5 Days in Madrid: The Ultimate City Itinerary

5 days in madrid means seeing lots of great views

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Madrid was one of those European capitals that intrigued me on a personal level. Not only are there plenty of direct flights from New Jersey, making Madrid super accessible for me, but this city is also particularly well-known for its world-class art museums.

And everyone knows that I adore art museums.

After all, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is my “happy place” where I always go if I want an afternoon to relax and reflect. 

I longed to see Madrid for the art. So I did. Alone.

However, when I took my solo trip to Madrid, I was initially worried that I was spending too much time in Spain’s capital city and limiting myself. I was there an entire week.

Yet, upon landing in Spain, I fell in love. Madrid exceeded my expectations.

Now I want to help other travelers, especially those who like to take their time, move slowly and savor a city’s unique character. 

grinning on my solo trip to madrid
This Traveler is Happy with 5 Days in Madrid.

Madrid Travel Tips

Below, I’ve written a few general travel tips for your 5 days in Madrid.

In this post, I discuss time of year, public transportation, accommodation, and packing to help you prepare for your adventure! Time to take notes.

Best Time to Visit Madrid

If you’re limited, go to Madrid whenever you can. You’ll have a great time. However, if you’ve options, then you want to carefully consider what time of year that you plan to visit Madrid.

Personally, I think the best time to visit Madrid is in spring because of the pleasant weather. My entire vacation was sunny with temperatures in the low 70s (~22 C). Perfect sightseeing weather.

As much as I love summer travel, Madrid is very, very, very hot in July and August. Not to mention, August is when several locals take their holidays so some family-run businesses may be shut down. 

Like I said, if you’re limited to a certain time of the year, go anyway, but consider your options if you have them.

visiting madrid in april and loving the flowers

Getting Around Madrid

Is Madrid a large city? Yes.

However, for tourists, walking around Madrid will suffice just fine. The vast majority of attractions are within an easy distance between one another. 

Madrid also has a very efficient and navigate metro system that you may use to cover longer distances.

For 5 days, it’s worth it to invest in a public transport tourist pass so you’re not paying for each and every trip on the metro!

Where to Stay in Madrid

Madrid has a plethora of options for visitors. I’ve listed a few suggestions here. 

Hotels

  • B&B Hotel Madrid Centro Puerta del Sol: This beautiful 3-star hotel is reasonably priced and located right in the heart of Madrid, not far from gran Via (see prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com)
  • CoolRooms Atocha: Las Letras neighborhood is one of my favorite neighborhoods in all of Madrid, and this award-winning hotel puts you in the middle of this scenic area of Madrid (see prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com)
  • Only YOU Boutique Hotel: Want to stay in a historic hotel? This cool boutique hotel is set in a former 19th-century palace (see prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com)

Hostels

  • Hostel One Madrid: You’ll find family vibes and yummy home cooking at Hostel One. Located on a safe street near a metro station. (see prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com
  • Sungate One: If you want an enthusiastic and passionate staff in the middle of Madrid, then look no further than Sungate One! You’ll immediately make new friends. (see prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com)
  • Way Hostel Madrid: This hostel is located in the lovely and quiet Tirso de Molina neighborhood. However, it’s only a quick 7 minute walk from Plaza Mayor! (see prices on TripAdvisor.com)

five days in madrid means seeing cool street art

What to Pack for 5 Days in Madrid

Need some packing advice for your 5 days in Madrid? Here are some essentials that I wouldn’t leave without! 

  • A Lonely Planet Guidebook: Spain’s capital is an exciting place to be that’s constantly changing. To make the most informed travel decisions, make sure to pack the Lonely Planet Guide to Madrid. Lonely Planet makes my favorite guidebooks! 
  • A Mirrorless Camera: If you want to take super high-quality photos, it’s time to go beyond the phone camera. My favorite mirrorless camera is Sony’s Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Camera due to its reasonable price point and size. 
  • Spanish Phrasebook: In Spain, English isn’t as widely spoken compared to Portugal, Italy, and other nearby countries. It’s polite and smart to learn a little bit of Spanish. Bring a small Spanish phrasebook to help you and make locals happy!
  • Theft-Proof Crossbody Bag: I felt super safe in Madrid, but I understand worries about pickpockets. Invest in a crossbody bag with anti-theft protection to keep your mind at ease as you explore the city. 
  • Travel Insurance: I don’t ever leave the country without travel insurance. It’s important to keep in mind that your medical insurance may not cover you abroad. I use World Nomads for all my trips, and haven’t been disappointed yet!

madrid 5 day itinerary: make sure to see all the statues

Quick Glance: 5 Days in Madrid

Day Sights
1 Arrival, Walking Tour, Reina Sofia
2 Visit Toledo
3 The Prado & Madrid Literary Neighborhood
4 Visit Segovia
5 Palaces, More Art, and More History

backpacking routes europe

5 Days in Madrid: Detailed Itinerary & Guide

Now let’s get into detail about our upcoming 5 days in Madrid. As always, you’re more than welcome to adjust this itinerary based on your own personal interest. 

Day 1: Arrival, Walking Tour, Reina Sofía

Most international travelers will arrive at Madrid-Barajas Airport which is roughly 12 km. outside the city center. After going through customs, you’ll find that Madrid’s airport is connected to the capital’s color-coded metro system. Be sure to validate all tickets ahead of time. 

I always like starting my trips with a walking tour. 

If you’re on a budget, Madrid has several great free walking tours that provide an overview of the city. My personal favorite company is SANDEMANs New Europe.

They have a Free Tour of Madrid that covers all the main attractions such as Plaza Mayor and Madrid Royal Palace. 

For the free tours, please make sure you have a few euros to tip the guide! It’s how they earn their money!

After your tour, take the time to simply walk around Madrid and explore. I personally recommend hanging out in San Miguel Market for some tapas and other treats!

And you didn’t think that I forgot about art, did you? Be sure to visit Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía – which is Madrid’s most popular modern art museum. The main attraction is Guernica, a famous anti-war oil painting by Pablo Picasso. Buy tickets ahead of time to avoid waiting in line.

Day 2: Day Trip to Toledo 

Yes, when visiting Madrid for 5 days, I personally recommending leaving the city at least once. I loved Madrid, but gems surround the Spanish capital and shouldn’t be missed!

I’m not kidding. Madrid has some incredible day trips. I honestly don’t think you should visit Madrid without also seeing its nearby wonders. 

For today, wake up early to visit historical Toledo. 

Toledo is super accessible from Madrid. For example, a fast-train leaving Madrid’s main train station, Atocha, only takes about 30 minutes! If you’re on a strict budget, however, the bus is a much cheaper option, although it takes longer to reach Toledo (an hour and a half). 

Toledo is a stunning hilltop city that’s a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll see a stunning mix of architecture that captures Toledo’s mix of Jewish, Islamic and Christian cultures.

In order to maximize your time, consider taking a walking guided tour in Toledo to discover and learn about all the magnificent sites this city offers its visitors. 

spain itinerary 5 days don't skip the prado

Day 3: The Prado, Barrio de las Letras, Pyramids 

Good morning, all! I hope you’re ready for my favorite art museum in Madrid: The Prado.

Why visit the Prado? Well, this incredible art museum has the most comprehensive collection of Spanish paintings, more so than any other museum in the world, and you’ll see some of the most famous pieces by Velazquez and Goya!

Additionally, be sure to purchase an audio guide so you understand what you’re looking at. The Prado is very popular for international tourists, so your native language should be available at the museum. 

Keep in mind that the Prado is a huge museum, which may feel overwhelming at times, especially for travelers who are unfamiliar with art. For an extra cost, you may want to join a small group tour of the Prado to skip the line and learn all about the gorgeous pieces surrounding you. 

After spending so much time in the Prado, you’ll want to make sure to get outside and explore Madrid’s beautiful streets. Barrio de las Letras is one of my favorite areas in Madrid to explore on foot.

enjoying segovia on this spanish trip
Look at this happy face!

Day 4: Day Trip to Segovia 

Are you ready to take another short day trip outside Madrid? I hope so!

Segovia is home to an amazing Aqueduct that dates back to the Roman Empire. 

To reach Segovia, you may take the AVE train (roughly 30 minutes) or the bus (if you’re on a budget).

In Segovia, take a walk along the Aqueduct with their impressive 167 arches. You’ll feel as if you’ve been transported back in time to the height of the Romain Empire. 

Furthermore, you’ll also have a chance to see Alcázar de Segovia, which is a gorgeous UNESCO castle that looks like a fairytale against the mountains. Take advantage of the photo opportunities. 

Last but not least, poke around Catedral de Segovia. This cathedral is one of many stunning Gothic-style buildings in Spain.

You can spend an entire day easily in Segovia. 

the royal palace madrid

Day 5: Palaces, More Art, and More History!

Oh no, your 5 days in Madrid are slowly coming to an end! Let’s make your last day super special! 

Let’s begin with a visit to the Royal Palace of Madrid. The Spanish Royal Family’s Residence glorious white exterior makes for tremendous photographs. You may want to purchase tickets ahead of time, depending on the crowds. 

Nearby, visit Catedral de la Almudena, which is the grandest cathedral in all of Madrid.

And do you want to see another art museum? Of course you do! 

Once you enjoy the palace and cathedral, take a walk to Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, which is home to many brilliant Renaissance pieces. Take the route along Grand Via in order to see some of Madrid’s finest buildings. You can also stop at one of the many rooftop bars on your way to the museum to see Madrid from a bird’s eyes view.

At the end of your day, catch the sunset at Temple of Debod. This Egyptian temple and monument was moved from Aswan to Madrid, and the location is perfect for watching the sun slowly disappear beyond the horizon.

A perfect ending to a perfect day.

bookstore in madrid

I hope you enjoyed reading all about 5 days in Madrid! As you can see, this allows plenty of time to see Madrid and its surroundings on a deeper level. What do you want to see and do most with 5 days in Madrid?

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