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50 Free Things to Do in Madrid

You don’t have to break the bank to make the most of Spain’s vibrant capital. In fact, many of these free things to do in Madrid are among the best ways to enjoy the city, period.

So go ahead and put your wallet away—here’s how to make the most of Madrid without spending a single euro!

Statue of a bear eating from a strawberry tree in the Puerta del Sol square in Madrid.
You can experience some of Madrid’s most iconic sights for free! Photo credit: Alejandro Cartagena

With plenty of gorgeous parks and gardens, museums that are sometimes (if not always) free, and awe-inspiring monuments, it’s easy to enjoy Madrid in a budget-friendly way. If you know where to look, you can even eat for free to an extent!

But more on that in a bit. Without further ado, here are the best free things to do in Madrid that every visitor should add to their bucket list.

Table of Contents hide

Palaces

1. Palacio de Longoria

This Art Noveau-style palace in the heart of Chueca cuts a striking image, standing out from the crowd of residential buildings that surround it. It’s one of the few buildings of its kind in Madrid, with an impressive iron and glass dome and a striking main staircase inside.

Exterior view of a balcony at the modernist Palacio Longoria building in Madrid.
With its unique modernist architecture, Palacio Longoria wouldn’t look out of place in Barcelona! Photo credit: Luis Garcia

2. Royal Palace

Ready to get up close with the royal side of Spain? Madrid’s spectacular Royal Palace does cost money for the interior visit, but you can still get a sense of the grandeur of Spanish royalty by wandering the palace grounds. Head to the Sabatini Gardens to take in awe-inspiring views of the palace in all its glory.

Madrid's Royal Palace on a clear, sunny day with the trees of the Sabatini Gardens visible in the foreground.
Madrid’s royal palace is one of Europe’s most impressive. Photo credit: Luis Quintero

Parks, Gardens, & Green Spaces

3. Retiro Park

No list of free things to do in Madrid would be complete without the city’s most famous green space. Retiro is the perfect place to take a relaxing stroll (or a siesta!) to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.

Small rowboats on the lake in Madrid's Retiro park with a monument visible in the background.
A visit to Retiro is a Madrid must!

4. Campo del Moro

The Campo del Moro gardens near the palace draw their inspiration from royal England. Queen Maria Cristina designed the gardens in the 19th century, inspired by English-style gardens and the inherent romanticism of the natural world.

Large stone fountain surrounded by trees and flowers with a palatial building in the background.
The Campo de Moro gardens make you feel like you’ve been transported to a lush English countryside estate. Photo credit: Claudia Schillinger

5. Madrid Rio

Inaugurated in 2011, Madrid Rio is one of the Spanish capital’s newest parks. It offers dozens ways to enjoy the great outdoors right in the heart of Madrid, with running and cycling paths, plenty of green space, playground areas for kids, and even a makeshift “beach!”

Walking paths and floral areas at Madrid Rio park, with part of the city skyline visible in the background.
You could easily spend an entire day relaxing and enjoying all there is to do at Madrid Rio. Photo credit: Nicolas Vigier

6. Casa de Campo

Retiro may be Madrid’s most famous park, but Casa de Campo is by far the largest (it’s five times bigger than New York’s Central Park!). It’s the perfect place to go hiking and get up close with nature, all with the urban heart of Madrid just a hop, skip, and a jump away.

Lake at Casa de Campo park in Madrid surrounded by trees in the fall.
The Casa de Campo lake on a beautiful fall day. Photo credit: Jorge CG

7. The Rose Garden in Parque del Oeste…

This award-winning garden is home to hundreds of different varieties of rosebushes. It’s a beautiful place to spend an hour away from the chaos of the city.

Close up view of pink and orange roses.
Just a handful of the thousands of gorgeous roses at Parque del Oeste! Photo credit: Bobo Boom

8. …and the Rose Garden in Retiro!

Can’t make it out to Parque del Oeste? No worries. On the other side of the city center, Retiro Park also has its own beautiful rosaleda.

Small stone fountain in a garden surrounded by red and pink roses.
Retiro’s rose garden is one of the most romantic places in Madrid. Photo credit: Felipe Gabaldón

9. Atocha’s Tropical Forest

This particular green space in Madrid isn’t located outside. In fact, you might even walk past it while arriving in the city at the Atocha train station! However, the impressive indoor forest is unlike any other space on earth. (How many other train stations can say they have thousands of plants from around the world under their roof?)

Tropical forest inside Atocha train station in Madrid.
Atocha’s fascinating indoor forest makes it one of the world’s coolest train stations. Photo credit: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra

10. Parque del Capricho

This beautiful park is well worth visiting any time of year. However, head there in late winter/early spring for a real treat as the almond blossoms start to bloom.

Walking trail between tall trees next to a small grassy area.
Parque del Capricho is a gorgeous green oasis in Madrid. Photo credit: Viviendo Madrid

11. Parque Tio Pio

A bit off the beaten path, Parque Tio Pio is one of Madrid’s best-kept secrets. Head here at sunset for one of the most spectacular evening views in town.

Urban skyline at sunset
A dramatic view of Madrid’s skyline from Parque Tio Pio. Photo credit: Julio GM

12. Parque de Berlin

Would you believe us if we told you that one of the best free things to do in Madrid is to see the Berlin Wall? This unique park, aside from being a gorgeous little green space, is also home to several pieces of the infamous wall.

Statue of a bear representing the city of Berlin in a park in Madrid after a snowfall.
Like Madrid, a bear is one of the symbols of Berlin—as seen by this statue in the park! Photo credit: Xuanxu

13. Quinta de los Molinos

Like Parque del Capricho, Quinta de los Molinos is also home to dozens of beautiful almond trees that spring into bloom in late winter. The space regularly hosts family-friendly cultural events throughout the year, making it one of the best free things to do in Madrid for guests of all ages.

Pale pink almond flowers blooming on a tree against a bright blue sky.
The gorgeous almond blossoms in Quinta de los Molinos! Photo credit: David Ceballos

Museums

14. Museo de San Isidro

Discover the story of Madrid dating back to the Paleolithic period in a house once inhabited by St. Isidore (Madrid’s patron) himself. Here, Madrid’s history is laid out in three easy-to-follow sections: prehistory, Muslim Madrid and the Christian reconquest, and the life and times of the museum’s eponymous saint.

15. Madrid History Museum

The Madrid History Museum picks up right around the time where the San Isidro Museum left off. Here, you can continue your exploration of local history from the mid-16th century up until the present day.

Large pink building constructed in the Baroque style.
The building that houses the Madrid History Museum is a gorgeous Baroque structure. Photo credit: Basix2013

16. Museo del Prado

As Spain’s foremost collection of European masterpieces, the Prado doesn’t always have free entry. But if you’re trying to save some euros and don’t mind the crowds, visiting during the free hours (Monday–Saturday from 6–8 p.m., and Sundays and holidays from 3–5 p.m.), is an incredible way to experience this world-class museum.

Brick and concrete buildings surrounded by trees and grass.
The Prado is an art lover’s dream come true.

17. Reina Sofia Museum

If modern art is more your style, you won’t want to miss the Reina Sofia, another one of Madrid’s excellent art museums. The home of Picasso’s iconic Guernica and hundreds of other 20th century masterpieces, the museum is open for free Mondays and Wednesdays—Saturdays from 6–8 p.m, and Sundays from 1:30–2:15 p.m.

Crowd of people in a white museum room looking at a large black and white painting on the wall.
Seeing Guernica in person is a moving experience. Photo credit: Saint Louis University Madrid Campus

18. Casa Museo Lope de Vega

Lope de Vega was one of the most prolific writers in the history of Spanish literature and forms part of one of the genre’s greatest generations alongside Cervantes, Góngora, and more. His former home is now a free museum in Madrid, where you can step back in time to 17th-century Spain and walk in the footsteps of one of our greatest literary figures.

19. Archaeology Museum

Madrid’s Archaeology Museum holds treasures from prehistory and the ancient world all the way up to the Renaissance period. Entrance is free on Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings.

Exterior of a large two-story stone building with pillars framing the entrance and flanked by two black statues of human figures with wings.
The Archaeology Museum is one of Madrid’s most fascinating places for history buffs. Photo credit: Emilio

20. Museum of Natural Sciences

Free on Sunday afternoons after 5 p.m., the Museum of Natural Sciences is a fascinating place to discover more about the world we live in. Their exhibitions showcasing topics ranging from biodiversity to human evolution are excellent, and they also offer a great activities program for kids and families.

Two-story brick building with arched windows and doorways and ornate detailing.
Learn something new at the Museum of Natural Sciences! Photo credit: Rubén Vique

21. Open-Air Sculpture Museum

Want to check out Madrid’s world-class art scene but don’t want to be stuck inside a museum on a beautiful day? Head to the Open-Air Sculpture Museum on Paseo de la Castellana. Under the overpass connecting Calle Juan Bravo and Calle Eduardo Dato you’ll find a surprising collection of abstract sculptures from some of Spain’s foremost contemporary artists.

Churches & Chapels

22. Ermita de San Antonio de la Florida

The iconic Spanish artist Goya painted the frescoes at this Neoclassical chapel, and it’s also his final resting place. It’s one of the lesser-known free things to do in Madrid, and you won’t be disappointed by the breathtaking masterpieces that lie within.

Ceiling frescoes depicting religious scenes and figures
The jaw-dropping Goya frescoes inside the chapel. Photo credit: Jl FilpoC

23. Basílica de San Francisco el Grande

This famous basilica just south of the Cathedral is impressive in its own right, but the awe-inspiring dome will truly take your breath away. It also houses dozens of masterpieces by some of the most iconic Spanish artists in history.

Marble steps leading up to the main altar at a Catholic church, with ornate decorations such as brass statues, gold detailing, and handpainted frescoes.
The main chapel at the Basilica. Photo credit: José Luis Filpo Cabana

24. Almudena Cathedral

Madrid’s grandiose cathedral isn’t as old as you might think, having only reached completion in 1993. That said, it’s earned its reputation as one of the most impressive churches in Spain despite its short history. While a small donation of €1 is appreciated upon entry, you are also welcome to access the cathedral for free.

View through an open doorway with a large domed cathedral in the distance across an open plaza.
The Almudena Cathedral as seen from the Royal Palace. Photo credit: Erica Zhao

Exhibition Centers & Cultural Spaces

25. El Matadero

A former slaughterhouse turned cultural center near Madrid Rio, El Matadero is one of the most happening spaces in town. Their agenda includes a diverse array of art exhibitions, live performances, film screenings, and so much more offered by artists from all over the world.

Large brick and stone building with a white lettered sign reading Plaza Matadero.
Matadero offers tons of incredible cultural programs for free. Photo credit: Fred Romero

26. La Tabacalera

La Tabacalera was once an old tobacco factory and is now one of Madrid’s foremost visual arts spaces. Home to fascinating installations and one of the best street art collections in town, they also host regular classes, workshops, and performances.

Set of colorful abstract murals painted on an exterior concrete wall.
Colorful street art at La Tabacalera! Photo credit: Fred Romero

27. Fundación Telefónica

If you’ve watched the Netflix hit Cable Girls, you might recognize the Telefónica building on Gran Via. Today, the famous skyscraper hosts a regularly rotating schedule of fascinating free exhibitions showcasing the most visionary artists from around the world.

Large white multi-story building against a gray, cloudy sky.
No matter what’s on at Telefónica, you’re sure to find something fascinating. Photo credit: Jose M Martin Jimenez

28. Casa Encendida

A sociocultural center dedicated to promoting the arts, solidarity, the environment, and education, Casa Encendida offers something for everyone. Their exhibitions, performances, and screenings showcase artists from all walks of life, and they even host regular free activities for kids, too.

Overhead view of an audience watching a live music performance on an outdoor rooftop terrace.
A free concert on La Casa Encendida’s incredible rooftop terrace! Photo credit: La Casa Encendida

29. CentroCentro

Just about everyone passing between Retiro and Gran Via is struck breathless by the magnificent Cibeles Palace, which today mainly functions as Madrid’s city hall. But it’s also home to the fascinating CentroCentro exhibition space showcasing contemporary art. While the space itself is one of the best free things to do in Madrid, we also recommend paying the small fee to access the terrace to take in incredible views of downtown Madrid.

Large multi-story building illuminated with red and white lighting at night on a city street.
The stunning Palacio de Cibeles, home of CentroCentro. Photo credit: Quique Olivar

30. Palacio de Cristal

We already talked about Retiro Park, but its shimmering Crystal Palace deserves a spot of its own. Aside from being a beautiful little oasis, the space also hosts contemporary art exhibitions hosted in partnership with the Reina Sofia museum.

Crowd of people walking around a large indoor space with a curved glass roof.
The Crystal Palace’s gorgeous design and unique exhibitions make it a must for architecture and art lovers alike. Photo credit: Sergei Wing

Foodie Activities

31. Eat Free Tapas

Madrid isn’t quite Granada when it comes to giving generous free tapas with every drink you order. But there are plenty of spots in the capital that still observe this tradition—you just have to know where to look.

Two of our favorites are Quevedo (in the Huertas neighborhood) and El Urogallo, both of which serve incredible free tapas with your drinks. You could easily enjoy a meal for the price of a few cañas!

Meat in a brown sauce and diced fried potatoes on a white plate.
Yes, you CAN get free tapas in Madrid that are bigger than a dish of chips or olives!

32. Mercado de San Miguel

Madrid’s best-known gourmet market often gets a bad rap these days for being too touristy. But while you’ll definitely find more tourists than locals at the Mercado de San Miguel, it’s a great place to start familiarizing yourself with dozens of different types of Spanish food all under one roof.

If you’re new to Spanish cuisine, take a few laps around the market to get a sense of what different dishes are called and what they look like. You can eat there, or take what you’ve learned to another bar or restaurant now that you know a little more about what to look for.

Wrought iron architecture of the front entrance to Mercado San Miguel market in Madrid.
The Mercado de San Miguel is worth visiting for the beautiful architecture alone!

33. See the World’s Oldest Restaurant: Botin

While a meal at Botin will obviously cost you, a pilgrimage to this historic restaurant is one of the must-do free things to do in Madrid for foodies.

Wood-paneled front entrance of Botin restaurant in Madrid, with a sign under a small brown awning reading Restaurante Sobrino de Botin.
Botin has been a Madrid icon since 1725.

34. Picnic in the Park

Once you’ve gotten your hands on some food and drinks to enjoy, an al fresco picnic in one of Madrid’s gorgeous green spaces is the perfect way to spend a beautiful day.

Picnic spread of bread, pastries, and wine next to a brown wicker tote in a grassy field.
A picnic is the perfect way to enjoy the beautiful weather in Madrid. Photo credit: Kate Hliznitsova

35. Visit a Food Market

Food markets are among the best places to experience local life in Spain at its most authentic. Head to the one nearest you and spend some time wandering among the stalls, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of these neighborhood shopping and gathering spaces.

Vendor at a market stall smiling while serving customers.
At Madrid’s most traditional markets, the vendors are often proud locals whose families have been selling their products for generations.

Iconic Places

36. Temple of Debod

It might surprise you to learn that you can visit an authentic Ancient Egyptian temple right here in Madrid! A gift to Spain from the government of Egypt, the Temple of Debod is an especially beautiful place to catch the sunset.

Nighttime view of the stone gateway of an Ancient Egyptian temple with a body of water in the foreground.
You don’t have to go to Egypt to get a taste of ancient history. Photo credit: Willian Justen de Vasconcellos

37. Plaza Mayor

Madrid’s most grandiose square provides some of the most unbeatable photo ops in town. Bonus points if you visit during the holiday season when the picturesque Christmas market is in full swing!

View of the central building of Madrid's Plaza Mayor with a statue of a man on horseback in the foreground.
You can’t visit Madrid without spending some time in the Plaza Mayor.

38. Puerta del Sol

Just down the street from Plaza Mayor lies an equally iconic square: Puerta del Sol. Get your picture taken with the famous statue of a bear and strawberry tree, and be sure to stand at the exact geographic center of Spain, Kilometer 0 (marked by a plaque on the ground in front of the Real Casa de Correos building).

Busy city plaza with a statue of a bear eating from a strawberry tree in the foreground.
The famous statue in Puerta del Sol is a symbol of Madrid.

39. Gran Via

Head north from Puerta del Sol and you’ll find yourself on Madrid’s busiest urban street, Gran Via. Here, you can get lost in the hustle and bustle of city life like no place else.

Nighttime view of a busy city street as seen from above
Gran Via on a beautiful evening. Photo credit: alevision.co

Live Events

40. See Live Music

Good news: you can see incredible live music in Madrid for free! Many of the city’s most beloved venues for shows host great shows for no cover charge. Be sure to check each place’s website or social media accounts for the most up-to-date info before you go.

Trumpet player and saxophone player performing a live show.
Seeing great shows in Madrid doesn’t have to break the bank. Photo credit: Sam Browne

41. Watch the Changing of the Guard

Head to the Royal Palace every Wednesday and Saturday to catch this breathtaking spectacle from 11 a.m.–2 p.m. The first Wednesday of the month is especially noteworthy, as it’s when the more elaborate Solemn Changing of the Guard—performed the same way as it was 150 years ago—takes place.

Group of military members in dress uniforms walking in unison during a formal ceremony.
Members of the Spanish Navy take part in the Changing of the Guard. Photo credit: Contando Estrelas

Explore Madrid’s Neighborhoods

42. Literary Huertas

Madrid’s Literary Quarter, also known locally as Huertas, is a living tribute to some of the greatest Spanish writers in history.

Start in Plaza de Santa Ana to check out the statues of Federico García Lorca and Pedro Calderón de la Barca, both of whom were poets and playwrights. From there, make your way down to Calle de Cervantes. Here, you’ll find the former homes of two more icons of Spanish literature: Cervantes himself (author of Don Quixote) and Lope de Vega.

Next, swing down to the Convento de las Trinitarias Descalzas, a historic convent that today houses Cervantes’ remains. Finish your journey with an aperitif at Casa Alberto, which for nearly two centuries has been a favorite haunt of Madrid’s literary scene.

Stone street with a Spanish quote inlaid in gold letters.
As you explore Huertas, check out the phrases from Spanish literature and poetry adorning the ground throughout the neighborhood!

43. Chic Salamanca

North of Retiro Park lies Madrid’s most fashionable barrio, Salamanca. With its wide avenues and clean gridlike layout, it’s one of the easiest and most relaxing places for a walk in Madrid, as well as a great spot for people-watching. And while shopping at any of the sleek designer stores here will set you back, window shopping is free!

Start in Plaza de Colón and make your way up Paseo de la Castellana a little bit. Then head east to cut over to Calle Serrano, one of Madrid’s premier shopping streets lined with upscale brands.

Pedestrian street decorated with plants and lined with small boutique shops.
Salamanca is a beautiful neighborhood for a stroll. Photo credit: Alejandro

44. Historic Austrias

The oldest part of the city, Madrid de los Austrias is a beautifully preserved section of the center that will transport you back in time. A self-guided walking tour through this area is one of the best free things to do in Madrid, and a great way to experience Bourbon Spain in all its glory.

Start in Plaza de Oriente and take a moment to enjoy the stunning views of the Royal Palace and Almudena Cathedral. Head east to make your way into the heart of the neighborhood. Keep an eye out for landmarks such as the San Miguel Basilica and Plaza de la Villa—a modest, unassuming square that was once the city’s most important!

Finish your adventure at Plaza Mayor. While it’s not free (though it is cheap!), we definitely suggest getting a calamari sandwich from La Campana just outside the square to snack on!

Three historic stone buildings around an open plaza with a dark metal statue in the center.
Plaza de la Villa is home to some of the most important historic buildings in Madrid.

More Great Free Things to Do in Madrid

45. Estación de Chamberí

The old Chamberí metro station, unused since the 1960s, was abandoned for decades. Recently, however, a restoration project brought it back to life. Today, you can step inside this historic metro station and journey back in time—it looks exactly as it did back when it opened in 1919.

Colorful vintage advertisement with a green background laid into the tiles of an old subway station.
Colorful vintage advertisements still line the walls of Chamberí station. Photo credit: Miguel Bustos

46. Vestíbulo de Pacífico

Can’t get enough vintage subway stations? Vestíbulo de Pacífico (at the Pacífico metro stop) is an equally impressive space that preserves the same structures that were there during the station’s heyday in the 1920s.

47. El Rastro

Sunday is a day for taking it easy and roaming through the largest open-air flea market in Europe: El Rastro.

El Rastro is a weekend staple for many and visiting is a must during your time in Madrid. Packed with visitors perusing stalls and haggling for lower prices, the main boulevard of El Rastro is a sight to behold. From clothes to live birds to antique furniture, you’re sure to find something unexpected along the way.

Stall at an open-air flea market selling umbrellas, tote bags, girls' dresses, and aprons.
Be sure to schedule in a stroll through the Rastro if you’ll be in Madrid on a Sunday.

48. See the View from El Corte Inglés Callao

Some of the best viewpoints in Madrid are atop rooftop bars, where you’ll have to pay a cover charge just to get in. Not at El Corte Inglés in Callao, just off of Gran Via. Head up to the ninth floor to enjoy jaw-dropping views over the urban heart of Madrid.

Overhead view of a busy city street.
The incredible view from El Corte Inglés in Callao! Photo credit: Kadir Celep

49. Learn a New Language

Want to brush up on your Spanish? There are dozens of free language exchanges happening all over the city. Check out sites like Meetup or even local Facebook groups for expats to see what’s taking place soon.

Group of 3 women seated at a table talking and laughing while drinking red wine.
A language exchange is a fun way to make new friends while learning a new skill at the same time!

50. Visit the Mercado de Motores

Once a month, the Mercado de Motores sets up shop in the Museo del Ferrocarril. Part artisanal market and part live performance space, it’s the perfect place to do some shopping, dance, catch some live music, and even enjoy some great food!

People seated at tables watching a concert performed by musicians on stage.
The Mercado de Motores is such a fun place to spend the day! Photo credit: Teresa Castandedo

Free Things to Do in Madrid: FAQs

What are some non-touristy things to do in Madrid?

Head out of the city center and into Madrid’s residential neighborhoods to explore a side of the city many tourists don’t see. Some of Madrid’s greatest hidden (and free!) gems can be found in these areas, including many parks and gardens, local cultural spaces like El Matadero, and historic spots like Chamberí Station.

What is the best way to get around Madrid?

Nothing beats seeing Madrid on foot. In addition to being free, the city is also very walkable, and many famous sights are within walking distance of each other. If you’re tired or need to get somewhere further out, Madrid’s public transportation system is easy to use, cheap, and efficient.

What is the most popular place in Madrid, Spain?

The area between Gran Via and Calle Mayor is home to some of Madrid’s most popular sights, including Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol.

Update Notice: This post was originally published on January 26, 2018 and was updated with new text and photos on March 16, 2021.

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