in different colors the places that I recommend visiting every day and my hotel recommendations, with their respective links to Booking.
You can click on each of the boxes in the drop-down menu on the map to see the different places recommended for each day. This will make it much easier for you to plan your trip and see what to do each day.
Don’t forget to check my Spain travel guide if you are visiting other areas of the country.
I hope that this post about what to do in Madrid for 3 days has helped you a lot. If you want to tell me about your experience in the city or have any questions, I encourage you to leave a comment. Until next time, traveler!