How much does culture cost? When we travel with a budget, but the food and the accommodation costs usually takes it all, and you do not have much to spend on extra-activities. Madrid will meet your needs with a great offer of museums that you can visit for free, if you follow my tips…
Visit the Museo del Prado
The Prado museum, Spain’s crown jewel and most important gallery, contains the most famous works of art of Spanish history, starting from the 16th century. Normally the visit isn’t free, but there are certain times to appreciate the gallery without spending a cent. Get in for free during the last two opening hours of every day, between 18.00 and 20.00 from Monday to Saturday and between 17.00 and 19.00 on Sundays and holidays.
Your tour can start from the Mozarab murals of the San Baudelio Church. Going ahead, the works by Bartolomé Bermejo, Pedro Berruguete, Juan de Juanes or Luis de Morales trace the time frame that goes from the Hispanic Gothic painting to the Renaissance.
The Golden Age is amply represented with Ribera, Zurbarán and Murillo works, those will help you to understand the context in which the famous Velasquez developed his painting. Don’t miss Velasquez’ Las Meninas or Las hilanderas, as well as the incredible collections of Goya, El Greco, Tiziano, Rubens, El Bosco and too many others!
Move on to contemporary art at Reina Sofia Museum
Dedicated to the contemporary and 20th century art, there’s no need to enter inside to notice that: the museum is a work of modern design itself! From Monday to Saturday (except Tuesday, when the museum is closed) the entry is free from 19.00 to 21.00 as well as Sunday from 15.00 to 19.00.
The fascinating walk through the contemporary Spanish art is divided in three different itineraries: “The 20th century emergence: utopias and conflicts (1900-1945)”, “Is the war finished? Art for a divided world (1945-1968)” and “ From the riot to the postmodernism (1962-1982)”. The museum’s star is undoubtedly Guernica, one of the most renowned pieces of Pablo Picasso. Also shown at the International Exposition of Paris in 1937, this mural expresses the pain and the suffering of the people who had been victims of the terrible bombardment in Guernica city on the 27th April of 1937.
Next to Picasso, the names of Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró and José Gutiérrez Solana are just a few of the several modern artists exhibited.
Take a walk inside the Royal Palace
Majestic real house from Carlos III to Alfonso XIII age, this palace is known still now as Royal Palace (Palacio Real), even though the Spanish monarchs are not living there anymore. Nowadays the building is used like a museum and hosts only the most important events connected to the Real Family, as marriages, meetings with European delegates and the King’s coronation ceremony.
You will be able to enter for free if you are a EU or a Latin American citizen, from Monday to Thursday between 16.00 and 18.00 (winter time) or 18.00 to 20.00 (summer time).
Don’t miss the opportunity to see – among over 3,000 rooms – the famous Great Staircase designed by Sabatini, the Throne Room with the roof painted by Tiepolo, the huge dance hall and the Royal Chapel, that contains an incredible collection of strings made by the famous Antonio Stradivari.
The Royal Armoury and the painting gallery also deserve to be recommended, since they show some of the most significant national treasures.
Moreover, the Royal Palace courtyard hosts the changing the Guard every Wednesday at 11.00 am.
Enjoy culture outdoors at the Debod Temple
Tired to spend time indoor? Let’s visit some peculiar museums that combine art with nature perfectly! The Debod Temple is an ancient Egyptian building, given as a gift by the Egyptian government to thank Spain for the help in preserving monuments threatened by the Aswan Dam. Built more than 2,200 years ago and dedicated to the gods Amun and Isis, the temple was sent block by block to Madrid in 1968. It’s set nowadays in the beautiful Parque del Oeste, and you will visit it for free every day of the year, except on Mondays and Sundays. I would recommend you to go there at sunset, to enjoy the incredible colours’ symphony showed by the temple and its location inside the nature!
Have a romantic walk at the Crystal Palace
The Crystal Palace is one of the expositive locations of Reina Sofia Museum, immersed in a lovely natural setting of Retiro Park, between a small and nice lake and the many trees that colour the park, especially in fall season. This garden is an obvious choice for those who want to find a quiet place to read, run or just enjoy the silence far from city noises. Ricardo Velázquez Bosco built the Crystal Palace in 1887, originally as a greenhouse to expose plants and animals from the Philippines. After the years, it has been reconverted to a perfect setting for contemporary art expositions. The greatest thing about the Palace is that it is always accessible for free, so you will have the possibility to visit the exhibitions any time you want!
Culture is affordable (sometimes)!
After this demonstration, you will stop saying that culture is expensive! So don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy yourself for an entire afternoon (or more than one) in Madrid, completely for free! And if you like being informed, enjoy the free guided tours all around the city, some students and kind staff will tell you the historic secrets and the legends of the best corners of this capital.
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