Madrid We Heart You: A Student’s Guide by Stephen Couse


Paris, Rome and London might already be ticked off on your city break visit list but if you haven’t done Madrid listen up. I can give you some very persuasive reasons why it should be one of your top five city destinations: Do you like cheap alcohol? Cheap food? World-class football or groundbreaking art? All four? Spending a weekend in Madrid on a budget now sounds very attractive, huh!

Here’s the lowdown on what Madrid has to offer:

Food & very cheap alcohol

Tapas – what’s not to like. A selection of everything in moderate portions washed down with some fruity Sangria. Tapas are the obvious option if working to a budget, but if you can splash out then dive into the seafood – it’s spectacular!


It can be easy to fall into tourist traps by going to restaurants near popular attractions, but it isn’t difficult to find cheaper locations. I know it’s obvious but don’t go anywhere where they don’t show prices clearly, it’s likely you can’t afford to eat there on your SAAS income! The streets around Plaza del Ángel is a cool place for food and drink at affordable prices, just try not to overindulge in the cheap plonk!


Sangria is a popular drink for tourists but locals are more likely to drink Tinto de Verano. It’s a similar wine-based cocktail that is mucho cheaper and takes less time to make. It’s much tastier too, so what’s not to love?


The most popular beer in Madrid is Mahou (pronounced like Chairman Mao) and is affordable almost everywhere at about €3 per bottle.


It is a pretty standard drink though, so a trip to Fábrica Maravillas might offer something a little different. The craft beer bar offers a much wider range and an alternative to the standard Mahou or San Miguel on offer elsewhere. Just pace yourself.

The beautiful game

Football is very much a major part of the Madrid culture, with a four top-tier teams on offer. Real Madrid tickets are hard to nab but if you’re able to, go see the Galacticos, if only for the second best player in the world, Ronaldo (Messi is definitely the best, no debate necessary).


An alternative is to see Atletico Madrid. The Vicente Calderón stadium has an electrifying atmosphere that rivals the Bernabeu. You’ll be able to purchase tickets well in advance and the ticket prices will be cheaper, plus they’re not considered as villainous as their neighbours.


Rayo Vallecano and Getafe are both in the Madrid area too, and are slightly cheaper again.

The Golden Triangle

Feel like soaking in some high-brow culture? Madrid has just the ticket. The Golden Triangle of Art is made up of three museums close together in Madrid: the Thyssen-Bornemisza, the Reina Sofía and the most famous, The Prado.

Visiting all three (or none) may depend on what types of art you may be interested in (if any), but if timed correctly they can all be visited completely free of charge.

The Prado is the most well-known of the three, with Goya, Raphael and Caravaggio among the pre-20th century art.

the prado

The Reina Sofía is more contemporary, with Picasso’s masterpiece Guernica the must-see masterpiece on show. It depicts the Spanish Civil War and is a must for art-lovers.

reina sofia

Both of these are free for students under 25.

The Thyssen-Bornemisza is a good balance of both modern and older forms of art, but is the only one of the three not free every day for students, so you’ll have to go on a Monday 12-4pm to get in gratis. Everyone loves a freebie, right?


The Parks

El Retiro is Madrid’ most famous park and features the Palacio de Cristal, made almost entirely of glass. There’s an artificial lake with little boats you can use, which creates a great opportunity for a holiday selfie!

Retiro Park

If you would prefer a more intimate setting, a great alternative to Retiro is El Capricho Park. It’s a romantic and much quieter location with beautiful sculptures and water features. If you’re going with your BFF it might not be the place for you, but for couples it’s worth a look.

el cap

So there you have it. Four reasons why Madrid’s a contender for the top five city breaks.