Planning a trip to Madrid? Get some inspiration on what to do while you’re there with our idea of a perfect three-day itinerary. History, culture, entertainment, restaurants… Pack it all in at a comfortable pace and don’t miss a thing!
Start your weekend in Madrid at the Prado Museum, which showcases extraordinary artworks collected by the Habsburg and Bourbon royal families. There, take the time to admire the paintings of Goya, Velázquez and Rubens, to name but a few of the renowned artists exhibited. In total, the stunning collection features over 8,000 canvases, 6,400 drawings and nearly 1,000 sculptures. Exceptional pieces are spread over approximately 42,000 square metres of gallery space, making the Prado the largest collection of paintings in Europe.
Afterwards, head to the colourful Mercado Antón Martin to try some of the finest local produce. At the market, taste some oysters and delicious seafood dishes at the casual El Tarantin de Lucía stall. Your weekend in Madrid is already off to a great start!
Then, begin the afternoon in the peaceful setting of Retiro Park and take a walk in one of Madrid’s most beautiful green spaces. The park’s 125 hectares and splendid botanical heritage make it beloved by locals and visitors alike. Enjoy a moment of calm walking through the Garden of Perennials or take a boat ride on the large lake where you can discover remarkable sculptures and fountains. There you will see the extraordinary statue of El Ángel Caído (The Fallen Angel) by Ricardo Bellver, one of the world’s first sculpted representations of the devil.
For the first evening of your weekend in Madrid, head to La Latina, an authentic barrio (neighbourhood) that locals love for its charming small squares and numerous tapas bars. After, walk via Plaza de La Plaja or Plaza del Humilladero to enjoy a beer before dinner at the excellent restaurant Casa Lucio. In this superb eatery, taste traditional huevos estrellados, a typical Spanish dish consisting of eggs fried in olive oil, delicately ‘broken up’ and spread over fried potatoes, and served with charcuterie.
The next day, start with a traditional Madrileño breakfast at Café de Oriente Palacio Real. Make sure to have at least one tostada, toasted bread topped with tomato and olive oil, which is the height of Spanish simplicity and has an incomparable flavour. Pair this breakfast dish with orange juice and churros for a hearty meal before visiting the stunning Royal Palace of Madrid.
This extraordinary building, one of the largest palaces in Europe, dates back to antiquity and was extended and renovated in 1537. Still the official residence of the Spanish royal family, exploring this remarkable building takes you on a journey through the history of the country. The palace’s nearly 2,800 rooms showcase the splendour of past centuries. Marvel at the immense main esplanade, the throne room (complete with a sublime Tiepolo fresco that adorns the ceiling), and the Gasparini room, with its superb décor inspired by the natural world. Finish your visit by seeing the changing of the guard, which takes place on Wednesdays and Saturdays around midday.
When you exit the palace, discover the remarkable Almudena Cathedral, which has two towers and a beautiful façade. This building took over 100 years to construct, and was officially finished in 1993. The current King Felipe VI of Spain, a descendant of the Bourbon dynasty, and his wife, Letizia Ortiz, were married in 2004 in this impressive Baroque building.
After exploring these wonderful buildings, start the afternoon in the Sol district. First, head to Casa del Abuelo for a late lunch and discover the warm atmosphere of this fantastic tapas bar. This ‘Grandpa’s House’ with antique décor serves delicious snacks like garlic shrimp (gambas al ajillo) and other tapas packed full of fantastic flavours in a welcoming setting.
After a bite to eat, head to Puerta del Sol square to feel the beating heart of Madrid. Discover the statue of the Bear and the Strawberry Tree, a symbol of the city, as well as the impressive equestrian statue of Charles III of Spain. On this square, thousands of locals gather every year to celebrate New Year’s Eve, with the revelry commencing when the city’s clock tower strikes twelve.
Start your evening around this area, which is the capital’s bustling hub from dawn until dusk. For a truly memorable night, head into one of the nearby taverns, such as Malaspina, and the welcoming staff will show you Madrid’s party spirit as the sun falls and the streets really come to life.
Start the last day of your weekend in Madrid by heading to Plaza Mayor. Surrounded by granite arcades and a completely pedestrianised area, the unusual architecture and grand dimensions of this main square are sure to impress. The plaza is accessible from nine different entrance points and standing in the centre gives you a 360-degree view of the elegant and colourful façades which encircle the 17th-century statue of King Philip III. A historic square dating back over 400 years and one of Madrid's defining locations, Plaza Mayor is the ideal place to observe how the locals live. Get into the spirit by enjoying a laidback cup of coffee.
After that, head further north towards the famous Gran Vía, a lively district full of exciting things to see and do. Enjoy shopping in the markets and major stores such as El Corte Inglés, a gigantic department store which sells the best products the country has to offer, from fashion to gastronomy.
In the afternoon, it’s time to enjoy some art at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, which has an extraordinary collection featuring a thousand works of art bought by the Spanish state from the eponymous family in 1993. Situated in the heart of Villahermosa Palace, this is a great example of the Neo-Classical Madrileño architecture that is the city’s defining style. A great way to finish off your weekend in Madrid, this is one of the city’s biggest museums and has a varied collection of masterpieces. Rubens’ Venus and Cupid sits next to Dalí’s A Dream Caused by the Flight of A Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Waking, for example, to give an idea of the quality found here.
The last evening of your stay in Madrid should beat to the rhythm of flamenco. This dance, originating from the Andalusia region, is given pride of place in Madrid with the Las Carboneras restaurant offering exceptional dinner dances. This is the perfect way to discover this art with the superb performances accompanied by a selection of carefully prepared local specialities. Reserve your tickets well in advance to make sure you get a seat for your preferred show.
You can explore Madrid in three days, but this mini break will likely only want to make you extend your stay and immerse yourself even further into the lives of the locals and to soak up their infectious energy. Madrid is a capital that truly knows how to live, where all generations gather in the streets day in, day out, until late each night, and you’ll find a warm, convivial atmosphere wherever you go. Situated in the heart of Spain, you’re sure to fall for this exciting, vibrant and charming metropolis.