Central Madrid is surprisingly compact and you can save money by walking between sights rather than taking the bus or metro. This is also a pleasant way to get to know the city.
If you’re stopping for a coffee or snack, it’s cheaper to stand at the bar than sit down. To save on lunch, order the menú del día or the combinado – much cheaper than à la carte . Tapas is another way to eat cheaply. Some bars serve olives, crisps and nuts with drinks at no extra charge. Madrid is well blessed with parks and green spaces, free to the public. Take a picnic to save buying a meal in a café or restaurant.
While illegal, strictly speaking, busking is as common in Madrid as in other European cities and is a good source of free entertainment. Buskers perform in metro stations, in Retiro Park and on the street wherever they get the chance.
State museums, such as the Reina Sofía, are free on Saturday afternoons after 2:30pm and on Sundays (the Prado is free only on Sundays). In addition, national monuments managed by the Patrimonio Nacional (including the Palacio Real) are free for EU nationals on Wednesdays.
Many museums and galleries offer free entry to the over 65s. Students with an ISIC (International Student Identity Card) can get reductions in many museums. The under-18s can also gain free or reduced entry to museums, art galleries and other attractions. The Paseo del Arte combined ticket is the most economical way of visiting the three main art museums.
You can find acceptable accommodation in central Madrid for under €40 a night, or less if you aren’t too fussy about quality. There’s currently only one camp site in Madrid itself, although many more in the Greater Madrid area. While facilities at the Madrid site are adequate, it’s near the airport and noisy. Another option is youth hostelling. The best is Hostal Santa Cruz de Marcenado, a 5-minute walk from metro Argüelles. Book ahead.
While some hotels offer good value breakfasts, many, especially at the cheaper end of the market, do not. You can save money by paying only for accommodation and taking breakfast in a local café, many of which offer reasonably priced English or American style breakfasts.
This card gives you free entry to several museums as well as unlimited travel on the Madrid Visión tour bus and other discounts. 24-, 48- or 72-hour cards are sold at tourist offices, on Madrid Visión buses or over the internet.
While opening times are restricted, most churches are free to visit, or, in the case of cultural sites, cheap. They also hold free or inexpensive concerts, especially around Christmas, Holy Week (Semana Santa ) and during the major summer and autumn cultural festivals.
Buy the economical Metrobus ticket, valid for 10 journeys, or the Tourist Travel Pass (see Getting Around Madrid).Keep track of the number of rides you’ve done, to avoid running out (ticket machines indicate how many journeys are left).