3 Days in Madrid: The Perfect Itinerary (First Time Visit)


How to spend 3 Days in Madrid: The Best Itinerary + Where to Stay

You’re planning to spend 3 days in Madrid and you’re looking for the best itinerary?

You’re at the right place!

In order to help you plan your stay, I have prepared for you the perfect itinerary to visit Madrid in 3 days.

I will start this guide with my best tips to avoid queuing in front of Madrid’s most famous tourist attractions. You will see, you are going to save a lot of time!

Then, I will give you my optimized 3-day itinerary, with all the best things to do for each day.

In addition to the best places to visit and activities for each stage of your itinerary, I will also give you all my best tips and accommodation suggestions depending on your budget.

So, what are the best things to do in Madrid in 3 days? Where to stay?

Let’s find out!

My best Tips to Save Time at Madrid’s Must-See Attractions

To discover the main tourist sites, including the renowned museums such as the Prado or Queen Sofia, there can sometimes be over an hour’s wait!

If you’ve already visited the Colosseum in Rome or the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, you probably have an idea of what to expect and how quickly it gets crowded at the entrance…

But let me reassure you, it doesn’t have to be that way!

To save a lot of time during your 3-day trip to Madrid, there are at least 2 very simple solutions.

Here they are:

1. The Madrid City Pass

The first solution to see as much as possible and save money is to buy the Madrid City Pass.

This pass is extremely convenient and comes with a significant advantage: all the skip-the-line tickets for the most famous sites will be sent directly to your email! You won’t need to waste time upon arrival to pick them up.

There’s also no need to exchange them at the attraction’s ticket office or print them out, simply present them on your smartphone.

To visit Madrid in 3 days, it’s by far the best solution!

Here’s what’s included in the Madrid City Pass:

  • A skip-the-line ticket for the Royal Palace of Madrid (included in the first day) – You will be asked for a date and an approximate time.
  • A skip-the-line ticket for the Prado Museum (planned for the second day) + an audio guide to download on your mobile – Here too date and time need to be specified.
  • A ticket for the Hop On Hop Off bus valid for a full day + audio guide included
  • An audio guide to download for a self-guided city tour.

When booking, you can also choose an additional option including:

  • A public transport card to use the metro and bus for 3 days in Madrid
  • A private transfer from the airport to your accommodation.

Finally, after ordering your Madrid City Pass, you will receive a 10% discount code valid on an unlimited number of tours* such as the Thyssen Museum, the Queen Sofia Museum or even the Bernabeu Stadium of Real Madrid.

*You must book your tours on the same website to use the promo code.

To buy your Madrid city pass now, simply click on the button below:

2. Skip-the-line Tickets for Madrid’s Tourist Attractions

The second solution for quick access to main tourist sites is to buy your skip-the-line tickets one by one, depending on your sightseeing schedule.

There are many available, for both the museums and for other must-see attractions or activities in Madrid during these three days.

I’ve put together a list of those that might interest you that match the itinerary I will describe shortly after.

You just need to click on the links to book them and I will also mention them as we go along in the article.

3 Days in Madrid: Must-See Attractions:

One Last Tip for a Perfect 3-Day Stay in Madrid

If you already know your travel dates (or as soon as you will have them!), you should really book your accommodation.

As Madrid is one of the most touristic cities in the world, the hotels offering the best value for money are often fully booked months in advance.

As a seasoned traveler, I can assure you that it’s always by planning as far in advance as possible that I’ve found the best hotels or apartments deals.

You agree that it would be a shame to somewhat ruin your stay in Madrid by ending up in a not-so-great hotel that costed you a fortune, right? 😅

So your best bet is to take 5 minutes now to have a look at traveler’s favorite hotels in Madrid.

And if you like one of the hotels you find, book it!

It’s fast, it’s easy and most accommodation offer free cancellation. That’s the best way to protect yourself from the inconvenience of finding nothing but mediocre rooms at exorbitant prices.

To check the best hotels deals in Madrid, simply click on the green button below:

After securing your dream stay, it’s time to continue reading this guide!

3 Days in Madrid: The Best Itinerary

Let’s now start your 3-day itinerary in Madrid!

For each day, I will give you all the details you need to plan your visits + a map that will allow you to visualize the itinerary a bit better.

I’m assuming you will be staying in Madrid for 3 full days and that you will be using the Madrid City Pass or skip-the-line tickets. It’s the best way to save time and money during your stay!

If you still have questions after reading this guide (or need help organizing your holiday), don’t hesitate to ask me in the comments section located at the very end of this article.

I will be glad to help you plan your trip 😄.

So, how to visit Madrid in 3 days?

Day 1 of Your Madrid Itinerary

Madrid itinerary day 1
Madrid itinerary day 1

Day 1 Visits:

A. Plaza Mayor
B. San Miguel Market
C. The Cathedral
D. The Royal Palace
E. The Royal Theatre
F. San Ginès Chocolateria
G. The Temple of Debod
H. Flamenco Show

A. Plaza Mayor

I suggest you start off your 3 days in Madrid by heading to Plaza Mayor.

This iconic square is the heart of the Spanish capital and is always bustling. A variety of cafés and restaurants here will allow you to start the day with a good cup of coffee.

Take the opportunity to admire the beautiful buildings such as the Bakery House (the first building constructed) or the Butcher’s House, as well as the arcades that add so much charm to Plaza Mayor.

Voyage Tips - Advice

If you’re looking to get a city map, head to the Madrid Tourist Information Office on the square, located in the former Casa de la Panaderia (Bakery House).

Plaza Mayor Madrid
Start your 3-day itinerary in Madrid at Plaza Mayor

B. San Miguel Market

Next, make your way to San Miguel Market, just a hundred meters by foot from Plaza Mayor.

With its 19th-century glass and steel structure, you can’t miss it.

This traditional market offers fruits, vegetables, and local cured meats and cheeses is sure to delight food lovers. The interior is really charming with tables and chairs where you can savor your purchases.

Another plus is that you can taste everything before you buy and there are plenty of delicious tapas choices, each as tasty as the next.

Voyage Tips - Advice

If you’re not hungry at that moment, don’t worry, the market is open every day from 10 a.m. to midnight and even later on weekends. You’ll surely have a chance to return during your 3-day itinerary in Madrid!

Mercado de San Miguel
Mercado de San Miguel

C. La Almudena Cathedral

To continue the day, I recommend heading to La Almudena Cathedral.

It’s just a 5-minute walk away, heading up Calle Mayor from the market. With an entry fee of just €1, it would be a shame to miss out!

Unlike other famous cathedrals in Europe, Madrid’s is quite recent as its construction was completed in 1993. It still took nearly a century to finish, after several long pauses in construction.

This resulted in a mix of different architectural styles: the exterior is neoclassical, the interior is Gothic, and its crypt is Neo-Romanesque. As a fun fact, it’s the only cathedral in Spain to have been consecrated by a pope.

Its modern design features stunning, brightly colored stained glass windows and ceiling frescoes.

The cathedral also has a small museum about the history of the monument (admission €6).

Madrid Cathedral Almudena
La Almudena Cathedral

D. The Royal Palace of Madrid

Adjacent to the cathedral, you’ll find the Royal Palace, another must-visit during your 3-day trip to Madrid.

The former official residence of the kings of Spain is among the largest and most beautiful palaces in Europe. Although the royal family no longer lives there, it’s still used for official ceremonies and receptions.

Taking a Royal Palace tour (also known as the “Palacio de Oriente”) will allow you to discover over twenty rooms, including:

  • The Royal Armory with its impressive collection of weapons and armor
  • The state rooms, such as the throne room or the ballroom
  • The Royal Chapel, where Stradivarius violins are displayed
  • The Royal Kitchen
  • The Pharmacy
  • The Painting Gallery with 70 works from great Spanish masters

After admiring the striking paintings and decorations inside, don’t miss a stroll in the Sabatini Gardens and the Campo del Moro, located behind the palace as they are also well worth a visit. Entry to the gardens is free.

Voyage Tips - Advice

Skip-the-line tickets for the Madrid Royal Palace are included in the Madrid City Pass.

You can also choose to take a guided tour of the palace. And you know what? This guided tour is so good it comes with a “satisfied or refunded” guarantee!

Book by clicking the green button below:

Royal Palace of Madrid
The Royal Palace of Madrid – Visit Madrid in 3 days

E. The Royal Theatre

Exiting the palace through Plaza de Oriente, you’ll find yourself right in front of the Royal Theatre.

Ranked among the best operas in Europe for its exceptional acoustics, you can take a tour of its interior. You’ll gain access to the boxes, the auditorium, and exhibition halls.

Tickets can be booked directly here.

Or, you might just opt to admire its exterior.

Royal Theatre of Madrid
The Royal Theatre of Madrid

F. San Ginés Chocolaterie

You simply can’t spend 3 days in Madrid without trying the capital’s iconic dessert: a chocolate con churros!

And it just so happens that the best place to enjoy it is only a 5-minute walk from the theater. Yes, I’ve really thought of everything to make your 3-day stay in Madrid perfect! 😆

So, head over to San Ginés Chocolaterie and you must order the fresh churros to dip in thick and creamy chocolate. You’ll thank me later.

Chocolate churros
Yum! Chocolate churros, the quintessential Spanish gourmet break

G. The Temple of Amon

To digest, I then suggest a short 20-minute walk to the Temple of Amon.

From the chocolaterie, first head to Plaza de España, giving you the chance to see one of Madrid’s other famous squares. 

To the west of the square, enter the Mountain Park where the temple, also called “Temple of Debod,” is located. You’ll be surprised to find an Egyptian temple, built in the 2nd century BC.

It was gifted by Egypt to Spain in gratitude for its help in saving (among others) the Temple of Abu Simbel which was threatened by the waters due to the construction of the Aswan High Dam.

Inside, the temple houses a small museum (free of charge) recounting its history and offering insights into Egyptian civilization. Only about twenty people are allowed inside the temple at the same time, so there may be a wait.

Built beside a water expanse, the temple is very photogenic at dusk, when it lights up and reflects on the water.

Voyage Tips - Advice

Feel free to wander around the park to enjoy beautiful views of Madrid, especially of the Royal Palace. At sunset, it’s really nice!

Temple of Debod in Madrid

H. Attend a Flamenco Show

If you’re wondering what to do in Madrid over three evenings, you should definitely attend a flamenco show.

In Madrid, one of the most well-known places to experience this traditional dance and singing performance is Tablao Torres Bermejas. It’s very popular and booking is therefore necessary.

You’ll have a choice of several showtimes. The performance lasts 1 hour.

To book your flamenco evening in Madrid, just click here:

Voyage Tips - Advice

If there’s no availability for this tablao, I also recommend another renowned place: Café Zyriab. They offer a high-quality show, and the setting is more intimate.

You need to book your tickets directly here!

Flamenco Madrid

Day 2 in Madrid: What to Do and See?

Madrid itinerary day 2
Madrid itinerary for day 2

The visits for day 2:

A. Reina Sofia Museum
B. Royal Botanical Garden
C. El Retiro Park
D. Prado National Museum / Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum
E. Cybele Palace
F. Circulo de Bellas Artes

A. Reina Sofia Museum

For your second day of the 72-hour stay in Madrid, start by visiting one of the must-see museums: the Reina Sofia Museum.

You can reach it on foot or by metro (station del arte).

This prestigious museum houses a magnificent collection of contemporary Spanish artworks, with the centerpiece being the famous “Guernica” by Pablo Picasso.

In addition to Picasso, you will also be able to admire works by Dali and Joan Miró.

To visit the museum and avoid lining up at the entrance, you really need to get your skip-the-line tickets in advance by clicking the following button:

And if you prefer having a guided tour of the museum to get all the explanations about the artworks, just click here:

Picasso's Guernica at the Reina Sofia Museum
Guernica, the Picasso painting you can see at the Reina Sofia Museum

B. Royal Botanical Garden

As you leave the museum, reach the Royal Botanical Garden of Madrid in just 5 minutes by foot.

With its hundreds of trees and flowers from around the world, it’s the ideal place to stroll and get some fresh air after the crowded museum halls. Don’t miss the greenhouse with its exotic plants.

The entrance fee to the garden is 6€.

Royal Botanical Garden of Madrid

C. El Retiro Park

After the garden or simply if you don’t feel like paying, you can also wander the paths of El Retiro Park, which has free admission.

The park is huge and you can take the opportunity to discover:

  • The Crystal Palace, a glass pavilion hosting temporary exhibitions – Free access
  • The Statue Walk or “Paseo de la Argentina” with its statues of Spanish monarchs
  • The Great Pond where you can rent boats
  • Velazquez Palace, an annex to the Reina Sofia Museum also housing exhibitions – Free access
  • The Monarch Alphonse XII Monument with its bronze equestrian statue
  • The Rose Garden
  • The Perennial Plant Garden.

Voyage Tips - Advice

Segway tours are also available in the park. It’s the best way to not miss any of the most beautiful places with the help of your guide!

You can book this activity by clicking on the button below:

El Retiro Park Madrid

D. The Prado National Museum or The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

For the next part of the day, I suggest you return to the museum scene, and not just any museum but one of the most important in the world: The Prado National Museum.

It is located next to Retiro Park.

Here too, you can admire remarkable paintings from the 14th to the 19th century. The visit is truly complementary to that of the Reina Sofia Museum in terms of the periods covered.

You will find works by Francisco Goya, Diego Velázquez, and Hieronymus Bosch.

In addition to paintings, you can also enjoy thousands of drawings and prints.

A must-do during your 3-day itinerary in Madrid if you’re an art lover!

Alongside the Prado and the Reina Sofia, there’s another famous museum in Madrid: The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. It is located in the same area as the other two.

Again, people come for paintings by Monet, Gauguin, or Rubens.

You need to purchase your skip-the-line tickets for the Thyssen Museum right here.

To avoid museum fatigue, I recommend you choose between the Prado and the Thyssens, based on your preferences.

Voyage Tips - Advice

Skip-the-line tickets for the Prado Museum are included in the Madrid City Pass.

If you don’t have the pass, the best option is to buy your ticket in advance by clicking the button below:

What to do in Madrid Prado Museum
Prado Museum – A must-visit during your 3-day itinerary in Madrid

E. The Cybele Palace

After your museum visit, stroll along Paseo del Prado to reach the Cybele Palace.

The former Communications Palace is one of Madrid’s most beautiful monuments.

It houses a cultural center which offers free exhibitions but most importantly, provides a beautiful panorama of the city from the restaurant terrace on the sixth floor and from the viewpoint located on the eighth floor.

Access to the viewpoint costs 3€.

Cybele Palace Madrid
Cybele Palace

F. Circulo de Bellas Artes

In the same vein, you can also relax on one of Madrid’s rooftops.

Located a 5-minute walk from the Cybele Palace, the Circulo de Bellas Artes and its terrace offer a 360° view of the capital. The place is really nice with couches and umbrellas, perfect for sipping a drink and enjoying the view.

Expect to pay 5€ for access to the terrace plus the cost of drinks.

Circulo de Bellas Artes Madrid
View from the Circulo de Bellas Artes

Day 3 in Madrid: Places to Visit

Madrid itinerary day 3
3-day Madrid itinerary – 3rd day

Visits for day 3:

A. Santiago Bernabéu Stadium
B. Las Ventas Bullring
C. Shopping in Salamanca
D. Chueca District

A. Santiago Bernabéu Stadium

On the last day, for those interested in football, a visit to the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium is a must during your 3 days in Madrid.

The easiest way to get there is to take the metro to the Santiago station.

During the visit to the Real Madrid club’s stadium, you can walk on the pitch as well as explore the players’ locker rooms and admire the club’s trophies.

You really need to book your tour in advance by clicking the button below:

Santiago Bernabeu Stadium
Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, home of Real Madrid

B. Las Ventas Bullring

Next, take the metro to the Las Ventas stop. You will arrive directly in front of Madrid’s bullring.

Whether you are opposed to bullfighting or not, I still recommend visiting as it is the largest in Spain and its architecture is truly beautiful.

To learn more about this part of Spanish culture and bullfighting, you can also visit the interior of the bullring and the bullfighting museum.

You can book your ticket for Madrid’s bullring + museum + audio guide by clicking here:

Las Ventas Bullring
Las Ventas Bullring

C. Shopping in Salamanca

A 3-day trip to Madrid wouldn’t be complete without a little shopping session!

About 2 km from the bullring (accessible on foot or by metro), head to the Salamanca district.

Along Serrano Street and the perpendicular streets, you’ll find many stores of international brands (Zara, Mango) and luxury boutiques (Vuitton, Gucci).

Voyage Tips - Advice

In the heart of Madrid, you’ll also find a wide selection of shops along Gran Via, the city’s main shopping thoroughfare.

D. Chueca District

If you want to end your three-day Madrid itinerary on a high note, you should spend your last evening in the Chueca district.

This area is the hub of Madrid’s nightlife.

Go have a drink in one of the numerous bars, check out the trendy restaurants and perhaps continue by dancing in a nightclub!

Centro District Madrid

Where to Stay in Madrid

I’ve now given you most of my advice on how to visit Madrid in 3 days!

But there’s one essential step left: booking your hotel. It would be nice to know where you’ll be sleeping during those 3 nights in Madrid.

To help you, I’ve prepared a selection of the best hotels to stay in Madrid:

  • OK Hostel Madrid: Hostel located 700 meters from Plaza Mayor and 200 meters from a metro station. Dormitory bed starting at 16€ per night, breakfast for 3€. Strong points: ideal location, very friendly welcome, cleanliness, and modernity of the dormitories. You can also have a meal for 10€. In short, nothing to complain about, it’s our top pick for value for money! Note that the hostel also offers double rooms starting at 75€ per night.
  • Ibis Madrid Centro Las Ventas: Located next to Madrid’s famous bullfighting arena and 100 meters from a metro station. Spacious and modern rooms starting at 60€ per night with an additional breakfast option for 7.95€. Strong points: views of the bullfighting arena from the rooms, very substantial breakfast buffet.
  • B&B Hotel Puerta del Sol: Ideally located 100 meters from Puerta del Sol and 400 meters from Plaza Mayor. Very quiet and comfortable rooms starting at 89€ per night with a breakfast bag (water, fruit, and chocolate pastries) included every morning. Strong points: free drinks and fruit available 24/7, perfect location, and lovely staff.
  • Only YOU Hotel Atocha: Located right next to El Retiro Park. Comfortable, spacious, and stylish double room starting at 190€ per night, breakfast for 21€. Strong points: beautiful hotel, attentive staff, extensive breakfast options, location (10 minutes walk from the center and airport shuttle 5 minutes away), decor, ambiance. It’s the perfect choice for a luxury stay in Madrid!
Voyage Tips - Advice

Are these hotels fully booked or not exactly what you’re looking for?

You should read my other article featuring a wider selection of accommodations. Very conveniently, the hotels are sorted by neighborhood and budget.

You just have to click here to read it: The Best Hotels to Stay in Madrid.

Visiting Madrid in 3 Days with Family

For those who have planned to visit Madrid with family for 3 days, no worries. The Spanish capital is very well suited for this type of stay.

Since it’s not very extensive, there are no long distances to travel and everything can be easily done on foot or by metro.

Among the family-friendly activities for 72 hours in Madrid, I’m sure they will love:

  • The trip to San Miguel Market, especially if they can taste everything!
  • The visit to the Royal Palace with its sparkling rooms. The armory will appeal to both big and small boys!
  • Tasting churros and chocolate
  • A walk in Retiro Park
  • The stadium tour
  • Discovering the animals at the zoo, which can be easily included in the last day’s program.

You can also choose to spend a day at Warner Park, an amusement park near Madrid. Information and bookings by clicking here!

San Miguel Market Madrid
Stall at San Miguel Market

More Things to Do and See in Madrid in 3 Days

And there you have my itinerary for visiting Madrid in 3 days!

If you wish to include other activities or are looking for more places to visit, you should also read my article entirely dedicated to Madrid.

This complete guide to the Spanish capital includes all the things to do and see so you can finish your 3-day holiday in Madrid having seen all the must-see attractions.

To read it, just click on the following link: What to Do in Madrid? The Ultimate Guide!

Map of Your 3-Day Itinerary in Madrid

To help you visualize your itineraries for these 3 days in Madrid, I’ve created a map listing the places to visit day by day. You can display the map legend by clicking the button at the top left with a little arrow. You will then be able to see the routes for each day.

Heading to Madrid for 3 Days: Flight Prices

Since flight prices to Madrid can vary greatly, it’s a good idea to compare them as soon as possible. To do this, you can use our flight comparison tool, in partnership with Skyscanner. It’s the guarantee to get the best rate.

Do you need help organizing your 3-day itinerary in Madrid? Feel free to ask me any questions in the comments.

Book your trip now and save money!

You’re traveling in Spain? These articles will help you!

Discover all my articles about Spain: All my articles to help you plan your trip to Spain are listed there.

You’re using Pinterest? Here is the picture to pin!

Best places to visit in Madrid in 3 days
Best places to visit in Madrid in 3 days

Creator of the Voyage Tips blog, travel and photography lover. I give you all my best tips to plan your next trip.

Leave A Reply