101 Free or Cheap Things To Do in Madrid
I really miss living in Madrid because it’s ridiculously cheap and just beautiful (much more than the mega-touristy Barcelona) From rooftop bars to parks, there’s no shortage of activities to do in the Spanish capital. Chances are, if you’re reading this you’re planning to visit Madrid. Great choice! I’ve compiled a list of 101 free or cheap things to do in Madrid to help you plan your visit.
All the activities on this list are either completely free or cheap to save you tons of money on travel. By that, I mean that the activity will cost somewhere in the range of 5-30 euros per person unless you decide to splurge. I’ve done most of the things on this list so I can assure you they aren’t tourist traps! Tourist traps are the worst.
Getting around Madrid is super easy. If you’re at the center, near Gran Via and Puerta del Sol, you can walk to a lot of attractions in minutes. For longer commutes, you can take the metro, Cercanias Renfe (the train system) or the local bus – they come frequently.
Use the map below to find the locations of all 101 places on this list. Without further ado, here’s the list of 101 free or affordable things to do in Madrid.
- Casa Julio – one of the best croquetas (croquettes) in Madrid! This little restaurant serves gourmet croquetas with a variety of interesting flavors, like blue cheese and potato leek. There is also the classic jamón y queso – ham and cheese. This tapas bar is a must!
- La Buha – the Tortilla de Patata is a real winner. It’s stuffed with goat cheese and caramelized onions. Portions are huge so you may want to share.
- Restaurante Sobrino de Botin – founded in 1725, this is the oldest continuously running restaurant in the world. It’s an upscale restaurant with a dining experience that is second to none. Honestly, the prices, which range between 21-40 euros, are a bargain given the wonderful service and ambiance.
- El Tigre – always crowded and lively, El Tigre is one of the most popular tapas bars in Madrid. You get unlimited tapas with your drink. Croquetas, paella, jamón – the plates just keep coming! Prices are ridiculously low – drinks start at 2.5 euros. There are two locations, but the original one on Calle de las Infantas is better.
- Fatigas del Querer – this busy restaurant has a delicious assortment of meats and cheap cañas (cups of beer). It’s centrally located right next to Puerta del Sol.
- Puerto Rico – tucked away in a street next to Gran Via, this spot serves great Spanish comfort food at a ridiculously low price. We’re talking 4 euro plates with big portion sizes.
- Malaspina – Casual tapas bar at the heart of Puerta del Sol. The patatas bravas are delicious!
- Mercado de San Miguel – at first glance, this indoor market seems like a tourist trap, but it’s not. There is so much to eat here, from fresh oysters to paella. Prices depend on the vendor, but most of the food is budget friendly. This place is always crowded so if you don’t like crowds, stay away or go right when it opens – 10 am
- Mercado de San Anton – located in the Chueca neighborhood, this market is a great alternative to the very busy Mercado de San Miguel. It’s smaller and less crowded.
- El Pimiento Verde – specializes in Basque cuisine. It offers a wide selection of seafood platters and meats. Be sure to make a reservation as it gets busy.
- Los Angeles – You can’t visit Spain without eating Paella. This restaurant, usually packed locals, is the perfect place for that. Also, try their seafood specials.
- Restaurante Ribeira Sacra – Just minutes from Retiro Park, this restaurant serves some delicious Galician dishes, like Pulpo a la Gallega (octopus)
- Casa Salvador – Rabo de Toro, oxtail, is a delicacy in Spain. Casa Salvador is one of the best places to try this dish. The ambiance is perfect for a nice dinner for two.
- El Porron Canalla – they serve their drinks in a porron, a jug that looks like a cross between a watering can and an Erlenmeyer flask. The sandwiches are decent but more expensive than usual.
- Tximiri – absolutely amazing tapas, especially the tortilla de patata. Their menu of the day is always a bargain.
- Casa Lucio – classic Spanish food in a quiet setting with great service. It’s among the best restaurants in the La Latina neighborhood.
- Tribuetxe – the pintxos (Basque for tapas) at this Basque establishment are simply amazing! There is a good selection of wines too.
- Lamiak – Another Basque establishment where you can wash down delicious pintxos with great wine.
- Autocerveceria El Olivo – this little family-run bar offers excellent service and super cheap beers in a non-touristy environment.
- Casa Labra – historic restaurant with a delicious selection of tapas and classic Spanish food.
- Bahiana Club – tucked away in a non-touristy part of La Latina, this spot serves some seriously delicious tapas.
- Revoltosa – a quiet spot in Chueca for classic Madrid plates and cheap beers
- La Musa Latina – offers a tapas taster special for $30 per person. You get every type of tapa imaginable.
- Juana La Loca – The tortilla de patata is a huge hit. They also serve a variety of delicious tapas. This place gets packed so make a reservation.
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- Egeo – If you’re not in the mood for Spanish food, then you can try this little Greek place in Lavapies. The Souvlaki and feta cheese fries are highly recommended.
- La Cocina del Desierto – this is a great spot for authentic Moroccan cuisine in a charming setting. The name literally means ‘food of the desert.’
- Takos al Pastor – their 1 euro tacos are delicious! The Conchita Pibil tacos are a must.
- La Cevicucheria – If you’re in the mood for seafood, head over to this Peruvian establishment for some of the best Ceviche in Madrid.
- MU! El Placer de la Carne – this is Argentinian cuisine at its finest. Their steaks get rave reviews.
- Cacao Restobar – Venezuelan restaurant with great selection of gluten-free food and beer
- Trattoria Malatesta Restaurant – great Italian cuisine in the heart of Madrid with a wide selection of pizzas.
- La Hummuseria – the cozy atmosphere and healthy Vegetarian options make this Israeli restaurant a great choice
- Sombrero Azul – great pupusas in Malasaña owned by a nice Salvadorian family
- La Pizzateca – great pizza served by the slice with plenty of veggie options. Everything is served fresh. Price range 10 euros and under.
- El Jardin Secreto – this charming spot in Malasaña has an Alice in Wonderland aura. Their brownies will send you to brownie heaven! There is also a secret garden upstairs. Hence, the name.
- Musa Malasaña – friendly, quick service in a great atmosphere. A mix of Spanish and Latin American cuisine.
- Azotea del Circulo – a casual rooftop bar with views of Gran Via, the main street in Madrid. It’s located at the top of Circulo de Bellas Artes. The entrance is at the side of the building, not the front.
- El Viajero – located at the heart of La Latina, this spot is great for watching the sunset over a zesty Mediterranean dish
- La Terraza de Oscar – a cozy, luxurious lounge with great cocktails and a 360 view of Madrid
- La Terraza del Urban – a small terrace with comfortable loungers and great views of Madrid’s center
- Terraza de Sabatini – Gorgeous terrace with views of the Royal Palace and Sabatini Gardens. It has an upscale vibe and a decent selection of tapas and cocktails.
- Gymage – this lively rooftop bar is located at the top of a gym complex. It has a Mediterranean vibe, with cozy white futons and large beach umbrellas.
- Cubanismo – discreetly located on the third floor of an art gallery/shopping center, Cubanismo provides an intimate setting to chat with friends over cocktails.
Traditional Cocktail Bars
- La Bicicleta – a staple in the Malasaña bar scene, La Bicicleta is a great place for a date or a night out with friends. It serves a variety of drinks and gluten-free dishes.
- Areia Chill Out – this hotspot in Chueca is after a beach, complete with sand on the floor. The atmosphere is always lively and the drinks are top notch.
- Sunset 80’s – as the name suggests, this bar is a throwback to the 80s. You can sip on great cocktails while listening to 80s music.
- Soho – cozy environment and a great selection of cocktails. The service will have you coming back.
- Cava Baja 5 La Playa – this is a small pub located in an underground cave – a unique experience in Madrid.
- Del Diego Cocktail Bar – small bar with a 60s vibe that serves killer Mai Tais and Daiquiris.
- Elhecho – The name literally means ‘the fact.’ The fact is that the mojitos alone make this establishment worth a visit.
- 1862 Dry Bar – a classic bar and lounge serving some of the best cocktails in Madrid. The Whiskey Sour is a huge hit.
- Taproom Madrid – there are 40 different beers on tap. Need I say more?
- Macera Taller Bar – fun and lively atmosphere with a variety of artisanal drinks.
- La Terraza – there are two bars with this name. This one is located in La Latina. It’s a great spot to have a beer and relax.
- La Paca Café Bar – vintage bar/café in Malasana that also serves delicious cakes. The décor is quaint and homely.
- Café La Nueva Troje – cocktails and hookah in a relaxed environment. This place is not touristy at all.
- Wild Marlin – one of the best cocktail bars in La Latina, this joint offers delicious seafood plates and a variety of drinks.
- Bodega Angel Sierra – an old pub and wine bar tucked away in Chueca. The ambiance and drinks are both great.
- Irreale – a bar with every type of beer in the world. The best selection of on-tap craft beers in Madrid.
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- El Taller Puntera – looking for a unique souvenir? Head here for some of the finest leather goods in Madrid. Your purchase comes with complimentary engraving to add a personal touch.
- El Rastro – this Sunday flea market, open from 9 am to 3 pm, is overflowing with deals. You buy vintage clothes, leather bags, jewelry, electronics – virtually anything you can think of. There are also occasional performances from local musical groups.
- Gran Via – If you’re looking for high street brands like Zara, Gran Via is packed with them. It is the main street in the center of Madrid.
- Barrio de Salamanca – the neighborhood of Salamanca is the wealthiest district in the city of Madrid. You’ll find a lot of upscale stores here.
- Chocolateria San Gines – founded in 1894, San Gines is one of Madrid’s premier chocolate shops. It serves hot chocolate and churros 24/7. Their famous chocolate bars make great souvenirs.
- Calle Serrano, Salamanca – this is Madrid’s equivalent of Rodeo Drive. If you’re shopping for luxury goods, this is the place to go.
- Calle Preciados – located between Puerta del Sol and Santo Domingo in Madrid’s center, this street is lined with gift shops, retailers, and international franchises.
- Cuatro Caminos – this area in the northern district of Tetuan is home to the large Centro Comercial Moda shopping mall.
Explore the Culture
- El Museo del Prado – El Prado, Spanish’s national art museum, is easily one of the best art museums I’ve ever been to. It has a collection of 7,600 paintings and 1,000 sculptures dating from the 12th to 19th century.
- El Museo de la Reina Sofia – Pablo Picasso’s Guernica is housed here. The gigantic canvas is a must see when in Madrid! Besides that, there is a collection of 100,000 books specializing in art and many works by European artists.
- El Palacio Real – Spain’s official royal palace isn’t as famous as Versailles, but it is not to be overlooked. With 3418 rooms, it is the largest Royal Palace in Europe by area. Of course, not all the rooms are open to the public, but the palace tour will take you through ornately decorated rooms, collections of crown jewels, and storage of royal armory.
- Los Jardines de Sabatini – this classical garden, part of the Royal Palace, was designed in the 1930s. Located to the north of the royal palace, it’s a nice place to go for a stroll.
- La Catedral de Almudena – this cathedral faces the entrance of the royal palace. The soft blue color and ornate design provide a gorgeous backdrop for photos. The inside is also worth a stop.
- Corral de la Morería – the oldest venue for Flamenco in Madrid, this small theatre puts on a Flamenco show almost daily. Head here for an evening of captivating performances.
- Cardomomo Tablao Flamenco – located in the heart of Madrid, this Flamenco dance company has received critical acclaim from the New York Times. You can buy a ticket with a drink starting at 25 euros.
- Café de Chinitas – last but not least, Café de Chinitas hosts flamenco shows that stay true to its Andalusian roots. The venue is decorated in a traditional Andalucian style and attracts some of the best Flamenco dancers in Spain.
- Parque de Buen Retiro – El Retiro, the second largest park in Madrid, should be high on your list of places to go. The name literally means ‘Park of the Good Retreat’ and it sure is. Actually, it’s more like a little kingdom than a park. This place is huge! You definitely need to know where you’re going or you will likely get lost. Take a look at my map below.
Here are some of the highlights of the park:
Palacio de Cristal – The crystal place is not only stunning, but it also functions as a museum. There are different displays archeological finds and art throughout the year.
Lago del Retiro – this iconic lake is right in the middle of the park. Its image is what people normally associate with El Retiro. Here, you can rent a boat and go for a ride for about 30 minutes. They allow 1-4 people per boat. It is so much fun!
La Rosaleda – this lovely rose garden has statues and fountains surrounded by 4,000 roses. If you visit in May or June, it’s even more beautiful.
Casita del Pescador – this is a quaint, bright orange house surrounded by a pond. It stands out in a park full of greenery.
Jardines de Cecilio Rodriguez – this garden has some very special guests – peacocks! It also has a fountain that attracts tons of birds, a lovely sight.
- Templo de Debod – The government of Egypt gifted this ancient Egyptian temple to Spain as a thank you for their assistance in building the Aswan Dam. The temple, which dates back to the 2nd century BC, is probably the best place to see the sunset in Madrid. It’s located in the south of Parque del Oeste.
- Parque del Oeste – this park, whose name means park of the west, has picturesque rose gardens, fountains, and a long path that leads from the northern entrance to Templo de Debod in the south.
- Casa de Campo – the largest park in Madrid, Casa de Campo is in southwest Madrid. It’s not as pretty as El Retiro, but it’s a great place to relax. You can also go for a boat ride here.
- Telerifico de Madrid – this cable car connects Parque del Oeste and Casa de Campo. The ride gives you a birds-eye view of the entire city of Madrid
- Parque Tio Pio – If you want to get away from tourists for a bit, this park is a great escape. It’s almost always empty and offers a view of Madrid’s Retiro neighborhood.
- Plaza Mayor – this is the town center of Madrid that you’ve probably seen in a million pictures. It’s a great place to sit, relax, and have a drink. There are also a number of restaurants and souvenir shops in the square, but they tend to be more expensive.
- Madrid Rio – this is a recreational area surrounding the Manzanares River that runs through Madrid. It includes a park, a bike trail, and various bridges that are great spots for photos.
- Jardín Principe de Anglona – this is one of the smallest parks in Madrid and isn’t touristy so it’s a perfect escape from the crowds in the center.
- Parque de Berlin – this park brings a piece of German history to Madrid. It is home remnants of the Berlin Wall – three small sections of the wall. It is also not touristy.
- Parque El Capricho – this is a historical park that housed members of the army during the Spanish Civil War. It is absolutely stunning yet largely unknown. Go during the weekend as it’s not open on weekdays.
- Parque Europa – located in the neighborhood of Torrejon de Ardoz, this park features replicas of Europe’s most important monuments. Getting there requires a 30-40 minute metro ride from the center.
- Parque de Juan Carlos I – an enormous park with dozens of sculptures and fountains. If you take your passport, you can rent a bike for free to explore the park.
- Teatro Kapital – this 7-story club is the biggest in Madrid and an experience like no other. Each floor has a different theme and plays a specific music genre, from hip-hop to Reggaeton. Even if you’re not into clubbing, it’s worth a visit. The lines during weekends wrap around the block, and the bouncers turn people away at times. Normally, women can get in for free on weekdays if they arrive before 10 pm. Men have to pay. Spanish people don’t arrive at the club until past 2 am so the club is usually empty before then.
- Teatro Barcelo – if you’re looking for somewhere more low-key than Kapital, Teatro Barcelo is a good choice – great music and good looking people.
- Joy Eslava – located right to Puerta del Sol, this club is always a good time and much cheaper than Kapital. The bouncers can be a bit pushy so be warned.
- Fabrik – this club is great if you like techno and electronic music. The dance floor is gigantic so it feels like a big party. Getting here, though, may up to an hour by train because it’s outside Madrid’s center.
- Toni 2 – this piano/karaoke bar is a favorite among those who like classic songs. Basically, different pianists take turns playing classic English and Spanish songs on a piano while a crowd of mostly-drunk people sing along. This is not your typical club.
- Sala El Sol – it’s a lively underground club that attracts lots of beautiful, young people.
- Thundercat Club – this venue specializes in classic rock with some occasional pop. Local bands sometimes perform rock hits from the 70s and 80s.
- Siroco – a small, intimate venue for those who want to escape the crowds at Kapital. It’s more expensive than your typical club in Madrid, but the atmosphere and music are great.
- Freshly Comedy – Madrid has a growing English-language comedy scene. Freshly Comedy is one of the best standup and improv groups in Spain. Their show, held at Beer Station Madrid, will leave you in hysterics.
- MAD Improv – this group performs stand up in both English and Spanish so it’s a great venue for those who want to learn about Spanish humor.
Take a Day Trip
If you have extra time to spare after touring the city, you could escape to one of these nearby destinations. Staying within your 50 euro budget is possible with some planning.
Tip: if you want to save on transportation, use a ride-share service called Bla Bla Car. I used it to travel around Spain and Europe cheaply for almost a year. It helps to know Spanish to communicate with the driver, but some of them speak English.
99. El Escorial – this is a former royal residence that became a monastery. It’s about 30 miles from the center of Madrid. If you have an extra day to spare, it is definitely worth a visit. The architecture, the gardens, and the surrounding area are gorgeous! The structure is on a hill so once you exit the train, you can either walk for 30 minutes or take the bus.
100. El Palacio de Aranjuez – built in the 16th century, this former royal residence is a French-style, sprawling compound. There is a garden and a lake behind the palace, which provide a relaxing atmosphere. Aranjuez is a one-hour train ride away from Madrid’s center.
101. Alcala de Henares – this charming little town is the birthplace of Miguel Cervantes, one of Spain’s greatest authors. If you’re into Spanish literature, you will enjoy el Museo Natal de Cervantes – the Cervantes Birthplace Museum. Also, this town is small so you can walk around it quickly.
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