For any culture vulture visiting Madrid, there are things to see besides the ‘big three’ museums: the Prado, Thyssen Bornemisza and the Reina Sofia. Here is Gusto Guides’ pick of Madrid’s best museums, great and small (and keep your eyed peeled for free entry at certain times of day).
1. El Prado: Yes – we know this is obvious, but the Prado is the big daddy of Spanish art, and makes a great starting point for any visitor. This is the best place to get to grips with Goya, Velázquez, el Greco and more. The huge collection (over 9000 paintings and counting) includes a good selection of Dutch painters too including a few exquisite Rubens canvases and the famous Garden of Earthly Delights by Bosch. As well as its permanent collection, the Prado plays host to many excellent temporary exhibitions, although it is wise to book for these online to avoid disappointment. If you would prefer a little more alone time with the art, try getting to the Prado either first thing or later on in the evening.
Open: Mon-Sat 1000h-2000h Sun 1000h-1900h; Admission: €14, €7 for over 65s and free to all under 18s, students under 25 and all visitors 6-8pm; Web: here
2. Museo Sorolla: A sensitive restoration of the house of painter Joaquin Sorolla (1863 – 1923), who moved to Madrid from his native Valencia at the age of eighteen. The young Sorolla reputedly developed his distinctive, luminous style by studying the masterworks on display in the Prado (see above). We love the Museo Sorolla for being well off the tourist track and having an authentic setting to explore the work of a world-class Spanish artist who was once just a kid walking around the Prado.
Open: Tues-Sat 0930-2000h, Sun and public holidays 1000-1500h; Admission: €3/€1.50 concessions/Free Sat from 1400h, Sun all day, under 18s, over 65s, students; Web: here
3. Fundacion Lazaro Galdiano: The home of a man who can only be described as a very rich hoarder has been restored, and opened to the public so that you and I can marvel at Lazaro Galdiano (1862-1947)’s vast collection of paintings, pottery, armour and other priceless nick-nacks. Particular highlights include works by Goya, Bosch and Constable as well as the regular expert-led guided tours that run after the museum has closed to the public, and a snip at only €8 (advance booking required).
Open: 1000-1630h, Sun 1000-1500h, closed Tues; Admission: €6/€3 concessions/free after 1530, (1400 on Sundays), children under 12; Web: here
4. Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando: The Real Academia is housed in a beautiful, marble-laden building just steps from Madrid’s central Plaza del Sol, chock full of Zurbaráns and all kinds of other goodies but strangely devoid of tourists. Redress this balance and check this place out (you won’t be disappointed).
Open: Tues-Sun 1000-1500h, closed Monday; Admission €6/concessions €3/free for over 65s, under 18s and every Wednesday; Web: here
5. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza: As museums go, the Thyssen is a breakneck tour around the past 100o years or so of Western Art, from Rembrandt to Rothko. As with the Lazaro Galdiano, this eclectic gallery sources its impressive selection of works from the private collection of the ubiquitous Thyssen family, giving the place a nice hand-picked feel. Check the website for temporary exhibitions, special events and arty apps for mobiles and tablets.
Open: 1000-1900h Tue-Sun, 1200-1600 Mon; Admission: €10/€7 concessions/Free on Mondays and for children under 12; Web: here
6. Museo del Romanticismo: Do you like to flounce around pretending to be a wealthy Renaissance landowner? So do we! That’s why we love Madrid’s Museo del Romanticismo – housed in a refurbished 18th century palace 10 minutes walk north of Gran Via. That and the lush café overlooking a patio garden. Always helps.
Open: Winter Tues-Sat 0930-1830h, Sun and public holidays 1000-1500h; Summer Tues-Sat 0930-2030h, Sun and public holidays 1000-1500h; Admission: €3/concessions €1.50/Free Sat from 1400h, under 18s, over 65s and students; Web: here
7. Museo Arqueologico Nacional: 43 rooms of bliss for those weirdos (ourselves included) who could spend hours on end staring at stones and bones. The MAN has recently undergone a 5-year, multimillion-Euro makeover and highlights include palaeolithic artefacts from all over Spain, Hispano-Roman artefacts and a small but well-chosen selection of bits and bobs from ancient Egypt and the near East.
Open: Tues-Sat 0930-2000h, Sun and public holidays 0930-1500h, closed Monday; Admission: €3/€1.50 concessions/Free Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning; Web: here
8. Museo de America: One of Europe’s most extensive collections of Pre-Columbian art and ethnological artefacts, the Museo de America is the next best thing to actually visiting Latin America. The sheer range of items on display is impressive – from Aztec carvings to Peruvian mummies to the exquisite gold that drew the Spanish there in the first place.
Open: Tues-Sat 0930-1500h, Thurs 0930-1900h, Sun and public holidays 0930-1500h; Admission: €3/€1.50 concessions/Free Sundays, under 18s and over 65s; Web: here
9. Museo Reina Sofia: One of Madrid’s biggest draws for art lovers, the Reina Sofia is also beloved among locals for its cutting-edge exhibitions and cultural programme. In a refreshing change from many of Madrid’s catalogue-style art galleries, the Reina Sofia’s curators draw upon the themes and cultural influences common to their artworks, with one floor arranged into a journey through ‘utopia and conflict’, and culminating in the stark brutality of Picasso’s Guernica (an artwork that you really do need to see in ‘real life’ to understand).
Open: Mon-Sat 1000-2100h, Sun 1000-1430h, Tuesday closed; Admission: €8/€4 concessions/Free every day 1900-2100h, 1500-1900h Sundays; Web: here
Written by Lucy Wilkinson Yates