When it comes to exploring Europe on a budget, it’s very hard to beat Madrid. One of the cheapest cities in Western Europe, though one of the richest when it comes to history, architecture, culture, and food, the Spanish capital is a dream budget trip.
It’s absolutely possible to spend as little as $100 a day in Madrid, including your transport, accommodation, activities, and food.
While often overshadowed by Barcelona, Madrid is packed with free museums, impromptu street performances, and delicious tapas – which are often free too!
Visiting Europe but only have $100 a day? Madrid is for you!
How to Spend $100 a Day in Madrid
Accommodation: €0 – €70
Accommodation is your biggest expense to consider in Madrid, and you can spend as little or as much as you want, depending on how much you want it to eat into your budget (remember you do have to eat too!).
Madrid is a lively city, with a huge community of locals ready and willing to host you, and this is a great way to lock in accommodation for absolutely free. The options for free accommodation range from couchsurfing to house sitting; Facebook Groups are now also a great way to connect for hosting too.
Hostels in Madrid offer shared rooms for as little as € 14 per night, and budget hotels will start from around € 45 per night. Keep in mind that hotel rates are for two people, so if you’re traveling as a couple, you can get a hotel with more privacy for the same price you’d pay at a hostel (which charges per person).
If you’re after a nicer hotel, this will cost you anywhere from € 70. This leaves you with $20 left to spend (when converted from Euro), which is going to be tight for the rest of your day in Madrid, though not impossible if you don’t want to sacrifice on comfort.
Getting Around: €5 – €10
Once you’ve arrived in Madrid, getting around is both free and easy; and that’s because Madrid, while large, is a walkable city.
The central area of Madrid is quite compact and most of the main sights are within walking distance of one another. If you base your accommodation in central Madrid, you shouldn’t have to spend money on getting around.
Walking in Madrid is actually the best way to discover the city; ‘paseo’ means leisurely stroll, and this is a big part of the local culture – a way of life where all ages come out in the evening to simply walk about.
But if you want some respite for your feet, there is also an excellent metro system that runs all the way from the airport through downtown and out into the suburbs, with fares that start from 1.50 €.
If you plan on using the metro a lot you can buy flat rate metro cards, and it’s very easy to navigate for non English speakers (unlike the London Tube, which is difficult for newbies even though it’s in English!!). You can download the Madrid Metro App if you plan to use it.
Getting into the city from the airport is cheapest via bus, which will set you back 5 € for the Airport Express, and if you’d like to continue taking buses during your visit, each ticket costs up to 2 €.
Taxis are cheap for Europe but will easily blow your costs out – it’s roughly 1.10 € per kilometer, plus a 2.50 € basic fee. Though if you do need private transport, Uber is available in Madrid as well.
Things to Do: €0 – €30
Madrid has an incredible range of things to do, and there are plenty of free activities and attractions which means you won’t have to spend anything if you don’t want to.
There are plenty of parks (ie Retiro Park) which are great for people watching, and great viewpoints where you can see the city from above. There’s a huge urban street art scene (check out the Tabacalera Area in Embajadores and the Mercado de la Cebada), and a lot of architecture you can take in from simply walking the plazas and streets.
Many of the museums in Madrid have free admission times too which is a great way to skip paying the entrance fee. For instance, the Royal Palace usually charges 10 € – 14 €, but from Monday – Thursday between 5 – 7 pm (4 – 6 pm in winter), it’s free for EU citizens (bring your ID).
Check the websites of the museums you want to visit in advance to plan this out with your itinerary. Our favorites are the Prado art gallery and the Reina Sofia modern art museum, though get there early during free entry, as the queues can be quite lengthy.
You don’t have to buy anything to enjoy El Rastro on the weekends – Europe’s largest flea market, and joining a walking tour of the city is generally free (though guides do expect a tip at the end).
If you’ve already spent a number of days in Madrid and now want to explore further out, you can jump on a cheap train to many of the towns within a one to two-hour train ride.
Segovia takes half an hour and has fantastic Roman monuments, Ávila is a 12th century town just over an hour away, and Toledo (the former Spanish capital) is one of the oldest cities in the country, with incredibly well-preserved landmarks, fortresses and Gothic architecture.
Toledo is a quick half hour train ride by high speed train, or you can catch the bus which takes 2 hours and only costs around 6 €. Use Rome2Rio to find the best and cheapest transport options if you’re considering day trips out of Madrid.
Food – €15
You can easily feed yourself in Madrid for very little, as food here is not only cheap, but the meal culture offers plenty of creative, yet still delicious, ways to eat.
Firstly, there are many sweet treats you can pick up for breakfast, from some of the city’s cafes and coffee shops which line the streets. Though your hostel / hotel may offer a simply breakfast for free if you’re not feeling fancy.
For lunch, you may have heard of free tapas; this is becoming more rare, but if you hit a traditional bar like El Tigre or El Respiro, when you order a drink it may be served with anything from a bowl of chips to full plates of local food. This means you might only have to spend 4 € on a drink.
There are plenty of budget friendly food markets in Madrid as well, and you can either pick up fresh produce or find a cheap empanada or sandwich at one of the small restaurants inside the market (1 € – 4 €).
Take the fresh produce you’ve picked up at the market for a picnic in one of Madrid’s many parks and gardens; with over 300 days of sunshine a year, Madrid is one of Europe’s sunniest capital cities, making it the ideal place for a picnic.
Our favorite markets in Madrid include Mercado de San Miguel, Mercado San Ildefonso for street food, or Mercado Antón Martin near the Retiro Park for traditional local food.
Drinking in Madrid is cheap too, and if you’re planning on partying or experiencing the nightlife, beers can range anywhere from 1 € – 5 €, cocktails anywhere from 4 € – 10 €, and shots anywhere between 1 € – 4 €.
So there you have it – your accommodation, transport, activities, and food, all under $100 a day. Though as you can see from the above, you can definitely experience Madrid on a lot less if you put your mind to it!