See and Do
Most of the plazas are free (because they are a public space) and the walking tours usually take you to all these places. For the walking tour, you can pay how much you like. Usually you give a few euros (sure beats a 20 euro bike or segway tour for the same sights!).
Parque del Buen Retiro is basically a huge park in the middle of the city. It kind of puts Central Park in New York to shame. Madrid’s oldest tree since the early 1600 also sits in the park.
Museo del Prado- a “must-see” if you visit Madrid. There are over 7000 paintings in this museum. ‘Nuff said. If you are a student under 25 (bring your photo ID and student card) you can get in for free. Same if you are over 65. If you visit between 6-8pm on a Monday to Saturday its also free, but expect long lines. Otherwise, it costs 14 euros.
Opera- If you’re under the age of 30, you can score deeply discounted opera tickets if you show up 30 minutes before the opera starts. Like up to 90% off. Romeo and Juliet was playing in Madrid when I was there.
La Cathedral and Giralda- this is where Christopher Columbus’ tomb is housed. It is one of the largest cathedrals you will ever see. The Giralda (a big bell tower) has been built between 1184 and 1198 by the Moors and it has withstood multiple earthquakes and the test of time. Unfortunately you can’t get in for free but it only costs about 8 euros for admission.
Alcazar- This was built in 1300 and it is beautiful. The moorish architecture is amazing. It is a UNESCO world heritage site. Admission is under 10 euros and is free if you are a child.
Archivo de Indias- This museum houses documents (including amazing maps) during Spains American empire thanks to Christopher Columbus. This museum is completely free and is highly recommended especially since there are usually no line-ups to contend with.
Toro- If you’re in Seville during the bullfight season, check to see if you can score a last minute ticket. Usually you can get one for up to 10-15 euro off the regular price.
Alhambra- This is a must-see. The Moorish architecture will make you think you’re in Morocco. Book your tickets in advance on the internet because there are only a limited number of tickets during the day. Make sure you make it to the main palace on time because you might not be granted admission if you are late. If you are a member of the EU as a student or as a senior, your tickets are discounted half off. Pick up your tickets at the Alhambra, you will need the credit card you used and it will spit out your ticket (fancy Ticketmaster in Spain). You can check out the garden area for free if you enter through the side (one stop prior to the main entrance when taking the bus).
Barcelona deserves a blog post of its own so check it out below.
Tapas, sangria, and tinto de verano! What more can you ask for? Food isn’t really cheap in Spain. Stay away from the touristy areas. Opt for menu de dia if you’re hungry for set menus that are usually a better bargain than ordering things a la carte. Usually includes an appetizer, main course, drink, and a dessert! Oftentimes, tapas organized by the hostel tour agencies are a pretty good deal, you get a drink and two tapas for 8 euros.
For example, for a 10 day trip to Spain, my total trip cost:
Flight, Trains, and Buses $1498.82 (most of the cost was the $1200 flight)
Accommodation $331.04 (for 10 nights)
See and Do $62.61
Total: 2092.76 (10 days of fun in Spain!)
I also spent a ridiculous amount (maybe $250) shopping. Zara and Mango. ‘Nuff said.
Readers, do you have any other tips on how to see Spain on a shoestring?