Madrid is not an expensive city compared to the standards of European capitals, but on vacation it is easy to relax and spend more than expected ... then there are pains when you return home! In order not to cry when you return, play your wits and take advantage of the numerous opportunities of free or low cost cultural visits and entertainment that offers the city of Madrid.
You can see for free masterpieces of art history such as Picasso's Guernica or Velázquez's Las Meninas, stroll through the large boulevards and squares of the center, take in the cool of the city parks, attend live music concerts, photograph extravagant contemporary buildings or old buildings with a vintage charm.
Here is a list of 10 free things to do in Madrid.
museums for free
All the biggest museums in Madrid have free hours. Yes, you got it right: you can admire the masterpieces of the Prado, the Reina Sofía and many other museums without spending a euro!
Here are the free admission times of some of the most famous Madrid museums:
- Museo del Prado: from Monday to Saturday from 18.00 to 20.00; Sundays and holidays from 17.00 to 19.00
- Reina Sofía National Museum: Monday to Saturday, except Tuesdays, from 19pm to 00pm and Sundays and public holidays from 21pm to 00pm.
- Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum: Monday from 12:00 to 16:00.
- Monastery of las Descalzas Reales: Wednesday and Thursday from 16:00 to 18:30.
- Museum of America: every Sunday, plus 18 April, 18 May, 12 October, 6 December.
In addition to the paid museums that offer free admission on certain specific days and times, there are plenty of other museums that are always free. These include the Palacio de Cristal and the Palacio de Velazquez in the Retiro Park, the National Library Museum, the Lope de Vega House-museum and the planetarium.
Find out more about Madrid's Museums
visit Royal Palace of Madrid it is not a luxury for nobles: the largest royal residence in Europe can be visited for free from Monday to Thursday from 16:00 to 18:00 in the months from October to March and from 18:00 to 20:00 from April to September.
Without spending a single euro, you can admire 50 of the more than three thousand rooms of this opulent palace, full of tapestries, stuccos, paintings, glass, brocades and velvets: a walk in luxury at no cost!
Find out more about the Royal Palace
Parks and gardens
Visits to museums and monuments can be tiring, but you can regain your strength by making a stop - obviously for free - in one of the splendid parks and gardens of Madrid.
The most famous is certainly the Retiro Park, with its artificial lake furrowed by rowing boats and the monumental colonnade behind it: it is a huge park and you could even spend half a day here!
Lovers of jogging and walking can spend relaxing hours at Madrid River, a green area not far from the central Puerta del Sol with more than ten kilometers of running and cycling routes, as well as leisure areas and pedestrian paths.
With free admission, every day and at all hours, they are also sumptuous gardens of the Royal Palace.
Streets, squares and neighborhoods
In all cities walking is free but not in all cities walking is nice. In Madrid, yes: whether you are exploring the winding alleys of the historic districts or the wide boulevards of the center, the Spanish capital is splendid to walk around.
Unmissable stops of every holiday in Madrid are the very elegant Gran Vía, a large boulevard resulting from an impressive urban project, and the main squares of the center including Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor e Plaza de Cibeles.
You can go shopping, sip a coffee at an outdoor table and photograph key images of Madrid such as the statue of the bear and the strawberry tree, the 0 km plaque that symbolically marks the center of the town, the historic Tio Pepe advertising sign, the fountain of Cibeles and the Arco de Cuchilleros.
There is no better way to discover the Madrid of the Madrilenians than by strolling through popular neighborhoods, such as historic La La Latina and the multi-ethnic Lavapies, while to experience the legendary Madrid night going from one bar or club to another, choose Chueca, the trendy neighborhood, or Malasaña, the alternative neighborhood.
Find out more about Madrid's neighborhoods
An unmissable tradition for every Madrid citizen is Sunday at Market of the Rastro: born as a flea market, today it is an ever-expanding giant with thousands of stalls.
You can buy everything, both used and new items, but it is not necessary to take out your wallet to live a day in joy: browse the stalls, take colorful photos of the merchandise on display or of the picturesque characters that happen here, savor the unique atmosphere of Madrid's largest open-air market.
Two lively indoor markets are the San Miguel Market, the gourmet time of Madrid, and the Mercado de San Fernando. It is worth a visit even if you do not intend to shop because they are special places, with a very particular atmosphere and will make you feel like a local.
within the park of the Oeste in the Moncloa area there is the most curious monument in Madrid: the Debod Temple, an authentic XNUMXnd century BC Egyptian temple disassembled, transported from its original location along the banks of the Nile in Madrid and reassembled piece by piece. Admiring it from the outside is free and if you do it at night also particularly impressive!
Find out more about the Debod temple
La Atocha station it is the place for those who leave, for those who arrive and for those who want to cool off. The oldest train station in Madrid, a stone's throw from the Prado Museum, is an architectural marvel that deserves to be visited on a par with a famous museum.
Many people from Madrid come here on the hottest days of summer to seek some refreshment in the lush tropical garden that has been created in the area of the old station.
Find out more about Atocha station
Live music, clubs and shows
Don't give up on going out at night because you are afraid of spending too much: Madrid's nightlife is so varied that you can also find ideas for low cost entertainment.
If you love music you are in the right place: in Madrid there are live concerts 7 nights out of 7 and some clubs offer interesting free live shows.
Here are some places where you can listen to music for free or almost:
- Cafe Populart: the temple of Madrid jazz, with more than twenty years of history. Concerts and jam sessions starting from 3 euros.
- Coquette: historic blues club in a basement that offers concerts by local and international artists. Free admission with compulsory drink.
- Cafe La Palma: a local in Malasaña with an eclectic programming. It offers free open mic sessions and concerts from 6 euros.
- Royal Owl: a tiny club with a very low light, it offers acoustic concerts by singer-songwriters and jazz musicians, almost always free.
I clubs and discos of Madrid Instead, they all have to be paid for, but as they fill up very late it is possible to pay a reduced price by entering before one. Another way to spend less on going to the club is to check the social media of the club you are interested in to see if there is any particular offer.
Madrid is not only the city of prestigious museums where you can admire the masterpieces of the past but also a hotbed of new ideas and cultural ferments, as evidenced by the astonishing number of cultural centers present in the most varied districts of the city that organize exhibitions, film screenings, shows of free or very cheap dance and theater, meetings and other cultural events.
Some of these are housed in historic, innovative or simply curious buildings that deserve to be included in the list of things to see in Madrid.
An architectural symbol of modern Madrid is the cultural center CaixaForum, housed in an original building obtained from a former power plant. Designed by one of the most famous contemporary architecture studios, the CaixaForum has two characteristics that make it unique: the eccentric vertical garden and the facade cladding texture in oxidized corten.
If you are in the district of Lavapiés take a look at the headquarters of House On, a very active cultural center: it is a monumental Neo-Mudejar-style building inaugurated in 1913.
In an exuberant city like Madrid it is possible and extremely fun to create personalized itineraries based on their tastes, interests or curiosities.
For example, if the romantic charm of old cinemas has a strong hold on you, go hunting for gods historical cinemas in Madrid. Unmissable is the Cine Doré in Lavapiés: still functioning today (it is the projection room of the Spanish Filmoteca), it is a stupendous building with a very rich external façade, impossible to miss.
Another historical cinema still functioning today is the Capitol on the Gran Via, while the Cinema Avenue, on the same street, it has become a clothing store of the H&M chain: come in and take a look and you will recognize at a glance the hall, the stalls and the original stairways.
Another idea for a thematic itinerary is the street art: tour the streets of Madrid with your camera around your neck, ready to immortalize the most beautiful works of famous international street artists or young local people.