3 days in Madrid: If you’ve typed these words into a search engine, you’re in the right place. Indeed, I lived in the Spanish capital for 8 years before becoming a digital nomad. And it’s still my home since I have my business, my belongings, and most of my friends there. Every summer, I return home and continue to explore this city that is constantly changing and always has new things to offer! Not to brag, but I know the city quite well, so follow me if you want to discover it for the first time!

Madrid in a nutshell

Madrid, the capital of Spain, is located in the center of the country, making it a perfect base for exploring the rest of the territory.

Although it lacks the sea, the city is close to the Sierra Norte, the Manzanares River runs through it, and numerous parks allow the 3 million inhabitants to connect with nature…

It also houses most of the country’s political institutions, including the royal residence, the seat of government, and the Parliament.

Of course, the city has changed since I came to settle here.

Social inequalities have increased, it has become very (too) touristy, gentrification has made rents unaffordable for locals, bars for Erasmus students have multiplied forcing longtime local establishments to close, but the city that never sleeps has managed to retain its castizo charm, its neighborhoods have preserved their village souls, and it has so much to offer culturally, gastronomically, and more.

3 days in Madrid

Of course, you can discover the essentials of the city in a day, but I recommend staying for at least 3 days to really get a feel for it. And there’s nothing stopping you from spending more time to get to know it more deeply and explore the surrounding region.

Day 1: Classic Sightseeing

Plaza de España

After breakfast at your hotel or one of the nearby cafes around Plaza de España, it’s time to start day 1 of your stay.

Recently renovated, it’s a bit of a mix between a square and a park. The statues of Don Quijote and Sancho Plaza proudly stand there. While snapping a picture of them, your gaze will surely be drawn to the iconic building in the area: the RUI hotel.

Once the tallest building in the capital, it now welcomes tourists from around the world. At the very top, there’s a terrace accessible to all who purchase tickets, offering a 360-degree view. It’s a great plan for the end of the day.

Madrid en 3 jours

Gran vía

From there, head to the central artery of the city, Gran Via, the equivalent of the Champs-Élysées and formerly known as the Spanish Broadway. Unfortunately, cinemas and theaters have gradually given way to clothing and fast food chains.

It’s time for shopping and finding some good deals. One of Real Madrid’s stores is on this street, as well as Primark. Even if you’re not a fan of fast fashion, still step into the building. It’s quite impressive.

Gran Via can be visited during the day, but also at night, when the sidewalks have emptied of tourists and employees who work there.

Madrid en 3 jours
Madrid en 3 jours

Plaza de Callao

Callao is one of the busiest squares in the world and one of the main meeting points for locals in Madrid. At night, the square takes on the atmosphere of Times Square.

Several iconic buildings coexist here, including the Callao cinema, the Palacio de la Prensa, and the Carrion building, known for its Schweppes neon sign that illuminates the avenue at night.

Madrid en 3 jours
Madrid en 3 jours
Madrid en 3 jours

Metropolis Building

As you continue down Gran Vía, you’ll naturally come to the Metropolis building, another must-see! With its eclectic style, its French inspiration is clear. It’s not surprising when you know that two French architects imagined it!

From here, you’ll need to continue your journey along Calle Alcalá.

Madrid en 3 jours

Palacio Cibeles

You can’t miss it, you’ll see it from afar. The Palacio de Cibeles stands tall, dressed all in white. Its construction began in 1907.

12 years later, it was inaugurated and began its life as the headquarters of the Spanish Post and Telegraph Society. Its majesty is captivating. It’s possible to go up to the top to enjoy the view.

This monument, which is also my favorite, is nowadays the seat of the Madrid City Hall. You’ll also see the Cibeles Fountain there. Beneath it lies the gold guarded by the Bank of Spain. It’s also a somewhat special place, as several ghosts are said to haunt the surrounding buildings.

Madrid en 3 jours

Banco de España

Across from it, you can admire the Banco de España, and you’ll see that the building doesn’t really resemble the one from “Money Heist” 😉

Established in 1782, it’s part of the European System of Central Banks.

Puerta de Alcala

Very close to here is the Puerta de Alcala. This monumental gate was one of the 5 ancient royal gates that provided access to the city of Madrid.

Be attentive, the two sides of the gate are quite distinct. Take a moment to observe the bullet impacts inherited from the civil war.

You may be tempted to go to the Parque del Retiro, which is just a stone’s throw away, but be patient, we’ll go there tomorrow.

Madrid en 3 jours
Madrid en 3 jours

Barrio de Las Letras

It’s time for a break, isn’t it?

Explore the Barrio de las Letras. Many Spanish literature authors lived in its streets and frequented its bars.

It’s the perfect place to find a traditional bar and admire its azulejos, with a glass of vermouth in hand.

Order some tapas, I recommend los pimientos del padrón, las patatas bravas, and las croquetas.

Don’t have dessert! I’ll take you further to a legendary spot for something sweet!

Madrid en 3 jours
Madrid en 3 jours

Puerta del Sol

Once your stomach is full, head to Sol, the main square of Madrid.

This is where people meet, near the Oso y el Madroño, the emblem of Madrid.

Look up, and admire the Tio Pepe sign and the clock of the Casa del Sol, which announces the New Year every December 31st, while we try not to choke on our 12 grapes eaten to the sound of the bells.

Now, lower your gaze and look for the Kilometro 0. This is where all the streets of Spain start. Have you found it?

You deserve your dessert now. Do you see the bakery on the corner with the sign La Mallorquina?

Go in and have a napolitana with chocolate (or cream). It’s not as good as a pain au chocolat, but it’s typically Spanish.

Madrid en 3 jours
Madrid en 3 jours
Madrid en 3 jours

Plaza de Oriente

Walk to Opera and continue straight ahead to reach Plaza de Oriente.

Surely one of the prettiest and most pleasant squares in the city. It is bordered on each side by the Opera and the Royal Palace.

These historic artistic gardens invite you to relax for a moment in the shade of their trees. In the center of the square stands a statue depicting Felipe IV, considered the first equestrian statue supported only by the hind legs of the horse.

Madrid en 3 jours

Royal Palace

You’ve probably already spotted the Royal Palace, open for visits every day. Be prepared to wait in line, but it’s a must-see, even if I have to be honest with you: I’ve never been inside.

It is the largest royal palace in Western Europe, with 135,000 square meters and 3,418 rooms. Although it is the official residence of the King, don’t expect to see him around here, he doesn’t live there.

Madrid en 3 jours

Almudena Cathedral

Upon exiting, visit the Almudena Cathedral. This is where Felipe and Letizia got married in 2004. The interior of this bright building is surprisingly modern. Take a close look at its stained-glass windows.

The first plans were drawn up in 1879. Four years later, the first stone was laid. The plans changed, and the project became more ambitious, but its architect passed away.

The aesthetic criteria of the time were no longer the same. Another cathedral was envisioned, and it was finally completed in 1960.

Madrid en 3 jours
Madrid en 3 jours
Madrid en 3 jours

Templo de Debod

You’re probably thinking you’ve walked enough for today, and you’re right. So, I suggest taking a break to admire the sunset.

You could head to Parque del Oeste, take a stroll to the Templo de Debod, a gift from Egypt to Spain in gratitude for helping save the temples of Nubia, and admire the nightfall from there.

Another option is to head to one of the rooftops overlooking Gran Via, Callao, or Plaza de España, and mingle with the locals while sipping on a glass of tinto de verano or sangria.

Before heading back to your accommodation, you have plenty of options for dinner, from major burger chains to pizzerias, or more traditional restaurants where you can sample Spanish cuisine. I’m sure you’ll find something to satisfy your appetite.

3 days in Madrid: Would you prefer to visit the must-see attractions with a guide?

Here are 3 options for you:

Day 2: Museum Day

Atocha Jungle

To start the day off right, have some churros con chocolate for breakfast. Forget about the crowded Chocolatería San Ginés where all the tourists gather and opt for a small bar where locals go to have lunch for less than €3.

Take the metro towards Atocha train station. The famous Spanish station houses a mini-jungle. The visit will take you 2 minutes. Nothing extraordinary, but the surprising aspect of the place is worth a quick visit.

visiter Madrid

Reina Sofia Museum

From Atocha, you will head to the Reina Sofia Museum.

This former hospital-turned museum of modern and contemporary art sometimes hosts truly incredible, bizarre, and surprising exhibitions. You will surely be captivated by one of them.

Most visitors come here especially to see one of Picasso’s most famous and moving works: Gernika.

visiter Madrid
visiter Madrid

El Prado Museum

Continue your visit to the most famous Spanish museum in the world: the Prado.

My advice? Don’t try to see everything. It’s a huge place, and attempting to see it all is unnecessary and can even become boring.

So stick to the works of your favorite artists, and if you still have the desire and time, wander around randomly.

If you can’t see everything, don’t stress about it. Velazquez, Goya, Sorolla, El Bosco, and all the others will be there for your next visit.

visiter Madrid

El Retiro park

Near the museums, you’ll find a wide culinary offer, mostly dominated by restaurant chains.

If that’s not really your cup of tea, you can head to a supermarket to buy some picnic supplies before enjoying it in the shade of a tree in Retiro Park.

The most popular park in the city is perfect for people-watching tourists and locals jogging. Once your meal is digested and your legs are well-rested (take your time, there’s no rush), start exploring the famous park.

The Crystal Palace is an incredible monument that you’ll want to capture. Also, take a look at the nearby Velazquez Palace.

You can decide to continue your cultural visit with the Thyssen Museum, for example. The perfect place for art lovers. This museum of ancient, modern, and contemporary art is located a few meters from the park and houses numerous works, from Titian to Jackson Pollock, including Monet and Chagall. Guided tours are available to explore the place.

This isn’t the only option to continue your cultural day; you can also visit the Anthropology Museum, which is nearby, or any other museum.

Another equally interesting option is to continue your relaxation break by rowing on the Retiro Park pond and exploring more of the park’s charming corners.


Flamenco Show

After such an intense day, return to your accommodation and enjoy this moment of calm before heading out to dinner at one of the many tablaos.

Even though flamenco originates from Andalusia, you’ll be delighted to attend a show while dining on typical dishes.

Even if you’re not fascinated by this art form, I highly recommend attending a performance. The artists’ performances are usually quite impressive.

El Tablao de la Vila de Madrid and El Tablao las Carboneras are two of the most renowned places to enjoy a flamenco show.

With that said, rest well because today has been quite full. Tomorrow, we’ll continue exploring Madrid, and I promise it will be lighter.



Let’s imagine it’s Sunday, heading to Lavapies for breakfast. Cafés abound in this neighborhood where immigrants, trendy artists, and working-class Spaniards coexist.

To wash down your meal, take a stroll through the sloping streets to discover the numerous street art pieces that cover its walls and observe its multicultural population, unknowingly giving a true lesson in coexistence.

Now you’re ready to wander through El Rastro, the city’s flea market. It can be overwhelming because of the crowds, but it remains a must-visit during a 3-day trip to Madrid, and who knows?

You might find a rare gem among all those ancient vases, dusty magazines, portraits of Franco, and eerie dolls.

La Latina

From Lavapiés, we move on to La Latina. Get lost in its streets and take the opportunity to choose the restaurant where you’ll have lunch. Again, you have plenty of options.

There are tons of restaurants awaiting you. A huge tortilla de patata, pintxos, platos combinados… Sit down on the terrace and enjoy your meal.

Madrid de las Austrias

For optimal digestion, head to the Madrid de los Austrias. This is the oldest part of Madrid, corresponding to the medieval original layout of the city and the urban expansion that began with the monarchs of the Casa de Austria.

It’s a fairly large area, but we’ll only explore a small part of it, between the Basilica San Francisco, Plaza de la Villa, Palacio de Santa Cruz, and Basilica de San Miguel.

Plaza Mayor

It’s not a neighborhood, but a must-visit: the Plaza Mayor, one of the iconic places in the city.

This square has seen it all: bullfights, Inquisition executions, equestrian tournaments… Today, many events are organized here.

It’s also where the largest Christmas market is held every year (no need to come specifically to see it, it’s not worth it).

The building that attracts the most attention is the Casa de la Panadería and its painted façade.


It’s time to head to the northern part of Madrid and cross Gran Via to taste one of the many trendy spots in Malasaña.

In the 1980s, the neighborhood witnessed the Movida madrileña. There are still some remnants of that era, even though the neighborhood has lost some of its soul over time.

Today, it’s mainly a collection of trendy shops and cafés. Indulge in some Japanese ice cream or matcha tea. Malasaña is also an excellent neighborhood to discover small creators.


Finish your 3-day visit to Madrid with another iconic neighborhood, Chueca. Known as the city’s gay district, it’s also a fantastic area for enjoying a drink on a terrace.

Before choosing the restaurant for your final dinner, whether it’s Thai, Mexican, fusion, or another cuisine, take a stroll through its charming streets.

And don’t leave the neighborhood or Madrid without one last cocktail or cubata.

What to visit around Madrid?

I love Madrid, and I could spend entire days exploring its most beautiful and unique corners, but I also have to advise you to discover the nearby cities.

If you can spend a little more time in the Spanish capital, here are 7 destinations not to be missed:

  • Segovia and its aqueduct
  • Toledo, the sublime medieval city
  • Avila and its impressive city walls
  • Salamanca, the magnificent university city
  • Alcala de Henares, the city of Cervantes
  • Guadalajara, the perfect village for a getaway
  • Chinchon, one of the most beautiful villages in the country

When to SPEND 3 DAYS IN Madrid?

Visiting Madrid is possible throughout the year. However, depending on your climate preferences, there are two periods to avoid.

From December to February, temperatures in Madrid can be very cold, making it less enjoyable for walking around the city. Additionally, you may not be able to fully appreciate its parks and outdoor terraces.

From June to August, temperatures can soar close to 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), and often remain high even during the night. If you’re sensitive to heat, this period can be challenging.

The months of April, May, and September are generally the best times to visit, as they offer pleasant weather with mild temperatures, making it ideal for exploring the city and enjoying outdoor activities.

Comment se rendre à Madrid ?

Most capital cities in Europe and Latin America, as well as major cities in the United States, offer direct flights, among other options. So, getting to Madrid by plane is very easy.

If you’re traveling on a tighter budget, many bus lines connect the Spanish capital with neighboring countries. Click here to find out which ones.

If you’re already in Spain, numerous bus and train companies connect Madrid with the rest of the country.

Of course, you can also travel to Madrid by car, although navigating the city might be a bit more challenging. Nevertheless, it’s still an interesting option if you want to explore the region.

If you don’t have your own vehicle, many companies offer rental services. Be sure to compare prices from different rental agencies!

How to get around in Madrid?

The city center of Madrid is quite small, and you can easily visit everything by foot. However, if you can’t walk too much or if you’re staying outside the tourist center, you can use the comprehensive transportation system.

To use the metro, you’ll need to buy a rechargeable transport card. This transport system is very convenient as it covers the entire city and is easy to use.

You can also take buses with this card or pay for single tickets directly to the driver. Buses are serving every corner of the city, and they are very easy to use.

Finally, the Cercanías trains will allow you to travel a bit further and even explore cities like Guadalajara or Alcala de Henares.

Where to Stay in Madrid?

If you want to spend only 3 days in Madrid, it’s best to stay in the city center.

Madrid has undergone significant gentrification. Real estate prices have skyrocketed, making it difficult for locals to afford living there. Personally, after years in the city center, including 2 years living in a studio, I can no longer afford to live there and am forced to live farther away in shared accommodation.

Locals are not only losing their homes but also their social lives, access to medical care, and more. This situation is particularly challenging for the elderly.

As travelers, we also bear responsibility for the rising rents. A home in a city where the cost of living is lower than in our own country may seem inexpensive to us but could be exorbitant for locals.

Before choosing accommodation, especially on Airbnb, research the actual costs of local living and seek options that are fair to the community.

Also, avoid staying in neighborhoods already heavily affected by gentrification, such as Malasaña, Lavapiés, La Latina, and Usera.

Be a digital nomad in Madrid

With its co-working spaces and co-living accommodations, Madrid is an excellent destination for digital nomads.

Its vibrant cultural and nightlife scene adds even more appeal. It’s also easy to meet other remote workers in the city.

The Spanish government has also launched a visa for digital nomads who wish to stay in the country for an extended period to enjoy all its attractions.

However, digital nomadism contributes significantly to gentrification in the city. Therefore, it’s essential to be responsible if you decide to settle in Madrid. You can learn more about the relationship between digital nomads and gentrification here.

Responsible travel in Madrid

Traveling responsibly is essentially both in Madrid and in any other city. Protecting the planet and local populations should be a priority both at home and while traveling.

Here are some ideas for responsible tourism actions:

1. Learn about local recycling guidelines and follow them.
2. Opt for takeaway containers if you don’t finish your meal at a restaurant.
3. Use public transportation whenever possible.
4. In summer, use air conditioning conservatively.
5. Take short showers and request that your accommodation not change towels daily.
6. Shop at local markets.
7. Avoid consuming at large restaurant chains.
8. Purchase souvenirs that are genuinely useful.
9. Shop at designer boutiques rather than fast-fashion chains.
10. Avoid vomiting and urinating in the streets. This is a real issue in the streets of central Madrid.

Travel as a POC in Madrid

As individuals from racialized backgrounds, we all have different experiences, and of course, my experience is far from universal. I am of South Asian origin and lived continuously for 8 years in Madrid, experiencing microaggressions only about a dozen times.

Even though that’s too many, compared to other places, it’s a relatively peaceful city for racialized individuals in my opinion. However, in the more upscale neighborhoods, I am sometimes uncomfortable due to persistent stares, but this remains a small part of the city.

I hope this article will inspire you if you plan to stay 3 days in Madrid, the city that I consider my home and that truly has a lot to offer to anyone who wants to discover it. If you found this content helpful, feel free to share it on Pinterest!

3 days in Madrid
3 days in Madrid
3 days in Madrid

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