If you’re visiting Madrid on a budget, you’re in luck. The city has plenty of free attractions and entertainment. Here are 11 of the best things to in Madrid — totally free.
1. Take advantage of free admission to museums.
Not only is Madrid home to some of the world’s greatest art collections, but you can visit them for free. The Prado, Reina Sofía, and Thyssen museums give free admission on certain days of the week. n addition, most museums are free to enter for people under 18, students, and seniors.
2. Spend an afternoon at El Matadero.
El Matadero holds exhibitions, workspaces, a cinema, theater stage, and even a nice canteen with a terrace. The large complex houses its different spaces in multiple buildings, or “naves,” built in the Neo-Mudéjar style. It’s beautifully designed, considering it’s a place where they used to kill and gut animals. Entrance is always free. Once a month, they host the Mercado de Diseño (Design Market), a lively weekend event where you can browse creations from local artists, designers, and craftspeople.
3. Explore street art in and near La Tabacalera.
If you’re into underground art, check out La Tabacalera, a local hotspot that’s situated in the artsy Lavapiés neighborhood. The old tobacco factory serves as an open community space for theater, music, dance, art, conferences, and events. You can pass through the center’s graffiti-covered tunnels, then head outside to find more street art spread around the neighborhood. Right around the corner from the center is one of the area’s best works: a long, elaborately painted wall on Calle de Miguel Servet.
4. Watch the sunset at the Temple of Debod.
Surprisingly, one of the few ancient Egyptian monuments that can be seen outside of Egypt is located in the heart of Madrid. Head past Plaza de España over to Cuartel de la Montaña Park to see the Temple of Debod atop the hill. The temple, which dates back to 2 BCE, was sent to Madrid in 1968 as a gift for Spain’s help saving temples of the Nubian region. The views from the surrounding gardens are by far the best part. We recommend visiting at sunset for some spectacular photo opportunities.
5. Walk around the Royal Palace and Sabatini Gardens.
Accordion players, elegant fountains, and perfectly manicured gardens create a romantic atmosphere at Madrid’s Royal Palace. Stop by on a Wednesday afternoon to see the changing of the guards (except in July, August, and September), then walk through the maze-like hedges of the Sabatini Gardens, the perfect place for a photo that will capture the entire enormous palace in one shot. You can enter the Royal Palace for free Monday through Thursday between 4:00 PM and 6:00 PM from October to March, and between 6:00 PM and 8:00 PM from April to September.
6. Visit the Catedral de Almudena.
The Almudena is worth a visit for its Neo-Romanesque crypt, a little-known section of the cathedral where you’ll find a 16th century image of the Almudena Virgin. Entrance to both the cathedral and crypt is free, though a donation is suggested.
7. Enjoy urban art and rooftop views at the Palacio de Cibeles.
Many tourists stop to take pictures of this iconic building, but fewer actually go inside. Originally constructed as a post office, the Palacio de Cibeles is now headquarters for the Madrid City Council and CentroCentro, a contemporary urban culture center. At the back of the palace, there is a large courtyard with a glass dome ceiling made from 2,000 triangular segments. It’s worth a visit, especially for the panoramic views from the rooftop terrace.
8. Join the crowds at El Rastro.
Spend a morning shopping for cheap treasures at El Rastro, Madrid’s loud, busy flea market held in the La Latina neighborhood. Every Sunday, hundreds of vendors set up stalls along the streets, selling jewelry, clothing, books, household items, and more. The market attracts huge crowds of tourists and locals alike. Seeing the market in full swing is a wonderful cultural experience and worth visiting even if you don’t make a purchase.
9. Hang out at the Mercado de Motores.
On the second weekend of each month, the Mercado de Motores opens up at the railway museum, Museo del Ferrocarril. Over 200 designers, artists, chefs, and musicians set up booths on the platforms in between the museum’s vintage trains. There’s even a bar and a variety of food trucks. Although food and drink can be a bit on the pricey side, entrance to the event is free.
10. Relax in Retiro Park.
Retiro Park is the city’s most central and most beloved park. It’s 350 acres of beautiful greenery, gardens, statues, and monuments. It’s a great place for a leisurely walk, run, picnic, or just to escape the noise of the city. Watch rowers on the pond from the steps of the Alfonso XII Monument and be sure to visit the Palacio de Cristal — it’s all free of charge.
11. Catch a free outdoor movie.
A number of venues around the city organize summer outdoor movie nights. El campo de la Cebada, an abandoned space in the La Latina neighborhood, screens a variety of shorts and documentaries for free. Check its site for an up-to-date schedule.