The months I spent living in Madrid were some of the best of my life. I was on a VERY tight budget, and constantly searching for fun activities in my price range. I have compiled a list of my top 20 things to do in Madrid for under 20 euro in an effort to guide others who find themselves in this magical city seeking a little direction!

  1. Take a stroll through Parque Buen Retiro. One of my favorite parts of the park is the Palacio Cristal, which hosts amazing art installations. During my time in Madrid I got to experience an exhibit where they covered the floor of the entirely glass Palacio with mirrors (such a trip!) and another (shown here) with handmade rugs.

COST: FREE (Keep in mind: IF you are visiting in the summer the palace is like a greenhouse, so 120 degrees outside will feel worse inside. Dress accordingly & hydrate!)madrid4
2. Visit El Rastro Flea Market. Excepting the weekends I left town to travel, I spend every Sunday of my time in Spain at El Rastro. Live street performers and bargain buys are two of my favorite things on Earth. Think scarves for 1 Euro, Custom jewelry, and groovy bands like Jingle Django ( Check 'em out! ).  Now that I am back in the states I wear something I purchased from this market at least once a week, and my Rastro buys are by far my most complimented accessories.

COST: The market is FREE to explore, easy to access via the Metro, and you can enjoy it regardless of how much you are willing/able to spend.

(Keep in mind: It is VERY crowded at El Rastro, so as always, be smart! Wear your backpack/purse on your front/close to your body, and DRINK WATER!)

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3. EAT at 100 Montaditos.  Is this going to be the best food of your life... no. But if you are traveling on a tight budget, looking for a respite from the sun, or just hankering for a cold beer (for 1.50 Euro) this place really hits the spot! They're conveniently located in nearly every part of the city with specials including: 1 Euro entire menu - Wednesdays and Sundays and 2 Euro LARGE jarra tinto de verano (a must).

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4. Enjoy tapas, take in a flamenco show and make new friends with Madride's Tapas and Flamenco Crawl.  I tried this with my darling little English friend Lili, and we had a truly unforgettable time that neither of us can fully remember. This one comes in at slightly over 20 euro... but it is technically three separate activities in one lump sum. The upfront price includes traditional tapas style dinner with your group, admission to a live flamenco show, and a full pub crawl. Which brings us to...

5. The Madride pub crawl consists of visiting 5 bars, where your receive a complimentary shot (or two) and discounted drink prices. You also have the option to purchase BOTTOMLESS beer/sangria at the first bar. Lili and I did the crawl a few times, and it is a great way to make friends. Here are pics from our first time around... I'll let you decide whether we took the bottomless opportunity or not.

COST: 29 EURO for Flamenco, 10 EURO for Pub Crawl - (Please learn from my mistakes and wear comfortable shoes. Seriously, abandon all concern for style... save yourself the pain)

6. SIESTA – embrace an afternoon of doing nothing. Seriously, just rest. No one is doing anything, and most restaurants and stores will be closed. My favorite sleep spot? Right across from Palacio Cristal in Parque Buen Retiro. Find a cute Spanish guy serenading his friends as they relax on a blanket, openly pouring liquor, park yourself close by and just DO NOTHING.

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7. Visit El Escorial Monasterio. See my post for more details!

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8. Visit Parque Juan Carlos at Campo de las Naciones stop.  This place and I connected on a spiritual level. I was seeking break from the busy life of the city center when I made my trip to Juan Carlos.  The park is an amazing place to workout, catch art installations, have a picnic, take a row boat or bike ride, or escape for a few hours. I quickly embraced the change of scenery, and soon found myself dancing, skipping and singing my way from one exhibit to another. It was so freeing… because I rarely saw another person.

COST: FREE – with bicycle, boat and other rentals available – FREE with Passport!

Warning – remember you are still you, and if you become overly invested in the life of a baby turtle and lean to far over the wall trying to watch it, you will fall in the lake and it will leave a scar. 

9. Tour the Royal Palace. To be honest, I never even made it INSIDE the Palacio Royal, because my work schedule didn’t afford me the opportunity. However, I spent many hours walking by, admiring, and walking the gardens. There is beauty to be held in every touch of the royal treatment throughout Madrid.  The palace is just the beginning.  I also love the peacocks roosting in the royal gardens in the park and the tributes displayed in honor of the royal family throughout the city.  If you DO make it to Madrid, will you tell me if its’ as perfect inside here as it looks outside? Thanks.

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10. Catch a movie outdoors at an open air cinema! If you are visiting between June and September, then this is a fun, family friendly way to spend an evening. I loved the language immersion of watching popular movies in Spanish while kicking my feet up after a long day of exploring.

COST: Roughly 10euro for Fescinal 

11. Catch live music and futbol at Dublinia. This pub isn’t home to the cheapest eats, but I loved visiting here for futbol, tennis, crawls and live sets during happy hour.  It is conveniently located, an easy walk from both Parque Retiro and Gran Via. It is also popular with locals and travelers alike.  There is something to be said about watching Messi compete in a room full of die hard futbol fans!

12. Check in to Cat’s Hostel for the night. Though my host family’s home wasn’t far from the city center, I often checked into Cat’s to avoid the embarrassment of waking the children as I returned past 6 am (this IS Madrid after all…).  Cat’s is safe, clean, and the PERFECT place to meet your fellow travelers and transplants. Plus, they offer a wide array of activities from pub crawls and specials on the rooftop bar, to cooking and language lessons.

COST: Varies per room – I stayed 1 night for 14euro, and 2 for 20euro on separate occasions.

13. Make a visit to Chueca and dine (more likes stuff your face) for a budget at El Tigre. This place was recommended to me by several budget travelers. I finally decided to dip in during Orgullo (Gay Pride), and laughed aloud when I saw the portion sizes. i bought a 6euro beer and couldn’t finish even HALF of my tapas plate.

14. Visit Atocha Train station. Atocha is an amazing idea if you are looking to be inspired. You can take day trips to nearby regions or head out to the far regions of Spain and beyond from this location. The train station is also home to an indoor botanical garden AND a turtle sanctuary. The design is breathtaking and I really love turtles. That is reason enough for me.

15. Take in a bull fight. I NEVER would have considered going to a bull fight – I am a vegetarian! Yet my host family decided to go to the local fair, and as I was technically on the clock… I went.  I am definitely not saying I support the bull fights. However, taking one in and learning more about the cultural implications of the tradition was an experience unique to the region, and something I would recommend to those seeking to immerse themselves in Spanish history.

The season runs from March 27th to October 12th, with fights taking place Sundays at 7.

COST: Our rinky dink town fight was practically free! Tickets to larger scale fights can be found here

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16. Get cultured and visit Reina Sofia museum.  – Lili and I really tripped out on this glass elevator ride up, and that was before we even entered the museum. We planned on only visiting once, but it is truly impossible to see everything in one visit. Lili came all the way from Scarborough, North Yorkshire to see Guernica… and it definitely did not disappoint.

COST:  General admission is 8euro, with free entry on Mondays-Fridays from 7 pm to 9 pm, Saturdays from 2:30 pm to 9 pm, Sundays from 10 am to 2:30 pm, the 18th of April, the 12th of October and the 6th of December. They also offer special discounted admission for students with ID.

The museum is kept at a low temperature to preserve the pieces, so a light jacket is recommended even in summer. 

17. Take a walk. I took a taxi only ONCE during my stay. While I frequented the Metro (the most convenient way to get anywhere) I also walked every chance I could. I averaged 3 miles a day on foot, with my furthest single day distance being 10 miles. I am so thankful for my commitment to exploring the city on foot! Were there days I thought the heat may kill me? Yes. Were my feet swollen for months from the combo of heat, walking, drinking and olives? Yes. But if I were on a train underground I would have missed some of my favorite sights! Like the beauty of this walk from Plaza Mayor into La Latina… or the eclectic mix of people constantly popping out from windows above adorned balconies. Walking gives you the opportunity to accidentally stumble upon many of Madrid’s hidden treasures.

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18. Feed your inner foodie at Mercado San Miguel. After you make your inevitable right of passage through Plaza Mayor, you should continue on around the corner to arguably the most satisfyingly delicious food you can find in Madrid. This year, the market celebrates 100 years of filling ambitious eaters full of rich wine, fresh fish and decadent desserts. It WILL be difficult to eat your fill for only 20euro, but it is well worth a visit to see a place to steeped in tradition!

19. Take a side street/get off the beaten path and find yourself some tinto de verano. If you are like me, the heat gets to you… and not in a good way. While it is easy to stick to what you know, or what others have recommended to you, I am leaving #19 intentionally vague. I encourage you to turn off the main road and try a non-chain place. If it’s packed full of locals it’s probably a good bet, right? A friend and I were headed to 100 Montaditos, when I noticed a sign for 5euro tinto and 6euro caipirinhas. We wound up making friends with locals and staying well into the night. It led us to continue this habit of breaking our routine, and were never unhappy with the result!

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20. Get lost and let them play. There are plenty of tourist traps in Madrid, especially in the crowded centers of Gran Via and Puerta Sol. Being from LA, I am so accustomed to brushing these people off or avoiding eye contact and walking by. However, every once in a while, its a good idea to look up.  I allowed this man to stay and serenade our table for a few minutes, and the sweet feelings he shared from his violin are burned into my memory forever. I paid him 2euro. But that was a small price to pay… as you can see from this photo, we had clearly fallen in love.

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Have you visited Madrid on a budget? Are you a Madrileno? If you have something to add, relate to, or dispute then I would love to hear from you! Be sure to give me your advice in the comments section!

Published by Jazmine Orozco