Great Tips to Enjoy Madrid on a Budget

Madrid, the lively capital of Spain, is an open-air museum, where visitors can walk through magnificent and historic buildings and visit several attractions

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People include Madrid in their travel plans for many reasons. Some enjoy the non-stop nightlife of the city, others prefer to visit some of the most important art galleries in the world, and there are those who just want to go shopping as Madrid is still considered one of the cheapest European capitals. Whatever category you choose, you´ll find below some tips on how to enjoy Madrid on a shoestring.

Don’t pay for transportation.

If you have time, don’t waste it taking the subway or buses to visit the main attractions of Madrid, as most of them are one step away from each other. Take a map, divide your tour into sections and attribute days to each one of them, programming according to your willingness to walk more or less, and the time you have available to enjoy the city.

Even in the winter the weather in Madrid is sunny and nice, allowing long walks through Retiro’s park, the narrow streets in the heart of the city, or strolls through Paseo del Prado to make a nice day tour.

If you don’t fancy doing tourism by yourself, a walking tour leaves every day from the Tourist Information at Plaza Mayor at 11 am and 3pm. Enthusiastic guides will tell anecdotes and introduce you in 3.5 hours to the highlight events of 1200 years of history, such as the episodes of the Spanish Empire and Civil War and the origins of tapa. Guides work for tips; thus, reward yours as much as you feel that you enjoyed the tour.

Drink and eat for almost nothing.

In Madrid, as you ask for a caña (beer) or a glass of wine, most bars add a tapa, a snack to accompany your beverage. They vary from a handful of peanuts and olives, to potato salads and hefty plates of ham. Besides being one of the main attractions of Madrid, the Museo del Jamón (Ham´s Museum), located in Puerta del Sol, offers generous dishes with your wine and beer. They also make great sandwiches and serve good food for a budget price.

Although a touristic area, the surrounding of Puerta del Sol offers many restaurants that do not charge a fortune for a menú del día. Different from other cultures, Spaniards enjoy their lunch and it’s normal to have at least three courses as a meal. The prices vary from 7 to 12 euros, depending on the restaurant, but most of them come with two dishes, bread, water, wine and a dessert or coffee. If you can wait until 2pm to eat, when usually Spaniards enjoy their lunch, try this meal and you´ll be well fed for rest of the day.

Bargain shopping

On Sundays, the streets of La Latina become a flea market known as El Rastro between 9am and 3pm. About 3,500 stalls sell new and old items for a good price. Find souvenirs there for all your friends, spending no more than 20 euros. Traditionally, after going to the market, Spaniards stop by one of La Latina´s bars to drink a caña, so join them in this tradition as well.

El Corté Inglés, the biggest department store in Europe, is normally expensive but you can sign-up for its free card, getting automatically 20 percent discount at your first purchase.

Outside Madrid, Factory Outlet gathers the major Spanish and international brand shops and offers discounts between 30 to 70 percent on their merchandise. From Atocha train station, take the cercanías to Rozas del Pinar for about 1.30 euro. The journey will take approximately 30 minutes.

The Chinese community runs several shops in the capital where you can literally find anything. Need new luggage but don´t want to spend a lot? Run to one of those shops where you´ll find a good range on offer at a budget price.

Free Museums

The Prado Art Museum features masterpieces from great European painters, such as Goya, Velazquez, Bosch and Rubens. The visit is free for the permanent collection from Tuesday to Sunday, 6pm to 8pm and Sundays from 5pm to 8pm.

The Reina Sofia Museum houses contemporary exhibits, as well as an international modern permanent collection, featuring the renowned Picasso’s Guernica, a mural that depicts the suffering of the Basque civilians during the bombing of the city during the Spanish Civil War. Reserve a Saturday afternoon, a Sunday morning or one night to learn more about the work of great Spanish artists, such as Salvador Dali, Joan Miró and Luis Buñel, among others. Come to the museum from Monday to Friday from 19.00 to 21.00, Saturday from 14.30 to 21.00 or Sunday from 10.00 to 14.30.

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