Madrid museum guide: what to see from the Prado to the Reina Sofia

Madrid is a city that offers a thousand things to discover. And which, thanks to its particular history, fascinates both those who seek it art and culture but also those who simply want to immerse themselves in the Spanish way of life. But one thing is certain between one tapas and the other its museums are to be missed. Because they are among the most important in the world. And if one wanted to see them all, one would have to organize a long stay.

Who arrives in the capital of Spain for the first time, however, he almost always focuses on the museums of Prado, the Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Reina Sofia which form what is known as the “Golden Triangle of Art“. They are located a short distance from each other and in an area full of palaces, monuments and gardens. In short, an attraction not to be missed. If you know well Madrid you can also broaden the experience by discovering lesser-known museums, which allow you to have a more intimate artistic experience.

Madrid Museum Guide: Let’s start with the Prado

If we talk about the museums of Madrid the first name that comes to mind is obviously the Prado, the most important in the city and probably among the most important in the world thanks to its collection of European art and, of course, Spanish art. L’building that houses it dates back to 1785: was designed by Juan de Villanueva and built to order by Charles III as a natural history cabinet. Alone in 1819 it became a public museum. Over the years the museum has been expanded and has engulfed the adjacent buildings.


Overall it houses approx 7,600 paintings, 1,000 sculptures and over 13,000 drawings, prints, historical documents and other works. Initially the core of the collection consisted of the masterpieces belonging to Spanish royalty but gradually the collection was expanded. Among the works not to be missed are paintings and works by Goya, Titian, Peter Paul Rubens, Rembrandt, Botticelli, Van Dyck, Velazquez and Bosch.

The thousand masterpieces of Thyssen-Bornemisza

Even the Thyssen-Bornemisza is a protagonist when it comes to writing a guide to the museums of Madrid since the collection collects over 1000 masterpieces covering the period from the 13th to the 20th century. The museum is housed in a neoclassical house in the heart of the Golden Triangle of Madrid and the works are displayed over three floors with the older works on the top floor and the contemporary ones on the lowest level.

The collection put together by the Baron Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza and by his son it was later acquired by the Spanish government in 1993. Among the unmissable pieces are the Annunciation Diptych by Van Eyckthe portrait of Holbein’s Henry VIII and masterpieces by Rubens, Caravaggio and Rembrandt. But that’s not all: here you can find works by the Impressionists and by Picasso, Mirò, Pollock and Edward Hopper.

A journey into archaeology

The National Archaeological Museum of Spain it is not among the most famous of Madrid’s museums but it deserves to be discovered. Established in 1867 to host the ancient treasures of the royal familyis located on the Plaza de Colon and shares its neoclassical building with the National Library. The museum houses coins, archaeological finds, ethnographic and art objects and allows you to have an overview of Spanish history from the prehistoric era to the 19th century.

In addition to objects of Spanish origin, however, there are also finds from other places such as the GreeceL’Egypt and Etruscan artifacts but also Roman mosaics and Muslim-era pieces. In the garden of the museum there is a copy of prehistoric cave paintings of Altamira and here there is also an important library specializing in archaeology, art and musicology.

Here is the Reina Sofia

Continuing the journey here is the third ace of the deck: the Reina Sofia National Museum. It is located in a building, once a hospital, which has been completely transformed with the addition of glass and steel inserts. The museum houses a rich collection of modern and contemporary art with permanent sections concerning the pop art, minimal art and abstract art and the whole is divided into three sections covering the period 1900-1945; 1945-1968 and 1962-1982.

Much of the collection is the work of contemporary Spanish artists including Picasso, Miro and Dali and it is no coincidence that the most famous work is the very famous one Guernica by Picasso. The museum also boasts a library of over 10,000 books with 100,000 monographs and thousands of videos, audio tapes, photographs and magazines devoted to 20th century art.

The museum in the Marquis’ house

After a queen a marquis. To be precise, let’s talk about the collection of Enrique de Aguilera y Gamboa, or the Marquis of Cerralbo which is located inside his residence considered a building of cultural interest. The museum, open since 1944, offers an insight into the way of life of Spain’s nobility in the 19th century.

The owner was a patron of the arts and humanities and amassed a large collection of precious paintings, sculptures, weapons, clocks, religious artefacts, Moroccan carpets, musical instruments, jewellery, coins and prints but above all masterpieces by artists such as Ribera, Tintoretto, El Greco, Titian, Zurbaran and Van Dyck. Wandering through the halls you can then see the rooms richly furnished with glass, crystal and Roman statues.

It also has a long history Museum of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts located in a 17th century building. The Academy was born in 1726 when the Melendez painter he proposed to the king to create a place dedicated to the arts and today it houses over 1400 paintings, hundreds of sculptures and drawings as well as objects of great value such as furniture and silver. There are works of great masters and 13 paintings by Goya who was part of this Academy.


The museums of Madrid: the Caixa Forum

Taking a leap in time, from the past to the present, here is another space to see. It’s about the Caixa Forum museum which has been able to conquer its own space among the museums of Madrid. It is located on Paseo del Prado and is the work of an archistar who renovated one old power plant. On the outside, a vertical forest is striking while, inside, the palace has an extravagant structure. The center has over 2000 meters of exhibition space, an auditorium, a media library, conference rooms, and visitors to the center can watch films and attend seminars. There is one permanent collection of around 700 works of art ranging from the 80s to the present day.


We end the journey through the main museums of Madrid with that of San Isidro which is between Plaza Mayor and the Puerta del Sol on the place where Isidro, one of the patron saints of Madrid. At the center of the house-museum is a beautiful internal courtyard with a well linked to the story of a miracle and a chapel dating back to 1663, where the saint is said to have been buried. The museum hosts archaeological finds found in the region and works of art related to the history of Madrid and the surrounding areas with precious pieces from the Roman and Muslim eras.

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