15 Free Things to Do in Madrid

By Rachael Funk

More than a travel destination, Madrid is a celebration of life. Bursting at the seams with culture, color, and energy, Madrid proudly showcases Spain’s beating heart. From the city’s inspiring art scene to its powerful command of a cuisine like no other, Madrid is a dreamland of adventures from which to choose. Thankfully, the city is kind to everyone who visits and offers plenty of experiences that cost little or nothing. Here are a few great ways to devour the city without spending a single Euro.

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1. Palacio de Cristal

A stunning structure built of glass and wrought-iron, this outpost of the Reina Sofia museum is filled with natural light. It stands in the middle of Retiro Park, next to a lake, and is often used to showcase art specifically created to be shown in this space.

2. Templo de Debod

Take a sunset stroll to the outskirts of the Parque del Oeste, where you will find this ancient Egyptian structure that dates back 2,200 years. Dedicated to the gods Amun and Isis, it was sent one block at a time to Spain in 1968 in gratitude for help in preserving monuments threatened by the Aswan Dam.

3. La Casa Encendida

This multidisciplinary center was conceived as a space for cultural interchange and offers exhibitions by emerging artists working in all genres. It features cutting-edge performance art and music as well as offers activities for kids. The building includes a fair-trade shop, a café, a library, and more.

4. Museo del Prado

Though not free 100% of the time, you can get in fee-free Monday-Saturday from 6pm-8pm and Sunday and holidays 5pm – 7pm. Visits are also free on the anniversary of the Prado (November 19th) and International Museum Day (May 18th) every year!

5. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia

Similar to the Prado, the Reina Sofia also has certain days and times where admission is free! Monday – Saturday from 7pm – 9pm (except for Tuesdays, when the museum is closed), and Sunday 3pm – 7pm require no charge for entry. You can also skip the fees every year on April 18th and 27th, May 17th and 18th, October 12th, and December 6th.

6. Parque Juan Carlos I

A giant park which began as a green space and has grown into a space with trees, gardens, and even an artificial river, Parque Juan Carlos I is a popular weekend hang out. Ideal for warm summer evenings, you can wade in the park’s running water and watch the fountain show at night.

7. Teatro Fernán Gómez

Fernán Gómez Centro Cultural de la Villa is located below the Columbus monument at Plaza Colón and is notable for being the city council’s only purpose-built cultural center. In the summer, it offers a combination of art exhibitions featuring Hispanic artists, theater, opera, puppetry, and more.

8. Moriarty

Showcasing work from photographers and videographers and showing installations, paintings, and all kinds of creative work that brings a fresh perspective into the gallery, Lola Moriarty’s gallery supports all things avant-garde. If hip, wacky, or wild is your cup of tea, you’ll fit right in.

9. Observatorio Astronómico

A scientific institution of Charles III, this is one of Madrid’s finest neo-classical buildings. If you call ahead and request it, you can check out the working telescope that is housed here. One of the rooms is open to the public during renovations, but only on Fridays, so be sure to show up on the right day!

10. Tupperware

A psychedelic nightclub with no cover charge, Tupperware draws in an eccentric crowd with its fake fur, Star Wars paraphernalia, and no-rules energy. The club seems to create an ego-free vibe where anyone can come to hang out and listen to an eclectic mix of music; anything from house to soul to acid jazz might be spinning on any given night.

11. La Fontana de Oro

La Fontana de Oro may strike you as a standard Irish bar during the day, but once night falls, the people pack in and the energy shoots through the roof. Classically decorated and well-suited for a variety of live music performances, the Madrid's oldest bar is a great spot to grab a pint and people watch.

12. Casa de Campo

Spain’s largest green space, Casa de Campo has a huge lake where you can kayak or hire a boat, sports facilities, paths for running or cycling, and several leisure activities such as a cable car, an amusement park, the Zoo Aquarium, a fairground, and the Madrid Arena. There are also several restaurants scattered around the park.

13. Madrid Río

Nestled along the banks of the Manzanares, you can find your favorite way to relax at Madrid Río. The five miles of green space are speckled with parks with swings and slides, jet fountains, and bars with terraces.

14. La Quinta de los Molinos

A hidden gem, even to many locals, this park is located in the El Salvador neighborhood. Almond trees, olive, pine, and eucalyptus trees all fill the 21.5 acres, as well as a few fountains and a lake. Not only is this a great place for a quiet afternoon, it’s a great place to snap a few photos for your trip album.

15. The Passenger

A relaxed bar decorated to look like the inside of a train, The Passenger is a great place to grab a bite, kick back with a cocktail, and enjoy some live music. On Thursday evenings, you might see any kind of performance, ranging from theatrical pieces to accordion bands to original music from amateur musicians.

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