Trippy users Mei and Kerstin from Luxembourg asked:

Should we spend three days in Madrid in January?

We’ll have a few days off at the end of January and would like to do a 3-day long city trip somewhere in Europe.

We were thinking about Madrid (been there but it was more than ten years ago!), but we are open to all suggestions!

Another Trippy user, Juli Lederhaus responded:

We absolutely adored Madrid when we were there two years ago. If it’s been 10 years, you should definitely go back.

Offering everything that travelers look for in a destination, the capital city of Spain, is one of Europe’s most cultured and friendliest cities. Madrid is Spain’s hub for the arts, fashion, and food. From tiny bar bites, food market delicacies to Michelin-starred traditional fares, the food scene is beyond exciting. And whether you are museum hopping, food hunting or window shopping, you’re never far from a place where you can sit back and enjoy a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.

Here’s how to spend three days in Madrid, at any time of year:

Day 1
Join a food tour

For a taste of Spain, go to Madrid. Food from every region of the country is represented in Madrid, from paella and Iberico ham to chocolate con churros and tapas. I recommend joining a guided food tour led by a local foodie. You’ll cover more ground and eat in authentic eateries when you walk with a local. Two of the notable food tour companies in Madrid are Devour Madrid and Secret Food Tours.

During my four-hour food tour, I tasted 11 types of food and drinks in seven different establishments including one 100-year-old restaurant and a 162-year-old pastry shop. Some of the highlights on my tour were:

• Sipping vermouth and tasting locally grown olives in Mercado de San Miguel
• Witnessing the making of cocido Madrileno; a Madrid-style stew served in three stages at a 100-year-old restaurant
• Drinking coffee at Pastelería El Riojano, a 162-year-old pastry shop and Madrid’s best pastry shop
• Sampling three different types of ham, one of those was Spain’s special Iberico ham
• Learning about the culture and history of Madrid
• Eating tapas with local Sangria

While on the tour, get tips from your tour guide on the hidden treasures of Madrid. Instead of wandering around not knowing where to go or what to eat, a tour guide will lead you to the best places you might not find in your three days in Madrid, since there are 15,000 restaurants and bars in the city.

If you prefer to learn more about tapas and taverns, join an evening Tapas, Taverns and History Tour with Devour Madrid. This tour will take you to a few tapas bars where you’ll discover Madrid’s drinking culture and nightlife.

Day 2
Museum day

You don’t have to journey far to view art from the 12th to the late 20th centuries along Paseo del Arte (Art Walk), the one kilometer stretch of road in Madrid. Along this road sit Prado Museum, Thyssen-Bornesmisza, and the Reina Sofía Museum.

Prado Museum is Paseo del Arte’s big draw, featuring artwork by Spanish painters like Goya, Velazquez and El Greco. If you like other European art, head over to Thyssen for works by Van Gogh, Durer, Picasso, and Kirchner. At the Reina Sofia, see Picasso’s masterpiece, Guernica, and more contemporary art.

Caravaggio’s Saint Catalia de Alejandria at Thyssen-Bornesmisza

I visited all three museums in a day. Do so if you like visiting museums. Otherwise just choose one. Follow Fiona Franco Churruarin’s advice:

I spent 3-4 days there, and I got a good grasp of the city. I had time to see most of the most important attractions, plus enter a few of them (MUSEO NACIONAL DEL PRADO, Gran Vía, Parque del Retiro, Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol, among others). We did take a city tour bus, which may have helped to get a general view, but we also did a lot of walking (and in July 😮 ).

Claire Wood from Fort Worth wrote:

Three days in Madrid would get you either 6 half day excursions, 3 full day excursions or a couple of excursions and some walkabout and public transport about fun in the city. You can visit Toledo, Segovia Ávila, Escorial on trips as well as tour MUSEO NACIONAL DEL PRADO Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Retiro, Royal Palace of Madrid and its art galleries Royal Tapestry Factory Plaza Mayor, Plaza Puerta del Sol. Don’t miss a meal at Botín (world’s oldest continuously operated restaurant) which specializes in Castillian fire roasted meats – go hungry!

Trippy user David Nuyen recommended a visit to Chueca for bars, restaurants, and nightlife:

There are fantastic eateries in markets around the center, Mercado de San Miguel for example. Chueca has matured in recent years as well, no longer a center for prostitutes and drug addicts; it has many shopping options, international restaurants, pedestrianized areas as well. It still has the charm of a gay neighborhood but not a gay ghetto. And its museums received a bit of a facelift as well.

Day 3
Visit the palace, markets, and shops

El Retiro Park

Sally Elbassir from Los Angeles wrote:

I went to Madrid twice in the past year and loved it! Three days is a great amount of time – you can see the Royal Palace of Madrid, MUSEO NACIONAL DEL PRADO, and spend a fun day in Parque del Retiro! If you’re there on the weekend, check out El Rastro which is a giant market that runs on Sundays. La Latina is a fun and trendy area as well. I could go on and on about how great Madrid is! You can check out what I did over the summer in the link, but I’ll also be writing a guide to Madrid in the next few weeks :).

Don’t miss El Rastro if you’re in Madrid on a Sunday. Carve out some time in the morning to visit El Rastro, as mentioned by Sally, the largest and most exciting market in Madrid.

The touristy Royal Palace is also worth a short trip if you enjoy Goya and Velazquez’s work. Every first Wednesday of the month, at noon, visitors can watch the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace. Of course, check out Plaza Mayor, the medieval square, and Temple of Debod, a 2,000-year-old Egyptian monument from Aswan Dam.

Royal Palace

Visit El Retiro Park, the ‘central park’ of Madrid. The park is home to 15,000 trees, an artificial lake, a rose garden, the Velazquez Palace and Glass Palace, and many monuments, sculptures, and fountains.

You won’t be short of things to do when visiting Madrid. Besides sightseeing and visiting famous sights, I recommend strolling along Calle de Serrano for the boutiques and cafés. Also, the Hapsburg Madrid area around Plaza Mayor and the Royal Palace to visit old shops, centuries-old craftsmen, and pastry shops. If you don’t mind crowded streets, head over to Gran Via and Puerta del Sol, the central point of Madrid.

Maria O’Dwyer from Dublin said:

There’s so much to do – great Art galleries, restaurants and bars and Madrid is such a walkable city. Go for it!

Planning a trip to Madrid and still have unanswered questions? Become a Trippy user and get your questions answered.

Photos and article by Claudia Looi

Mentioned in this post
  1. Mercado de San Miguel
    Attraction in M Spain

    M Spain
  2. Pastelería El Riojano
    Restaurant in Madrid España

    C. Mayor, 10
    Madrid España
  3. Reina Sofía
    Attraction in M Spain

    M Spain
  4. Parque del Retiro
    Attraction in Canas Urbano Puerto Rico

    271-275 Calle Villa
    Canas Urbano Puerto Rico
    (939) 389-8328
  5. el Rastro
    Attraction in M Spain

    M Spain