If you’re traveling to Spain and you’re on a budget, you may want to make a stopover into Madrid! Here are 10 places that you may want to take a look at…and yes, they’re free! Also, you can still enjoy the sexy nightlife at some clubs without paying a cent.
1. Museo Tifológico – If you’re familiar with the “See and Touch” museums, then here is an interesting twist. It’s called the “Touch and Touch Some More”. It was actually designed for the blind to help them do their version of sightseeing. There’s nothing more exciting than running your hands over some of the worlds greatest monuments and modern works of art. These are mostly sculptures and many are from visually impaired artists. There’s no “Don’t Touch” rule here! Try doing this tour with your eyes closed…an experience you’re sure to remember! Closed Sun-Mon
2. Museo Taurino (Bullfighting Museum) – If by chance you are unable to see a live bullfight in Madrid, the next best thing would be to visit Museo Taurino…the bullfighting museum.
There are many artifacts to see, that range from blood-stained outfits and costumes that belonged to matadors that have died fighting, to actual bull heads! It all seems quite intriguing and may even be a little disturbing to look at for some. Overall, it is all a part of the rich history of bullfighting. One more point that many are not aware of; Madrid is one of the beset places to see a bullfight. It tends to attract less tourists than some of the other areas like Andalusia.
3. Christmas in Madrid – Much like their American brothers, people in Madrid celebrate Christmas with just as much if not more fervor and joy than any other group of people I’ve ever seen!
There are several Christmas events and locations that you may want to take note of while visiting Madrid. The main Christmas Market is located in the Plaza Mayor; it opens the last week in November with it’s official opening in the first week of December. Although like their American counterparts, most of Madrid will be covered in Christmas lights, one of the most spectacular sights is on Gran Via, c/Goya and c/Ortega y Gasset. The many El Corte Inglés department stores are beautifully decorated as well.
4. Museo del Prado – This is officially one of Spain’s most popular tourist sights. It’s free from 6pm to 8pm from Tuesday to Saturday and 5pm to 8pm on Sundays.
The Museo del Prado is actually Spain’s’ premier art gallery and houses the finest works of art Spain has ever produced. A “must see”!
5. Temple Debod – In the Parque de la Montaña, near the center of the city, you’ll find the most surprising monument in Madrid, The Temple de Debod. This is an authentic Egyptian temple that was built in the 4th century B.C. at the village Debod near the sacred temple island of Philae. It was dedicated to the gods Amon and Isis. Due to the danger of it being flooded, Spanish Engineers helped the Egyptian government move the temple to Madrid where it was reconstructed. Officially opened in 1972, the entrance to the temple is free and opening times are: 10am to 2pm and 6pm to 8pm during the summer. During the winter months: 9:45am to 1:45pm and 4:15 to 6:15.
6. Parque Del Buen Retiro – The Parque Del Buen Retiro is the most popular park in Madrid and there’s a good reason for that too. Lots of fun activities for the whole family! Face painters, jugglers, musicians, and street performers, and fortune tellers animate the whole crowd as you stroll through. Close to the northern entrance of the park is where you’ll be able to find a man-made lake, Estanque del Retiro, where you can rent a rowing boat to take in the essence of this beautiful park.
Another feature is the Rose Garden, the Rosaleda. The park also has ‘El Angel Caído’, claimed to be the only statue in the world in honor of Lucifer. There is also what is called The Forest of the Departed or Bosque de Los Ausentes, a memorial monument to commemorate the 191 victims of the March 2004 Madrid train bombings. This is a huge place that should not be underestimated. You will not be able to just breeze through this place, there’s lots to see so allow several hours to stroll around. The park is located east of the city center, not far from the Prado Museum. It’s entrance is at the Alcala Gate, at the Plaza de la Independencia.
7. Plaza Mayor – Once the sight of bullfights, public burnings of heretics, canonization of saints, executions of criminals, crowning of kings, royal marriages, masked balls, fireworks and all manner of events…celebrations, festivals and ceremonies, Plaza Mayor has played a major part in Spanish history. Today, it hosts fairs, bazaars and performances. Visiting the many shops and cafe’s or perhaps dinner at some of the liveliest tapas bars in the city is what will bring your site seeing to an exciting climax. On the ground level of the arcade there are many shops, some selling souvenir hats of turn-of-the-century Spanish sailors or army officers. You’ll also find pedestrians passing under the arches of the huge square onto the streets of the old town where you will find the most interesting restaurants serving tasty tapas and drinks. From the Plaza, take Arco de Cuchilleros, packed with markets, restaurants, flamenco clubs, and taverns, to explore this district. A word of caution: Be wary of thieves, especially late at night.
8. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Renia Sofía – If you’re an art lover, then this is one of the places that should be a “must see” on your list while in Madrid. Entry is free on Saturday and Sunday after 2:30pm. Note: Take along an umbrella when it’s hot, it gets crowded and you may be standing in line in the hot sun for a bit. In the Renía Sofia, you will find pieces like Picasso’s “Guernica” and other installations by artists like, Miró, and Gris, as well as avant garde turn of the century Spanish works. With Saturday and Sunday being free admission days, it is quite naturally crowded on those days. In the courtyard, you’ll find a serene place to unwind after several hours of cultural elevation.
9. Plaza de España – The Plaza de España is one of Madrid’s largest and popular squares. On any given sunny day, the streets are filled with vendors, tourists, and sunbathing locals. The square is located at the end of the beautiful Gran Via, one of Madrid’s busiest streets. Surrounded on four sides by busy streets, it is located in a forest of skyscrapers…but it is still a very relaxing place. The shady trees on the south side of the plaza are especially welcoming on a hot day. A popular sight at the Plaza de España is the monument to Miguel de Cervantes, writer of the world famous story of Don Quixote de la Mancha and his trusty squire, Sancho Panza. You’ll find visitors flocking to the monument to get their pictures taken next to the bronze statue of Don Quixote on his horse and Sancho Panza on his mule. Behind them is a statue of Cervante himself. Note: Plaza de España is also the name of a Metro station located on the eastern corner of the plaza, serviced by the Number 3 and Number ten lines, with a connection to the Number 2 line. It would behoove you not to get the two mixed up!
10. Night life in Madrid – Now this is where things really get hoppin’! The night life in Madrid typically begins at 11pm at most clubs (with the most serious clubs starting at 1am), and continuing until well after the sun comes up. If you’re a night-owl, you’ll find this city a party paradise.
Reminding me of New York, it is also known as “The City that Never Sleeps”. Rush hour proportion crowds begin to fill the streets at around 4am. Where to go – Night life is divided into three major districts: The Chueca, which is Madrid’s gay village, is also a trendy location for the straights. Huertas, where you’ll find traditional Spanish music with sharp clubs and bars, and finally Plaza de los Mayo which is located in the Malasaña district, this tends to be a favorite among the young hip crowd.
Speaking of favorites, word on the street is a club called KAPITAL. It’s a four floor dance club with some of the best music around. Something to keep in mind as well is that most clubs tend to be full by 4am. The best time to go would be around 1:30 or 2 in order to get in. With the busiest time of the week being Friday and Saturday, most locals are out every night of the week. How they manage to get up the next day, go to work and/or school, is beyond me! On another note: The age limit tends to be 22 years old to frequent many of these clubs. It’s a varied night scene that pretty much covers any type of music you’d like to hear, with Latin American, world music, mainstream disco, R&B, flamenco, salsa and jazz.
A little tip: Most tourists converge on the clubs around the Sol and Gran Vía, but the suggestion is that you visit some of the local clubs instead…there is no admission charge and chic dress is recommended (No tennis shoes, jeans with holes…you know the drill). It’s very easy to prowl the streets around Sol and the neighboring areas finding free entry and Chupitos (a small shot) and Cañas (small beer) along with coupons for drinks (Copas). The shots are generally weak and the beer a bad Spanish brand, but hey, it’s free!