Madrid was our first stop during our Spanish excursions and we spent four full days there. It was beautiful and we loved it! Keep scrolling for more photos of this beautiful city and a four-day itinerary you can use if you’re planning a trip to Madrid.
Places to Visit in Madrid: Day 1
Check-in. We stayed at the Westin Palace Madrid and it was one of the most lovely hotels. It’s a historic hotel that was built in 1912 and is centrally located—the best museums and delicious restaurants are within walking distance.
El Rastro Market. El Rastro is known for being the best and the biggest flea market in Madrid. It is only on Sundays so make sure to fit it into your itinerary! I bought a lot of our gifts for our family in the market, and there’s a ton of cute and super cheap clothes there. I got this adorable jumper for 10 Euros!
El Prado. The Prado museum has a really famous and really old art dating back to the 12th century that you won’t want to miss. Lots of Goya and Velazquez. Definitely book your tickets in advance so you can skip the super long line and go straight on through the back entrance. I’ve also heard the guided walking tour is nice to do if you want to learn in-depth information about all the art.
Cardamomo Tablao Flamenco Show. We went to a flamenco show at Cardamomo Tablao and it was one of the highlights of our trip! It’s a small place so you feel pretty up close and personal with the dancers. Purchase tickets online in advance. Pro Tips: We didn’t purchase the meal + tickets package and just did tickets because we had dinner plans later. I noticed that they seated people who hadn’t ordered dinner in the front. The stage was right in front of us and it was amazing to see these dancers going at it so passionately!
La Terraza del Urban. Right after the Flamenco show, we hopped over a couple of streets to this amazing rooftop bar. It’s at the top of Hotel Urban and the views are beautiful. Perfect spot to have a cocktail, tapas, and watch the sun go down!
Calle Cava Baja. Head over to La Latina neighborhood for late-night tapas with the locals.
Places to Visit in Madrid: Day 2
Segovia. While we were in Madrid we wanted to fit in a day trip so we could see something outside of the city. We settled on Segovia, which is a short train ride away from Madrid. To be honest, some parts felt a little touristy, but it was also really pretty and it was amazing to see the aqueduct that was built in 1 B.C. We also loved the beautiful cathedral and stunning castle that was Disney’s inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland. I did a mini day trip itinerary for Segovia in this post.
Places to Visit in Madrid: Day 3
Royal Palace Madrid. Stroll through the Palacio Royal to admire its beautiful architecture, stunning decor, and art.
Basílica de San Francisco. We heard that this is the most beautiful church in Madrid, and it was definitely stunning. They do hourly guided tours in Spanish and (sorta) English, where they explain some of the frescoes and you can explore some of the back rooms. There’s also a famous Goya fresco (look for the one with the man in yellow looking up—Goya painted himself into the painting).
Mercado de San Miguel. After a few hours of craning our necks to look up at frescoes, we were pretty hungry. We went over to Mercado de San Miguel for delicious tapas, drinks, and to basically die and go to foodie heaven. It’s packed with stalls full of all things yummy—Spanish cheeses, skewers of olives and cured meats, jamón ibérico, (omg, how have I gotten this far in this post and not mentioned jamón ibérico?? It’s a must-eat while in Spain.) empanadas and tons of other mouth-watering foods.
Plaza Mayor and Chocolateria San Gines. Take a stroll through Plaza Mayor, the biggest plaza in Madrid. There are usually street performers or musicians playing (we saw this weird sparkly deer thing that was actually a bit unsettling). Outside of the plaza is Chocolateria San Gines, which is known for having the best churros con Chocolat in Madrid. They did not disappoint.
Shopping. Shopping in Spain is. Too. Good. I was popping into every Desigual, Mango, and Zara I saw because their stores in Spain are so much better in the U.S. Since they originated in Spain, the stores there have more selection and lower prices.
Albora. We wanted to try one of Madrid’s 13 Michelin star restaurants while we were visiting. Albora was delicious and not totally out of control when it came to cost (for a Michelin star restaurant). We were also dying to go to DiverXO, especially after we watched Anthony Bourdain basically crap himself over how good it was. Sadly, we didn’t hear about it far enough in advance and weren’t able to get reservations (we were 2 – 3 weeks out). So if you’re going to Madrid and you’re more on top of it than I am when it comes to booking Michelin restaurants, please go to DiverXO and tell me all about how amazing it is!
Places to Visit in Madrid: Day 4
Reina Sofia. The Reina Sofia Museum (formally known as Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía) in Madrid is one of the tourist attractions that are not to be missed. I’m really not an “art” person (at museums I like to hit up the highlights, learn a few things, feel cultured, and then bounce), but I loved this museum. It houses Spain’s end of the 19th century through the 20th-century art, and the third floor is really where it’s at. Lots of Picasso and interesting (trippy) Dali, and the most epic piece of art I’ve ever seen, Guernica. I’ve never been moved by a piece of art like I was by Guernica. It made me want to research and pull up articles about the Spanish Civil War on my phone and talk about it with Omied. We stood there for almost an hour, reading, talking, comparing. And I wondered why I wasn’t taught more about the Spanish Civil War in high school. Anyways, not to get all preachy but you should go see it if you’re in Madrid!
Mercado de la Reina. This place was a rec from a friend of mine who lived in Spain for a couple of months, and it ended up being our favorite tapas spot in Madrid! Everything we ordered was so good and it was pretty cheap too.
Parque del Buen Retiro. Retiro park is so beautiful, and I wish we spent more time there. But it was the perfect way to spend our last evening in Madrid and it’s free. It’s a huge park, so it’s good to have a couple of destinations in mind rather than just wandering around. We visited the Crystal Palace and of course the lake in the middle of the park. There were lots of musicians performing, and our favorite was this guy who serenaded us while the sun went down. So surreal and beautiful.
Botin. This restaurant has so much history. It’s the oldest restaurant in the world (Est. 1725) and Goya worked there as a waiter while he was waiting to get accepted to art school. The food is pretty yummy too. We had croquettes, Jamon Iberico and their suckling pig.
That was our four-day itinerary of places to visit in Madrid! I’m missing it so much after writing up this post! Next stop, Barcelona.
Here is a list of spots that we didn’t have time to visit but would love to visit the next time we’re in Madrid: the National Archaeological Museum Madrid or any of the national parks in Madrid.
It is recommended to spend around 4 – 5 days in Madrid. That is plenty of time to get a feel for the city.
The best way to get around Madrid is by Metro. The metro stations are spread across the city.
Madrid is considered one of the more affordable cities in Western Europe.
The best time to travel to Madrid is in the fall or spring during the months of September to November or March to May.
Elise Armitage is an entrepreneur and founder of What The Fab, a travel + lifestyle blog based in California. At the beginning of 2019, Elise left her corporate job at Google to chase her dreams: being an entrepreneur and helping women find fabulous in the everyday. Since then, she’s launched her SEO course Six-Figure SEO, where she teaches bloggers how to create a passive revenue stream from their website using SEO. Featured in publications like Forbes, Elle, HerMoney, and Real Simple, Elise is a firm believer that you can be of both substance and style.