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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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?)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
Free Things to Do in Madrid: FAQs
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.
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.
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.