Top free things to do and see in Madrid, Spain

Top free things to do and see in Madrid, Spain

Madrid is a city full of culture, with long leafy green park strips and an arresting mix of buildings; some look like ornate wedding cakes and some have a stark, comic-book style that looks like something out of Gotham City. The grandiose architecture, coupled with the laid back charm of the Spanish lifestyle, complete with siestas and tapas bars, creates an atmosphere at once both fancy and unfussy. The city is home to some of the best art collections in Europe. However, despite this abundance of alluring qualities, the city remains one of the least expensive of its kind in Europe and many Madrid activities are free.

Free Museums in Madrid

Madrid museums offer some of the finest collections ever amassed. The Prado Art Museum houses paintings by the likes of Velazquez, El Greco, Jose de Ribera, Titian, Rembrandt, Durer, Rubens, Hieronymus Bosch, and Goya, among others. The collection could take days to truly appreciate, which can be done by visiting during the free times available to guests:

  • Tuesday-Saturday: 6-8 p.m.
  • Sunday: 5-8 p.m.

Other museums in Madrid offer free visiting hours as well. One such is the Reina Sofia Art Museum. This excellent collection of modern art includes works by such artists as Max Ernst, Roy Lichtenstein, Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, and Joan Miro, among others. Picasso’s masterpiece Guernica is a must-see. To view the collection for free, show up at these times:

  • Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday: 7-9 p.m.
  • Saturday: 2:30-9 p.m.
  • Sunday: 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

For a Madrid museum that is free during all open hours, try the Naval Museum. The collection here includes replicas of cabins, models of famous Spanish ships, antique maps and historical documents, and other interesting tidbits. Be sure to bring a passport, as identification is required for entrance.

Free Parks and Gardens in Madrid

Parque Del Retiro offers a shady oasis in the middle of the city. It was created as a royal park for a palace that is mostly gone now. The park was opened to the public in 1868. Among the attractions at Parque Del Retiro are a man-made lake where visitors can rent row boats, wooded paths, vendors and street musicians, and a crystal palace that seems sprung from the pages of a fairy tale. The palace was built by Ricardo Velazquez Bosco in 1887; it was modeled after the Crystal Palace that debuted at the London World’s Fair in 1851.

Although there is an admission fee to the Royal Palace in Madrid, the Sabatini gardens next to the Royal Palace are free. The gardens contain a pond, as well as statues of past Kings of Spain, who stand regally among the trees and hedges arranged in symmetrical, geometric patterns. This is a great place to rest on a bench away from the hustle and bustle of Madrid, reading, people watching, or enjoying the view of the Palace.


In Madrid’s Parque Del Oeste, visitors can admire the ancient Egyptian temple, Templo de Debod, for free. It is believed that construction began on the temple in the 2nd century B.C.E. In 1960, the Great Dam of Aswan in Egypt threatened the surrounding archeological gems, and UNESCO put out an international call for help to save them. Spain stepped in to save the Temples of Abu Simbel, and was rewarded by a grateful Egypt with the gift of Templo de Debod in 1968. Gateways lead to the entrance of the temple, which is filled with hieroglyphics and evokes a sense of awe.

Madrid Attractions on the Cheap

There are many places to visit in Madrid for free or cheap, from famous museums to parks, gardens, and strolls around the lively squares of Plaza Mayor and Puerta Del Sol. It is impossible to get bored with so many Madrid attractions to enjoy, and (almost) impossible to go home broke, with so many of them offered for free. Of course, that depends on how many tapas and cervezas one consumes!