How to travel to Madrid on a budget and still have a great time
With inflation hitting an all-time high recently, many people are keen to save on everything from grocery shopping gasoline and travel.
Traveling on a budget often means choosing the right destination and, with the dollar still slightly stronger than the euro, visiting an affordable European location is a surprisingly economical solution to rising travel costs.
One of the most affordable capitals in Europe is Madrida destination with plenty to do, see, drink and eat without breaking the bank.
Here’s how to visit Madrid on a budget.
In many cases, it’s easy to find affordable airfare from the United States to Madrid, and you can also take advantage of low-cost carriers such as Ryanair, Easyjet, and Iberia from other major cities in Spain. Europe if you find a better deal to another international hub. Just be sure to factor in add-ons such as luggage, seat selection, and other extras.
From luxury new properties to budget hostels and everything in between, Madrid has a wide choice of accommodation, with options at all price points. Here are some of the best for travelers hoping to stay comfortably without spending too much.
Hotels offering the best value for money
Madrid offers plenty of options when it comes to redeeming points, from the classic fan-favorite Westin Palace Madrid to the reliable InterContinental Madrid. But if you’re looking to keep those points or stay longer, here are some of the best options in the Spanish capital.
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- AC Avenida de America: Although slightly outside the historic center, this property is clean, comfortable and ideal for those who want to experience a more local side of Madrid while still having easy access to the main sights and shops of Barrio Salamanca via taxi or metro fast. Rates start at 20,000 Bonvoy points or less than $100 per night.
- Hyatt Centric Gran Via Madrid: This regal property has a beautiful rooftop garden, restaurant and bar, and is located on Madrid’s famous Gran Vía street. Rates start at 20,000 Hyatt points or around $200 per night.
Best value for money hotels
You don’t have a reserve of points? Do not worry. These hotels offer prime locations, excellent service and unbeatable value.
- H10 Alcalá Gate: Located a stone’s throw from Madrid’s most popular green space, this hotel offers chic rooms and a rooftop overlooking the park. Rates can be found starting around $95 per night.
- Hotel Puerto America: With funky room decor, glass elevators, and a Sky Bar, this hotel offers a hip stay at a budget price. Deals can be found around $100 per night.
Hostels aren’t just for backpackers. Many hostels or pensioners in Madrid offer rooms and private bathrooms at affordable prices. If you’re on a tight budget, want to make new friends, or just want something a little different, consider a hostel.
The Madrid Generator: This design-focused hostel has a fun rooftop terrace; the single space was actually a former gas station. Private rooms start at around $60 per night, while bunk rooms cost as little as $25 per night.
The Madrid Hat: A short walk from Madrid’s Plaza Mayor, this hostel offers smart, clean rooms plus an inviting solarium and rooftop terrace. Private double rooms start at $70 per night, while a bunk bed in a shared room can be booked for less than $20.
It’s easy to find vacation rentals, from studio lofts to four-bedroom apartments, in downtown Madrid. Prices generally range from around $60 to less than $200 per night for the average private apartment rental, depending on amenities and size. Airbnb is the best resource for finding vacation rentals in Madrid.
The best times to visit Madrid
When it comes to finding the lowest rates on hotels and activities, winter is your best bet (apart from Christmas). Just be aware that it is cold and sometimes rainy during this season in Madrid.
Sometimes you can find accommodation deals, especially on holiday rentals, in August when most locals flee the city for the sea or the mountains during the extreme heat. Just be sure to spend a little more on air-conditioned accommodation.
If it’s the best weather you’re looking for, visit Madrid in May and October, where temperatures are pleasant under sunny skies, and prices aren’t as high as they might be in June, July or September. Madrid offers exciting festivals in May, such as the San Isidro celebrations, which offer unique cultural and gastronomic experiences.
Getting around Madrid on a budget
Getting around downtown Madrid is easy on foot, and the metro and bus are affordable options, especially now. The metro and bus ticket for 10 passes costs about 12 euros, or about $12. There is currently a 30% discount available until the end of December, although the government may extend the promotion.
Tourist metro passes are valid for an unlimited number of journeys between one and seven days after purchase (prices depend on the period of validity). Although this pass is not currently discounted, it does include metro travel to the airport (airport metro tickets also have a small additional cost when purchased on their own).
It’s also easy and affordable to get between Madrid Barajas Airport (MAD) and the city center – it’s only around 20 minutes by car. You can take the metro or the 200 bus to Avenida Ámerica, both included in the metro tourist tickets. There is also a special airport bus that runs 24 hours a day between the airport and O’Donnell, Cibeles and Atocha and costs 5 euros (about $5) each way.
You can take RENFE trains from the airport’s Terminal 4 to the city centre, or taxis cost a flat rate of 30 euros (about $30) from the airport to anywhere in the city. Ride-sharing services such as Cabify and Uber usually cost even less.
What to do in Madrid on a budget
Madrid is home to many green spaces, such as Retiro Park, Casa de Campo, El Capricho, Fuente de Berro, Madrid Río and Templo De Bod. Admission is free to all of these parks. However, if you want to rent a pedal boat at the Retiro or take the funicular above Casa de Campo, you will have to pay extra.
Walk around the city
It’s easy to take a self-guided tour of downtown Madrid, and you can admire many of the outside attractions for free. This walk is long and can be done in one day or over a few days, depending on your energy level and the length of your vacation.
Start at Puerta Del Sol, checking for the Tio Pepe sign and kilometer 0, which would be the exact geographical center of Spain. Next, stroll through the Plaza Mayor to marvel at the hundreds of balconies that face the center of the square.
Continue to San Miguel Market (snacks are extra!) and along Calle Mayor to Almudena Cathedral and the Royal Palace, which you can enjoy outside for free. Next, stroll through the Sabatini Gardens and along the newly constructed walkway to stroll through the freshly redesigned Plaza España Square.
Continue up Gran Vía, a bustling street that is home to shops, theaters and restaurants. When you get to the end, turn left onto Calle Álcala (but look right first to see the imposing Metropolis building) and walk up Cibeles Square to see the fountain and palace, then towards Puerta de Álcala ( one of the old entrances to Madrid) and in the Retiro Park.
Free time for museums
Many museums in Madrid offer free entry times. These can be a full day or just a few hours a week (usually afternoons) where you won’t have to pay to enter. Be sure to arrive early as these times can get crowded and you may have to wait in line.
Madrid’s famous flea market takes place every week on Sundays. Watching and walking around is free for everyone, but you’ll have to pay if you want to buy anything. This market can get very crowded, so get there early. It’s best to leave valuables and lots of cash at home, as pickpockets notoriously work the crowds here.
Tips and tricks for visiting Madrid on a budget
Menu of the day
Many restaurants offer a set menu for lunch on weekdays, which includes a choice of starter, main course, dessert or coffee and a drink (such as beer, wine, water or soda) for a fixed price, usually less than $20. These are delicious and great value.
Discounts for students, seniors and teachers
Museums and other attractions may offer discounts to students, teachers, or seniors. Double check what type of identification is required to access these cheaper fares.
The more local the bar, the more likely you are to get a free tapa when you order a drink. And the further you go from the main historic city center, the more likely you are to get a free small plate of food with your drink order.
Headlines about the cost of living may sound scary, but it’s not impossible to save money while traveling and maximize the value you get from your vacation. Some destinations in Europe still offer excellent value for money if you know where to look – Madrid is just one of those destinations and is a great place to visit on a budget.