So you’ve successfully obtained your public transportation card, mastered the public transportation system, and now you’re ready to explore. You don’t have to break the bank to see all of the incredible sights and experiences that Madrid has to offer. Here are 25 completely FREE things to do in Madrid.
1. Relax at Parque del Retiro
Madrid’s most popular park attracts locals and foreigners alike. Skaters, cyclists, street artists, and musicians can be found all along the paths at the Parque del Retiro. Complete with fountains, gardens, a giant boating pond, and much more, you’ll never run out of things to do and see in this giant city park.
2. Walk Around the Royal Palace Grounds
There is a small admission price to tour the inside of the Royal Palace, BUT you can pretend to be royalty for free. Explore the maze-like hedges of the Sabatini Gardens, see the changing of the guards at noon on Wednesdays, and enjoy the buzzing city life in the Palace courtyard.
3. Learn Salsa
While there are no 100% free places to learn Salsa in Madrid, you can get an hour of dance for free with a drink purchase at F**kin’ Mondays (seriously that’s what it’s called) on Mondays at 10pm.
4. Learn about Bullfighting at the Museo Taurino
You won’t see an actual bullfight during the free museum visit. However, you’ll find famous bull heads, paintings, and matador suits on display.
5. Visit the Palacio de Cristal
Inside the Parque del Retiro you’ll find this magnificant glass palace. A work of art in and of itself, this impressive structure also holds free exhibitions on a regular basis.
6. Admire the Egyptian Templo de Debod
Not many people would expect to find an Egyptian temple in the middle of Madrid. The Templo de Debod was originally from Aswan, Egypt. It was dismantled and sent to Madrid as a gift in 1968. You can admire the sunset from here or tour the inside for free.
7. Enjoy World-Class Art at the Prado Museum
For free admission to the Prado Museum, visit Tuesday to Sunday from 6pm-8pm, or Sundays from 5pm-8pm. The Prado is considered to have one of the world’s finest collections of European art, dating from the 12th to the early 20th Centuries.
8. Or at the Reina Sofia Museum
Enjoy the 20th Century collections in this impressive museum in the heart of Madrid. Admire works from famous Spanish artists such as Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí. Free on Monday and Wednesday to Saturday from 7pm to 9pm. Also free Sundays from 1:30pm to 7pm.
9. Stroll down Gran Via
Gran Via is an absolutely iconic street in Madrid. Endless shops, bright lights, and magnificent theaters line the avenue. You’ll find giant multi-story stores like Zara or Mango but you can also wander down one of the side streets for smaller shops and boutiques.
10. Enter the Cathedral de Almudena
Most churches in Spain charge an entrance fee. The Almudena Cathedral in Madrid is one of the best exeptions. Entrance to the church and the crypt are completely free, although donations are suggested. The crypt is home to a 16th century image of the Almudena Virgin.
11. Enjoy the Views at Palacio de Cibeles
On the first Wednesday of each month, you can pay a visit to the top of the Palacio de Cibeles for free. Explore the large glass-domed courtyard and take in the panoramic views from the rooftop terrace.
12. Check Out Street Art at La Tabacalera
Once a tobacco factory, this building is now an open space for theater, music, dance, and art. The center’s tunnels are covered in graffiti and murals.
13. Shop the Deals at El Rastro Flea Market
On Sundays, do as the locals do and head to the La Latina neighborhood for the biggest open-air flea market in Madrid. Thousands of stalls line the streets here and you can pick up various vintage accessories, clothes, home goods, and locally-made items. You also may or may not find stalls full of knockoff Game of Thrones apparel if that’s your thing.
14. Cool Off at Madrid Río
Madrid’s newly renovated riverwalk area is one of the best spots in the city to cool off for free. There’s no sand there but locals still refer to it as “the beach”. There’s a grassy area to relax in and fountains to wade in.
15. Visit an Abandoned Metro Station
Anden 0 is an old metro station-turned-museum in Madrid. You can walk through the underground tunnels for free. There are still advertisements up from when it was a working metro station.
16. Visit the Mercado de Motores
During the second weekend of every month, the Mercado de Motores opens shop at the Museo de Ferrocarril (Railway Museum). You can shop the booths of local designers, chefs, and artists, enter some of the museum’s vintage trains, or grab a bite to eat at the different food trucks in the courtyard.
17. Get Cultured at El Matadero
Once a slaughter house, this complex is now a cultural hub. They regularly hold exhibitions, workspaces, cinema, theater, and a once-a-month design market.
18. Learn a New Language
Intercambios, or language exchanges, can be found all around the city. For a free one, J and J Books and Coffee holds one on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 8-10pm.
19. Enjoy Views of the City at Corte Ingles
On the 9th floor of this giant department store, you’ll find a cafe/food market with incredible views of Gran Via and the surrounding area. Grab a drink or snack or just snap a panoramic shot of the city.
20. Become a Foodie at Mercado San Antón
Free to enter, Mercado San Antón is THE foodie spot to be in Madrid. You’ll find everything from traditional Spanish food to sushi to gourmet popsicles. There’s also a fantastic rooftop terrace and bar on the top floor.
21. Catch Some Live Music
There’s always music playing somewhere in Madrid, you just need to know where to look. You can always catch live performers at some of the city’s markets. Triskel Tavern holds open-mic nights on Thursdays from 10pm and Sala Búho Real on Wednesdays from 9:30pm.
22. Eat Free Tapas
Okay, these are technically only free if you buy a drink. Free tapas are becoming somewhat rare now in Spain but there are still a few places in Madrid where you can get an entire plate of food for free with a drink. El Tigre is the most famous, serving up giant plates of food to go alongside any drink purchase.
23. Pay Tribute to the 11-M Terrorist Attack Victims
Inside of the Atocha Station, the site of the 2004 terrorist attack in Madrid, you’ll find a memorial dedicated to the 191 people who lost their lives on March 11, 2004. Featuring a large cylinder with thousands of messages of condolence inscribed on the inside.
24. Relax in the Gardens in Atocha Station
One of the main train stations in Madrid, the Atocha Station is also home to a free indoor tropical garden. The rooftop garden is home to 4000 square meters of plants, complete with ponds full of turtles. Talk about a relaxing place to wait for your next train.
25. See the Spectacular Dome at Basílica de San Francisco
This huge neo-classical church is hard to miss. The main attraction is its spectacular dome that spans 180 feet (33m) in diameter. The basílica is home to an early Goya painting and several other works by artists dating from the 17th to the 19th centuries.
There you have it, 25 completely FREE things to do in Madrid. There are an endless amount of things to do and see in Madrid without spending a single euro, but these are a few highlights that cover the main attractions — as well as more local ones.
Leah Eisenhauer is a current student on the Study Abroad Program in Spain.