Considering visiting Madrid? Read insider tips from a resident on the best cheap things to do in Madrid and tips for visiting Madrid on a budget! This guest post by Perri, an expat in Madrid, covers some insider tips for Spain’s capital on a budget.
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Madrid is one of the most wonderful cities to visit in Europe. It’s full of history, culture and beautiful architecture. You can spend hours walking through Madrid, stopping at lovely open plazas for drinks and cute traditional Spanish bars for local food.
With so so much to see and do in Madrid, it can be easy to spend a little too much money here. If you are traveling to Madrid on a budget and need to be careful with your cash, this guide to Madrid is for you!
I will share all of my top tips and local knowledge to help you enjoy Madrid on a budget. You will know the best sights to see for free, the cheapest places to get meals and the most budget friendly activities.
Cheap cultural things to do in Madrid
Explore the world famous Prado museum, which is considered to have some of the best European art as well as some of Spain’s most notable paintings. Notably, you can see the The Garden of Earthly Delights by Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch. It’s possible to visit the Prado museum’s main collection for free if you go between 6-8pm Monday-Saturday or 5-7pm on Sunday.
Wander through the old royal residence known as “Palacio Real” and take in the opulent and lush décor of each of the amazing rooms. You can enter for free during the last 2 hours of opening. Check the respective hours as they between during April-September.
Reina Sofia Museum
Enjoy the collection of stunning contemporary art that Reina Sofia houses for free from 7-9pm Wednesday-Saturday or 2-7pm on Sundays. It’s free to enter the Reina Sofia with valid student ID and a ISIC student card. Notably, you can see Guernica by Picasso at the Reina Sofia.
Free walking tours of Madrid
Take advantage of the chance to tour Madrid for free with a local guide and to learn about history for free (plus a tip to ensure that your guide gets paid). Madrid Travel tours start at 11am from the bear statue at Puerta del Sol. Look for a red t-shirt and a big yellow sign. Alternatively, Free Tour Madrid starts at 11am from Plaza del Callao, their guides wear a purple t-shirt and hold a purple umbrella.
Cheap & fun things to do in Madrid
Best parks in Madrid to explore
Walking through the beautifully manicured Retiro Park with its iconic boating lake and statues. Or the vast, green, wild area of Casa de Campo is a lovely way to while away an afternoon in Madrid. Of course, if you decide to hire a boat or stop for coffee and ice cream it will cost a little but really not very much for such a nice escape from the bustle of the city.
Where to find the best city views of Madrid on a budget
There are some amazing rooftop terraces in Madrid, but many of them either charge entrance fees or they are in swanky, expensive bars and hotels. For stunning sunset photos that are free and a great view over Casa de Campo park, I suggest you head to Temple de Debod. If you would rather enjoy the view over Madrid’s city rooftops with a drink in hand, head to The Hat Hostel or Gourmet Experience in El Corte Ingles. In both places, you can get a beer for less than €3. For only two euros, you can climb up the Palacio de Comunicaciones for epic views over Madrid.
Cheap Flamenco show
Professional flamenco and dinner shows are great, however expect to pay the full cost. The best way to see flamenco in Madrid on a budget is through Madride Travel. You can get a ticket to a show with a drink at Las Carboneras for only €23. This is a third of the usual price!
Free Salsa classes
If you want to learn some salsa moves for free, go to CityLife Madrid Meet & Dance for beginners lessons at Sala Cool, near Plaza de España on Monday nights at 10pm.
Where to eat in Madrid on a budget
Free tapas with drinks
When you order a drink in Madrid you will most likely be given a bowl of free crisps or nuts. Sometimes, they might even stretch to olives or chorizo. Then, when you order another drink, the bowl will be topped up. The key is to find a nice plaza with a good seat to watch the world go by while you snack away. El Tigre is a very well-known bar that is famous for giving big plates of tapas for free with every drink, but expect crowds.
A “bocadillo” is a fresh baguette stuffed with all sorts of local fillings. It’s a great on-the-go snack or lunch that you can pick up anywhere in Madrid. 100 Montaditos is a chain of small bars where you can get mini bocadillo’s for only €1 each, all day on Wednesdays and Sundays. One of the most famous bocadillo’s served in Madrid is bocadillo de calamares, which is full of crispy calamari rings. The best place to enjoy one is La Campana near Plaza Mayor and they are only €3 each.
The most iconic Market or “Mercado” in Central Madrid is Mercado San Miguel. You can pick up pinchos and tapas here from as little as €1-2. Browse the stalls and pick out whatever bite sized snacks you fancy. My favourites include fresh oysters, croquettas and stuffed olives.
Coffee and pastries
There are little cafes all over Madrid that are perfect for a budget snack or mid-afternoon break. The croissants and pastries are piled high on the counter or lined up behind the glass. It’s often difficult to choose, but one of my budget favourites are “palmiers”, a big, flat, flaky, pastry often dipped in chocolate. It costs around €3 with a nice “café con leche”, which is the Spanish version of a latte.
Menu of the day
Spaniards tend to eat a big lunch and have small plates of tapas for dinner, so join in with the locals and opt for a big two or three course meal known as “menu del dia.” Prices are usually between €10-15 and often include a drink. Some of my favourites in Madrid are Café Bar Delic in La Latina, they offer soup, main course, drink and a slice of cake for €12. Also consider stopping at Ojala in Malasana as they offer a starter, main and dessert for €10 with the dishes changing daily.
What to drink in Madrid on a budget
The local beer “cerveza” is Mahou, found on draft at most bars and restaurants, which is one of the most budget friendly option for booze in Madrid. Many places sell a small beer or “caña” for €2, however you’ll find some bars in Madrid that always have a good deal. Lizarran is a group of tapas restaurants you see everywhere and they do x2 beers for €3 Monday-Friday, from 4pm-8pm. Cerveceria La Sureña are dotted around the city. They offer a bucket of bottled beers known as “cubos” for only €5.
Happy hour cocktails
One of my favourite cocktails bars in Madrid is Hopper on the famous Cava Baja. Not only do they do some of the best cocktails in town, they have a happy hour 5pm-7pm when cocktails are only €5!
Tinto de Verano
This is a red wine and lemonade mix that is Madrid’s version of Sangria. (HInt: locals don’t actually drink Sangria in Madrid). All bars and restaurants sell tinto de verano. It’s very refreshing and you can get a glass most places for €3.
Freshly squeezed orange juice is the norm in Madrid. You can get fresh fruit juices in most bars, cafes and markets as takeaway or to drink in for €3 or less.
Where to stay in Madrid on a budget
You’ll find many options for cheap accomodations in Madrid, including many hostels. For those looking for a hostel in Madrid, The Hat or Open Hostel might be good affordable options. For those looking for a cheap hotel who prefer to have a bit more privacy, Far Home Plaza Mayor is a good budget option although you might be lucky enough to find a cheap room at a 4* chain hotel for the same price as a budget hotel room if you book ahead.
How to get around Madrid on a budget
The Cercanias suburban train line C1 and C10 goes from many major train stations in Madrid to the airport and is a fraction of the price of the metro. A single one-way ticket from Atocha to Barajas Terminal 4 via C1 is €2.60 Compared to €7.50 on the metro (with airport supplement and the new plastic rechargeable ticket fee), this is a steal!
Walk around the city
Walking is the best way to explore Madrid and perfect for saving unnecessary spending on taxis. You can easily walk around the centre and it’s a great way to take in all the sights and sounds and get a real sense of the city.
Metrobus multi ticket
If your hotel is a little further out of Centro Madrid and you need to take a bus or metro make sure you by a 10-journey ticket. It costs €12.20 and can be used by more than one person for single journeys on the bus and metro. Each time you swipe the card one journey is deducted from the remaining ten, so it’s much cheaper than buying a single ticket every time. You can’t unfortunately use this to get to the airport without an extra €3 supplement.
Have you visited Madrid? Any additional tips on how to stay on budget in Madrid?
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