Ten Free Things to do as a Tourist in Madrid

As capital cities go, Madrid is pretty inexpensive and, unless you’re planning on giving it the big one in Kapital on a Saturday night, nothing you choose to do is really going to break the bank. This considered, I’ve put together a list of ten of my favourite free things to do in the Spanish capital.

Gran Vía

Free to wander down and explore, Gran Vía is Madrid’s answer to Oxford Street, featuring High Street favourites such as H&M and The Body Shop, and Spanish staples like Zara, Mango, Pull & Bear and Bershka. The architecturally exquisite road stretches from Plaza de España at one end to Banco de España at the other, and is linked to the famous Puerta del Sol by a number of side streets featuring smaller stores, chain bars, and prostitutes.

Nearest station:

GRAN VÍA – metro lines 1 & 5
CALLAO – metro lines 3 & 5
SANTO DOMINGO – metro line 2

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Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

The Reina Sofía Museum is Spain’s national gallery and museum of modern art, and is most famous for housing Pablo Picasso’s spectacular masterpiece, Guernica. 

Free entry to the gallery is granted Monday-Friday 7-9pm, Saturday 2.30-9pm and Sunday 10am-2.30pm.

Nearest station:

ATOCHA – metro line 1
ATOCHA RENFE – metro line 1, cercanías lines C-1, C-2, C-3, C-4, C-5, C-7 & C-10

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Mercado el Rastro

Another one that’s only free if you simply attend to soak up the atmosphere…The Rastro flea market takes place in the barrio of Embajadores, in and around the Plaza de Cascorro, every Sunday and bank holiday from 9am till 3pm, and features thousands of stalls selling antiques, clothes, accessories, and traditional Spanish cookware. For a more touristy experience it’s best to go between 11am and midday, however bargain hunters and hagglers would do well to visit within the first hour of opening.

Nearest station:

LA LATINA – metro line 5
PUERTA DE TOLEDO – metro line 5
EMBAJADORES – metro line 3, cercanías line C-5

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Madrid Río

Between 2006 and 2011, the banks of the Manzanares river were transformed from a motorway into a large green cultural and recreational area. The park has a number of play areas for children of all ages, and often plays host to exhibitions, music festivals and open air theatre.

Walk northwards along the river and you’ll stumble upon the the Vicente Calderón stadium of Atlético Madrid, and further on you’ll find the Principe Pío station and shopping mall.

Nearest station:

*PRINCIPE PÍO – metro lines 6, 10 & R; cercanías lines C-1, C-7 & C-10
*PUERTA DEL ÁNGEL – metro line 6
MARQUÉS DE VADILLO – metro line 5
PIRÁMIDES – metro line 5, cercanías C-1, C-10
LEGAZPI – metro lines 3 & 6

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Puerta de Atocha

Madrid’s largest and primary railway hub, Atocha is the station serving trains to and from cities in the south of the country, high speed links to eastern cities, and the regional commuter trains known as Cercanías.

Those unfamiliar with the Spanish capital might recognise the name of the station as the sight of three (out of ten) coordinated explosions in the 11-M terrorist attacks in 2004, and the station houses an 11-metre tall memorial with messages of condolence and grief inscribed on the interior walls.

The old terminal building at Puerta de Atocha now houses a beautiful 4,000m2 indoor botanical garden, complete with palm trees, tropical fish and turtles. 

Nearest station:

ATOCHA – metro line 1
ATOCHA RENFE – metro line 1, cercanías lines C-1, C-2, C-3, C-4, C-5, C-7 & C-10

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Museo del Prado

The Prado Museum is Spain’s premier art gallery and showcases European art from the 12th century to the early 19th century, including works by Velázquez, Goya and El Greco.

Free entry to the gallery is granted Tuesday-Saturday 6-8pm and Sunday 5-8pm.

Nearest station:

ATOCHA – metro line 1
BANCO DE ESPAÑA – metro line 2

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Templo de Debod

The Temple of Debod was donated to Spain by the Egyptian government in 1968 as a thank you for Spain protecting and saving a number of archaeological and historical sites in Egypt.

Today el Templo stands proudly on the Calle Ferraz, at the southern end of the Parque del Oeste atop a cliff overlooking the massive Casa de Campo, and is the perfect place to watch the sun set behind the mountains of the Sierra de Gredos.

Nearest station:

PLAZA DE ESPAÑA – metro lines 3 & 10
PRINCIPE PÍO – metro lines 6, 10 & R; cercanías lines C-1, C-7 & C-10

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Parque Juan Carlos I

The Juan Carlos I park, located close to the Adolfo-Suarez Madrid-Barajas Airport and named for the first King Juan Carlos of Spain, is 400 acres of green space filled with trees, modern sculptures, children’s play areas and cycle tracks.

On a clear and sunny day, the Parque Juan Carlos I is a great place to lie down, catch some rays and spot some planes.

Nearest station:

CAMPO DE LAS NACIONES – metro line 9

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Parque del Buen Retiro

The Buen Retiro Park, or Retiro as it is colloquially known, is one of Madrid’s biggest’s parks and, without a doubt, the most popular. Featuring cafes, a boating lake, a rose garden, peacocks, and the magnificent Crystal Palace, Retiro is the perfect place to take your book, your picnic, or your rollerskates, and spend a chilled summer’s day.

Nearest station:

RETIRO – metro line 2
IBIZA – metro line 3
ATOCHA – metro line 1
ATOCHA RENFE – metro line 1, cercanías lines C-1, C-2, C-3, C-4, C-5, C-7 & C-10

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Mercado San Miguel

The San Miguel food market must be just about the closest thing there is to heaven on earth. The stunning glass building is not your typical farmers or grocery market, but a gourmet tapas experience with wine bars and fresh food such as cheeses, meats, fish, and desserts.

Nearest station:

SOL – metro lines 1, 2 & 3; cercanías line C-3 & C-4
ÓPERA – metro lines 2, 5 & R

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