15 Top Free Things to Do in Madrid

27 January 2021 Madrid, Spain

Just because you have money doesn’t mean you have to spend it. So, whether you are in Madrid for a family vacation or a trip with the guys, why not do all the free things you can find? The city is full of history, culture, and fun so there is no shortage of activities to keep you busy.

Many of the parks, churches, museums, and galleries are still free so visit them while you can still do it without having to pay. But do not bring your luggage. Most of these places do not allow you to and of course, you don’t want to bring them to the park. Madrid has a lot of bag storage facilities you can use.

Museums

  • Museo Taurino
    The bullfighting museum is one of the most interesting free places to go in Madrid. You may not even like the sport but taking a tour of the bullfighting museum is still interesting and unique. Separated into six areas with over 150 items, you will learn about the Courtyard of Horses and the Las Ventas Bullring.
  • Museum of History (Museo de Historia)
    The building was built in 1673 but was the Royal Hospice until 1929 when it opened as the history museum. The collection includes artifacts from 1561 to the present with highlights such as 18th-century baroque sculptures, a scale model of Madrid from 1830, and 60,000 other items.
  • National Archaeology Museum
    The National Archaeology Museum is free on Saturdays after 2 pm and Sunday mornings. It is one of the most ancient museums in the city and the collection started in 1734 by Charles III of Bourbon. There are four main collections, which include the Epigraphs, Farnese Collection, Villa Dei Papyri, and Coins and Medals.

Galleries

  • Museo del Prado
    The Prado Museum, the most famous art museum in Spain, is free from 6 pm to 8 pm daily except Sundays when it is free from 5 pm to 7 pm. There are over 20,000 sculptures, prints, paintings, and drawings dating back to the 12th century. The most popular include A Scholar by Rembrandt in 1631, a belt buckle from the 4th century BC, and the Pond at Montgeron by Claude Monet in 1876.
  • Museo al Aire Libre
  • This one is always free, and it is outside in the open air so you can enjoy Madrid’s wonderful weather while you are at it. Located on Paseo de la Castellana, you can find 17 stunning sculptures by artists like Alberto Sánchez, Eusebio Sempere, and Joan Miró.
  • Reina Sofía
  • Another popular art museum, the Reina Sofia is free every day except Tuesday from 7 pm to 9 pm and Sundays from 1:30 pm to 7 pm. Named after Queen Sofia, the large modern gallery was opened in 1990 and boasts thousands of pieces including over 100,000 books. Some of the most notable artists include Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, and Francis Bacon.

Churches

  • San Ginés Church (Iglesia de San Ginés)
  • San Ginés Church is one of the oldest churches in Madrid built in the 9th century, although it had to be mostly rebuilt in 1645. It was one of the medieval churches of Madrid from the 12th century and has a lot of history and beauty such as the Fallen Christ by Nicolò Fumo and The Lamentation by Michiel Coxie.
  • Almudena Cathedral (Cathedral de Almudena)
    The Almudena Cathedral was built on the medieval mosque that was destroyed in 1083 although it was not consecrated until 1993. The Gothic Revival style building is now a work of art including two bell towers, a beautiful pipe organ, and a crypt with a 16th-century image of the Virgin de la Almudena.
  • Basilica of San Francisco el Grande
    Built on top of a primitive Franciscan convent in 1217, the building was ordered to be built by Charles III. The Neo-Classical building has a 108-foot diameter dome that is 190 feet high. It also houses many paintings including those by Goya and Zurbarán and was named a national historic-artistic monument in 1980.

Parks

  • Retiro Park (Parque del Buen Retiro)
    Built in 1505, one of the biggest parks in Madrid, Retiro Park was originally the property of the Spanish Monarchy until they donated it for a public park in the 19th century. Some of the popular features include a large pond, rose garden, the Fountain of the Fallen Angel, the Buen Retiro Palace ruins, and Salon de Reinos.
  • Madrid Río Beach
    A large and popular park, Madrid Rio has 17 playgrounds, several bridges, a few cafés and other eateries, and a huge beach along the Manzanares River. There are also bike paths, sports areas, terraces, and shops to enjoy. And the monumental Arganzuela Bridge is a famous and stunning footbridge that is the perfect spot for selfies.
  • Temple of Debod
  • One of the most unique landmarks is the Temple of Debod, which is an ancient Egyptian temple given to Spain as a gift for helping Egypt during a flood. The temple was originally built in 200 BC but was moved and rebuilt in the Parque del Oeste in 1970. This is a must-see for anyone in Madrid.

Landmarks

  • Puerta del Sol
    Also known as the Gate of the Sun, this public square is one of the busiest in Madrid. Featuring the famous clock of the Twelve Grapes, it is the site of the city’s New Year’s Eve celebration every year. Some of the famous landmarks include the old post office, mounted statue of Charles III, and the Mariblanca statue of Venus.
  • Plaza Mayor
    Also known as Main Square, the plaza was built in 1580 and has 237 balconies facing the cobblestone square. The plaza has 10 entrances with nine gates, each with its own name. In the center, a statue of Philip III on his horse has been standing since 1848. This important square is also the home of the yearly Christmas Market.
  • Plaza de España
    Spanish for Spain Square, this is a popular tourist attraction at the western end of the oldest street in the city, Gran Via. The monument to Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra stands between two skyscrapers and beautiful landscaping. There is also a pond, bronze sculptures of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, and the Madrid Tower.

After sightseeing, you’ll no doubt have built up an appetite. The food may not be free, but it would be a shame to miss out on some of the local dishes while in town. One of the most popular is calamari, which is fried squid. Snails cooked in a clay pot with wine is another popular dish. For dessert, churros covered with cinnamon and sugar are great dipped in chocolate.

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