Madrid, the capital city of Spain formed the last leg of our Europe trip after our adventures in Seville, Granada, Lisbon and Algarve. We found Madrid to be definitely more modern compared to the old world charm of Seville and Granada, and it is truly a bustling metropolis filled with many attractions. In this post, I will guide you through of the top things to do when spending three days in Madrid that includes some of the most popular tourist attractions. 72 hours in Madrid is definitely not enough but hopefully this guide will give you a flavor of what to do in Madrid and what to do in Madrid during your first time visit.
If you have more time on your hands, read this guide to scenic nature escapades near Madrid or this charming guide on a day trip to Segovia or Montserrat that are easy excursions from the capital! If you are traveling solo, do check out this solo travel in Madrid guide!
Three days in Madrid, Day 1: Walk down Puerto Del Sol
Start off in the belly of the beast with a walk along Puerto Del Sol, the main (and, super touristy) street of the city. Do not miss the Plaza Mayor on Puerta de Sol which is also the location for Madrid’s iconic symbol, the Bear and the Strawberry Tree which serves as a hotspot for photos, selfies and photo bombers alike. Next, stop at Círculo de Bellas Artes to get a bird’s eye view of Madrid stretching out below. Círculo de Bellas Artes, at the beginning of Gran Via, charges a mean 4 euros for their terrace view which is not that bad considering what you get in return, i.e., a spectacular view of the city. The terrace also doubles up as a bar and place to have a drink and is thus a perfect place to have a good time over the setting Madrid sun.
Madrid tourist attractions: Visit the museums on Paseo del Prado
If you have only three days in Madrid, do stop by Paseo del Prado, one of the best neighborhoods to stay in Madrid and home to some of the top museums in the world. Visit the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, simply named as Thyssen (after its founder) which is home to nearly a thousand pieces of art spanning from the 13-20th century, and is part of the “Golden Triangle of Art” in Madrid, the other two being the Museo De Prado and the Reina Sofia galleries. Awesome tip time: Sundays after 6 are free at the Prado, so if you are a frugal museum freak, you might want to come in early and stand in line to get your fill of art for free! if you have kids in your group, make sure you introduce them to these fantastic books on Spain so that they can appreciate the arts and culture of this destination even more!
Tasty bites in Madrid: Indulge yourself at Chocolatería San Gines
If you have the case of the notorious sweet tooth, then you cannot leave Madrid without a visit the famous Chocolatería San Gines, where you have to rest your achy feet and indulge in some of the best drinking chocolate and churros in the world (basically the only two products they sell). Sip into the deliciousness of the sinful chocolate, which is as rich and dark as the man in your wildest fantasies (sorry gentlemen, couldn’t find an appropriate contextual subject for you, so pardon the unintentional sexism). Better still, dip the churros in it and be transported to an utter state of Nirvana.
72 hours in Madrid, Day 2: Go on a food tour
Madrid has lots of great places to eat and drink. But why do all that hard work and sweaty research when you can get experts to guide you? Also, what better way to know a city than sample some of its local cuisine? To get these two together in one package, simply go on a Madrid food tour, just as we did during our three days in Madrid. I highly recommend joining this food tour for fellow foodie travelers!
How to spend three days in Madrid: Visit the Prado museum
Whatever you do, dear art lover, do not miss visiting the Reina Sofia where lies Picasso’s Guernica, one of the most famous paintings in the world. I did and I cannot tell you how much I regret not figuring out that this particular museum is closed on Tuesdays. During our 72 hours in Madrid, we did get to see some Picasso creations at the Prado museum next door, which had ten Picassos on loan from the Kunstmuseum, Basel. After being awed by Goya and van der Weyden at the museum (photography prohibited in most galleries), we headed out to explore what was left of Madrid in a leisurely pace.
Our last day in Madrid was nothing much to write about except two wonderful meals that we had at two small restaurants, that were on the list provided by our food tour guide. I can still taste the garlic prawns at the small cafe, which till date is the best that I’ve ever had. Again, you get many such good recommendations when on a food tour, so do not give one a miss when in Madrid.
This brings me to the end of this guide on how to spend three days in Madrid, listing some notable Madrid tourist attractions. Madrid is a beautiful city and I highly recommend making it a part of your itinerary when you visit Spain. Finally, the main train station at Madrid has electronic lockers for you to store your luggage, so if your hotel does not have a concierge service or you are staying in an Airbnb, then this is a good option to check out so that you don’t have to haul your luggage around while touring the city.
Other relevant posts on Spain
We spent only a week in Spain and could not cover all cities! So in case you want to visit Valencia, the third largest city in the country, read this superb Valencia guide to organize your travel itinerary or if you are eager to explore the different parts of Spain this quick guide to different regions in Spain is super helpful.
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