I might be one of the few people on the planet who enjoyed our time in Madrid as much as I enjoyed Barcelona. I also think the magic of experiencing two different parts of Spain in the same trip providing a lot of context for the complexities of the country. Add on to this the fact that we were in both Madrid and Barcelona in October 2017, right as the protest for Catalonian independence was reaching a fever pitch, well, it made for a trip I won't soon forget. And Madrid is lovely; truly I think its underrated, especially when compared to its “party city” cousin, Barcelona. If you're traveling through Spain soon, here's how we did Madrid in 3 days!
Madrid in 3 Days – How to See the Best of the City
We arrived in Madrid on the morning of our first day. After making our way from the airport to the hotel to check-in, we were pretty hungry so we went to the Mercado De San Miguel to do tapas and taste what the city had to offer. I had so many amazing olives and cheese and tasted the BEST oysters (with champagne, obvs) at the Daniel Sorlut stall. Afterward, we went over to get Churros at San Gines, which is famous for churros and chocolate and well worth the trip.
In the evening we did this segway tour which covered many of the famous cites in Madrid including:
- El Retiro
- Plaza Mayor
- Gateway of the Sun
- Cibeles Palace
This was fun, and a good way to cover large portions of the city. Would recommend if you’re into Segways which are my favorite mode of transport and SUPER EASY TO RIDE. It's become a little tradition of ours to do a Segway tour in the countries that we visit. We also own one that we use at home so it's easy to practice, but again, easy to ride even for the novice and a bit more fun than walking everywhere.
For dinner, we ate at Casa Paco, which honestly may have been one of the better meals we had in Madrid. We have a bad habit of (accidentally) enjoying our best meal on the first night of our trips, usually when we're most exhausted. Or is the best meal because we're so tired and grateful for the food?
Something we didn't know prior to arrival is that everything in Spain CLOSES on Sunday. Like, even the touristy stuff. So to maximize our time we booked a day trip to nearby Segovia (a town with a castle) and La Granja (a village with a “summer palace”), which were amazing. If you have time and enjoy touring palaces, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this tour. We got some beautiful photos, ate an amazing al-fresco lunch in Segovia, and even ran into my blogger friends Holly and Greg Johnson who were on the same tour. (Small world, huh?) The exact tour we took is no longer available but here is a comparable one that allows you to see the castle in Segovia.
The castle in Segovia was apparently Walt Disney's inspiration for the castles in some of his earlier films like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. I can see it. Can't you?
We came back very late around 9:00 p.m. which is the perfect time to eat dinner in Spain. After dinner, we did drinks near our hotel at Salmon Guru which had the most exquisite and interesting cocktails and the nicest waiters. It was one of the highlights of our short time in Madrid. Also, our waiter was super nice and even gave us a list of the best cocktail bars in Barcelona, which we did visit and they lived up to his word.
On our third “full” day in Madrid we took in THE museums (you know, since it was Monday and they were now open.) We love art museums so this was another excellent, excellent day. In the morning we did this guided tour which I do recommend. It includes both the Prado and the Reina Sofia museums. Book it here. I love having guides for art museums because you get the context and a little bit of the history of the people in the portraits, which I find fascinating. (#historygeek.)
The tour was running a touch late so we didn't have time to eat lunch at Arzabal, which is attached the museum and award-winning. We took a guided tour of the Madrid Royal Palace in the afternoon, but honestly? You could do this on your own.
In the evening we did the Flamenco Show. We didn't get the dinner, just the drinks. I was very excited about the flamenco show and did enjoy it, but the tickets are very expensive (here's my guide on how to travel on a budget) for what you get. Below is the venue where we attended, here's a better priced (and extremely well-rated option.)
Overall, I was Sad to Leave Madrid
And I found myself wishing we had more time to spend there. There's definitely more to fill your time if you have longer to stay, but I do think all the “highlights” can be done in three days. We tackled a lot and one of our days was spent outside the city. All-in-all, I'll say hit the churros, the museums, and the parks. They're “must sees” and you really get to experience the vibe of the city.
Also, don't let the call of Barcelona fool you, Madrid is definitely worth a look and a few days on your itinerary if you can swing it.