Visiting Madrid, Spain on a Budget


Madrid, Spain’s capital city, is not one to miss.  Despite being a modern city, much of the traditional architecture is well maintained.  Madrid is also a great stepping stone for a day trip to the unique, quaint and ancient city of Toledo aka the “City of Three Cultures”.  We recommend spending at least 2 days here if you plan to take a day trip to Toledo.  A trip to Madrid does not need to be pricey and can be done on a budget as well. Here is our guide on visiting Madrid, Spain on a budget.


What to do in Madrid on a Budget


Day Trip to Toledo

Toledo, Spain
Toledo, Spain views from Mirador del Valle

If you do one thing while in Madrid, do this.  We LOVED our day trip to Toledo.  Toledo is only a 30 minute high speed train ride from Madrid.  This old city is located on a hilltop, surrounded by the Tagus River on three sides and has a very quaint feel.  

Toledo, Spain
Toledo, Spain

It is called the “City of Three Cultures” due to its Jewish, Muslim and Christian influences.  The unique architecture that stems from the mixing of these three cultures is definitely worth seeing.  

Views throughout Toledo, Spain
Views throughout Toledo, Spain

We enjoyed exploring the city streets by foot as well as the Alcazar (Stone Fortification, Army Museum). The best views of the city are from across the river at Mirador del Valle (our first picture is from right before sunset).  

Toledo, Spain
Toledo, Spain

Tip: If you spend three days in Madrid, you could also take a day trip to Segovia.  We did not have time for this but have heard great things about this city. 


Catedral de la Almudena and Palacio Real

Catedral de la Almudena, Madrid, Spain
Catedral de la Almudena

Back in Madrid, this Cathedral has a colorful, bright and unique interior. Not your typical dark cathedral and certainly a photographer’s dream! 

Palacio Real Madrid, Spain
Palacio Real

Right next to the Catedral de la Almudena is Palacio Real.  This Palace has 3,418 rooms and is the largest functioning Royal Palace in Europe.


Parque de Retiro

Parque de Retro, Madrid, Spain
Parque de Retro

This area is a huge and very pretty park in Madrid.  We had this park all to ourselves for an early morning Sunday run.  The size and diversity within this park reminded us of Central Park in NYC (see New York City Quick Guide). Though slightly smaller, it is still over 300 acres!


Dear Hotel Rooftop Bar

Sunset Madrid, Spain at the Dear Hotel
Sunset Madrid, Spain at the Dear Hotel

Great sunset and/or golden hour spot.  Grab a drink at the rooftop bar and enjoy the panoramic views of the city.  


What/Where to eat in Madrid on a Budget


Taberna Alhambra

Taberna Alhambra, Madrid, Spain
Taberna Alhambra

A very cute tapas bar, only a street or two from Puerta de Sol (the main square in Madrid). This place was recommended to us by one of our friend’s who lived in Madrid for a period of time and we really felt like locals here.  The staff were very friendly, the tapas were not only generously portioned but delicious and the atmosphere was really fun.  Definitely make a stop here! 


Chocolateria San Gines

Chocolateria San Gines Churros and Chocolate, Madrid, Spain
Chocolateria San Gines Churros and Chocolate

This cafe specializes in traditional delicious chocolate with churros and has been open since the 1890s.  The atmosphere in here feels very traditional. 

Chocolateria San Gines


Mazapan

Mazapan in Toledo, Spain
Mazapan

This delicacy is a very simple yet very delicious dessert. Made out of ground almonds and sugar.  Make sure to get some while in Toledo. 


Where to Stay in Madrid on a Budget


Lapepa Chic 

Lapepa Madrid, Spain
Lapepa Madrid, Spain

This accommodation is a very cute bed and breakfast less than 10 minutes from the main square, Puerta de Sol.  We were able to walk everywhere we visited in Madrid, including the train station, from this location. The breakfast included was held in a cute main room and was a great start to our days.  The front desk staff were also very helpful and kind.  We’d highly recommend a stay here! 

Lapepa Chic 


We hope this post helps you plan your trip to Madrid, Spain on a Budget.  Be sure to visit Barcelona while in Spain as well. Anything else you’d add to our guide on visiting Madrid, Spain on a Budget?  We’d love to hear your feedback and questions.  Leave us a comment.

And remember, Always Have A Trip Planned!


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Visiting Barcelona, Spain on a Budget


Gaudi architecture throughout Barcelona makes this city stand out from all other European cities.  Antoni Gaudi was a Catalan architect and his works have highly individualized designs. The unique Gaudi designs are found all throughout Barcelona and are a hallmark to many of the iconic sites.   Likewise, the food in Barcelona–including pinchos, fresh seafood, speciality cheeses, etc.–does not disappoint.   Also, a visit to Barcelona does not have to be expensive and can be easily be explored throughly on a budget. We recommend spending at least 3 days here.  Here is our guide for visiting Barcelona, Spain on a budget.

Note: This guide is written on a trip taken in early March


What to do in Barcelona on a Budget


Park Guell

Park Guell, Barcelona, Spain
Park Guell, Barcelona, Spain

This public park in Barcelona composed of colorful Gaudi architecture and beautiful gardens.  Park Guell is really a photographer’s dream.  You can access most of the park for free but the most iconic area requires a ticket after 8:30am

Park Guell, Barcelona, Spain
Park Guell, Barcelona, Spain

Tip: Go here in the morning before admission is charged, ideally around sunrise. 

At dawn, the lighting here is perfect and you can access the park for free without the crowds at this time (most people think it is not open before 8:30am). We initially had planned to go to Park Guell in the afternoon but tickets were sold out and the girl selling tickets at the desk told us if we came before 8am, we could access the ticketed area for free and without the crowds. The next day, when we ran up to the park for sunrise, we had the park nearly to ourselves and the lighting was spectacular.  We highly recommend going at this time! 


Free Gaudi Walking Tour

Casa Milà, Gaudi Architecture, Barcelona, Spain
Casa Milà, Barcelona, Spain

We would highly recommend this tour (website linked below).  On this tour, you learn about the architect, Antoni Gaudi, behind the prominent Gaudi architecture style seen everywhere throughout Barcelona. You also visit some of his most iconic Gaudi buildings, going beyond just Sagrada Familia and Park Guell.  This tour is free but be sure to tip your guide well if you enjoy it.  

Tip: Do this at the beginning of your trip to get a sense of where everything is in the city.  This tour ends at Sagrada Familia but does not include a tour here.  Make sure to book a separate tour to see the famous Basilica, potentially right after you finish the Free Gaudi Walking Tour.  This tour does not go to Park Guell either so make sure to visit that separately. 

Free Runner Bean Walking Tour Website


La Familia Sagrada

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain
La Familia Sagrada, Barcelona, Spain

This basilica is quite spectacular to see in person and much different than any other church you will have ever seen, on both the inside and outside.  Every detail on the outside of the church is intentional and rich with meaning.  La Familia Sagrada has been under construction for over 135 years and is expected to be completed in 2026. Make sure to take a tour here to really appreciate all the details and history of the church. 

Tip: Go around sunset for amazing colors through stained glass.  Evening tours, around sunset time, are also ½ price.  Make sure to book this far in advance as slots tend to fill up quickly.  

La Sagrada Familia


Mercat de la Boqueria

La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain
La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain

La Boqueria is a large public market right off of the bustling La Rambla boulevard.  This area was one of our favorite places to wander around and sample different foods.  The market is vibrant with a lot of different colorful, fresh produce and the most delicious fruit smoothies.  Natalie loved taking pictures here too. 


What/Where to eat in Barcelona


Food Tour

Scrumptious Bake Goods, Barcelona, Spain
Scrumptious Bake Goods on our Food Tour

On the food tour we completed, we tried a wide variety of traditional Spanish food. Samplings included ham, cheese, olives, fish, and bunyols (lenten dessert).  Our favorite part of the tour was when we stopped at a local market, picked out some fresh fish and then went to a cafe within the market where that food was freshly prepared for us. On this food tour, we also explored several neighborhoods in Barcelona where tourists were absent and we really felt like locals.  

Discover Walks Food Tour


Pinchos Bars

Pinchos, Barcelona Spain
Pinchos

Pinchos are a small portion of food typically served on a piece of bread with a cocktail stick to be eaten in a couple bites. Think of them as tiny tapas but always served on bread.  Different Pincho Bars are all over Barcelona and it is easy to stop in, get a drink and order a couple pinchos (typically displayed behind a glass counter).  We ate several of these pinchos in place of a meal many times while in Barcelona.  Pictured here are some of our favorites.  


La Pradeta

This seafood restaurant was one of our favorites.  Here you choose from an array of fresh seafood at the counter and pay for what you pick by kilogram.  The fresh seafood is then cooked, exactly as you like it, before it is served to you in a casual dining room.


El Nacional  

This area is a grouping of several restaurants/bars, where you can try different traditional Iberian peninsula recipes, all under one roof.  No matter what type of food or atmosphere you are feeling, El Nacional likely has it. 


Where to stay in Barcelona on a Budget


El Jardi

This accommodation is an adorable little hotel, less than 5 minutes off of La Rambla, but on a quiet little square.  The rooms here were comfortable and came at the right price.  Our room also had an adorable balcony.  The breakfast included with our stay consisted of different breads and yogurts. 

El Jardi


We hope this post helps you plan what to do on your trip to Barcelona on a budget.  Make sure to visit Madrid and Toledo while you are in Spain (see Visiting Madrid, Spain on a Budget guide). Anything else you’d add to our guide on visiting Barcelona on a Budget?  We’d love to hear your feedback and questions.  Leave us a comment! 

And remember, Always Have A Trip Planned!


Did you find this post helpful? If so, please share it with a friend, like our Always Have a Trip Planned Facebook Page, follow our Always Have A Trip Planned Instagram and subscribe to our emails below.

Planning a multi-city trip to Europe? See our How to Plan Your First Europe Trip on a Budget guide for more tips on how to do this.