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3 Days in Madrid Itinerary – Top things to do in a short city break

Situated in the centre of the Spanish mainland, Madrid has a distinctively different vibe to other Spanish cities. Its artistic architecture is immediately recognisable and there is plenty to see and do in a short city break, whether you like to wander around museums and historic attractions, a foodie tour around the city or a vibrant nightlife. Our 3 days in Madrid itinerary packs as much as it can into your trip, ensuring you get to see the main sites of Madrid and a true flavour of what the Spanish capital has to offer.

Relaxed sightseeing by day, exquisite food and a vibrant nightlife

Day 1 – Morning:

  • Walking tour: Madrid has countless famous buildings and architectural sites to visit – it would take a lot of time to try and view them yourself if you’re new to the city. We recommend joining a free walking tour for your first morning of sightseeing. Sandeman’s New Europe tour is the best rated city tour by a mile. It covers over 17 popular sites within 2.5 hours, including the Royal Opera House, Plaza de Puerta and the Royal Palace, all with a designated tour guide who will tell you the history behind each stopping point. View the full itinerary here. If you liked the free tour, we also recommend some of their other paid tours if you’re visiting for longer.
3 days in Madrid itinerary - Shows a monument in Madrid

Afternoon:

  • Mercado San Miguel – You may have stopped by San Miguel Market in your walking tour but it’s well worth returning for a spot of lunch after an active morning of sightseeing. This bustling market has an excellent choice of food stalls. Stroll around the market, take small samples of different Tapas dishes and enjoy the vibrant sights and smells.
  • Prado Museum – Prado Museum is currently rated number one Madrid attraction on Tripadvisor. It is the main Spanish art museum and has an outstanding collection of the some of the finest European art in the world, including drawings, paintings, sculptures and prints.
  • Dinner – Tapas – For dinner, why not dive straight into the famed Tapas dishes which Madrid is famous for? The La Latina neighbourhood is packed full of quirky Tapas bars. Pull up a stool and order plenty of Tapas to share; they’re cheap and flavoursome. You might even find a new favourite dish. We recommend checking out Taberna la Concha for their delicious food and excellent service. The pork tastes amazing.
  • Malasana bars – If you’re looking for a good nightlife, the trendy Malasana area is packed full of cool bars. It’s the ‘Shoreditch’ of Madrid and has nightlife for all tastes
  • Finish your night with chocolate and churros from a street vendor!
Top things to do in Madrid city break itinerary - San Miguel Mercado

Day 2 – Morning:

  • Santiago Bernabeu tour – The majestic home stadium of Real Madrid is a great site to see, even if you’re not a big football fan. The stadium tour costs 24 euros per person (18 euros for kids) and takes you on an interesting voyage into the history and setup behind this world-famous club. Visit the locker room, tunnel, pitch side, trophy room and more in this backstage tour. Stop by the souvenir shop on the way out for a keyring.
Shows Real Madrid stadium interior

Afternoon:

  • Naval Museum or Parque de El Capricho – After lunch head to the Naval Museum of Madrid. Spain has a rich history of naval warfare and expeditions to find the new world and was a major pioneer in naval technology developments. Spend your afternoon learning about the Spanish fleets of old. Alternatively, if you’d like something more relaxing, Parque de El Capricho is one of the most romantic and picturesque spots in the city. Stroll the colourful gardens of this award winning park, which is less touristy than Retiro Park.
  • Visit a spa – Unknown to a lot of tourists, Madrid has a great choice of Spa’s. We’re a strong advocate for relaxation time during your holiday to wind down after a lot of walking and sightseeing. View the top-rated Spa’s in Madrid here. We recommend Hammam Al Andalus, a traditional spa with low lighting, an extensive treatment menu and ambient atmosphere to relax your legs after a busy day
  • Flamenca show/dinner show – This is one thing you can’t miss in Madrid. Flamenca is a traditional Spanish dance which promises upbeat music and bright, wavy costumes. Many venues offer dinner show options or a show and drinks only package. With so many Flamenca shows to choose from, it can be a difficult choice. Browse the top-rated shows here and pick one based on your location and venue preference. Some shows are large stages with arena style seating, whilst others are smaller more intimate venues
Top things to do in Madrid city break itinerary - see a Flamenca dance

Day 3 – Morning:

  • Retiro Park – Start the final day of your 3 days in Madrid itinerary by getting lost in a world of street entertainers, architecture, fountains and natural landscapes in the beautiful Retiro park. We recommend renting a bicycle or roller skates to see all corners of the park, and then going for a relaxing stroll alongside the lake. The park is a wonderfully romantic way to start your last day in Madrid.
  • Barrio de Salamanca – This trendy and upmarket neighbourhood is located a short walk from Retiro Park. Walk the streets of high rise houses, browse boutique shops and stop off for lunch in a small Spanish café.
Shows a park monument in Madrid - 3 days in Madrid itinerary

Afternoon:

  • Royal Palace – The Royal Palace is a large, white, royal building which is often one of the most popular attractions to visit in the city and makes a great backdrop for your selfies. Learn about the importance of the building in Spain’s history on the audio guide as you walk around the grounds and main building for a couple of hours. Don’t miss the changing of the guard! The entry fee and unguided tour is €11 per person.
  • Plaza Major – Plaza Major is the beautiful square in the heart of the city centre and you’ve probably already walked past it during your trip so far. Return to the square to revel in the vibrant atmosphere. Enjoy Tapas and drinks from local market stalls, listen to live music and street performers and snap some pictures in this popular spot of Madrid
  • Shopping – If you like shopping, spend your last few hours in the afternoon. Madrid is similar to other capitals, where the main shopping is bang in the centre. El Corto Ingles is good for all the chain retail stores, as well as Gran Vía and Calle Preciados by Puerta del Sol. Explore the streets around Calle Toledo behind Plaza Mayor for a more local shopping trip
  • Madrid Nightlife – Being your final night, we suggest checking out the local nightlife. In our opinion, Sol is the best nightlife area of central Madrid, where you’ll find glasses of Sangria for only €2.50. Head out late and party the night away like a local (the bars don’t get busy until at least 11pm). If you’d prefer something quieter, Theatre is an excellent substitute. Teatro Espanyol, Teatro Real and Teatro de la Zarzuela offer varying performances for different tastes.
Top things to do in Madrid city break itinerary - Plaza Mayor

We’ve covered most of the top sights and things to do in the city but there’s so much more to explore, particularly if you like architecture, galleries and museums. If you’re staying longer, check out the following attractions or feel free to substitute them into our 3 days in Madrid itinerary to plan your perfect trip.

Other top attractions to visit if you’re in Madrid for longer

  • Museo Sorolla
  • Museo Cerralbo
  • Palacio de Cristal
  • Caixa Forum
  • Watch a Real Madrid football match
  • Mercado San Miguel
  • Palacio de Cibeles
  • Museo Arqueologico Nacional

Top Tips for visiting Madrid

3 days in Madrid - Madrid cityscape
  • Getting around during your 3 days in Madrid is easy with the city’s subway system. Buy a 10 trip ticket for only 15 euros and jump between sites super-fast without wasting time
  • Similar to a lot of Spanish cities and the country’s culture in general, you’ll find everything to be rather slow paced compared to the UK. Restaurant servers take their time and people head out to the bars late. Take this as a chance to wind down and relax
  • Madrid has a lot of business and company operations, meaning hotel prices during the week can be a little more expensive than weekends, great if you’re wanting a weekend city break. Look at tourist targeted hotels over the well-known business chain hotel groups
  • Learn a little bit of Spanish before you go. The Duolingo app is a brilliant resource for learning any language
  • Tipping isn’t common in Madrid but if you have great service, feel free to do so

Thanks for reading our 3 days in Madrid itinerary! Explore the sights, cuisine and nightlife of the Spanish capital in a short city break and feel free to substitute any alternative sights that you want to see into our itinerary.


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