As the capital of Spain, Madrid is the center of the country’s governing and social power. However, the city isn’t just an important political center, it’s full of history, beauty, art, and so much more that makes it earn its place on many people’s must-visit bucket list.
Yet, it can be hard to decide how to plan your vacation to this unique city of art and culture. How many days in Madrid is enough? You might be asking yourself that very question while you sit at your computer trying to decide on what flight or hotel to book.
No matter if you’re debating how long you should stay in the city, or what you should plan to do while you’re there, you don’t have to worry. I’m here to help you figure out just how to plan your Madrid vacation.
How many days in Madrid is enough?
How long you should stay in Madrid is very subjective. There are so many factors to consider that will make the answer unique to you. If you like to take things slow and really make sure you see everything, you may need two weeks to visit even a small city, if you just like to get an overview of wherever you’re vacationing and don’t feel the need to really take in many sites, you could cover a huge metropolis in a few days and feel like you’ve done everything you need to.
Age, interests, who you’re traveling with, all of that plays a part in how long you should plan to visit anywhere to really feel like you’ve gotten the most out of your vacation.
Madrid is no different. With a quick search you can find people from all over the world who have visited the Spanish capital and will cross their hearts that you can see everything there is to see in two days or three, or fifteen.
Ultimately, you’ll have to make the decision based on what’s important to you, how much you want to relax, jetlag, how much of a vacation go-getter you are, and so on. If you want my recommendation, though, I’d say, in general, most travelers should plan to spend at least five days in Madrid, especially if it’s your first time visiting the city.
At just under a week, most people shouldn’t have trouble finding the available vacation time to plan their trip and you’ll likely be able to visit enough of the city’s sites and take in enough of what Madrid has to offer to feel satisfied with your vacation when you’re on your way back home or on the next leg of your trip.
- 5 Day in Madrid Itinerary: Best Things to see in Madrid in 5 Days
- Day 1 Itinerary: Prado Museum, Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol
- Day 2 Itinerary: Retiro Park, Royal Palace, La Latina, Madrid Cable Car
- Day 3 Itinerary: Almudena Cathedral, Teatro Real, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Mercado de San Miguel
- Day 4 Itinerary: Reina Sofia Museum, Temple of Debod, Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, Gran Via
- Day 5 Itinerary: El Rastro, Plaza Espana, Malasana neighborhood
5 Day in Madrid Itinerary: Best Things to see in Madrid in 5 Days
Day 1 Itinerary: Prado Museum, Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol
The first day you arrive in any city is full of excitement. You’re itching to get out and start having adventures as soon as you set foot off the plane, train, or whatever mode of transportation brought you to the place you’ll be calling home for the next five days. Once you check into your hotel or vacation rental, it’s easy to try to bite off more than you can chew and plan to knock out site after site. I suggest you try to take it easy. If you burn out too quickly on day one, you’ll be dragging your feet the rest of your trip.
On day one, pace yourself. Whether you arrived that morning or the night before, take your first official day in Madrid easy, the sites aren’t going anywhere, so there’s no need to rush.
Start your day with a meal, have yourself a nice relaxing breakfast. Nothing too heavy, but make sure you get in enough nutrients that you’ll be able to keep yourself going until lunch without crashing. By starting your day out with a relaxing meal, you can start to get a feel for the city before diving into the deep end just yet. Who knows, it might even settle some of your jitters for just wanting to go, go, go.
As a tourist, you’ll likely be staying in one of the more popular tourist areas or near a metro station so you can be easily connected to Madrid’s sites. On day one, get yourself acquainted with where you’re staying and check out a map.
If you know you’re going to be taking the metro a lot during your stay to get to see everything you want to see, then get the logistics of that out of the way right away.
Get yourself a Multi card or a 10-journey ticket so you don’t have to worry about getting a new ticket every time you need to catch a train. Once you’ve got that settled, swipe your card at the turnstile and be on your way for your first round of sites!
A great first must-see thing to do on your first day in Madrid is to plan to visit the Prado Museum. Whether or not you’re an art fan, you won’t want to miss checking it out. Known as the country’s most important art museum, it houses some of the most important masterpieces that Spain has to offer which date back as far as the 1100s. In most cases, you don’t need to pre-book your tickets, but doing so will help you skip some of the longer wait lines.
How long you’ll need to visit the Prado Museum will depend on you. If you’re a fine art fan, you may spend your entire day admiring the paintings. An extremely casual fan may zip their way through in no time. However, the average tourist is recommended to plan to spend about four hours in the museum.
After spending a good chunk of your day indoors, head to the Plaza Mayor, Madrid’s main square for some fresh air in one of the prettiest developed parts of the city. Honestly, I recommend hitting this square up a few times during your trip so you can see it both in the daytime and with its evening lights. No matter what, it’s a must on your Madrid trip. You’ll love to walk around or just find a place to relax and do a little people watching among the ornate architecture of the square.
Puerta del Sol
When you’re done with the Plaza Mayor, take an easy little stroll over to yet another square, the Puerta del Sol. While this square tends to score lower on people’s priority list, you won’t want to miss out on visiting this landmark.
It’s the 0km of the city, which means the rest of the city spread out from that point and it is still one of the most trafficked squares in the city. There are a number of statues and monuments in the square you’ll want to check out and get pictures of, including the presidential offices for the region’s government.
Depending on when you head out, you may be tempted to wind things down, or you may risk having to rush if you try to squeeze in any more sites. That’s okay though! Finish out your first day in the city by getting acquainted with all the food the city has to offer with tapas. Start early and make a little walking tour of it. If you really want to make your first night special, book a flamenco or opera show at one of the local theaters so you can close out your first day in the city in style.
Day 2 Itinerary: Retiro Park, Royal Palace, La Latina, Madrid Cable Car
Day two of your trip is perfect for starting to pick up the pace a little. After another breakfast, you’ll be ready to start your day at Retiro Park. A World Heritage Site, you won’t want to miss one of the city’s largest parks. It’s free to visit and you can easily spend hours meandering through the park to get yourself hyped up for the rest of your day.
After the park, I suggest you plan to visit the Royal Palace. One of the city’s and the country’s most important landmarks, this was the official royal residence of the royal family for many years.
While it may not be where they live now, visiting should still top your must-do list. Watch the changing of the guard and take in the imposing majesty of the palace from outside before you head in for a tour.
I recommend booking ahead of time to make sure you skip the lines and get right to seeing the beautiful art and ornate decor that adorns the interior of the palace while your guide lets you in on all the history of the landmark,
If day two, or any of the days of your trip, happens to fall on a Sunday before 3:00 p.m., head to the El Rastro market in La Latina after you’re done at the palace. This open market will not only immerse you in the sites and sounds of the city, you’ll feel like a local as well. Plan to stay until closing while you browse booths that sell anything you could ever possibly think to buy at a market from clothing to books. This is a great place to start picking up unique souvenirs you won’t find anywhere else in the city or in the world.
Once the market is closed, or if you don’t end up in Madrid on a Sunday, spend some time visiting the La Latina neighborhood as well.
The neighborhood is beautiful and offers multiple bars and the Mercado de la Cebada market so you can easily spend hours of your day in one of the most lived in neighborhoods in the city.
Sure, you’ll find other tourists, but you’ll feel a little more like you’re living the authentic Madrid life in this little corner of the capital.
Finish the day by getting some gorgeous shots of the city by taking a ride on the Madrid Cable Car. Starting Parque de Oeste, you’ll get a bird’s eye view of Madrid on your ride to Casa de Campo.
Snap some pictures along the way, grab a bite to eat and take your time wandering around Casa de Campo’s views before catching the next car back. Just make sure you check out the operating hours ahead of time to make sure you plan ahead properly.
Day 3 Itinerary: Almudena Cathedral, Teatro Real, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Mercado de San Miguel
By the end of your third day in Madrid, you’ll have passed the halfway mark and will probably be used to getting around the city. Which is good! You’ll be practically a pro at getting around, so you can start to pick up the pace some.
Start your third day at the Almudena Cathedral, you’ll find the area familiar, it’s right by the palace, which you’ve already seen! You’ll want to make sure you plan to spend some time gawking at the amazingly unique architecture of the church.
As it was built over the course of a century, the architecture is made up of a mix of styles that all come together to make a one-of-a-kind landmark you won’t want to miss. I recommend you don’t just look at the cathedral, however.
Make sure you spend some time admiring the art and the intricate interior design of the cathedral before you get a ticket to climb up to the top of its dome where you can get a spectacular view of the city that will give you the picture-perfect vacation you’ve always dreamt of!
After that climb, head to the Teatro Real. Madrid is a city that loves its performing arts, and the Teatro Real is at the heart of that love. Your ticket price will include an audio guide so you can learn about the history of the stunning theater that has been the home of countless performances over the years.
You’ll be able to visit the Royal Box, the dressing rooms, and see the stage in all its glory without having to pay an arm and a leg to see a show complete with the VIP treatment.
While it may be harder to plan for, if you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of a rehearsal for one of the shows the theater season has scheduled to perform.
From the Teatro Real, head to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. In a city known for its art, you have to take in as much of it as you can. This museum boasts nearly 2,000 paintings, making it a great way to get your fill of art from all around Europe and ranging in style. You don’t have to be an art buff to find something you’ll like here. You can stroll in relative silence or pick up an audio guide if you want to learn a little more about the pieces while you take your time enjoying the culture the museum has to offer.
Mercado de San Miguel
Your third day in Madrid won’t be complete without a visit to the Mercado de San Miguel. You’ll have done a lot of walking on your third day in the city, but this covered market will make it worth it. You’ll have dozens of amazing food choices available to you making this the perfect place to close out a day in the city. If you’re alone or traveling with others, make an event out of the visit by tasting as many dishes as your stomach can take.
Day 4 Itinerary: Reina Sofia Museum, Temple of Debod, Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, Gran Via
Reina Sofia Museum
Your fourth day in Madrid is going to start out with a visit to yet another one of the city’s most important museums. The Reina Sofia Museum is the home of Guernica by Picasso.
Plan to spend a few hours in this museum no matter what, but if you want the full experience, I recommend you book in advance and get a guided tour. You’ll be able to see more of the museum than you would if you decided to go it alone, and you’ll get to learn about the art along the way.
While I have this museum planned for your morning, if you’d like to go the budget option, it’s worth noting that in the evenings you can visit for free, though no guide is included, obviously.
Temple of Debod
Jump from art history to ancient history with a trip to the Temple of Debod where you can see a real-life Egyptian temple in the middle of Europe. You can’t go to Madrid and miss the opportunity to see this transported temple and its surrounding gardens. While not an unknown attraction, it somehow slips under the radar for a lot of visitors, don’t be one of them!
Santiago Bernabeu Stadium
Whether you’re a sports fan or not, you’ll want to carve out some time in your Madrid trip to head to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. While not a particularly long tour, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to see the home of Madrid’s famous Real Madrid Football Club.
You’ll have the choice of a guided tour, an audio tour, or to wander the stadium on your own, so pick the option that fits your budget and your interests the most. If you’re a sports and soccer fan, then the guided tour will be well-worth it, but I recommend at least the solo-tour to almost everyone.
If you’ve never been to a soccer stadium before, this tour will give you the unique opportunity to not just see the field, but also the locker rooms and everything in between. Wrigley Field and Dodger Stadium are considered must visit places in Chicago and Los Angeles respectively. Well, the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium is a must-visit for Madrid.
For some people watching and all the choices for how to spend your time that you could ask for, head to Gran Via where you can easily spend an entire day if you wanted.
This street has everything from bars and restaurants to have a day centered around food to theaters to take in Broadway level shows. All of that done on a street that is so picturesque and architecturally gorgeous, you’ll feel like you’re in a postcard or a painting.
Grab a few bites to eat, pick a dance club or grab yourself tickets to a show. Just be prepared for crowds, this street is one of the busiest in the city.
Day 5 Itinerary: El Rastro, Plaza Espana, Malasana neighborhood
Your last day in Madrid may be a bittersweet one, but don’t let that keep you from having an amazing day in this beautiful Spanish city.
Start your day at El Rastro, another market where you can pick up the last of your souvenirs from any of the numerous stalls that offer artisanal goods and vintage items that you won’t find in any regular store.
There are often local musicians playing in the area as well which makes the ambiance really unbeatable.
If you’re like me, when you get to the end of a trip, you want to soak up as much of the energy wherever you are as possible before leaving. Plaza Espana is a great place to do that.
It’s a quieter square compared to those you’ve visited earlier in your trip, if you’re following my itinerary. Despite the pace and relative quiet, however, you can still get in some authentic people watching and just enjoy the city for a while. After all the excitement from earlier in your trip, you’ll also be thankful to have a place to rest.
If you’re looking to do some last minute shopping, head to the Malasana neighborhood. You’ll be able to take your time checking out the small shops, support a local business and pick up something original that is guaranteed to get compliments back home. Stay here for a bite to eat or a cup of coffee for a really authentic Madrid experience.
Barrio de las Letras
Head from one neighborhood to another by getting over to the Barrio de las Letras where famous writers used to call home. You’ll find this district to be full of life but it won’t feel too crowded or commercialized. This district is a perfect mix of contemporary energy and historical architecture that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.
Chocolateria San Gines
End your Madrid trip sweetly, figuratively, and literally, by treating yourself to some churros. Chocolateria San Gines is the most famous place to get chocolate dipped churros in the city, but if you’re not afraid to ask the locals, I’m sure you’ll have plenty of options to choose from.
You’ve done a lot of walking and you want to end your trip with a bang, so eat all the churros you can stomach on your last day in Madrid.
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Madrid is a wonderfully diverse city that has something for everyone. Depending on how you like to travel, you could be happy spending two days, two months, or even two years exploring everything the city has to offer.
While it’s impossible to see absolutely everything in just five days, it’s a good starting point for most travelers. If visiting for that long just makes you want to go back, so be it! In the meantime, I hope this itinerary has given you a good jumping off point for planning your own Madrid vacation.