The capital city of Madrid boasts a variety of stellar art museums, unique history museums, and overall just some of the best museums in Spain. The Museo del Prado, or Prado Museum, is the most popular art museum in the city with a plethora of European art from before the 1900s. The American Museum's collections feature Mayan glyphs and other exhibits in five themes. Also popular, the National Museum of Natural Science is filled with the study of everything nature has to offer. Its temporary exhibits are ever-changing and always interesting.
Unique art museums like Cerralbo Museum with the art and historical collections of Enrique de Aguilera Gamboa, Marquis of Cerralbo, and the Sorolla Museum that features work by Joaquin Sorolla are popular with the modern age art lovers. With works dating back to the 1100s at the Prado Museum and historic artifacts at the Madrid History Museum, there is something for everyone. Whether you are looking for a permanent collection of famous paintings or an impressive collection of artifacts dating back to ancient times, you can find it all in Madrid.
Madrid is famous for its art museums. The Prado, or Museo del Prado, is the most well-known museum in Spain and is housed in a neoclassical building. The Reina Sofia National Art Museum is also one of the most popular art museums with its Goya rooms and other Spanish artists' works. In addition, the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum is one of the newer and smaller art museums but boasts a special collection of about 1,600 works.
This iconic city boasts more than a dozen history museums. The National Archaeological Museum of Spain is one of the most popular in Madrid, Spain, and houses a large permanent collection as well as temporary exhibits that change often. You will also find collections that spread over several centuries like the Royal Armory, Temple of Debod, and the Pantheon of Illustrious Men. Drop off your luggage at a Madrid luggage storage location and then you can go explore.
Start with the Golden Triangle of Art
The Golden Triangle of Art is a group of three of the most popular art galleries in Spain as well as the Spanish capital of Madrid. The Prado, Reina Sofia, and Thyssen Bornemisza museums are all located on Paseo del Prado, the main boulevard in Central Madrid. Art lovers flock to Prado, a modern art gallery featuring pre-20th century artworks.
El Prado Museum
Also known as the Museo del Prado, the Prado Museum was founded in 1819 and is an art gallery as well as a cultural center of Spain. The historic 1785 building holds the world's finest collection of European artworks with over 22,000 pieces including 7,600 paintings and 1,000 sculptures. The vertical garden across the street is also spectacular. You can enjoy the large permanent collections as well as temporary exhibitions that rotate regularly so there is always something new.
Highlights include Velazquez's most precious oil on canvas, Las Meninas as well as the Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch. Located on Paseo del Prado, the museum is the main art gallery in the Golden Triangle of Art. The museum's collection also features Spanish artists such as Francisco Goya and El Greco as well as international artists like Michelangelo, Titian, and Van Dyck.
The Reina Sofia Museum
Also on Paseo del Prado and known as the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, is one of the most important museums in Madrid featuring paintings by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Georges Braque, and Juan Gris. In fact, it is one of the top museums in Madrid. It is also the second in the Golden Triangle of Art.
Mostly dedicated to Spanish artwork, the collection of historic and contemporary art includes the famous Guernica, a painting by Picasso from 1937 on the first floor. For those interested in other works, the art library boasts a huge collection of more than 100 thousand books, 3,500 recordings, and approximately 1,000 videos.
Thyssen Bornemisza Museum
The Thyssen Bornemisza Museum contains a variety of different collections ranging from the 13th to the 20th centuries, including French Impressionist, Italian Renaissance, and even Pop Art. The stunning collection makes this one of the best Madrid museums to see 20th-century art and it is the third part of the Golden Triangle of Art.
Located at Villahermosa Palace, you can see more than 1,500 masterpieces from Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, Degas, van Gogh, El Greco, and Gauguin to name a few. The work is shown in chronological order with an Italian collection of paintings from the 1300s by Gozzoli, Daddi, and Duccio. After the Prado Museum, the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum is one of the most famous museums in Spain. Bring the whole family as this one is a definite must-see when in Madrid.
Romanticism Museum of Madrid
Another one of the top museums in Madrid filled with art, the Museo del Romanticismo is located on Calle de San Mateo in the 18th-century palace of the Marquis of Matallana. It opened its doors in 1924 but the building itself dates back to the 1700s.
The Museo del Romanticismo is laid out as a home with rooms like the billiard room and several bedrooms. Here you will find a collection of more than 16,000 pieces dating back to 1833. Some of the most popular include personal belongings such as porcelain dolls as well as paintings by de Goya, Alenza, and Velazquez.
National Museum of Decorative Arts of Madrid
Also known as Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativas, this hidden gem in Madrid, Spain boasts 65,000+ items and artifacts such as tiles from a 1775 kitchen and fashions from 1500s China. You can see textiles, jewelry, furniture, paintings, and ceramics from the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
The glass collection is the oldest, dating back to the 4th century and the Roman Empire. The Oriental collection also includes bronzes, scrolls, musical instruments, and Chinese imperial robes. The gothic and baroque collections are the best in any Spanish public museum as well with about 4,000 pieces of porcelain, pottery, and clay.
The Royal Palace of Madrid
Near Plaza de España, the Royal Palace is also one of the top museums in Madrid with more than 3,400 rooms full of paintings from Flemish masters as well as an important collection of Spanish art from Diego Velazquez. But the first thing you will see is the Grand Staircase, which is made of a single slab of marble.
The sculptures accenting the staircase are stunning and the frescoes on the ceiling by Giaquinto are amazing. The Royal Palace also has an armory that is a must-see, with arms dating back to the 1200s. The Royal Library is also filled with history including a book from Queen Isabel II. On weekends, there is free entry for young visitors.
National Archaeological Museum of Spain
Founded by Royal Decree from Queen Isabella II in 1867, this colossal collection includes items dating back to the early Iron Age during the first millennium BC. Iberian and Celtic sculptures include items like the Lady of Elche from the 4th century and Bull of Osuna from the 5th century.
Other notable items to see include the Sarcophagus from Astorga, the Votive Crown of Recceswinth, and the Pyxis of Zamora from 964 CE. The ivory Medieval Crucifix of Ferdinand and Sancha is also quite famous, dating back to 1063. As one of the only archaeological museums in Madrid, it is one that should not be missed.
Naval Museum of Spain
The Naval Museum of Spain, or Museo Naval, is located next to the Prado and shares a plethora of interesting Spanish marine history. It highlights the times from the Middle Ages to the present day with a collection of artifacts and information from shipwreck items to weapons.
The most important item in the collection is the map of the Americas from Juan de la Cosa that dates back to 1500, making it the oldest map in the world. He made this map on the Santa Maria as was what was thought to be the New World, made on two pieces of parchment sewn on canvas.
Lope de Vega Museum of Madrid
Previously the official residence of Lope de Vega, the building was built in the 1500s and was bought by the famous writer in 1610. On the 300th anniversary of his death in 1935, his home was transformed into a museum showcasing his private collection of books, paintings, and other personal items like kitchenware, furniture, and clothing.
Take a guided tour to get the details about the life of Lope de Vega as well as interesting facts about the pieces inside. The tours last about 35 minutes and can be spoken in several different languages. In one of the rooms, you can see lamps of whale oil and pans used to heat up the bedsheets, and outside there is a vegetable garden.
Railway Museum of Madrid
You may also see it called the Museo del Ferrocarril, but this museum is full of railway equipment including old trains, models, and tools as well as memorabilia. The train shed is one of the most interesting features with a variety of historic rolling stock.
The museum is found in an old station, Madrid-Delicias with the largest historical railway collection in Europe. Interestingly, the station has been used in many television shows and films such as Dr. Zhivago, Reds, and Netflix's Cable Girls.
Museum of the Americas of Madrid
This museum contains antique items from the collection of American Archaeology and Ethnography from the National Archaeological Museum with more than 25,000 items. From prehistory to the present, you can find a little bit of everything from different cultures in this place.
The oldest antiquities include those from the Royal Cabinet of Natural History and date back to pre-Columbian times including a Nazca Pot from 400 AD and a Mayan Stele of Madrid from 700 AD. You can find the Museum of the Americas in Ciudad Universitaria, where it has been since 1965.
National Museum of Science and Technology
With a huge collection of over 17,000 scientific tools, machines, and vehicles as well as devices and instruments dating back to the 1500s, this national museum is one of the largest scientific collections in Madrid. Located in the Delicias Station with the Railway Museum, you can enjoy both of these in one day.
See the 1949 Mechanical Encyclopedia by Angela Robles, the Fresnel Lens from the Tower of Hercules lighthouse, and an IBM 650, which was the first computer in Spain, and the Iberia Boeing 747, famous for transporting Picasso's Guernica to Spain in 1981. This is one of the most interesting museums in Madrid.
Royal Observatory of Madrid
Completed in 1790, the Royal Observatory of Madrid is on a hill located close to Buen Retiro Park where it took over the work that was started by the Royal Institute and Observatory of the Spanish Navy. The Observatory houses historic equipment and you can get a free tour by appointment only.
The museum has an extensive collection of historic instruments including a number of antique books and a meridian circle. Some of the most popular items include a bronze mirror belonging to W. Herschel, a Foucault pendulum, and a collection of precision clocks. But do not miss the large equatorial telescope made by Grubb in 1912.
What are the best free museums in Madrid?
The Telephone Foundation of Madrid is Spain's first telephone museum and is found in the Grand Via historical building dating back to 1926. The collection includes items from the 21st century to provide information about the modern telephonic past, present, and future. It is always free to enter and is worth the visit.
The Madrid History Museum began as the Royal Hospice of San Fernando in 1673 but was turned into a public museum in 1929. It is always free of charge and holds a collection of items dating back to 1561 that is divided into several sections. These include the Madrid Town Court, Madrid Enlightened Center of Power, and the Madrid Dream of a New City.
Which are the best museums in downtown Madrid?
Downtown Madrid is full of museums but the most popular is the National Museum of Romanticism. The museum is set up as a historic house with a billiard room, bedrooms, dining room, and others. They each include the period pieces of furniture and other belongings of Mariano Jose de Larra, a romance writer from the early 1800s.
The National Archaeology Museum is free on Saturdays from two in the afternoon until closing time and boasts a variety of fascinating exhibits. It was established in 1867 by the order of Queen Isabel II and is one of the most visited museums in the country. Here you can see items dating back to the prehistoric age with the most famous being the Lady of Elche, a limestone bust from the 4th century BC.
Are there any cheap museums in Madrid?
The Prado Museum (El Prado) is open for a two-hour period for free Monday through Saturday between six and eight in the evening and on Sunday, from five to seven in the evening. The 1785 building holds a vast collection of European artworks with over 22,000 pieces including 7,600 paintings and 1,000 sculptures.
Another free museum is Goya's Pantheon (tomb) in the San Antonio de la Florida Chapel. His tomb is made of limestone and granite and indicates his first burial spot in the cemetery of Bordeaux where he passed away in 1828. His remains were moved to this tomb in 1919 where there are several frescoes done by the artist.
Museums for Art Lovers and More
Besides art, history, and science, the museums in Madrid laud a variety of other collections of interest in its many museums. The Naval Museum, Railway Museum, and the House of Coins Museum are all popular places to visit. Whether you want to see the famous Las Meninas at the Prado Museum or skeletal remains from prehistoric times, the capital of Spain is a place where you can find it all. Start your day museum-hopping and as a way to finish off, hit the town for a night out in Madrid!