If you’re visiting Madrid on a budget, you’re in luck. The city has plenty of free attractions and entertainment. Here are 12 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, and many other institutions are always free. In addition, most museums are free to enter for people under 18, students, and seniors/retirees.
2. Spend an afternoon at El Matadero
This former-slaughterhouse-turned-cultural-center 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 craftsmen.
3. Explore street art in and near La Tabacalera
If you want to see really 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 theatre, music, dance, art, conferences, and events. You can pass through the center’s graffiti-covered tunnels, then head outside to find more street art scattered 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 B.C., was sent to Madrid in 1968 as a gift for Spain’s help saving temples of the Nubian region. It’s free to enter, but the views from the surrounding gardens are by far the best part. Go at sunset for some spectacular photo ops.
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 noon 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 the shot. You can enter the Royal Palace for free Monday through Thursday 4-6 p.m. (October-March) and 6-8 p.m. (April-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 1€ donation is suggested.
7. Enjoy urban art and rooftop views at 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. Viewpoint access is free the first Wednesday of each month, as well as May 2nd and 15th and October 12th (regularly 2€).
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, and afterwards it’s customary to grab a drink and tapas at one of the nearby bars.
9. Learn about bullfighting at the Museo Taurino
Madrid’s bullring, Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas, is the most prestigious in the world. You’ll have to buy tickets to see a real fight, but you can explore the controversial Spanish tradition for free at the Museo Taurino (Bullfighting Museum), where you’ll find famous bull heads, paintings, and matadors’ “suits of light” on display.
10. Hang out at the Mercado de Motores
On the second weekend of each month, the Mercado de Motores opens up at the Museo del Ferrocarril (Railway Museum). Over 200 designers, artists, chefs, and musicians set up booths on the platforms in between the museum’s vintage trains (some of which you can enter). There’s even a bar and a variety of food trucks. Though the options can be a bit pricy, entrance to the event is free.
11. Relax in Retiro ParkRetiro 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 visit the Palacio de Cristal and Rose Garden .
12. 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 La Latina, screens a variety of shorts and documentaries for free. Check their Facebook page for the summer schedule.