Madrid is a great place to hit the streets and see some incredible graffiti. The neighbourhoods of Lavapiés and Malasaña are particularly good areas for street art – Malasaña even holds an annual street art festival, Pinta Malasaña every April, during which local artists decorate the barrio’s walls, shop fronts and even bollards with fantastic creations.
Madrid’s top museums are on most people’s to-do lists but can end up making a huge dent in your holiday spending money. Luckily for those on a budget, the Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza all offer free hours.
Prado: Monday-Saturday 6pm-8pm, Sunday 5pm-7pm
Reina Sofia: Monday, Wednesday-Saturday 7pm-9pm, Sun 1.30pm-7pm
Thyssen-Bornemisza: Monday 12pm-4pm
One of the best ways to discover a city is to wander its streets and take in its architecture. Madrid de los Austrias, is Madrid’s oldest area and is set in the small streets around the Plaza Mayor. Follow this walking tour to explore the area. Other areas of architectural interest include Madrid’s business district, home to the world’s first inclined skyscrapers, the KIO Towers and Gran Vía, the city’s main shopping street with a range of different architectural styles, including the first skyscraper in Europe.
Another good way to explore the city is by taking a free tour. Many tours begin on the Plaza Mayor or Puerta del Sol and take visitors around the city’s main sights, while guides recount the history of the city and some of its traditions.
There aren’t many places outside Egypt where you can see a real-life Egyptian temple, but you can in Madrid. The Temple of Debod, which dates to the 2nd century BC, was given as a gift to Spain as a thank you for helping to save important sites from flooding caused by the construction of the Aswan High Dam. It was taken down brick-by-brick, transported to Madrid and re-built, opening to the public in 1972.
Madrid has a number of galleries and museums that are free to enter every day of the week. The San Isidro Museum, in La Latina gives a fascinating history of the city, while the Espacio Fundación Telefónica, off Gran Vía, always has an interesting exhibition on, from photography to technology. Brush up on your Spanish literary history at the Casa Museo Lope de Vega, the former home of Spanish Golden Age poet, Lope de Vega, which is also free.
Madrileños love going to the cinema, and the city is home to surely one of the most atmospheric, historic cinemas in Spain – the Cine Doré. Home to Spain’s Filmoteca, founded in 1912 and with a facade dating from 1923, the cinema shows regular themed seasons on everything from the films of Pedro Almodóvar to film noir. Films are shown in their original version with Spanish subtitles and best of all tickets are a bargain at just €2.50.