If you're living abroad, it's quite likely that you're a student or an intern. It's also quite likely that you're a little strapped for cash.
Well, thank your lucky stars that you live in Madrid.
It may be the capital of Spain, but compared to other European cities, Madrid is pretty cheap. Especially during summer, when you can spend your whole time outdoors and hardly spend a céntimo.
Here’s a list of free, and almost free things to do in the city of infinite bars...
1. Go to the cinema
In Madrid, you could go to the cinema 3 times in one week, and still pay less than for one screening in London.
Spend a little...
No, you don’t have to be part of a special club. On Wednesdays, standard cinemas offer half priced entry for all their movies.
If you want to see a film in VOSE (original language, Spanish subtitles), you should check out Cines Renoir, and Yelmo Cine Ideal. Invest in a MovieYELMO card (just €2.50) for promotions, discounted tickets, and all sorts of other surprises.
If you're a fan of documentaries, there's no better place to go than the Cinéteca. It’s the only cinema in Spain that exclusively shows non-fiction films.
Travel back in time at the Ciné Doré. It’s a retro cinema that screens art-house and classic films. When you're done, grab a snack at the authentic Mercado de Antón Martín. It's a less touristy version of the Mercado San Antón.
The Spanish Film Academy, Círculo de Bellas Artes, and the French Institute are great places to watch films for free. They focus on Independent Cinema, and sometimes host mini film festivals.
2. And what about the theatre?
Going to the theatre is a rare treat, but it doesn’t have to be. The most interesting (and cheapest) options are those you’ve never heard of.
Spend a little...
Are you free on Wednesday? Well, the theatre certainly is (almost)!
We don’t know why ‘half price Wednesdays’ is a thing, but it’s great. Just like the cinema, many theatres offer 50% off to give you a little mid-week pick up. How kind.
Try the Centro Dramático Nacional for discount theatre tickets. Not only do they offer half-price Wednesdays, but if you’re under 30-years-old, you can get 75% off tickets on every performance. Just show up 30 minutes before the show and ask at the main desk.
Head to Microteatro por dinero for a very unique experience. It's situated in an old brothel in Malasaña, but don't let that put you off. Each show costs €4 and lasts for 15 minutes. You can get your little fix of theatre without giving up much time or money!
Try Atrapalo. It’s a website that offers discounts from performances across Madrid.
3. Check out some live music
If you enjoy listening to, or playing music, you're in luck. There are several spots in Madrid where you can get your live music fix.
Open mic nights
Triskel Tavern is Madrid's first open mic night. It's where it all started. This cosy cellar provides an intimate setting for those who want to listen to some good quality musicians doing what they do best. Anyone can play, but there's normally a limit of 3 songs per singer. Triskel Tavern is quite well-known in the music community, and takes place every Thursday from 10pm.
Sala Búho Real is another great option for mid-week music. The crowd is more Spanish than at Triskel's, and you can expect to hear a mix of acoustic covers and original songs. This event takes place every Wednesday from 9:30pm.
Open Mic Color Azul: this night is a little different. The first half is dedicated to comedians, and the second half is for music. Come to Bar Picnic in Malasaña on Wednesdays to see what it's all about.
La Coquette is probably Madrid's most atmospheric venue. Set in a brick basement, this tiny bar was Madrid's first to be exclusively dedicated to the blues. Jam sessions take place every Thursday, and they are as groovy as it gets.
El Intruso hosts a jazz jam session on Tuesdays from 11pm.
At El Junco, you can find jam sessions on most nights of the week. Genres include Hip-Hop, soul, funk jazz, blues, and Flamenco Fusion. It'll be your new favourite place.
Madrid is a paradise for food lovers. And in this city, cheap doesn’t always mean bad quality.
Spend a little…
Do you want sushi, and lots of it? Head to Xake next to Gran Vía for an all-you-can-eat buffet. Expect to pay less than €10 on a weekday. It even has a revolving belt, like the ones you see in the movies.
Try a training restaurant. La Finca de Susana should be up there with one of the best restaurants in Madrid. With main courses for less than €10, this Michelin Star training restaurant will hit the spot. Try the Arroz Negro for a life changing experience. By the way, you can't book in advance, so be prepared to wait a little.
Welcome to the country of tapas. Technically, you’re spending a little (for your drink), but hey, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
You don’t really know Madrid until you’ve been to El Tigre. Love it or hate it, you can’t say that this place isn't value for money. The food isn’t the best quality, but it's difficult to complain when a whole plate comes with your €3 glass of wine.
Fun fact: tapas is Spanish for ‘lid.’ People used to cover their drinks with cheese, ham or bread to keep the flies out.
5. Cool places to hang out
As Ernest Hemingway once said, 'nobody goes to bed in Madrid until they have killed the night.' But what he forgot to say was that this city is just as good by day.
Spend as much as you want...
Markets aren’t just a French thing. Madrid is a big player on the ‘market’ scene. Food + live music + things you’ve never seen before = a great plan for the weekend.
You'll already know about El Rastro, so here are some others that you might want to explore…
Every 2nd and 4th weekend of the month, the Mercado de Motores takes place in an old railway station. This is the best place to buy gifts - you can guarantee that no one has ever seen anything from here before.
What to expect: artisanal products, retro steam trains, foodtrucks, and live bands.
Once a month, the Matadero hosts the Mercado Central de Diseño. This market showcases the work of emerging designers and artists from Madrid.
Matadero Madrid. This building complex has changed a lot since its slaughterhouse days. The Matadero is now a cultural centre, and you can go there to find exhibitions, concerts, talks, workshops, markets, a recording studio, and a theatre. Oh, and you'll also find the Cinéteca and Design Market that we mentioned earlier...
The Tabacalera. The Tabacalera monopoly was privatised in 1999, which meant that this tobacco factory wasn't needed any more. The Tabacalera has since been converted into a community space/cultural centre. It's better this way.
At the Tabacalera, you can see something different every week. Think salsa classes, community vegetable gardens, photography workshops, and much, much more.
6. Meander through a museum
Is it raining? Probably not. This is Madrid, after all. But in this city, rain doesn’t have to be an excuse to visit a museum.
Most museums have an entrance fee, but not these ones...
The Madrid History Museum is on Calle Fuencarral, and it's free all the time. Head here to learn a little about the city that you live in.
Want to visit an abandoned metro station for free? Head to Anden 0. It's still covered in advertisements from the 1960's. Spooky.
Do you like really old stuff? You’ll love the National Archaelogical Museum of Spain. Come here for prehistoric cave paintings, Roman mosaics, and sacred artefacts galore.
Some museums are kind enough to offer free entry at certain times…
The Reina Sofía and Prado are 2 of Spain’s most famous art museums. Look at their websites to find out when you can get in for free.
7. Practise your Spanish!
If you live in Spain, it’s probably best to pick up a little Spanish. You don’t have to have Spanish housemates, but it helps.
Classes can be expensive, so why not set yourself a challenge and learn Spanish for free?
Spend a little...
Head to El Salón del Artista in Malasaña on a Wednesday night. Entrance is €5 per person, but it comes with 2 drinks. There'll be speed dating, singing contests, and games. Language learning has never been such fun!
Go to an Intercambio event. Striking up conversation in a bar full of total strangers might sound like your worst nightmare. Or maybe its what you do every Saturday night.
But actually, bar Intercambio nights are a great way to jump into the deep end. Especially if a one-on-one conversation exchange is a little too daunting for you. Just turn up, smile a little, and start talking to people who speak the language you want to practice. Simple.
Beer station is crowded, but it's fun. It takes place every Thursday from 10pm.
If you're searching for a calmer, more intimite setting, try J and J Books and Coffee. You can go on Monday, Wednesday or Friday from 8 - 10pm.
8. learn to dance
Spaniards love to dance. Learning a little Salsa is almost just as valuable as learning Spanish itself.
Spend a little…
Fuckin’ Mondays, the elegantly named nightclub hosts salsa classes on Mondays at 10pm. It’s almost free - you pay €5 for a drink and a 1-hour class, not bad…
What are your favourite free things to do in Madrid? Let us know in the comments below!
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