When Americans think of art, London, Paris and New York come immediately to mind, yet with more than 40 museums, Madrid is one of the world’s great art centers.
The National Museums
Madrid is best known for the three state museums that dominate the capital’s art scene. Most famous is the Prado, which covers the Medieval, Renaissance and Romantic periods, while the Reina Sofia covers 20th Century art and the Thyssen-Bornemisza straddles between the two by incorporating formerly private collections into the national holdings.
Museo Nacional del Prado
Paseo del Prado, website
Truly one of the world’s great museums, the Prado’s collection of European art spans all the way from the 12th to the early 19th Centuries. While the collection is strong on Spanish painters such as Goya, El Greco, Ribera and Velázquez, Flemish, Dutch and Italians are very well represented. Highlights include Hieronymous Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights”, Caravaggio’s “David Victorious over Goliath,” El Greco’s “Adoration of the Shepherds” and Velázquez’s “Las Meninas.” Expect to spend the better part of a day exploring the rich collection of works here.
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 9am – 8pm, Closed Mondays
Admission: Adults €14, Students 18 – 25 €7, Under 18 and EU seniors free; Free admission to permanent collection 6pm – 8pm Tuesday – Saturday and from 5pm – 8pm Sunday. Free all day on May 2, October 12, November 19, December 6 and International Museum Day (mid-May)
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia
Calle Santa Isabel 52, website
The Reina Sofia is less known than its neighbor, the Prado, but it is equally significant. The collection showcases 20th Century Art, especially that of Spain. Here you’ll find works by Picasso, especially his masterpiece “Guernica,” and a strong group of Dali’s paintings. Others represented include Juan Gris, Joan Miro, Georges Braque, Man Ray and Francis Bacon. The original building was once used as a hospital and then reconfigured to be a museum; it was recently expanded with a new building designed by Jean Nouvel.
Hours: Monday, Wednesday – Saturday 10am – 9pm, Sunday 10am – 2:30pm, Closed Tuesdays
Admission: Adults €8, Students 18 – 25 €4, Seniors and kids under 12 free; Free on Saturdays from 2:30pm – 9pm and Sunday 10am – 2:30pm. Free May 18, October 12, December 6.
Paseo del Prado 8, website
Heinrich, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon, and later his son Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, amassed what was reputed to be the second largest art collection of its time in the early and mid-Twentieth Century. The latter baron along with his wife Carmen was persuaded to sell the collection over to the Spanish state, which acquired it in 1993. The collection on display is actually two separate ones – the original Thyssen-Bornemisza collection and the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza collection, housed in the museum since 2004. These collections straddle those of both the Prado and Reina Sofia, covering the 13th to 20th Centuries and focusing more on Dutch, German, French and English artists. It also expanded the state museum’s collections to include Impressionism, which was not included in the parameters of either the Prado or Reina Sofia. Today you can see works by Picasso, Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Mondrian and many more.
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 7pm, Closed Mondays
Admission: Adults €10, students and seniors €6, under 12 free; additional admission for special exhibits
Paseo del Prado 36, website
Housed in a former power station redesigned by Herzog & de Meuron, the CaixaForum is an architectural marvel in addition to an art museum. The building was salvaged and “lifted” off the ground, creating a surreal entrance underneath the structure. While the museum suggests it might house a modern art collection, the exhibitions are more varied and run from ancient art to contemporary art in all mediums.
Hours: Daily 10am – 8pm
Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando
Calle Alcalá 13, website
This collection features Spanish, Flemish and Italian art spanning from the 18th to 20th centuries, including 13 paintings by Goya, as well as works by El Greco, Rubens, Sorolla and others.
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 9am – 9pm, Sunday 10am – 2:30pm, Closed Monday
Admission: Adults €3, Youths €1.50, free to students and children, free for all on Wednesdays
Museo Arqueológico Nacional
Calle de Serrano 13, website
Currently undergoing renovations, this history museum is showing an abbreviated collection called “Treasures of the Archaeological Museum.” The full collection highlights historical artifacts from pre-historic civilizations, Greece, Rome and the Medieval Age.
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 9:30am – 8pm, Sunday and Holiday 9:30am – 3pm, Closed Mondays
Admission: Free during renovations
General Martinez Campo 37, website
This small museum celebrates the work of Spanish Impressionist Joaquin Sorolla, with works displayed in his former studio and home. The building is preserved exactly as he left it when he died in 1923.
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 9:30am – 8pm, Sundays and Holidays 10am – 3pm, Closed Mondays, Jan 1, May 1, December 24 – 25, 31
Admission: Adults €3, students and seniors €1.50