Spain, a country romanticized throughout films has conjured dreams of Spanish wines, delicious food, and vibrant energetic culture. One of the best cities to visit is Madrid, a place that attracts tourists from all over the world. . With an abundance of activities to do and sights to see, there are things to do in Madrid for any traveler.
Madrid is a major cultural capital of Europe, being considered as one of its most progressive, beautiful, and modern cities.
Any trip to Europe can be a little heavy on the bank account with tourist attractions attracting tourist prices. So we have put together this list of 12 free things to do in Madrid to help you experience all that Madrid has to offer, without breaking the bank.
What to do in Madrid – Entertainment and Attractions
Wondering what to do and the best places to visit near Madrid? This list is for all the explorers who want to experience the best of Madrid for free with a combination of the must-see things to do and see, and a few different adventures thrown in.
La Tabacolera “
A former tobacco factory is now one of Madrid’s hotspots for cultural diversity. This is one of the best places to visit in Madrid for some entertainment and to immerse yourself in the local culture. It’s a popular public space for exhibitions, individual expression, galleries, and lectures.
Anyone can use the site to paint, perform, and dance. It is listed as a Heritage of Cultural Interest by the Spanish government while maintaining an open-door policy for all, regardless of social identity.
Travel Tip: Before you go, check La Tabacalera’s website for a schedule of events and times, most of which are free.
Mercado de Motores Market
On the second weekend of every month, the Motor Market is the place to be. An old railway station that is now a huge flea market and a must for vintage-lovers with anything imaginable for sale.
The entrance is free and you aren’t required to buy anything. But if something catches your eye and you feel that you simply must have this keepsake, we’re sure that you can find a few bargains there and take a little bit of Spain home with you.
Learn the local language – Intercambios
We suggest a trip to a language exchange which can be found around the city. This must-do in Madrid is created for tourists to promote conversation in various languages. The goal is to simply practice your language skills, with no money changing hands, only the cost of a refreshing beverage.
There are various venues around Madrid where these meets take place, but we highly recommend Café Madrid, a popular destination in the city.
Best of Madrid Attractions
Here are a few things to do in Madrid, some hidden gems thrown in with the more popular must-sees of Madrid, even a spooky one for the fearless at heart.
San Antonio de los Alemanes
Just off the Gran via is a small and unassuming building that you could walk past without even knowing the beauty that awaits inside. A 17th-century church with the nickname of ‘the Sistine Chapel of Madrid” has a stunningly frescoed dome ceiling. These were painted in 1662 and commissioned by King Felipe IV of Spain.
A token donation of 2 Euros ($2.34 USD) is asked to enter but it is worth every penny to witness one of the most unassuming Spain attractions.
Mon – Sat: 10.30am – 14.00pm
Atocha Station tropical garden
A jungle inside a train station? Yes, hidden within one of Madrid’s transport hubs is a tropical forest. It’s a wonderful place to escape the madness of the city and enter an area of serenity.
Containing over 7,000 plants from over 260 species, wander among breadfruit trees from Polynesia and other tropical locations. It’s a good place to read a book and have a coffee while planning the things to see in Madrid next.
Entrance to the station is free and is open Mon-Sun: 5.00 am – 13.00 pm
Previously home to many kings of Spain, with over 3,000 rooms, a throne hall, and the main staircase. Designed by Sabatini this a top Spain attraction in general as one of Europe’s largest castles.
Don’t expect to bump arms with the Royal family as they no longer live there. But it remains the official residence for the King and Queen for state ceremonies.
Entrance is currently free for all visitors from Mon – Thu after 16.00 pm.
But if you would like a guided tour, they are available here.
Changing of the Royal Guard
What trip to the Royal palace is complete without watching the changing of the guard? It’s a biweekly event where four members of the Royal Guard are relieved of positions. It’s a must-do in Madrid.
Keep an eye out for the ever-impressive spectacle of the monthly changing of the Royal Guard with over 400 people and 100 horses marching to the fifes and drums.
Monthly change – First Wednesday at noon.
Bi-weekly – Wednesday and Saturday from 11.00 am – 14.00 pm
Chamberli Ghost station
For those looking for something a little different from the popular attractions of Madrid, how about a visit to one of Madrid’s first metro stations? Abandoned for decades, this station is like taking a step back in time into the 1920s with everything being fully restored. You can throw in some cool and unusual facts about Madrid to your friends while exploring inside.
Just don’t be frightened when a train comes past as this station is still on the active route of the metro. But there is a piece of glass separating the track and station.
Entrance is free but make sure to go early as there is a “one person in, one person out” policy in place.
- Thursdays: 10 am to 1 pm
- Fridays: 11 am to 7 pm
- Saturdays and Sundays: 11 am to 3 pm
- Mon – Fri: 11am – 7pm
- Sat – Sun: 11am – 3pm
- Closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
What to see in Madrid
We couldn’t leave out some of the top sightseeing locations in Madrid to fill up those memory cards with. So below are just a few that we recommend.
Templo de Debod
Ancient Egypt in the heart of Spain? Yes, this is real, dating back to the 2nd century BC as a humble chapel. It was expanded over the years until the Roman emperors Augustus and Tiberius finished construction and the decoration of the building.
To help understand the meaning of the structure, scale models and videos can be seen with audio-visual material projected onto the walls.
The inside is currently closed to visitors, but you can still walk along the walkway during opening hours with a limit of 30 minutes per visit.
- Tue – Fri: 10.00am – 15.00pm
- Sat – Sun & public holidays: 10.00am – 20.00pm
- Closed Mondays, Jan 1 and 6, May 1 and December 24, 25 and 31
Parque de Juan Carlos 1
One of the many places to visit in Madrid is Juan Carlos 1 park, where the entrance is free. An immense park covering 160 Hectares, this park includes attractions including a collection of sculptures, an activity center, dozens of fountains, and a maze. It’s the perfect place to escape the city and unwind.
There is a free train that takes you around the park for when your feet get a little tired. It leaves every 30 minutes.
Travel tip: If you would rather take a bicycle and explore the park at your own pace, take your passport and you can rent a bike for free.
- Jun – Sep: Mon – Sun 7.00am – 1.00am
- Oct – May: Sun- Thu 7.00am – 11.00pm; Fri-Sat 7.00am – Midnight
El Retiro Park
El Retiro Park is an oasis in the heart of Madrid where you will find interesting gardens and monuments (such as the Rosaleda rose garden) with various exhibitions and events always taking place. One of the best things to do in Madrid is the Glass Palace, a glass pavilion built-in 1887 to house exotic plants but now used as an exhibition hall.
Popular events are held here every year with one of the most stunning being the fireworks display held in honor of San Isidro, the city’s patron saint.
If you don’t mind splashing out a little to experience this park on a fun segway tour, you can find guided tours are available here.
Gran Via Avenue
Gran Via Avenue is the most popular tourist street in Spain. A crowded street full of shoppers and sightseers alike, you can take a stroll and window shop at all the various stores along “the great lane” while admiring the monumental buildings. It ends in the Plaza de España Square, one of the largest squares in the city.
Although the stores are relatively expensive, it costs nothing to walk around and immerse yourself in the chaos and beauty of this popular location.
Is Madrid Worth Visiting?
Madrid is a must-see for anyone traveling through Spain. With incredible history and heritage, there is something there for everyone. Madrid should be on your list of places to visit in Spain, the perfect start to a journey where you can then travel to Barcelona after seeing all Madrid has to offer.
It’s a city that does not disappoint in showcasing its past, celebrating its present, and introducing its future. When in Madrid, do as Madrilieños do. Just don’t forget your map