Monday, 6 October 2014

Madrid Monday: Monuments & museums with free entry on 12 October, 6 December & 18 May

Free admission to monuments and museums in Madrid part 1

If you know anything about Madrid beyond the fact that it's the capital of Spain and has a rather famous football team, you may know that it's home to three major art galleries. What you may not know is that in addition to the big three (the Prado, the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen-Bornemisza), Madrid also has myriad monuments, museums and galleries covering almost every era or theme imaginable. Whether fine art, firemen or fancy dress are your thing, this city's probably got it covered.

So Madrid may be culturally rich, but do you have to be rich to check all these places out? With a bit of careful planning, you don't actually have to spend a cent. While some sights are always free, many more offer free admission at certain times and on particular days. The main days are 12 October (Spanish National Day), 6 December (Spanish Constitution Day) and 18 May (International Museum Day).

If you're in another Spanish town or city, check with the tourist office for details of free admission on these dates. All Patrimonio Nacional sites are free to visit on 12 October and 18 May, and many state-run museums don't charge on any of these three dates.

The Palace at Aranjuez: Free entry on 12 October & 18 May

How to use these lists

The lists below shows which monuments in and around Madrid offer free entry on each these days. Some are generous and welcome you in gratis on all three days, others skip 6 December. If it's listed under 12 October, it's also free on 18 May. Complicated? Welcome to Spain!

This is part 1 of a series: part 2 covers monuments and museums that are free at certain times every week, and part 3 focuses on sights that always offer free entry. I haven't included the latter in this list: I've gone for the places you'd usually have to pay to see or which have very restricted free admission times. Monuments marked with a * are in the Comunidad de Madrid rather than the city. Click the links below to visit the official websites, which show addresses and opening hours.

Free entry on 12 October

Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales (Convent of the Barefoot Nuns)
Monasterio de la Encarnación
Museo de América (Museum of the Americas)
Museo Arqueológico Nacional (National Archaeology Museum) Also free 16 November
Museo de Artes Decorativas (Decorative Arts Museum)
Museo del Traje (Costume Museum)
Palacio Real de Aranjuez(Aranjuez Palace)
Palacio Real de El Pardo(El Pardo Palace)
Palacio Real de La Granja de San Ildefonso (La Granja de San Ildefonso Palace, near Segovia)
Palacio Real de Riofrío (Riofrio Palace, near Segovia)
Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando (San Fernando Fine Arts Museum)
Real Sitio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial* (El Escorial Monastery)
El Valle de los Caídos* (Valley of the Fallen)
Note that the Royal Palace in Madrid is closed on 12 October.

Free entry on 6 December

Museo de América (Museum of the Americas)
Museo Arqueológico Nacional (National Archaeology Museum) Also free 16 November
Museo de Artes Decorativas (Decorative Arts Museum)

Free entry on 18 May

As 12 October, plus:
Museo del Prado Also free on 19 November

My picks among these would be the Monasterio de Encarnación or the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando for their rich art collections and grand buildings. Outside Madrid, El Escorial makes a great day trip, with its picturesque mountain setting and vast monastery full of art and period pieces. If you've got less time to spare and prefer somewhere off the typical tourist trail, I'd opt for El Pardo: a short bus ride from Moncloa, this petite palace was Franco's residence of choice for many years, and you can even visit his bedroom – which they say is just as he left it. I may not be Spanish, but stepping inside that room certainly gave me the chills.

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