15 things you MUST do in Madrid in 3 days
I have decided to take the opportunity and book a surprise trip to Madrid for my boyfriend’s birthday.
This meant planning everything in secret, which working in Finance almost 12 hours a day and living together with the guy seems almost …mission impossible!
As his birthday is January, I can’t say that it’s the best season to visit Madrid, but even so, for people coming from The Netherlands like us, every few Celsius degrees extra are very much appreciated.
I must admit, that switching from a winter coat to a jeans jacket was a very happy moment for me, but enough about this, let’s visit the city.
There are many things to do in Madrid, but you can visit the best in 3 days. The best option to get from Barajas Airport to Madrid center is Aeroporto Express bus, which stops in all Terminals. The bus works 24 hours and a ticket costs 5 EUR. The last station is Atocha station. I have booked a room at the Carlton Hotel, 5 minutes walk from the station.
What I recommend for 3 days in Madrid.
DAY 1. PALACIO REAL – CATEDRAL DE LA ALMUDENA – MONASTERIO DE LAS DESCALZAS REALES – TEMPLO DE DEBOD – PLAZA ESPANIA
DAY 2. PARQUE DEL RETIRO – PALACIO DE CRISTAL - PUERTA DEL SOL – GRAN VÍA – PLAZA DE CIBELES – FLAMENCO SHOW
DAY 3. PRADO MUSEUM – FARO DE MONCLOA – PLAZA MAYOR - MERCADO DE SAN MIGUEL
The city is not very big, so everything is walking distance unless you are not very prepared for this, you can always buy 10 metro tickets for 12,30 EUR. The best thing about the tickets is that you can share it with your significant one. This is cheaper than buying one ticket every time you need to travel by the public transportation. I must mention that the metro is very small, compared to other places we have visited, but the metro runs in time, every 3-4 minutes, even during rush hours.
1. Mercado de San Miguel
The first and most important thing, I suggest to do is to try tapas in Mercado San Miguel. The market is vivid and full of life with a lot of flavors for anyone’s taste. There are a lot of varieties of options, one tapas costs from 1 EUR to 3.5 EUR. Try to mingle with other people or even better with the locals, you can hear some interesting stories. Personally, I started a few months ago to learn Spanish on Duolingo (not knowing that we will visit Spain). “Si, por favor” in the first hours was very difficult and almost all the time I was talking French, as we used to live in Paris, until recently.
Anyhow, the red wine called ‘Rioja’ and the Sangria made me speak up and I was feeling fluent in Spanish, which most likely, wasn’t the case, but I got a lot of “muy bien” from the locals which translated to me in “continue learning Spanish”.
2. Rooftop in Plaza de Cibeles
The next thing on my list was having a picture from a rooftop, which as one of our friends says is a must wherever you go. Therefore, we have gone to Plaza de Cibeles, a rooftop restaurant, which is inside of Circulo de Bellas Artes. The fee is 4 EUR per person and it takes you to a nice terrace at the 7th floor – La Terraza del Circulo de Bellas Artes. The view is breathtaking and if you have already eaten then you can only have a drink while taking your picture on Instagram. We personally, didn’t try any of the drinks, as we went only for the pictures. Take into consideration that during summer, the fee can go up to 20 EUR.
3. El Retiro Park
The park is big, with a nice boating lake and roses garden. In the park, there are numerous fountains and statues, so I advise you to take around an hour and visit the park. The boats are for 4 people max and it costs 4.50 EUR. Try to AVOID the “fortune tellers” from the entrance and the illegal traders, which try to sell you ‘Channal’ and ‘Gocci’ bags.
4. Palacio de Cristal
It’s like a fairytale to see this romantic palace. The palace is situated in Retiro Park, its main purpose was for plants and flowers. It’s built entirely from glass with frames of steel. It looks impressive from inside (as you can see in the picture) and the entrance is free. So, if you have “on budget trip to Madrid” it’s the perfect place to visit.
5. Palacio Real de Madrid and Cathedral de la Almudena
The palace is open daily from 10 am to 8 pm. The building is enormous and beautiful. However, you can’t visit all of it, and also during national holidays it’s closed. For only 5 EUR, you can visit only the courtyard and some temporary exhibitions. The full ticket is 11 EUR. The cathedral is free of charge and it’s located next to the palace. Inside you see the crypt and at the entrance the statute of the Pope Saint John Paul II.
6. Temple of Debod
Ancient Egyptian temple was rebuilt in a lush parkland with sunset views. I recommend going during the sunset when the sunlight is setting down behind the building and this will give you a magical photo never to forget. The museum closes around 6 pm, so take that into consideration. The temple is very close to Plaza de Espagna, where you can find the Cervantes monument, with one of the most imposing statute of Don Quijote.
7. The Cybele Palace
The palace is more like a museum and of course the 360-rooftop view is a must see in Madrid.
8. Prado Museum
Bear in mind that you cannot take picture inside the museum. Free entrance on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 5 pm, rather than that the museum is opened daily from 10 am to 8 pm. As an art connoisseur, worth a visit …or three!
9. Faro de Moncloa
92-meter-high, the Faro de Moncloa is a transmission tower with an observation deck. Opened from 9.30 am to 8.30 pm, its 3EUR entrance fee, makes it a very affordable place to go, with a nice 360 degrees view over the city.
10. Gran Via
Known as the Spanish Broadway street, it’s one of the most visited streets in Madrid. It’s situated in the most important shopping area of the city, with a large number of theatres.
11. Monasterio de las Descalzas
A trip back in time, the monastery is located in the city center and still inhabited by nuns, the monastery has a very limited visit time frame. The tour takes around 1,5 hours and you definitely should buy tickets in advance, otherwise you will get to the door and you will not be able to enter. (www.patrimonionacional.es)
12. Plaza Mayor
Bear in mind that the free walking tour starts here, which lasts for 2,5 hours. Full of terraces and cafes, some of them a bit too pricey. Cool old square in the heart of the city.
13. Plaza del Callao
TOP TIP: Go instead in the ElCorteInglés shopping center, to the 9th floor, where you can find a roof terrace free of charge and a lot of shops and restaurants.
14. Puerta del Sol
Public square with a lot of streets full of restaurants. Here you can find the statue of Carlos III and the iconic statue of the Bear and the strawberry tree. Don’t forget to go to the 9th floor of Gourmet experience to see the skyline. Also, check out the Chocolateria St Gines, where you can find the best hot chocolate with churros. There, you can see the “kilometro 0” where all roads in Spain start.
15. Flamenco Show
There are multiple options where you can see a flamenco show. Usually starts around 8.30 pm and lasts around 2 to 3 hours. The prices are between 25 and 70 EUR, depending on the show. I recommend the Corral de la Morería where dancers perform at the highest level. The price is about 50€ without dinner.
Food and Drinks
Tapas, pinchos and raciones are essential local bare fare. Dining out is usually available until midnight in most of the restaurants. A taste of the nightlife is an option until dawn with cool jazz bars or flamenco performances.
- Churros with hot chocolate – fried dough pastry, covered in sugar and dipped in thick, warm chocolate.
- Tapas – small Spanish savory dishes, typically served with drinks at a bar.
- Paella – traditional Spanish dish of rice, saffron, chicken, seafood cooked and served in a large pan.
- Sangria – fruits, rum, and wine served usually on hot summer days
- Rioja red wine – Spanish wine