Europe on a euro: Free and cheap Madrid
Some of the best things in life are free … including travel experiences. Here are 10 ideas for free and inexpensive ways to explore Madrid.
1. For an overview of sites, history and geography, start with a free 2- to 3-hour Sandemans New Europe walking tour. Tips are anticipated, and groups of 10 or more will pay a small fee per person (under 10 euros). Check times and reserve your spot online.
2. Shop sales and have lunch at the food court of the Corte Inglés mall on Plaza Callao. Entry is free, and meals start at under 10 euros per person.
3. Have a picnic in the extravagant Buen Retiro Park. Entrance is free, but you can rent a rowboat for under 10 euros per hour to relax on the lake. They aren't easy to steer, so stay away from the huge fountains near the banks. We got soaked and had to sit around to dry off in the afternoon sun. Whoops!
4. Share churros (fried pastry strips) with a thick, hot chocolate dip at Chocolateria San Ginés, where the specialty has been prepared since 1894. This tasty treat is just 4 euros per generous portion.
5. See art exhibits, including photography and paintings, ranging from free to 5 euros per person.
6. Look through second-hand merchandise at El Rasto, Madrid’s largest Sunday flea market.
7. Access the city’s finest museums — some are always free, while others have weekly schedules.
9. Stay up late for a free weekend flamenco performance at Clan Restaurant Flamenco (Fridays and Saturdays at 10:30 p.m.). Other venues charge 20 to 50 euros for flamenco shows, so you're saving big!
10. Photograph the stunning buildings lining the Gran Vía, a central boulevard known as “the street that never sleeps.”
Tip: It isn't cheap, but the Madrid Card may be worth the cost if you are museum hopping, clubbing or heading to a bullfight.