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Student City Guide: Madrid


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Though steeped in a rich heritage of art and culture, Madrid has maintained a youthful atmosphere that delights students with affordable contemporary pleasures. From the serene parks to spicy taquerias to the excitement of Flamenco halls, students discover many budget-friendly ways to embrace both the old and the new in Madrid’s vibrant cosmopolitan atmosphere.

Where to go Sightseeing

Although not as extensive as the Louvre, the El Prado Museum is just as impressive (especially the works by Spanish painters like Goya, el Greco, and Bosch) and is free to tour on evenings and selected weekend hours. The Parque del Retiro is best visited early in the day before the crowds (and pickpockets) materialize so you can savor ambling through the Rosaleda (Rose Garden), rowing around the lake, shopping the street vendors or hanging out in the cafes.To experience the thrill of flamenco dancing without having to shell out for an expensive meal, head to the family-run Clan venue where entry is free for late-night shows on Friday and Saturday.

Where to Eat

Dig into spicy (and cheap) not-so-traditional tacos at the Taquería Mi Ciudad that even has cactus fillings for vegetarians and cheap beer to wash them all down. For delicious affordable American food, check out La Gringa where you can listen to the jukebox while scarfing down comfort foods like eggs Benedict with salmon and avocado accompanied by fresh squeezed Margaritas. Another favorite of frugal travelers is Los Chuchis, with a great selection of wines to complement slow roasted pork and stuffed potato skins. For a fancy night out try La Bodega Bohemia where usually expensive dishes like seafood Paella are reasonably priced and the friendly service and wandering singers make for a special evening.

Where to Party

Nestled in an old theater, the Joy Eslava club in the Sol neighborhood has student nights every Thursday with super-strong drinks and irresistible dance music that keeps the joint hopping. The thoroughly entertaining Star Studio 54 has dance-off contests, bongo drummers, go-go dancers and celebrity impersonations PLUS all female patrons enter for free! If you favor drinking over dancing head to Maloney's dive bar in the Chamberí neighborhood that hosts a beer pong tournament every Thursday where just 10€ entitles you to play and drink all night.

Where to Shop

For affordable women’s fashions, try the Zara outlet stores called Lefties featuring a huge inventory of cute clothes. Called “Los Chinos” by the locals, the retail chain El Chino is the Spanish equivalent of Wal-Mart with unbelievably low prices on everyday household goods, student supplies and assorted stuff. More than just a flea market, the Mercado de Motores at the Railroad Museum not only has every cool thing you’ve ever imagined, your shopping experience is enhanced by the sounds of local street musicians, delicious native food and even a working mini locomotive. To load up on handmade goodies from local artists check out the Mercado Medieval El Álamowith - great seasonal offerings, interesting street theater and a year-round carousel.

Lela Lake is a seasoned international traveller who shares her love of exploration and discovery with her readers. Originally from Texas, her wanderlust eventually took her to Maui where she ran a non-profit animal rescue organization for 10 years. Lela also writes for who has many budget hotels in Madrid to suit the student traveller.

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