Spain’s capital is naturally one of the country’s most expensive cities. It doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to expect that you can easily spend a fortune here if you’re not careful. That said, the best things in life are still free, right?
While it’s true that Madrid can’t offer as many free museums as London can, there are still plenty of tasty attractions that can help to spare your pockets….if you know where to look for them.
Reina Sofia Museum (Museo de Reina Sofia)
Located at Calle de Santa Isabel, Museo de Reina Sofia is Madrid’s world-famous modern art gallery. Here you can witness works by Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso, including the latter’s masterpiece ‘The Guernica’. The museum is free on weekdays from 19:00 to 21:00 and on Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings.
Prado Museum (Museo del Prado)
The Prado Museum is home to the finest artwork Spain has ever produced and is the country’s most popular tourist attraction. Luckily, the entrance is free from Monday to Saturday from 18:00 until 20:00 and on Sunday from 17:00 to 20:00.
Buen Retiro Park
Just around the corner from the Prado Museum, you’ll find Madrid’s most popular park: Buen Retiro Park. The park measures about 1.4km² and holds many beautiful sculptures, monuments, galleries, trees, gardens and a peaceful lake. Many events like capoeira and tribal drumming are hosted here throughout the year.
Plazas de Madrid
Madrid has dozens of beautiful squares. One such is Puerta del Sol, located in a busy area, where you’ll find locals and tourists alike enjoying the street entertainment. Plaza Mayor is another great square where you can take in the beautiful architecture whilst wandering around. Plaza de Espana is the busiest traffic intersection in Madrid; set on the square is a beautiful fountain and a stunning monument dedicated to Cervantes, known for writing “Don Quixote”.
These open-air events take place from May to September on the streets of Madrid. Every week there’s a street party in a different neighbourhood, with a wonderful ambience and live music that you can enjoy for free. Plus, if you’ve brought a few Euros out with you, you’ll also be able to gratify your stomach with delicious local food and drinks.
Here are a few of the larger festivities: 15th May at San Isidro Labrador; 13th June at Ermita de San Antonio de la Florida; 15th-25th July at Virgen Del Carmen; 6th-15th August at Virgen de la Paloma, 7th August at San Cayetano and finally 10th August at San Lorenzo.
These big street parties attract many locals and tourists who want to enjoy the sun, parades and other events while setting their teeth into the delicious grilled chorizo and churros!
Madrid’s Royal Palace (Palacio Real)
This palace dates from the eighteenth century; even though it’s no longer a royal residence, it is still in use during state occasions. There are over 2,000 rooms in the palace and many of them are open to the public. Make sure to visit the impressive Reception Room and the State Apartments. Entrance is free on Wednesdays.
Atocha Railway Station
A little less obvious but very popular attraction in Madrid can be found in the city’s main railway station.The tropical garden in the old atrium of Atocha Railway Station has a turtle pool and tropical flora and fauna. Have a walk around while waiting for your next train!
Santa Maria Le Real de la Almudena Cathedral
In front of Madrid’s Royal Palace you can find the Santa Maria Le Real de la Almudena, the first cathedral to be consecrated by a Pope. It was built in the twentieth century with a mix of architectural styles including Neoclassical, neo-Gothic and Romanesque. The cathedral is open to the public for free every day, but is closed to tourists during busy periods.
Templo de Debod
The Templo once stood in the village of Debod and was built in the early 2nd century BC. A gift from Egypt to Spain, it was rebuilt in 1970 in Madrid’s Parque del Oeste.
The Old City Walls
Madrid was once surrounded by walls, initially built by Islamic rulers in the 9th century; hence the name: Muralla Árabe. Later, in the 12th and 13th centuries, the Christians added even more walls. Parts of the old city walls are still visible today. You can see some remains just behind the Santa Maria Le Real de la Almudena cathedral.
Close to the Puerta del Sol area you’ll find the enormous leisure parks centre: the Madrid Rio.This park along the Manzanares river has an urban beach, cafés, restaurants, terraces and sports facilities such as rowing lanes on the river.
Another interesting sight is Anden 0. This showcases an old Madrid Metro station, and also holds a small museum that is definitely worth a look…especially as it’s free to enter.
Location: Plaza Chamberi
Opening hours: Tues-Fri: 11:00 – 19:00, Sat, Sun and holidays: 11:00 – 15:00.
Museo Arte Publico
This free open-air museum of abstract art makes the best use of the dead space under a bypass. Work by artists like Joan Miro and Eduardo Chillida can be admired here.
Espacio Conde Duque
Espacio Conde Duque are former barracks that now house a number of interesting sights. The main attraction is the contemporary art museum, but don’t forget the Conde Duque, the city archive, libraries of history, music, newspapers and the artisan printing press.
Museo Arqueologico Nacional
An outstanding archaeological museum with its main attraction: a replica of a prehistoric cave.
It’s closed on Mondays, but free on all other days!
Exhausted yet? I know I am.
So there you go – with these tips you can easily enjoy this wonderful city for free. Have you been to Madrid and visited one (or all!) of these attractions?
Maybe you know some other great free ones that we missed? Why not leave a comment below and tell us your “Madrid for free” tips…