Ah, Madrid. The Spanish capital which we have often overlooked in favour of visiting Barcelona. In fact, we had visited Barcelona 4 times together before we went to Madrid this summer. Having now visited the capital, we can certainly see ourselves going back. We have put together our suggested three day Madrid itinerary to help plan your time in the city.
This itinerary is based on a 3 night and 2 full day trip to Madrid.
For those of you are enjoying a longer visit or who prefer to plan your own days, read our top 13 things to do in Madrid.
Dinner at Bar La Campana
If tapas are high on your bucket list, then your first experience of Spanish food should come from Bar La Campana. Despite being located very near to many tourist traps, this gem outshines the lot of them.
It can get super busy, though the turnover is fast and efficient, you’ll have no problem getting a seat. La Campana is very well known for their Calamari bocadillo (sandwich), which we can assure you is excellent. The other options such as the chorizo, pancetta and patatas bravas are all great options too.
We feasted on 4 tapas and 2 beers for just 16 euros, so it’s very well priced. The fact that it’s full of locals suggests that this place if the real deal!
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People watch in Plaza Mayor
Located a mere 2-second walk away is the impressive Plaza Mayor. Madrid has many well known ‘plazas’ and Mayor is one of the most historic. It’s a gigantic square lined with many bars and has a tourist information centre.
To chill out on your first evening, grab a drink in the square and people watch to your heart’s content. Being touristy, the bars are more expensive, though the atmosphere of the square completely makes up for it!
Sandemans free walking tour
The Sandemans tour starts in Plaza Mayor where you’ll learn about the rich and surprising history of the square. Along the way, you’ll learn about and see some of Madrid’s most important landmarks. You’ll even learn some smaller fun facts such as the origins of tapas. The tour ends near the cathedral and royal palace which leaves you perfectly located for our next recommendation.
Take your time around the palace
Our second stop of the day is the area around the palace. If you’re facing into the square, you look left and have the cathedral, look right you’ll see the palace. The buildings are literally a stone throw away and facing each other. They’re both impressive pieces of architecture so you may want to get your camera out. Once you’re done here head around the back of the palace to view the Sabatini gardens.
Stroll along Gran Via
Apparently referred to as ‘the Spanish Broadway’ this is an interesting road, to say the least. Along the Gran Via, you’ll find luxury shops such as Rolex, Chanel & Dior, hotels, theatres and fancy restaurants. The shops and commercial side isn’t the only draw, as the road is lined with stunning architecture. One of Madrid’s most photographed buildings, the metropolis, is found on Gran Via!
Get your sugar fix at Chocolateria San Gines
This establishment is best known for its churros that it has been serving consistently from 1894! For 6 churros and a gigantic, possibly too much, pot of warm dipping chocolate, you’ll pay 4 euros.
The churros aren’t the only draw though, as the outside and inside of the café are equally beautiful. The building maintains a very traditional style that only adds to the experience.
Visit a museum or gallery
Madrid has many well-known museums and art galleries. If this is your thing then the rest of your afternoon could be well spent in one of them. Some of the best include ‘Museo Del Prado’ and ‘Museo de Arte Reina Sofia’. They open until 8 pm and 9 pm respectively so you’ll have plenty of time to explore.
Eat at the oldest restaurant in the world
It’s been a long day, filled with activities and you’re undoubtedly hungry. Why not eat at the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the world? ‘Sobrino de Botin’ has been given the title by the Guinness world record and has been open since 1725!
As you can imagine, a restaurant with such a title can get fairly busy. You might want to make a reservation before your trip to Madrid. You can expect Spanish classics, seafood and their signature dish of Cochinillo (suckling pig).
Spend a relaxing morning at Buen Retiro Park
Okay, I’m just going to say it, Retiro park was possibly our favourite part of Madrid. It’s essentially Madrid’s answer to Central Park in New York. With over 15,000 trees and covering 125 hectares, it’s definitely a welcomed retreat in the middle of the city. In other words, it is massive.
There are so many points of interest that our next five recommendations are all in or around the park area.
Rent a boat on the lake
Our first recommendation is to find the lake and rent a boat. For 8 euros you can spend a relaxing 45 minutes rowing a boat in a peaceful environment. The lake is beautiful and you’ll have great views of the Alfonso XII monument.
We highly recommend getting there at the opening time around 9 am. If you do so, there’s no wait for a boat and you might be the only people on the water.
Take your time exploring
After the lake, you can take a leisurely stroll around the park. Wander the many paths and see what you stumble upon, you may even find things that we didn’t. You can expect to find beautifully maintained gardens, statues, flower beds and may even see some free roaming peacocks.
Find Palacio De Crystal
If you didn’t find it on your own walk, then make sure you head to the crystal palace. The large glass structure was built in 1887 and once used as a greenhouse. These days it’s used for art exhibitions and is worth a visit. It’s at the very least an interesting place to take some pictures.
Check out the Puerta de Alcala
Located in the Plaza de Independencia and just outside the gates of the park is this wonderful arch. The neo-classical monument is older than both the Paris Arc De Triomphe and Berlins Brandenburg gate.
Take a stroll to Palacio de Cibeles
Just 5 minutes away from Puerta de Alcala you can find another great piece of architecture. It was once the ‘Palace of Communications’ but is now the location of the city council. Whilst there’s not much to do here, it’s worth the visit to admire the building and fountain alone.
Visit the Bernabeu
Follow your great morning up by spending your afternoon at the Bernabeu. You can take a tour of the stadium which is perfect for you football fans. The stadium itself is among the worlds most famous sporting arenas and holds a wealth of history.
Alternatively, if you’re there at the right time, you might be able to catch a game here. Football fan or not, watching one of the worlds best football teams in their home ground is exciting. The atmosphere is electrifying and seeing the passion of the fans is something you’ll not want to miss!
Watch the sunset at Templo De Bod
There’s never a more fitting way to end a trip than by watching a beautiful sunset. Head up to Templo De Bod, an ancient Egyptian temple, to watch a glorious sunset in the distance. We’d recommend taking up a few cervezas and chilling out. There are often people playing music in the area which only adds to the whole chilled out experience!
So, what are you waiting for?
We hope that you’ve found our three day Madrid itinerary useful. As always, we’d like to point out that the itinerary is based on our own style of travel and preferences.
There is so much more to Madrid than what we did ourselves and have written about. For example, Madrid has so many museums that we didn’t visit as they don’t generally interest us. We plan each day around activities that are close together and will help you to best use your time. At the very least we hope we could give you a good idea of how to organise your own time in Madrid.
Where to stay in Madrid
Budget – The Hat
A bright and stylish hostel located only 150m from Plaza Mayor with a rooftop to watch the sunset. A great place if you’re looking to meet other travelers.
Mid Price – Hostal Main Street Madrid
An affordable, clean and perfectly located hotel for you to easily explore.
Luxury – Hyatt Centric Gran Via Madrid
An ultra-stylish 5-star hotel. This hotel is for those wanting a luxurious stay in Madrid in the heart of the action.
For more places to stay in Madrid you can check the latest prices here.
Have you used our three day Madrid itinerary?
If you have, we’d love for you to let us know about it in the comments!
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