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How to Spend 3 Great Days in Madrid

Lily Burke

Having spent nearly five months studying in Spain’s capital, the city holds a special place in my heart. From its ornate baroque architecture to its laid back way of life, Madrid is a city lost in time. Wander the grand boulevards, explore charming pathways and enjoy its rich history. Before you arrive, here are my tips for the adventure.

What to Pack


Madrileños possess an effortless style that is difficult to replicate. They somehow always look put together without trying. If I can tell you one thing, leggings are for working out and that’s it. Rock The Globetrotter Dress to meander through Museo Nacional del Prado or sport the Everywhere Dress when basking in the sun at El Retiro Park.

What to Eat

Image Courtesy of Unsplash // Daniel Furtado

Madrid will show you an entirely new way to experience food. Lunch, being the first meal of the day at 1pm, is a time to catch up with friends before taking an afternoon siesta. Dinner, however, is a party at 10pm that will most likely go into the wee hours of the morning. Enjoy!

Café Federal

Plaza del Conde de Barajas, 3, 28005 Madrid, Spain

Since most Madrileños awake from their slumber late morning and choose a cup of café con leche over breakfast, Madrid, unlike New York, is not known for their brunch. Café Federal, however, takes on the challenge and serves an unbelievable brunch menu. Sip on a pretty mimosa before devouring an egg skillet …can you tell they cater to Americans? 

Takos Al Pastor

Calle de la Abada, 2, 28013 Madrid, Spain

It has been over a year since I left Madrid, and I still dream of Takos Al Pastor. To make them even better? They are all €1. 


Calle de San Andrés, 1, 28004 Madrid, Spain

Situated in my favorite neighborhood of Malasaña, Ojalá provides both a delicious menu and a fabulous atmosphere. Ask for a table in the basement where you’ll find the entire floor is made up of sand. Try them for brunch, lunch or dinner and don’t forget to try their sangria.

Mercado De San Miguel

Plaza de San Miguel, 5, 28005 Madrid, Spain

Madrid is full of fantastic Spanish markets. My favorite being Mercado De San Miguel. Their endless selection of paella and tapas may be overwhelming, but you can’t go wrong as everything is tasty. Afterwards, walk next door to Plaza de Mayor, a historic public space marking the very center of the city. 

Chocolatería San Ginés 

Pasadizo de San Ginés, 5

Chocolatería San Ginés, founded in 1894 and open 24 hours, boasts the best churros in the city. After a late night out or a long dinner, wind down with some churros dipped in a special chocolate sauce. You may have to indulge in them more than once during your trip. They’re that good. 

What to Do

Image Courtesy of Unsplash // Sara Riano

Palacio Real de Madrid

The royal family’s official resistance, now only used for state ceremonies, is exquisite. Constructed for King Felipe V, the ornate palace is adorned in baroque architecture with references to the classical period. It is truly a masterpiece that you can’t skip during your visit to Madrid. P.S. Don’t forget to look up. The ceilings are out of this world. 

El Retiro Park

Take a break from sightseeing and enjoy some rest and relaxation at El Retiro, one of Madrid’s largest parks. Aside from appreciating its perfectly manicured landscape, visit the Glass Palace,  used as an exhibition hall by the Reina Sofía Museum, or soak up the sun on a rowboat. If you wake up early enough, run the perimeter of the park. It is beautiful! 

Museo Nacional del Prado

Madrid is home to the famous Prado, Spain’s national museum of art. Seek out works by Goya, Picasso and El Greco to gain a better understanding of Spain’s vast history. I’d suggest going with a game plan because it’s that big. I have visited at least four times and still have not viewed all of the amazing works of art housed in the Prado. 

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

The Reina Sofía is Spain’s national museum of 20th century art. Here you can view Picasso’s Guernica alongside masterpieces by Salvador Dalí and Joan Miró. 

Shopping in Salamanca 

If you want to go up a notch from Grand Vía, a tourist destination lined with fast fashion outlets, pay a visit to Salamanca. The neighborhood is home to the “Golden Mile”, an elegant boulevard lined with fine-dining restaurants and designer boutiques. Even if you are just window shopping, Salamanca won’t disappoint. 

Círculo de Bellas Artes Rooftop

You can find a plethora of rooftops in the city of Madrid, but Círculo de Bellas Artes definitely has the best view. Enjoy a cocktail while overlooking Grand Vía and the rest of the unbelievable European city.