It’s easy to get around for close to nothing in Madrid, as long as you have your student ID and use a bit of creativity. While vast and rich with endless streets and corners, it is fairly easy to explore by foot (no metro cost!). Here’s a day-in-the-life of a money-saving, pedestrian tourist.
1. Grab breakfast at your hostel: When booking hostels in Madrid, be on the look out for places that serve free breakfast. Often times, this breakfast won’t amount to much more than a bowl of corn flakes and some chamomile tea. However, other places, like Las Musas in Madrid, will treat you to a heaping plate of fresh churros and coffee.
2. Many attractions in Madrid are tailored exclusively to walking and sightseeing needs. In other words— take a good look, admire the sights, and move on, for free! Try Gran Vía, el Puerta del Sol, la Plaza Mayor, Buen Retiro Park, el Barrio de Las Letras, the exterior of el Palacio Real, or la Plaza Cibeles. All plazas and gathering spaces in Madrid are open for public use, so grab a camera and wander around for a few hours. Madrid’s barrios are also eclectic and fun to meander around when you’ve got an extra hour or two. Check out the multicultural Lavapiés, the alternative/hipster Malasaña, the gay-pride Chueca, the ancient Salamanca, or the popular central Madrid hub, Sol.
3. Menú del Día: The most expensive thing you’ll be doing all day is eating. But if you do it the Madrileño way, with a feast of a lunch late in the afternoon, you may be so full you’ll only need one full meal to hold you over. Check out the menús del día, two-course lunches offered by most restaurants in Madrid in the early to late afternoon. Help yourself to a starter course, a primary course, a drink, a dessert, bread, and coffee all for 8-10€. Now that’s a deal.
4. Museums: The three museums of the Golden Triangle of Art conveniently allow students entrance for a discounted price. Prado offers free admission to students between the ages of 18-25 (with a valid I.D). Visit the Reina Sofía between the hours of 7-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and between 1:30 p.m. and Sundays for free (as well as all day on April: 18 and 27, May: 17 and 18, October 12, December 6). Visit the final leg of the triangle, the Thyssen-Bornemisza, on Tuesdays to Sundays from 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m., or on Mondays from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. for free
5. Finish your cheapskate fun day with a visit to Madrid’s el Templo de Debod, located near Gran Vía and la Plaza España. Entrance to the temple, which has priceless views of the city at sunset, is free as well.
Total day cost: 8-10€ (food), sweat (lots of walking)
Total day gain: brain cells (lots of art), muscle (lots of walking), streets smarts for Madrid