Beautiful Spain has so many amazing things to offer: sun-soaked plazas, sangria and siestas. But best of all, there’s plenty to do in Spain for nada. Whether you’re saving up to make your trip last longer or you’re just a cheap bastard with no excuses, we’ve picked out the nation’s best free activities for your shameless taking.
1. Hike the Camino
Make a dramatic entrance and hike into the country via the Camino de Santiago. This famous pilgrimage, dating back over 1000 years, begins in the French Pyrenees and continues across to Galicia, in Northern Spain. Traditionally, pilgrims hike the route of St James’ Bones to obtain forgiveness for their sins, until they reach the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. Walking (for a week) costs nothing (except all those calories and foot blisters), plus accommodation is close to free, with a pilgrim’s passport permitting lodging at special hostels (albergues) for a small fee. With costs so low, be prepared to give up mind, body and soul on this ass-muscle-building, life-changing, challenge.
2. Sunbathe Naked in the South
Lose those tan lines on some of the world’s most beautiful beaches on the Costa De La Luz. The Atlantic “Coast of Light” in Southern Spain offers stretches of sunny golden sand, from hippy havens like Los Canos de Meca to resorts like classy La Barossa, where you can live the high life for free. Watch the kitesurfers run around Valdevaqueros in Tarifa or visit any of the tiny fishing villages like Zahara and Bolonia for gorgeous beaches. Unless you count the sunscreen, you’ll cough up absolutely nothing for a glorious perve-and-tan session.
3. Get Cultured
Big shot artists like Picasso and Dali pioneered works that have been the pride of Spain for decades. Develop your pretentious, fartsy knowledge of the arts for free. Spanish museums offer free admission on selected days of the week or holidays. Barcelona’s famed Picasso Museum doesn’t charge the first Monday of the month and Madrid’s Reina Sofia and Prado museums are free most weekday evenings (as well as some weekend afternoons.) Head to Picasso’s birthplace in Malaga, where his museum is free on the last Sunday of the month. The exterior of the Museo Guggenheim in Bilbao (pictured above) is a free to see architectural wonder. To go inside with everyone else, check out their site for details on free visiting times.
4. “Semana Santa” (Holy Week) – Seville
Seville is awesome at any time of year, but if you’re there during Easter, you get to partake in Holy Week (part holy, large part party). Locals pull out lifelike wooden sculptures, usually insanely old and artistic masterpieces, portraying individual scenes of the Passion or images of Mary. Each church parades their statue through the town, creating a massive street festival that lasts for days, with an atmosphere that will wow even the strictest atheist or agnostic. Pay nothing to stare open-mouthed at the religious reveling, but make sure you book a hostel well in advance, unless you favor staying well outside town. The Semana Santa is a countrywide Catholic festival, so if you can’t make it to Seville, try a tiny Spanish town and Jesus it up with the local villagers.
5. Take Language Advantage of the Locals
If you’re like most visitors to Iberian shores, your vocabulary is probably limited to hola, gracias, adios and of course, the integral “Dos cervezas, por favor”. Brush up your Espanol by chatting up a local. Language tutors in the states cost at least $20-25 bucks per hour. Take advantage of free Spanish lesson opportunities by striking up a conversation in your local tapas bar. Most Spaniards are flattered to see you take an interest in their culture and will gladly tutor for free, or try a conversational partner swap and teach English in return.
6. Hike the Sierra Nevada National Park
If the Camino is out of your reach but you’re still up for a trek with a view, head to the Sierra Nevada National Park. Located near Granada and the Costa Del Sol, this park features the highest mountains in the country, a wide array of flora and fauna, and stuna-cious views. For easy-peasy hikes that the hardcore will call “walks”, try the gorgeous Andalucian mountains around Ronda.
7. Sabatini Gardens in Madrid
We’ve got King Juan Carlos I to thank for letting us explore his backyard, by opening these gardens to the public in 1978. While Madrid’s Palacio Real requires a small fee, the gardens are yours to explore. Perfectly manicured hedges and trees arranged in wild geometric patterns surround a massive pool with fountains. Grab a crash course in Spanish history by acquainting yourself with the statues of the Spanish kings. Keep your ears open for impromptu flamenco performed by buskers with varying degrees of talent.
8. Ramblas, Boqueria Market and Plaça Reial in Barcelona
The central street in Barcelona, Las Ramblas divides neighborhoods while providing free entertainment for even the most ADD-ridden among us. Loaded with street performers, you can try to dodge the tourists (and pickpockets) or post up at a sidewalk café to watch the world go by. Nearby Placa Reial is not only the home to some trippy Gaudi-esque architecture and a fountain perfect for late-night post-partying dares, but contains one of Spain’s infamous party hostels (Kabul). Across the street, the Mercat de la Boqueria is a penthouse of food porn. Look, don’t touch; you touch, you buy.
If you’ve got a food budget, the Mercat is a great place to get a meal. Just don’t buy the cherries. They will cost as much per kilo as a night at a fancier hostel.
9. Free Wine and Olive Oil Tastings
The Spanish are experts at growing grapes and olives and producing them into delicious wine and oil. The countryside is littered with vineyards and olive plantations, all of which are happy to provide samples to those who stop and ask. While it’s nice to support the economy by buying even a token product, you can also wait for open house events and fill your pockets like a senior citizen at a buffet (although oil is not a buttermilk biscuit and may not do so well in your pocket).
In the countryside of southern Spain, you will see lots of olives growing on trees. These are not the same as the ones you buy in a jar. DO NOT put them in your mouth.
10. The Spanish Mint
If you ever end up in Madrid with no dough, at least stop by the mint and look at some. Free to the public at all times, marvel at all things currency from history, production and eventual distribution. There’s got to be an unlocked display somewhere, right?
This list is just the tip of the iceberg. In a country where free tapas proliferate the south and architectural wonders are everywhere for the marveling, you just need to hang around a pueblo for a day for a cost-free adventure.