When you visit Madrid, you will see that there are so many attractions and activities that time is not enough. The last time I traveled I spent 5 days in Madrid and I’ll tell you what you can see and do in this time.
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This was my second trip to Madrid and it’s a city I always want to return to. We spent Christmas here and it was a unique experience. Check out our article about Christmas in Madrid so that you know where to find Christmas events.
If you’ve read my previous post you’ll know that we almost didn’t make it to Madrid 😅. We missed the bus in Porto and by mere luck we got a bus that drop us off in Zaragoza and from there we took the bus to Madrid. The buses were jam-packed as it was December 23, the day before Christmas Eve.
Anyway, we arrive at the Méndez Álvaro station or South station, a station that is already quite familiar to us. It’s the main station in Madrid and where you’ll arrive from almost anywhere in Spain.
This time we rent an apartment, so to get there we took the subway that is a few steps from the station. You can also take the Cercanias train depending on your destination. Nowadays you have to buy some rechargeable plastic cards for the metro. Before they were paper tickets.
The most central stations and close to our destination were Puerta del Sol and Gran Vía, but they were closed due to an expansion work. We went to Tribunal station which was the closest. We arrived at our apartment and settled in, ready to spend 5 days in Madrid.
Where to stay in Madrid
On my first trip to Madrid we stayed for 3 nights. We arrived very early and without having booked a hotel. We had a very bumpy trip as it was my first trip to Europe, and we made several mistakes. Or perhaps it is becoming a habit to arrive in Madrid with problems
A very kind man helped us to get to the city center to visit the tourist office. We got on the bus with him and got off at Puerta del Sol. From there we walked to the Plaza Mayor where the Tourist Office is located.
We had to wait for them to open as it was still very early. They only had a guide with the list of all the hostels. They let us use some computers (for public use) to book a hotel. We were lucky because we got one very close at a good price.
The hotel is called City House Florida Norte and it is a modern and comfortable hotel. The staff is friendly and it’s also located a few steps from the Royal Palace. Opposite are the Príncipe Pío metro and Cercanías stations, there is also a shopping center with some places to eat. The city center is easily reached on foot.
On the second trip we stayed in a very comfortable studio in the middle of the shopping area. We rent it on Airbnb and it’s called Studio Fuencarral Street. It is small but enough for two people. It had everything we needed like Wi-Fi, washing machine, kitchen. Yet, when going out the first thing you see is hundreds of pedestrians doing their shopping so if you are looking for a quiet area, this is not for you. For me the location was great, a few blocks from Gran Vía.
Anyway, using this map you can get options of central accommodation in Madrid.
what to see 5 days in Madrid
Now, let’s see which are the top attractions to see 5 days in Madrid.
Puerta del Sol
You must first see Puerta del Sol, especially if you are staying in the center. It is a big square where musicians and other street performers gather. On Christmas season it was always full of people.
Here you will find that famous sculpture of El Oso y el Madroño (Bear and the arbutus) where you can take a picture. Also, emblematic is the post office clock, which marks the 12 chimes at the end of the year. This is where locals gather to wait for the new year.
A few blocks from Puerta del Sol is Plaza Mayor, another of the beautiful squares in Madrid. This is a closed square with 10 entrances, some of them with arches. It dates from the 16th century, when the main market was located here.
It has suffered from 3 fires after which it has been restored. In the center there is an equestrian sculpture of Felipe III that also suffered damage after an attack. Here you’ll find the Tourist Office, as well as some shops, cafés and restaurants.
In this square are held different events such as concerts and the now traditional Christmas market. Every weekend there is also a philately and numismatic market. Don’t miss coming to admire its buildings in Baroque style.
Gran Vía street
Gran Vía is another spot not to be missed when staying 5 days in Madrid. Without a doubt one of my favorite attractions, not only because of the many fashion shops, but also because of the beautiful buildings around it.
Some of these outstanding buildings are the metropolis building, the press palace and the Callao cinemas. Many old cinemas and theaters are located on this avenue. It ends in the Plaza de España, a large garden with a sculpture dedicated to Miguel de Cervantes and his famous characters Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.
Even the shops located here are among the most beautiful in the city. It’s a real delight to walk along this street and look up to admire its buildings.
The Royal Palace is a mandatory stop on a trip of 5 days in Madrid. The advantage is that it’s also very close to the center and can be reached on foot. This palace is the official residence of the Spanish royal family, yet they don’t live here and it’s used only for official events
They started building the Royal Palace in 1738 in a Baroque style and is one of the largest royal palaces in Europe. I wasn’t able to visit it inside, but they say it houses many artworks by famous artists such as Caravaggio, Velázquez and Francisco de Goya.
General admission costs 13 euros. On this page you can see the schedules and other rates. If it’s worth it from the outside, I imagine it’s amazing on the inside.
Opposite is the Almudena Cathedral. It’s a building with various architectural styles such as Neo-Gothic, Neoclassical and Neo-Romanesque. It was built between the 19th and 20th centuries so it’s not very old. Many religious acts of the Spanish royal family have been held here, such as the wedding between the then Prince of Asturias and Letizia Ortiz.
Cibeles square and Alcala Gate
Other highlights of the city that you should not miss are Plaza de Cibeles and Puerta de Alcalá very close to each other.
Plaza de Cibeles or La Cibeles has become a symbol of the city. At the center is the fountain of the same name with a sculpture of the goddess Cibeles made in the 18th century. Around this fountain, which functions as a roundabout, are some interesting buildings. It stands out, the Cibeles palace formerly known as the Palace of Communications. Now is the seat of the Madrid city council.
Despite being the most identified with the square, the Cibeles palace was the last to be built between 1904 and 1917. It’s a very beautiful white palace with a mixture of architectural styles, predominantly neo-Gothic. The other buildings are the Buenavista Palace, the Bank of Spain and the Linares Palace.
A few steps away is the Puerta de Alcalá (Alcala Gate). This was one of the royal or registry entrances to the city that was walled at that time. The monument that we now observe was built between 1769 and 1778 in a neoclassical style. It has witnessed many historical events and has become an emblem of the city.
And walking on Alcalá street we arrive at the Retiro Park, another must-see on our trip of 5 days in Madrid. It’s an ideal place to go to relax after walking around the city. Here you can see various monuments, sculptures, ponds and landscape ensembles.
The park dates from the 17th century and was built as part of a palace called Buen Retiro conceived as a residence for rest and recreation. After the War of Independence the palace and the gardens were badly damaged. After becoming property of the city council, the gardens were restored, but the main palace, which was very deteriorated, was demolished.
The park is quite large and there are many architectural ensembles that are worth seeing. The monument to Alfonso XII stands out with the large pond at its feet. In the pond it is possible to ride in small boats. There was a long line, so we decided to skip it.
Another attraction that won’t go unnoticed is the Glass Palace. It was built to houseplant species from the Philippines. It is currently used as an exhibition center for the Reina Sofía museum, so you have to pay a fee to enter. We saw it from the outside and that was enough for us.
There are several ponds, streams, waterfalls, fountains, sculptures, and gardens. Exploring it all can take all day, but it’s worth seeing.
what to do 5 days in Madrid
And as I was telling you, in Madrid you will have plenty of options of places to see and things to do. These are other suggestions of activities to do 5 days in Madrid:
Visit one (or more) of its fabulous museums.
As a capital, it has many interesting museums to visit. Some of the most popular and famous are the so-called art triangle museums. These are the Prado Museum, the Reina Sofía National Art Center and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum.
The most visited is the Reina Sofía Museum, which houses modern art. Spanish artists like Picasso, Dalí and Joan Miró stand out. The general admission price is € 10. The Prado Museum is the second most visited and has a huge collection of art mainly from the pictorial schools of Spain, Flanders and Italy. Admission for adults is € 15.
We did not visit either the Reina Sofía or the Prado. The first because I am not a big fan of modern art, I like it but I prefer to see more classic works. We didn’t visit Prado museum either, as we assumed it was going to be crowded and besides they don’t allow taking pictures.
We decided on the Thyssen-Bornemisza which houses a private collection that belonged to the same name family. The collection includes works by Dürer, Holbein, Fra Angelico, Ghirlandaio and Caravaggio, among others. The price for adults is € 13.
Other notable museums are the National Archaeological Museum that we also visit. It is highly recommended and the ticket price is only €3
The Sorolla Museum houses works by the artist Joaquín Sorolla. If you appreciate modern art, be sure to visit it. Admission is also €3.
Another museum that I consider worthwhile is the Cerralbo Museum. It is located in a palace that alone is worth a visit. It also houses several objects of decorative art. The price for adults is €3.
The Naval Museum is for those who love boats. Here are several recreations of ships and objects related to navigation. Admission is free but a € 3 donation is suggested for maintenance.
You can visit the Museum of the History of Madrid if you want to know the evolution of this city. Admission is free and unfortunately we didn’t know about this museum, as it was very close to where we stayed.
In a trip of 5 days in Madrid, I consider that it’s possible to include 2 or 3 museums, it depends on if you like art and culture. We visited 2, because on Christmas season it was crowded everywhere
One of my favorite activities in Madrid is shopping. During my stay of 5 days in Madrid we spent much of our time (and money 😉 ) shopping. My hubby was going crazy. I don’t recommend spending a lot of time on this, but I do recommend taking a look at the stores, especially in Gran Via and surroundings.
I wanted to do some shopping because I didn’t bring clothes to wear for Christmas and I wanted to buy some Christmas presents for my family. You know that it’s crazy to shop on this season, but there are some stores that we don’t have in my city and in my country, such as Primark. The shops on Gran Vía are also beautiful, some are in old buildings.
Downtown is the ideal place to start shopping, you can also find gift and souvenir shops. There are also some markets like the famous El Rastro. I went to that one on my first trip but it was so crowded that I couldn’t see anything.
You can choose to visit the large shopping centers. In another post I will bring you a complete guide for shopping in Madrid.
Do a day trip
If you want to see more in a short time and want to take advantage of your stay of 5 days in Madrid, I suggest you take a day trip to a nearby place. These are some options.
Toledo is approximately 72 km from Madrid. You can get there by train or by bus, being the fastest train (30 Min. Approx.) And the bus the cheapest but slower (1 hour Approx.).
Toledo is known as the city of the three cultures, since both Catholics, Jews and Muslims coexisted here for many centuries. As an example you can visit the Jewish quarter, the Mosque of the Christ of Light and the 13th century Cathedral.
Nor should you miss the Alcazar, with its Renaissance façade and which currently houses the Army Museum. If you like art, here you can also find many works by El Greco distributed among museums and churches.
Segovia is a beautiful city with a medieval style. It’s very close to Madrid and can be seen in one day, however, like Toledo, it is recommended to stay longer. We stayed 2 days in Segovia on a previous trip, and we loved it.
The main thing to see in Segovia is its Alcazar, that looks like a Disney castle, the Aqueduct and its cathedral. There are so many ancient buildings and monuments that you will enjoy by walking through its streets.
El Escorial is another popular visit that you can do from Madrid. The Royal Monastery of El Escorial is a large complex that includes the monastery, a Royal Palace, a basilica, a pantheon, a library and a school. It was founded in the 16th century in honor of St. Lorenzo, the name of the town where it is located, by orders of Phillip II.
It has been a royal residence and the kings of Spain are buried in its basilica. It was built in a span of 21 years in a Renaissance style. The basic entrance to visit it is 12 euros. Citizens of the European Union can enter for free on Wednesdays and Sundays at specific times. More information on the official page.
To get there you can do it by bus taking lines 661 and 664 at the Intercambiador Moncloa.
Other day trips
Other visits that you can consider are the Palace of Aranjuez, Cuenca and Salamanca. If it’s winter season you can also add to your itinerary some ski slopes and places where you can play with the snow. Examples of these are the ports of Navacerrada, Cotos, Valdesquí and Navafría.
You can also check out these day tours with other destinations. They are ideal when we have little time or don’t want to struggle organizing it and getting transport.
Saying goodbye to Madrid
Sadly, the day to say goodbye to Madrid came. The last day we spent it visiting the Archaeology museum. We checked out from the apartment and left our luggage in a locker service near Puerta del Sol to take advantage of our last hours of these 5 days in Madrid.
Our next destination would be Paris, where we spent the new year celebrations. We went to the Estación Sur again to take a bus from the Alsa company that would take us directly to Paris.
For a change, although we took the subway with enough time, we ended up rushing to the bus station and just a few minutes before the bus departed. We didn’t even have time to go to the restroom. Anyway … travel issues!
As you can see in Madrid there are plenty of things to do or attractions to see. These were what we saw and visited, as well as some other interesting options that you can add to your itinerary
Have you been in Madrid? What would you recommend not to miss? How many days do you think are enough to enjoy the city? Are 5 days okay? Drop me your opinions and suggestions in the comments section.
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