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. 

Horizontal panoramic view of young male friends in wheelchairs waiting for the train entering the station
You can save a lot by skipping taxis and navigating the city by metro or bus © Vera Vita / Getty Images

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. 

Front view of Taberna de San Isidro, a popular old-style tavern with tile decoration, traditional food and chalkboard menus out front and people seen dining in the front window
Most restaurants have chalkboards outside advertising a fixed-price daily menu © ManuelVelasco / Getty Images

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

Closeup on a table with a plate of tapas (two slices of bread, one topped with ham and cheese and the other with just ham, held together with toothpicks), slices of plain bread, a dish of olives, sprigs of thyme and a glass of wine
Getting a free plate of tapas with every drink is standard practice in Madrid © Shebeko / Shutterstock

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

People sitting outside at tables on Madrid's Plaza Mayor at dusk
In high-tourist-traffic areas, such as Plaza Mayor, restaurants can have much higher-priced menus © Travelpix Ltd / Getty Images

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.

People in the interior courtyard of Madrid's Reina Sofia museum, looking at a tall black-and-white Roy Lichtenstein sculpture
Check out the Reina Sofia and other Madrid museums during designated free-entry times © astudio / Shutterstock

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. 

People dine out on the terrace in the popular Lavapiés neighborhood in central Madrid.
Lavapiés is a little global village known for its array of multicultural culinary offers © Page Light Studios / Getty Images

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. 

Explore related stories

LAGO ESCONDIDO, BARILOCHE - ARGENTINA - FEBRUARY 2017 - Unidentified young people, enjoying the summer on the patagonian lake, eating and having fun on the deck.; Shutterstock ID 653309122; your: Sloane Tucker; gl: 65050; netsuite: Online Editorial; full: Bariloche Landing Page

Budget Travel

Argentina on a budget

Jun 17, 2024 • 6 min read