Saturday Night Out in Madrid

Madrid at Night.JPGI arrived in Madrid a few weeks ago with only a handful of hours on a Saturday to show my fiancé around town, so I wanted a way to pack in as much culture as we could, and if possible, do it on the cheap. Enter my colleague Meg Weaver’s excellent Free City Guide to Madrid, where I found a slew of cost-efficient ways to wander the city. With her list and a few of our own discoveries along the way, we were able to make our limited stay a memorable one, and save a few euros in the process.

Our first stop was the CaixaForum Madrid gallery, a former electric power station that’s now a funky art space situated along the Paseo del Prado, tucked among some of the city’s best museums. We wandered the current exhibit, took a break at the thoroughly modern cafe upstairs, then marveled at the living wall of plant life that’s overtaken the exterior of the building next door. The admission is always free, so it should certainly join the must-see list for those visiting the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia and Museo del Prado, which is where we were headed next.

Admission is free for visitors to the Reina Sofia after 2:30 p.m. on Saturdays and until 2:30 p.m. on Sundays, so we ducked in there first, taking the very-cool elevators up to see Picasso’s Guérnica, which is always captivating. We spent awhile wandering the halls of modern art before heading over to the historic stuff at the Prado, whose immense galleries filled with works by Goya, Reubens, and Velásques constituted an entire semester’s worth of study for one of my college roommates when she studied abroad in the city. But we only had two hours, as the Prado offers free admission from 6 p.m to 8 p.m. on Tuesday through Saturday (and from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday). Thankfully, that was more than enough time to take in some of the museum’s more famous works like Las Meninas and The 3rd of May 1808 in Madrid.

Museo Del Jamon.jpgOf course, after all of our museum visits, my fiancé insisted we visit one more, the Museo del Jamón (above), which he claimed was his favorite museum of all. The name is a bit beguiling, as they’re not really a museum, but rather a chain of food counters spread across the city offering up a selection of amazing jamón serrano slices and bocadillos (sandwiches). As the sun set in the city, people flocked to these deli counters to grab a plate of meat freshly sawed off one of the many ham legs dangling from the ceiling, all while smoking and sipping beers as if in any other bar. With their cheap prices, it wasn’t hard to see why the crowds kept coming.

For a slightly more upscale eating experience, we visited the Mercado de San Miguel next, which is only a stone’s throw from Plaza Mayor. The glass-enclosed market has about two dozen food stalls, each offering something different, like fresh meats, breads, cheese, oysters, pastries, olives, etc. It was another hotspot that evening, packed with 30-somethings who made a urban picnic of the offerings on hand, all of which was washed down with ample glasses of wine. I really can’t recommend it enough, and wish that we had something like it here in D.C. We bought two glasses of vino for about six euros and felt deliciously hip.

Of course, before we could go to bed with enough time to catch our morning flight, I needed dessert, so I insisted we find one of Madrid’s finest offerings – the churro. We ended our evening at Chocolatería San Gines, dipping toasted dough strips into some of the richest melted cocoa around.

Check out Meg’s complete list for more cheap ideas for exploring Madrid. Have your own suggestions? Let us know.

Photos: Janelle Nanos


  1. nochemad
    December 25, 2013, 8:51 am

    If you’re coming back to Madrid check out this online agenda It has a very extensive listing of events in Madrid.

  2. Yanina Herly
    March 26, 2013, 3:17 pm

    Madrid nightlife is very much full and alive always. When you get to Madrid you will immediate realize that people just seems to be full of energy.

  3. Peter
    February 4, 2013, 9:57 am

    My wife and me made a tour in Madrid by segway with this company and we learnt so many interesting things about this wonderful city!

    We love Madrid!!!

  4. Madrid Traveler
    February 26, 2011, 4:45 pm

    Great info! Sounds like you had a really good trip. I enjoyed Madrid, I would like to visit again soon.

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    October 28, 2010, 10:03 pm

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  9. Paul Collins
    October 2, 2010, 8:43 am

    Yep. Can’t beat Madrid. From markets and museums, to parks, great shopping, crazy nightlife and a range of the most invitingly stylish holiday homes in Spain. What’s not to like?

  10. Tom Ingrams
    May 11, 2010, 8:23 am

    For a really top-notch meal I’d definitely recommend Ramon Freixa’s restaurant at Selenza. It’s certainly not cheap (as you’d expect from the restaurants of one of the most stylish luxury hotels in Madrid) but the food and the ambience are worth every penny!

  11. Lenny Crowther
    March 8, 2010, 4:46 am

    Agree that the CaixaForum gallery is a great place to visit. Interesting that it is a former electric power station – similar to the Tate Modern extension in London. Love Spanish cities, mostly warm and inviting at night when the families all go out for a stroll and you can soakaway into the crowds carefree. Of course you need to accept that you will not start eating until after 10.00pm and heaven knows what time you will get to bed!

  12. Madrid Man
    January 21, 2010, 2:36 pm

    We’ve been to Madrid a few times now and it’s always a pleasure. Although it can take a long time to get through, the Prado is still one or our favorites.

  13. Dan Stevens
    December 7, 2009, 11:07 am

    thanks for the good info. Madrid is a great place during the day, but even better at night, with lots going on.

  14. Night out travel
    November 30, 2009, 3:32 am

    Thanks for sharing great info. It is so nice of you to share information about the free admission to Reina Sofia and the Prado. Food is an essential part of all tours and it is good to know where one can find the best and the cheapest!

  15. Shane
    November 27, 2009, 2:33 am

    This city is one of my favorite place in Spain, With its awesome night life, culture and cuisine you will definitely love exploring it. This city also have nice Madrid accommodation the would make your vacation unforgettable.

  16. Tracy
    November 24, 2009, 6:26 am

    I like Madrid. It is very live city and rich of parks, great architecture and other amazing attractions.

  17. Matt Falcus
    November 23, 2009, 12:16 pm

    I love Madrid. I’ve just been working on the release of a new Historic Walking Guides book on Madrid so have it firmly in mind. I was lucky enough to be taken around the markets by a local last year whilst on a business trip there.

  18. Patch panel
    November 19, 2009, 9:20 pm

    Love the markets!!!

  19. Zach Everson
    November 19, 2009, 8:57 pm

    Museo del Jamón loses out to Museo del Prado when it comes to great museums in Madrid–but it’s close!

  20. Kelly
    November 19, 2009, 6:57 pm

    So cool. Love the markets!!!