My first visit to the Spanish capital city was prompted by an event that was being organised by Las Morenas de Espana, called Thrive.
Thrive was a one-day event, taking place on Saturday so I thought I’d use the opportunity to do some sightseeing beforehand.
(Technically, I was in Madrid for 4 days, but with 3 days for sightseeing.)
One Way to Spend 3 Days in Madrid:
Day 1 – Thursday
This was my longest day and in fact, I walked so much that I ended up with bruised big toes!
I think that was due to a combination of walking for a total of about 9 hours and wearing brand new trainers.
Madrid is really accessible by foot and most of the main tourist sights are within walking distance of each other.
- Free Madrid Walking Tour
It is not only a great way to learn the history of the city, it is also a really useful for getting to know where all the main sights are.
I booked my tour in advance with Like a Local, who I would recommend.
They offer 2 tours. I took the essentials tour which is at 11am and meets at Puerta del Sol next to the bear statue, Oso y Madroño, which happens to be the symbol of Madrid.
They also offer an evening tour which meets at 5pm.
When looking for the meeting point for the tour, I got lost, because I couldn’t find the statue.
But getting lost is not always a bad thing as I ended up at Plaza Mayor, and discovered that there are loads of companies offering free walking tours.
As I said, I would recommend the tour I took, but if you have a more relaxed approach to travelling, you can just turn up and go with pretty much any tour guide on the day.
And you can’t miss the tour guides as they’re all carrying huge umbrellas.
Initially, I thought 3 hours might be too long, but it was just the right amount of time.
(NB: At the end of the tour, the tour guide invites you to lunch at a nearby restaurant that offers a set menu for a good price. It’s a nice way to get to know other people on the tour, but if you’re expecting traditional Spanish food, you’ll be disappointed)
- Churros & Chocolate
On the way, I stopped in a few shoe shops, as you do, and bumped into a very lost Ali, one of the girls I met on the tour.
We just happened to be around the corner from Los Artesanos 1902, a churreria/chocolateria recommended by our tour guide for churros.
I mean it would have been rude not to, so we did.
And the churros were good.
Los Artesanos 1902 is around the corner from Chocolatería San Gines which serves the most famous churros in Madrid and is where most tourists go to sample this local treat.
- Palacio Real (Royal Palace)
Entrance is free to EU and Latin American residents for 2 hours, Monday – Thursday, so of course, I took advantage of the offer.
I had mixed feelings when walking around inside the palace.
As expected the decor was grandiose, to say the least, and although much of it was not to my taste, I can’t deny how impressive much of the artwork was.
However, I couldn’t help but wonder where a lot of the wealth had come from.
Still, the architecture was stunning and gave me the perfect excuse to use my selfie stick for the first time. And I have a feeling it looked like it was my first time using it too!
Next to the palace is Catedral de la Almudena and during the walking tour, you’re given the opportunity to take a look inside.
el Mercado de San Miguel
I ended up at el Mercado de San Miguel.
By this time it was dark so it was beautifully lit up on the outside, and heaving with people on the inside.
I strolled around admiring all of the food and taking in the buzzing atmosphere but didn’t eat anything as I was on my own and these days I’m not great with crowded places.
- Gran Via
I headed back onto the cobbled streets of Madrid, through a bustling Plaza Mayor and with my map in hand, I made my way to Gran Via.
Gran Via is Madrid’s main shopping area and has the biggest Primark I’ve ever seen!
There’s also Bershka, Zara, Mango, Stradivarius and H&M to name a few.
While looking for a cardie (as the temperature was forecast to drop drastically, and I flew from Tenerife where I have no clothing suitable for Autumn temperatures) I got a call from Ali.
Remember, the girl from Philli, who I met on the walking tour and helped find her way back to her hostel?
She wanted to hang out so she met me at Gran Via and we went on the hunt for dinner.
- Tapas at Chueca
We ended up in Chueca, but I’m not sure we were in the main part.
Lots of people said how great the vibe is in this area, but there was little vibe where we were.
But by the time we got there, after a bit of “unintentional sightseeing” (we went in the wrong direction and ended up seeing Plaza de Cibeles and the remarkable building which is the historical central post office of Madrid) we were hungry and my feet were killing me.
So we picked a place and ended up having some really tasty tapas.
Day 2 – Friday
In fact, the rain was so heavy during the night that it woke me up!
Ali and I had said we’d meet up and do something.
We mentioned el Museo del Prado and as it was absolutely museum weather we agreed to meet there.
El Museo del Prado is considered to be one of the best museums in the world and it features work by Spanish artists Goya and Velázquez as well as other world-famous artists such as Rubens, Rembrandt, Botticelli and Titian.
After a cerveza with a café con leche (Ali) and churros and chocolate (me, obviously) at a typical Spanish cafe, Ali and I spent the entire day at the museum.
And even then, we didn’t see it all!
During my pre-Madrid planning, I saw that the museum offered free entrance every day for 2 hours.
However, after my visit to the museum, I now see that I would have been lucky to see one of the major paintings during that time.
I love art, and I really enjoyed the day (despite going through a mixture of emotions at the moment about art and the lack of representation in museums) but by the end, my senses were feeling totally overwhelmed and my back was killing me!
I would definitely recommend visiting, but just be warned it could easily consume an entire day of your trip to Madrid.
(Sidenote: It was pouring with rain hence a single photo of the museum building, and you’re not permitted to take photos of the artwork.)
Day 3 – Sunday
El Rastro was recommended as somewhere you must visit when you go to Madrid, by travel blogs and people.
So I did.
And I have to say I was completely underwhelmed. But, I think that’s because I’m a Londoner.
It reminded me of Camden market and Portobello Road market and I’ve been going to markets in London since I was very young.
So for me, it was like, oh a market…
That being said, I did get some lovely scarves for €1 each, a couple of fridge magnets and I also took some nice photos.
The rest of the day was spent with two awesome ladies (Dina and Sade) who I met the day before at Thrive.
Then, one of the ladies, Sade, who now lives in Madrid, took us to a cute little cafe not too far from the museum.
We spent hours chatting, drinking vino, prosecco (well we actually ended up wearing the first bottle when Dina attempted to open a frozen bottle for Sade!), espressos, café con leche and enjoying a light snack known as merienda in Spanish.
And what’s more Spanish than spending hours with friends, chatting, eating and drinking wine and coffee?!
Dina and I then headed towards La Latina for dinner.
We chose Sunday to go to el Museo de Reina Sofia as there is free entrance between 13:30 – 19:00. (Free entrance is also offered on other evenings during the week, but only for 2 hours.)
However, after 2pm some of the exhibition areas are closed and the museum staff literally usher you out of the rooms.
And again, no photos permitted.
So, if I had more time to explore on this day, some of the sights I would have tried to fit in include:
- Parque del Buen Retiro and Palacio de Cristal
- Royal Botanical Garden
- Templo de Debod
- café con leche at Plaza Mayor, especially for my friend Laura! (Sorry, inside joke)
I also would have also eaten churros at Chocolatería San Gines, because, when in Madrid, eat churros, right?!
And, I’d love to watch a football match at the Santiago Bernabéu stadium, home to Real Madrid.
I did quite a bit of research in advance on how to spend 3 days in Madrid and found the Madrid Official Tourism Website very helpful.
There is a lot of useful information and you can even download maps in the Plan Your Trip section.
Where I Stayed
I booked my trip through Avios (if you don’t collect Airmiles and you love to travel, you’re missing out) and so the price worked out pretty much the same to book a hotel through them as it would have been to book something through Airbnb.
I stayed at Hotel Puerta de Toledo which is literally a 5-minute walk from El Rastro and slightly further to the metro stop La Latina.
The hotel was clean and the staff were polite and friendly.
I also had breakfast included which was your typical continental breakfast.
The nearest metro station (Puerta de Toledo) was only a 2-minute walk from the hotel which made getting around super easy.
It was a lovely place to spend 3 days in Madrid.
Many of the people I met Madrid were staying in hostels and only had good things to say about them – especially the price. One thing that was mentioned, however, was that a couple of the hostels had quite a few people sharing one room.
There are also taxis and buses everywhere, much like any other major city.
When I arrived, I took the airport bus to Atocha station and then a taxi to my hotel. I did the same when I was leaving Madrid.
The airport bus was really easy to find and use and I would definitely recommend it, as it’s much cheaper than a taxi (€5 instead of €25+).
You could, of course, take the metro, but I had a full-size case (don’t judge me, it was included in the cost of my ticket and I don’t have a carry-on case here with me in Tenerife) so I didn’t fancy manoeuvring it during rush hour, up and down stairs, as not all stations have escalators.
I had also been pre-warned that madrileños are very much like Londoners – always in a hurry and very unlikely to stop to help you.
In fact, Madrid reminds me a lot of London, just bigger, or perhaps wider.
There just seemed to be more space.
I’ll Be Back
As there is too much to see and do in one short trip to Madrid, I’ll definitely visit again.
Especially now I know so many people who live there, thanks to Las Morenas de Espana and Thrive.
Have you been to Madrid? What was your experience?
Is there anywhere you’d recommend that I haven’t mentioned?