Hello from Madrid! My name is Javier Redondo and work as a guide in Madrid for more than 5 years. I have prepared this post (Free Things to Do in Madrid) thinking about how to help you explore my city in the most economical way possible. I was born and raised in the Spanish capital. After studying Tourism and living in different cities, I returned to my hometown to work as a guide. a job that I love. Together with my wife Tatiana, we opened OgoTours, our own guided tour company, in 2013. I hope this post helps you discover my city and wish you have a pleasant stay in Spain!
Despite the fact that Madrid is one of the largest cities in Europe, the Spanish capital is a relatively inexpensive city compared to other European capitals like Rome, London or Paris. Fortunately there are many activities, exhibitions and free events all the year around. Not to mention the museums and monuments which must offer by law free admission at certain hours of day or days of the week.
Read on to discover the best plans to enjoy Madrid for free or at very economical prices (less than €5).
Free Things to Do in Madrid: INDEX
Must-visit free museums in Madrid
Free Entrance at Prado Museum
The Prado Museum houses one of the finest collections of paintings in the world which was compiled by the Spanish kings over the centuries. This museum is home not only to artworks from the best Spanish painters like Diego de Velázquez, Francisco de Goya and Murillo, but also to works by great European artists such as Rubens, Rembrandt and Van Gogh. But there is one painting that stands out from the rest, “Las Meninas” by Diego Velázquez. This 17th-century work has become a true icon of Spanish culture that you won’t want to miss.
Price: The price of admission for the Prado Museum is 14€. However, you can enjoy one of the best art galleries in the world totally free every day from 18:00 to 20:00 (Sunday: from 17:00-19:00). We recommend arriving about 40 minutes before to queue.
Address: Paseo del Prado s/n
Free entrance at Reina Sofia Museum
The Reina Sofia Museum is considered as one of the best museums of modern art in Europe. The Museum includes works by renowned artists such as Joan Miro, Salvador Dali, Picasso or Henry Moore. But undoubtedly the most famous work is the “Guernica” (Pablo Picasso) which represents the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica in 1936.
Price: Admission is free of charge for visitors everyday from 19:00 to 21:00 (Sunday: 13:30-19:00).
Address: Calle de Santa Isabel, 52
Museo Thyssen Bornemisza
Madrid has the privilege of being home to one of the best collections of private art in the world thanks to the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum. Opened in 1992, this museum came to complement the fantastic collection in the Museo del Prado. In this museum, you can admire more than 1000 works of art from different periods ranging from the 14th to the late 20th century, with special attention to the great European painters, such as Jan van Eyck, Rembrandt and Monet.
The location of the museum couldn’t be better, since it is very close to the Museo del Prado. These two museums, together with the Museo Reina Sofía, make up what is popularly known as the Triángulo del Arte.
Price: Entry to the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum costs €12. However, entry is free on Mondays from 12:00 to 4:00 p.m.
Address: Paseo del Prado, 8
National Archaeological Museum
If you are a history lover like us, you won’t want to miss this fantastic museum. The 4 floors of the Museo Arqueológico Nacional offer an exciting journey through the history of Spain, from the Iberian civilization (prior to the arrival of the Romans) to the modern age. Of particular interest are the areas of the museum dedicated to the Muslim era and the Roman legacy in Spain.
Without a doubt, the crown jewel of this museum is “La Dama de Elche”, a funerary sculpture more than 2000 years old that belonged to the Iberian civilization. This mysterious sculpture, perfectly preserved, has become an icon of Spanish culture.
Another of the most-visited pieces in the museum is the “Tesoro de Guarrazar“, a collection of crowns and gold crosses adorned with sapphires, pearls and precious stones. This treasure belonged to the Visigoth Kings Recceswinth and Suintila (7th century) and was saved from pillage by the Muslims thanks to its being hidden by a Visigoth cleric.
Price: Entry to the museum costs €3. Free entry Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings.
Address: Calle de Serrano, 13
This is one of our favorite museums in Madrid. Throughout the different rooms, you can learn about Spain’s impressive naval history. You can admire navigation instruments, models of famous ships, old maps, and learn about epic battles and notable people in the naval history of Spain. The museum isn’t very big, but it is quite complete. We recommend buying the audioguide, which will offer many interesting details.
The most-visited piece in the Naval Museum is the first map to ever depict the American continent. This map was designed in the year 1500 by Spanish sailor Juan de la Cosa. On this map, the parts of the Americas that had been discovered up to the late 15th century by the Spanish, British and Portuguese are shown.
Address: Paseo del Prado, 5
El Rastro (Flea Market)
Every Sunday the popular La Latina neighborhood becomes a giant outdoor market. The origin of the market goes back 400 years, making it one of the oldest in Europe. In total the market houses more than 3,000 stalls in which you can find almost everything you can imagine; from antique books or toys to paintings or military gear. You never know what you can find in El Rastro!
La Latina Neighborhood is also a nice area for tapas. There are many traditional taverns and bars where you can enjoy authentic tapas! Casa Amadeo (Address: Plaza del Cascorro) is one of the most frequented bars by locals. Snails here are absolutely delicious!
Address: La Latina Neighborhood
Madrid´s Royal Palaces
Free Entrance at The Royal Palace of Madrid
Madrid can boast the largest Royal Palace in Western Europe and one of the largest in the world (135,000 square meters and 3,000 rooms!!). Undoubtedly, its huge rooms, sumptuous decor and overwhelming luxury make the Royal Palace a must visit place in Spain.
The palace was built in the 18th century by order of King Philip V. But this site wasn’t selected by chance—this is where the old fortress built by the Muslims in the 9th century once stood. Construction took 17 years, which was a very surprising amount of time for those days considering the size of the palace. During your visit to the Palacio Real, pay special attention to the marvelous clocks that decorate the rooms. According to experts, the Palacio Real houses one of the best clock collections in the world. The visit to the palace includes the armory, in which the weapons and armor of different periods are displayed.
Price: If you are a citizen of the European Union or any Latin American country you can visit for free the Royal Palace from Monday to Thursday from 18:00 to 20:00 (Spring and Summer) and from 16:00 to 18:00 (Fall and Winter). Ticket price for the rest of countries: 10€
Address: Calle de Bailén s/n
A Visit to the Franco Residence
The Palacio de El Pardo was built during the 16th century to house Spain’s royalty when they came to this part of Madrid for hunting. Over the years, this palace became the kings’ winter residence. However, this palace is popular among Spaniards because it was chosen by the dictator Francisco Franco as his official residence for 36 years. The visit to this palace is very interesting because you can see the dictator’s private rooms, such as his office, his bedroom, etc.
Price: Free entry Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. (October through March) and from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. (April through September); free entry for European Union citizens and Ibero-American citizens.
Monasterio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial
The great work of King Philip II was, without a doubt, the Monasterio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial (16th century). Philip II conceived this immense monastery as a center of religion and of knowledge, since it was home to some of the best libraries in Europe. At the same time, the monastery served as Pantheon to the Spanish royal family. Except for Philip V and Ferdinand VI, every king of Spain has been buried in this monastery, and their tombs can be visited today. The monastery includes an impressive basilica whose cupula rises 95 meters from the ground, a pharaonic work for its time.
Thousands of workers participated in the construction of the monastery, along with hundreds of oxen which transported the stone from the quarries to the monastery.
The site chosen by Philip II himself to build the Monasterio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial was not chosen at random; Philip II was a man who meditated deeply on every decision. According to legend, this place is home to one of the gates of hell. Philip II, being familiar with this legend, decided to build the monastery here in order to cover this infernal portal.
Price: The price of admission is €10. The Monasterio de El Escorial offers free entry Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. (October through March) and from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. (April through September) for European Union and Ibero-American citizens.
Address: Avenida Juan de Borbon y Battemberg (60 kilometers / 37,5 miles from the city center)
Free Tour in Madrid
Join our Free Tour in Madrid and discover the capital of Spain in a different way. For 2 and a half hours we will unveil the secrets of Madrid, a fascintaing city that will captivate you. We offer you a journey through the history of Spain, from the Habsburg Madrid to the arrival of the Bourbon dinasty in the 18th century. For nearly 400 years the Kings of Spain ruled from Madrid an empire where the sun never set, from America to Philippines.
Don´t think twice and join our Free Tour in Madrid! History, architecture, legends, interesting historical facts and much more. BOOK NOW! Every day at 10:45 in Puerta del Sol (Equestrian Statue of King Carlos III).
Price: Our Madrid Free Tour has a free price, at the end of the tour you decide how much it was worth
Address: Puerta del Sol Square (equestrian statue of King Carlos III). Look for the green umbrella of OGOTOURS
Panoramic Views in Madrid
Beautiful Sunset and views over Madrid: Temple of Debod
Madrid never fails to surprise visitors and proof of this is the Temple of Debod. Many people do not know but in Madrid you can visit an authentic Egyptian temple for free. The temple was a gift from the Egyptian Government to Spain in times of Franco (1969) and was dismantled stone by stone and shiped from Alexandria to Valencia. Once in Valencia, several trucks transported the stones to Madrid where the temple was rebuilt.
Since the temple is on top of a hill, you can enjoy fantastic panoramic views of Madrid, including the Royal Palace, the Cathedral and Casa de Campo. We recommend visiting the Temple of Debod late in the afternoon to enjoy the Madrid´s most outstanding sunset.
Address: Calle Ferraz, 1
Faro Moncloa Viewpoint Tower
This tower, opened in 1992, offers what are undoubtedly the best views of the entire city. A panoramic elevator will take you to the top of the tower, 90 meters (295 feet) high. From up here, you can take in the whole city. A few panels offer explanations about the most important buildings on Madrid’s skyline. On a clear day, you can even glimpse the Monasterio de El Escorial, which is located more than 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the center of Madrid. The visit is 30 minutes long.
Address: Avenida de la Memoria, 2
360-degree Panoramic Views
Cibeles Palace hides a pleasant surprise. If you go up to the eight floor you will find a fastastic viewpoint where you can enjoy the best views of the city center: Plaza de Cibeles, the Bank of Spain, Gran Via, Paseo de Recoletos, Torres Colon, Retiro Park, etc.
This majestic building was opened in 1919 as headquarters of the Postal Service and became a symbol of progress and prosperity for the city. Spain did not participate in the First World War and many politicians, intellectuals and businessmen (including their fortunes) took refuge in Madrid.
Address: Plaza Cibeles
The Best Views of Gran Vía
You can’t leave Madrid without seeing Avenida Gran Vía. This avenue dazzles visitors with its elegant buildings, the lights of the advertisements, its theatres and its streets that are filled with people 24 hours a day. Hemingway said that Gran Vía was a fusion of Broadway and Fifth Avenue in New York City. But if Gran Vía is fascinating at ground level, just wait till you see it from above. In Plaza de Callao, you can go up to the ninth floor of the El Corte Inglés department store. From up here, you can take in incredible views of Madrid’s most famous street. There is also a small terrace where you can have some tapas or a coffee while you enjoy the marvelous views.
Address: Plaza del Callao, 2
In front of the Royal Palace you can discover one of the most modern cathedrals in the world. The Almudena Cathedral was inaugurated in 1993 by Pope John Paul II. Despite its short existence, the Almudena Cathedral has lived historical moments such as the wedding of Prince Felipe (now King Felipe VI) or the state funeral of Adolfo Suarez (the first Spanish President after the Franco´s dictatorship) .
As you can imagine the interior of the cathedral is completely different from other European cathedrals. Still, it is a beautiful and interesting church which well worth a visit. We recommend that you visit the beautiful crypt of the cathedral (neo-Romanesque) which is situated just below the cathedral.
Price: Cathedral (1€) / Crypt (1€)
Address: Calle de Bailen, 10
Parks and Green Spaces
Retiro Park, natural paradise in the midst of the big city
This park is one of the most visited places in the city both by locals and tourists. These beautiful gardens were designed for the Kings of Spain who spent long periods in the nearby Palacio del Buen Retiro (now destroyed). The park is an oasis of peace in the heart of the city.
The most popular areas of the park are:
El Estanque: This artificial pond or estanque was designed in the 17th century by King Philip IV, who liked to recreate epic naval battles in the pond. Apart from its recreational functions, the pond also serves as a reservoir of water to supply the numerous fountains in the park. On one of the banks of the pond stands the majestic monument to King Alfonso XII, built in the early 20th century.
Palacio de Cristal: This beautiful building was built in the late 19th century as part of an exhibit about the Philippines (a former Spanish colony) that was held in Madrid. The purpose of this building was to serve as a greenhouse where visitors could admire plants and flowers brought for the exhibit. Today, the Palacio de Cristal has been converted into a hall where artworks from the Reina Sofía Museum of Modern Art are shown.
Fuente del Ángel Caído: Madrid is a peculiar city, and proof of this is that the first sculpture in the world dedicated to the devil was built here. The sculpture, made from bronze, shows the devil twisting as a serpent coils around his legs. Coincidence or not, this fountain is situated at an official altitude of 666 meters above sea level.
Besides the numerous tourists and locals who enjoy the park each day, Parque de Retiro is also home to a good number of squirrels, ducks and peacocks that are used to tourists and are relatively easy to spot. Without a doubt, this is one of our favorite free things to do in Madrid.
Address: Plaza de la Independencia, 7
Parque del Capricho
These lovely gardens, unknown to most tourists who visit Madrid, were designed by the Dukes of Osuna in the late 18th century. Here, they created a small paradise away from the city where they would hold private parties for Madrid’s high society. Now owned by the city government, the park has been renovated and can be seen in all its splendor. The botanical richness is really incredible, with more than 40 different species. Plus, the park has a very interesting architectural heritage: hermitages, temples, fountains and even the palace where the dukes lived. But perhaps the park’s best-kept secret is an antiaircraft shelter built during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), which was used by the army of the Popular Front.
- Free entry
- Animals are not allowed
- Eating in the park is not permitted
- Bicycles may not access the park
Address: Paseo de la Alameda de Osuna 26-32
La Casa de Campo
Madrid has the privilege of being the capital city with the most trees in Europe, and the second in the world, second only to Japan. In total, more than 300,000 trees are planted throughout the city. A good part of these trees is concentrated in the immense public park, La Casa de Campo. A park with 1750 hectares (5 times bigger than Central Park in New York) which has become the veritable lung of the city.
If you like to be in touch with nature, you won’t be disappointed. There are dozens of species of different trees: pines, poplars, oaks, heathers, etc., as well as a good number of animal species, such as ducks, squirrels, owls, foxes, etc. There is even a pond where you can fish for carp. Important! Only “catch and release” fishing is permitted.
Few things are as typical of Madrid as a delicious bocadillo de calamares or fried squid sandwich. All over the city, far and wide, you’ll find posters offering bocadillos de calamares, but the best ones are definitely to be found around the Plaza Mayor. In particular, we recommend three bars where you can enjoy an authentic bocadillo de calamares:
- La Ideal: Calle Botoneras, 4
- La Campana: Calle Botoneras, 6
- Casa Rúa: Calle Ciudad Rodrigo, 3
Price: The price of a bocadillo de calamares is around €3, a reasonable price for something in the city center. It is precisely its affordable price that attracts the hundreds of customers who stand in long lines each day.
Now you have no excuse to enjoy Madrid, whatever your budget is! Find us on Facebook (OgoTours), Twitter (@OgoTours) and Instagram (OgoTours) for more insider tips!
If you are also travelling to Barcelona, check out Free Things to do in Barcelona from our friends from Runner Bean Tours! Czech Republic´s capital also has a great list of free things to do in Prague, check it out!