Spain is my all time favorite country I have visited so far. Madrid, the capital and largest, has some amazing culture and beauty I’ve ever seen. You will find some amazing food, fashion, art, and a wonderful nightlife. This city starts late, which is perfect for non-morning people! Dinner usually starts at 9 or 10 pm. The tiny neighborhoods within the city is a great place to explore, eat tapas, and drink sangria. Spain is so laid back, the locals are warm, and it is the best place anyone can ever experience!
MUST GO TO PLACES
Activities – Museums and attractions in Spain cost between 2-14 EUR. There are free museum days. Be sure to go on those days to save money. Madrid has something for everyone and there is so much to experience and explore.
Transportation – Metro tickets cost around 1.50 EUR per trip within the centeral area. Getting to and from the airport costs 2.60 EUR each way, via train. Renting a bike is another great way to see the city, with prices around 15 EUR for the day.
- Palacio Real – AKA the Royal Palace, is the official home for the King of Spain, though it is only used for state ceremonies. The palace is partially open to public except when it is being used for official business and it is closed on Sundays. The Palace is free for EU citizens on Wednesdays, and guided tours in English are also available. Admission is 11 EUR and 15 EUR if you want a guided tour.
- Plaza Mayor – Madrid’s main square, located in the middle of the city. Winding streets will take you past churches, tapas bars, and give you insight into royal history and architecture.
- Puerta de Sol – One of Madrid’s most famous centrals squares and is just a short walk from Plaza Mayor. Originally it was the site of one of the city’s gates, which faced the east and was adorned with an image of the sun, hence the square’s name.
- Watch Flamenco Dancers – Madrid has been enjoying flamenco since the early 19th century. Flamenco can be seen in many bars and taverns in Madrid.
- Prado Museum – Madrid’s top cultural sight, and one of the world’s greatest art galleries. This museum displays works by the great European masters such as Velázquez, Goya, Raphael, Rubens, and Bosch. Admission is FREE!
- National Archeological Museum – Holds objuects and and shows how Spain was settled. Artifacts from Egypt and Mesopotamia. The museum is closed on Mondays and admission is FREE!
- El Retiro Park – The main park in Madrid. This is the perfect place to relax on a sunny day. Take part in the drum circles around the statue of Alphonso XII on summer evenings. Check out the monument to the victims of the Madrid 3/11 terrorist bombings, the Forest of the Absent, and the Crystal Palace.
- Go to a Real Madrid soccer match – The worlds best soccer team plays here. The stadium is always full and the crowds are wild.
- Mercado de San Miguel – This indoor market is a really trendy spot to get your grocery shopping done, to eat some cheap meals, or to just take in the people. It’s located near Plaza Mayor, and attracts the after-work drinks crowd in the evenings.
Hostel dorms are affordable that range around 12-25 EUR per night. The closer you are to Plaza Mayor, the more expensive the hostel will become. Free WiFi is standard, and many hostels in the city also offer free breakfast. Explore booking.com for some better deals.
- The Hat – The best breakfast buffet in Madrid. They have coffee, juices, fresh fruit, and various types of bread. If it is sunny, breakfast will be served on the terrace. There’s a rooftop bar, the perfect place to end your day and begin your night with a sunset and a glass of wine. Free WiFi is provided along with state of the art technology. 20-25 EUR per night.
- Cat’s Hostel – AKA the party hostel in Madrid center. They have bright rooms & dorms in a lively hostel offering free breakfast, dance classes & a disco. 12 EUR per night.
- Hostel RC Miguel Angel – Simple rooms & dorms with free Wi-Fi & breakfast, plus a microwave & a fridge for guests’ use. 13 EUR per night.
- Scout Madrid Hostel – Straightforward dorms in a simple hostel offering free breakfast & a communal kitchen. 14 EUR per night.
- Hostel Era – Simply furnished dorm rooms with shared bathrooms, plus complimentary breakfast & Wi-Fi. 10 EUR per night.
- MAD4YOU Hostel – Low-key rooms and dorms with free Wi-Fi & breakfast, plus a TV lounge & a courtyard garden. 19 EUR per night.
- Hostel Era Alonso Martinez – Casual hostel offering basic dorms with shared bathrooms, plus a guest kitchenette & free breakfast. 11 EUR per night.
- Open Hostel Madrid – Located in the center of Madrid, shared rooms with a maximum capacity of 4 or 6 people. All of them offer complimentary light, a small shelf, plug for your phone or Tablet, free wifi, air conditioning, heating, sheets and a curtain to keep your privacy. The bathrooms are separated for both men and women. Breakfast is included in all reservations. 15 EUR per night.
BARS & RESTAURANTS
Eating cheaply is pretty easy in Madrid. Meals can cost around 6-13 EUR per meal. That includes about 3-4 tapas. If you add wine to your meal, your bill will be more around 18 EUR. Restaurants are open later than American restaurants. Dinner is around 9-10pm. Bars close around 2-3am and night clubs are open until 5-6am.
- Mercado de San Miguel – The historic wrought-iron-and-glass Mercado de San Miguel, just off Plaza Mayor, has become one of the liveliest culinary spots in the city since it reopened in 2009 after a nearly six-year restoration. Alongside stalls selling fresh produce are tapas bars offering a wide variety of treats such as gambas al ajillo (garlic prawns) and banderillas (small skewers of olives, cucumbers, peppers and pickled onions). Try La Hora del Vermut for an aperitif of the house vermouth (on draft, €1.50), or grab a caña (small beer, €2) from the Beer House, a glass of rioja (from €3) from any of several wine kiosks, or taste sherries paired with tapas at the Sherry Corner.
- El Arrozal – Located in the old city center (Madrid de los Austrias), you can enjoy the typical Spanish gluten free paella. The owners have a celiac child, so they know perfectly the celiac disease. All the rices are prepared gluten free, spectacular croquettes. It is close to Palacio Real, Almudena Cathedral or Plaza Mayor.
- Celicioso – An American gluten free bakery that serves up delicious cupcakes, cakes, cookies, alfajores, sandwiches, lasagnas, bread, etc…
- Taberna la Concha – Sharing plates while going out with friends is a typical theme in Spain. Here you can enjoy a gluten free beer or a wine in a very good environment (“La Latina”), one of the most fun areas in Madrid at night.
- Bar el Taller – It is the furthest place from the center, but it is near of Bull ring “Las Ventas”. It is the typical Spanish bar with a good terrace to enjoy in summer time. They have a great variety of gluten free food. Home-made food, paella and cocido madrileño, all gluten free. Other option is sharing plates, the croquettes are very nice, or you can eat “tostas” or sandwiches with a home-made bread. They also have gluten free beer.
- L’Albufera – Delicious red sangria and fantastic gluten free paella. The portions are large so it is suggested to split the meal! It’s on the more expensive side so make it one of the “treat yoself” nights.
- Rodilla – Similar to a Panera Bread, they have gluten-Free Menu, Sandwiches, Bread/Buns
- Jesus Y Buddha – They offer gluten-Free Menu, Pizza, Pasta, Bread/Buns, Cookies, French Toast, Tortilla Chips, Cupcakes
- Mestro Churrero – Gluten-Free Menu, Dessert, Dedicated Fryer. The best place to experience the traditional churrero gluten free.
- La Venencia – This famous old bar on the cobblestone street of Calle de Echegaray is probably the most reflective of the Spanish Civil War during 1936 to 1939 and an absolute must-visit for lovers of history, Jerez and Hemingway. Located at Calle Echegaray, 7.
- 1862 Dry Bar – this tiny bar in the trendy Triball area is ran by the friendly owner, Alberto Martínez and seems to be the chosen hangout for many of Madrid’s mixologists when they’re not working elsewhere. Alongside the 30 or so classic cocktails, there are over 150 vodkas and gins whilst the decoration is beautiful, the stunning wooden bar carries a quote in large print from the 1953 Raymond Chandler novel “The Long Goodbye”, about how to make the perfect Gimlet. And this bar certainly knows how to.
- Fatigas del Querer – A great bar on Calle de la Cruz, which serves huge plates of tapas and larger meals, as well as offering an extensive list of wines. Always full of locals, this is a place to feel like a true madrileño. To top it all off, the staff are unbelievably friendly and fond of giving away free wine!
MONEY SAVING TIPS
- Eat larger lunches – Lunch is cheaper than dinner in Madrid. You’ll find “menu del dia” which will cost around 10-15 EUR.
- Free museum days – Lots of museums in Madrid are free on certain days and certain times throughout the day. Be sure to check before you go because it’s far better to see sights like the Prado for free!
- Couchsurf – Couchsurfing is a great way to save money on accommodations and also benefit by staying with a local. This is also probably the best way to see the city.
- Free walking tours – Another great way to see the city. New Madrid Walking Tours and Cat’s Hostel Walking Tours are the two most popular free tours in the city.
Other Reads and Need to Knows About Madrid
Festivals – Madrid is a lively city and full of festival opportunities.
Events in Madrid – From Carnival to Easter, check out the many different events going on in Madrid.