Top 15 Things to do for free in Madrid
- Grab some beers and Try Nice Tapas
Madrid is one of the locals’ preferred pastimes to enjoy and relax. And it’s made even better when the weather’s nice and all the bars and restaurants open up their terraces. Among the favorite areas to whet their whistle is La Latina in Plaza de la Cebada, a meeting point for many, especially the younger crowd. At weekends it’s near impossible to make your way through streets like Cava Baja or Cava Alta, where you’ll find most of the bars and restaurants.
Other recommended areas for going out for a tipple to include Malasaña, where modern bars with vintage decor co-exist with gritty taverns that have stood their ground for generations; Alonso Martínez, a neighbour of one of the richest areas in the capital; Tribunal, where you want to head if you’re planning to be out till the wee hours; Moncloa, a favorite among university students; and Chueca, with the best gay nightlife in the city.
- Sit back and Relax in Plaza Mayor
It is so touristic place, there are nice bars and restaurants. This Madrid square is steeped in history and has seen public executions, royal ceremonies, bullfights, Inquisition trials, and many celebrations. Today it is surrounded by three-story buildings, many cafes and restaurants with terraces to sit out in and take in this busy square.
3. Enjoy the Mercado San Miguel
This market right outside of Plaza Mayor is one of the recent travelers’ favorite things to do in Spain. Visitors can purchase some wine and eat tapas. People enjoying the variety of delicious foods, and they also gave it high marks for its non-touristy feel, saying it was a good way to mix with the local people.
4. Free entry into world-class museums
Madrid prides itself on the variety of art and culture on offer in the city. It is also home to some of the world’s top museums, housing some top-class artworks. Two of Madrid’s most famous museums are the Reina Sofia Museum and the Prado Museum both of which charge an admission fee.
However, if you plan your visit to either museum beforehand you can get in free of charge. For FREE admission to the Prado Museum visit Tuesday to Sunday from 6 pm to 8 pm or Sundays from 5 pm to 8 pm. For FREE admission to the Reina Sofia Museum visit Monday to Friday from 7 pm to 9 pm, Saturday from 2.30 pm to 9 pm, or Sunday from 10 am to 2.30 pm.
5. Bullfighting in Madrid
Las Ventas is Madrid’s bullring. Not only can you see regular bullfights here, but you can also check out the free bullfighting museum. Where is Las Ventas Madrid Bullring? On the other side of Barrio Salamanca, in the east of the city. Nearest Metro: Ventas.
6. Enjoy the Parque del Retiro
Retiro Park as it is known locally is the city’s best-loved park, as well as being one of Madrid’s top attractions. Retiro Park is the perfect place to enjoy the great summer days that Madrid gets plenty of. In this city park, you will find many beautiful sculptures and monuments as well as a boating lake. There are also some free outdoor concerts that take place in Retiro Park during the summer.
7. Walk around Royal Palace
The Palacio Real is Madrid’s Royal Palace and is also the largest palace in Europe with over 2,800 rooms. It is the official residence of the Royal family; however, it is only used for state ceremonies these days. The palace is open to the public but even just a walk around its grounds and courtyard is a great free thing to do in Madrid. The Royal Palace is a beautiful building to look at and once you have taken in this architectural splendor, check out the view from the side of the courtyard. The location is a 5-minute walk from the Opera metro station.
8. Go to see the Templo de Debod
This Egyptian temple once stood in the village of Debod but today resides in Madrid in the Parque del Oeste. This piece of Egyptian heritage came to Spain when a dam was being developed in Egypt and many historic pieces were at risk of being ruined. Spanish engineers helped the Egyptian government to move these monuments and in return, Egypt donated the Templo de Debod to Spain as a thank you. It’s a popular attraction today and lies in one of Madrid’s popular parks. Just behind it, you will be greeted with some stunning views.
9. Spend an evening in Puerta del Sol
This popular city square was once the home of Madrid’s city gates. This is also Madrid’s most central location and where you will find a stone slab marking ‘Kilometre Zero’ – the official starting point for Spain’s 6 National Roads. There are many noteworthy aspects to Puerta del Sol such as the monument of “El Oso y El Madroño” – the Bear and the Strawberry Tree, a statue of King Carlos III, and two fountains where people gather to sit around, especially in the evenings. Puerta del Sol comes alive at dusk with people going through the square as well as stopping off in one of the cafes or restaurants in the area. It’s a great place to watch the city go by.
10. Go treasure hunting in El Rastro
Every Sunday it seems like the whole of Madrid is in one place: C/Ribera de Curtidores, in the La Latina and Embajadores neighborhood, where dozens of stalls are set up selling second-hand clothes, vinyl records, jewelry, and just about any object you can imagine. This is El Rastro, the most famous and oldest flea market in town.
Get there early in the morning unless you’re really into crowds because later in the day the street turns into a raging river of shoppers trying to elbow their way against the current as the vendors wage a shouting war over who has the best deals. Bar and café owners have taken advantage of the draw El Rastro has and have opened up nearby, so you can always find a place to duck out for a break or an energy boost. And don’t forget to visit the antique shops down the side streets. Located in Metro la Latina.
11. Taste chocolate con churros at San Ginés
Over a century ago this chocolatier’s opened its doors in a hidden alleyway between Puerta del Sol and Plaza de Ópera. Today San Ginés serves up the most famous churros in Madrid, and it’s a popular meeting point for clubbers heading home after a serious night out.
Surrounded by the authentic decor and the classic snapshots of celebs on the walls, you’ll wait anxiously for your mug of warm dipping chocolate, churros, or Porras (just like the tasty fried bread of churros, but even bigger around). Be sure to get a glass of water to wash all that delectable sweetness down. The waiters are constantly running up and down the stairs, inside and out, to satisfy the never-ending cravings of their clientele. The churros and Porras are made by San Ginés, using the same reliable recipe since 1894. The chocolate is also made on the spot and can be mixed with any of the liqueurs they’ve got to hand for an added jolt.
12. Walk along the Gran Vía
The city’s main tourist artery runs the famous Metrópolis building to the Plaza de España. Shops, bars and even a casino line this wide street that stretches for more than a kilometer. If you start walking at the Metrópolis building, with its stunning dome crowned by a bronze statue, the next landmark you’ll come to is at Gran Vía 1, the address for Grassy jewelers since 1952. A bit further on, the Hotel de las Letras deserves a peek inside before you’re wowed by the window display at the Loewe shop or stop to have a drink in the legendary Museo Chicote, which, despite its name, isn’t a museum at all, though there is some art on the walls in the form of photos of celebrities who have passed through the swinging doors.
13. Celebrate with a local festival
If you can stand the heat, Madrid’s summer festival season is the best time to see the capital in all its splendor. Spring has its share of celebrations, with Dos de Mayo, marking the 1808 uprising against French occupation; and the San Isidro festival honoring the patron saint of Madrid with outdoor concerts, street stalls selling food and drink, and spending the day in the park named after the saint.
Once those are history, the parties really pick up, with the streets filled with festivals and merry-makers virtually every weekend throughout summer. The big one in mid-July is the Virgen del Carmen, which is a big deal in the barrios of Puente de Vallecas, Chamberí, and Villaverde Alto. And August celebrates the Verbena de la Paloma in La Latina, honoring the neighborhood’s very own patron saint.
14. Enjoy the winter snow
When you’re planning your skiing holiday, the first destination that pops into your head probably isn’t Madrid. But keep in mind the city is surrounded by mountains where you can slide into winter. Valdesquí is the most popular resort, with 27 tracks (3 red, 15 blue, 9 green), 15 ski lifts, 9 snow-making machines, and several cafés and rest areas.
Families in Madrid more typically spend the day at Puerto de Navacerrada, where they can rent sleds for the kids to play on gentle slopes. As the first flakes fall, the nearest parking area is immediately overstuffed, and traffic jams can be monumental. If the weather’s not cooperating, you can always have a go on the covered slopes at Snowzone, open all year round in the Xanadu shopping center. Located is Nava cerrada.
15. Take a picture with ‘El Oso y el Madroño’
The quintessential symbol of Madrid and the meeting point for lost tourists and friends heading out on the town, ‘The Bear and the Strawberry Tree’ sculpture, at 4 meters and 20 tonnes of bronze, is not only in the center of the Puerta del Sol, which is in the heart of Madrid but is also the starting point (0 km) of all the motorways in Spain.
Don’t shy away from the typical tourist photo. Be sure to wait your turn with the groups of admirers crowding around for their shot of ‘El Oso y el Madroño’, which also appears in Madrid’s coat of arms. For years the statue was in front of C/ del Carmen but now stands at the mouth of C/Alcalá and the Carrera de San Jerónim.