Once you arrive at Madrid-Barajas Airport, you can take the metro to town instead of trying to catch a taxi. You can get to the Aeropuerto station without leaving the airport itself. Just follow the signs as you leave your gate. If you plan to explore the city thoroughly, it is best to purchase a ‘ten trips ticket’(10 viajes), which you can buy at one of the ticket machines in the metro. The ticket costs €15 and allows you to enter the metro 10 times (to get inside you have to pass through metal doors, which will open when you insert your ticket and then remove it). Once you are at the platform, you can go in any direction, on any line, as many times as you want. If you take the metro to get back to the airport, you will have to purchase a supplementary ticket for €3 when you get there. All in all, getting to your hotel, around town and back to the airport when you leave will cost you less than one taxi ride from the airport to the center, which is about €25.
City Bus 27
Even though you can use the red two-story tourist buses to take you around town, a cheaper alternative is city bus Nr. 27. The ticket costs about € 1,50 one way and, just like the tourist bus, it will take you from the north of town to the south and the other way around. This is a nice way to avoid the large crowds of tourists and spend some time among locals instead.
A Look From Above
From the 9th floor of the El Corte Ingles mall right by the Callao metro station, you can take a look at the city from above for free. Alternatively, you can pay a visit to the Circulo de Bellas Artes and the terrace of the Azotea café in exchange for €4. The view is especially beautiful shortly before sunset. However, you should get to the latter well ahead of time, as there is only one elevator and the line of waiting visitors is very long.
Templo de Debod
A more than 2000-year-old Egyptian temple, rebuilt from its original stones in the Parque del Oeste, may be the least thing you expect to come across in Madrid; but it is definitely worth a visit if you like old monuments or just want to enjoy a beautiful view of the city, which you can find right behind the temple. Admission to the temple is free.
Parque del Retiro
Located a bit behind the botanical garden and the Museo del Prado, this park offers a nice place to rest and enjoy the fresh air. Popular spots to stop by are the Palacio de Velázquez and the Palacio del Cristal inside the park.
Iglesia de San Francisco el Grande
The impressive big dome of this church and the fresco of St. Bernard, painted by none other than Goya himself, can be admired for free, just like many other churches in Madrid. For a look at Spain’s mountains (at least from a distance), visit the Parque de las Vistillas right behind the church.
Museo del Prado, Reina Sofia & co.
Visitors younger than 18 and (college) students between the ages of 18- 25 can visit most of Madrid’s museums for free. These museums include the famous Museo Nacional Del Prado, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, and others. Keep in mind however, that proof of your student status, such as your student ID and your passport, will be required upon entry. There are also specific times and days of the week when admission to the museums is free for everyone, so make sure to check out the website of the museum you choose to visit and don’t hesitate to ask for student discounts at the ticket office.
Menú del Día
If you are traveling with at least one more person, the cheapest way to taste Spanish cuisine is by ordering the daily menu or Menú del Día, which is meant for at least two people. It includes a starter, a main course, bread, dessert and a drink. The dishes of such menus vary daily from restaurant to restaurant, and so do the prices. These can range from €10 to €26 per person. An alternative for solo travelers are the numerous Jamonerias where you can get an Iberian ham, tortilla, or calamari sandwich. Some of these places also offer traditional Spanish breakfast, desserts, as well as pizza and pasta for a decent price.
If you want some cold water on a hot summer day or just a snack for in-between, you can find small shops selling such things for little money relatively often during your stroll through town. Just keep your eyes open for a place that has Alimentación written above its entrance.