Plaza of people walking
Free Things to Do in Madrid

13 FREE Things to Do in Madrid in 2023

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If you love visiting capital cities to see their architecture, explore their history and experience gastronomic cuisine. Then you’ll find Madrid ticks the boxes.

Madrid is a pedestrian-friendly city, easy to navigate on foot, with many free things to do.

We suggest spending at least three days in Madrid to visit its expansive plazas, churches and cathedrals, museums and of course the palace.

It’s one of the reasons we love to slow travel, to experience more of the places we stop to visit, just like Madrid.

So, grab your water bottle and walking shoes, and let’s explore the best of Madrid.

Get your Self-Guided Walking Guide to Madrid before you arrive.

Download MADRID Self-Guided City Walk to plan your way around the iconic places of Madrid city. Get your Self-Guided City Walk here.


Best 13 FREE Things to Do in Madrid

But first, you need a place to stay.

We loved our stay at the Petit Palace Hotel because of its easy access to the streets and plazas surrounding it.

With so many interesting places to see and experience in this wonderful city, Madrid may become your favourite city in Spain.

And if you are staying longer in Madrid, take a day trip to Segovia.

1. Start at PUERTO del SOL

Sculpture of a Bear eating a Tree
Bear eating from a Strawberry Tree in Puerto del Sol

If you have kids, one fun thing to do in the plaza is to find the famous Bear eating from the Strawberry Tree.

This famous sculpture became the Coat of Arms back in the 15th century. It’s unique and one place you need to get a photo.

The plaza is a favourite place to meet up, so be prepared, especially in the evenings,  weekends or festivals when the crowds flock here.

2. Enjoy Events at PLAZA de MAYOR

Sculpture of a Man on a Horse
Statue of King Philip III in Plaza de Mayor, Madrid

You will find yourself enclosed as you enter the plaza through one of its nine gateways. On all four sides of the plaza, buildings built in the 15th century look out over the square.

The plaza was once the centre of Madrid. A statue of King Philip III of Spain was a gift from the Duke of Florence in 1616.

Events are often held here, including the Christmas market. You will find street entertainers, cafes and restaurants to enjoy.

And in the evening, the plaza is well-lit for a wonderful ambience.


Teatro Real (Opera House) Madrid
Teatro Real (Opera House) Madrid with a statue of Felipe IV

The Royal Theatre, founded in 1818, finally had its magnificent Teatro Real, at the request of Isabel II, after 32 years of planning and construction opened in 1850.

Although the building was closed in 1925 with damage from the construction of the metro, it reopened in 1966 to showcase the many arts, ballet, opera, and flamenco music performances.

4. Find Shade in PLAZA ORIENTE

The Plaza del Oriente in between the Royal Palace and the Opera House is very distinctive with the monument and fountain of Felipe IV.

Here the children can find sculptures of the different kings and queens of Spain.  For us adults, find a shady spot and a seat to recharge.



5. Experience the Buzz at MERCADO de San Miguel

People eating inside a market
Mercado de San Miguel

Who doesn’t love an indoor food market?

When you find yourself inside the San Miguel Market, you are in one of the oldest markets in Madrid.

You’ll be impressed with this classic building originally built in 1916. And when it was purchased in 2003, the refurbishment of iron and glass was amazing.

As a result, inside, you will find the market “pumping” with people chatting, eating and drinking from one of the 30 vendors.

If you feel like parting with your cash, the bite-size tapas of Spanish cuisine is delicious. Or you can sample from the small dishes on countertops to see if your taste buds like the flavours first.

6. Beauty and Intrigue of The ROYAL Palace

View of stone church and building
View of the Royal Palace and La Almudena Cathedral

One of the best places to see in Madrid is The Royal Palace (Palacio Real).

This stunning building, styled on Versailles, with its interior taking 100 years to furnish, is one of the largest Royal Palaces in Western Europe.

In 1764 it was the royal residence, but now it is only used for state occasions.

And to see the Plaza de la Armeria, Armoury Square, you can view to the front left of the Palace. It’s a great spot for photographs.

Look through to courtyard
Plaza de la Armeria, Armoury Square

7. Impressive ALMUDENA Cathedral

Two spires of a church
Almudena Cathedral

To the front left of the Royal Palace, you can find the impressive Almudena Cathedral.

For a donation of €1, you can find your way inside the Cathedral, which was initially planned as a Pantheon for Queen Maria de la Mercedes in 1879. But a decree from Pope Leo XIII in 1885 saw the plans change to build a cathedral.

Finances, wars, and an architect’s death were why the cathedral wasn’t consecrated until 1993.


8. Sneak Peek at JARDINES DE SABATINI of Royal Palace

Water pond in front of a building

To the front right of the Royal Palace is the Jardines de Sabatini, with a view of the Royal Palace.

The gardens are FREE to enjoy, with fountains and flower beds in a tranquil setting.


9. It’s True there’s an EGYPTIAN Temple in Madrid

Egyptian Temple, Madrid
Templo de Debod, Madrid

Now, if you thought having an Egyptian Temple in Madrid was odd, different, believable. Then the answer is Yes. There is an Egyptian temple called Templo de Debod.

The temple itself dates to the 2nd century BC.

The temple was given as a gift to the Spanish people from Egypt for their help in moving many historic buildings during the construction of the Aswan Dam in the 1960s.

In Egypt, people worshipped the gods Amon and Isis at the Templo de Debod. To find the temple, take a walk to Parque de la Montana, where you also have fabulous views of Madrid.


10. WINDOW Shopping You Can’t Resist

Green cat sign for artisan market
Shopping on Gran Via for Artisan products

Window shopping is always fun, and on Gran Via, you have big brands and boutique stores. This street is busy.

And to know what the Spanish chics and guys are wearing, go window shopping. For a glimpse into prices, styles and what’s new for the season, it’s all here in Gran Via.

For more contemporary items, stop at the Mercato del Gato.

Here you can find artisan items like jewellery and clothing.


11. FREE Entry to Museo del Prado

People in front of museum building
Prado Museum

You can visit the National Art Museum of Spain, and the Prado Museum, for FREE.

With European art dating back to the 12th century, the museum is a must-see. And why it is popular.

Monday to Saturday from 18:00 – 20:00 is FREE

Sunday and Holidays from 17:00 – 19:00 is FREE

But it would be best to arrive at least 1.5 hours before as the queue is long. Remember to bring some snacks for the waiting area at the side of the building.

To check entry times, click here: Prado Museum.

12. Panoramic Views from CITY HALL

Three tier stone building
City Hall of Madrid

The first Wednesday of the month entry is FREE; otherwise, the cost is £2.

The opening time is 10:30.

Once you have your ticket, take the lift to the 6th floor for a short climb up four flights of steps to an open viewing area.

Then you can be amazed at the 360-degree panoramic views of the city.

The City Hall, also known as the Communications Palace, is on a very busy roundabout. Across the road is the Buenavista Palace, now used for the Spanish military.


13. Take Some Time at PARK DE EL RETIRO

Garden with small hedges

Near the Puerto da Alcazar triumphal gate is an entrance to the Park de El Retiro.

When you enter the park, you see how large it is. You can bring a coffee or a picnic while you listen to buskers or watch people rowing on the pond in front of the Crystal Palace.

There are plenty of pathways to wander throughout the park where you can stop reading or nap to shelter from the sun.


We Know You Need to EAT

Couple eating out wrapped up for the cold
Try the Malasana area for tapas and Beers

Malasana Area

To escape the crowds, we suggest finding restaurants in the Malasana area known as the Literary Quarter.

Here, you can enjoy authentic local specialities like Patatas Bravas (spicy fried potato), Marinated Anchovies, and Boquerones (whole anchovies).

Try a local beer or wine to complement the meal.

Enrique Tomas

One of the best places for a tasty sandwich is Enrique Tomas.

Enrique Tomas uses an ancient method of curing meat known locally as jamon. These Iberian Hams can be seen hanging from the rafters.

Therefore, all you need to do is to choose your meat, have it sliced up for either a platter or a sandwich and delight in the texture and flavour.

Enjoy a glass of wine, beer or coffee, and you are set to explore more of Madrid.

Chocolatería San Ginés

A speciality of Spain is munching on churros when dipped into a cup of thick hot chocolate. Are you tempted?

Maybe Chocolateria San Gines, who have been serving customers chocolate con churros (chocolate with churros) since 1894, is your best option.

Churros are fried dough sticks coated in sugar and easily fill your tummy in the late afternoon before dinner at 8 pm.


Finding the Best of Madrid

Madrid is a vibrant city to visit in Spain with an inner-city easy to navigate along with its pedestrian-friendly areas.

These 13 easy things for the best time in Madrid will keep more money in your pocket. But it will also show you the best of Madrid for free.

And getting to the inner city from the airport is reasonably priced by bus or taxi. Your hotel may even have set rates for the taxi.

However, if you take the metro from the train station to your hotel, be prepared to change metro lines.

Madrid is also great for day trips to nearby places like Aranjuez, Toledo, and Segovia.

When planning your visit to Spain, Madrid is a city that won’t disappoint.