14 fabulous free things to do in beautiful Madrid

Visiting European capitals is hard to beat, which is especially true for Madrid. Madrid is a fantastic city with so much to offer visitors: great food, great shopping, beautiful museums, fun nightlife and fabulous outdoor spaces. There’s enough to keep you busy in this city for weeks! The best part? You don’t have to spend a penny if you don’t want to!

Many of the world-class sights you’ll find in Spain’s biggest city are completely free! Whether you’re traveling on a budget or just looking to save a few pennies while in Madrid, this list of free things to do in Madrid has you covered!

During our recent visit to Madrid, I was blown away by everything the city has to offer. I must admit that the 4 days I spent in Madrid were not enough!

On the water at El Retiro Park

On the water at El Retiro Park

Photo credit: Ekaterina Chuyko / Shutterstock.com

1. Retiro Park

King Felipe IV founded El Retiro Park in the 17th centuryth century as a garden for Spanish royalty to enjoy. The park’s opulence that originated in this era can still be seen today, although much of its beauty was destroyed during the War of Independence, when it was a fortress and barracks for Napoleon’s troops.

The centerpiece of Retiro Park is a beautiful man-made lake located on the east side of the park. Situated by the lake is the massive King Alfonso XII Monument, which depicts King Alfonso XII on a horse surrounded by tall marble columns. Although renting a boat costs money, you don’t have to pay anything to enjoy the park.

Other park highlights include the remains of the Ermita de San Pelayo y San Isidro. This small country chapel is considered a fabulous example of Romanesque architecture. As you explore the park, don’t miss the Palácio de Cristal (Glass Palace), the rose garden, and the statue of the Fallen Angel.

Retiro Park is one of the best things to do in Madrid for sure!

Pro tip: Retiro Park is quite large, 292 acres to be exact. Look at a park map before visiting to determine exactly what you want.

Temple of Debod in Madrid, Spain

Temple of Debod in Madrid

Photo credit: Noradoa / Shutterstock.com

2. Temple of Debod

When visiting Madrid, you can see a piece of Ancient Egypt for free. Just head to the Temple of Debod, about a 10-minute walk from the Royal Palace. The Temple of Debod was a gift from the Egyptian government in the late 1960s and is just one of four ancient Egyptian temples located outside of Egypt. The temple is a unique monument that is worth a little of your holidays in Madrid.

The Temple of Debod is one of the many free things in Madrid that make it a fabulous European city to visit!

Pro tip: Visit at sunset and wait until dusk to see the beautiful temple lit up.

3. Royal Palace of Madrid

The Royal Palace of Madrid is a tribute to Spain’s rich history. Built in the mid-1700s for King Philip V, the opulent palace was home to many Spanish monarchs until the monarchy was abolished in 1931. The Royal Palace of Madrid contains over 3,400 rooms spread over 135,000 square meters and is a remarkable example of Baroque and Neoclassical architecture.

You usually have to pay a fee to visit the inside of the palace, but you can visit it for free during the early evening hours on weekdays. Of course, you can wander around the exterior of the palace for free at any time of the day to take in the palace’s stunning architecture and see the adjacent palace gardens.

For complete information, visit the Royal Palace of Madrid website.

Pro tip: Watch the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace of Madrid for free entertainment. The changing of the guard takes place every Wednesday and Saturday from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm, except from July 1st to August 31st when it takes place from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm due to the heat.

Catedral de la Almudena in Madrid, Spain

Almudena Cathedral

Photo credit: Catarina Belova / Shutterstock.com

4. Almudena Cathedral

The beautiful Almudena Cathedral was built as a pantheon for Queen Marea de las Mercedes, wife of King Alfonso XII. This beautiful cathedral took over 100 years to develop into a complete complex. In total, six different architects worked on the cathedral, giving it the blend of architectural styles you see today. This is evident when you see the mix of baroque, neo-romantic and neo-gothic styles.

You can visit the interior of the cathedral and see the colorful stained glass windows for free. If you want to see the crypt area, which houses over 500 columns, or visit the museum, you will have to pay a small fee.

For more information, visit the Almudena Cathedral website.

Aerial view of Plaza Mayor in Madrid

Aerial view of Plaza Mayor in Madrid

Photo credit: Songquan Deng / Shutterstock.com

5. Plaza Mayor

Taking a walk around Madrid’s Plaza Mayor is another budget-friendly activity. The Mayor Plaza was built in the 15th centuryth century during the reign of King Philip III. This once bustling market was the center of Old Madrid. The square you see today was built in the late 1700’s after a fire destroyed most of the structures around the square.

Take time to enjoy the bustle around you in the beautiful square as you take in the beautiful architecture of the buildings. The oldest building in the Plaza Mayor is the Casa de la Panaderia, which served as a model for the rest of the buildings. Today, only the cellar and the ground floor of the original building remain, but you can enter, as Madrid’s tourist information center is located here.

Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid, Spain

Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

Photo credit: TK Kurikawa / Shutterstock.com

6. Museums in Madrid

Madrid is known for the world-class museums that call it home, specifically the “Golden Triangle of Art” consisting of the Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza. It’s true that these museums usually charge an entrance fee, but if you plan your visit the right way, you can visit them for free! Each of these museums offers free admission times during the week.

Visit the museum websites mentioned above for the most up-to-date information.

Pro tip: It’s worth noting that lines for the museum’s free hours can get extremely long. Be sure to arrive early to secure a spot in line.

7. El Corte Inglês Gourmet

For a fantastic view of Madrid’s famous Gran Via, head up to the ninth floor of El Corte Ingles Gourmet department store, located on Plaza del Callao. Now, you won’t be able to go very long without sitting down and buying yourself a drink or a snack, but at least you can take a quick photo of the glorious view.

For opening hours, visit the El Corte Ingles Gourmet website.

Gran Via, Madrid, Spain

Gran Via in Madrid

Photo credit: Studioimagen73 / Shutterstock.com

8. Gran Vía

Don’t stray too far from El Corte Ingles Gourmet before strolling down Madrid’s most famous street, Gran Via. Built between 1910 and 1929, this bustling street is lined with bars, restaurants and large department stores, making it a shopper’s dream! As you walk along Gran Via, enjoy the lively atmosphere and stunning architecture all around you.

9. West Park

Oeste Park is located in the heart of Madrid and is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a few minutes. The main reason to visit Parque Oeste is to enjoy the park’s rose garden. The City Council’s chief gardener designed the rose garden in the mid-1950s and included over 600 varieties. The garden is a small oasis in the heart of the big city.

History Museum in Madrid

History Museum in Madrid

Photo credit: Alex Segre / Shutterstock.com

10. Madrid History Museum

To delve into the history of Madrid, you must visit the Museo de Historia (Madrid History Museum). The museum is housed in an amazing Baroque building and houses a fabulous collection of artifacts and paintings that describe the city’s history from the mid-16th century.th century until now. The museum is fully accessible, making it a great place for everyone to visit!

Visit the Madrid History Museum website for information, including opening hours.

11. Porto Del Sol

Puerto del Sol is the central square located in the center of the city. Here, you can see several of the city’s top landmarks. Admire the famous bear statue and giant Tio Pepe before standing atop Kilometer Zero, which is the supposed center of Spain; just look for the sign on the floor that says KMO.

Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid, Spain

San Miguel Market in Madrid

Photo credit: Takashi Images / Shutterstock.com

12. São Miguel Market

The Mercado de San Miguel is an amazing experience, even if you are just “window shopping” at the food vendors. This food market has existed for over 100 years and is considered one of the main gastronomic markets in the world. Here you can find delicacies ranging from mouth-watering pastries to aged cheeses and fresh seafood.

You can find more information on the Mercado de San Miguel website.

Pro tip: Try to visit when the market opens as this place fills up quickly!

13. Madrid Rio

Head to one of Madrid’s newest parks, Madrid Rio, if you’re craving a little more outdoor time while you’re in the city. Madrid Rio is home to miles of bike paths and jogging paths, a children’s playground area, lots of green space and a small man-made “beach”. This park is great for resting and relaxing while touring the city.

Spanish hand fans at El Rastro Flea Market

Traditional Spanish hand fans at El Rastro Flea Market

Photo credit: Kim Willems / Shutterstock.com

14. El Rastro flea market

What started out as a meat market in the 17th centuryth Century has become one of the most famous flea markets in Madrid. Every Sunday, the market comes alive with many vendors selling everything from vintage t-shirts to modern electronics. Spend the morning browsing the good looking for the perfect lost treasure that you can take home as a souvenir of your time in Madrid. El Rastro Flea Market is located on Celle de la Ribera de los Curtidores and is open from 8 am to 3 pm

Pro tip: Take care of your belonging during your visit. This is a popular spot for pickpockets.

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