When it comes to budget travelling in Europe, there are a some places you should definitely avoid and others you should definitely discover. Spain is one of those places and it’s capital city is prime example.
When it comes to capital cities you can expect the splurge. Of all of Europe’s capitals, Madrid is one of the cheapest (Budapest isn’t far behind though…). So how can you discover this elegant city on a budget? It’s all about knowing where to eat, where to sleep, how to get into museums for free and which bars deliver a great time on a small budget.
Restaurants: Lunch is the most important meal of the day no matter where you are in Spain. Many restaurants offer a fixed-price menu during the week, which included a first course, main dish, bread, drink, dessert and a coffee or tea to finish up. Grab a small breakfast and then fill up on lunch.
Cafeterias: For budget eats, try dining with the intellectuals at one of Madrid’s faculty canteens. Spanish food for cheap! Just head to Ciudad Universitaria and ask someone where the cafeteria is.
Vegetarian: There is all-you-can-eat at the Hare Krishna Restaurant and free dinner on Sunday nights. It’s at Calle del Espíritu Santo 19 (metro: Tribunal).
Cafés: With endless bars and cafés in this city, you can definitely eat cheap here and eat well. From whole-heartedly traditional joints to hip cafés with free wi-fi and minimal design. For breakfast try a fresh pastry, toast or churros with tea, coffee or hot chocolate. For lunch, bocadillos with cheese, jamón serrano and tomato slices will do the trick.
Hostels: Backpacker’s hostels usually run between 15-30€ a night, depending on the area. On weekends the hostels in the city centre tend to book up quickly so reserve your bed in advance.
Hotels: As for hotels in Madrid, there is as much variety as any capital. It’s not hard to find low-priced rooms for a good price in just about any neighbourhood. Search for hotels on liligo.com and filter the search results to find one that suits your style: price range, distance from city centre, hotel type, star rating and amenities.
Museums: Many of Madrid’s museums are free or at least have free entrance 1 day a week or month. The Museo del Prado is free on Tuesdays to Sundays from 18:00-20:00 and Sundays from 17:00 until 20:00.. Also on December 6th, November 19th, October 12th and May 2nd.
Other museums with free days include: Museo del Traje (costume), Museo Nacional Antropológico (anthropology), Museuo Municipal de Arte Contemporáneo (contemporary art), Museo del Ferrocarril (trains), Museo Naval (ships) and La Casa Encendida.
Parks: Madrid has some beautiful, famous and very free parks which shouldn’t be missed. Plaza Mayor is a perfect example of Madrid from the olden days. Retiro Park, just behind El Prado, is huge and very free. Take a look at the man-made lake and rent a paddle boat for the afternoon. Plaza de Santa Ana and Plaza de Chueca are both great places to spend an afternoon watching Madrid locals.
Bars: When it comes to cheap bars and in the summertime, open-air cafés, Malasaña (metro: Tribunal), Lavapiés (metro: Lavapiés) and Argüelles (metro: Argüelles) are notoriously cheap. The scene is full of students and bohemian-type travellers.
El botellón: Drinking in the streets may be looked down upon by the authorities but it’s really common among the young and rebellious. Join a street party that’s already started or start your own. Pick up a bottle or wine or some beers and choose your spot at a park, city square or street corner.
Clubs: Street promoters are really popular in Huertas, Chueca and Malasaña, the city’s biggest club areas. They hand out coupons for drink discounts, specials, entrance, etc. Their job is to attract people into the club they work for, if you can get a free drink out of it, score. You’re not obligated to stay and order more so head back out and see what else you can find.
Have you ever been to Madrid? Share you tips on how to see this Spanish city on a budget!
Img: tamasfano / flickr cc