Best Museums in Madrid: A Local’s Travel Guide
One of my favorite things to do in Madrid on weekends or simply after getting out of office, was wandering in one of the town’s numerous museums. Even though I am not a fervent museum visitor, I loved exploring the best museums in Madrid as it allowed me to learn more about the city and country that I was calling home for more than 2 years.
In Madrid, you have the top museums like Prado Art Museum or the Reina Sofia Museum with Picasso’s “Guernica”. However, there are many less known museums in Madrid that I got to know as a local. Get ready for museum hopping in Madrid, one of my favorite things to do in Madrid, Spain!
As mentioned, when I am traveling, I am usually not visiting EVERY museum of a destination. However, after living in Madrid for so long, I developed a natural curiosity for the town’s museums.
And I got hooked immediately! They are very different from each other and you’ll learn a lot about Madrid’s and Spain’s past and culture. Ultimately learning about culture is yet another benefit of slow and sustainable travel. It’s all about taking time.
I visited all the museums mentioned in this post and I split the article into 2 parts: first, the “must-visit” museums in Madrid and secondly, my top museums in Madrid from a local’s perspective.
Some museums offer free entrance on certain days. I will share the info below each museum.
I recommend getting the Madrid Museum Pass in order to visit several museums at a reduced price.
1. El Prado Museum
If you visit only 1 museum in Madrid, then El Prado Museum is the one! You’re probably not the only one, so be ready to queue! I highly recommend getting your Skip the line-Ticket for El Prado Museum.
El Prado Museum is Spain’ national art gallery. It’s like the Louvre for Paris. In El Prado Museum, you’ll find the most emblematic and most important art pieces of Spain’s history. The collection also includes European art from 12th to 19th century and paintings from big names like Diego Velazquez, Francisco Goya or El Greco.
“Las Meninas” by Velazquez, “The Garden of Earthly Delights” by Hieronymus Bosch and “the Colossus” by Goya are among my favorite paintings in Prado Museum. The Prado Museum is definitely a must, even if you just have 1 day in Madrid.
I also warn you that you shouldn’t go with the expectation to visit the ENTIRE museum. You’ll need more than a day for that! However, you should definitely include Prado Museum on your city trip to Madrid.
How to visit El Prado
Free entry: free entry daily during the last two hours before closing (be ready to wait in the line…)
Metro: Banco de España
Where: Paseo del Prado
2. The Reina Sofia Museum
If you are an art lover and want to see the paintings of Spain’s most prestigious artists, then you can’t skip the Reina Sofia Museum. Located at only 10 minutes walk from El Prado Museum, Reina Sofia Museum mainly hosts 20-century art.
Often seen as the modern counterpart of El Prado, the Reina Sofia is divided into 2 buildings. One hosts a permanent collection with paintings from Dali and Pablo Picasso’s world famous “Guernica”, the other half is open to temporary exhibits.
How to visit Reina Sofia Museum
Free Entry: free entry Sundays after 13:30
Where: c/ Santa Isabel, 52
3. The Thyssen Museum
The Thyssen Museum is located on the opposite street side of El Prado and is the 3rd of Madrid’s “Golden Triangle of Art”.
The Thyssen-Bornemisza museum is named after the art collector Heinrich Freiherr Thyssen-Bornemisza who gave his private collection to the Spanish state. Consisting of more than 1500 masterpieces from Van Gogh, Caravaggio, Degas and many more, the Thyssen Museum fills the gap between El Prado and Reina Sofia.
Arranged in chronological order, the permanent collection includes art pieces from Albrecht Dürer to Pop art.
After the Prado Museum, the Thyssen Bornemisza museum is one of the most famous museums in Madrid.
How to visit Thyssen Museum
Free entry: Mondays 12-4 pm
Metro: Banco de España
Where: Paseo del Prado, 8
4. The Royal Palace
A visit to the Royal Palace in Madrid will just leave you speechless! I was just overwhelmed by all the fanciness, wealth and exuberance of this place. Visiting the Spanish Royal Palace will definitely make you realize that Spain was once the most powerful dynasty in the world.
Located close to the Opera and overlooking the Sabatini gardens, the Royal Palace is the official residence of Spain’s king. However, he doesn’t live here. Nowadays the Royal Palace is mostly used for official ceremonies.
Being one of the largest palaces in Western Europe (more than 3000 rooms!), the Royal Palace will impress you by its fine sculptures, detaillist paintings, and rich ornaments.
You may want to visit the garden behind the Palace, Campo del Moro, which has free entrance.
How to visit the Royal Palace
Metro: Ópera (line 5 & 2) and Principe Pio (line 10)
Where: c/ Bailén (s/n)
5. The Sorolla Museum
I have to acknowledge that I didn’t know the painter Joaquin Sorolla Bastida before moving to Spain. However, many of my friends recommended me the museum and that’s how I ended up falling in love with the legere, bright and soft paintings of Sorolla.
Originally from Valencia, his paintings are like a soft summer breeze in the Spanish Mediterranean. Depicting local fishermen, scenes on the beach in the 19th century, always playing with the light, Sorolla’s museum is like a little escape to the Spanish coast.
The painter’s house itself is also well worth a visit. Inspired by Andalusian patios, the museum is surrounded by a peaceful garden and feels like an oasis of peace in busy Madrid. Besides the paintings, the museum showcases Sorolla’s most personal belongings in a quaint setting.
The Sorolla Museum is one of Madrid’s top art galleries.
How to visit Sorolla Museum
Metro: Gregorio Marañon
Where: Paseo del General Martínez Campos, 37
6. The Museum of Romanticism
The Museum of Romanticism is probably not one of the most famous art museums in Madrid. However, it hosts a beautiful collection from the time of Romanticism (19th century).
The garden and the quaint cafeteria of the museum are in my eyes as attractive as the museum’s collection. It is well worth to pop in only for a coffee or tea!
Located in Madrid’s hipster neighborhood Chueca and Malasaña, the museum boasts palace-like interiors including photography, drawings, stamps, etc. Each room has a very different atmosphere.
Where: Calle de San Mateo, 13
CaixaForum is for the modern art lovers among you. The first thing you notice about CaixaForum, is the impressive modern building. Located a few minutes’ walk from Prado museum, the museum’s site is dominated by a vertical garden.
The museum hosts modern photography and art pieces.
Metro: Estación del Arte
Where: Paseo del Prado, 36
After the obvious top museum to visit in Madrid, I want to share with you my favorite museums from a local’s perspective.
8. Naval Museum
When I first visited the Naval Museum of Madrid, I felt like discovering a treasure box! The museum looks so inconspicuous from the outside… But once you step in, you’ll feel thrown back to the times of Francis Drake, Christopher Columbus and the Explorers of the New World.
Even though Museo Naval is located in the Paseo del Prado, it is often skipped by visitors. They couldn’t be more wrong! Displayed in chronological order, the exposition showcases Spain’s vast maritime history.
The collection includes weapons, maps (!!!!), nautical and scientific instruments, submarine weaponry,… I could have spent hours here.
Metro: Banco de España
Where: Paseo del Prado, 5
9. Museum of the Americas
Next to Americas Museum
The Museo de las Americas is located outside the city center of Madrid. However, it is easy to reach by metro and you can include the Faro de Moncloa in your visit, a tower offering panorama views all over the town.
The Museum of the Americas, Madrid is one of my favorite museums in the world! Showcasing pre-Columbian artifacts from different cultures in Las Americas, a visit to Las Americas Museum is like traveling back to a lost world.
The pieces are absolutely unique and include jewels from important treasures, paintings, and artifacts from the social and religious reality of the “New Continent”.
Where: Avenida de los Reyes Católicos, 6
10. National Anthropology Museum
The National Anthropology Museum was a total surprise for me. Located in a tiny 19th-century building, the museum hosts fascinating items from Africa, Oceania, Asia, and Europe.
For me, it was like traveling in space to these places and somehow traveling in time to lost cultures around the globe.
The exhibition covers rituals, beliefs, clothing and much more… The museum is built in order to foster intercultural understanding.
Metro: Atocha Renfe
Where: Calle de Alfonso XII, 68
11. El Matadero
El Matadero is one of the coolest museums in Madrid! It is not only a museum but a creative space hosting social gatherings, film projections, foodie events, flea markets and much more.
Located along the river of Madrid, the former slaughterhouse hosts many temporary exhibitions and is a great place to meet young creatives. Don’t forget to visit its restaurant serving typical Spanish food from Madrid.
There is always something going on in El Matadero, so make sure to check their activities’ calendar when you visit Madrid. On top, the zone of Madrid river (Madrid Rio) is perfect for an afternoon stroll.
Metro: Legazpi (line 3, yellow)
Where: Paseo de la Chopera, 14
12. Museo del Traje
Faro de Moncloa next to the Museum
The Museo del Traje (the Garment Museum) is located quite far from the historic center, in the zone of Moncloa and close to the Museo de las Americas. That’s probably why I liked exploring the Museo del Traje of Madrid: it was the sensation of discovering a hidden gem.
The museum’s collections contain a large variety with outfits, garments, and accessories from the 16th, 17th and 18th century. It also hosts an important collection of the garment from the 20th century.
I really enjoyed traveling in time and as a lil’ fashionista. I found it super interesting how outfits changed in time. Especially when it comes to women’s garment and the process of emancipation.
Where: Avenida de Juan de Herrera, 2
13. Lope de Vega Museum
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The Lope de Vega museum is located in the historic center of Madrid. The former house of the great 16th-century writer, Lope de Vega, was converted in a museum showcasing his private art collection and furniture.
I particularly liked the garden and the spirit of this house when the “Golden Age” writer was living the last 25 years of his life.
The neighbourhood of the museum, Barrio de las Letras, was home to several of Spain’s most prestigious writers: Cervantes, Gongora, and Quevedo used to live here.
Metro: Sol, Antón Martín
Where: Calle de Cervantes, 11
14. Conde Duque
Conde Duque is my favorite place to spend warm summer nights! While living in Madrid, Conde Duque used to organize open-air cinema sessions in its patio serving light cocktails and tapas… A summer night’s dream!
The space of Conde Duque is enormous: the cultural center used to be army barracks. The collections of Conde Duque change very often and they offer a large variety between photography exhibitions, theater performances, concert, and dance shows.
The neighborhood of Conde Duque is one of the most vibrant ones and you should definitely check the cultural agenda of Conde Duque when traveling to Madrid.
Metro: San Bernardo, Noviciado, Plaza de España
Where: Calle Conde Duque 11
15. Bullfighting Museum
I am well aware that bullfighting is a delicate matter. However, I consider it as a part of Spain’s culture and traditions. Even though it is a tradition that is not as popular as it used to be, bullfighting still plays an important role in Spain’s society.
If you visit Madrid, I wouldn’t skip a visit to the Bullfight ring and its museum. The monumental sight, known as Las Ventas, is the 3rd largest bullfight arena in the world.
Many refer to Las Ventas as the “cathedral of bullfighting“. That means that those bullfighters who triumph here, figure among the best in the world.
Besides having a glimpse behind the scenes of nowadays bullfighting, the Bullfighting Museum Madrid showcases numerous items of Spain’s bullfighting history. I marveled at the bright colors of the bullfighter’s attire and the creative advertising posters (they are true pieces of art!)
For me, bullfighting is a fascinating world due to its key role in Spain’s culture and Madrid’s Las Ventas ring is a must-do of any Madrid sightseeing tour.
How to visit Madrid Bullring
Metro: Las Ventas
Where: Calle Alcala 237
16. Museo Lázaro Galdiano
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This is another gem of a museum that not many Madrid travelers include in their visit. Located in the sophisticated, upper-class neighborhood of Salamanca, the museum showcases the collection of José Lázaro Galdiano.
His home used to host literary gatherings attended by some of Spain’s most famous writers of that time: Rubén Darío, Emilia Pardo Bazán, Miguel de Unamuno, …
Comprising over 12.600 sculptures, paintings, jewels, marble artifacts, weapons and much more, the museum is a must for those who want to discover some rare art pieces. The items are from 6th to 20th century and boast prestigious names of painters like Cranach, Constable and many more.
However, its collection of Spanish painters is the most impressive. Be ready to enjoy the gems of El Greco, Zurbarán, Murillo or Velazquez. The museum also boasts an impressive collection of paintings from Goya.
Lázaro Galdiano was an avid bibliophile as well: be ready to enjoy handwritten letters by Lope de Vega and medieval manuscripts.
Metro: Rubén Darío, Gregorio Marañón, Núñez de Balboa, Avenida de América
Where: Serrano 122, 28006 Madrid
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Before You Go: Top Tips for your Trip
- You’ll snap tons of photos and I love to take my GoPro in order to shoot even in extreme situations.
- Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and hiking sandals when traveling to warm countries.
- Sunscreen is key! I always take with me my eco-friendly sunscreen by Thinksport.
- I always carry a light rain jacket, just in case. Pack smart with these organic cotton clothing companies.
- Be environmentally friendly and get one of these awesome backpacks made from recycled materials.
- Get in the mindset with these amazing wilderness survival books.
- Travel insurance is essential! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, travel protected against all odds with HeyMondo.
To make the most of your trip, I recommend Lonely Planet Madrid