If you only have 3 days in Madrid, it is important to plan a good itinerary to make sure you can see it all. Your Madrid itinerary may consist of European art, tapas bars, scouring the markets for bargains, or spending the day outdoors in Retiro park and nights in La Latina enjoying the nightlife.
If you want to catch a Real Madrid game at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, you better put that on your Madrid itinerary for a whole day because you will not have time for much else. The Spanish capital of Madrid is a special place so having just 3 days in Madrid can be tricky, there are so many great things to do and see.
It is best to plan your Madrid itinerary by grouping things together in close proximity to each other and make sure you allow enough travel time as well as enough time to enjoy each visit. Take advantage of the Madrid metro line to get you around faster. There are many metro lines to get you where you need to go. If you plan to go anywhere near the Madrid Airport, take the airport express bus. It is fast and inexpensive.
Parks are always fun but Retiro Park is one of those that will probably take up most of one day with all there is to do there. Spain's capital city is one of the most popular European cities so with only 3 days in Madrid, you will want to make sure you plan enough time to see all your "must-visit" places.
If you start in the city center and work your way out, you can easily save time but will lose time on the way back if you don't plan correctly. Start on the outside of the city center and work your way back so every minute is spent doing what you like. Travel light with just the minimum to carry to see as much as you can. Drop off your bags, briefcase, or anything that will weigh you down with Madrid luggage storage for safekeeping.
Madrid itinerary - Day 1
Morning at the Prado Museum
While visiting Madrid, it would be a shame for any art lover not to take advantage of all the fantastic art collections in the city. It was established in 1819 and is said to have the finest collection of European art in the world. Dating back to the 1100s, you can see work by Spanish artists and masters as well as international art.
The permanent collection holds more than 20,000 pieces. Some works feature the ancient city while others pay homage to Spanish culture. The most popular artists include El Greco, Titian, Raphael, Peter Paul Rubens, and even Rembrandt.
Some of the highlights of the collection are Annunciation by Fra Angelico in 1430, The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch in 1480, Les Meninas painted by Diego Velazquez in 1657, and Portrait of a Cardinal by Raphael in 1510. Special exhibitions are also held every few months.
Afternoon at World-Class Museums
Madrid has many special museums! After you spend the morning at the Prado, head to the other two art museums that make up the Golden Triangle of Art in Madrid. All three are located on Paseo del Prado. The Reina Sofia Museum boasts works by famous Spanish artists like Goya, El Greco, and Velázquez as well as Salvador Dali, Juan Gris, and Picasso.
The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum is the final trio of the triangle. Most of the works here are from European artists and you can also see a variety of pop art. Some of the greats include Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Paul Gauguin.
The collection also holds some Old Masters such as the Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni by Domenico Ghirlandaio in 1490 and The Rest on the Flight into Egypt by Giambattista Pittoni in 1725. Some of the Cubist works by Juan Gris, Picasso, and Braque are also on display.
Evening in the City Center
Across the way from the Bank of Spain and the beaux-arts Metropolis Building is another striking building, the Palacio de Cibeles or Cibele's Palace. It is located in the Plaza de Cibeles and used to be the home of the Spanish Postal Service. Inside there is a restaurant, a post office, and the seat of the Madrid City Council.
While you are out in the city center, grab something to eat at one of the quaint cafes like the SteakBurger Bar on Gran Via or try some authentic Spanish cuisine at La Catedral Restaurant on Carrera de S. Jeronimo. Or get some delicious bites from Cafeteria Chocolateria on Calle Mayor. Vegetarian and vegan restaurants are a good choice too.
Also in the city center, Retiro Park is also known as the Royal Park of Madrid and is one of the most popular. The Glass Palace is in the middle of the park and there is a large pond where you can take a boat ride. After, stop at one of the cafes to get a hot chocolate or see a show with dinner at the Florida Park Cabaret.
Madrid itinerary - Day 2
Morning Visit to Madrid's Largest Park
Casa de Campo is the largest park in Madrid with more than 4,250 acres. What's more, you can spend an entire day here enjoying the park as well as the attractions in it. First, there is the Madrid Zoo Aquarium featuring about 6,000 marine animals as well as some pandas, koalas, and monkeys.
If you have the kids with you, check out the El Aserradero Amusement Park. With more than 30 rides, dozens of games, and several shows, you will love this place. To see it all, take a ride on the cable car, the Teleferico de Madrid. You may even get to see a flamenco show at the Madrid Arena.
While visiting Casa de Campo, take some time to visit the Madrid Arena. You can see a variety of major sporting events like the Women's Tennis Association WTA Tour Championships in November and the FIBA EuroBasket Basketball championships.
A Real Egyptian Temple
Next door, be sure to visit the Templo de Debod to see a real Egyptian Temple. The Egyptian Temple of Debod was given to Spain from the Egyptian government, carefully taken down and delivered to the top of Oeste Park to be its final destination.
The temple was originally built back in 200 BC and dedicated to the Goddess Isis and God Amun. It was given to Spain in 1968 to thank them for helping save the temples of Abu Simbel. This is one of few ancient Egyptian architectures outside of Egypt and the only one in Spain.
Surrounding the temple, the lush gardens are well cared for year-round and are a great place to spend a few minutes just taking in the sights. Speaking of the sights, from up by the temple, you can see for miles on a sunny day.
Evening at the Plaza Mayor
Looking for something fun to do at night in Madrid? Considered the grand central square of Madrid, this is the oldest spot in the city, built back in 1580 under the orders of Philip III on the area where Plaza del Arrabel once stood. At one end of the park, the Casa de la Panadería still stands next to the statue of King Philip III, being built sometime in the late 1500s. The building has been a bakery, academy of fine arts, and the Academy of History before becoming the Tourist Centre.
In summer, Plaza Mayor is filled with stalls, shops, and food vendors where thousands shop and eat every day. Be sure to taste some of the fantastic Spanish food. In the winter, the square is lit up with Christmas lights and fancy kiosks. Plaza Mayor is definitely a place to put on your itinerary for your 3 days in Madrid.
Right next door in the historical neighborhood, you will find Mercado de San Miguel or Saint Michael Market. This market has been here for more than 100 years and is one of the most popular markets in Spain. From flavored olive oil to chocolate treats, you can find everything here.
Madrid itinerary - Day 3
Morning at the Royal Palace
The Royal Palace of Madrid is a popular tourist attraction that used to be the home of Spain's royal family. With 3,418 rooms, it is the largest royal palace in Western Europe. You can take a guided tour of the palace while you are there and the route changes every few months it changes every time you go.
You may start on the ground floor at the Royal Library or even the Royal Pharmacy or you could begin at the Queen's apartments on the first floor. The Royal Chapel is also on the first floor so you may get to see that too.
Some of the most popular parts of the tour include the Grand Staircase, the Crown Room, the Royal Armory, and King Charles III's Apartments. With just 3 days in Madrid, you will have to come back a few more times to get a look at most of the highlights. Stop at Cafe de Oriente in Plaza de Oriente for brunch before you go on to your next adventure.
Afternoon in Puerta del Sol
Right next to the Royal Palace, Puerta del Sol, also known as the Gate of the Sun, is filled with art deco, monuments to Spanish kings, and Spanish bars. Although it is considered to be the famous central square, it is actually a circle and features many important sites such as Spain's Kilometre 0, which is the beginning point of all major roads in Spain.
The Clock Tower of Sun Gate is famous for its New Year's tradition of eating 12 grapes at midnight for luck, similar to the Times Square New Year's Eve ball drop. The Old Post Office is also there, which is the home office for Madrid's President. You can also get some great selfies with the King Charles III of Spain statue during your visit to Puerta del Sol.
Visit Madrid Nightclubs in the Evening
From the hustle and bustle of Puerta del Sol, you can head to the La Latina neighborhood to enjoy the vibrant nightlife. What used to be a medieval fort is now a maze of lanes full of bars and cantinas. Along Costanilla de San Pedro you can find the Taberna with a rooftop bar, Berlin Cabaret, and the Sie7e Club.
On Calle de la Cava Baja, the Hopper, 47 Cocktail Bar, La Pecera, Taberna Tempranillo, and El Viajero are fun places to enjoy a drink and dance. La Latina also has the best tapas bars and pubs. It is here that you can find Madrid's oldest bars.
Besides all that, you can also visit the San Isidro Museum, Plaza de la Paja, and the Garden of the Prince of Anglona. The streets of La Latina date back to the Middle Ages and just walking on them makes you feel special.
Fun Awaits in Madrid
Even though you only have 3 days in Madrid, don't let that stress you out. You should relax and enjoy your time there. Preparing your Madrid itinerary is so important but just remember to allow yourself plenty of extra time for relaxation. You can also add a food tour to your Spain itinerary.
For example, your 3 days in Madrid can include beach time, dining out in style, or getting a massage at the Arabian Bath House. You may also enjoy visiting the Atocha train station to see their huge indoor garden. From here, you can take a day trip to Toledo, where you can see the Alcazar, Cathedral, and Zocodover Square.