Let’s face it: traveling is expensive. Sometimes you need a break from all that spending. Well, don’t worry, because there are plenty of ways you can enjoy Madrid for free.
The Prado’s Free Entrance Times
The Prado is perhaps the best-known museum in Madrid, showcasing works by Spanish painters such as Velázquez, Ribera, and Goya, as well as international artists like Fra Angelico, Titian, Rembrandt, and Bosch. The entrance fee normally costs 14€, or 23€ if you get the guide, but at certain times it’s completely free! You can get in without paying every day two hours or less before closing. Mondays through Saturdays, that’s from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. (last admission at 7:30), and on Sundays and holidays it’s from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. (last admission at 6:30). What a great deal! Be sure to check out the intriguing Black Paintings by Goya and Velázquez’s iconic Las Meninas. More information here.
The Reina Sofía’s Free Entrance Times
No trip to Madrid is complete without a visit to one of the most classic paintings by one of the most classic Spanish painters, Pablo Picasso. His Guernica is an enormous, unsettling masterpiece depicting the grief and suffering of the Spanish Civil War. It’s housed in the Reina Sofía museum, and guess what? You can see it for free! Admission to the museum is usually 8€ for the permanent collection and 4€ for exhibitions, but on Sundays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. you don’t have to pay a cent. You can also get in free on Mondays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Wednesdays through Saturdays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. (the museum is closed on Tuesdays). More information here.
Retiro Park and the Crystal Palace
Madrid’s stately park is always free to stroll around in. Admire the lake, smell the flowers in the Roselada rose garden, see the dramatic statue of Lucifer (“The Fallen Angel”), and discover the artificial mountain. You can also check out the modern art installations in the beautiful old Palacio de Cristal, a glass pavilion inspired by The Crystal Palace in London. Entrance to the Palacio de Cristal is completely free, and information on the installations is usually available in English as well as Spanish.
When you’re finished in the park, I suggest leaving by the exit at the end of Paseo Fernán Nuñez and continuing down Calle Claudio Moyano, also known as the Hill of Books. This name comes from the charming wooden kiosks that line the street, all painted the same blue color and bursting with books in all languages. (Note: Buying books, while highly recommended, is not a free activity.)
La Casa Encendida
If you want something completely off the beaten track, try La Casa Encendida (“The Burning House”). This art school-slash-gallery describes itself with the phrase Cultura + Solidaridad + Medio Ambiente + Educación (“Culture + Solidarity + The Environment + Education”). Exhibitions are usually 20th or 21st century art from Spain or other countries. There are also concerts and movie showings. Entrance to the gallery portion is always free. La Casa Encendida is located at Ronda Valencia 2, between metro stations Embajadores and Atocha, and is open from 10am to 10pm every day except national holidays. More information here (in Spanish).