Monday, 23 May 2016

Seeing Madrid in style... without breaking the bank

It's been a long time since I've devoured a sandwich on a street corner in the interest of saving a few euros. The idea of a shared dorm fills me with dread. It's safe to say that as I've grown up, my travel priorities have changed. I'm not always searching for the cheapest deal; convenience and ease now have a big part to play in travel planning. You can definitely have fun on a budget, but some compromises need to be made along the way: and style is usually one of them. Street corner sandwiches aren't usually the chicest of snacks.

When WeSwap challenged me to spend £50 on a day in Madrid, my focus wasn't purely on stringing out every last cent in order to maximise the money. I live in one of Western Europe's cheapest capitals, so it wouldn't be difficult. But seeing Madrid in style without scrimping? Now that's more of a challenge.

Thinking of the sort of places I love to take my friends and family who visit, I planned a day of culture, cool hangouts and copas. But how far would my £50 stretch? First, I converted my currency to euros using WeSwap's handy app. Opting for the instant exchange,* I received €62. Now to spend it...


Morning: Getting cultural on a budget


If you only see one art gallery while you're in Madrid, make it the Thyssen. The least famous of the Golden Triangle (also comprised of the Prado and the Reina Sofía), the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza is a compact treasure housing works spanning the centuries. If you fancy seeing some Dutch masters, you'll find them here. If contemporary American's more your thing, check out the Chagall and Lichtenstein. There's a smattering of Spanish artists too, including works by Dalí and Picasso. A visit to the Thyseen is like a one-stop whirl through the decades of art history - but unlike the Prado and the Reina Sofia, its free opening hours are limited (12-4pm on Monday), so I handed over €12 for a ticket.

Centro Centro: A stunning building, inside and out

Post-Thyssen and feeling culturally virtuous, I popped into Centro Centro, the impressive exhibition space located in the Palacio de Cibeles. Worth a visit if only to marvel at the architecture, Centro Centro hosts a variety of rotating exhibitions - and entry is free. If you've had your fill of culture, there's a rooftop bar and restaurant with great views of Cibeles fountain.



Running total: €12

Lunch: Stylish sandwiches


In need of a quick refuel before an active afternoon, I headed to cool cafe Harina. A sleek white space known for its light lunches and baked goods, Harina's a handy spot for visitors to nearby Retiro Park. If the weather's being kind, make the most of the outdoor terrace in the shade of the Puerta de Alcalá, one of the city's two remaining gates. At Harina, I tucked into a multi-grain baguette with tuna and roasted peppers, washed down with a homemade spearmint lemonade.

Running total: €21.50


Afternoon: Retiro rowing and sundowners with a view


Before getting our row on in the Retiro

Madrid may not be the greenest city, but it's easy to forget once you step into Retiro Park. The capital's prettiest park once belonged to the royal family, but nowadays it's open to the public and mixes formal gardens with wilder wooded areas, a boating lake and even exhibition spaces. It's also traditional to take a post-lunch paseo in the Retiro, but if you're feeling more active, you can rent a rowing boat for laps of the lake. Post-rowing, check out the Palacio de Cristal for temporary exhibitions in association with the Reina Sofía.

In need of some refreshments and a rest, I headed to the Azotea del Círculo de Bellas Artes. I've tried a fair few rooftop bars in Madrid, but this is the terrace I always return to. With its almost 360 DEGREE views of the city and out to the mountains beyond, plus decently-priced drinks, it's a winner for some relaxed sunset sipping. The only downside is the entry fee: €4 per person. Still, the wine's a relative snip at €4 per glass, so sit back and watch the sun go down over Madrid.

View towards Gran Via from the Bellas Artes roof terrace


Running total: €37.50


Evening: Dinner at La Pescadería

When dinner time rolled around, I still had more than a few cents to spend on dinner, so I made my way to Malasana. A winning formula of hip hangout, fantastic food and surprisingly good service add up to make La Pescadería my favourite restaurant in Madrid. Their tapas are like other bars' raciones, so 4 between 2 is more than enough. My challenge partner and I shared cod fritters, baby squid, a goat's cheese and pumpkin salad and the best patatas bravas  in Madrid, washed down with a glass of wine. Once the bill was paid, I even had a few euros left for la penultima at a nearby bar.

Running total: €61.40

Challenge completed: I'd had a culture-packed, fun day in Madrid without even worrying about my budget. Turns out staying stylish in the city isn't so costly after all...

It's easy to pay bills with the WeSwap card



This post is sponsored by WeSwap as part of the #WeSwap50poundchallenge. WeSwap offers a social currency exchange with better rates than the banks. Sign up here or download their app to get started. 
*Rates are always competitive, but vary depending on how quickly you need your money. 3 day and 7 day options also available.


1 comment :

  1. Can't wait for Madrid. Thanks for bringing the city to life in your blog.

    ReplyDelete

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