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4 Day Madrid Itinerary: Top Things to See & Do in Madrid

4 Day Madrid Itinerary: Top Things to See & Do in Madrid

Coming up with a list of sights and activities for your 4 day Madrid itinerary is a piece of cake!

Four days is a great amount of time to explore Madrid with plenty of time to see the main sights, eat lots of Tapas, and not feel too rushed sightseeing in Madrid.

The Spanish capital is bursting with things to see and do. However, organizing your wishlist requires far more patience.

This article takes the heat off, with a practical approach to seeing the city. Read on to find out exactly what to do in Madrid for 4 days.

How many days do you need in Madrid?

Rest assured, you can see the very best of Madrid in 4 days.

Even with just 2 days, you can tick off a decent number of attractions on your first visit.

However, if you are spending more than 4 days in Madrid or this is your second visit, you might want to consider investigating a day trip. Not that there aren’t plenty of things to do in one of Spain’s most beautiful cities.

How to Get to Madrid

The Madrid Airport is one of the best-connected airports in Europe.

You can get to Madrid from most airports around Europe on a direct flight including most London airports, Manchester, Paris, and Amsterdam.

Once you arrive at the airport you have a few options for getting to the city center, including by metro (the cheapest and quickest), by bus (best option for late-night arrivals), or by taxi.

If you are arriving from other parts of Spain like Barcelona, Alicante, or Malaga, you can take a fast train and arrive to the city at either Chamartin or Atoche train stations. Both are easy to get to the city center by train.

tio pepe building in madrid

One of the most iconic buildings in Madrid.

Ultimate 4 Day Madrid Itinerary

To show you how much there is to see in the capital, this 4 days in Madrid itinerary is focused on the city itself. Let’s dive in!

Day 1 of Madrid 4 day itinerary – Morning

You’ll jump straight in with the big sights this morning.

Therefore, if you didn’t get breakfast at your hotel, make a pit stop at Misión Café (in the Social Hub Hotel). Convenient for the Príncipe Pío and Plaza de España metro stations, this breakfast place serves strong coffee and artisanal pastries.

There are tons of options for breakfast in Madrid, but a traditional and affordable Spanish breakfast usually consists of toasted bread topped with crushed tomatoes that have been seasoned to perfection. Served alongside a cafe con leche (coffee with milk), it’s a delicious and filling start to the day.

royal palace of madrid with blue skies above.

The Royal Palace of Madrid is very grand (they specifically wanted to make sure it would be bigger than Buckingham Palace when they built it!).

Royal Palace of Madrid (Palacio Real de Madrid)

Start your 4 days in Madrid at one of the most notable sights. The 18th-century Royal Palace of Madrid remains in use as the official residence of the Spanish royal family. However, these days it’s only used for state ceremonies with the interiors open to the public year-round.

During your visit, you’ll wander past the Grand Staircase and see the likes of the Royal Library, Royal Armory, and Crown Room. Works by Goya and Velázquez hang on the walls.

The palace is usually open from 10:00 am, and it’s best to get there early as the palace is always busy from late morning.

Make good use of time on your 4 days in Madrid itinerary by booking Royal Palace skip-the-line admission. Embarking on a guided tour provides the best experience overall as you’ll understand the history of the palace and the royal family.

The tour concludes at the Sabatini Garden where you’ll be left to explore the terraces, plots, and fountains at leisure.

Almudena Cathedral (Catedral de la Almudena)

Construction of the Cathedral de la Almudena took some time due to the Spanish Civil War. Therefore, it wasn’t officially completed until the 1980s – making it one of the more youthful European cathedrals!

Consecrated by Pope John Paul II in 1993, the exterior features Neoclassical, Neo-Gothic, and Neo-Romanesque elements. However, the nave is quite surprising with bold color palettes and funky stained glass windows likened to pop art.

It’s free to enter the church but you can also pay €7 (around £6 GBP / $7.50 USD) to visit the upper galleries.

You can always flip these first two attractions of your 4-day Madrid itinerary as they’re right next door and have the same opening time.

Madrid cathedral from the front with blue skies above.

Madrid’s Almudena Cathedral.

Day 1 – Afternoon

Pause for lunch at Abonavida, where you’ll find a variety of tapas plates plus pizzas, salads, and cakes. The coffee and infusions are great but they also serve beer, wine, and cocktails.

Plaza de España

As you head to your next attraction, make a quick stop at the Plaza de España. The center is consumed by a huge monument in honor of Miguel de Cervantes.

If you visit Madrid during the summer, you’ll find pop-up food stalls while there’s usually an ice rink available in winter. Therefore, you can modify your Madrid itinerary as per the season and consider this an alternative lunch spot!

Cerralbo Museum (Museo Cerralbo)

One of the lesser-known museums in Madrid, Museo Cerralbo is located inside the former residence of the 17th Marquis of Cerralbo. The exhibition displays his personal art collection and is laid out more or less how it would have been during the 19th century.

It’s a treasure trove of masterpieces, sculptures, tapestries, and relics including coins, medals, drawings, stamps, timepieces, and armor. The mansion backs onto a courtyard garden which your ticket lets you explore.

Totally lavish and awash with period furniture and ornamental trinkets, the museum gives you a taste of aristocratic life!

You can check the current opening hours on the official website but tickets are just sold at the door.

plaza mayor in madrid with clear blue skies above - this plaza is a great place to spend time during your 4 days in Madrid itinerary.

Plaza Mayor is a huge area where you can enjoy a beer or coffee in the sunshine at any time of year.

Temple of Debod (Templo de Debod)

One of the most unique (and free!) things to do in Madrid, the Templo de Debod was constructed in Ancient Egypt in the 2nd century BC.

It was gifted to Spain in 1968, where it was carefully reconstructed in La Montaña Park retaining the original East-to-West orientation.

Although you can visit the Temple of Debod at any time of day, it’s particularly special at sunset or early in the morning when the light is soft.

This is also the best time to come to avoid crowds. There is almost always a line to get in.

temple of debod with pilars made of stone and grey skies above.

Temple of Debod, Madrid.

Day 1 in Madrid – Evening

If you really want to experience the best of Madrid in 4 days, allow plenty of time for cruising the taverns.

Round off your first day with dinner and drinks at Calle de la Cava Baja. Essentially, this is one of the liveliest spots to hang out and sample the best of the province’s cooking.

It’s one of the most famous streets in Madrid for tapas bars. There are literally more than 50 that line this little lane and people pour out of the bars with drinks in hand for a quick smoke or, in summer, to sit at one of the outdoor tables.

Follow your nose or sign up for this local tapas and wine tour with drinks. Departing at 18:00 pm, you’ll spend 4.5 hours learning about Spanish gastronomy from a Madrileñian.

The tour also stops at San Miguel Market, the largest food emporium in Madrid.

Day 2 of 4 Days in Madrid – Morning

As your first stop is a lovely big park, grab pastries to-go from the bakery closest to your hotel.

Otherwise, swing by the Holy Grain Bakery close to Ibiza Metro Station. Open daily from 09:00 am, they have you covered for carbs, sugar, and caffeine.

crystal palace building inside a park with a lake in front of it.

Crystal Palace in Retiro Park.

Retiro Park (Parque el Retiro)

Walk off yesterday’s deep dive into Madrid’s history (or a late night in San Miguel) with a stroll around Parque el Retiro.

There are lots of statues, gardens, and plazas to hunt down, and renting a boat on the pond is highly recommended. Plus, if you catch the metro to Retiro, you can have a quick look at the Puerta de Alcalá before heading into the park.

Towards the southern end, you’ll see the Palacio de Cristal – modeled on London’s Crystal Palace. The Reina Sofía Museum hosts everchanging contemporary art exhibitions inside the Palacio de Cristal that are well worth checking out. In fact, you can pick up ticket deals that grant access to the neighboring Palacio de Velázquez.

It’s up to you whether you make a whole morning of Retiro Park or just spend a couple of hours ambling around the highlights.

Atocha Station (Estación de Cercanías de Atocha)

One of the quirkiest things to do in Madrid is to visit the city’s inaugural railway station.

If the facade of Atocha Station is enough to prompt you to whip out your camera, wait until you spot what’s on the concourse. A lush “rainforest” displaying around 400 different species of plants and flora marks the heart of the station.

If you like what you see, you can also visit the Real Jardín Botánico which is right across the road from Atocha.

It takes around 20 minutes to walk from the Rose Garden in Retiro Park. However, if you decide to include a day trip in your 4 day Madrid itinerary you might end up just catching a train from Atocha.

palm trees and other trees inside of a train station.

Inside the Atocha Train Station in Madrid.

Day Two in Madrid – Afternoon

If you decide to visit Atocha Station, you can head to Mercado de San Fernando for lunch today. Located in the Lavapiés neighborhood, the market has a huge assortment of tapas bars alongside international stalls.

As Lavapiés is one of the more diverse parts of Madrid, you’ll find eateries from across the continents beyond the market. This is the neighborhood to come for a delicious curry or a fantastic Chinese restaurant.

Lavapiés street art

After eating, you can explore the Lavapiés area and admire the murals that adorn the streets.

This area gives you an entirely different perspective to Madrid, where street art isn’t all that common. Much of the work is concentrated on and off Calle de Lavapiés.

Museo Nacional del Prado

If you only include one museum in your Madrid 4 day itinerary, make it the Prado.

The gallery reads like a who’s who of Spanish and European greats, with work by Velázquez, El Greco, Goya, Brueghel, Rubens, Titian, Caravaggio, and Botticelli on show.

It’s best to pre-book tickets to Museo Nacional del Prado. Otherwise, you can align your schedule and take advantage of the free admission slots. These run Monday through Saturday between 6 pm and 8 pm, plus Sundays from 5 pm to 7 pm.

entrance to a museum at the gate with the building to the left and bright blue skies above. The museums are the best thigns to do with 4 days in Madrid.

Entrance to one of Madrid’s many museums.

Plaza Mayor

After the museum, make your way on foot to the Renaissance-style Plaza Mayor. This principal public square has served as a marketplace and execution ground, before being transformed into a hang-out with al fresco bars.

Considering its “touristy” status, the restaurants around the square are actually reasonably priced with good quality grub. Kawaii Café is cute if you have kids – or just like colorful cupcakes and novelty drinks!

Right around the corner, the Chocolatería San Ginés is a must for hot chocolate and churros. It has a storied history dating back to 1894, with churros baked on the premises. If you get a churro craving in the early hours, the café is open 24/7 Wednesday through Saturday.

If your 4 day Madrid itinerary coincides with the holidays, you’ll find a Christmas market here.

Day 2 in Madrid – Evening

Take a stroll along Gran Vía, a buzzing artery lined with elegant beaux-arts edifices containing shops, restaurants, casinos, and theaters. It’s comparable to Regent Street in London or Champs-Élysées in Paris.

Many of the stores open until late, and the atmosphere picks up after the sun dips and the streets are illuminated. For an indulgent supper or cocktail with a view, head to the Picalagartos Sky Bar or La Terraza de Óscar.

Otherwise, you can head back to Ibiza for a more economical dinner. No, this isn’t the party island – Ibiza is one of the best neighborhoods in Madrid for authentic fare in laid-back eateries.

If you want to do a serious bout of shopping during your Madrid 4 day itinerary, revisit Gran Vía early one morning when it’s quieter.

table full of tapas including vermut, raw fish, croquettes and chips.

There are so many great tapas bars to try around Madrid, so be sure in between sightseeing you are enjoying the food culture here!

Day 3 of 4 day Madrid itinerary – Morning

On the morning of the third day, you can take your pick from two options.

Santiago Bernabéu Stadium (Estadio Santiago Bernabéu)

Your first option for this morning is to visit the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium – the home turf of Real Madrid.

Of course, if you’re a football nut, you’ll probably prefer to “score” tickets to a game. If that’s not possible, touring the stadium is a worthy runner-up.

Tours of Estadio Santiago Bernabéu permit you to enter the trophy room, pop your head into the changing rooms, and see the pitch. You can pick up an audio guide and get a custom football shirt printed while you’re there.

Just note that at the time of writing, the stadium is undergoing construction work. Therefore, you might want to check out the latest and consider if this will hinder your overall experience.

Visit a museum

If you’re not into football, you can swap this activity for one of Madrid’s many museums. There is a museum for all tastes, including the National Archaeological Museum and the National Museum of Anthropology.

The Museum of the Old Chamberí Metro Station is one of the coolest museums in Madrid. This is a ghost station, disused since 1966. Complete with early 20th-century signage and ads, this is an exciting way to connect with the city’s past.

However, you’ll need to be fluent in español for this metro station as English tours aren’t available. If you’re not, it’s still a fun way to visit the station, just know you won’t understand much.

Old building with an entrance in the middle and concrete walkway in front.

Matadero Madrid is a very cool cultural space that is worth checking out. On a sunny day, head to the other side of hte building where there is a long walkway along the river that is well that is worth exploring.

Day 3 in Madrid – Afternoon & Evening

Depending on where you spend your morning, grab lunch locally or plan to eat at your afternoon destination.

A few of our favorites in the downtown area for great lunch are:

  • Casa Revuelta – this is the place to come for fried cod (bacalao) fritters. They serve them on a plate with a few slices of bread and a hunk of lemon. It’s perfect with a cold caña, or small beer.
  • Bar La Campana – For a hearty sandwich or bocadillo in Spanish, La Campana is the place to come. They have fried squid sandwiches that are to-die for as well as other traditional Spanish sandwiches like with tortilla (egg and potato), chorizo (cured pork sausage with paprika), and morcilla (black pudding).
  • Bodegas Rosell – If you are around the Museums, this is a great lunch option. Opened in the 1920s, this is a neighborhood institution. They have vermut on draft and the croquettes here are ranked as some of the best in the country.
restaurant in Madrid called Bodegas rosell with apartments above and entrance to the restaurant below.

Bodegas Rosell, Madrid.

Matadero Madrid

A former slaughterhouse, Matadero Madrid is now a cultural center on the riverside. It’s spread over a park, with several buildings each adding something different. The cultural center hosts visual arts exhibitions as well as theater and dance plus movies at Cineteca.

You can spend the afternoon checking the place out and stay to watch a movie if you fancy.

General admission is free and the activities are a mix of free and paid. In addition, Matadero hosts festive events and summer festivals and there are some great restaurants for lunch or dinner.

If you are visiting during the winter months, there is an ice rink here which is a great activities for kids or just kids at heart.

You’ll need to ride the metro down to Legazpi. Although, you could always follow the river back to Centro if you skip the cinema and dinner at Matadero.

fried calamari sandwich with olives and a beer on the side.

The calamari bocadillo from La Campana.

Day 4 of 4 day Madrid itinerary – Morning

After a busy 3 days, you can digest what you’ve seen and stretch your legs at one of the largest parks in the city center.

Countryside House Park (Parque Casa de Campo)

West of Centro, Parque Casa de Campo was once a hunting estate for the royal family. The grounds consist of woodland, streams, and a boating lake that you can easily spend a couple of hours exploring on foot.

Meanwhile, the park is home to such attractions as an amusement park with rides, an aquarium zoo, and a cable car.

In terms of what to do in Madrid for 4 days with kids, the Parque Casa de Campo is a wonderful option. But it’s also recommended to travelers who like a side of green during a city break. If you’re traveling solo, you might enjoy this electric bike tour which takes you to the prettiest lookouts in the park.

Note that Lago metro station is the closest option for the lake and cable car, while the Casa de Campo metro station is closer to the aquarium and theme park.

tapas bar with colorful entrance and apartments above it.

One of the many delicious tapas bars along Calle de la Cava Baja.

Day 4 in Madrid – Afternoon

By now, you’ll have seen the key highlights of Madrid in 4 days! Therefore, you can wrap up your itinerary with one of several options.

The first option is to visit another of Madrid’s wonderful museums that you may have missed earlier on your itinerary.

Alternatively, you could go shopping and pick up gifts and souvenirs to commemorate your time in Madrid. Gran Vía is a given but Malasaña is one of the best areas for vintage clothing and unique finds. Otherwise, the Sunday-only El Rastro Feria is one for flea market fanatics.

If you fancy catching a show at one of Madrid’s stunning theaters or concert halls, plan for a little siesta before heading out.

Last but not least, spend the final hours of your 4 day Madrid itinerary sipping sangria and grazing at tapas in a sunny plaza like a real Madrileñian!

Metrocazar

Tuesday 20th of February 2024

Many thanks for this great article about visiting Madrid. For those who have a bit more than 4 days time, I can highly recommend a trip to Toledo (appeox. 30 mins by train). Another nice day-trip is: El Escorial (approx. 45mins by bus).