Written by guest writer: Javier Garcia of Cool Tours Spain
As a major European capital city, there are plenty of things to do in town but take a look at the following guide to discover Madrid on a budget.
To start off, I’ll use several well-known locations to make you understand that today I am writing about off the beaten places, not the classic stuff that everybody does:
- Prado Museum
- Plaza Mayor
- Puerta del Sol
- Retiro Park
- Hotel RIU Plaza
There is a great list of places to visit if you want to explore and discover the local culture. From no frills bars and quirky cultural centers to alternative parks
1. Street art in Lavapiés
Lavapies is one of those districts which is currently suffering from the gentrification process.
Ever heard of that term?
We identify a neighborhood is gentrified when:
- Local businesses are being bought by private investors.
- Rental agreements are increased.
- More Airbnb apartments settle in
What’s good to hear is that the artist community in Lavapiés is probably one of the most active ones in town.
The emergent artistic community has a meeting point in Lavapiés.
A dream location for all street art lovers hides at the interior of a former tobacco factory from the XIX century.
A 16,000 square meters area, which interior walls are anonymously decorated by graffiti writers contributing to the best street art in Madrid.
You could easily spend hours photographing or participating at any of the free workshops offered to La Tabacalera’s members.
Where: Calle Embajadores, 53
How to get there? Through the metal gate in front of Cervantes High School. Please make sure you use the right entrance as the other spot is more of a contemporary art exhibition spot.
When is best to visit? After 6.00PM during the weekdays, or during any artisanal market taking place over the weekends.
2. Relax in a park that isn’t Retiro
Retiro Park is undoubtedly the most famous green area in downtown Madrid, but not the only one. Locals practice sports at any of the public spots spread around this 350 acres area.
But is it really the most off beat park in town?
To be honest, I don’t think so!
On the other hand, Parque de las Siete Tetas features arguably the best panoramic views in Madrid, not Hotel RIU Plaza, as some bloggers may have you believe
‘Seven boobs’ would be the literal translation for this natural gem located in a working class neighborhood called Vallecas.
It’s unknown to travelers as it is usually not featured in any Madrid guide, but many locals visit Parque del Cerro del Tio Pio (the park’s original name) to enjoy their free time with family/friends.
You may even find live music performances on Sunday afternoons.
Where: Calle de Benjamín Palencia, 2
How to get there? 15 minutes walking distance from Buenos Aires metro station (line 1 towards Valdecarros from the city center)
When is best to visit? By sunset, with a blanket, your beloved one and a bottle of white wine. Spring or early Autumn are my favorite times of the year to visit it.
Walk around the bohemian district, Malasaña
Yes, there is one I would like to talk to you about.
Malasaña is the popular name that Universidad district receives. This triangle shaped area goes from Tribunal, to Gran Via and San Bernardo metro stations.
I would say that the middle point of the triangle is located at ‘Plaza del Dos de Mayo’, where hundreds of young Spaniards and expats meet.
You will observe during the day the typical lifestyle of ‘madrileños’ (locals’ given name). By night time, it changes a bit. Breweries, old-school bars and food restaurants will welcome you.
Do not forget to check Leah’s Madrid no-frills guide to discover the authentic bars where locals go.
Where: Malasaña district
How to get there? Tribunal metro station. Then head to Calle La Palma and wander around.
When is best to visit? Weekend afternoons
4. Discover the avant-garde art at La Neomudejar
Visiting El Prado Museum would cost you 15€. Consequently, I want you to visit a contemporary art Museum in Madrid. Is there a cheaper place to explore modern art?
Not well known even among locals, La Neomudejar is a former railway warehouse from the XIX century which now hosts a unique avant garde center.
I visited the whole museum in 45 minutes, and even though it may look like a short time, I prefer quality to quantity. Do you?
La Neo is an almost derelict building with three differentiated spaces:
- Garden, where you can street street art performances by local, national and international artists.
- First floor, monthly brut and visual art exhibitions.
- Second floor, space reserved for artistic residencies.
What was really interesting about this ‘odd’ spot was that you could see yourself working there during the 1800s.
Art House Madrid not only promotes artistic exhibitions, but they also investigate the Spanish railway history.
Where: Calle Antonio Nebrija
How to get there? Get off at Atocha station through the ‘11M monument’ exit and head to the street level. Then cross the parking lot.
When is best to visit? Wednesday mornings, free access.
5. Grab a drink and eat at Mercado de La Cebada
This list couldn’t be complete if I didn’t add a traditional spot for local madrileños (people born and raised in town). What do Spaniards love more than good food and drinks with friends? Special places for them are food markets.
Stalls selling organic and fresh products are now offering the opportunity to try these items at the same place. The only thing is that you’ll not sit down in a chair. Similarly, modern restaurants have observed this trend with good eyes, and opened small businesses at the different markets that Madrid city features.
Where: Plaza la Cebada s/n
How to get there? Walking distance from Plaza Mayor is 10 minutes, although you could exit at La Latina metro station
When is best to visit? Saturday mornings.