The Ultimate Backpacker’s Guide to Madrid on a Budget

The Ultimate Backpacker’s Guide to Madrid on a Budget

Contrary to its European counterparts, Madrid offers a cost-effective escape with lots of free activities. From savoring free tapas to exploring museums at no cost, the city hides inexpensive treasures. 

Eager for insider secrets to navigate it? Here’s our Madrid budget travel guide with every tip and hacks you need to backpack Madrid.

Travel Costs: Detailed Breakdown

Madrid is a city that caters to all budgets. Here’s a quick rundown of what you can expect to spend per day:

Suggested Budget per person

  • Low Budget: €50-75
  • Mid-Range: €75-€125
  • High-End: €125+

Detailed Costs: Madrid Travel Guide


  • Low-Budget: Hostels or budget guesthouses: €20-€35 per night. 
  • Mid-Range: Mid-range hotels or B&Bs: €50-€80 per night. 
  • High-End: Luxury hotels or upscale apartments: €100+ per night. 

Read: best hostels in Madrid.

Public Transportation

  • Single Metro Ticket: €1.50
  • Day Pass: €6.80
  • 3-Day Tourist Pass: €18.90 (includes unlimited travel on public transport and free entry to many museums)

Entrance Fees

  • Low-Budget (Mostly Free Activities): Royal Palace Gardens, Buen Retiro Park, El Rastro flea market
  • Mid-Range: Prado Museum: €14, Reina Sofía Museum: €12 
  • High-End: Flamenco Show: €25-€50, Royal Palace Tour: €13


  • Low-Budget: “empanada” (€2-€3) “bocadillo” (sandwich) crusty bread (€4-€6) from a local bar.
  • Mid-Range: tapas bars where you can sample a variety of delicious small plates for €2-€4 each.
  • High-End: Upwards of €200+ per person.


  • Low-Budget: A coffee at a local bar can be had for just €1-€1.50.
  • Mid-Range: Enjoy a leisurely coffee and pastry at a cafe for €2-€3.
  • High-End: For specialty coffees or trendy cafes in tourist areas, expect to pay €3-€5.

Beer & Wine

  • Low-Budget: A caña (small glass of beer) at a local bar will only set you back €1.50-€2.
  • Mid-Range: A glass of wine or a beer at a mid-range restaurant or trendy bar will cost around €3-€4.
  • High-End: Craft beers and special vintages can range from €5-€10 or more.

Exploring Madrid: Things to See & Do

Madrid is a city that explodes with life. From its world-class museums to its sprawling parks and energetic nightlife, there’s something for everyone. Here’s a glimpse of what you can look forward to:

Must Do in Madrid

  1. El Retiro Park: Escape the urban jungle and unwind in this sprawling park. Rent a rowboat on the lake, or simply relax among the manicured gardens and ornate fountains.
  2. Golden Triangle of Art: Hit the jackpot at Madrid’s famed art trio – the Prado Museum (Spanish and European masterpieces like Velázquez’s Las Meninas), Reina Sofía Museum (modern and contemporary art including Picasso’s Guernica), and Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum (everything from Renaissance to Pop Art by Van Gogh and Monet). Consider purchasing the Paseo del Arte pass for discounted entry.
  3. Royal Palace of Madrid: Gape at the opulent residence of the Spanish royal family. Witness the changing of the guard ceremony (free) for a dash of pomp and circumstance.
  4. Puerta del Sol: The symbolic center of Spain. Look for the iconic bear and strawberry tree sculpture.
  5. Plaza Mayor: Mingle with locals in this main square, once the heart of Habsburg Madrid. Grab a coffee and soak in the atmosphere, watching street performers or browsing souvenir shops.
  6. Temple of Debod: Transport yourself to ancient Egypt with this stunning ancient Egyptian temple donated to Spain. Enjoy the sunset views from its idyllic location overlooking the city.
  7. Gran Vía: Madrid’s dazzling Broadway boasts theaters, shops, and buzzing energy. Window-shop catch a street performance for free entertainment, or snag discounted tickets to a last-minute show.
  8. Flamenco Show: Witness the fiery passion of flamenco at a tablao (flamenco venue). Many offer budget-friendly options, letting you experience this traditional Spanish dance.
  9. Tapas Crawl: Indulge in Madrid’s quintessential food scene. Sample delicious bites and local wines at various tapas bars – a delightful (and affordable) way to dine. Choose your tapas based on ingredients or explore a specific region’s cuisine.
  10. El Rastro Flea Market: Hunt for treasures at El Rastro, Madrid’s sprawling weekend flea market. You never know what hidden gems you might unearth, from vintage clothing and antiques to quirky souvenirs.

Free things to do in Madrid – Save money!

  1. Explore Lavapiés: This multicultural neighborhood boasts street art, delicious ethnic eats from around the world, and a bohemian charm.
  2. Free Walking Tours: Get your bearings and historical insights with a free walking tour. Tips are always appreciated, but not mandatory. These guided tours cover major landmarks and hidden gems.
  3. Relax in Retiro Park: People-watch, picnic on the manicured lawns, or simply stroll through the park’s scenic grounds, enjoying the fresh air and lush greenery – all for free! Rent a boat on the lake for a romantic touch.
  4. Cibeles Fountain and Buen Retiro: Snap photos at these iconic landmarks – the majestic Cibeles Fountain, a neoclassical beauty with a chariot pulled by lions, and the ornate Buen Retiro Palace, a former royal residence.
  5. Admire Street Art: Marvel at the street art scene in Malasaña and Lavapiés. It’s like an open-air museum, showcasing works by local and international artists!
  6. Change of the Guard Ceremony: Witness the changing of the guard ceremony at the Royal Palace – a free and impressive display of military precision, held every Wednesday and Sunday mornings.

Tops Museums in Madrid

  1. Prado Museum: Get lost in a world of Spanish and European masterpieces, including Velázquez’s Las Meninas, Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Son, and works by Titian, El Greco, and Rembrandt.
  2. Reina Sofía Museum: Immerse yourself in modern and contemporary art, featuring Picasso’s iconic Guernica, Dalí’s melting clocks, and works by Miró and Juan Gris.
  3. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía: Discover a collection of 20th and 21st-century Spanish and international art.
  4. Tapas Museum: Foodies can delve into the history and culture of tapas at this unique museum (entrance fee applies). Learn about the evolution of tapas, see traditional preparation methods, and admire interactive exhibits.
  5. CaixaForum Madrid: See temporary exhibitions showcasing a variety of art forms, from photography and sculpture to installations and multimedia displays.

Where to Stay on a Budget

Finding a budget-friendly place to stay in Madrid is totally doable. While the city center (think Puerta del Sol and Gran Vía) boasts luxurious hotels and a nonstop buzz, it also comes with a luxurious price tag. But Madrid also has a wealth of character-filled neighborhoods that are easy on the wallet and brimming with local charm.

Read: best hostels in Madrid.

Here’s a quick rundown of some great areas to stay in Madrid on a budget – Best for backpacking Madrid:

1. La Latina: This medieval labyrinth is a backpacker’s paradise. Think narrow, winding streets overflowing with tapas bars, trendy cafes, and hidden squares. By day, explore historic churches and charming plazas. By night, lose yourself in the bar-hopping frenzy until the wee hours. Just be prepared for the fiesta atmosphere, as things can get loud, late into the night.

2. Lavapiés: This multicultural melting pot is a feast for the senses. Street art explodes from colorful walls, aromatic spice shops line the streets, and international restaurants offer a global smorgasbord. While not the most posh area, Lavapiés is undeniably energetic and authentic. Just keep an eye on your belongings, as petty theft can be an issue in some parts.

3. Malasaña: Once a working-class area, Malasaña is now a hipster neighborhood. Quirky vintage shops rub shoulders with independent art galleries, and trendy cocktail bars pulsate with energy. By day, browse through unique finds and sip on craft coffee. By night, the area transforms into a party zone, attracting a young crowd.

4. Chueca: Madrid’s LGBTQ+ heart throbs with a unique energy. Rainbow flags flutter proudly, and a sense of inclusivity floats the air. The area has a fantastic selection of trendy tapas bars, upscale restaurants, and chic boutiques. While not the cheapest option on this list, Chueca offers a cool and welcoming atmosphere.

Eating and Drinking

Forget fancy Michelin-starred restaurants! Filling your belly in Madrid is an adventure for the taste buds that won’t leave your wallet feeling empty. Here’s the ultimate guide to eating like a local maestro, all on a shoestring budget:

Water: Madrid’s water is your best friend. Unlike some countries, tap water here is perfectly safe to drink. Save those precious euros and fill up your reusable water bottle at any fountain or tap you find.

Where to Find Affordable Food in Madrid

  • Bar Hopping Like a Boss: Tapas bars are the beating heart of Madrid’s culinary scene. Forget expensive sit-down meals and embrace the social side of eating. Order a caña (small glass of beer) and a tapa or two at one bar, then hop to the next for another round of culinary exploration.
  • Insider Tip: Avoid the tourist traps in the main squares. Venture a few streets back into the labyrinthine neighborhoods, where hidden gems offer equally delicious tapas at local prices.
  • Menús del Día:  Look for restaurants with a sign displaying “menú del día” (menu of the day). This local hero is your knight in shining armor when hunger pangs strike. For a fixed price, usually around €10-€15, you’ll get a starter, main course, drink, and sometimes even dessert. It’s a hearty and delicious meal that won’t break the bank.
  • Bonus Tip: These menus are typically offered at lunchtime, so plan your exploring around this budget-friendly feast.

Madrid Food Markets

  • Mercado de San Miguel: While pricier than some, it’s a visual feast with gourmet tapas stalls showcasing Spain’s culinary diversity. Think glistening seafood displays, colorful pintxo counters, and jamon (cured ham) hanging like glistening works of art. Perfect for a special occasion or just window shopping with a rumbling tummy.
  • Mercado de la Ribera: Experience the authentic buzz of a traditional market at La Ribera. Locals come here for the freshest seafood haul, from glistening sea bass to plump mussels. Grab a stool at one of the bars inside and savor a plate of just-caught prawns washed down with a caña. It’s Madrid on a plate, and at local prices too!
  • El Rastro Flea Market (Sundays Only): This sprawling Sunday market isn’t just about vintage treasures. Foodies rejoice! Many vendors offer mouthwatering street food, from piping hot churros dusted with cinnamon sugar to sizzling bocadillos overflowing with cured meats and cheese. Come hungry and explore the edible delights alongside the market’s other hidden gems.

Affordable Snacks and Dishes: Madrid Backpacking

  • Bocatas: The Humble Hero: Don’t underestimate the power of the humble bocadillo. These crusty bread sandwiches come in endless variations, from the classic tortilla española tucked inside to melt-in-your-mouth jamon Iberico. They’re a cheap, filling, and incredibly delicious option for a quick lunch or on-the-go snack.
  • Empanadas: A Savory or Sweet Surprise: Flaky pastries filled with a world of flavors – that’s the beauty of empanadas. From savory options bursting with meat and vegetables to decadent sweet fillings like chocolate and dulce de leche, there’s an empanada to satisfy every craving. Grab one from a local bakery for a delightful and affordable treat.
  • Pintxos: A Colorful Skewered Adventure: Similar to tapas, pintxos are bite-sized delights typically found in northern Spain, but they’re becoming increasingly popular in Madrid. Bars often have a counter overflowing with colorful pintxos, from skewered shrimp to mini potato tortillas. Perfect for grabbing a quick bite or creating your own personalized skewered feast.

Backpacker-Friendly Groceries in Madrid

  • Dia: This Spanish supermarket chain is your go-to for discount groceries. Stock up on everything from fresh produce to pantry staples at competitive prices.
  • Lidl: Another budget-friendly supermarket option with a good selection of private-label products. Great for grabbing essentials like pasta, rice, and canned goods without putting a dent in your wallet.
  • Mercados Municipales (Municipal Markets): Many neighborhoods boast their own local markets, offering a treasure trove of fresh produce, meat, cheese, and other essentials. Mingle with the locals and snag the freshest ingredients at competitive prices.
  • Bonus Tip: Head to the market towards closing time for even better deals.

How to Get Around

Navigating Madrid is a breeze with its extensive and affordable public transportation system. Here’s a breakdown of your options to get you around the city like a local:

Understanding Madrid’s Public Transportation

  • Metro (Metropolitana): Madrid’s red subway system is the backbone of public transportation. With 13 lines and over 300 stations, it can whisk you almost anywhere within the city limits quickly and efficiently. Tickets and passes are valid across the entire Metro network.
  • EMT Buses: The blue and yellow EMT (Empresa Municipal de Transportes) buses complement the Metro, reaching areas not directly served by the subway. An extensive network with over 200 lines, they’re a great way to see the city from a different perspective and get off the beaten path.
  • Cercanías (Commuter Trains): The green Cercanías trains are a fantastic option for venturing slightly further out of central Madrid. These commuter trains connect the city with surrounding towns and suburbs, perfect for day trips to historical sites like El Escorial or Toledo.
  • Taxis: While not the most budget-friendly option, taxis are readily available throughout the city, especially near major tourist spots and train stations. They can be handy late at night or for carrying heavy luggage. Just be sure to hail an official taxi (easily identified by its white body and red stripe) and agree on a fare beforehand if you’re unsure about the cost.


  • Billete Sencillo (Single Ticket): Your go-to option for occasional rides. Valid for one journey on any mode of public transport within zone A (covers central Madrid). At €3, it’s a steal but gets pricier if you travel outside zone A.
  • Tarjeta Multi (Multi-Journey Ticket): This lifesaver offers a set number of trips within a specific timeframe. Perfect for backpackers on the go, they come in 10-trip (€12.20) and 30-trip (€38.30) options.
  • Abono Transporte (Transport Pass): For longer stays, consider the Abono Transporte, a monthly pass that gives you unlimited rides within a specific zone (prices vary depending on the zone).

Cheapest Way to Get To and From the Airport in Madrid

Madrid-Barajas Airport (MAD) is your gateway to the city. Here’s how to get to the city center without blowing your travel budget:

  • Metro: The most budget-friendly option! Line 8, the pink line (distinguishable by its color and cute octopus mascot), connects all terminals directly to Nuevos Ministerios station in central Madrid. The ride takes around 15 minutes and costs a flat fee of €5.10 (including the airport surcharge).
  • Cercanías: A slightly slower but even cheaper alternative is the cercanías trains (C1 and C10 lines). The journey takes about 30-40 minutes and costs less than €3. Keep in mind these trains make more stops and might be a bit slower, but they’re perfect if you’re feeling adventurous and want to experience the local commute.
  • Buses: The Airport Express Bus (line 203) is a comfortable option, costing €5 and taking around 40 minutes to reach Atocha station. While not the cheapest, it might be a good choice for those with bulky luggage or wanting a more comfortable ride.

Bonus Tip: While walking might not be feasible for the entire city, exploring central Madrid on foot is a great way to discover spots that often go unnoticed.

Madrid Station

Best Time to Visit Madrid

Madrid’s a city that sizzles with life year-round, but choosing the perfect time for your visit depends on your priorities. Here’s a breakdown of the high, shoulder, and low seasons to help you decide:

  • High Season (July & August):

Pros: Long sunny days, cool festivals, great atmosphere.
Cons: Scorching heat, sky-high prices, overflowing crowds.

  • Shoulder Season (April-June & September-October):

Pros: Pleasant weather, fewer crowds, good hotel deals.
Cons: Some businesses close in August, with unpredictable spring showers (April-May).

  • Low Season (November-March):

Pros: Rock-bottom prices, shorter queues at attractions.
Cons: Chilly weather, shorter daylight hours, some shops have limited hours.

National Holidays & Peak Festivals:

Keep an eye out for these events that can inflate accommodation prices and bring bigger crowds. 

  • January 6th – Three Kings Day (Fiesta de los Reyes Magos): A gift-giving extravaganza with parades and celebrations, expect higher hotel rates.
  • March/April (movable dates) – Holy Week (Semana Santa): Solemn processions, religious services, and cultural events throughout the city. Book hotels well in advance as this is a popular time for Spanish travelers.
  • Mid-May (movable dates) – San Isidro Festival: A two-week fiesta dedicated to Madrid’s patron saint. Expect bullfighting, flamenco shows, open-air concerts, and traditional celebrations. Brace yourself for crowds and higher accommodation costs.
  • May/June (movable dates) – Feria del Libro (Book Fair): A paradise for bibliophiles with book stalls lining the Paseo del Prado. Amazing atmosphere and author signings attract crowds, so consider booking accommodations in advance.
  • December – Christmas (Navidad): Festive cheer fills the air with magical Christmas markets and celebrations. Prepare for higher prices and potential crowds, especially around Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
Madrid architecture

Essentials, Money & Safety Tips

Before you conquer the cobbled streets, make sure your backpack isn’t a bottomless pit of random stuff. Here’s a cheat sheet to pack smart and stay safe in this city:

Backpacking Madrid Essentials:

  • A Sturdy Daypack: Ditch the suitcase! Madrid is a walkable city, and you’ll want a comfortable backpack that won’t leave you feeling like a pack mule.
  • Sun Smarts: Those Castilian summers are scorchers. Pack a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) to avoid turning into a sweaty tomato.
  • Reusable Water Bottle: Stay hydrated and save some cash by ditching single-use plastic. Madrid boasts many public fountains where you can refill your bottle.
  • Comfortable Walking Shoes: Madrid’s charm lies in its walkable streets. Pack comfy shoes that can handle cobblestones and endless tapas bar hopping.
  • Universal Adapter (Optional): Spanish outlets are two-pronged, so if you’re coming from a different country, consider packing a universal adapter to keep your gadgets juiced up.

Madrid Safety Tips

  • Pickpocket: Madrid, like many European cities, has its share of petty theft. Keep your valuables close (front pockets or a money belt), avoid wearing flashy jewelry, and be extra vigilant in crowded areas like the metro and popular tourist spots.
  • Metro Manners: The Madrid metro is efficient, but beware of rush hour – it can get a little too “cozy” for comfort. Keep a firm grip on your belongings and avoid using your phone while standing close to the doors.

Madrid Common Scams

  • Expensive Bottled Water: As mentioned before, skip the overpriced bottled water and refill your reusable bottle at the many public fountains throughout the city.
  • Fake Flamenco: Madrid offers some truly spectacular flamenco shows, but avoid tourist traps that promise “authentic” flamenco for a cheap price. Do your research and choose a reputable venue.
  • Sangria Shenanigans: Sangria can be a delicious way to experience Spanish culture, but those giant jugs of neon-red concoctions sold at tourist traps are usually sugary and overpriced. Stick to traditional tapas bars with a good wine selection.
  • Siesta Siesta Siesta: While many shops do close for a siesta break in the afternoon (usually 1:30-5 pm), major tourist attractions and restaurants generally stay open. Plan your exploration accordingly to avoid disappointment.

Madrid Travel Tips Reminder

  • Tapas: Tapas bars are a budget traveler’s dream. Order small plates to share and you’ll be able to eat on a budget. Pro tip: head to neighborhoods outside the city center for even better deals!
  • Markets: Check out local markets like Mercado de San Miguel or La Boquería for fresh produce, cured meats, and delicious snacks at a fraction of restaurant prices. They’re perfect for picnics in the park or stocking up on hostel groceries.
  • Museum Magic: Many Madrid museums offer free admission during specific hours. The Prado Museum, for example, grants free entry from 6-8 pm Mondays through Saturdays and Sundays/holidays from 5-7 pm. Plan your itinerary accordingly and you’ll be able to check out popular museums for free. 
  • Pass Power: Consider purchasing a tourist pass like the “Abono Transporte Turístico” for unlimited travel on public transport (metro, buses) and even suburban trains. This can be a great money-saver if you plan on doing a lot of sightseeing.

We are 100% Independent: Some links on Hostelgeeks are so-called affiliate links. If you decide to book through these links, we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Your support allows us to keep producing high-quality, independent content free of influence from hostels or external advertisers. Learn more here. 🙏

✏️ Read our Editorial Guidelines

Our Favorite Travel Resources 2024

👏 Booking Hostels: Always find better deals for Hostels on They compare prices from Hostelworld and

✈️ Cheap Flights: The first websites we always check are Skyscanner and Google Flights.

🤒 Travel Insurance Simplified: We always go either with Safetywing and Hey Mondo.

🤓 Smart Travel Tools you need to know: Find a list of our favorite travel tools.

Get your Smart Packing List (Free Printable): Knowing what to pack and what not to pack is key. Get our ultimate list of smart items to bring on your trip.

Download your Free PDF Packing List

Best Hostel Packing List