There are many things that Madrid is known for, but living on the cheap is not one of them.
After spending way more money than I anticipated in “start up costs” getting settled in here, I became extremely worried about the possibility of going broke before I even started my job. (granted, most of my money i received for graduation or saved went towards my savings account for a once in a lifetime backpacking trip in December, my apartment deposit, and paying “doggie rent” so my dog has a place to stay while I’m out of the country). In case you are wondering, that didn’t happen.. but I can’t even tell you what I would have done without my generous family and friends helping me out upon my graduation from college, so if this was you, another HUGE thank you, because without you I would be sleeping on a bench outside right now.. I’m honestly not sure if I’m kidding..
Regardless, a few wrong turns here, a few stupid errors there, and all of the sudden I find myself pinching pennies. As you remember, everything went SO smooth getting settled *sarcasm*.
Thanks to this though, I have had to learn how to be frugal in a city that is more comparable to prices in New York City than New Orleans. It is a lot easier than it sounds, and as me and a few friends decided-
“if you feel like you are spending too much money, you’re doing it wrong”
Find Cheap Eats
No one likes to eat at home everyday of their lives. Although that is a huge money saver and what I have done for over a month now, I have still managed to go hang out, eat, and drink with friends. There are many places suitable for people on a budget, many of which I wish I was aware of before coming to Madrid.
10. Cien Montaditos
King of cheap sandwiches and beer, if you need a quick pick me up and have no other great ideas, scrounge up some change and head here. With 100 different mini sandwiches to choose from, you can definitely say there is variety, with anything from calamari sandwiches to hamburgers, to even ice cream sandwiches. Usually each one is 1.50e, but on Mondays all sandwiches are 50 cents, and on Wednesdays and Sundays everything on the menu, including their large beers and sangrias are 1 euro.
High quality food? not exactly. Fantastically and cheaply delicious? absolutely.
9. La Sureña
The same type of setting as 100 Montaditos, this place has a different variety of food, and much larger portion sizes. Popular with locals.
The plates of food a rather large and are usually split among a couple people. They come in a 6 euros a plate, BUT.. on Thursdays, there is a special called doble mania, where you get 2 plates of food for 1! On top of this, everyday a bucket of 5 small beers (called a cubo) is only 3 euro. So grab a friend or two, and hit La Sureña on a Thursday!
8. La Risueña
Basically the same sort of place as the two above. I find it better quality than Cien but a little less than Sureña. Prices are fair though! Again, 3 euro cubos rule all.
7. El Tigre
The most amazing, awesomely unhealthy food you will ever get from simply ordering a drink. For just 6 euros, you get a liter of sangria, mojito, or beer along with about 1-2 plates of tapas PER person. Go with friends and you’ll be so overwhelmed with drink and food, you won’t know what to do with yourself! If you get a nice bartender, you can possibly request to have something included in your abundance of food. My favorites? The paella is great and filling and the croquetas are sent from heaven.
HINT: if you’re not really a drinker, order “una caña”.. You will get a small beer, and they usually give you the same amount of food.
Did you know the Madrid’s museums are free to the public a few hours each day or each week? I have outlined this for you below:
6. El Prado
One of the Most famous attractions in Madrid, the Prado has free entry from 6pm until 8pm from Monday to Saturday and from 5pm until 8pm every Sunday.
5. La Reina Sofia
A cool museum with a fun glass elevator, a lot of modern art by Picasso and Dali, and of course the famous painting, La Guernica. What’s not to love? Free Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 7pm until 9pm. Saturday afternoons (from 2.30pm) and Sunday mornings (until 2.30pm). The museum is closed on Tuesdays.
4. Palacio Royal
The royal residence of Spain. Free Wednesdays!
3. Museo Tarino
Bullfighting history museum! Actually entering the museum I think was a hefty 9 euro, but go around back to the museum and it’s free!
For a full list, click here!
2. Barrio Walking
Sometimes when I am just sitting in my apartment, I make myself leave the apartment even if it is just to walk around. I always have a fantastic time, whether it is to sit down at a cafe and buy a euro coffee or a two euro ice cream, read, people watch, or just walk around and take-in the sites. Sometimes while I’m walking around, I have an “oh snap” moment where I will be walking around with no one but a solitary street, or simply strangers around me, and ask myself, “how did I get here?? I’m literally on a different continent, with no one I’ve known for more than a couple months, surrounded by people in no other situation I would ever in any circumstances meet or run into at any other point in my life.” Weirdly enough, these are the moments that I really do treasure.
The one cool thing I have really come to appreciate about Madrid is the differences between the different neighborhoods. You can almost tell when you leave one and enter another. There’s usually a change in the vibe and the look of people, buildings, and establishments. Each one is special for it’s own reasons, and my plan is to get lost in each one and learn it well before I leave. Click here for a list of explanations of each barrio!
And buh duhhh duh duhhh.. number 1 is…
1. Retiro Park
My number one cheap thing to do in Madrid is Retiro Park! By far the Most beautiful place close to the center of Madrid is Retiro. Literally, you can’t miss it on the map. With a big lake in the center, and greenery everywhere, this is the place to go if you just want some quiet time, to take a walk, run, or bike ride, have a picnic, or a relaxing cup of coffee and try to forget you are in the center of a big metropolis. I have taken a book to read here several times, and have seen many a person sunbathing. There are also a couple different historical sites in the park, which can all be seen on the map below:
So that’s all I have for now.. Feel free to message below if you have some penny pinching tips for Madrid!
Much love. Expect a detailed update this week!