Madrid in 3 Days – What to Do, See, and Eat

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Fine, I'll say it. I think Madrid is underrated, especially when compared to its “party city” cousin, Barcelona. At the very least, it's worth a quick stop if you're traveling through Spain soon. We packed in a bunch, (then again, we always do…) but here's how we did Madrid in 3 days while hitting all the major sites.

 

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. 

Madrid in 3 Days – How to See the Best of the City

 

Madrid Itinerary: Day 1

 

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.

 

Also, address some basic questions about transportation:

Madrid International Airport
Madrid hop-on hop-off bus

 

 

 

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?

 

 

Madrid Itinerary: Day 2

 

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.

 

Madrid Itinerary: Day 3

 

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 to 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

 

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 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.

 

Check Out My Other Travel Itineraries: 3 Day Rome Itinerary , Florence in Two Days,  3 Days in New York City 

 

What to do in Madrid

 

I was actually really surprised by all there is to do in Madrid. Don't overlook it!  I mentioned these throughout my itinerary above, but here are the highlights, plus a few extras:

 

Madrid attractions

  • Mercado de San Miguel
  • El Retiro
  • Plaza Mayor
  • Puerto del Sol
  • Gateway of the Sun
  • Cibeles Palace
  • Prado Museum
  • Reina Sofia Museum
  • Madrid Royal Palace
  • Gran Via
  • Temple Debod
  • Catedral de la Almudena

 

What is Madrid famous for?

 

Madrid is the capital of Spain, so you'll in Madrid similar characteristics of other capital cities: big buildings, lots of public transportation, culture, and restaurants. 

But Madrid also has a deep, rich history and it is so beautiful to see all the old buildings. (Among other things) Madrid is famous for having the oldest restaurant in the world Sobrino de Botin (we didn't eat there), being the center of all roads in Spain (which you can see at Puerto de Sol) and Calamari Sandwiches (which we also neglected to try, and regret!)

 

 

 

How do I get around Madrid?

 

We walked a lot and took Uber. Segways and bikes are also a large part of how we get around and sightsee in the cities we visit. Getting to Madrid is easy as we took a flight from Atlanta to Madrid International Airport (mostly because it was cheaper than flying in directly to Barcleona). You can also use the Madrid Hop on and Hop off Bus, which we've never done but is (obviously) built for tourists. 

 

 

More Attractions from GetYourGuide

 

Every time Rich and I travel, we use GetYourGuide to book all of our tours and ticketed events. I love how easy it is to compare, rate, and book activities. There's also always contact information and clear instructions on how to meet your groups and guides, which is nice when you're in a foreign country and don't speak the language. 
 
I've used them countless times when we've gone abroad (we always book tours with GYG during our annual European excursion – see here, here, and here). Never had a problem with finding our guides or connecting in the event of a delay or anything. In Madrid, we used it for our Segway tour and for our multi-day tours of the Prado Museum and Reina Sofia. 
 
You can even download the GetYourGuide app so you have your tickets handy to show your guides when it is time for the tours. Highly recommend! 

 

 

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Madrid in 3 Days – What to Do, See, and Eat
22 Shares
    • kirsten
    • January 31, 2019
    Reply

    Madrid is one of my dream places for vacation, but I have no idea when will this happen. Anyway, reading your post seems like I’m there having some fun as well!

    • Carlo
    • January 31, 2019
    Reply

    I’d love to see their museums. My country was under the Spanish rule for almost 4 centuries and I would like to see the similarities in culture. Rather I’d like to see Spanish culture and how it manifested in ours.

    • Garmin
    • January 30, 2019
    Reply

    Oh wow I can’t get enough of that segway tour. It was the highlight of the tour.

    • Danielle M
    • January 30, 2019
    Reply

    I’m glad that you enjoyed your trip in Madrid, Spain has a very beautifull architechture. I guess the food is nice, but i’m not a big fan of tapas.

    • Innov
    • January 30, 2019
    Reply

    Wow, what a nice itinerary.
    For someone who loves museums and ancient buildings, now I am sure I can make the most of my time there.
    It’s time to plan my next vacation.

    • Obalade Damilola
    • January 30, 2019
    Reply

    I know Spain is a beautiful country but one thing I’m unaware of is the extreme beauty.Now,I wish to spend at least two weeks in Madrid.. You really had fun

    • beauty
    • January 30, 2019
    Reply

    This was three days of enjoyment galore in Madrid, I can feel your excitement from the write up. It always good to have a best of a place wherever we go and I’m sure you did.

    • Buenaflor
    • January 30, 2019
    Reply

    Oh my God it makes me feel like I want to travel 1st to Madrid. This post makes me want to save more for travel and experience so much great things in Madrid, my sibling always talks about Madrid and his favorite football players. I want to take my whole family there, and yes please take me to royal palace. I want to be with the one I love in Madrid, get married in Madrid, there are a lot of great destination in Madrid and I can’t wait to travel.

    • Miriam
    • January 30, 2019
    Reply

    The food is delicious, even just by looking at it from the pictures. I feel like planning a trip to this place.

    • Ken
    • January 30, 2019
    Reply

    We get to places where we don’t want to leave again and Madrid seem to have done it for you. From your post it seem a lovely place to visit and have all the lovely vibes too.

  1. Reply

    Loved reading this wonderful post.

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