Madrid is a city that has everything - high-class restaurants and five-star hotels, as well as a lot of top things to do if you're on a tight budget. Read on for suggestions of things to do if you're on a tight budget.
Each sight on this page costs less than 5€ to get in - and much of what you see here is completely free of charge! Everything you see is also featured in my 100 Things to Do in Madrid.
Madrid on a Budget - General Tips
First of all, let's get the essentials out of the way. You need somewhere to sleep and something to eat.
Note that the accommodation and food won't cost you 5€ - those budget tips come below the fold...
Madrid on a Budget - Accommodation If you want a cheap place to sleep, consider a backpackers hostel. They're not the barebones places they were in the 1970s and they're no longer just for the young. If you pay a little more (but still far less than a room in an expensive hotel) you can get a small room with just a couple of other guests. And most hostels have lockers for you to put your valuables, so you don't have to worry about security either.
- Backpackers Hostels in Madrid (book direct)
Madrid on a Budget - Food To eat well on a budget, eat like the Spanish do. So that's a coffee and a pastry at the bar for breakfast (about 2€) followed by a large lunch (for around 10€):
Then in the evening you can try one of the lighter options mentioned further down the page.
Madrid on a Budget - Go for a Walk!
Walking is free, and walking around Madrid is one of the best things you can do. But many visitors to the city are unsure of where to go. Madrid doesn't have the obvious sights that, say, Barcelona has. But that doesn't mean they're not there!
- Puerta del Sol The heart of Spain.
- Plaza España A tree-lined plaza surrounded by the oldest skyscrapers in Spain.
- Gran Via Madrid's most famous boulevard.
- Post Office Madrid's most beautiful building?
- Templo de Debod A genuine egyptian temple in the center of Madrid!
- Plaza Mayor Madrid's grandest plaza.
- Plaza Oriente The plaza in front of the royal palace. Stop for coffee here.
- Arab Wall The oldest remains in Madrid.
- Plaza Paja Formerly Spain's most important plaza.
- Calle Segovia Some nice restaurants and the impressive viaduct.
- Plaza de Santa Ana Ernest Hemingway's haunt.
- Calle Huertas Jazz cafes and street musicians.
- Cervantes House Where author Miguel de Cervantes is thought to have died.
- Parque de Retiro Madrid's most famous park
- Lake A lake in the Casa de Campo park. Not to be confused with the lake in the Retiro.
- Window Shopping on Calle Serrano Buying anything here will break the bank - but looking won't.
Madrid on a Budget - Cheap Museums
If in doubt, go to a museum. Though museums are often the default choice for people who visit a city but don't know what to do, Madrid has some excellent museums that are well worth checking out. All of the museums on this page cost under five euros to get in, while many are free (at least some of the time).
- Reina Sofia
Modern art museum. Free every evening (except Tuesdays).
- Museo del Prado
Spain's most famous art museum. Free every evening (except Mondays)
- Contemporary Art Museum
Free modern art museum.
Science museum. Three euros.
- Metro Museum
Disused metro station is now a free museum.
- Blind Museum
- Casa Encendida
Free entry exhibition space.
- Telecommunications Museum
- Museo de San Isidro
History of Madrid. Free entry.
- Archeology Museum
- Museo Lazaro
Private art collection. Free Wednesdays.
- Sculpture Museum
- Book Museum and National Library
Entry is under five euros.
- Transport Museums
Each one (air, railway and navy) are under five euros to enter.
- Museo de las Americas
Three euros for entry to this museum about the colonization of the Americas. Free on Sundays.
Madrid on a Budget - Churches
Madrid on a Budget - Go to a Cafe
- Cafes on Calle Espiritu Santu
Retro La Lolina or the very social J6J English bookshop and cafe. Coffee for under two euros.
- Cafe Commercial
One of the most famous cafes in Spain. Coffee for under two euros.
- Moroccan Teahouses
More than just mint tea - sample one of dozens of spiced teas for about three euros.
- Cafe Barbieri
My personal favorite, with classical music and the best cafe bonbon in Madrid!
Madrid on a Budget - Get a Bite to Eat
- Casa Labra
A small beer and cod croquettes for under three euros!
- Casa de las Torrijas
Spanish bread pudding and a glass of sweet Spanish wine for under five euros.
- Casa Granada
Madrid's best hidden bar, with a drink and a tapa for under five euros.
- Chocolateria de San Gines
Under five euros for the best chocolate con churros in Spain (and you’ll probably want to share one between two anyway)
- Calamares Sandwich at El Brillante
Spain is famous for its calamare, but unfortunately its often hours-old and soggy. Not here! And you won't even pay five euros for it. Big enough to share.
- El Tigre
The cheapest tapas in Spain? Get a beer and three or four(!) tapas for under two euros.
- El Magister
Beer brewed on site and a free tapa with every drink for under four euros.
Madrid on a Budget - When You've Done All That...
- Royal Palace
The Royal Palace has free entry on Wednesdays (only for EU citizens, I'm sorry to say).
Madrid's most famous flea market is a great way to spend a Sunday morning.
- Botanical Gardens
About two euros entry.
- Atocha Train Station
More than just a transport hub - there's tropical garden (complete with terrapins) and a moving tribute to victims of the 2004 terrorist attack.
- Cable Car
Under a fiver to get you from central Madrid to the Casa del Campo park.
- "Faro" Look-Out Point
Under 2 euros to ride up this "lighthouse" to get a good view of the city.
Madrid on a Budget - Nightlife
- La Solea
Free flamenco in an informal setting (as it should be). Just buy a drink.
- Cafe Guadeamus
Chic but reasonably priced rooftop bar.
- Via Lactea
A truly iconic bar, with beers for about three euros.
- Diplodocus Bar
HUGE drinks. Share one among friends and you'll be drunk for five euros!
- Bars on Calle Ave Maria
A pleasant street in Lavapies with some nice bars.