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Things To Do In Madrid Spain When You Are On A Budget

Updated on November 27, 2012

Having just come back from a whirlwind trip to Madrid Spain, I wanted to offer a few tips for those of you who might be visiting the city on a budget. I had three days and about 300 Euros and these are the things I managed to see.

Madrid is a vibrant and energetic city with a ton of great food, architecture, and nightlife. Though not near the water, it still is a mesmerizing place to visit. If you are interested in museums and other tourist attractions that cost money, you can visit a website like Trip Advisor, but I have specifically given tips for places that are mostly free!

The architecture

Madrid is full of beautiful buildings. Everywhere you look, there are massive structures, palaces, and colorful storefronts that are a feast for the eyes. The nice thing about this is that it is a free to walk on the grounds of most of these places. You simply take the metro to the part of the city you want and enjoy the scenery. Make sure to have a camera ready!

Palace of Communications
Located in the Plaza de Cibeles, you can get off the Banco De Espana Metro station and it is a short walk to this incredible building. Both the palace and the fountain are symbolic of the city of Madrid and you'll see why when you step on the grounds. To get to the palace from the Metro station I mentioned, you will also pass the gate of Independence- another great photo opportunity.

Palace of Communications
Palace of Communications | Source
The Gate of Independence
The Gate of Independence | Source

Plaza de Santa Anna
This plaza is just a short walk from Puerto de Sol (that is the metro station you will take) and has a beautiful hotel that was famous for hosting winning bullfighters. On the opposite side of the hotel is the oldest theater in Madrid. Surrounding these two buildings are fantastic tapas restaurants.

The bullfighting hotel!
The bullfighting hotel! | Source
The theater across the plaza.
The theater across the plaza. | Source
The park with its endless little nooks and crannies
The park with its endless little nooks and crannies | Source
The Crystal Palace, fountains, and even a lake!
The Crystal Palace, fountains, and even a lake! | Source

Parque del Buen Retiro
If you have children, this is a great park to take them to when they are tired of the busy and crowded urban atmosphere. Aside from the fact that it is ENORMOUS, there are gorgeous fountains, buildings, and endless paths to explore. The park takes up a large part of the eastern side of the city, so be sure to give yourself some time inside of it.

You will notice that there are lots of street performers and artisans selling things along the sidewalks. You might even have a little Spanish lady try to sell you a sprig of Rosemary. I couldn't understand her so I'm not sure what that is about.

There is also a lake where you can rent little boats to row. Across the lake is the Pool of the Retirement, which you can get to on foot or by boat.

And whatever you do, do NOT miss the Crystal Palace. It is a gorgeous building and free to go inside!

When and if you get hungry, there are several little buildings along the way that serve coffee, chips, pastries, and other similar items.

The Royal Palace
To get to this building, exit the SOL or Opera metro station. The palace grounds include magnificent fountains and symmetrical gardens that make terrific photo opportunities. It is open to the public when it is not in use by the royal family. Next to the Louvre Palace, this building is the second largest in Europe. Don't miss it.

The palace
The palace | Source

The shopping

There are lots of places to shop in Madrid, including some very expensive boutiques in central Madrid. However if you are on a budget, you should stick to SOL as your souvenir place. There are lots of stores competing for your business, so you should find some good deals there. You can find everything from clothes to books to toys, paintings, and lots of packaged cookies, ham, and cheeses.

Another place to go is inside the Atocha train station on the southern end of the city. Lots of artists have booths set up with goods that are quite reasonable. I bought a scarf for only 2 euros!

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Tapas in Puerto de SOLJamon- Spanish version of bacon (but better)!Don't forget to try the Sangria!Goat cheese with carmelized onions
Tapas in Puerto de SOL
Tapas in Puerto de SOL | Source
Jamon- Spanish version of bacon (but better)!
Jamon- Spanish version of bacon (but better)! | Source
Don't forget to try the Sangria!
Don't forget to try the Sangria! | Source
Goat cheese with carmelized onions
Goat cheese with carmelized onions | Source

The food

Food isn't cheap in Madrid, but here are some tips to help you find reasonable prices.

  • If you ask for water, you will have to pay. The standard offering is bottled water, which is around 2.50 Euros.
  • A glass of house wine is usually the cheapest drink you can buy!
  • When you order alcohol, most of the time they bring a little tapas for you to eat, compliments of the house.
  • In SOL, there are lots of restaurants that sell the standard Spanish fare for reasonable prices. However the quality of the food isn't as good as other places like La Latina and Plaza de Santa Anna.

By far, the best restaurant I found was on a street named Calle de la Cava Baja. You can reach it by getting off the La Latina metro station. This street is lined with restaurants and bars that are FABULOUS. If you want authentic tapas, goat cheese, jamon, and other goodies, take the extra time to get to this part of the city.

What can you expect to pay?

Average Price in Euros
House Wine
Pitcher of Sangria
Main meals
Bottled water

Traveling on a budget

Guess what? The cheapest way to get around Madrid is to simply walk! The city is not that large and a lot of ground can be covered in a day. However, if you'd like to not get blisters, you can use the Metro as an efficient and inexpensive way to travel.

There are also tour buses (for about 25 euros) that allow you to hop on and hop off at different spots. The most expensive option is a taxi.

Where to find it!

show route and directions
A markerPuerta del Sol -
Puerta del Sol, 28013 Madrid, Community of Madrid, Spain
get directions

Main shopping area

B markerCalle Balien, Madrid Spain -
Calle de Bailén, Madrid, Community of Madrid, Spain
get directions

The palace

C markerAtocha, Madrid Spain -
Atocha, 28012 Madrid, Community of Madrid, Spain
get directions

Train station with gardens inside

D markerCalle de la Cava Bajas, Madrid Spain -
Calle Cava Baja, 28005 Madrid, Community of Madrid, Spain
get directions

All the best tapas

E markerParque del Buen Retiro, Madrid Spain -
Retiro, 28009 Madrid, Community of Madrid, Spain
get directions

The park

F markerPlaza de Santa Anna, Madrid Spain -
Plaza de Santa Ana, 28012 Madrid, Community of Madrid, Spain
get directions

Great tapas and a theater and hotel

G markerBanco de Espana, Madrid Spain -
Banco de España, 28004 Madrid, Community of Madrid, Spain
get directions

Communications palace


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    • LupitaRonquillo profile image

      LupitaRonquillo 5 years ago

      Nice hub! My husband and I want to visit Spain and your presentation was very helpful! Especially since we have also decided to move there for a year in the future!

    • jackb3 profile image

      John Patrick Baumann 5 years ago from St. Louis

      We need more advice like this. Even travel guides like Europe on a shoe string don't really break it down properly to really help someone on a strict budget. I'm new to the hub crowd, but am passionate about traveling and writing about it! Look forward to reading more of your hubs!

    • CarlySullens profile image

      CarlySullens 5 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      oh, it looks like a great place to visit and get around. Perhaps we should go one day. :)

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Sounds like you're having a great time. Thank you for sharing.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Julie. A great look at Madrid. Certainly on my list to get to someday. Enjoyed the tour and the photos.

    • profile image

      lovedoctor926 5 years ago

      Wow! stunning images. madrid seems like a lovely place to visit. voted up!

    • lovebuglena profile image

      Lena Kovadlo 5 years ago from Staten Island, NY

      Interesting, informative, and useful hub. Thanks for sharing. I have always wanted to visit Spain, and Madrid among one of the cities. This hub makes me want to go there even more...

    • Gypsy48 profile image

      Gypsy48 5 years ago

      Informative hub with very helpful information. Love the beautiful photos :)

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 5 years ago from New York, New York

      Another awesome article from someone you and you totally did a great job Julie laying out how travel to Madrid on our budget. Thanks for sharing and again loved all your pics too :) :)

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Oh! You make me want to go! Sounds like you have a great time!!