This blog post was originally posted on February 10, 2014 and was updated on October 31, 2017.
Looking to make the most of your time in Madrid, without breaking the bank? We’ve got you covered!
If you’re like us and burned through the bulk of your travel money over the holidays, cancel that pricey flight to Scandinavia, bail on that British pound vacation and head straight to Madrid. Where else in the world can you eat for free, dance for free and see some of the world’s most celebrated art for free?
Arm yourself with a dash of good timing, a flair for trying new things and a heap of good advice from locals. With these tools, you can easily taste your way through Madrid on a tight budget. Here are a few of our favorite ways to disfrutar Spain’s capital without breaking the bank. Check out our budget guide to Madrid!
Photo Credit: Antonio García
Where to Eat in Madrid on a Budget
The secret to finding inexpensive or even free, but still fantastic, food in Madrid is knowing where to go! It is a widely celebrated Spanish tradition to serve a small plate of food, or tapa, with each glass of beer and wine. But the delicious-factor of those free snacks ranges massively. On one hand, you have rather unimpressive kikos (roasted corn nuts and peanuts). On the other, there’s positively scrumptious pintxos (Basque-style tapas masterfully constructed into tasty works of culinary art). International food is also a great way to look for a scrumptious meal for under 10 euro. Here are some must-eats on our budget guide to Madrid:
Did someone say free food? At Petisqueira that 1.75 euro beer will also get you a heaping plate of free tapas. Madrid staples like patatas bravas (fried potato wedges with a ketchup-like sauce), tortilla española (egg and potato omelet wedge) and croquetas de jamón (cured ham croquettes) are delicious, plentiful and, best of all, free!
Address: Calle Churruca, 6 (near the Tribunal metro stop).
Shapla Indian Restaurant
Cram into this tiny and always packed Indian restaurant in the Lavapies neighborhood for a large, scrumptious meal that clocks in under 10 euro. A “menu” here includes an appetizer (2 vegetable samosas, for example), a main dish (we love the lamb Tikka Masala), naan flatbread or rice, a drink and dessert, all for 9.50 euros.
Address: Calle Lavapiés, 42 (Near the Lavapiés and Tirso de Molina metro stops).
JinJin Chinese Restaurant
Authentic Chinese food in Madrid? Yes! It can be found! At JinJin the dim sum is homemade, the soups are bursting with flavor and the fried noodles are authentically awesome. A heaping table full of food at this downtown restaurant will set you back about 7 euros per person.
Address: Calle de San Bernardino, 1 (between metro stops Noveciado and Plaza de España).
Peruvian-Chinese Fusion at Mercado de Mostenses
Yes, you read that right. Tucked among the vegetable venders and cured ham stalls at the Mostenses Market is a small restaurant serving up fantastic Peruvian-Chinese fusion food in heaping portions at rock-bottom prices. The menu of the day here—which includes a mix of Peruvian specialties such as ceviche and typical Chinese dishes like noodle soup—costs a mere 7.50 euros and includes two huge plates of food!
Address: Plaza Mostenses, 1 (between metro stops Noveciado and Plaza de España).
Mercado San Fernando
Madrid has recently undergone a market renaissance, and nowhere is the resurgence of market culture more celebrated than in Mercado San Fernando. Here you can not only stock up on fresh fish, meat and produce, but it’s an ideal spot to tapear. With a variety of bars and restaurants scattered throughout the market you can grab some awesome tapas for 1 or 2 euros! Not to mention the market is home to one of our favorite wine shops, La Siempre Llena, and a stellar craft beer stand, La Buena Pinta.
Address: Calle Embajadores, 41 (near the Lavapiés metro stop).
No budget guide to Madrid would be complete without the famous El Tigre, where a liter-sized plastic cup filled with beer, wine or sangria comes with a plate piled high with potatoes, fried fish, tortilla and smorgasbord of typical Spanish tapas. And the price tag for this dinner+drink combo? Six euro. It may not be the best quality tapas bar in town, but it very well may be the cheapest.
Address: The original location is Calle de las Infantas, 28 (near the Chueca metro stop)
Have A Market-Fresh Picnic
Scattered throughout Madrid are some rather spectacular markets brimming with bright vegetables, legs of cured ham and sharp Spanish cheeses. Snatch up Spanish delicacies at a fraction of what they sell for at even the most inexpensive restaurants. Pop into a supermarket for a 4 euro bottle of wine and grab a 75 cent baguette from the panadería. You’ve alreay got the fixings for a fabulous picnic!
What to Do in Madrid on a Budget
As the cultural mecca of Spain, Madrid is teeming with free or super inexpensive activities. From art galleries to 100-year old bars, you can often soak in Spanish culture for less than the price of a metro ride. Here’s your ultimate budget guide to Madrid when it comes to culture.
Check out a free concert
Many small bars and venues offer free live music on certain days. Some of our favorites are:
- Espacio Cultural La Victoria (Calle Santa Isabel, 40 in Lavapies), a 100-year-old butter factory-turned bar that has free jazz concerts every Thursday
- Canal Foundation (Mateo Inurria, 2 in the Plaza de Castilla),which hosts free orchestra concerts in its auditorium on the last Sunday of every month
- FNAC Culture Club (Calle Preciados 28, at Callao),a huge electronics retailer that hosts concerts, art exhibits, performances and book signings.
Dance the night away at a free discoteca
Mixed drinks at any Madrid club can be pricey. They’ll set you back anywhere from 8 to 12 euros depending on the club (for the most basic drinks). To battle those hefty price tags, many Spaniards take to the streets. Not to protest—to drink! And while we don’t condone the now illegal Spanish botellón, it is certainly something you might see here in Madrid.
Spaniards don’t pregame at a friend’s apartment. Instead, they pop into a supermarket or small tienda de alimentación, buy a bottle of liquor, a liter of soda, a bag of ice and some fancy plastic cups. Then they head to their favorite plaza for some pre-disco drinking! After the botellón (which literally means “big bottle”), they’ll head to one of Madrid’s many discotecas to put that liquid courage to good use and dance. Many of the city’s clubs are free before a certain time. Here are a couple we recommend:
- Ocho y Medio (Calle Barceló, 11): A tad bit of planning ahead will get you into this indie-rock club for free. Add your name to the Lista de Puerta and you can get in free between midnight and 1 a.m. or pay 13 euro for two mixed drinks or 10 euro for one mixed drink until 2 a.m.
- Bogui Jazz (Calle Barquillo, 29): This club in the Chueca neighborhood of Madrid has free entrance before 1 am, when their more laid-back concert venue transforms into a bumping dance club. Calle Barquillo, 29 (near the Chueca metro).
Browse a museum during their free hours
Madrid is home to some of the most impressive artwork in the world. See Picasso’s Guernica or Velázquez’s Las Meninas for free! The museums can be rather steep for those on a budget during the day. However, most of Madrid’s museums are free in the evenings! Here’s when you should go:
- El Prado (Paseo del Prado, s/n): Monday through Saturday 6-8 pm and Sunday 5-7 pm
- Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (Calle de Santa Isabel, 52): Monday and Wednesday through Saturday from 7-9 pm and Sunday from 3-7 pm
- Madrid’s Royal Palace (Calle de Bailén, s/n): Residents of the European Union can get in for free on Monday through Thursday at 6-8 pm from April to September and Monday through Thursday at 4-6 pm from October to March.
- Museo Taurino (Bullfighting Museum) (Calle de Alcalá, 237): Always free! Opening hours from March through October are Tuesday through Friday 9:30 am to 2:30 pm and 10 am to 1 pm on Sunday. November through February it is open Monday through Friday 9:30 am to 2:30 pm.
Tip: Always double check museum hours before making a visit!
Hunt for treasure at El Rastro
This centuries-old flea market is a maze of nearly 1,000 sellers offering everything from antique furniture to scarves to gas masks. The streets around Plaza de Cascorro pack with people every Sunday morning as tourists and locals swarm through the market.
We suggest taking the metro to Tirso de Molina and wandering your way through El Rastro from Cascarro to Puerto de Toledo. The stalls begin opening at 9 a.m. and by noon the streets fill with browsers and buyers. Check out this video from Madrid Food Tour’s cofounder James Blick to find all the best places to grab some tapas and drinks!
See a free or cheap movie
Seeing a movie in a typical Madrid movie theater will set you back about 10 euro. You’ll have assigned seats in a typical theater, and the film will likely be dubbed into Spanish.
Head instead to the 1920’s-era Spanish Film Institute, Cine Doré (Calle de Santa Isabel, 3), and catch an original version movie for just 2.50 euro. Looking for something even cheaper? Check out Madrid’s slaughterhouse-turned-cultural center and catch a free movie at Casa del Lector (Paseo de la Chopera, 14)!
Sip some stellar vinos at a Madrid wine tasting
With more than 60 protected wine regions across Spain, there is always a new aroma waiting to be explored in Spanish wine. For only 20 euros you can taste four expertly-selected Spanish wines at Devour Madrid Food Tour’s monthly wine tasting, Madrid Uncorked. Check out the website to find out this month’s theme and join the group to book a spot!
Stroll a gorgeous park
There is no better way to pass a sunny Madrid day than surrounded by the artistically planted flowers, expertly trimmed hedges and ancient shade trees within one of the city’s parks. We have a full list of Madrid parks here, but check out our favorites for a morning jog, an afternoon picnic or an evening stroll:
- El Buen Retiro: Stroll its winding chestnut tree-lined paths, row a tiny boat across its central pond or explore its crystal palace. There are plenty of ways to soak in the sun and the fresh air in Retiro Park. Find it just behind the Prado Museum. Best accessed by the Retiro metro stop on the red line 2.
- Casa del Campo: This massive park and former royal hunting estate is nicknamed “the lungs of Madrid.” It is home to an amusement park, zoo, scenic cable cars, bike and hiking trails, picnic areas and a lake. Access the park from metro stations Lago (blue line 10) or Alto de Extremadura (gray line 6).
- Parque del Capricho: For a park that is off the beaten path, take the green line 5 nearly to the end and explore a secluded slice of garden romance in Parque del Capricho. It is open only on the weekends from 9 am to 6:30 pm October through March and 9 am to 9 pm April through September.
Other Madrid on a Budget Resources
Check out these websites for their own budget guide to Madrid, complete with upcoming free events and offers!
Madrid Free: The website is in Spanish, but constantly curates the best free and cheap Madrid events in town!
Cheap in Madrid: Another great resource for free and cheap things to do in Madrid, this time in English!
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As the daughter of a barbecue master and a pseudo-vegetarian, Amy’s culinary obsessions run deep. She spent time in Galicia before settling down in Madrid, where you’ll usually find her browsing the bottles of a local bodega or ogling the produce at the weekend farmer’s market.