The Best 3-Day Madrid Itinerary for first-timers (updated for 2023)
Madrid was the last stop on our first Europe trip, and what better place to have the closing ceremony to our dream extravaganza than the Spanish capital itself? Our Madrid itinerary for 3 days was packed with unique Spanish experiences.
So, I bring to you the perfect 3 days in Madrid itinerary. Skip the Toledo day trip and you have all you need for a 2-day Madrid itinerary as well.
Many people told us that there is nothing to do beyond the palace, well what can I say? Either their expectations are way beyond my humble standards or maybe they didn’t know what to explore.
Outstanding architecture, great museums, idyllic parks, and some amazing day trip destinations – Madrid has it all. So go through our Madrid itinerary and decide for yourself.
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2 Days in Madrid Itinerary
- Day 1: Madrid Palace, Almudena Cathedral, Royal Monastery, West Park, Temple of Debod, Plaza de Mayor, Madrid City Hall.
- Day 2: National Archeological Museum, Golden triangle of art, Retiro Park, Alcala Gate, Flamenco show.
- Day3 (optional): Over 2 days in Madrid? Take a day trip to nearby historical cities like Toledo or Segovia.
While this may seem a lot, thanks to the amazing transport network, if you choose the right place to stay, you can cover them all. You may swap one of these with Railway Museum tour or a tour to Real Madrid football stadium depending on your interest.
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Madrid in 2 Days – Day 1 itinerary
Plan: Madrid Palace, Almudena Cathedral, Royal Monastery, West Park, Temple of Debod, Plaza de Mayor
Madrid Palace – Day 1 in Madrid
A travelogue of Madrid won’t be complete without the mention of these fabulous musicians who are kind enough to entertain us for free, near the Palace, at the public squares, and at the metro stations.
Royal Monastery of Incarnation
West Park and the Temple of Debod
This is one of the free- entrance public parks in Madrid where people come in the evening with their family and pets to stroll, run and rewind.
Exploring the gorgeous public parks is one of the best things to do in Madrid in 2 days. There are many more important sites in the park which include the cable car, rose garden for the annual exhibition, Institute of ceramic technology and many more.
Studded with evergreen trees on lush green slopes, the park is famous for its essentially English landscape.
Dinner at Plaza Mayor
As the warm sunny day came to a close we walked into the throbbing city center (Main square)at Plaza Mayor. The construction of Plaza Mayor began in 1617 during King Phillip’ III’s reign. If you want to experience Madrid’s culture, food, and lifestyle, this is the place to be. It is the social and cultural hub of Madrid.
It is speckled with bakeries, chocolate shops, restaurants, flea market, and live performances. This is where we had our first taste of authentic seafood paella in a quaint underground restaurant.
[box title=”” bg_color=”#ddc8a8″ align=”center”] Culture and cuisine are an essential part of your Spanish experience. I recommend incorporating one of these evening tours to your Madrid itinerary for this reason.
- Tapas, Taverns & History Tour of Madrid
- Flamenco Show & Special Menu at Torres Bermejas[/box]
On our way back we walked to another famous plaza nearby, the Puerto del Sol from where we took a metro back to our hotel.
Day 2 in Madrid
Plan: A day trip from Madrid
On the second day, we decided to take a day trip to Spain’s former capital and currently a UNESCO world heritage center, Toledo.We reached Puerto del Sol once again to book our tour tickets. You can check the details of our trip in my post about the one day in Toledo.You can also take a day trip to Segovia or Seville, which are other beautiful historical cities near Madrid.We had a stroll around Plaza de Espana after our day trip.
[box title=”” bg_color=”#ddc8a8″ align=”center”] You can avail great discounts when you book these day-trips from Madrid online. Here are my recommendations-
- Full Day Tour to historic sites of Ávila and Segovia from Madrid
- Three Cities in One Day: Segovia, Ávila & Toledo [/box]
Day 3 in Madrid – Soak in the city
Plan: Museums, Retiro Park, Alcala Gate, Flamenco ShowOur original plan included a trip to Santiago Bernabeu, the stadium of Real Madrid Football Club, but we dropped that off our list.That’s because we had already been to Camp Nou in Barcelona. However, hardcore fans of Real Madrid cannot and should not let go of the chance to visit the home of one of the world’s greatest football clubs.So, on our last day in Europe, we woke up a little late, had breakfast and started our lazy tour of the city, with a heavy heart.
The National Archeological Museum in MadridMadrid has some outstanding museums for art and history lovers, but by this time we had already been to six museums in the last 14 days.So, while we loved walking in the city, looking at the gorgeous museums, we didn’t enter any of them except the National Archeological Museum. The choice was simple – it was unique, different from anything we have seen so far on our trip, it was about the world and about evolution.The entry fee of 3 Euros seemed peanuts compared to the experience that the museum offered. With four floors each dedicated to an era of history – Prehistoric, Ancient, Medieval and Modern History.There are actual remains excavated from sites of Spain and North Africa which are preserved in the museum and 3-D videos explaining each of the exhibits. In our 2-hour trip to the museum, we could only cover the pre-historic and ancient history.We came back to this museum again in the evening just to rush through all four floors and like taking a roller-coaster ride through thousands of years of human history before the museum closed.Note that the tickets that you buy are valid for the entire day, irrespective of how many times you want to enter and exit. I loved this tour more so because it was completely totally different from all other museums and sites we had visited on our Europe Trip.Other important places within a distance of 4km from here are the National Library (the archeological museum is just behind this) and the Golden Triangle of Art formed by the three great art museums of Madrid – Museo Del Prado, Museo Thyssen, and Reina Sofia Museum.The walking tour map below shows all these spots highlighted.
Puerta de AlcalaThe gate of Alcala is regarded as the first such victory arch built in Europe in the post-Roman era. It is older than the iconic Arc De Triompe in Paris. It stands in the beautiful Independence Plaza, another public square, which is, at the center of Madrid’s museum map.
El Retiro ParkJust beside the Alcala gate is arguably the most beautiful park in Madrid – the Retiro Park. This green oasis spread over 125 hectares also has some spectacular monuments, statues, and an artificial lake.You can see artists painting at the corners and live performances by street dancers. The delightful scenes bring flashbacks of the Victoria Memorial to a fellow from Kolkata. Well, this one is five times larger than our Victoria memorial garden though.
When in Retiro Park do not miss the Palacio de Velázquez (named after its architect) and Crystal Palace of Madrid. They are both stunning pieces of architecture and adds to the charm of the park’s landscape
Puerta del Sol – Gate of the SunAnother famous public square, Puerta del Sol was one of the gates of Madrid in the 15th century. It was named after the rising sun decoration and its orientation towards the East. Here you will see the tourist help desks, souvenir shops and walking tour guides.You will also see some of the iconic statues of Madrid – Phillip III statue of 1616 and Madrid’s official symbol “The Bear and the Strawberry tree”. Being an important place, there are a lot of security officers seen on duty here.
Flamenco showI love dancing (a LOT), so when it came to celebrating my birthday in Madrid, it was a no-brainer.Flamenco is the most famous Spanish dance form which involves creating music with feet. An evening of Flamenco show in one of the Tablaos should be easy to squeeze into your 3 days in Madrid itinerary.The Tablao Almonte is located in Calle de Juan Bravo. It has daily shows at 9:30 pm which can be booked online. The website wrongly shows two slots- 8 pm and 9:30 pm though.To be honest, the place looked a bit shady from outside, and the change of timing didn’t help with the first impression. But the ambiance inside was a pleasant surprise.With dim lights and a lot of family and couple guests, we felt comfortable as soon as we entered.The show was mind-boggling, extremely complex and nothing like the “Senorita” dance shown in Bollywood movies.The music was created live by a guitarist, a vocalist, and two outstanding Flamenco dancers. This, according to me was the highlight of our 3 days in Madrid.
Other Places to explore in Madrid in 3 DaysWe had created a bigger itinerary for Madrid in 3 days, but it is not possible to do it all. You have to choose what appeals to you the most. For example, we could explore the archeological museum for so many hours just because we skipped the other museums. Here are a few interesting things that you can add to your Madrid itinerary.
The best thing about Madrid is that you can see many places on foot. Besides, there are so many free things to do in Madrid – parks, museums and more.I loved Madrid for the sunny weather, the beautiful architecture and of course the cleanliness.What do you think? Does Madrid really have too less to offer? Tell me in the comments. And before you go, check out the best travel sites for planning your Europe Trip.
- Railway Museum , one of the largest railway collection in Europe
- The Madrid City Hall, also called the Palace of Communication. If not enter, at least make sure you see this spectacular monument up close. Somehow we missed this although it was up there on our charter.
- And of course one of the art museums in the Golden Triangle of Art in Madrid
My Top Travel Sites for Europe Trip
- Secure your vacation with travel insurance from Visitors Coverage
- Booking.comfor hassle-free hotel booking as well as car rentals, guided tours and more
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- BookBig Bus tours for HOHO experiences.
- For point-to-point transfers use Economy Bookings
- To hire cars for road-trip in Europe useRental Cars
- Get best deals on travel gear on Amazon
P.S. I didn’t forget to mention bull-fighting. It’s an integral part of Madrid’s culture, but I’m just ethically against it. (As I’m against quite a few things in my own culture).
Like the post? Pin the image below to save it for the future. Have any questions about your Madrid itinerary? Check out the FAQs below and shoot your questions/thoughts in the comment section.
FAQs for Madrid Trip Planning
How to reach Madrid?
Madrid is the capital and most accessible city in Spain, so reaching it is not difficult. You can visit there with your Schengen Visa, the details of which can be checked on my post How to plan your Europe Trip. You can apply for your visa here.
Where to stay in Madrid?
We stayed in the IBIS budget hotel which was standard and pocket-friendly. It’s a large city, so choose to stay near the metro station for ease of conveyance. Check out the best places to stay in Madrid.
Check out all available options directly from Booking.com
How many days do I need in Madrid?
Madrid has a plethora of attractions within the city and some of the best opportunities for daytrips. However, given the convenient transport network and attractions located in close proximity, you can explore the best of Madrid in 2-3 days.
3 days is ideal to visit Madrid and also manage an excursion to nearby heritage sites. But you won’t regret staying longer.
What is the best time to visit Madrid?
Madrid has warmer weather all year round compared to other West European cities. Since walking is the best way to explore this city, you would prefer time with lower precipitation and not too hot temperatures.
So, Spring from March to May is the best time to visit. When we visited in the first week of May it was sunny and windy at the same time.
It was very pleasant to walk around the city although we could sense the temperature ramping up for the upcoming summers.
What is the best food to have in Madrid?
Madrid is a foodie’s paradise. The best place to eat is in Plaza de Mayor which is lit up with beautiful dinners at night. Tapas and Paella are the two most popular Spanish dishes.
We loved the seafood Paella here. Funny thing is most mid-range restaurants charge the same for a glass of coke and a glass of champagne or Sangria.
So even though we aren’t into alcoholic beverages we ended up trying Champagne. The food in Madrid is cheaper than other Western European capitals.
Is Madrid expensive?
Madrid offers a plethora of rich experiences without burning a hole in your pocket. Food is cheaper (and might I say tastier) than other big cities in Western Europe. Hotel prices are on the higher side, but you can take the advantage of booking early to get discounts.
Compared to Barcelona, or Paris, Madrid is overall cheaper, and very tourist-friendly.
Recommended books and movies for Madrid tourFiction – Asterix in Spain
Check out other posts on our Europe series, some popular cities and some offbeat gems.
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