Madrid may well be a European capital, it remains a city on a human scale. It is possible to visit it without taking the metro once! The best way to discover a city is to stroll, get lost in its streets.
In this article, I suggest a program to visit Madrid in 3 days. With this itinerary, you will have a global overview of the city with its main districts to visit as well as the must-sees not to be missed.
Day 1: the hyper-center and its essentials
To start this long weekend in Madrid, I suggest you focus on visiting the hyper-center and the western part of the city.
For this 1st day, we start the visit from the Plaza Mayor. Why ? because it is a very touristic place and it is more pleasant to go there early in the morning to enjoy the tranquility of the place. This place is splendid and deserves that we dwell on each of its details and its statue of Felipe III in the center.Interior of Mercado San Miguel
Then direction the San Miguel Market, you can then have a little “solo coffee” (an espresso) before starting your day. This will allow you to put you in the Spanish atmosphere, and observe the magnificent architecture of the place. Generally, I recommend going to Mercado San Miguel more for its atmosphere than for its tapas. I do not generally recommend that you eat there for lunch because the prices are quite expensive, although the tapas are nicely presented: it is true that it makes you want to taste it.
Once your stomach is full, head for Calle Mayor to go down to Royal Palace and the Cathédrale Almudena. I highly recommend a visit to the Palace: it is incredible, and it is really a must if you visit Madrid in 3 days. On the other hand, remember to book your tickets before going there, you will have an assigned time slot.The Royal Palace of Madrid
If you have the time and the inclination, you can also go on a visit to Cathedral, right next door: admission is free. A little tip if you want to know more about the Cathedral, it's visit its crypt in the basement. This visit is little known and yet free (on donation). Entrance is on Calle Mayor going down towards Campo del Moro. A surprising visit.
You can make a lunch break near the Teatro Real. You will find there many restaurants with beautiful terraces. If you are looking for more typical addresses, I recommend that you look for small, no-frills bars, in general, these are where you eat the best tapas. You can venture into the small streets around Plaza Isabel II to find one.
Continue your afternoon going up the Gran Via, while doing a little shopping if you wish: you will find all the biggest Spanish brands there, but not just that. At the very end you will come to Plaza de España, which is currently under renovation but you can admirer l'Edificio Spain who dominates it.
Spain building in Madrid
Former emblem of the Franco era, this building has now been rehabilitated into a hotel. We find there on the top floor the most spectacular rooftop in Madrid with its unique 360 ° view. There is an entrance fee, but you can have a drink up there and sip a cocktail in a lounge atmosphere. For the more adventurous, you can try to go over the transparent catwalk!
To end this 1st day, we recommend that you end it at West Park. You can admire the fabulous Templo de Debod but above all attend the most beautiful sunset from the Montaña viewpoint.The temple of Debod at night
Day 2: culture and relaxation in Madrid
For this second day in Madrid, we will discover the eastern part of the Spanish capital with its museums and its large park.
I recommend that you start the day with visit one of the museums from Paseo Del Arte: Prado, Reina Sofia, Thyssen… the choice is vast. After this cultural moment, place to relax, for that direction the Buen Retiro Park. If you like to walk, you can enter the Rétiro by Calle Claudio Moyano to see the book merchants.
The Prado museum
You can take the opportunity to stop to eat at Tinto y Tapas in Caixa Forum street. A great place to eat inexpensively and fresh!
Retiro Park is really very big and you can visit it several times. First, you will pass the lake filled with rowing boats, the main place of interest of this park. Then dig into the park a bit and you discover the most beautiful glass castle in Madrid : the Palacio de Cristal. It is an extension of the Reina Sofia museum, so there may be a temporary exhibition.The Palacio de Cristal in Retiro Park
If you like visiting museums, there is also the Palacio Velàzquez which offers temporary exhibitions: entry is free.
Once you have visited Retiro Park, I recommend that you exit by Calle de Alcala in order to see the monument Puerta Alcala which has a slight resemblance to the Arc de Triomphe.
End your day by discovering the Palacio de Cibeles and its magnificent fountain representing Cybele, goddess of the Earth on her chariot.
After the effort, the comfort, I recommend that you go and rest in a rooftop to sip a cocktail or a Tinto de Verano in a very lounge atmosphere: the Circulo Bellas Artes. This is where you will have the best view of the Metropolis.Traditional Spanish cocktail, Tinto de Verano
Then, you are close to the city center, you can take the opportunity to end your day in front of a Flamenco show or see one of the most beautiful musicals in Madrid: El Rey Léon.
Day 3: through the districts of the city
To end this 3-day itinerary in Madrid, I suggest you explore the city through its different neighborhoods with different atmospheres.
I invite you to start your day by going to have breakfast at Corte Inglés de Callao. Meet on the top floor of this department store which could be compared to Printemps chez nous in France. You can then taste a good Pan con Tomate while admiring the view of the Gran Via. If the sun is out, you can also enjoy the terrace.
Then direction the hyper center of Madrid, where we will first discover the Malasaña district. Malasaña is a district apart from Madrid, the most bohemian, but also symbol of the Movida movement in the 80s.Street in Malasaña district
Vintage stores reflect retro style, but also the tree-lined streets, colored with hints of street-art, transports us to a bohemian chic atmosphere. The starting point for a visit to this district is generally in the Plaza del Dos de Mayo, a true symbol of the history of this district where you will find more Madrid residents than tourists. You can walk all the streets around this square to soak up the atmosphere, you will most likely come across a wall of flowery shoes!
Then join the second most diverse district of Madrid in the city: the Chueca district. Recognized for being the Gay district, you will of course find some crazy shops or restaurants but also the San Anton Market where we recommend you to eat! Meet on the second floor for choose your meal from many tapas stands.Eating at the San Antón Market
After strolling through the streets of La Chueca, head towards Calle Fuencarral to arrive behind the famous monument: Telefonica. With its New York style of building, this building was the 1st building built in Spain.
Then head south of the city through the emblematic Puerta del Sol! From this place you can rejoindre the Barrio de las Letras. You know you're there when you spot quotes on the ground. Literary Quarter of the Golden Age, it is in the most important streets that you have to go: Calle de las Huertas or Calle de Alvarez Gato to end in Plaza Santa-Ana.The Plaza Santa-Ana dans the Barrio de las Letras
Finally to end the day, go to the Latina district to celebrate your weekend in Madrid, as well as enjoy the atmosphere, going from bar to tapas bar. In this district you will find something to occupy you all night long! Festive atmosphere guaranteed to end this 3-day stay in Madrid.
Madrid in 3 days, or more if you have an affinity ...
I hope you like this itinerary to visit Madrid in 3 days. After that, you will have seen the essential points of the city while enjoying the culture of Madrid. But if you have a little more time, I strongly advise you to go explore the more unusual places. It is said here that Madrid cannot be visited but it is lived!