Madrid is one of the most amazing capitals of Europe that has many things to offer to its visitors. Previously we have published the most comprehensive bucket list of the Spanish capital, but this time we focus on a 3-day-long itinerary and present to you the best activities to do within this time period. Obviously 3 days is not enough for the whole city, so keep this in mind while reviewing our selection. Our aim here was to put together a plan that it’s indeed enjoyable to follow, with recommendations on cool places, nice restaurants, bars, iconic squares, landmarks, world famous museums, and so on.
How to move around in Madrid?
The easiest is to walk and combine it with the metro network. The below plan is completely manageable only by walking – if you don’t mind to collect 20.000 steps per day. If you aim for less or it’s raining, the metro is there for you.
We followed 1:1 the following itinerary during 3 days, and we can confirm that it is absolutely possible to accomplish this plan. As everyone, we also started our journey at Plaza del Sol…
Puerta del Sol
This square is one of the most common meeting point in the capital. It’s one of those points that everyone knows. Locals call it only as “Sol“ and indeed this is where all the locals meet and join for all kinds of activities. Probably Sol is the real current heart of Madrid since everything starts here. Locals join to protest, to start demonstrations, to celebrate New Year’s Eve or just to start a Sunday tapas tour with friends. This is the Km 0 of Spain and you will feel it. No matter how many times you have been there. Just go again!
Chocolatería y Churrería San Gines
The historic Chocolatería San Ginés is in between Sol and Plaza Opera. This is the most famous and iconic place to eat churros with chocolate. The place is a classic in Madrid, and it is open 24 hours every day. Regardless – anytime you go there, there are long queues. The place already have 3 big entrances, terraces, many inner salons, no matter what, there is always a queue. And this indeed explains how good it is!
After such a breakfast, you are full of energy and ready to walk around the city. This is exactly what we did, and went to the Arabic Walls. The Muslim or Arabic Walls are probably the oldest construction extant in the city. They were built in the 9th century, during the Muslim domination, on a promontory next to Manzanares river. They were part of a fortress around which developed the urban nucleus of Madrid.
Cathedral of Madrid – Almudena Cathedral
The Cathedral of Madrid was consecrated by Pope John Paul II in 1993. It is a new and kind of modern building. It is close to Royal Palace and the Arabic Walls so it is worth to take a look at it once you are around. The entrance is for free, and usually there is not a lot of people around.
This is the biggest Royal Palace in Europe and one of the must-do visits in Madrid. At least once in your life. Its a classic Museum Palace with all the expected baroque decoration and royal stories. The changing of the guard is a small ceremony every Wednesday. Nevertheless, on the first Wednesday of every month they perform a beautiful solemn changing of the guards, with many horses and a live orchestra performance.
Mercado de San Miguel
Mercado de San Miguel is a place that you cannot miss while you are in Madrid. Plan your day in a way that for one of the meals you end up here. You won’t regret it. It is a classic, but renovated market where you can taste the best of the local gastronomy. Mercado de San Miguel is not cheap, nor authentic but it is indeed very cool. It has this new vibe of a modern designed place for cool people where actually everybody can join. It is a very popular place, so be ready to eat standing!
Plaza Mayor is the main square of Madrid. It is a public space in the heart of Madrid. Philip III decided to build it in 1580 and the works lasted until 1619. Nowadays Plaza Mayor is one of the most iconic places in Madrid. You can stroll in it, have a drink at one of its tempting terraces or just simply get lost in the crowd.
Bocadillo de Calamares
Once you are around Plaza Mayor, you cannot miss tasting a Bocadillo de Calamares in one the old school bars there under the arcades. This sandwich consists of a fresh bread roll filled with squid rings that have been coated in flour and deep-fried in olive oil. Each sandwich is made to order, giving the squid a delicious, just-cooked crunch. It’s that simple. Madrileños usually wash down their Bocadillo de Calamares with a caña, or small beer. You can have it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or, if you’re particularly hungry, for an afternoon snack. Just don’t leave Madrid without trying it.
El Retiro Park
No plan in Madrid can be complete without a short or long walk in the Retiro Park. It doesn’t matter if it’s winter or summer, it always has a charming vibe, with the little lake, the boats, and architecture around. It dates back to 1630 and it has been a place for leisure in Madrid during all those centuries. Nowadays, we can admire the Crystal Palace of the late XIX Century and relax into this city oasis. Some events, like exhibitions and important book events take place there. A very local and popular activity is to hire a boat to row a bit while flirting. On 25 July 2021, El Retiro Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Prado has one of the best collections of paintings in the world: Velázquez, Goya, Brueghel, Tiziano or Tintoretto and many others fully justify a visit. In the last two opening hours of every day the entrance is free. Here you can check all kinds of tickets and options for the visit, if you don’t want to wait in the long queue for getting in for free. Also remember, it is forbidden to take pictures about the most famous paintings, and as well as – depending which room security person you speak to, some will say that in the whole museum as well, while some will allow you to take some quick shots in some areas. It’s always better to ask!
Plaza de Santa Ana
Personally, for me, one of the best squares to be around in Madrid is undoubtedly Plaza de Santa Ana. I had the chance to stay there for work multiple times, seeing the hundreds of faces (and tapas places) of this square, depending which hour of the day you are there. It has some of the coolest tapas bars, nice restaurants all around, and all the terraces in front of the white Melia Hotel are just lovely. Also, from Plaza Santa Ana, the whole city is just so close, and in walking distance. Worth staying around!
The Debod Temple is a real Ancient Egyptian temple that was rebuilt in one of Madrid’s parks, the Parque del Oeste, near the Royal Palace of Madrid, and opened to the public in 1972. In 1960, due to the construction of the Aswan High Dam and the consequent threat to numerous monuments and archeological sites, UNESCO made an international call to save this rich historical heritage. As a sign of gratitude for the help provided by Spain in saving the Abu Simbel temples, the Egyptian state donated the Temple of Debod to Spain in 1968. This is one of the best places to visit in Madrid to admire the sunset.
Andén 0 – Platform Zero – Chambery
Platform 0 (Spanish: Andén 0) is an exhibition project of the Madrid Metro consisting of the historical Estación de Chamberí, which has been out of service since 1966, and the Motores de Pacífico generator building. Visitors can view the restored 1919 station with its original ceramic billboards and antique furniture, as well as displays about the history of the Madrid Metro. Here you can book your ticket, and it’s highly recommended to do so in advance due to high demand.
If you ever walk through downtown Madrid, you’ll see two neon signs that have come to form part of the city: the Tío Pepe sign and the Schweppes sign. Located in Puerta del Sol and Plaza de Callao, respectively, these two advertisements have become symbols of Madrid, like the screens of Times Square in New York or Piccadilly Circus in London.
The other very famous Churrería & Chocolatería of Madrid is the 1902. They grew from a family business and the places is super popular too, but it’s a bit more takeable than San Gines. They always serve their hot chocolate out of milk chocolate, which for my taste is even more yummy than San Gines. Besides that you can order gluten free, vegan, and sugar free options as well.
Cava Alta & Cava Baja
These two streets close to each other are packed with nice places and cellars to taste some wines and have some tapas. It has around 50 bars in 300 meters and many of them are really lovely and old school. Once around, don’t forget to admire the lovely street paintings & tiles.
This is probably the most classic station in Spain and one of the most iconic place in Madrid. somehow, everything starts and ends here too. It has an old historic building and a new part with an inner botanic garden with turtles and the departures of one of the best speed trains in the world: AVE.
If you are an expat in Madrid or just in Spain, put this book on your reading list.
Reina Sofia Museum
Very close to the Atocha Station we can find the Reina Sofía Museum. The perfect place to explore Spanish are from the 20th Century. With the best and most famous of the works of its artists. It also has free entrance periods, which are worth to use, the queue usually moves enough fast.
Enjoy our discounts in Madrid
Useful information about Madrid
How big is Madrid?
The population of the city is roughly 3.3 million and the entire population of the Madrid metropolitan area is calculated to be around 6.5 million. It is the third-largest city in the European Union, after London and Berlin, and its metropolitan area is the third-largest in the European Union after London and Paris.
Is Madrid safe?
In 2021, The Economist rated Madrid as the 21st safest city to live in out of 60 cities worldwide, surpassing Brusells and Paris. Common crimes such as minor burglaries, pickpocketing, and scams are generally present in neighbourhoods popular with tourists and on some busy public transport lines.
When is the best time to visit Madrid?
The best time to visit Madrid is in the fall (September to November) or spring (March to May), when balmy temps blow through the city, making it come alive. But if you don’t mind drab weather and a rather listless Madrid, visit in the winter when hotels reduce their rates.
Best experiences in Madrid
Madrid has everything a visitor needs to have a great experience. Its natural beauty draws visitors from around the world- along with its numerous important sites and cultural heritage. As far as things to do in the place go, there are plenty of activities available for visitors.
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