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Europe Travel: Madrid, Spain in 5 Nights, 6 Days — Activity Recommendations

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This is an overview of the activities we most enjoyed during our five nights, six days in Madrid, Spain. We include the city’s UNESCO Heritage sites and a variety of activities, including museums, strolls through historical sites and a picnic at the largest city in the park.

The basics

  • City: Madrid, Spain
  • Stay: Around Plaza Mayor
  • Transport: Madrid has excellent public transportation with its metro system and bus lines. Most of the sites listed here are within two to four metro stops of one another.

At-a-glance activities

Madrid Activity
Day 1Arrive to Madrid & Settle In
Map of Locations
Day 2Historical Madrid
–>Madrid Historic Core Walking Tour
–>Puerta del Sol
–>Calle de Postas
–>Plaza Mayor
–>Lunch at Mercado de San Miguel
–>Churros & chocolate at Chocolatería San Ginés
–>Almudena Cathedral
–>Royal Palace
–>Jardines de Sabatini
Map of Locations
Day 3Park & Museums
–>Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum
–>El Retiro Park
–>El Prado Museum
–>El Reina Sofia Museums
Map of Locations
Day 4Architecture & Shopping
–>Walk down Gran Via from Plaza de Espana to Banco de Espana
Map of Locations
Day 5Fútbol
–>Real Madrid Santiago Bernabéu Stadium Tour
–>Catch a Real Madrid game if it’s season
Map of Locations
Day 6Depart for Segovia
–>Pick up rental car in Madrid City Center (Atocha Station)
–>Drive to Toledo en route to Segovia
–>Free Walking Tour in Toledo

Madrid’s UNESCO World Heritage sites

Madrid’s UNESCO sites are not located directly in the city center. You must take a private car or public transport to access them. If you have a half day of time, we recommend incorporating some of these sites into your pans.

Why You Should Visit UNESCO Heritage Sites

Map of UNESCO sites in Madrid

Monastery and Site of the EscorialSpanish royal site that served a central role in the Christian world
University and Historic Precinct of Alcalá de HenaresFirst example of a planned university city; founded in 1499; birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes
Aranjuez Cultural LandscapeThe landscape includes advanced horticultural designs
Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe*This transnational composite nature site encompasses forests in 12 European countries

Day 1: Arrive to Madrid & settle in

Stretch your legs by walking around the neighborhood, and enjoy tapas and wine on a patio while people watching.

Day 2: Historical Madrid

This walking tour of Madrid’s historic core brings you to the city’s gems.

Map of Locations

Puerta del Sol: Renowned central square

Calle de Postas: The street that was Madrid’s former economic nervous system

Plaza Mayor: This plaza dates back to the Hapsburg period (1600s). It’s gone through a number of changes over the years. Today the plaza, some 129 meters in length and 94 meters in width, is ringed by cafes, shops and tourist outposts. 

Mercado de San Miguel: Next to Plaza Mayor is this indoor market that used to be a big central market before it fell into disrepair. Bought by a foodie and turned into a hip spot with lots of restaurants and stalls, the food here is delicious and surprisingly cheap considering its downtown location.

Churros & chocolate at Chocolatería San Ginés: A must when you’re in the city. Madrid’s oldest chocolateria has been serving up these delicious treats since 1894. 

Almudena Cathedral: This cathedral dates back to 1879 and was built on the site occupied by Madrid’s first mosque.
Royal Palace: Home to Kings of Spain from Charles III to Alfonso XIII, still serves as the official residence for the Royal Family.  Changing the guard is held on Wednesdays and Saturdays, weather permitting.

Jardines de Sabatini: Part of the Royal Palace, these gardens were  built in the 1930s. 

Day 3: Park & Museums

The three museums featured here are considered Madrid’s museum golden triangle. Take a break by picnicking at El Retiro Park. If you don’t have enough energy for three museums in a single day, save one for the next day.

Map of Locations

Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum: This is the best private art collection in Europe. It houses XIX – XX century art ranging from Impressionism to pop art.

El Retiro Park: Madrid’s version of NYC’s Central Park. Spanning 125 hectares and housing more than 15,000 trees, there’s plenty of space to picnic, walk, people watch and a lake for paddle boating. Crystal Palace (a structure made completely out of glass) features a rotating collection of art exhibits.

Prado Museum: One of the world’s best museums. Houses works from Spanish (El Greco, Velázquez, and Goya), Flemish and Dutch (Rubens, van Dyck, and Brueghel), Italian (Botticelli, Tintoretto, Titian, Caravaggio, and Veronese), and German (Albrecht Dürer, Lucas Cranach, and Baldung Grien) artists. Free on weekdays from 6-7PM.

El Reina Sofia: This museum is home to Pablo Picasso’s Guernica and art by Miró, Kandinsky, Dalí, and Bacon.Free admission on Monday, Wednesday-Saturday from 7pm to 9pm and Sundays from 1:30pm to 7pm. 

Day 4: Architecture & Shopping

Stroll down Gran Via to see architectural styles from the 1910s, 20s and 30s and stop in to boutiques and shops along the way. Visit any of the museums you might have missed the previous day.

Map of Locations

Day 5: Fútbol/Soccer

Madrid has two major teams: Real Madrid & Atlético Madrid. We focus on Real Madrid, a force on the Spanish and wider European fútbol scene. If you have the opportunity, go to a live match, and if the team is playing out of town, catch the game with locals at a bar.

Map of Locations

Harvard reports that Real Madrid “is one of the 20 most important brand names and the only one in which its executives, [and] the players, are well-known…there are an estimated 287 million people worldwide who follow Real Madrid.”

Real Madrid Santiago Bernabéu Stadium Tour
Tour through Bernabéu Stadium, Real Madrid’s home stadium.Views of the pitch, dressing rooms, player tunnel, press room and museum are included in tour entry fees.

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