A Backpacker’s Guide to Madrid

Madrid has been a favourite among travellers for years, and there is obviously much here for the average person to take in.  There are some of the world’s best museums, some stunning squares and buildings, and some of the best nightlife on the entire planet.  Madrid, though a big city, still manages to feel “small” as it is easy to manage on foot or metro and much of the action is quite concentrated.  In general, most visitors to Madrid find themselves drunk on cheap wine, stuffed with delicious tapas, and dancing away to local vibes in no time.  Don’t plan on a whole lot of sleep time when visiting this bustling urban space.

Time Needed: 3-5 Days
Backpacker’s Budget: 50-60 Euros

Things to Do in Madrid

If you find yourself short of things to do in Madrid you’re definitely not looking hard enough.  There is a seemingly endless variety of activities and sights that should surely satisfy the cravings of any type of traveller.

  • Museums: You can’t turn a corner in Madrid without running into a world-class museum.  Among my favourites were the Reina Sofia and Museo del Prado.  If you’re looking for something free the Caixa Forum is good and has free entry.
  • Botanical Gardens: Near Museo del Prado there are botanical gardens.  When I was there in the winter months they weren’t worth the entry fee, however I’m told in summer they are quite beautiful.
  • Plazas: The obvious plaza to visit is the brilliant Plaza Mayor, however you’ll also want to wander through Puerta del Sol.
  • Churches: After seeing Familia Sagrada and the cathedral in Barcelona you’ll likely find yourself difficult to impress. However, Basilica de San Francisco is quite impressive and although the main cathedral itself is a bit boring you can climb to the top for a great view of the city.
  • National Palace: Home to the royal family and a spectacle of guards on horse, the palace makes a good stop and there are definitely plenty of photo ops.  Just below the palace there is also a nice park to chill out in.

Where to Eat in Madrid

I was blown away by how cheap it was to eat in Madrid.  And although I am sad to admit that I didn’t take any notes, I’m sure you won’t have any trouble finding grub in the city.  To save money grab yourself the menu del dia at lunch which is usually about 8-10 Euros and comes with a couple course and a half bottle of wine if you want it.  At dinner time, the trick is to go to a pub and grab beers, with the beers they’ll bring you out a fair share of tapas to munch on, included in the price of the beer; so basically free.

Where to Sleep in Madrid

I stayed in the Sol Hostel, which I reviewed, and didn’t think all too much of it.  Other than having an average location I’d like to think you must be able to do better in the city.  I’ve heard people tell me that the place to stay in town is called Cat’s Hostel which has a good location and fun vibe.

You can check out more of the Madrid hostels on the hostelbookers.com website here: http://www.hostelbookers.com/hostels/spain/madrid/

Getting Out of Town

As the center of Spain, Madrid is obviously well connected.  You can catch night trains to either Lisbon or Paris, and there are regular trains to just about every other destination in the country.  If you’re really trying to save some money there is also a decent bus system in Spain, but expect the times to be twice that of the train.

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