Head to an exhibition by a world-famous artist, stroll through the city's most important museums, discover new and innovative art galleries, join in the activities in cultural centres... In Madrid you can do all this and more without spending a euro with the city's free art and culture offerings. Get out there and get your dose of the arts, and leave your wallet at home.
Spain's most important collection of paintings isn't usually free to get in. But there are certain times when it won't cost you a cent to appreciate the permament exhibition, although you may have to pay with your time, as there are usually long queues. Get in for free Mon-Sat from 6pm to 8pm and Sun and holidays from 5pm to 7pm. You can also visit for free on November 19 (the anniversary of the Prado) and the 18th of May (International Museum Day).
It's usually €8 to get in to the Reina Sofía, but, like with the Prado, there are certain days and times when you get a 100 percent discount on the admission price. Mon-Sat (except Tue, when the museum is closed) it's free in from 7pm to 9pm as well as Sun from 3pm to 7pm. You also won't pay for your art appreciation on the following days: April 18 and 27, May 17 and 18, October 12, and December 6.
The private art collection of the late Baron Hans-Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza is considered one of the most important in the world. That's why general admission is usually €10. But on Mondays from noon to 4pm you can get access to the permanent collection absolutely free. It's a shame that temporary exhibitions aren't included, as they're often quite spectacular.
This exciting new multidisciplinary centre in a large neo-Mudéjar building was conceived as a space for cultural interchange. It offers exhibitions principally by emerging artists working in all genres, but also features cutting-edge performance art and music (including short seasons of video artists) and activities for kids. The centre also includes a fair-trade shop, a cafe, a library and classrooms for courses, especially in IT, languages and audiovisual and plastic arts.
Located in the former Real Cuartel de Guardias de Corps (the headquarters of the elite Royal Guard) of King Philip V, the magnificently restored Conde Duque is nowadays one of Madrid's most important cultural centres. It hosts shows, exhibitions, talks, book days and a varied programme of workshops. Don't miss its open air concerts and theatrical representations in summer, which are part of the Veranos de la Villa programme and feature top artists and shows every season. Institutions like the Archivo de la Villa, the Hemeroteca Municipal, the Biblioteca Histórica Municipal, the Museo Municipal de Arte Contemporáneo, the Biblioteca Musical Víctor Espinós and the Biblioteca Digital Memoriademadrid also have their headquarters here.
Behind the deafening but refreshing water cascade in Plaza Colón, below the Columbus monument, is the city council's only purpose-built cultural centre. On offer is a mixed bag of theatre, puppets, opera and zarzuelas in the summer, as well as art exhibitions, usually featuring important Hispanic artists.
Established in 1981, Lola Moriarty's gallery was a prime hangout and showcase for artists on the Movida scene, and still supports the Spanish avant-garde and contemporary art scene. Some of her best current artists are photographers (Luis Bisbe, Nicolás Combarro and the surrealist talent of Chema Madoz), though you'll also see video art, installations, paintings and all kinds of creative work that can bring something new to the gallery.
One of Charles III's scientific institutions, the Observatory was completed after his death in 1790. Beautifully proportioned, it's Madrid's finest neo-classical building, designed by Juan de Villanueva. It still contains a working telescope, which can only be seen by prior request. One room is also open to the public, but only on Fridays while the building undergoes renovation.
This modern art centre is a gallery, a bookshop that specialises in Latin American writers and Spanish authors with a major presence in Latin America, a publishing house and a cultural centre. It also promotes artistic exchanges between Spain and Latin America, especially in the field of photography.
This luminary of the Madrid art world, which first opened in 1992 with an exhibition on Francis Bacon represents major Spanish artists, including Martín Chirino, Antonio López García, Blanca Muñoz and Luis Gordillo, and has branches in London, New York, Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Santiago. The expansive space, designed by US architect Richard Gluckman, is a work of art in itself.