Madrid museums are among the best in the world. Actually, there is a long list of museums that you can visit while you are here. You probably won’t have time to go to each and every one (unless you love tourist rally trips…).
However, I suggest allocating at least half day to visit one of its impressive art galleries.
The Prado, the Thyssen-Bornemisza, and the Reina Sofía museums form what is known as the “Golden Triangle of Art”. All are located in the Paseo del Arte (Avenue of Art), a visitors’ itinerary along Paseo del Prado that includes museums, monuments and gardens.
If you aren’t a first time visitor, and have already been to the Big Three art museums Madrid offers some other possibilities. The city is full of lesser-known museums that allow you to enjoy a more intimate art experience.
Andén 0. It is a proyect allowing you to immerse yourself in the history of the metropolitan railway in Madrid. Andén 0 has two centers: one at the Engine Shed at Calle Valderribas, 49, and another one at the old Chamberí Station.
Casa Museo Francisco Daurella. Thanks to Francisco Daurella patronage, the board decides to restore a private house in the outskirts of Madrid. The central theme of the collection is to provide a dynamic vision of what occurred between the late 19th century and mid-20th, incorporating both the Mediterranean and French influences.
Casa Museo Lope de Vega. Located in the pretty and bohemian Barrio de las Letras, the House-Museum Lope de Vega is in the same house in which the writer lived for the last 25 years of his life.
CaixaForum Madrid. The original premises have been designed as a space for dissemination and debate on culture and its many manifestations. It offers a miscellaneous range of subjects that covers all periods.
CentroCentro. The CentroCentro exhibition space in Palacio de Cibeles (formerly the Palacio de Correos and now the City Hall) has become an emblematic building that serves as a state-of-the-art cultural venue.
Círculo de Bellas Artes. The CBA is a private, non-profit cultural institution. Since its foundation in 1880, it has played a major role in Madrid in terms of cultural production and dissemination.
Conde Duque. It was reborn in 1983 as a cultural center, after serving as the barracks of the Royal Guard Corps since 1717. The complex went through a complete transformation, creating spaces devoted to cultural programming and promotion.
Espacio Fundación Telefónica. This cultural space located inside Telefónica’s historic headquarters hosts exhibitions, workshops, and lectures.
Fundación ICO. The ICO Foundation was created by the Spanish Instituto de Crédito Oficial (Official Credit Institute) as a private foundation to contribute and support the development of culture. Its museum schedules temporary exhibitions of less popular fields such as architecture, design and photography.
Fundación Juan March. Established in 1955 by the Spanish banker Juan March, the Fundación Juan March is a family–run institution that dedicates its resources and activities related to science and humanities. The foundation organizes art exhibitions, concerts, lecture series, and seminars.
Fundación Mapfre. The Spanish insurance group Mapfre sponsors this institution. The foundation’s aim is to contribute to achieving objectives of general interest to society and has a beautiful and recently renovated palace is which temporary exhibitions, generally paintings, are hosted.
La Casa Encendida. The social and cultural center of Fundación Caja Madrid, showcases the most avant-garde exhibitions along with all types of artistic expression, as well as classes and workshops on environmental and community issues.
La Tabacalera. Located in Lavapiés, the former tobacco factory now houses a self-managed center and a space run by the Ministry of Culture. Together they showcase the latest trends in contemporary art.
Matadero de Madrid. This contemporary arts center, opened in 2007, is a stunning multipurpose space. Occupying the converted buildings of the old Arganzuela livestock market and slaughterhouse, Matadero Madrid hosts cutting-edge drama, musical and dance performances and exhibitions on architecture, fashion, literature and cinema.
Museo ABC. Located in a very modern building, this museum s intended to be a living space catering for disciplines such as the production and development of drawing and contemporary illustration.
Museo Africano. It offers a veritable journey through Africa. Thanks to the different objects displayed, you can explore prehistoric times, and learn more about the ancient African kingdoms and empires as well as the people who inhabit this fascinating continent.
Museo de América. The Museum of America was inaugurated in 1941 with the purpose of assembling collections of American archeology and ethnology. The collection includes more than 25,000 objects, including pre-Columbian, ethnographic and colonial items.
Museo Arquelógico. After more than 6 years of restoration, the museum reopened in April 2014. It exhibits an impressive collection of archaeological objects from the prehistoric, classical and Middle Ages.
Museo de Bomberos. Contemplate some of the original vehicles, helmets and uniforms that firemen have used throughout history. The museum also features a section devoted to miniatures toy cars and trucks.
Museo Casa de la Moneda. The Spanish Royal Mint is regarded as one of the most important museums of its kind in the world. Have a look at important collections of coins, stamps and pre-adhesives, bills and other forms of currency, lottery tickets and games, as well as machines and tools used by the Royal Mint and the Spanish Coin and Stamp Factory.
Museo de Cera. The Wax Museum has over 40 rooms in which you can travel through time. Constantly updated, it has representations of the most prominent figures today.
Museo Cerralbo. The Marquis of Cerralbo donated this estate to the Spanish state, thereby instituting the Cerralbo Museum. His intention was to preserve a life-long work and that his collections would endure “always together and be used by science and art enthusiasts for study”.
Museo del Ejército del Aire. The Spanish Air Force Museum is located in the outskirts of the city and displays a large collection of airplanes, helicopters, engines and miniatures.
Museo del Ferrocarril. Located in the former station of Delicias, a beautiful example of Spanish industrial architecture, the museum contains a selection of vehicles and other railway-related exhibits aiming to show the historical evolution or railway in Spain.
Museo Geominero. The museum is housed in the headquarters of the Geological and Mining Institute of Spain, an impressive 1920s building. Its aim is to disseminate knowledge of the richness and diversity of Spain’s geological and mining heritage via the permanent exhibition of representative collections of minerals, rocks and fossils.
Museo de Historia. The History Museum is located in one of the best examples of Madrid Baroque style (the former Hospice), and offers a global vision of the arts, industries and common life of the inhabitants of the city since it was elected the capital of Spain in 1561 until nowadays.
Museo Lázaro Galdiano. Upon his death in 1947, José Lázaro Galdiano bequeathed his assets to the State, a legacy, which the Museo Lázaro Galdiano has been exhibiting since. The museum boasts a stunning collection of Spanish art, which includes works by Goya, Velázquez, Hieronymus Bosch and El Greco, as well as a large assemblage of European art.
Museo Nacional de Antropología. The Museum of Anthropology rehabilitates and curates archaeological and ethnographic collections. It also houses a collection of objects representative of the African, American, Asian, European and Oceania culture.
Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativas. Created in 1912, the museum was intended to be a place for the education of artisans, craftsmen, artists and connoisseurs of the industrial arts. It was inspired by other similar museums, such as the former South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum) in London, and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. It is home to an important collection of 20th century art selected from the museum’s wealth of paintings, sculptures, drawings and engravings by Spanish and foreign artists. It also offers an interesting program of temporary exhibitions.
Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales. Since the 18th century, the National Museum of Natural Science has been one of the most emblematic institutions of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). It promotes the knowledge about the diversity of the planet.
Museo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología. The museum is currently in a new complex located in Alcobendas, outside Madrid’s city center.
Museo Naval. Its origin dates back to 1792 and it displays Spain’s maritime history. The museum’s exposition halls, ordered chronologically, contain collections of diverse historical items looked after by the Navy, and which date from the 15t century to the present.
Museo de los Orígenes (former Museo de San Isidro). The museum shows the different sides of Madrid through the ages. It is designed as a focal point for those who are interested in the history of Madrid, offering an insight into the city’s urban development and its many archaeological and historical remains.
Museo del Prado. The Prado Museum, considered one of the world’s best art galleries, houses famous masterpieces of paintings, with the outstanding presence of Velázquez, Goya, Titian and Rubens, amongst others.
Museo del Romanticismo. The museum, inaugurated in 1924 thanks to Benigno de la Vega-Inclán, a leading figure in Spanish cultural life. The premises are decorated like a 19th century palace and the collection is based on the artifacts collected personally by Vega-Inclán throughout his life. They include paintings, furniture, and a variety of decorative items.
Museo Sorolla. In 1929, the widow of Joaquín Sorolla y Batida (1863-1923) donated to the Spanish state the studio-house built in Madrid by the Valencian painter. It preserves the best collection of the artist’s paintings as well as numerous other works, including sculptures.
Museo Taurino. The Museum is located in the Las Ventas Bullring, in the Courtyard of Horses, where all kinds of items related to bulls are on display. Most pieces were donated by the great maestros.
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. This museum houses the largest and best selection of pictures collected by Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza and his wife. It includes 800 pictures spanning the great masters and schools from the 13th century to the present day.
Museo Tiflológico de la ONCE. In this museum all works are touch accessible. It is divided into 3 them areas: scale models of monuments, rooms of works by blind and visually impaired artists, and a room of blind material.
Museo del Traje. The Costume Museum gives a comprehensive view of the history of costumes in Spain from distant times up to the early 21st century.
Planetario de Madrid. The projection room is equipped with a planetarium that reproduces 9,000 stars, and audiovisual means to show 45-minute programs on astronomical matters.
Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando. It is one of the city’s outstanding museums, thanks to its valuable collection of paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints. It takes visitors on a tour through European and Spanish history between the 15th and 20th centuries.
Real Observatorio de Madrid. It’s an excellent place to know more about the evolution of astronomy, and other related sciences such as geodesy and cartography. Additionally, you can admire a fantastic collection of scientific instruments.
Sala Alcalá 31. The Alcalá 31 exhibition hall is located in an iconic building designed to house the headquarters of the Banco Mercantil e Industrial. It usually houses important temporary exhibitions.
Salas BBVA. The Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria bank stages art exhibitions in the Sáenz de Oiza tower and the Marqués de Salamanca Palace, two of the city’s exhibition halls.