How to travel to Madrid on a budget and still have a great time

With inflation recently hitting an all-time high, many people are eager to save on everything from food shopping to gas and travel.

Traveling on a budget often means picking the right destination and, with the dollar still slightly stronger than the euro, visiting an affordable European spot is a surprisingly budget-friendly solution to rising travel costs.

One of Europe’s more affordable capital cities is Madrid, a destination with plenty to do, see, drink and eat that won’t break the bank.

Here’s how to visit Madrid on a budget.

The Madrid skyline. (Photo by Tanatat pongphibool thailand/Getty Images

Getting there

In many instances, it’s easy to find affordable airfare between the U.S. and Madrid, and you can also leverage low-cost carriers such as Ryanair, Easyjet and Iberia from other major cities around Europe if you find a better deal to another international hub. Just be sure to factor in add-ons like baggage, seat selection and other extras.

We routinely see airfare deals to Spain from the U.S. for under $400 round trip. Be sure to check TPG for our daily deal alerts.

Related: The cheapest ways to book a trip to Spain with points and miles

Accommodation

From new luxury properties to budget hostels and everything in between, Madrid has a wide selection when it comes to accommodation, with options at all price points. Here are some of the best for travelers hoping to stay comfortably without overspending.

Best value points hotels

Madrid offers numerous options when it comes to redeeming points, from the classic fan-favorite Westin Palace Madrid to the reliable InterContinental Madrid. But if you’re looking to conserve those points or stay for longer, here are some of the best options in the Spanish capital.

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  • AC Avenida de América: Though slightly outside the historic center, this property is clean, comfortable and best for those who want to experience a more local side of Madrid while still having easy access to the main tourist sites and Barrio Salamanca shopping via a quick taxi or metro ride. Rates start at 20,000 Bonvoy points or under $100 per night.
The Jardín de Diana, the rooftop of the Hyatt Centric Madrid. (Photo courtesy of the hotel´s Facebook page)
  • Hyatt Centric Gran Via Madrid: This regal property boasts a gorgeous rooftop garden, restaurant and bar, and is located on Madrid’s famous Gran Vía Street. Rates start at 20,000 Hyatt points or about $200 per night.

Best cash value hotels

Don’t have a stash of points? Don’t worry. These hotels offer prime locations, excellent service and unbeatable value.

  • H10 Puerta de Alcalá: Located a stone’s throw away from Madrid’s most beloved green space, this hotel offers chic rooms and a rooftop overlooking the park. Rates can be found from about $95 per night.
  • Hotel Puerta Ámerica: With funky room decor, glass elevators and a Sky Bar, this hotel offers a trendy stay for a budget price. Deals can be found around $100 per night.

Boutique hostels

Hostels aren’t just for backpackers. Many hostels, or pensioners, in Madrid offer private rooms and bathrooms at affordable prices. If you’re on a tight budget, want to make new friends or just want something a little different, consider a hostel.

The Generator Madrid: This design-driven hostel has a fun rooftop deck; the unique space was actually a former gas station. Private rooms start around $60 per night, while shared bunk rooms run as low as $25 per night.

The rooftop of The Hat Madrid. (Photo courtesy of the hostel’s Facebook page)

The Hat Madrid: A short walk from Madrid’s Plaza Mayor, this hostel has chic, clean rooms and an inviting solarium and rooftop deck. Private doubles start at $70 per night, while a bunk in a shared room can be reserved for under $20.

Related: Why you might be happier staying at a budget hotel

Vacation rentals

It’s easy to find holiday rentals from studio lofts to four-bedroom apartments in Madrid’s city center. Prices usually range from about $60 to under $200 per night for the average private apartment rental, depending on amenities and size. Airbnb is the best resource for finding vacation rentals in Madrid.

Best times to visit Madrid

When it comes to finding the lowest rates on hotels and activities, winter is your best bet (outside of Christmas). Just know it does get cold and occasionally rainy during this season in Madrid.

Sometimes you can find accommodation deals, especially on vacation rentals, in August, when most locals flee the city for the seaside or mountains during the extreme heat. Just make sure to spend a little extra on lodging with air conditioning.

Madrid in May offers beautiful weather and prices may still be low. (Photo by SeanPavonePhoto/Getty Images)

If it’s the best weather you’re after, visit Madrid in May and October, where temperatures are pleasant under sunny skies, and prices aren’t quite as high as they may be in June, July or September. Madrid features some exciting festivals in May, such as its San Isidro celebrations, which make for unique cultural and gastronomy experiences.

Getting around Madrid on a budget

It’s easy to get around Madrid’s city center on foot, and the metro and bus are both affordable options, especially right now. The 10-pass metro and bus ticket is about 12 euros, or roughly $12. There’s currently a 30% discount available through the end of December, though the government may extend the promotion.

The Gran Vía metro entrance in Madrid. (Photo by F.J. Jimenez/Getty Images)

Tourist metro passes are valid for unlimited travel between one and seven days of purchase (prices depend on the length of validity). Although this pass isn’t currently discounted, it does include metro trips to the airport (airport metro tickets otherwise have a small supplemental cost when purchased on their own).

It’s also easy and affordable to get between Madrid’s Barajas Airport (MAD) and the city center — it’s only a 20-minute drive or so. You can take the metro or the Bus 200 to Avenida Ámerica, both of which are included in metro tourist tickets. There’s also a special, 24-hour airport bus that runs between the airport and O’Donnell, Cibeles and Atocha that costs 5 euros (about $5) each way.

Related: Every tourist in Madrid makes the same 12 mistakes

You can take the RENFE trains from Terminal 4 from the airport to the city center, or taxis cost a flat rate of 30 euros (about $30) from the airport to anywhere in the city. Rideshare services such as Cabify and Uber usually cost even less.

What to do in Madrid on a budget

Parks

Madrid is home to many green spaces, such as the Retiro Park, Casa de Campo, El Capricho, Fuente de Berro, Madrid Río and Templo De Bod. Entrance is free to all of these parks. However, if you want to rent a paddle boat in Retiro or take the funicular over Casa de Campo, you’ll have to pay extra.

The lake in the Retiro Park in autumn. (Photo by Noppasin Wongchum/Getty Images)

Walk the city

It’s easy to take a self-walking tour around Madrid’s city center, and you can admire many of its attractions from the outside for free. This walk is extensive and can be completed all in one day or over a few days, depending on your energy levels and length of your holiday.

Start in the Puerta Del Sol, checking out the Tio Pepe sign and Kilometer 0, which is said to be the exact geographical center of Spain. Then, wander down to the Plaza Mayor to marvel at the hundreds of balconies that face the center of the square.

The Plaza Mayor. (Photo by Sylvain Sonnet/Getty Images)

Continue down to the San Miguel Market (snacks cost extra!) and along Calle Mayor until you get to the Almudena Cathedral and the Royal Palace, which you can enjoy for free from the outside. Then, walk through the Sabatini Gardens and along the newly constructed walkway to stroll through the freshly re-designed Plaza España square.

Keep going up Gran Vía, a busy street home to shops, theatres and restaurants. When you get to the end, turn left on Calle Álcala (but first look right to catch sight of the towering Metropolis Building) and walk up through Cibeles Square to see the fountain and palace, then to the Puerta de Álcala (one of the former entrances to the Madrid) and into the Retiro Park.

Free times for museums

Many museums in Madrid offer free entrance times. These can be an entire day or just a few hours a week (typically in the afternoon) where you won’t have to pay to enter. Make sure to get there early, as these times can be crowded and you may have to queue up.

El Rastro market

Madrid’s famous flea market occurs weekly on Sundays. Looking and strolling is free for everyone, though you’ll have to pay if you want to buy something. This market can get very crowded, so go early. It’s best to leave valuables and lots of cash at home, as pickpockets notoriously work the crowds here.

Tips and tricks for visiting Madrid on a budget

Menu del día

Many restaurants offer a set lunch menu on weekdays, which includes a choice of starter, main course, dessert or coffee and a drink (such as beer, wine, water or soda) for a fixed price, usually under $20. These are delicious and a great value.

Student, senior and teacher discounts

Museums and other attractions may offer student, teacher or senior discounts. Double-check what type of identification is required to access these cheaper rates.

Palacio Real in Madrid. (Photo by Jorg Greuel/Getty Images)

Free tapas

The more local the bar, the more likely you’ll get a free tapa when you order a drink. And the farther you get from the main historic city center, the higher chance you’ll have of getting a small complimentary plate of food with your drink order.

Bottom Line

Cost-of-living headlines might seem scary, but it’s not impossible to save money while traveling and maximizing the value you’re getting from your holidays. Certain destinations in Europe still offer great value for money if you know where to look — Madrid is just one of these destinations and is a great place to visit on a budget.

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