Madrid is a laid back city which is not overly dominated by tourists and is compact enough to be able to walk to all major attractions. A really neat thing about Madrid is that there are many things to do which are either free or cost very little.
- Enjoy the Glorious Gardens in El Retiro and Walk Along Paseo del Prado – El Retiro is huge and popular with joggers and walkers first thing in the morning. You can see plenty of trees, artificial lakes, fountains, statues and old buildings like the Crystal Palace. The beautiful rose garden does not open until 10am. Paseo del Prado is a tree lined boulevard close to El Retiro where you can amble along the lawned area, pass by statues and fountains from Plaza de Cibeles up to Fuente de Neptune and beyond.
- Go on a Free Walking Tour – Various walking tours in English start from Puerta del Sol between 10.30 or 11am or at 5 pm every day. The guides are usually knowledgeable university students who will show you both lesser known parts of Madrid as well as important monuments. They will share plenty of Madrid history with you over a three hour tour. Remember to tip them as handsomely as you can because they do a good job.
- Feast on some of the Best Art Works in the World – Madrid can hold its own with Paris, New York, Amsterdam and London with its 3 big and important art museums the Prado, the Thyssen and the Reina Sofia. The good news is that you may not have to pay anything to visit these art museums. The Prado is free most days between 6-8pm and the Reina Sofia is free between 7-9pm. And on Mondays the Thyssen is free between 12-4 pm. You will only have a taste of each of the three. You will absolutely want to spend more time in each art museum and the full entrance cost for each is very reasonable.
- Have a cheap breakfast or lunch or a free tapas – The Museo del Jamon is a thriving eatery on Calle Jeronimos near Sol. You can have breakfast or lunch for 2.50 euro including a coffee or a beer, a sandwich or roll and a sweet. Other nearby cafes are offering similar fare. And when you stop in a bar near Plaza Mayor or down an interesting narrow street for a beer or wine you will usually be given a free tapas such as olives or jamon on bread.