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Is Madrid Expensive? Spending In The Spanish Capital

Is Madrid expensive
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Is Madrid expensive? It’s a question that’s usually asked by travelers thinking about hopping across to the flamenco-spinning, tapas-sizzling, literary capital of Spain; a city of such epic bucket-list proportions and energy that we’re tempted to say go anyway, no matter the cost. It simply MUST be seen.

But expenditure is a reality that all globetrotters have to deal with, and, sadly, no amount of Cervantes texts or Goya masterpieces, no overload of patatas bravas or fun-filled nights in Huertas district, can change that.

Cue this guide. It runs through the ins and outs of what we think a trip to Madrid will set you back. It’s got insider info on the cost of everything from flights to hotels, details on what a week-long vacation and a cheeky city break should do to the bank account, and even some handy budget-saving tips along the way. Let’s begin…

How much does a holiday cost in Madrid?

Madrid landmark
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That all really depends. Sorry, annoying answer, but it’s true. Overall, we’d say that the average traveler staying in a midrange hotel and eating in midrange restaurants will spend about $1,375 for a week’s stay in the city. That doesn’t include the cost of travel into Madrid in the first place, though, which can vary from $600 for a long-haul connection from the USA to just $30 for a short-haul link to London.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that Madrid is a major city break destination. It’s not all that common to come for a whole week. Most travelers will either jet in and jet out within three or four days or move on to explore the wild Spanish sierras or the sun-splashed Costa del Sol. Doing that means you’ll spend less overall in the capital, with four-night sojourns coming in at an estimated $785 per person.

Finally, some people will get away with spending a fraction of our guess here. They are the ones that will do free things (and there are lots of free things to do in Madrid) and stay in wallet-friendly hostel accommodations. On the flip side, Madrid can also cater to the monied crowd, with palatial hotels that cost $1,000+ a night and Michelin restaurants that do upscale fine dining.

Is Madrid expensive to travel to?

Madrid street
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Again, this one depends. Traveling to Madrid from elsewhere in Europe is actually pretty cheap – it’s one of the best-connected capitals on the continent. However, getting in from further afield, like the USA or Asia can be a lot pricier.

The main airport in the city is the Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport. It’s one of the biggest in Spain, serving a whopping 17 million passengers each year. It’s likely that’s where you’ll land if you’re on either a long-hauler coming from stateside or a short-hauler from another EU city. The reason? Flag carriers like Iberia (who fly to Asia, South America, and North America) join with budget brands like Ryanair to offer connections in from all sorts of places.

Price wise, there’s going to be significant variation depending on your origin destination and the carrier you go with. You can grab low-cost links to Madrid for as little as $20 per person one way if you’re lucky. However, transatlantic links can also cost upwards of $1,500 return. The key is to book early and use a comparison site like Skyscanner to seek out the cheapest deals in the moment.

A more romantic way to travel into Madrid is by train. It’s a great option if you’re already in Europe, as the locomotives here are high-speed and very modern. It’s also not that expensive, costing just €34 ($37) from Paris if booked in advance of travel and a little more with connections to other cities further east – Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels.

Short-haul travelers arriving from Europe should budget about $120 for flights to Berlin overall. Long haulers might need something closer to the $500-700 mark.

Is Madrid expensive for hotels?

Madrid skyline
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Madrid is packed to bursting with hotel choices. Booking.com returns a whopping 3,000+ accommodations in the big city. That means that there should be something to suit all budgets and all styles of traveler, no matter if you’re keen to keep costs low or want to splash out on that fancy honeymoon pad to mark the big day.

Here’s a look at a few options across the spectrum of hotels in Madrid:

  • Relais & Châteaux Hotel Orfila ($$$) – You’ll be living like a Spanish royal at this uber-classy hotel, set in a 19th-century palace that hosts its own Michelin-starred restaurant.
  • Hotel Cortezo ($$) – A tried and tested hotel that’s close to the Puerta del Sol (Madrid’s main hub), complete with a lovely rooftop terrace that overlooks the metropolis.
  • Ok Hostel Madrid ($) – Budget backpackers should check out this highly-rated hostel in Centro. It’s clean, it’s welcoming, and it’s fun.

Apart from the quality of the hotel, you’ll also notice that rates change dramatically depending on the location and the time of year you travel. Generally speaking, hotels within eyeshot of main plazas like the Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor will cost more. Prices can also soar here during main holidays like Easter and the midsummer, especially when the schools in Europe finish around late June.

We think a hotel budget of between $80-120 is good for Madrid.

Is Madrid expensive for food?

Madrid street
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Beckoning with its reams of tapas and stacks of Iberian hams, Madrid is unquestionably a city for gourmands. Come here to munch on small plates of sizzling spicy potatoes, to sample sweet La Mancha cheeses doused in highland honey, to chow paella and meaty albondigas balls in tangy sauces. Mmm.

What’s great is that dining doesn’t cost an arm and a leg in Madrid. It can if you visit only Michelin-starred joints like Coque and Ramón Freixa Madrid. But those are places reserved for the jet setters among us. Mere mortal foodies still have oodles of immersive tapas places to get stuck into, where small plates range from $3 to about $10 for the most specialty and hard-to-source stuff. That means a whole meal with drinks can be under $30 for two.

Madrid also has loads of food markets that help street food aficionados and folks with self-catering accommodation chow down for less. They include:

  • Mercado de San Miguel – An old-school dining market where you can drink Rioja from the tap for $2 a glass and get oysters for pretty good rates. The people watching is also excellent.
  • Mercado de San Ildefonso – One of the gems of the Malasaña area is this chic new food hall. Set over three floors, it’s got creative vegan eats, artisan bakers, South American steak purveyors – you name it!
  • Mercado de la Paz – Come here to shop for ripe Spanish tomatoes, olives, and Mediterranean seafood. It’s old and very local.

A good budget for food in Madrid is about $50-60 per day. That could be less if you pick a hotel that offers breakfast as part of the booking.

Is Madrid expensive for nightlife?

Madrid nightlife
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Madrid’s nightlife scene is nothing short of legendary. Among all the cities of Western Europe – Paris, London, Lisbon – this one stands out as a particularly hedonistic customer. To put it another way: It’s wild! Parties happen all over, but the districts of Huertas, Malasaña, and La Chueca are the main anchors of it all. They offer bumping nightclubs like Kapital next to inviting LGBTQ+ bars and cerveza outlets with uber-casual vibes.

The going rate for a beer in Madrid is around about the €3.50 ($3.90) mark. That’s cheap compared to other big towns in Europe and North America. Wine is also affordable, with some hole-in-the-wall joints selling a glass of rich Spanish Rioja for less than $2 a go. The cost of drinking does increase considerably as you make for the late-night venues, but it’s even cheaper if you hit the supermarkets and stock up on your own, although remember that drinking in parks and public places is no longer permitted in the city.

If you’re planning on hitting the party places in Madrid, we’d add about $80 to the budget per night out.

Is Madrid expensive for things to do?

Madrid park
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The good news for budget-conscious travelers to Madrid is that there’s plenty to be getting on with in this city without spending a single dime. Here are just a few suggestions:

  • Sightseeing – Wandering the core of old Madrid is one of the great joys of a visit to this town. As you go, you’ll spy out royal palaces and grand plazas that date back centuries. The best part? It’s 100% free to do, but we would recommend a good pair of comfy walking shoes – Madrid is big!
  • Museo del Prado – There are free-entry slots available at this, arguably Madrid’s and Spain’s most acclaimed museum, during the late-evening sessions close to last entry. You’ll need to go around fast but it’s gratis.
  • El Retiro Park – Stroll, picnic, and soak up the sun in El Retiro Park, the biggest and most famous green space in the capital.
  • San Ginés Church – Just one of the many free-to-enter churches in Madrid, this one has a history that goes back 700 years!

Other activities in Madrid will require a designated budget. Here’s a look at some of the top-rated activities that you might want to consider spending some of that dosh on…

  • Entry to the Prado Museum ($17) – It’s €15 per person if you don’t want to wait around for the free slots later on in the day. It’s a must of a collection in there!
  • A private food and tapas tour ($110) – Guided tours of the tapas joints are a must for foodie travelers. They aren’t cheap but they are tasty!
  • Tour of the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium ($30) – Join a tour of the home of Real Madrid, arguably the most famous and successful football club in the world.

We’d say a budget of $30 per day would let you do a good amount in Madrid, and you can also mix in some paid things with free things.

Is Madrid expensive? Our verdict

Madrid is pricier than a lot of places in Spain, but it’s not that expensive when compared to other major metropolises in Western Europe – think London and Paris. Overall, a week-long stay here should cost in the region of $1,350, which is significantly less than you’d need to fork out in the English or French capital. That’s based on a midrange stay and midrange eating and drinking, with a night out and some activities per day. You could, of course, spend a lot more, while others will get by in hostels in the off season to spend a lot less.