Generally speaking, I’m a skeptic when it comes to just about anything with a “free” price tag. I mean, the whole “getting something for nothing” routine doesn’t usually end up being the bargain it’s intended to be. But in this case, I’m willing to suspend my disbelief for a moment and consider that getting a free tour of Madrid might be a great deal.
Sandemans is a tour company that operates in several of Europe’s most popular cities, and they offer free city tours in every single one. In each case, they claim that because their tour guides are working solely for tips that “every tour is consistently one of the best in Europe.” Their Madrid free walking tours are 3.5 hours long, and includes both the city’s top sights and some additional spots that are more out-of-the-way. It’s a long walking tour, to be sure, but a walking tour like this helps you not only see the city in a more intimate fashion, it also allows you to get to some places that are inaccessible to tour buses.
Some of the highlights included these walking tours are:
- Madrid Royal Palace
- Plaza Mayor
- “World’s oldest restaurant”
- Hemingway’s Madrid
- Teatro Royal
- Moorish ruins
- The origins of tapas
There are two of these tours every day, starting at 11am and 3pm, and they leave from the Puerta del Sol near the equestrian statue. The website doesn’t list a group size that’s required for tours, or an upper limit, only that if you’re arriving with your own group of 10 or more people they’d like you to tell them that at least 24 hours in advance.
It’s important to keep in mind here that while there’s no set fee for the tour – which therefore means they can market it as a “free tour” – it shouldn’t be considered “free” in the strictest sense of the word. Again, the guides are working only for tips, so you should arrive prepared to tip them at the end of the tour. What’s nice is that you can think of the tour price as something of a sliding scale, and pay what you can afford – this means that no one is kept from going on a good walking tour simply because of price – but you shouldn’t think of the tour as without any cost whatsoever.
For more information, check out the Sandemans website; and if you prefer to be your own guide, be sure to check out these free downloadable city guides (Madrid is included, among other Spanish cities).