I can rightly claim the "hombre más baratas en Madrid" crown after surviving a weekend on €38.
The Madrid Metro – the Orient Express compared to the London Underground – runs from the airport to city for a paltry €2. Visit the Parque del Retiro and explore the Crystal Palace art installations, monuments including the beautiful but sinister El Angel Caído, go boating by Alfonso XII's grandiose statue, then watch free street performers and puppeteers. Sip your sangria and toast the Madrid teleférico's 40th anniversary at the terminal bar: the skyline's not as exciting as Barcelona but it's relaxing and cheap.
Window-shop the Gran Via and continue to Plaza de España, Teatro Real, Palacio Real and Plaza Mayor for some classic Spanish architecture. Don't miss the El Rastro fleamarket on Sundays: calling it a flea market is a disservice to the sprawling city of stalls filled with delicious food and exotic crafts. It covers several blocks and gets very crowded so mind your valuables.
Madrid's gloriously rowdy tapas bars were out of my budget so I made do with the supermercado for flavoursome food. Ubiquitous Carrefour City and Express stores stock tasty Iberico ham, chorizo and other Spanish treats at unbeatable prices.
From horrific realisation to splendid sunny weekend of exploration, Madrid is perfect for a Spanish holiday on the cheap.
Metro - €2 one way from airport to central city, daypass tickets available. www.metromadrid.es/en/viaja_en_metro/tarifas/billetes/contenido07.html
Teleférico - €5.10 round trip, Paseo del Pintor Rosales, nearest metro Arguelles. www.teleferico.com/tarifas
El Rastro - start at Puerta de Toledo metro from 10am on Sundays. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Rastro
Parque del Retiro (and other locations) - madridspain.ca/attractions/retiropark.html
Carrefour store finder (use Google translate) - www.carrefour.es/
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