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A Budget Traveler's Guide to Madrid

A Budget Traveler's Guide to Madrid

Picture of Lori Zaino
Updated: 30 April 2017

Madrid is one of Europe’s cheapest capital cities, perfect for the traveler on a budget – you can eat, drink and get around town without spending a lot. Here’s a list of what to see, what to do and important things to know if you’re planning to visit Madrid on the cheap.

Where to eat

Local food markets

While you’ll want to avoid pricier, tourist-heavy or more trendy food markets, some of the older, original markets, like the Mercado de la Cebada in La Latina or the Mercado de Antón Martín offer cheap Spanish tapas to fill your belly. You can have a snack or eat a full meal there.

Mercado de la Cebada, Plaza de la Cebada, s/n, 28005 Madrid

Mercado de Antón Martín, Calle de Santa Isabel, 5, 28012 Madrid

Snacks at the market | © Lori Zaino

Calamari sandwiches

Served at many of the restaurants around the Puerta del Sol or the Plaza Mayor, a calamari sandwich is cheap and filling. The sandwich consists of fried calamari in a fresh baguette, and may include mayo or other fillers on request. It’s one of Madrid’s most popular dishes on the go and ideal for anyone on a budget.

Get some free tapas

Many restaurants around Madrid, such as Entre Cáceres y Badajoz, offer free tapas with the purchase of a drink. Since beer and wine are already so cheap, drink up and eat for free.

Entre Cáceres y Badajoz , Calle de Don Ramón de la Cruz, 109, 28001 Madrid

Have a menu del día at lunch

Many restaurants offer a daily set lunch menu which includes a drink, starter, main course and coffee or dessert for a specific price, ranging from eight to 15 euros. The further away you get from the tourist center, the cheaper these menus become.

What to do

Walk the city

Walking is free! Enjoying the streets of Madrid on foot is the ideal way to see the whole city without spending money. You can walk a different neighborhood each day, or do a general walk to see some of the top monuments and architecture around the city.

Walking around Madrid is cheap and fun | © Lori Zaino

Take the bus

As an alternative to the expensive double-decker tourist bus, just hop on a local bus instead. For just 1.50 euros, you can ride around all day and see the city almost for free, both local and tourist areas. For more information on buses and picking a route, visit Madrid’s EMT website.

Spend a day outside at Madrid Río

Madrid’s cool riverside area can be enjoyed for free! Explore the bridges and cross the river, or if the weather permits, sit in the sun on the man-made beach or play in the fountains.

The “beach” play area at Madrid Rio| © Madrid Destino Cultura Turismo y Negocio

Budget friendly tips and tricks

Avoid taxis

You can easily get around Madrid very cheaply by walking, taking the bus or hopping on the subway. Taxis will cost much more, so avoid this method of transport and your wallet will thank you.

Getting around Madrid is easy | © Madrid Destino Cultura Turismo y Negocio

Stay in a hostel, not a hotel

Hostels are typically cheaper than hotels and some in Madrid even offer private bathrooms and bedrooms for under 50 euros per night. If you’d like to spend less, there’s plenty of options for bunk rooms. For a trendy stay, sleep at The Hat Madrid, a hostel with hip minimalist decor and a fun rooftop bar at the top.

Watch for pickpockets

Madrid has very little violent crime but pickpocketing does happen. Obviously, losing your entire budget in a moment would definitely ruin your trip, so hang on to your belongings, especially when in crowded places or on public transport.