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3 days in Madrid: Is it enough to see and do everything you want? From the sprawling museums to the endless tapas and green spaces, Madrid is an easy destination to spend a few days. If you’re looking for what to do in Madrid for 3 days, check out the itinerary below which lists things to do, where to eat, and more.
Come with me on our 3 day Madrid itinerary! Soak up the culture and hospitality of the Madrileños in a 3 day Madrid adventure.
In case you’re interested in budgeting for a similar trip, I’ll include a Madrid 3 day itinerary budget below.
Now let’s get to the 3 day Madrid itinerary!
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I used all Marriott points for this trip that I’ve been hoarding for the past year. I used them all up, too! We booked 4 nights in Madrid, 2 in Seville, and 5 in Barcelona. It was a total of about 125,000 Marriott points for those 11 nights.
If you’re looking for where to stay in Madrid, I’d highly recommend checking out how to maximize reward points so you can also book free hotels using points.
After flying all night and not napping on the flight, we were exhausted when we finally arrived to the hotel. Sleep was definitely our first priority, so we tucked into bed for about 6 hours of sleep. When we woke up, it was later than I had hoped…around 4pm (oops)!
We really wanted to relax on our first day in Madrid so we didn’t get too exhausted or sick, so we didn’t feel too bad about the extra sleep.
Upon waking, we changed and started exploring Madrid by foot, which is the best way to get to know a city. I booked us a spa and massage experience at a traditional Hammam in Madrid, the Hammam Al Ándalus Madrid. We strolled towards the center of Madrid, stopping for a coffee and snack at a market along the way.
Hammams are public Turkish baths which often include hot tubs of various temperatures, steam rooms, massage, and cleaning treatments.
The experience was a 90 minute block of time in their baths with a 15 minute massage (there are also longer increments for massages if you wish to book longer).
You can book Hammam experiences directly on their website, but I booked it for the same price through Trip Advisor since it was in English and I could understand exactly what we would be doing at the spa
I’d definitely recommend visiting the Hammam after you land in Madrid so you can relax and start off your vacation on the right foot!
After departing the Hammam we walked towards El Cortes Ingles, an 8-story department store on the bustling Plaza del Callao.
If you take the escalator or elevator to the top floor, there is a rooftop food hall with a dozen or so different styles of food offered. The restaurants are clustered in the middle, which leaves the edges open for seating with panoramic city views. On a Saturday night around 8pm it was a social scene with friends, families, singles, and couples gathered to eat and catch up.
Upon leaving El Cortes Ingles, we slowly meandered back to our hotel, watching a church processional in the street to celebrate a church holiday.
Day 1 Madrid Budget (everything listed is for 2 people):
Coffee and snack: $7
El Cortes Ingles tapas and wine: $15
Day 1 in Madrid Total: $185.25
Upon waking, we headed out to find breakfast since it wasn’t included with our hotel. We landed at a small café on the Calle de Atocha that served up fresh juice, eggs, pancakes, and bacon.
Can we also talk about ham for a sec?
Ham is literally everywhere in Madrid. You can’t go in any restaurant, it seems, without a leg of cured meat hanging in the window. They’ll slice it fresh for each order. It’s pretty awesome! But if you don’t like ham or have other dietary restrictions, finding quality sources of protein is tough. It seemed impossible to find a breakfast with eggs for some reason.
Anyway, back on track.
After breakfast, we walked a few minutes to the Reina Sofia Museum, one of the best museums in Madrid. The Reina Sofia is Spain’s national museum of 20th-century art, and a treasure to visit. Picasso’s “Guernica” is the major highlight of the museum, which also houses works by Miró and Dali.
Buy tickets to the museum in advance to avoid the long lines.
You can purchase tickets to just the Reina Sofia Museum here, or a museum pass which will allow entry to three museums: the Museo del Prado, the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, and the Museo Nazionale Centro d’Arte Reina Sofía.
After leaving the museum, we headed to the nearby Botanical Gardens – Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid (admission $6 per person). It was filled with blooming flowers and is directly across from Buen Retiro Park (or just El Retiro Park), one of the most popular parks to visit in Madrid.
We crossed Calle de Alfonso XII, the street between the Botanical Garden and El Retiro, and browsed the small stands that lined the sidewalk. Vendors sell art, fruit, nuts, and trinkets to those walking up and down the busy sidewalk. Even if you only have one day in Madrid it’s worth swinging by the Botanical Gardens and El Retiro.
On weekends, El Retiro park is filled with people enjoying the sun, setting up picnics, jogging, and enjoying the outdoors. A popular past time is renting a small boat and paddling around the lake. You can also enjoy free yoga in the park, a stroll through the Crystal Palace, or a visit to the many monuments scattered around the park.
The park does have dirt/rocky paths, so your feet and shoes will probably get quite dusty. Just be aware if you’re wearing white shoes or open toed shoes!
After a brief walk through El Retiro, we grabbed an Uber to Plaza Mayor, Madrid’s main square.
El Retiro Park in Madrid
I pre-booked us a food and history tour in Madrid through AirBnB, which seemed like a perfect activity for the first full day of our 3 days in Madrid itinerary.
While we waited for the tour to begin, we walked around the Plaza Mayor and admired the work by the artists set up around the perimeter and grabbed a refreshing strawberry ice cream from Bico de Xeado. They make the ice cream from Spanish cows – very cool!
We then met our History and Food Tour guide, Abel, at the Tourism Office in Plaza Mayor. We began the tour with a little history of Spain and of the Plaza. Did you know the apartments surrounding the Plaza are still lived in today? Apparently they are quite expensive and loud, since many public events take place on the square.
We passed by the oldest restaurant in Madrid, El Botin, before walking past the old city walls and over to the Mercado de San Miguel. The Mercado used to be a place where people would buy their daily groceries, but it was more recently converted into a food hall with different gourmet vendors inside.
You can find traditional Spanish tapas, paella, Jamon Iberico (Iberian ham) and cheese, ice cream, fresh juice, and more! Even if you don’t eat in the market, it’s worth a quick walk through to see the hustle and bustle. It’s very busy during lunch time, especially, so try to avoid the hours of 1-3pm if possible. If you’re looking for ideas about what to do in Madrid for 3 days, checking out the local food halls is always a great option.
Mercado de San Miguel. Madrid food hall
After checking out the Mercado de San Miguel, we headed to see famous Madrid landmarks: Plaza de la Villa, the Madrid Cathedral, and the Muslim Walls of Madrid. Here, you can find parts of the old city wall built in the 9th century. It’s also a fantastic location for some peaceful photos and relaxation before entering the crypts of the Cathedral. The crypts are a gorgeous collection of small chapels adorned with statues and stained glass to honor Spain’s ruling and upper classes.
Swing around to the main entrance of the Madrid Almudena Cathedral (free admission) while you’re here. You’ll be able to see examples of the Neo-Gothic architecture with stained glass panels and murals adorning the cathedral.
After your visit to the Madrid landmarks Cathedral, walk to the front of the church where you can admire the Palacio Real de Madrid from the shared plaza. You can enter the palace for 13.00€, and be sure to book the tickets online in advance so you know the Palace will be open when you’re there. You can also book a guided tour of the Palacio Real de Madrid for about $44 per person, which will help you skip the line and have a live guide to show you all of the points of interest!
Madrid Almudena Cathedral crypt
We wrapped up our afternoon by having traditional Spanish tapas at La Rebelión de los mandiles. A highlight of this restaurant is their strawberry liqueur. You can find these berries on the Madrid icon with the Madroño Tree and bear reaching up to grab them. It’s a very sweet and tasty drink, as you might expect. And our guide, Abel, told us it is pretty rare to find a place which serves it!
As if we hadn’t eaten our fill at La Rebelión de los mandiles, we really wanted churros and hot chocolate at Chocolateria San Gines, a tiny churro shop tucked away on a Madrid side street. Here, you order your churros first then take a seat to eat them.
It’s traditional to dip your churros in the chocolate before finishing up the rest of the chocolate with a spoon or by drinking it. There were 6 crunchy and delicious churros that we shared with one cup of chocolate.
Finally, we ended the day with a walk down the famous shopping promenade, the Gran Via. You can find a wealth of shopping opportunities and big brands on this popular street. We stopped at the Primark, which really blew me away. It was 5 floors and was probably the biggest Primark I’ve ever seen!
Churros at Chocolateria San Gines
Day 2 Madrid Budget (everything listed is for 2 people; some prices approximate):
Madrid food tour: $114.76
Ice cream: $3.00
Madrid Day 2 Total $171.76
After 2 days in Madrid that were jam packed with things to do, we decided to sleep in and take it easy on our 3 days in Madrid. For breakfast we just ate some yogurt in the room and then headed to the tapas restaurant El Sur for lunch. This was probably one of the best meals we had in Madrid.
The sangria was filled with fresh fruit, and the asparagus omelette dish was seasoned perfectly. The garlic shrimp were exploding with flavor and Ken got a pulled pork dish that melted in your mouth.
From El Sur, we continued back towards the Madrid landmarks Palacio Real and stopped in the Plaza de Oriente garden for a few photos.
Plaza de Oriente in Madrid
Pro tip: the Plaza de Oriente is a lush green space just across from the Royal Palace. It used to have medieval houses on the site, but they were demolished in order to construct the garden. At its center is a statue of Philip IV created by Pietro Tacca in 1960 following calculations by Galileo Galilei. To the right and left of the statue are small fountains and greenery. It’s possible to take photos of the Palace among the greenery without many other people around, making it seem like your own private oasis! It’s a perfect spot for getting one of the famous Madrid landmarks in your photos.
Since we had already seen the Cathedral, we walked to the right of the Palace towards the Jardines de Sabatini (Sabatini Gardens), which is to the east of the Palacio Royal. This is another park without vast crowds, and it looks towards the back of the Palace. The location was a former stable for the Royal Palace, and it’s a stunning place to watch the sunset in Madrid.
From here, we passed on to another park, Oeste Park (West Park) in Madrid. West Park contains an Egyptian Monument, the Templo de Debod (Temple of Debod). The temple was relocated to Madrid in 1968 due to construction of the Aswan High Dam in Egypt. As a sign of thanks for Spain’s assistance in saving the Abu Simbel temples earlier, Egypt donated the Temple of Debod to Spain.
If you have 3 days in Madrid and are looking for what to do in Madrid in 3 days, visiting all these parks is a fun way to people watch and check out how the locals relax.
Madrid Royal Palace. Jardines de Sabatini (Sabatini Gardens)
From the Temple, we walked about 15 minutes through West Park towards the Teleferico de Madrid (Madrid Cable Car). Buy a round trip ticket on the cable car since the park on the other side (Casa de Campo) doesn’t have too much in the way of attractions or things to do for the average traveler. There is an amusement park within the park, but we didn’t visit it. It’s €4.50 one way or €6.00 for the round trip. There was no line when we visited the Teleferico, so we were able to hop right on it around 4pm on a Monday.
After the cable car ride, we had to almost run to our final stop of the day, a flamenco show at Villa Rosa. Villa Rosa is located on the site of an old chocolate factory and is one of the oldest and most respected flamenco spectacles. World famous and aspiring musicians and flamenco dancers perform at this storied venue, located in the heart of Madrid.
We arrived for the 8pm show around 7pm in order to grab a table and eat dinner before the show. The admission to the show was €39 per person on top of the cost of food. The food was on par with other restaurants in the area, price wise. I had a half tuna salad and it was enormous! We also shared some cheese and bread as an appetizer.
Villa Rosa itself is decorated in the Arabic-Andalusian style of the Alhambra de Granada. Works of art decorate the walls which depict traditional Spanish scenes like bullfighting. There is a stage in the middle of the restaurant where the performers gather for the one-hour show.
There were five performers on stage the night we went: three dancers, a singer, and a guitarist.
Each dancer and singer took a turn for a solo performance, and the guitarist also had a short solo. The dancers clapped and stomped to provide percussion for the others as they danced. The flamenco itself was stunning, with each dancer dressed in traditional costume for the performance. You can see why Villa Rosa has such a strong reputation for the best flamenco in Madrid.
Day 3 Madrid Budget (everything listed is for 2 people; some prices approximate):
Sky ride: $15.00
Flamenco and dinner: $105.00
Coffee and dessert: $4.00
Madrid Day 3 Total: $164
Mercado de San Antón
Mercado de San Ildefonso
Mercado De San Miguel
Chocolatería San Ginés
Madrid street at sunset
If you’re looking for a solid day trip from Madrid, read up on visiting Toledo, Spain for one day!
As you can see above, I broke down each day’s expenses at the end of each day’s itinerary for 3 days in Madrid. This budget roundup did not include accommodation cost since we used hotel points at a Marriott in Madrid. So you will need to factor that in to your own planning!
And of course, we splurged on certain things like the flamenco show and the Hammam spa, which everyone might not want to do.
3 days in Madrid cost for two people, not including accommodation: $520.85
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