Madrid for 3 days – The casual itinerary

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Madrid is the capital of Spain and one of the largest cities in Europe. With a population reaching nearly 7 million there are many things to do in Madrid. Many travellers from all over visit Madrid for 3 days or more. Madrid is an ideal fly in fly out weekend destination in Europe. How many days to spend in Madrid really depends on you

What to do in Madrid for 3 days? With a little planning and exploring, we found enough to see and do in the Spanish capital. In this article, we have the perfect Madrid travel itinerary. A weekend in Madrid is always a good idea.

Any Madrid vaction itinerary should feature a mix of history, culture, food and sightseeing. There is an amazing history mixed with a modern style. Classic buildings sitting next to modern design. Parks with kids playgrounds sitting next to Egyptian temples. Let us look at the best itinerary for 3 days in Madrid

Madrid for 3 Days – Day 1 Madrid Itinerary

You will find our Madrid itinerary for 3 days quite casual. It takes the highlights and sights of Madrid while still leaving plenty of time to explore on your own, eat tapas and drink wine. Madrid is best explored at a leisurly pace afterall Spain is well know for its siesta’s and it’s manana attitude. 

First up we suggest you do the free walking tour to get your bearings and learn about the history of Madrid.

Sandemans Madrid free walking tour.

If you head to Plaza Mayor while looking for things to do in Madrid, you will find Sandemans European tours ( You may better off booking online than just turning up). We spotted the Madrid free walking tour sign. Free city walking tours are normally of a high standard as the guides work hard to make tips.  We were not disappointed our guide Enrique informed and entertained us for 2.5 hours.

We have explained the history of the Plaza Mayor and its role in the Spanish Inquisition. We visited the worlds oldest restaurant. Restaurante Sobrino de Botín opened in 1725. We were taken to the Muslim wall from the 9th century.

We were explained about a time when Christians and Muslims lived in peace in Spain. You can still see today a huge Muslim influence in Spain in everything from food to buildings. We learned about the Hapsburg kings of Spain. The Hapsburgs were Austrian who married into the Spain Royal family. The Hapsburgs become the kings and queens of Spain. We viewed the Almudena Cathedral, the newest Cathedral in Europe.

 It took 100 years to built, finished in 1993.  We ended our amazing Madrid free walking tour in the gardens in front of the Royal Palace of Madrid. If I can recommend one thing to do in 3 days in Madrid this is it. The free walking tour in Madrid is an amazing thing to do. Don’t be cheap either make sure you tip the guides.

After a morning of walking around the city, listening and learning on your Madrid trip, it is time to take it easy and spend the afternoon eating and drinking in Madrid. Any 3 day weekend in Madrid will freature food.

Mercado San Miguel Madrid

This is not your typical Spanish neighbourhood market. It does not sell traditional fruits, vegetables and meats. The Mercado de San Miguel is located in the heart of the city close to Plaza Mayor. For this reason its the most popular market in town. The Mercado de San Miguel Madrid Spain is a striking iron and glass design. The design allows you to view the goings-on inside from every angle.

The Mercado San Miguel sells all different types of tapas, wine, desserts, sweets and beers to the tourists. Tapas is like the Spanish national food little bite sizes foods of all flavours. It’s the type of place that you move from stall to stall trying all the different Tapas available. You will find both locals and tourists hanging here.

It’s a destination in itself and an unparalleled experience for your taste buds. Be aware that the Mercado de San Miguel is a hot spot for pickpockets and thieves. The Mercado San Miguel Madrid is located at  Plaza de San Miguel, S/N, 28005 Madrid, Spain just 2 minutes walk from Plaza Mayor.

The San Ginés Chocolateria

The San Ginés Chocolateria is located halfway between the Puerta del Sol and the Teatro Real, in the heart of Madrid. For chocolate and churros, this place is the Nirvana. You will find it crowded you will have to wait for a table, but it will be worth it.

Fresh cooked Churros are served with what can only be described as heaven in a cup. A thick chocolate mixture that you dip your amazing churros in and savour every last bite. The San Ginés Chocolateria Madrid has been operating since 1894 and is popular with locals and tourists alike.


Things to eat in Madrid.

The following foods are traditional to Madrid. Food plays a big part of the local culture, i call it tasting the culture. These foods play a part in any weekend in Madrid itinerary.

Cocido Madrileño – The most common variety on the traditional Spanish stew usually consists of a flavorful broth full of vegetables, chickpeas, chorizo sausage, and pork.

La Bola is located at Calle Bola 5, 28013 Madrid Spain. It makes one of the best stews in Madrid.

Huevos Rotos – Is a simple Madrid dish consisting of a plate of freshly-fried potatoes, which are fried in Spanish olive oil and tossed with sea salt.

Amparito Roca is located at Calle de Juan Bravo 12 Corner Calle Lagasca, 28006 Madrid Spain. It is know for it’s Huevos Rotos.

Oreja a la Plancha – is a pan-fried pig’s ear. In Madrid, it is typically served as a ración, or large portion, and eaten with toothpicks. It is often sprinkled with salt or paprika and occasionally fresh-squeezed lemon.

Pincho de Tortilla – Spanish omelet, is a staple of Spanish cuisine and one of the most typical foods in Madrid

La Casa de La Tortilla at Calle Hartzenbusch 6, 28010 Madrid Spain makes some of the best spanish omlettes

Suckling Pig – Must be prepared following traditional rules. The pig should only be milk-fed and shouldn’t be older than 2-3 weeks. It’s one of the most traditional foods to eat in Madrid

Restaurante El Senador at Plaza Marina Espanola 2, 28013 Madrid Spain serves some of the best suckling pig in Madrid

Things to drink in Madrid

During your Madrid three days you’ll find yourself spoilt for choice when it comes to drinks. Being a big city you will find beers, cocktails, wines and more. Aswell as being spoilt by choice there is some local Madrid drinks that you should try.

Sangria – is made using red wine, brandy and some aged fruit. These day you can also get a white wine version

Tinto de Verano – Tinto de verano is simply wine mixed with a kind of carbonated lemonade known as Gaseosa. 

Horchata – It is a drink made from rice milk and cinnamon. It best enjoyed on hot days or witn Churrios

Madrid for 3 days – Day 2 of Madrid Itinerary

Day 2 of our casual Madrid itinerary consists of using the Madrid city sightseeing bus or better known as the hop on hop off bus. The bus gets you around the city and allows you to see all the best things to do in Madrid. We suggest you get up and catch the bus at the earliest opportunity to get the most out of it.

Somewhere between 9 am and 10 am would be an excellent starting point for your say in Madrid. We suggest you get off at the following Madrid locations. We suggest you get off the bus a minimum of 3 times at the following stops,

Madrid Hop on Hop off Bus.

what to do in Madrid for 3 days

The Hop on Hop off bus tours is a great way to orientate yourself with a city. They also provide direct access to places that public transport can not. Considering Madrid is the 3rd largest capital city in Europe with 3.2 million people in the city centre area, navigating Madrid can be time consuming. The Madrid city sightseeing bus does a loop of the attraction that takes around 90 minutes to complete.

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There are 2 routes to choose from. The blue route has 20 stops including Gran Via, Plaza de España, Templo de Debod, Teatro Real, Palacio Real, Puerta de Toledo and more. The Green route has 13 stops. Free headphones were given out so we could listen to the onboard audio guide that explained the history of the Spanish capital as we took in the Madrid landmarks. This is a great one day in Madrid itinerary. The bus runs every half-house so you can spend as little as 30 minutes at each spot if you like. We certainly recommend at least one day on the Hop on hop off Madrid bus

Gran Via in Madrid

Gran Via Madrid is known as the Spanish Broadway. It’s a stunning wide street that contains upmarket shops, restaurants and nightlife. Gran Via leads from Calle de Alcalá, close to Plaza de Cibeles, to Plaza de España. We stayed just 100 meters off Gran Via and enjoyed walking it every day. Its an electric street alive with neon billboards, people heading in all directions and some of the most amazing designed building you will see.

The Temple of De Debod

what to do in Madrid for 3 days

When reading about Madrid The Temple of De Debod always interested me. An Egyptian temple in Madrid how amazing. The Temple was built in Aswan in the 2nd century BC. The temple was dedicated to the God Amun.

The temple had a remarkable life. It was an import enough temple That Pharaohs and Roman emperors Augustus and Tiberius added to it. Anyway fast forward, the temple was to be flooded with the construction of the Aswan dam.

The Egyptian Government allowed the Spanish Government to move the temple. It was taken apart and resembled it brick by brick in The West Park, near the Royal Palace of Madrid. The temple is only open certain times of the year.

The park’s location provides some great views of the Royal Palace and the city. For the kids, it was a chance to have a play at the playground next to the temple. The Temple is one of the unique Madrid attractions

The Royal Palace of Madrid

what to do in Madrid for 3 days

This was a real highlight for us all. A mighty palace located right in the city centre. There has been a castle/palace on the site since the moors in the 8th century. The current version dates from the Hapsburg in 1764.

 The sheer size of this building was mind-blowing. It is the largest Royal Palace in Europe 3418 rooms, who on earth would require this many rooms. These days the palace is owned by the Spanish government and hosts royal and state functions.

We did a self-guided tour through this enormous palace. The decorations and furnishings were amazing.  The royal staircase is something to behold with its sculptures and artwork. More amazing is that it was carved from a single piece of granite. 

The Grown room features the Charles III’s throne, sceptre and crown. The Palace houses the Royal Armoury.  The collection showcases the personal arms of the Kings of Spain.  military weapons, works of art like mixed tapestries, paintings and other works of art adorn the walls. The full tournament and battle armourers are something behold. These royals knew how to live in style. This is one of the most amazing places to visit in Madrid.

what to do in Madrid for 3 days

Plaza de la Armería lies just outside the gates to the Royal Place of Madrid. On the other side of the Plaze is the  Almudena Cathedral well wort visiting while you are here. Standing in the plaza is breathtaking with these two neo classical designed building both comlimenting each other. There is a huge wow factor at play in this plaza. We found ourselves drawn back to Plaza de la Armería a few times on our 3 days in Madrid.


El Retiro Park

what to do in Madrid for 3 days

This park was the former playground of the Spanish monarchy. It was finally given over to the city in the 19th century to become a park. Located on the edge of the city centre and close to the Prado museum its is 350 acres in size. The park is known for beautiful sculptures and monuments. Some even call it Madrid’s outsider art gallery.

Once home to the Buen Retiro Palace, today only 2 sections remain Casón del Buen Retiro and the Salon de Reinos. These two building now house museum art collections. The park is great for walking and relaxing in this busy city. Playgrounds for the kids and sculptures for adults. The highlight of the park is the monument to King Alfonso XII.

A semicircle of roman like columns with a statue of King Alfonso XII on a horse sitting atop. It is truly a striking monument located in a beautiful setting. In front of the monument is a man-made lake that you can hire a rowboat and sail out onto. The Paseo de la Argentina is a wide boulevard that leads into the heart of the park.

This boulevard is decorated with s statues of kings of Spain. The statues come from the Royal Palace. These amazing sculptures are over 250 years old. Other features include The Crystal Palace, Avenida de Mexico, Casita del Pescador and the Rose  Garden. One could spend a whole day exploring the park.


Casa de Campo Park

Much like Barcelona, Madrid also has a teleferico (cable car). This has been a great family activity since 1969. The Madrid cable car takes you on a 2.5-kilometre journey, 40 meters above the Casa de Campo. The start and finish points of the Madrid cable car are Pintor Rosales and Casa de Campo park. The trip will take you 12 minutes each way and provide an amazing view of the previously mentioned Egyptian temple of Debod, Plaza de España, the Royal Palace, Almudena Cathedral and the Chapel of San Antonio de la Florida.

Home to Madrid’s Zoo-Aquarium which is an ever-popular attraction for families visiting Madrid. The Madrid Zoo and Aquarium has been operating since 1770. The Madrid Zoo occupies a 20-hectare site. The main Madrid zoo attraction is the Giant Panda from China. The Madrid Zoo is one of a handful of zoo’s worldwide that has pandas. You will also find Koalas and Gorillas just to name a few. The Madrid Zoo Aquarium is home to 9 bottlenose dolphins. Just for the chance to see a Panda at the Madrid Zoo, this should be included in your best itinerary for 3 days in Madrid The closest Madrid Zoo metro stop is Casa de Campo station on line 5 or 10.

Weather in Madrid Spain

The best time to visit Madrid is in the months of September to November or March to May. In these months of the year, the weather is warm and mild. You will find shops open, festivals happening and people strolling the city. But if you don’t mind drab weather and a rather listless Madrid, Visit in the winter for inconsistent days featuring rain and clouds but on the plus side hotels reduce their rates.

Madrid’s coldest month is always January, although the months each side December and February are cold as well., Daytime temperatures will stick around 10°C-15°C and can feel warmer if it’s sunny. Nights, however, are cold with temperatures dropping to a bit over zero.

What to do in Madrid for 3 days – Take a day trip

After spending 2 days in the city we suggest you take one of the following day trips from Madrid. You can easily catch a high-speed train from the Madrid main train station and be onsite within 1 hour. Your two-day trips from Madrid options are both amazing UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Segovia Spain

what to do in Madrid for 3 days

Segovia is a UNESCO world heritage city. Segovia lies around 45 minutes away by train and 1 hour 15 minutes by car. Segovia is most famous for its historical sights. The Aqueduct of Segovia, The Alcazar of Segovia, The Segovia Cathedral, and The Walls of Segovia to name a few.  

The Aqueduct of Segovia built by the Romans contains 25,000 free-standing granite blocks. The Roman technology of the times did not need any material to hold it together. This Aqueduct today spans 818 meters. It has more than 170 arches, reaching 29 metres high at its highest point.

The Alcazar of Segovia was first mentioned in 1122. It was a favoured castle of the Castillo Royal family. Today the castle contains the General Militar de Segovia archive and museum of the Royal School of Artillery. The Segovia Cathedral is famous for being the last Gothic cathedral built in Spain.

The cathedral of Segovia was consecrated in 1768. The cathedral and measures an impressive 105 meters long, 50 metres wide and 33 m high. The walls of Segovia have been around since at least the 10th century. They were mentioned in the battle between Alfonso VI of León and Castile and the Arabs. The walls currently encircle the Jewish quarter of the city.

Toledo Spain

Toledo was known by many names including the “Imperial City”. Toledo in its time was the main venue of the court of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. Toledo was heavily influenced by cultures of Christians, Muslims and Jews. Toledo was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986 for its extensive monumental and cultural heritage.

Toledo is 50 minutes by train and 56 minutes by car away from Madrid. Toledo became famous for its sword maker from the 15th century onwards. Toledo was renowned for making the best swords in the world. Some of the main attractions in Toledo today include Castle of San Servando.

the city centre and cathedral on the hill in Toledo Spain

San Servando is a medieval castle first occupied by religious monks. It later served as a base for the Knights Templar. The Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo began construction in 1226. The Toledo Cathedral is considered the best of the high Gothic Cathedrals built in Spain. 

The Alcázar of Toledo is a stone fortification located in the highest part of Toledo, Spain. The Alcazar dates back to Roman times. It was used by high-ranking Roman officials into the 3rd century. Charles I (Holy Roman Emperor Charles V) and  Philip II of Spain undertook considerable works on the Alcazar. Their construction works brought it back to its past glories. Toledo has a wealth of attractions to many to mention here. For more

Accommodation for your Madrid weekend

You will find accommodation in Madrid to suit all budget and all people from singles to couples and families. Madrid is a rather expensive city to stay in so airbnb is a great option (see our map for airbnb near the top ). There are hotels, apartments and hostels for you to choose.

If you are looking to be pampered during your short stay in Madrid, popular luxury hotels in Madrid include Gran Hotel Ingles, Relais & Chateaux Hotel Orfila, and Relais & Chateaux Heritage Madrid Hotel. A few of the most popular hotels near Royal Palace of Madrid are HOTEL OPERA, ApartoSuites Jardines de Sabatini, and Principe Pio Hotel. 

How to get to Madrid.

  • Fly into Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport, commonly known as Madrid–Barajas Airport. The Airport lies 18km away or  25-30 minutes by car. Check for flights to Madrid here with Momondo
  • Madrid is connected by train to all major cities in Spain and beyond. Most of Spain including Madrid is connected to the high-speed AVE train network. Check for current train times and prices here!
  • Pick up your rental car at Madrid Airport.
  • Transfer to and from the city is available by private transfers, bus, taxi and the underground train network.

We hope we have provided you with enough ideas of what to do in Madrid for 3 days.

Madrid for 3 days - The casual itinerary

8 thoughts on “Madrid for 3 days – The casual itinerary”

  1. The Temple of De Debod looks beautiful! The architecture around Madrid looks like it would be enticing and it would be hard to leave in 3 days. Great tips on how to get to and around Madrid with the different recommendations of transportation

  2. Love Spain and Madrid. Your blog and the latest news about the referendum of Catalonia reminded me my time in Spain not long ago. and Yes! Mercado de San Miguel is a great place to explore and I just love the fresh fruit and food there. A lot of bars and restaurants in that area as well. Another places that I love would be Prado and El retiro?

  3. You really transport me there! Spain is on my bucket list since I have friends living there I am really planning to visit there but will be Barcelona, now Madrid sounds a lot to see as well. It looks like you really distribute well your time because sounds that you accomplished a lot. I definitely will take into consideration the free tour because seems that is a really good choice!!! Thanks for this post.

  4. I have two chidlren too and the blue route around the city at the Hop on Hop off bus tours is great to us. We are planning to stay there two days, but your experience makes me think of three, haha. Thanks for the practical information.

  5. So, my visit to Madrid (traveling along with my COO) made us both realize why there were no Spanish restaurants in the US (this was in the 1990s). Steve (the COO) even said upon leaving that it was the first time he ever felt that a trip to McDonald’s was in order. But, the Egyptian Temple (moved to Madrid because the Aswan Dam erection was going to remove it from view – and probably destroy it- forever was imminent. And, the Playa Mayor was cool. (The Palace felt like “meh” to me.)
    Being from Toledo (ok, my family who were forcibly ejected some 525 years ago), meant that would be a necessary side trip. The train ride was nice, the city ok, as long as you recognize that many of those structures housed folks whose job was to torment my relatives….
    Yes, there can be vastly different impressions.


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