For free, Madrid
The old modernist building of the Dore Cinema of Madrid houses now the National Film Centre. Is a small cinema, near the Atocha street (Metro Anton Martin) where they show old films in original version (with spanish subtitles) at very low prices (1,30 euros). You have to go early (after lunch) for the tickets, they sell out quickly being so cheap!
Movies schedules at the link below:
Caixa Forum is the newest cultural center in Madrid, it's located in the Paseo de Recoletos, only a few meters away from the Prado Museum (but on the other side of the street). This cultural center hosts many different art exhibitions, as well as many activities, such as conferences or things that children can do to have fun & learn at the same time. The good thing about this center is that most things are for free or for a very small amount of money, so it's definitely worth checking out! Even if you don't have the time to go in, check out the vertical garden and the sculptures by the entrance, you won't regret it!
I'm ading the link to the website, but sorry, it's only in Spanish or Catalan.
A good way to get a free good map of Madrid is to ask for it at the information desk of the "El Corte Ingles" Department Stores. It's a rather good map, detailed, with 3D drawings of the monuments, Metro plan, tourist info...
The nearest stores to Puerta del Sol are in Preciados Street (the one from Sol to Callao) and in Carmen Street, near Callao Square.
If you are interested in art, or better said contemporary art, make sure you pass by the open air sculpture museum in the Castellana street. This "museum" is right on the street (by the Ruben Darío Metro station), and there you can find different contemporary sculptures, among others one by Chillida. Check it out if you have some time, after all it's for free!
As you wander Madrid's streets (and you should allow yourself plenty of time to wander) keep your eyes open for small details.
Decorative fan-shaped ironwork...the double-headed Austrian eagle...small areas of tilework, or of decorative brickwork....coloured plaster....the occasional ancient chunk of stone set into a later building...
Lots to find, but you have to look for it. :-)
I came across this pretty formal garden whilst wandering the southern part of Madrid de los Austrias, in La Latina.
It is one of the few remaining examples of a classic 18th century formal garden for a mansions, in this case the 'palace' of Anglona. The house was originally built, around 1530, for one Francisco de Varjas although it was extensively re-modelled in the early 1800s. It now belongs to Madrid City Council, which renovated and restored the garden and opened it to the public in 2002.
The garden itself was laid out in 1761 and is in 'neo-classical' style. It was deliberately raised up above the level of the adjoining Plaza de la Paja. There are walkways and a pergola, box hedges and mature trees and benches on which to sit and enjoy the birds (lots of them!) and a bit of peace.
It's a lovely spot to rest for a while, and would make a super shady place for a picnic lunch.
Open every day 1000-2200 in summer, 1000-1800 in winter. No entrance fee.