Madrid is one of the hearts of Spanish culture. In this article, I’ve given you my itinerary for my time in Madrid, and also a short list of all of the activities I did if you want to make your itinerary your own.

Condensed List of Activities for Madrid

  • Prado Museum (Art Gallery)
  • Royal Palace of Madrid
  • La Casa de Joaquin Sorolla (Artists House and Gardens)
  • El Museo de la Reina Sofia (Art Gallery)
  • Retiro Park
  • Museum of Anthropology
  • Food Tour
  • Walking Tour around the City
  • Tapas Bars
  • Spanish Cooking Class

My Itinerary – Day 1

To get a full first day, we took an early flight to the airport and used the public transport system to then get ourselves to the middle of Madrid. One of teh best ways you can fully integrate yourself into Spanish culture on this first day is to try tapas. Many bars and restaurants will offer tapas, and we had a wander down the side streets to find a more isolated restaurant for this.

We visited EL Museo del Prado which is an art gallery holding many works of many famous artists such as Velasquez and Miro. Even for a short trip, I would visit either EL Museo del Prado or El Museo de la Reina Sofia to look at some Spanish artwork. (Or do both, like we did!)

This first day was mainly about getting our bearings and we went to the Plaza del Sol through our walk around the city. We continued this exploration into the evening, after getting cheese, wine and bread from a local supermarket. We finished off this day with a walk about to try traditional Spanish hot chocolate and churros. (I would highly recommend it. It’s like one of those hot chocolates that feels like you’re just drinking pure melted chocolate).

Hot Chocolate and Churros in a Cafe in Madrid

Day 2

On a slightly more active day two (although there’s nothing wrong with just food and exploring) we went to La Casa de Joaquin Sorolla. This is a famous Spanish painter, and you are able to look around the house as well his paintings with written guides in Spanish and English. There is a queue outside the house to get in, so I would advise arriving early and having this as your first activity of the day.

Royal Palace in Madrid

A must see is the royal palace of Madrid, which was what we spent our afternoon doing. In regards to timing, we went in around three with a very minimal queue and when we came out, the queue was massive. Check online for timings and potentially tickets in the busy season.

In the evening, we attended a Spanish Cooking Class at Cooking Point. I would highly recommend this as an evening activity to learn more about Spanish gastronomy, meet other people from all over the world, and share experiences and ideas for what to do in Madrid. If you’ve never attended a cooking class before and you’re interested in doing so, check out my article on them here: Are Cooking Classes Abroad Worth it?

Day 3

One of the largest art galleries in Spain, El Museo de Reina Sofia, holds many famous paintings like the Guernica (Picasso) and artworks from many other famous artists such as Dali. It is free entry for those under 18 and students, and very reasonably priced for all others.

From there, we went for a short visit to the National Museum of Anthropology, and then for a walk in the sun around El Parque Retiro. EL Parque Retiro is a great filler activity to see the greenery in Madrid, take a stop at one of the cafes and then move onto the next place.

I do vividly remember that on this day, I did a LOT of walking. This is just simply a warning for those who may not want to walk as much. I will however say that the walking allowed me to fully experience the city – rather than just seeing it though a bus window.

In the evening, we went to La Plaza Mayor where we started a food tour we had found online. This took us to more touristy food markets, sightseeing around the area and more local bars serving tapas or specials like calamari sandwiches.

Day 4

On day 4, we didn’t stay in Madrid. If you do want a more relaxed five days in Madrid, you are probably best to stay in Madrid and spread out your activities more. However, I wanted to visit a city north of Madrid – Burgos.

If you’ve read much of my travel blog before, you’ll know that I’m really interested in anthropology and evolution. In Burgos, there ‘El Museo de Evolucion Humana’. (A Human Evolution museum for those that don’t read like reading that in Spanish). Although you’re probably not as enthusiastic as me about visiting a museum there, if you are ever in Burgos, it’s amazing.

In Burgos, we also visited the Cathedral and looked around the old architecture of the town entrance. It’s a beautiful place to visit, if a little busy.

A note on buses: We took the bus from Madrid and Burgos, and back. Although a little expensive, the buses were very reliable and I would recommend them for long-distance travel across Spain. If you’re doing an interrail trip (and also using buses) Spain might be a good place to catch a few long-distance overnight buses.

Day 5

As our flight was a fairly early morning one, we didn’t do anything on this last day. (Except get fresh orange juice at the airport, but I don’t really think that counts as an activity).

Check back soon for more your Spanish food checklist and simple Spanish phrases to know before you go. Follow me on Instagram @wanderlust_and_a_rucksack to make sure you don’t miss blog posts!

If you’ve been to and loved Madrid, why not try Lisbon? What to do for a week in Lisbon