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If you’re looking for the perfect Madrid itinerary, look no further! In this post, I’ll highlight my top 7 things to do, and best restaurants to make your trip to Madrid unforgettable.
Spain is one of my absolute favorite countries in the world. I studied abroad in Barcelona, but never made my way to Madrid. The people, the beauty, the culture- everything about Spain is a straight-up vibe. I was going through a breakup so my aunt and uncle invited me to join them on their trip to help me get my mind off of things (the angels that they are)! When presented with the opportunity to spend a week in Madrid, you better believe I decided to crash their romantic adventure and bought myself a ticket. My guide below has a heavy emphasis on culture and food. If you are feeling iffy about Spanish food, this list of recommendations will make you change your mind!
When and how long to go to Madrid:
Since Madrid isn’t near a beach, it’s not a place that you need to go in summer, in fact, Spring (March-May) or Fall (Sept-Nov) in Madrid would be ideal because the weather is still nice enough where you can walk, but the city is not overrun by tourists. Although I spent a week in Madrid, you can still have a full experience in 3-4 days without feeling too rushed. Regardless, this Madrid itinerary will still work if you only have a couple days.
Top 7 Things for your Madrid itinerary:
Royal Palace – You might be asking yourself, is going inside the palace worth it? The answer is YES. I’ve toured a bunch of palaces, and state apartments and this is one of the most robust and opulent palaces I’ve seen. Some of the rooms even give me Versailles vibes. The cool thing about it is that there is still a royal family in Spain, and they actually use some of the rooms you can see. Make sure to buy tickets and check the hours ahead of time.
Mercado San Miguel – it’s not a regular market, it’s a cool market. This food market has everything, come for lunch, drinks, dessert, you name it! It’s beautiful and you can enjoy all the tapas your heart desires. Hot tip: go early to avoid crowds
Flamenco Show– I know what you’re thinking, Flamenco in Madrid must be a tourist trap… that’s where you are wrong my friend. Teatro Flamenco Madrid is not fancy or expensive. It is pure, vibrant, and authentic. I truly considered quitting my job and becoming a dancer after experiencing the emotion and energy from this show. Definitely worth the $30 to see and experience this art form in an intimate setting.
Prado Museum – There are a lot of museums in Madrid and it’s hard to know which one to go to if you only want to go to ONE. I chose the Prado museum because it comes highly recommended, and because it’s the most famous museum in Madrid (and highlights famous Spanish artists such as Goya, El Greco, Velázquez, and Picasso). We opted for a private tour which was an absolutely incredible experience. We learned so much about Spanish art and history in a really unique way. If a private tour is not an option for you, I highly recommend any kind of group or guided tour in order to get the most out of your time there.
Parque del Retiro / Palacio de Cristal – Retiro park is a large park in the middle of the city, it showcases beautiful landscaping and you can even rent a boat on the man-made lake. The Palacio de Cristal is the insta-worthy glass building that you have to check out while you’re there.
Barrio de Salamanca – Want to shop ‘till you drop? Barrio de Salamanca (Calle de Serrano) is filled with amazing luxury shops. It’s also worth getting lost in the side streets for some more unique finds and local stores. I try to shop at mostly local brands when I am in a new place. Spanish brands such as Carolina Herrera, Massimo Dutti, and Zara (yes, Zara is a Spanish brand) are fan favorites. My other favorite is Pinko (a chic and fun Italian brand). Hot tip: make sure you ask about getting VAT tax back at the airport, I got reimbursed for the taxes on my Carolina Herrera purchase.
Day trip to Toledo – This day trip is really special. When I stay in big cities, I always try to take a day trip and venture somewhere outside of the city. Toledo is a really unique and beautiful old village about an hour away from Madrid. The most interesting thing about it is that it’s known as the “City of the Three Cultures” and was inhabited by Christians, Jews, and Muslims, whose cultural influences are clear throughout the city. If you are with a group, it makes sense to opt for a tour to get the most out of your time there. There are also private tours that include transportation to/from Toledo from Madrid if you’re feeling bougie (which we were)! Overall, Toledo was one of my favorite parts about the trip. Other easy day trips from Madrid are Salamanca, Alcala, or Valencia.
Best Madrid Restaurants:
Restaurante Sacha: A classic, local, and small restaurant. It feels like an intimate family gathering with good wine, and great company. The food is insanely good- I had their fish dish and it was to die for. 10/10 would recommend.
Fayer: By FAR the winner of the trip. This restaurant is trendy, young, and the decor is super chic, not to mention, the food was amazing. It’s Mediterranean & Argentinian inspired cuisine is not to be missed. We ordered everything from french fries, to broccoli, to sea bass and “chocolate hummus” for dessert. Dress up, have a fun cocktail and enjoy it all! Fun fact: We even spotted Úrsula Corberó from the show Money Heist at the table next to us. 15/10 would recommend.
TriCiclo: This Michelin rated restaurant is lovely, however, if I’m being 100% honest, Sacha and Fayer were overall better experiences. Although the food at TriCiclo is of course great, it was missing that extra je ne sais quoi. All in all 8/10 on this one. Hot tip: Taberna de la Elisa is the bar/restaurant next door (owned by TriCiclo), it is so charming, cool, and definitely worth checking out.
Calle Cava Baja: This is the ultimate Tapas restaurant street. They do a tapas crawl on weekends. One of my favorite things to do is just hop to each one and try a couple things or get a drink. You really feel like you are in Spain here. The restaurants are tiny, and each one has a unique vibe.
Chocolatería San Ginés: These are the best churros in Madrid. I like to come here late-night and ordered a massive plate of churros and dip them in chocolate. They are “proper” churros and don’t have a ton of sugar on them, so they are basically healthy.
Where to stay in Madrid:
Now for the final part in your Madrid itinerary, where to stay! I stayed in an Airbnb on Calle Cava Baja (the street with the Tapas crawl) which feels like a more local experience. However, if you want to be closer to the hustle and bustle, stay by Barrio de Salamanca. A cool option is Hotel Palacio Del Retiro which is walking distance to everything and a beautiful building.
Do you have any “musts” on from your Madrid itinerary? Comment below!