I’ve seen it before. After months of planning and waiting, you’re finally on vacation in a new, place, ready to take it on in full force. You’ve been exploring its many tourist attractions, mindlessly spending 20 Euros ($23.29) every few hours, because it’s all “worth it.” Because of my personal impulsive overspending on vacations in the past, I made sure to be more conscious of my budgeting on my three-week journey here in Madrid. Despite this budget, I have been able to experience a multitude of beautiful things here, and I am beyond fulfilled with what I have seen. It’s not everyday that you’re going to be in a place like Madrid, so I’m excited to let you in on a few tips to enjoy yourself like I have without the worry of money setting you back.
Madrid’s Metro is convenient, efficient, cheap, and easy to use, even for someone like me who isn’t used to taking this sort of transportation at home in California. There are Metro stops all around the city, about every couple of blocks, and its twelve lines will take you anywhere you need to go. I recommend getting the Metrobus ticket, which will cost 12.20 Euros ($14.40), and will give you 10 trips on any line, as well as the option to take many buses. Something to note is that the Metro does not run all night. Its hours of operation are usually 6am-1:30am, which may prevent you from using it to return home after a night out (unless you stay out until it starts running again). In this case, Ubers are easy to get, and are affordable as well (splitting one with two other people after driving about 10 minutes, I spent 2.50 euros or $2.91).
There is also another form of transportation that’s free — using your feet! Walking has truly been one of my favorite things to do while in Madrid, as it has allowed me to see so much, pay nothing, and take in the unique Spanish atmosphere. There are so many beautiful buildings lining the streets, which present opportunities for intriguing observation and great photos during your walk. Although anywhere in the city makes for a pleasant walk, I have found certain areas/neighborhoods to be the best. These include the up-scale neighborhood of Salamanca, the area of the central Puerta del Sol, and the smaller streets and alleyways surrounding the city center. Taking note of little details during these walks, like the fashion trends, the pace of pedestrians, and more, can be insightful and fun.
Activities/Destinations: Palacio de Cristal, Circulo de Bellas Artes
Palacio de Cristal
Near the center of Parque del Retiro lies Palacio de Cristal (The Crystal Palace). Built in 1887 by Spanish architect Ricardo Velazquez Bosco, the structure stands with elegance and beauty. Its glass and iron body make for wonderful photos and observation by visitors. Elizavieta Horlova, a graduate student on vacation from Germany, described her first impression of the palace in awe. “It’s nothing like I’ve ever seen before,” she said. I am in complete agreement with Horlova’s observation.
Circulo de Bellas Artes
Located in the city center, the cultural center Circulo de Bellas Artes is another must-see destination that costs only 4 euros ($4.66). Here, on the rooftop of the building, you will find one of the most magnificent views of Madrid. Although any time of day would be beautiful for a visit here, sunset, around 9:30pm during the summer, is the most breathtaking time to take in the view.
One of my favorite breakfasts in Madrid is simple toast with marmalade/jam and café con leche. The bread is flavorful and filling, and a slather of peach marmalade is the perfect sweet touch. The coffee in Madrid is outstanding, and a perfect way to start a day of exploring. Together, these two things are usually less than 4 euros ($4.66), and are available at most sidewalk cafes.
My suggestion for lunch is to get groceries to keep in your accommodation, as this will help you save money and energy to go out for dinner later. In a grocery store downtown, I came across a study-abroad student from Germany, Roxanne Zaworski, who said that getting groceries has allowed her more room in her budget. “There are lots of affordable options in grocery stores around here, so I never have to worry about overspending on food,” she said.
What I bought at the grocery store included bread, avocadoes, olive oil, rice, jam, and other snacks. These things lasted me about a week, and cost less than 12 Euros ($13.97), far less than even a few restaurant lunches.
Tapas are a very affordable option, in which two dishes usually cost less than 10 euros ($11.64). These may include various options, like toast, salad, traditional Spanish dishes, and more. A good deal for tapas can be found at El Tigre, a tapas bar near the city center off of La Gran Via, a main road. Here, each drink comes with free tapas. If you go in a group like I did, you will receive multiple plates of tapas with your drink orders, which is more than enough food for dinner. Tapas are conveniently available at most restaurants in Madrid.
For those of you who have a larger appetite, a filling and affordable dish option could be traditional Spanish paella, usually around 15 euros ($17.46). One order may be enough to share with at least one other person, thus costing less than 8 euros ($9.31) each. This is available at many restaurants around the city as well.
Price: Metrobus ticket: €12.50 ($14.57) for 10 Metro rides, which is best if you are here for a week or more–Single ticket: €1.50 ($1.75)
Hours of operation: 6 am-1:30 am, 12 main lines, stations/stops throughout the city
Metro stops: Serrano or Velazquez for the Salamanca neighborhood
Sol, Sevilla, Gran Via, or Opera for the Puerta del Sol area
Hours: 10am-10pm, free admission
Metro: Atocha or Ibiza
Retiro Park hours: April-September: 6am-midnight; closes at 10pm the rest of the year
Price: €4 ($4.66)
Hours: Sunday-Thursday: 9am-9pm, Friday & Saturday, until midnight
Metro: Banco de España or Sevilla
Phone Number- +34 91 360 54 00
Bar Sidreria El Tigre
Price: I paid €8 or $9.32 for two drinks and free tapas that came with them. Drink prices vary.
Location: Calle de las Infantas, 23
Hours: Sunday-Thursday: noon-1:15am; on Friday & Saturday, until 4am,
Phone: +34 915 320 072 or +34 913 32 02 59
Metro: Gran Via