Madrid is one of the best places to visit in Spain (in Spanish, España) as well as one of the best cities to visit in Europe. Located in the “heart” of the country, the capital of Spain and the Community of Madrid (in Spanish, Comunidad de Madrid) is a perfect destination for art lovers and collectors of UNESCO World Heritage Sites!
In this Madrid itinerary, you’ll notice that the city is very dynamic and sophisticated, where the green spaces are perfectly maintained and the passion for fine arts is more than evident. And, despite its considerable size, Madrid concentrates its main points of tourist interest very close to each other, which makes it one of the few European capitals that can be explored on foot!
So, do you want to know more about 3 Days In Madrid: The Perfect Madrid Itinerary? Keep reading!
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- Brief History of Madrid
- Visiting Madrid
- Madrid Itinerary – Day 1
- Madrid Itinerary – Day 2
- Madrid Itinerary – Day 3
- Map of the Madrid Itinerary
Brief History of Madrid
The human presence in Madrid dates back to the prehistoric period, as evidenced by some artifacts found in archaeological excavations. But its history as a city began in the 9th century when the emir Mohammed I of Córdoba had a palace built: the Royal Alcázar of Madrid (in Spanish, Real Alcázar de Madrid).
In 1085, already in the midst of the Christian Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula, the region of Madrid was conquered by King Alfonso VI of León and became part of the Kingdom of Castile. As a result, the settlement began to grow prosperously and quickly became a town, receiving a charter from King Alfonso VIII of Castile in 1202.
Interestingly, Madrid only gained the status of capital of Spain in 1561, when King Philip II transferred the court from Toledo. Nevertheless, after that, it became one of the great centers of the so-called “Siglo de Oro” (or “Spanish Golden Century”), together with Seville, Toledo, Valencia, Valladolid, and Zaragoza.
In the following centuries, Madrid continued to develop by the order of its monarchs. One of them was King Charles III, who hired the architects Ventura Rodríguez, Francesco Sabatini, and Juan de Villanueva to design all kinds of buildings and infrastructures. And many of these public works are included in this Madrid itinerary!
As I mentioned in the introduction, Madrid is quite a big city, but perfectly possible to walk around. And proof of that is this Madrid itinerary, where you can discover the best things to do in the Spanish capital in three days, by walking just 1-2 km a day!
Even so, if you prefer to travel by public transportation, you can do it by metro, bus, or suburban train. And, of course, there are other more or less conventional means of transportation, such as taxis, tourist buses, or even electric bicycles!
TIP: If you can extend your stay in Madrid by 1 or 2 more days, I suggest you go on a day trip! The most popular destinations to visit around Madrid are Toledo (72 km) and Segóvia (91 km), as well as the Monastery and Site of the Escurial (46 km) and the Royal Palace of Aranjuez (48 km)!
Madrid Itinerary – Day 1
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
This Madrid itinerary starts at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (or Queen Sofia National Museum Art Center, in English), the most important modern art museum in Spain and one of the best museums in Europe! You can find it about 750 meters from Estación de Atocha, the country’s main train station.
The main masterpieces of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía include “Guernica” by Pablo Picasso, “The Musician’s Table” by Juan Gris and “The Great Masturbator” by Salvador Dalí, but the works by Pablo Gargallo, Joan Miró, Benjamín Palencia, and Eduardo Chillida are also worth admiring.
The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía is open every day (except on Tuesdays), from 10 am to 9 pm (on Mondays and from Wednesday to Saturday) or from 10 am to 2:30 pm (on Sundays). Tickets cost €12 (adults), but admission is free for children under 18, students up to 25, and seniors over 65.
TIP: Don’t forget to confirm all the practical information on the official website of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, before making your purchase!
Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid
The Royal Botanical Garden of Madrid (in Spanish, Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid) is the ideal place to relax and unwind after a visit to such a popular tourist attraction as the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. In fact, I tried to create a Madrid itinerary in which the great museums and monuments were interspersed with outdoor spaces (gardens, parks, squares, etc.)!
The Real Botanical Garden of Madrid is open every day from 10 am to 6 pm (in January, February, November, and December), from 10 am to 7 pm (in March and October), from 10 am to 8 pm (in April and September), or from 10 am to 9 pm (from May to August).
As far as tickets are concerned, they cost €4 (Gardens) or €6 (Gardens + Villanueva Pavilion), although there’s a reduced fare of €1 (Gardens) or €3 (Gardens + Villanueva Pavilion), for students from 18 to 25 years old and seniors over 65 years old. In addition, admission is free for children under 18 years of age.
TIP: Don’t forget to confirm all the practical information on the official website of the Real Botanical Garden of Madrid, before making your purchase!
Museo Nacional del Prado
This Madrid itinerary continues at the Prado National Museum (in Spanish, Museo Nacional del Prado), the largest, most important, and most visited museum in Spain! Therefore, it’s no surprise that the Prado National Museum is also considered one of the best museums in Europe!
The main masterpieces of the Prado National Museum include “Las Meninas” by Diego Velázquez, “The Garden of Earthly Delights” by Hieronymus Bosch, and “Saturn Devouring His Son” by Francisco de Goya, but the works by Fra Angelico, Tintoretto, Paolo Veronese, El Greco, and Peter Paul Rubens are also worth admiring.
The Prado National Museum is open every day from 10 am to 8 pm (from Monday to Saturday) or from 10 am to 7 pm (on Sundays and holidays). Tickets cost €15 (adults) or €7.5 (Young Card holders and seniors over 65), and entry is free for children under 18 and students from 18 to 25 years old.
TIP: Don’t forget to confirm all the practical information on the official website of the Prado National Museum, before making your purchase!
Paseo del Prado
Did you know that the Paseo del Prado (or Prado Walkway, in English) has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2021? The avenue is one of the main arteries of Madrid, as it connects the Plaza Emperador Carlos V to the Plaza de Cibeles and passes in front of the Real Botanical Garden, the Prado Museum, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum!
The Paseo del Prado is well known for its two fountains: the Fountain of Neptune and the Fountain of Apollo (or Fountain of the Four Seasons). Both were designed by Ventura Rodríguez – the architect responsible for the Cibeles Fountain, located in the homonymous square, which is also part of this Madrid itinerary.
Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza
The first day of this Madrid itinerary ends at the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum (in Spanish, Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza), one of the three art galleries entirely dedicated to the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. The other two are the Carmen Thyssen Malaga Museum and the Carmen Thyssen Andorra Museum.
The main masterpieces of the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum include “Saint Catherine of Alexandria” by Caravaggio, “Les Vessenots in Auvers” by Vincent Van Gogh, and “Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second before Waking Up” by Salvador Dalí, but the paintings by Jan van Eyck, Frans Hals, Edgar Degas, Wassily Kandinsky, and René Magritte are also worth admiring.
The Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum is open every day from 12 pm to 4 pm (Mondays) or from 10 am to 7 pm (from Tuesday to Sunday). Tickets cost €13 (adults) or €9 (students and seniors over 65), and entry is free for children under 18 and holders of the Youth Card.
TIP: Don’t forget to confirm all practical information on the official website of the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum, before making your purchase!
Madrid Itinerary – Day 2
Parque del Retiro
The second day of this Madrid itinerary begins at the Parque del Retiro (or Retiro Park, in English), another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Also called Parque del Buen Retiro (or Park of the Pleasant Retreat, in English), this historic garden and public park was designed in the first half of the 17th century.
Retiro Park has dozens of small tourist attractions spread over its more than 100 hectares – in which vast majority gardens, fountains, statues, monuments, and palaces. If you don’t have time to explore them all in this Madrid itinerary, try to see at least the most famous ones:
- Bosque del Recuerdo (or Forest of Remembrance)
- Estanque Grande (or Large Pond)
- Fuente de la Alcachofa (or Artichoke Fountain)
- Fuente del Ángel Caído (or Fountain of the Fallen Angel)
- Fuente de los Galápagos (or Galápagos Fountain)
- Monumento a Alfonso XII (or Monument to Alfonso II)
- Palacio de Cristal (or Crystal Palace)
- Palacio de Velázquez (or Velázquez Palace)
- Paseo de la Argentina or Paseo de las Estatuas (Argentina Walkway or Statue Walkway)
- Paseo de México (or Mexico Walkway)
- Rosaleda (or Rose Garden)
- Teatro de Títeres (or Puppet Theater)
Retiro Park is open every day from 6 am to 10 pm (from October to March) or from 6 am to 12 am (from April to September). And entry is free for everyone!
Puerta de Alcalá
The Puerta de Alcalá (or Alcalá Gate, in English) is the next stop on this Madrid itinerary. Located in Plaza de la Independencia (or Independence Square, in English), this monumental gate in neoclassical style is composed of three large arches in the center and two rectangular doors at the ends.
The Porta de Alcalá was designed by the architect Francisco Sabatini in 1778, at the request of King Carlos III. On the other hand, the decorative details you see in the photo are by the sculptors Roberto Michel and Francisco Gutiérrez. These are made of white stone from Colmenar, while the rest of the structure is made of granite from Segovia.
Plaza de Cibeles
Cibeles Square (in Spanish, Plaza de Cibeles) is just over 300 meters from the Puerta de Alcalá.
Its name comes from the Fuente de Cibeles, a neoclassical fountain dedicated to the Greek goddess of fertility. Constructed in 1782 from a design by Ventura Rodríguez, the monument had the contribution of sculptors Francisco Gutiérrez, Roberto Michel, Miguel Ximénez, Antonio Parera, and Miguel Ángel Trilles – the latter two in 1895.
Apart from that, Cibeles Square is surrounded by emblematic buildings: the Palacio de Buenavista (headquarters of the Cuartel General del Ejército de Tierra), the Palacio de Linares (headquarters of the Casa de América), the Palacio de Cibeles (headquarters of the Ayuntamiento de Madrid), and the Banco de España.
The Gran Vía (or Great Way, in English) is a must-see on any Madrid itinerary, as it’s one of the most central and iconic streets in the Spanish capital.
Here, you’ll find all kinds of structures dedicated to commerce, tourism, leisure, and entertainment, from international brand stores and fast-food chain restaurants to luxurious hotels and historic theaters.
Sometimes called the “Spanish Broadway”, the Gran Vía is home to a large number of former cinemas, almost all of which have been converted into concert halls and musical theater venues. The most renowned are Teatro Lope de Vega, Teatro Rialto, Cine Capitol, and Cine Callao.
Puerta del Sol
The second day of this Madrid itinerary finishes at the Puerta del Sol (or Gate of the Sun, in English), the place where the “Kilometer Zero” of Spanish roads stands. And right in front, you can see the Real Casa de Correos (seat of the Presidency of the Comunidad de Madrid), whose clock is used in the countdown to the new year!
At the Puerta del Sol you’ll also find the Equestrian Statue of Carlos III (one of the great promoters of public works in Madrid) and the illuminated sign of “Tío Pepe: Sol de Andalucia Embotellado” (a famous brand of sherry or jerez) – in addition to the Statue of the Bear and the Strawberry Tree, the symbol of the Madrid shield.
Madrid Itinerary – Day 3
The third day of this Madrid itinerary starts at the Plaza Mayor (or Main Square, in English), a large rectangular square that is surrounded by three-story buildings on all sides. These also have a continuous columned gallery on the ground floor, which houses cafes, restaurants, and shops.
The construction of the current Plaza Mayor dates back to the beginning of the 17th century, during the reign of Philip III. As a result, the Equestrian Statue of Philip III adorns the center of the square. Before that, there was the Plaza del Arrabal, where the market of the town of Madrid was held.
Catedral de Santa María la Real de la Almudena
The Cathedral of Saint Mary the Royal of La Almudena (in Spanish, Catedral de Santa María la Real de la Almudena) is the episcopal seat of the Archdiocese of Madrid. With more than 100 meters in length and 70 meters in height, the temple presents a mixture of architectural styles, ranging from neoclassical, neogothic, and neo-romantic.
The Cathedral de la Almudena is open every day from 10 am to 8 pm (from September to June) or from 10 am to 9 pm (in July and August). As far as tickets are concerned, they have a symbolic cost of €1 per person, to help with the maintenance costs of the monument.
Palacio Real de Madrid
The Royal Palace of Madrid or Oriente Palace (in Spanish, Palacio Real de Madrid or Palacio de Oriente) is the next stop on this Madrid itinerary. Erected on the site of the former Royal Alcázar of Madrid, the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family is the largest royal palace in the world by floor area, with 135 m2!
The Royal Palace of Madrid is open every day, from 10 am to 6 pm (from Monday to Saturday) or from 10 am to 4 pm (Sunday). As for the Gardens, they can be visited from 10 am to 6 pm. Tickets cost €13 (adults) or €7 (children from 5 to 16 years old, students up to 25 years old, and seniors over 65 years old).
TIP: Don’t forget to confirm all the practical information on the official website of the Royal Palace of Madrid, before making your purchase!
Plaza de España
The Plaza de España (or Spain Square, in English) is the fifth and last square of this Madrid itinerary (if you count the Independence – where the Puerta de Alcalá is – and the Puerta del Sol). And despite not being as touristy as others mentioned here, it’s very visited because of its Monument to Miguel de Cervantes, dating from 1929!
Of this monument, the imposing stone monolith, the statue of the writer Miguel de Cervantes himself, and the bronze sculptural group of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza – the characters of his masterpiece “Don Quixote” (in Spanish, “Don Quijote de la Mancha”) stand out.
Templo de Debod
This Madrid itinerary ends at the Temple of Debod (in Spanish, Templo de Debod), one of the few Nubian-Egyptian temples preserved outside Egypt and the only one of its kind in Spain. The shrine was donated to the country in 1968 by the Egyptian State, in gratitude for the help provided in the rescue of the Abu-Simbel temples.
Dedicated to the god Amon, the Temple of Debode was built by the Cushite king Adijalamani in the 4th century BC. Until a few decades ago, the monument was 15 km south of the city of Aswan, in Egypt. After being dismantled and transferred to Madrid, the Temple of Debode was completely rebuilt between 1970 and 1972.
Map of the Madrid Itinerary
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