Compared to most European capitals, Madrid stands out as an inviting and affordable destination that even budget-conscious travelers can enjoy. From centrally located accommodations to exquisite wine and tapas to world-renowned art museums, you don't need to spend a mint to get a rich cultural experience from the Spanish capital.
If you’re savvy with spending, you can enjoy a full range of Madrid’s diverse attractions without sacrificing quality. Check out our top tips to stretch your travel budget.
Daily costs in Madrid
- Hostel room: €29 to €40 per night for a bed in a mixed dorm, depending on location and season
- Basic room for two: €36 to €45 per night for basic room in a budget hotel or boutique hostel
- Self-catering apartment (including Airbnb): €60 to €150 per night
- Public transport ticket: single one way ticket, €1.50
- Combined Metrobús ticket for 10 rides: €6.10
- Coffee (café con leche, or standard coffee with milk): €1.50 to €2.50
- Sandwich: €3 to €5
- Dinner for two: average three-course meal per person at a mid-range restaurant, €25 to €35
- Beer: about €2.50 for a caña, or small glass of beer (about 250ml) on tap; €4 for a doble (about 400ml)
- Glass of Spanish house wine: €2.50 to €3.50
Average daily cost: €70 to €120 per person, including three meals a day, accommodation and activities.
1. Take the metro or bus from the airport to the city center
Instead of taking a taxi from the airport with a fixed price of €30, you can save a lot by spending €3 on a Suplemento Aeropuerto ticket instead. Hop onto the metro train (Line 8) to go straight to the city’s business center, stopping at the Nuevos Ministerios station that branches out to Madrid's neighborhoods. You can also opt to take an airport bus that runs 24/7 from the airport to the city center for €5.
2. Take public transport
Madrid is a commuter-friendly city known for its efficient multi-modal public transport infrastructure, including an organized metro-rail system and bus network. You can save a lot by skipping taxis and navigating the city instead with a Metrobús ticket, which gives you 10 metro or bus rides for €6.10.
3. Take the early morning Avlo train for long-distance travel
Great news for early bird travelers: you can save as much as 70% on long-distance train fares if you take the high-speed, low-cost Avlo. It's the earliest train departing Madrid, leaving at 6:30am and connecting you to several main Spanish cities, including Barcelona, Valencia, Málaga and Sevilla, for only €7.
4. Book car-share rides with BlaBlaCar
Popular among locals, this affordable and sustainable car-share service gets you to several points all over Spain without paying a hefty gas bill. Check the website for a list of ride schedules with drivers’ ratings, pick-up points and prices. This is also a great way to practice your Spanish with locals!
5. Bike around the city with Bicimad
Bicimad distributes more than 7000 electric bikes to 600-plus charging stations around Madrid, with prices starting from €2 for the first hour of use. You'll need to download the app to register and start using the bikes.
6. Order the menú del día (daily menu) for lunch
On weekdays, check the chalkboards outside most restaurants for their menú del día, a fixed-price menu ranging from €8 to €17 for a three-course meal with dessert, drinks, bread and coffee.
7. Enjoy free tapas with every drink order
While getting a free plate of tapas with every drink is standard practice in Madrid's restaurants and bars, some establishments, like El Tigre, are known for being extra generous with their servings. The ubiquitous 100 Montaditos is a student favorite that’s open all day and serves a wide assortment of tasty sandwiches at €1 each.
8. Shop in mercados
Skip the supermarket and make a beeline instead for one of Madrid's open-air markets, featuring a colorful selection of stalls selling fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and fish at significantly cheaper prices than the big grocery chains. You'll also find quaint little restaurants, cafés and wineries interspersed among the stalls, which combine great gastronomic offers with friendly prices. For a more local flavor, check out Mercado Antón Martín and Mercado de Vallehermoso.
9. Avoid dining in Plazas Mayor and Sol
While these central landmarks are on the must-see list for visitors to Madrid, keep in mind that many of the restaurants in these high-tourist-traffic areas have much higher-priced menus.
10. Skip dining al fresco on a terraza (outdoor terrace) and eat inside
While a big part of the charming Madrid experience is eating outdoors on one of the many open-air terraces, many establishments charge extra for an outdoor table. You can save a few euros (and use that to get, say, a nice glass of rioja instead) by eating indoors.
11. Get delivery discounts and reduce food waste with Too Good to Go
Similar to any delivery-service platform, this app shows you nearby restaurants, shops, bars, fruit stands and bakeries that offer food or produce unsold that day, marked down significantly – sometimes up to 70% off the selling price – with a specific time to pick it up. You’ll be saving on euros (and saving the planet).
12. Make sure you're not paying extra for bread
Most restaurants will ask if you'd like some bread to go with your order. Unless this is part of the menu del día, you could get charged for it, so best to ask the servers if this would cost you extra.
13. Visit Madrid's “Golden Triangle” museums for free
You can enjoy Madrid's world-famous art museums during designated free-entry times. The Museo del Prado is free to the public Monday through Saturday from 6pm to 8pm and on Sundays and public holidays from 5pm to 7pm. Visiting the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza is complimentary on Mondays from 12pm to 4pm, while the Reina Sofia is free on weekdays (except Tuesday) from 7pm to 9pm, and on Sundays and selected public holidays from 12:30pm to 4:30pm.
14. Show your student or senior-citizen ID
Students and persons over 65 years old can enjoy discounted or free services on public transport and several attractions.
15. Explore more affordable neighborhoods
Some of Madrid's most interesting barrios (neighborhoods) are just off the city center, with a ton of options for eating and drinking at prices that won't break the bank. Lavapiés is a little global village known for its array of multicultural culinary offerings, with streets lined with restaurants and cafés serving economically priced menus from South Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
16. Check out what's on at Matadero
This refurbished slaughterhouse has been reinvented as a dynamic cultural hub packed with free exhibitions, film showings, dance and musical performances, shows and street-food festivals. It's a wallet-friendly alternative to the tourist traps for experiencing Madrid's avant-garde attractions.