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An Art Lover’s Guide to Madrid’s Must-Visit Museums

written by Dajana 25. July 2019
An Art Lover’s Guide to Madrid’s Must-Visit Museums

Explore Madrid’s multifaceted art scene

There is absolutely no doubt at all that Madrid is dedicated to art! Home to some of the most important and famous museums in the world as well as a number of cultural centers and galleries, there is so much to discover in Spain’s capital. We put together the best picks including some of Madrid’s most known museums to help you plan your cultural trip.

You could literally spend weeks just visiting Madrid’s most known museums, but the Spanish capital has many other attractions worth exploring including numerous museums, street art spots and hidden gems off the beaten tracks. Make the most out of your stay in this breathtaking city, avoid long queues and waiting times by choosing one or two museums you definitely want to visit and book your tickets in advance. Check out our favorites here!

The purpose of art is washing away the dust of daily life off our souls.

Pablo Picasso

1. Museo Nacional del Prado

They say that no visit to Madrid is complete without going to the famous Museo Nacional del Prado. So if you only want to visit one museum while in Spain’s capital, the Prado is a safe choice! It is one of the most famous museums in the world for classical and religious art. The collection includes over 7,000 paintings so you could actually spend days in this museum loaded with masterpieces from Goya, Bosch, El Greco as well as Velázquez.

If you have only got a limited amount of time for a trip to this museum, planning is key! Otherwise it could be a bit intimidating. To avoid the crowds try to be there as soon as the Prado opens at 10am or during lunchtime around 2pm. Buy your ticket online, skip the line and directly head through the security check before starting your museum tour.

Insider tip: You are traveling on a budget? From Monday to Saturday you can enter for free from 6 to 8pm and on Sundays and holidays from 5-7pm. Please just keep in mind that you won’t be the only one with this brilliant idea! Long queues are guaranteed.

Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid
Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid ©Museo Nacional del Prado

2. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

  • Address: Calle de Santa Isabel 52, entrance to Sabatini Building in Calle de Santa Isabel and to Nouvel Building in Calle Ronda de Atocha
  • Opening Hours: MON, WED – SAT 10am – 9pm, SUN 10am – 7pm, closed on TUE
  • Connect: Visit the official website & Instagram

Originally destined to be a hospital by the will of King Philip II, the building complex remained such until 1965. After risking to be torn down it was finally declared a national monument and then restructured for many years. Today, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía stands on site of Madrid’s first general hospital and opened its doors in 1990. It is home to a fine collection of contemporary and modern art featuring works by Pablo Picasso such as his famous Guernica, masterpieces by Salvador Dalí, alongside many pieces by Joan Miró.

The museum also organizes numerous temporary and permanent exhibitions to showcase the works of national and international artists. Make sure to check the exhibitions in advance and remember that there are two main venues of the Reina Sofía Museum: the Sabatini Building and the Nouvel Building. Also, there are two venues at the Parque del Ritiro: the Palacio de Velázquez and Palacio de Cristal.

Insider tip: For all the researchers, art and culture enthusiasts out there: the museum has a free-access library that houses more than 1000 videos, over 4000 sound recordings and a huge collection os books. You are studying art or Spanisch language, literature and film, are an artist, writer, teacher or simply interested in art and culture? That’s your place to be!

Entrance of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofá in Madrid.
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofá in Madrid ©Joaquin Cortés/Román Lores
Terrazas of the Edificio Nouvel of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
Terrazas of the Edificio Nouvel ©Joaquin Cortés/Román Lores
Library of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía at the Edificio Nouvel
The Library at the Edificio Nouvel ©Joaquin Cortés/Román Lores

3. Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza

The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum is Madrid’s third largest museum and is part of the so called Golden Triangle of Art together with the Prado and the Reina Sofía museum. All three museums are within walking distance from each other. The Thyssen Museum originated from the private art collection of the Thyssen family that is regarded as one of the most important collections worldwide since it includes masterpieces from the 13th to the 20th century. Immerse in a number of different styles from Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo, Impressionism and Pop Art. The permanent collection includes works by Picasso, Dalí, Monet, Rubens, El Greco and many more.

Insider tip: The museum organizes temporary exhibitions devoted to specific national and international artists, eras, and themes. Check the event calendar in advance and ask for guided tours, the numerous thematic itineraries, workshops, lectures and concerts.

4. Palacio Real: The Royal Palace

  • Address: Calle de Bailén
  • Opening Hours: In Summer (Apr – Sept) from MON – SUN 10am – 8pm; in Winter (Oct – Mar) from MON – SUN 10am – 6pm
  • Connect: Visit the official website

The Palacio Real is located in Plaza de Oriente, faces the Royal opera and is overlooking the Gardens of Sabatini. What we today know as the Royal Palace in Madrid is actually rebuild from the 18th century. The old building as well as works by Da Vinci, Raphael and Velásquez were destroyed in a fire in 1734. Back then it was possible to save many artworks so todays collection includes plenty of artistic highlights.

Also, the Palace is actually the official residence of the King of Spain but not used as the private residence. Instead, it is hosting national ceremonies and has become one of Madrid’s the most famous museums. When in Madrid, visit Palacio Real, the largest royal palace in Western Europe! The over 3,400 rooms are decorated with paintings, sculptures and tapestries.

Insider tip: Make sure to also pay a visit to the gardens just behind the palace. The entrance is free and they are open to the public at the same opening hours as the palace.

The famous Palacio Real in Madrid
The famous Palacio Real in Madrid ©José Alejandro Cuffia

5. CaixaForum

Once an abandoned electrical station, today the building is home to the CaixaForum. Madrid’s newer museum addition is sponsored by the Caixa Bank. The building was restructured from 2001 to 2007 by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron. Today it integrates the old electrical station’s frame into the new parts giving it its typical industrial feel. The idea of the CaixaForum goes beyond art and is to offer a holistic cultural experience including poetry events and music festivals, cinema, social events and workshops. Also, CaixaForum is bringing the same concept to other Spanish cities like Barcelona, Sevilla and Palma.

Insider tip: French botanist Patrick Blanc planned and constructed a giant wall covered in grass. You can find it right next to the entrance. Definitely a must-see and perfect example for innovative green space in the city!

Patrick Blanc's giant wall covered in grass at the entrance of CaixaForum.
Patrick Blanc’s giant wall covered in grass at the entrance of CaixaForum ©ferrovial.com

From numerous hidden gems to important art collections – Madrid has it all!

As mentioned in our Madrid Food Guides there are not enough meals in a day if you want to try all the great foodie places. The same counts for Madrid’s museums! A lifetime probably would not be enough to soak in all of the culture and art that the city has to offer. But don’t panic! I’m sure it won’t be your first and last time in Spain’s capital and artistic and cultural center.

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1 comment

elli 25. July 2019 - 15:08

need to go there!!

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