How to Spend an Unforgettable 3 Days in Madrid

You could spend a lifetime discovering the hidden sights, tastes and experiences of Madrid. However, if you only have 3 days in Spain’s beautiful capital, that’s plenty of time to get a feel for the city.

People walking around an arcaded plaza on a sunny day

With 3 days in Madrid, you’ll be able to experience the most important tourist attractions and even get off the beaten path to some of the city’s most authentic corners. Here’s how to spend 3 days in Madrid you won’t soon forget.

 

Morning, Day 1: Prado Museum and Retiro Park

Start your 3 days in Madrid with a morning visit to the most famous of its many world-class museums. Even travelers who don’t know much about art will appreciate the stunning masterpieces at the Prado. A relaxed visit is the perfect way to start your day and get to know a Madrid cultural icon.

When you’re done, head out to peaceful Parque del Retiro nearby for a stroll. As the most famous of Madrid’s many beautiful green spaces, it’s still big enough that it never feels crowded. If you’re traveling with kids (or even if not!), be sure to rent a boat and paddle around the picturesque lake in the center of the park.

A father with his young son rowing a boat around a small lake.
Make your way around the beautiful lake in a boat!

Afternoon, Day 1: Market Lunch and La Latina

Getting hungry? Why not eat like a local at one of Madrid’s most colorful local markets?

If you’re coming from Retiro, head to Mercado de Antón Martín, where you can enjoy everything from homestyle Italian cooking at Fiaschetteria La Saletta to exquisite oysters at El Tarantín de Lucía.

From there, head west into the beautiful La Latina neighborhood, a historic barrio in the center of the city. This authentic little corner of Madrid is especially famous for its hidden plazas—try to see how many you can find as you walk off your lunch! And of course, don’t forget to join the locals for a beer on one of the many crowded sidewalk terraces for a true slice of Madrid life.

Street lined with bars in an urban neighborhood on a busy afternoon.
A busy afternoon on Calle Cava Baja in La Latina.

Evening, Day 1: Food Tour

Day one of your 3 days in Madrid is almost up! End it on a delicious note by joining us for a food tour in the evening.

Eat your way around the city’s best tapas bars and get your fill of history. Your experience will arm you with knowledge of how to eat like a local throughout the rest of your 3 days in Madrid so you can make the most of every bite.

Three women smiling and drinking small glasses of vermouth
A food tour is the perfect way to meet new people and discover Madrid through its most delicious bites!

Morning, Day 2: Breakfast, Royal Palace & Almudena Cathedral

Buenos días! Start the second of your 3 days in Madrid with breakfast like a local in the city center. We’re big fans of Café de Oriente (Plaza de Oriente, 2) for their simple yet delicious Spanish breakfasts. Order a Madrid favorite—toast with fresh crushed tomato and olive oil—and wash it down with freshly brewed coffee or freshly squeezed orange juice.

Toasted bread with fresh pureed tomato
Toast with excellent olive oil and fresh tomato: a Spanish breakfast classic.

From there, head to the grandiose Royal Palace to get a glimpse of lavish luxury. Spain’s royal family doesn’t actually live in the palace; however, it’s still used for important ceremonies and a must during your 3 days in Madrid. Take the audio guided tour for more insight into this fascinating family and their majestic palace.

As you leave the palace, don’t forget to check out the stunning cathedral directly across the way. The Almudena Cathedral had been in the works for more than 100 years when it was finally considered completed in 1993!

Despite being relatively young compared to other European cathedrals, its short history is full of many milestones. Spain’s current king and queen were married here in 2004!

View of an elaborate cathedral on a sunny day.
Madrid’s cathedral is free to visit, so stop in and explore if you have time! Photo credit: Matt Dany

Afternoon, Day 2: Lunch & Madrid Río

After a morning full of cultural insight, you’re sure to be hungry. Check out one of our favorite places to eat in the city center, or try one of the recommendations on your Devouring Madrid guide that you got when you booked your food tour!

When you’re done eating, head south of the city center to Madrid Río. Locals love this incredible green space on the banks of the Manzanares River for its walking and bike trails, kids’ play areas, fascinating cultural exhibitions at Matadero Madrid and more. It’s just far enough off the beaten path that few tourists find their way there, but it’s also not too far from the city center.

Walking paths and floral areas at Madrid Rio park, with part of the city skyline visible in the background.
You could easily spend an entire day relaxing and enjoying all there is to do at Madrid Rio. Photo credit: Nicolas Vigier

Evening, Day 2: Sunset Teleférico Ride

End your second day with stunning sunset views over Madrid on the Teleférico cable car. You’ll get a bird’s eye view of Madrid Río as well as the Casa del Campo park, as well as unique perspectives of the city itself. What’s more, a handy audio guide will narrate everything you’re seeing as you go, so you can truly appreciate the views!

See Also: 48 Hours in Madrid: 2 Days in Madrid Itinerary

Morning, Day 3: Plaza Mayor & Sol

Hard to believe, but your 3 days in Madrid are almost up! Start your last day at Madrid’s most emblematic square. Plaza Mayor gets quite touristy later in the day, but this must-see sight is quite calm in the mornings before the crowds.

From there, head up Calle Mayor to Puerta del Sol. Along the way, be sure to stop at El Riojano (one of the stops on our Ultimate Spanish Cuisine Tour) for hot chocolate and a delicious homemade pastry!

Once you’ve arrived at Sol, be sure to take some time to stand in the exact geographic center of Spain (kilómetro cero, in front of the building with the clock tower) and take a picture with the bear statue.

Busy city plaza with a statue of a bear eating from a strawberry tree in the foreground.
Puerta del Sol is one of Madrid’s most famous squares.

Afternoon, Day 3: Lunch & Shopping in Chueca

Head just north of the city center to the trendy Chueca neighborhood for one last local lunch. We’re big fans of Mercado San Ildefonso especially, but there are lots of incredible and delicious options around this area. When you’re done, walk around the neighborhood and pop into some of its hip boutiques, where you can find unique mementos to take home from your trip.

Evening, Day 3: Wine Tasting & Tapas

It’s been a successful 3 days in Madrid. We’ll drink to that!

Cap off your experience with a wine tasting at one of our favorite wine shops and bars in the city. If you like what you taste, you can even pick up a bottle to take home. Now that’s what we call a delicious souvenir!

Finally, be sure to take one last tapas crawl through the city before you go. Now that you’ve spent 3 days in Madrid, you’re probably getting the hang of what it means to eat like a local. The cuisine is sure to be the number one thing you’ll miss about Madrid!

Three glasses of red wine on a table among several small tapas-style dishes.
Wine and homemade tapas = a match made in heaven.

Update Notice: This post was originally published on February 5, 2018 and was updated with new text and photos on April 27, 2022. 

6 Comment

  1. Muhammad Farooq Ansari says
    April 24, 2019 at 11:57 am

    i am planing and have booked a room in mc villa de pinto , hotel and i am coming on 08/06/2019 till 12/06/2019 from pakistan to visit one week around madrid,spain please guide for these five day trip , how i spend these days effectively there.

    1. Devour Tours says
      April 25, 2019 at 10:59 am

      Hey there, you’re going to have a great time! Take a look at this post as well to choose your favorite things! https://madridfoodtour.com/7-days-in-madrid/

  2. Trevor says
    July 27, 2019 at 12:57 am

    Wow, the food pictures alone make me want to make my way over there!

    1. Devour Tours says
      July 29, 2019 at 11:48 am

      You won’t regret it! 🙂

  3. Jenn says
    August 10, 2019 at 1:47 am

    I noticed on a link (https://madridfoodtour.com/the-top-5-markets-in-madrid/) iT says stall close for lunch, but a lot of the lunches area are at Mercados?

    Do you recommend purchasing lunch before the afternoon and carrying it with you?

    1. Devour Tours says
      August 12, 2019 at 11:43 am

      In most markets, there are two kinds of stalls: ingredients (fruit, meat, etc), and cooked food. The ingredients stalls close at lunch, so if you’re after a picnic-type lunch where you pick up cheese and cured meats, do plan to buy those items before lunchtime. On the other hand, if you want to get prepared food, those stalls stay open during lunch and close in the later afternoon.

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