My husband and I got back from Spain earlier this week. He found round-trip tickets for $350 a few months ago and jumped at the chance to go back to Europe! Our 10-year anniversary is coming up so we made a trip out of it to celebrate. We hit up Madrid and Barcelona and today I’m sharing what to do in Madrid in 3 days! I also broke this post into a travel diary but if you don’t want to read it all, the end has all the highlights. Enjoy!
What to Do in Madrid in 3 Days
To travel to Madrid, we flew Southwest from Nashville to La Guardia and then from La Guardia to JFK by taxi. We flew through Iberia and we got there three hours before our flight to check in. Make sure you double and triple-check all the documents you need to fly Internationally. We saw the airline turn away multiple people for not having the right documents and there was no time to remedy it.
Tim and I arrived in Madrid at 10 a.m. but took almost two hours to go through customs and get a health pass verified before leaving the airport. We downloaded the SpTH app before leaving the country and fill in all of our passport, flight, and vaccine information. The requirements change weekly so always double-check before entering another country. When we were traveling we had to be fully vaccinated with our booster (within 14 days) or have a negative COVID test within 24 hours. Once all the information is filled in the app, they give you a QR code. You need this code to get on the plane to Madrid and also to enter the country!
Once we got through and grabbed our luggage, we called an Uber to take us to Hotel Indigo, our hotel for our Madrid stay. Uber is operating in Madrid but Lyft does not. You could also download Cabify which is a Barcelona-founded ride-sharing company.
Hotel Indigo is off of Gran Via so it took about half an hour to get there. We got to Hotel Indigo before check-in, so we stored our bags with them and headed down the road to a place our concierge recommended, Vinitus. We had tapas and sangria and tried to stay awake! After filling our bellies with good food, we were able to get into our room and take a much-needed siesta. My rule for traveling internationally is always to take a one to two-hour nap once you arrive and then force yourself to stay awake the rest of the day to try to get ahead of the jet lag.
After a short nap, we got up and dressed and headed to get more Sangria and tapas. Calle de la Cava Baja is a great street to walk up and down and stop in different places for drinks and food. Our first stop was La Perejila. You can’t miss the bright green front and inside was a mix of green, red, and gold. We had wine, bread, and tomatoes and enjoyed seeing some locals who come in once a day for a drink before heading home from work.
We kept walking around and exploring and stumbled upon a cool food hall. Here you could grab a glass of wine or beer from any vendor and walk around and eat tacos, seafood, charcuterie boards, pastries, fruit and so much more. If you want to check it out, the food hall is called Plaza de San Miguel.
Every morning should start with good coffee. We headed to Toma and had cappuccinos and carrot cake for breakfast! If you want to go to a cafe and work, make sure it’s a laptop cafe. Toma is a laptop-free space and when we were there the occupants were journaling and reading books rather than working.
Then we headed to see the Royal Palace of Madrid. This is the official residence of the Spanish royal family, King Felipe VI, and Queen Letizia. Across from the palace, you’ll see the Almudena Cathedral.
We did a lot of walking on this day. For lunch, we headed to The Spanish Farm. It’s right near the Royal Botanic Gardens and has good options if you’re vegan or have food sensitivities. It was a nice day so we headed to the Royal Botanic Gardens. It was free entry so we roamed the grounds and the greenhouse.
A few blocks down is the Parque de El Retiro. This is a massive park with so much to see and do. Head to the pond to see the Monumento a Alfonso XII. There along the water, you’ll find street performers, live music, and can even rent a boat to go on the water for a short period of time. Then head to Palacio de Velazquez. The house has the most stunning exterior mosaics with dragons and blue tiling.
One of the things I was most excited to see was the Crystal Palace, Palacio de Cristal. Unfortunately, it was closed for renovations but the exterior was still fun to see!
After another two-hour siesta, we headed to the food hall at El Corte Ingles. On the 9th floor, they have a wine bar, Mexican restaurant, mochi stand, and more. El Corte Ingles is a local department store that has everything from appliances to furniture to electronics.
For dinner, we ended up at Rosi La Loca. This is the cutest spot we stumbled upon and unfortunately didn’t have a reservation so we had to sit outside. The interior is pink and floral and such a cute Instagram moment! The drinks are also Alice In Wonderland-inspired. The sangria is also so delicious. Get tapas or paella to share!
You can’t go to Spain and not enjoy some churros and hot chocolate. The place everyone goes to is the Chocolateria San Ginés. It reminded me of Cafe du Monde in New Orleans since they only serve a few things and it’s such a popular spot.
We took the metro a lot this day since our legs were tired from the day before. The subway in Madrid is so clean and nice compared to the metro in New York. It’s easy to navigate and they have lines all over the city. We got a card and did the day-to-day tourist pass with unlimited use.
This girl loves to shop, so we headed to a nice part of town with designer stores. We hit up Spanish stores like Zara and Mango and then headed to the Mercado de La Paz, a market. The market has several places inside and we ended up at Sanahria.
Once you get had lunch we had tickets to the Reina Sofia Art Museum. We spent some time looking through the exhibits and saw several pieces by Picasso and Salvador Dali.
We wandered around and found several bookstores. I found Spanish copies of The Great Gatsby and Sense & Sensibility to bring home.
We bar-hopped for a while and ended up at a tapas place, Casa Julio. Dinner was amazing there and it’s such a popular spot in Madrid.
During the week, tapas spots and bars are busy from 8-12, then everything closes and it’s time for bed.
To Recap What to Do in Madrid in 3 Days
Getting Into Spain
- Download the SpTH app.
- Have your COVID + Booster Within 14 Days of Trip. Must bring a vaccination card with you.
- If you’re not vaccinated, you take a COVID test within 24 hours of your departure.
- It took us about an hour and a half to get through customs and get our bag. The Madrid Airport is pretty big.
Getting Into the US
- Download the VeriFLY™ app.
- Everyone must take a COVID test within 24 hours of departure. The Madrid airport has a testing center in terminal 4. Make an appointment there a few hours before you leave.
- Fill out the USA attestation document.
Things to Know
- To get around you can use Uber, Cabify, or the Metro. The metros are so nice and easy to use.
- You can also take taxis, they accept credit cards.
- Wear comfortable shoes, you’ll be doing a lot of walking.
- Ladies, make sure your bag is a crossbody with a thick strap.
- The mask mandate is still in effect in Spain. You must wear it at all times indoors but if you’re out walking around you can leave it off.
- Keep an eye on the weather. It was warm and in the 70s a week before our trip but it was cold and rainy when we got there. Glad we brought jackets!
- Brush up on your Spanish but everyone pretty much knew English.
- Most places don’t open until 9 a.m. Dinner is from 9 p.m. to midnight.
- La Perejila
- Plaza de San Miguel
- The Spanish Farm
- El Corte Ingles Food Hall
- Rosi La Loca
- Cholateria San Ginés
- Mercado de La Paz
- Casa Julio
What to See
- Plaza Mayor
- Parque Del Oeste
- Temple of Debod
- Royal Palace of Madrid
- Royal Botanic Gardens
- Parque de El Retiro
- Monument to Alfonso XII
- Palacio de Velazquez
- Palacio de Cristal
- Reina Sofia Art Museum