Madrid, Spain

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Madrid Guide - Spend Less, Do More

madrid at nightYou’ve ticked off the spectacular Royal Palace, the famed Puerta del Sol and the remarkable Prado museum but some of the most authentic travel experiences are unexpected and surprisingly cheap.

This is free?!?

In the heart of Catholic Spain, you might be surprised to find the world's only statue depicting the devil…well, the only one in public at least. Built in 1877, the Fuente del Angel Caido (Fountain of the Fallen Angel) shows Lucifer falling from Heaven and is on display in the pristine Buen Retiro Gardens. An urban legend says the bronze statue stands an ominous 666 metres above sea level. Spooky!

If you're looking for an area that's left of centre, check out the small, quirky street of Calle Del Pez. Literally named Fish Street, Calle Del Pez blends the best in local Spanish cuisine with historic architecture. Check out the manor houses from the past and the street's namesake fish carved into the façade of number 24. Or, for just a handful of euros, sink your teeth into the enormous hamburger with Jack Daniels barbeque sauce at Pontepez.

It’s getting hot in here

The warmer months are the best time to visit Madrid as the city springs (no pun intended) to life with an array of festivals and street parties. Dos de Mayo kicks things off in Spring, celebrating the 1808 rebellion against the French occupying forces. Once Summer hits, festivals and street parties occur almost every weekend with the biggest in mid-July named Virgen del Carmen in honour of the Virgin Mary of Mount Carmelo, the protector of the sea.

Spend your money on bullfighting or...

Madrid parkHead to Faunia Nature Park for a day of family fun including Europe's largest reconstruction of a polar ecosystem and an Amazon Jungle area that replicates the heat and humidity of South America. Visit the website for more information on tickets to this animal sanctuary.

You may have been to your fair share of theatre, opera and musical performances but a visit to Teatro de la Zarzuela may surprise you. Zarzuela is a traditional Spanish musical theatre genre that combines spoken parts with operetta. Whether you speak Spanish or not, you are sure to enjoy the music, costumes and dancing surrounded by the spectacular ambiance of the 19th Century theatre. This is Spain as it used to be.

For the most authentically multicultural cuisine, there's only one place to go. With over 50% of its population being non-Spanish, the Lavapiés neighbourhood has everything from Chinese to Thai, Greek to Moroccan or even Senegalese and Cuban. In October, Lavapiés hosts Tapapies, a tapas fair where tapas and beer cost next to nothing.

After a satisfying dinner, head to the La Latina neighbourhood for one of the cheapest places to see a flamenco shows. Artebar is a fine example of bohemian Madrid and you’ll be able to enjoy the flamenco performances away from the hordes of tourists.

If you have a few extra days

Hire a car and drive north from Madrid for an hour to the World Heritage town of Segovia to stay for a few days. The historic Roman aqueduct still looks as good as when it was built 2000 years ago. Be sure to also check out the castle of Alcázar, rumoured to be the inspiration for the castle in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.

Otherwise, head in the other direction and drive south for an hour to the former capital of Spain, Toledo. Toledo, like Segovia, has World Heritage-listed attractions such as its 13th Century Cathedral as well as iconic Spanish Gothic architecture and El Greco's works in the church of St. Tome. Famed for swords, grab a souvenir during your stay in Toledo but watch where you swing it!

Spend Less, Do More

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