2014/2015. Posted by Sean M.
Prices around Spain can vary significantly from place to place but undoubtedly in the capital city of Madrid expenses are likely to be much higher than in the south for example. Similarly, there are many tourist-traps around every corner, from Plaza Mayor, to Sol and Colón, ready to pounce on unsuspecting outsiders. However, it is possible to be at the centre of madrileño life without having to empty your pockets, and these hints and tips can help you save what little money you have and take advantage of this fascinating city.
Without a doubt I have found simply getting lost in Madrid the most satisfying way to enjoy the city as well as getting to grips with the simple geography of the streets. Despite being the centre of Spain, Madrid isn’t a metropolis like London or New York, yet the diversity and life in its streets make it a contender against even the biggest urban sprawl. From the refined and elegant Plaza de Oriente you can see the vast Royal Palace and Catedral de la Almundena, and you can go into the latter for free outside of Mass time. If you’re planning a walking tour of the city make sure to visit Plaza Mayor and see the buzzing Grand Vía and Sol, all within walking distance of one another. However, you can’t talk about the streets of Madrid without mentioning El Rastro street market.
The market takes place every Sunday morning on Calle Ribera de Curtidores near La Latina metro station. Here you can find one kilometre of titbits, antiques, almost every odd and end you could imagine. You don’t have to spend anything to soak up the life of El Rastro but I would highly recommend you try one or two of the tapas bars, usually crammed full of people, and get your taste buds going with beer, calamari and chorizo. Spending very little you can have a satisfying meal in the heart of old Madrid.
However, if you feel like tasting the city’s higher culture then many of the major museums offer free entry at certain times during the week. El Prado, for example, one of the world’s greatest art collections, is free from Monday to Saturday (6-8pm) and on Sundays (5-7pm). Similarly, just down the road towards Atocha station is the Reina Sofía gallery, home to Picasso’s stunning Guernica, which is also free (Mondays, and Wednesdays to Saturdays at 7-9pm). If you’re happy to wait for a while these are fascinating opportunities to visit the cultural gems of the world.
Finally, my favourite free activity in Madrid is an afternoon walk and picnic in El Parque del Retiro. One of the city’s ‘lungs’, El Retiro is located behind El Prado museum and has so much to offer, from quiet walks in the rose garden; various entertainers including magicians, clowns and musicians; to simply sitting quietly under a tree and watching the world go by. For me the park has everything and through its broad alleys there’s space for everyone. Its leafy borders keep the city noise out but you do not feel so stranded if you want a change of scene, and in one moment you can step out of the park and into the centre of busy Madrid.
So, if you are living in this amazing capital, do not get pulled into the general flow of the tourists. Break out and explore the fascinating streets and gain a completely different experience to the average visitor. By visiting these sites, and so many more besides, you can access the beating heart of the city, and, by avoiding all those plastic package-tours, you can really share in the adventure of Madrid.