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72 Hours In Madrid

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Since its urban renovation project, Madrid has become a popular city for those wanting to explore everything by foot. Even though many of the renovation projects were halted during the recession, the city is still home to both modern and historical sites. With so much to see and do in Madrid, only having 72 hours to do it all can be challenging, but it is still possible. Make a list of your must-see locations to help you see all you want to see in this limited amount of time.
Must-See Sites 

To help you determine what is a must-see when visiting Madrid, here is a list of the top five things you will want to make sure you have time to visit:

Plaza Mayor

Arches, painted fences and balconies will take your breath away when you visit Plaza Mayor. This 17th-century square is where they used to hold bullfights, trials and executions. Today, you will find quaint shops, lush gardens, tea shops and cafes. When leaving the plaza area along its northern perimeter, you will want to take a left turn down Calle Mayor. There you will see the Plaza De la Villa, the former kernel of Madrid in the 16th Century. If you go right from there, you will continue into Calle de Baile and eventually run into the Palacio Real. There are many other side streets and paths you can take to explore more historic sites in this area of the city.

Basilica de San Francisco El Grande

You will be amazed when you see the dome of the Basilica de San Francisco El Grande. According to legends, this cathedral was built by St. Francis of Assisi back in 1217. This cathedral has a dome that is much bigger than the one at St. Paul's Cathedral in London. Basilica de San Francisco El Grande is also home to one of Goya's earliest paintings, San Bernardino de Siena. You will also find paintings by Velazquez and Zurbaran.

Related: Guide To Jerusalem's Top Holy Sites

Matadero Madrid

Once a slaughterhouse, Matadero Madrid was created by Madrid's City Council to provide a cultural area in the southern part of the city. This new alternative art space offers lectures, films, art exhibitions and concerts for free. When exploring Matadero Madrid, you will find buildings with unique and historic architecture, a lab for experimentation and plenty of spaces for artists to create their masterpieces, talk to others about their work and gain inspiration.

The Parque del Buen Retiro

If you are looking for a green space to escape to while in Madrid, you will definitely want to make your way to The Parque del Buen Retiro. Home to 350 acres of green space, this park is the place where residents and visitors gather to play. You will find jogging trails, friendly cafes and historic monuments. You will have a relaxing time sipping on a cup of coffee or tea while wandering through the one of the largest parks in Madrid.

The Gran Via

Those who want to go shopping, even window shopping, will have fun exploring The Gran Via area, including the streets above Puerto del Sol. This area is a lively shopping district in Madrid where you can find everything from clothing to home goods and fine wines to art collections. You will also find the Metropolis Building, the Telefonica Building, the Capitol and Callao Square in the Gran Via area of the city.


One place you must dine at when in Madrid is La Gastroteca de Santiago. This quaint restaurant has yet to be discovered by mainstream tourists and offers a view into the kitchen where you can see the chef working his or her magic. After dinner, make plans to head on over to Fernando del Diego's for some craft cocktails or draft lagers. This small cocktail bar can be found upstairs above the action in the streets below.

Another popular dining option in Madrid that you will want to fit in your schedule is El Mollette. This restaurant is located in an old charcoal cellar and is the place to visit for Mollette and Gorgonzola croquettes. If you want to dine here, make sure you make reservations before going and have cash on hand (they do not take credit cards).

If you do not want to let a sit-down lunch take away from your time exploring the city, make plans to visit Plaza de San Miguel, where you can grab some lunch on the run. There you will find the Mercado de San Miguel, which is a fruit market that sells hams, olives, cheese and other lunchtime goodies. You will also want to make sure you stop at Chocolateria San Gines for some hot chocolate with churros.

Related: Partier's Guide to Ibiza, Spain

Photo Credit: Thinkstock Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Prices for accommodations in Madrid are coming down, and travelers are finding it is easier to make reservations for accommodations no matter what their travel budget is. Some popular places travelers stay at when in Madrid include the AC Palacio de Retiro, Room Mate Oscar, Silken Puerta America, The Petit Palace Posada del Peine and Hotel Ritz-Madrid. Those looking for an alternative to hotel accommodations can choose to stay in an apartment of loft operated by Softguides Madrid.

It doesn't matter if you plan to explore Madrid for its cultural and historic values or just want to go somewhere where you can enjoy new and unique cuisine options. Madrid is home to a unique blend of historic and contemporary things to see, do and enjoy. You will not be disappointed when you spend 72 hours in this breathtaking city.

Heather Landon (Heather Leigh Carroll) is a freelance writer with more than 20 years of experience. She has combined two of her passions - writing and travel - to share her experiences with others. You can read more of her articles at
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