Cultural Tourism Madrid’s top 10 museums
Although Madrid is known for the “Golden Triangle of Art”—El Prado, El Reina Sofía, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza—the Spanish Capital hosts a variety of other museums that are sure to whet the appetite of any art enthusiast. Madrid’s unique blend of classical and modern art, in addition to its ancient history, make this city the ideal setting for those with an interest in painting, sculpture, and history. Use this list to help create your own museum route during your stay in Madrid.
Del Prado Museum
El Prado is renowned throughout the world for its extensive collection of quality of European art. Founded in 1819, the museum houses work by Spanish masters such as Diego de Velázquez and Francisco Goya as well as internationals like Bosch and El Greco. There are a lot to see in this museum; be sure not to miss Velázquez’s Las Meninas, Bosch’s triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights, and Goya’s Black Paintings.
Reina Sofía Museum
Named after the former queen of Spain, this museum is home to a large collection of modern and contemporary art. The crown jewel here is Picasso’s Guernica, but the Reina Sofía also has many other Picassos as well as paintings by Salvador Dalí. Populating the galleries are also works by notable Spanish painters Juan Gris and Joan Miró. In the courtyard there is a sculpture by Eduardo Chillida and some of his work is on display in the museum as well.
In addition to El Prado and El Reina Sofía, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum completes the Golden Triangle of Art in Madrid. Whereas the Prado and Reina Sofía focus on classical and modern/contemporary art respectively, the Thyssen-Bornemisza holds paintings from 1300s through the 1970s. Though somewhat in the shadow of its peers, the Thyssen is well worth the visit—you can find paintings by Dürer and El Greco alongside van Gogh, Cézanne and Lichtenstein.
Tucked away off General Martínez Campos Street is the museum dedicated to the Spanish painter Joaquín Sorolla. This museum, which was also Sorolla’s house, has a humble exterior and is easy to miss. Upon entering, however, you are transported to a beautiful Andalucian courtyard that leads you to the artist’s home. Unlike the more grandiose museums in the city, this museum is an intimate affair and makes for the perfect venue to appreciate Sorolla’s attentiveness to light and shadows in his paintings. Make sure to look up while you are walking through the galleries to admire the paintings and drawings that Sorolla himself painted and collected.
Palacio de Velázquez & Palacio de Cristal
Located less than five minutes from each other in the Retiro Park, these two 'palaces' are the perfect museums to see in tandem. The Palacio de Velázquez has a gorgeous brick exterior and a spacious, modern interior. Up the path next to a pond is the Crystal Palace, predominately made of glass and metal. Both of these museums host temporary exhibitions curated and organized by Reina Sofía Museum and are perfect for a quick stop-in while walking through the park on a sunny day in Madrid.
Hidden within the Golden Triangle is another hidden gem of the art world, built out of an old electrical station. The CaixaForum, a museum and cultural center known for its hanging garden and cast-iron building, houses temporary exhibitions as well as workshops and even concerts. Currently on display through October 15th, 2017, is an exhibition dedicated to competition in Ancient Greece. If you are planning your trip for later, be sure to check out the Museum website for the upcoming exhibitions, as there is always something new.
The Matadero was an active slaughterhouse in Madrid until 1996. Since then, the complex has been changed and the Matadero is now a center for a variety of different artistic endeavours. In this unique environment you can find programs and exhibitions on film, photography, modern art and workshops dedicated to all types of artistic endeavours. This ever-changing space is perfect to meander through during the sun-lit evenings and explore at your own pace. If you want to reserve a guided tour, call ahead by at least a week to reserve the time of your choosing.
Museo del Romanticismo
The Museo del Romanticismo is situated in hip Malasaña just north of the center of Madrid. The museum, which is also a designated site of cultural heritage in Spain, focuses on the inspiration and subjective beauty of Romanticism during the 19th century. Inside, one can encounter fine representations of bourgeois society of the 1800s. The Great Ballroom shows just how extravagant life could be for the elites of the time. Be sure to see Goya’s San Gregorio Magno in the Chapel, as well as La Plaza Partida (by Eugenio Lucas Velálquez), a colourful yet macabre depiction of the bullfighting tradition.
Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando
Next to the Puerta del Sol in the center of the Spanish capital is the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando. Much larger than it appears from the outside, this museum contains an extensive collection of classical and modern art as well as a collection of casts, including over 1,400 paintings, a fine collections of decorative arts, and the only original cast of Ghiberti’s The Gates of Paradise. Go beyond the temporary exhibitions and through the modest library to see original copper etchings done by Goya himself.
National Museum of Archaeology
The National Museum of Archaeology is a multifaceted museum that has a broad appeal across all ages. Founded in 1867, the museum today offers multimedia exhibits from prehistory up until the modern era, including artefacts, fossils, and reconstructed ruins. There are even exhibitions that incorporate virtual reality. Peruse the exhibits on ancient Spain and don’t miss the famous sculpture Lady of Elche, carved by primeval Iberians in 4th Century BC. Whether you are a history buff or a parent travelling with young children, the Museum of Archaeology has something for everyone.