The center of Madrid has one of the largest concentrations of museums and art venues in Europe. Walking distance from VillaJardines, Madrid offers more than 100 centres devoted to art and culture. The 24 most recommended museums and art spaces closer to VillaJardines are shown in the map. All of them, walking distance.
1. MUSEO DEL PRADO. Paseo del Prado.
The Prado Museum is one of the most prestigious art museums in the world. Storing over 8,000 master pieces, the Prado Museum offers an expansive survey of Western painting, from the Middle Ages to the 19th century.
The Prado Museum houses the most comprehensive collection of Spanish painting in the world. Itineraries can begin in the 11th century, contemplating Mozarabic murals. The galleries devoted to El Greco display some of the most unique examples of Mannerism.
The Golden Century is vastly represented through works by Ribera, Zurbaran and Murillo, which explain the context that triggered Velazquez‘s paintings. Half way between the 18th and 19th centuries, the Goya galleries display artworks ranging from the tapestry cardboards he created for the Royal Tapestry Factory, to the Black Paintings he painted on the walls of his house, named Deaf-Man’s Villa. They make it easier to understand Spanish Romanticism.
The Prado Museum is clearly a must. Indulge yourself in the pleasure of art. Opening hours from Monday to Saturday from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm and Sundays and holidays, from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm. The general price is 14 euros, but click here for more information on prices. Free entry to youngsters one hour before closing.
2. THE REINA SOFIA MUSEUM. Ronda de Atocha.
The Reina Sofía is Spain’s national museum of 20th century art. The central building of the museum was once an 18th-century hospital. It is located near the Atocha train and metro stations, worth a visit. The museum is mainly dedicated to Spanish art. Highlights of the museum include excellent collections of Spain’s two greatest 20th century masters, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí.
The Reina Sofía collection has works by artists such as Juan Gris, Joan Miró, Eduardo Chillida, Antoni Tàpies, among others. International artists are few in the collection, but there is a large work by Francis Bacon, who died in Madrid. The extension was created by French architect Jean Nouvel and is worth a visit.
Open from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm. It closes on Tuesday. It is the only museum that opens on Mondays. The Cristal Palace and the Velazquez Palace are in the Retiro Park and both depend on the Reina Sofia Musuem. They are located in the Retiro Park and you can visit them for free from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm.
After an exhaustive visit to modern art, you can take an invigorating coffee at Atocha Station Tropical Greenhouse.
Atocha Station is sadly known because on March 11th 2004, packed arriving commuter trains were bombed in a series of coordinated Al Qaeda bombings, killing 191 people and wounding 1,800. On June 10th 2004, a somber and minimalist Atocha station memorial was dedicated for the victims of the Attack. Visitors to the attacked stations can leave a hand silhouette and a message for peace.
3. THYSSEN-BORNEMISZA MUSEUM. Paseo del Prado, 8.
The Thyssen – Bornemisza Museum (named after its founder), is an art museum located at Paseo del Prado, one of the city’s main boulevards. It is part of the Golden Triangle of Art, which also includes the Prado and the Reina Sofia national galleries. With over 1,600 paintings the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection was once the second largest private collection in the world after the British Royal Collection.
Just metres from the Prado and the Reina Sofía museums, the Thyssen-Bornemisza allows to embark on an exceptional journey through seven centuries of painting or to contemplate any one of its 50 universal masterpieces.
If you want to visit the Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Reina Sofía Museums get a joint admission card (Paseo del Arte Card) for 21.60 euros. The Thyssen is free on Mondays from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm and this free admission includes the two permanent collections, the Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Carmen Thyssen collections. Free visitors can also visit the bookshop and cafeteria.
4. CAIXAFORUM. Paseo del Prado 36.
This new centre is conceived as a 21st century sociocultural centre. CaixaForum emerges as a live space, opening its doors to old, modern and contemporary art, to music and poetry festivals, to multimedia art, to debates on current affairs, to social symposiums and family and educational workshops.
The spectacular construction housing it, located on Paseo del Prado in a building which once was the Mediodía Electric Power Station, is already one of the new landmarks in the city.
The impressive building is a former electric power station next to the Art Walk with the three major museums in Madrid, the Prado, the Thyssen and the Reina Sofía. The heavy brick building seems in fact to be levitating.
Its calendar is open to all disciplines and audiences, guaranteeing the success of an institution which contributes even more to the already rich cultural offering in Madrid. The general price for an exhibition is 4 euros, or free if your bank account is in La Caixa bank. They have a wide range of activities for kids.
Do not miss the impressive vertical garden and its exuberant façade featuring more than 15,000 plants from 250 species.
5. ROYAL BOTANICAL GARDENS. Paseo del Prado.
Located on the Paseo del Prado near a number of the city’s popular attractions, this massive garden is easy to find and provides visitors a chance to get out in the fresh air after hours spent exploring Spanish art and other ancient artifacts. The Paseo del Prado itself is one of the main boulevards in Madrid.
The Paseo del Prado itself is considered as the oldest historical urban gardens in Europe. It forms the southern end of the city’s central axis (which continues to the north of Cibeles as the Paseo de Recoletos, and further north as the Paseo de la Castellana).
The garden is divided into seven major outdoor sections and five greenhouses. Total collections include about 90,000 plants and flowers, and 1,500 trees. It also contains a substantial herbarium, established in 1846, and containing about a million specimens from around the world organized into two collections, phanerogams and cryptogams. The general price is 3 euros.
6. NAVAL MUSEUM. Paseo del Prado.
The Naval Museum presently forms part of the Spanish Naval Headquarters in Madrid and is one of the most important naval museums in the world. It shows the history of the Spanish Navy since the Catholic Monarchs, in the 15th century, up to the present. It also hosts several navigation instruments, weapons, maps and paintings. Its origins date back to 1792, but it was not until 1843 when the Museum was inaugurated in Madrid. It was finally moved to its current location at the Spanish Navy Headquarters in 1932.
If you are interested in historical things related to the sea, you can see the map of Juan de la Cosa, the earliest preserved map of the Americas. For some reason, this museum also hosts one gram of moon rock on the Apollo 17 lunar sample display. Here you can also see one of Spain’s prides, Isaac Peral‘s submarine. The Peral submarine was conceived in 1884 and its ability to fire torpedoes underwater, while continuing to maintain full propulsive power and control, has led many to consider it the first U-boat in the history of navigation.
The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 2pm. Admission is free. Special free guided tours for the public take place at 11:30am on Saturdays and Sundays. The museum is closed on Mondays.
7. CENTRO CENTRO. Plaza de Cibeles.
Cibeles Culture and Citizenship Centro Centro, colloquially “5Cs”, is a space for reflection in the areas of culture, citizenship and creative management of public spaces. They address issues like sustainability and intelligent city models through platforms for debate and artistic exploration.
Centro Centro is located in a symbolic building of Madrid, the Cibeles Palace, formerly the Communications Palace, located on the Plaza de Cibeles. It was originally built in 1917 by Antonio Palacios, Madrid’s most prolific architect of the belle époque, to host the headquarters of the postal service. It combines elements of the North American monumental style of the period with Gothic and Renaissance touches. but in 2007 the building became the Madrid City Hall. The city hall’s white facade creates a picture-perfect backdrop for Madrid’s most beautiful fountain, the Fuente de las Cibeles, at the center of the square. This is the dearest fountain in Madrid to locals.
Today, this historic site is filled with ideas of the 21st century, suggesting a new space for cultural and civic action. The building is very attractive and the views from the terrace are truly fantastic. It is worth a visit and they organize many free cultural activities.
8. CASA DE AMERICA. Plaza de Cibeles.
The House of America is located in the Linares Palace (1884), an exquisite palace that can be seen by the public, although it is open to the public only on Saturdays and Sundays. One has to buy the tickets ahead of time in the El Corte Ingles for guided tours. The building is managed by the foundation Casa America, which tries to foment cultural ties between Latin America and Spain.
Their approach is encouraged by cultural activities dealing with anything you can imagine, from Literature; Film & Theatre (screenings, premieres, performances); Music (concerts, master classes); Art (exhibitions, installations) to Politics and economics (round tables, seminars, master classes, lectures, conferences).
The building is beautiful and hosts the famous ghost of the dead incestuous daughter of the Marquis de Linares. Some claim that at night the phantoms of the Marquises can be seen wandering in sorrow within their respective Palace chambers. The building has a very intriguing real life story mixing the middle of the 19th century, the very rich Marchesses de Linares (who happened to be brother and sister by father without knowing), their dead daughter, the decline of an era, the Pope’s fun recommendations in order to let them stay married, a ghost…
9. NATIONAL LIBRARY. 20 Paseo de Recoletos.
The library was founded by King Philip V of Spain in 1712 and he made it mandatory for printers to submit a copy of every book printed in Spain to the library. In 1836, the library’s status as Crown property was revoked and ownership was transferred to the Government and renamed the National Library (Biblioteca Nacional).
Spain’s Biblioteca Nacional acts as the custodian of all books. It receives and stores copies of all the books published in Spain. It holds an extremely valuable collection of incunabula, manuscripts, illustrations, drawings, photographs, audio recordings and musical scores. All you need to view these holdings is a reader’s or researcher’s card. The Exhibition Rooms and the Library Museum, where various exhibitions and cultural activities are held, are open to all.
The Museum, formerly Museum of the Book, provides educational, cultural and leisure activities for all audiences. Open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm. Sundays until 2:00 pm. Admission to the Museum is free. There is also a guided tour service. In 2012 the National Library celebrated its 300th anniversary. Happy birthday!
10. ARCHAELOGICAL MUSEUM. 13 Calle de Serrano.
The National Archaeological Museum of Spain was founded in 1867 by Isabella II, and its purpose was to be a depository for all the numismatic, archaeological, ethno-graphical and decorative art collections compiled by the Spanish Monarchs from a range of different institutions. In 1895 all the collections were moved to the current venue, a neoclassical building built in 1892. The permanent collection provides a very comprehensive journey through the history of Spain, from prehistory to the 19th century.
This museum allow us to learn the history of our world through a tour of 34 rooms and about 71 pieces of great historical significance, with items from excavations throughout Spain and collections of coins and pottery from all eras.
Its collection includes excellent pieces from all periods and styles, including Egyptian sarcophagi and mummies; Hispano-Roman decorative art; Moorish archaeology; and Mudejar masonry and ceramics. There is also a partial reconstruction of the Altamira Caves, and a library specialising in scientific publications on art, history, archaeology and museology. One of its most highly-prized treasures is the bust of the enigmatic Lady of Elche. Temporarily closed due to maintenance works and creation of new exhibition rooms.
11. CENTRO CULTURAL FERNAN GOMEZ. Paseo de Recoletos.
The Teatro Fernan Gomez (formerly Centro Cultural de la Villa de Madrid) is a multipurpose space located in the Plaza de Colón in a subway under the Discovery Gardens. Pioneer in concept, it was founded for developing performing arts and other cultural activities.
Located at the beginning of the Prado-Recoletos cultural hub, next to the Discovery Gardens, the Teatro Fernan Gomez Arts Center hosts all kinds of theater, dance and music events throughout the year, as well as interesting exhibits. It was inaugurated on May 15, 1977. The first performance on the stage represented in the center was named First Hispanic American Folk Festival. Since that first inaugural year, both zarzuela and contemporary authors were combined in the program, as well as a classic ballet performances.
This plaza and its fountain commemorate the explorer Christopher Columbus, whose name in Spanish was Cristóbal Colón. Under the auspices of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, he completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean that led to general European awareness of America. Those voyages initiated the Spanish colonization of the New World. Since 2007 the theatre was renamed after the Spanish actor Fernando Fernan Gomez.
12. FUNDACION MAPFRE. Paseo de Recoletos.
The Institute of Culture and History run by Fundación Mapfre is a very recommended place. Not only it is free but also always hosts popular and interesting exhibitions, organising 35 major exhibitions worldwide each year and running interesting projects aimed at developing knowledge of Spanish and Latin American history. The magnificent cultural activities are only part of other social activities Mapfre, an insurance company, carries out. An institution rooted in the Latin-American world, Fundacion Mapfre has kept at heart the objective of safeguarding the documentary and bibliographic heritage of Latin America. For more than 20 years now, it has tirelessly launched and supported initiatives making a huge sum of knowledge available.
Based in Paseo de Recoletos in Madrid, the Cultural Institute has become a major art institution, collaborating with top international museums and galleries such as the Musée d’Orsay and the Jeu de Paume in Paris, and the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC. Fundación Mapfre’s permanent collection is comprised mainly of contemporary photographers and works on paper. You can support Fundacion Mapfre and find out the latest news by becoming a fan on Facebook. They publish a very interesting online magazine. Should you be interested in one of their current exhibitions but do not have the time to go, they allow the joy of a virtual tour. The building has an exhibition area divided into three halls.
13. CERVANTES INSTITUTE. 49 Calle de Alcala.
The Cervantes Institute is a worldwide non-profit organization named after Miguel de Cervantes (1547–1616), the author of Don Quixote and perhaps the most important figure in the history of Spanish literature.
The Cervantes Institute, a government agency, is the largest organization in the world responsible for promoting the study and the teaching of Spanish language and culture. It promotes the education, the study and the use of Spanish universally as a second language.
If you are interested in improving your Spanish, they offer general language courses are offered at four different levels (elementary, intermediate, advanced and high advanced). It is recommended if you want to improve your language skills in reading, speaking or writing, or if you are into literature and cultures of the Spanish-speaking countries.
Workshops, exhibitions, conferences, Spanish classes, activities for children, social gatherings and virtually anything you can think of has been done at the Instituto Cervantes. It is one of the places in the capital with a huge cultural promotion, being very focused on Hispanic studies. You can join the Cervantes Institute in Facebook.
14. BANK OF SPAIN. Plaza de Cibeles.
The Banco de España is the national central bank of Spain. Established in Madrid in 1782 by Charles III, today the bank is a member of the European System of Central Banks. The Banco de España owns an important collection of paintings, either inherited from its predecessor banks or later acquired or commissioned. The collection extends from the end of the 15th century to the present day and includes gems of pictorial art and paintings of great historical value. From the second half of the 20th century, the art collection has been enriched by other disciplines such as photography or sculpture. The exhibition room is rather small, but the location is exceptional.
16. ESPACIO (TELEFONICA). 3 Calle de Fuencarral.
In 2012 opened in Madrid the new Espacio Fundación Telefónica. Located in the historic headquarters of the company, in the Gran Vía, these new galleries were born to host the 21st century new culture and to become a place for debate, reflection and communication. They aim to encounter the avant-garde with the revolution knowledge that we live today. In this way an architectural avant-garde project hosts artists of the 21st century culture.
Three exhibition areas. The first hosts Telefónica’s Cubist Collection, which consists of paintings, photographs and ceramic pieces, as well as abundant graphic material, European and American art magazines and audiovisual pieces. The second, the history of telecommunications, reviews a selection of 50 pieces coming from Telefonica’s historical/technological heritage of the company, retained throughout a nearly 100-year history. The third exhibition area is on Art and artificial Life which revisits a series of works that have been prized in the VIDA Art and Artificial Life awards, held annually by Fundación Telefónica since 1999. The entry is free. Open from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm, from Tuesday to Sunday. Closed on Mondays. Highly recommended.
17. ROYAL ACADEMY OF FINE ARTS. Calle de Alcala.
The academy was established by royal decree in 1744. About twenty years later, the enlightened monarch, Charles III purchased a palace in Madrid as the academy’s new home. The building had been designed by Churriguera for the Goyeneche family. The king commissioned Villanueva to convert the building for academic use, employing a neoclassical style in place of Churriguera’s baroque design. Doubling as a museum and gallery, today it houses a fine art collection of paintings from the 15th to 20th century: Giovanni Bellini, Correggio, Rubens, Zurbarán, Murillo, Goya, Juan Gris, Pablo Serrano…
Francisco Goya was once one of the academy’s directors, and, its alumni include Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Antonio López García, Juan Luna, and Fernando Botero. Few people know that Simón Bolivar also studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in 1799, where he learnt arts, mathematics, Latin and French. The academy is also the headquarters of the Madrid Academy of Art.
El Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales, literally the Monastery of Barefoot Royals, resides in the former palace of King Charles I of Spain and Isabel of Portugal and where their daughter Joanna of Austria was born in 1535. Joanna of Austria founded this convent of nuns of the Poor Clare order in 1559. Joanna of Austria was the widow of the Prince of Portugal and mother of Don Sebastián, the future king of Portugal, when she founded this Convent.
Throughout the remainder of the 16th century and into the 17th century, the convent attracted young widowed or spinster noblewomen. Each woman brought with her a dowry. The riches quickly piled up, and the convent became one of the richest convents in all of Europe. While in the past the treasures of the monastery were not visible, today the monastery houses only a few nuns, and the site is a well-visited monument.
Among the many relics on display are pieces from Christ‘s cross, and bones of Saint Sebastian. Among the priceless art masterpieces are Titian‘s Caesar’s Money, tapestries designs by Rubens, and works by Hans de Beken and Brueghel the Elder. Spain’s finest Renaissance composer, Tomás Luis de Victoria, worked at the convent from 1587 to the end of his life in 1611.
19. CERRALBO MUSEUM.
The Palace, built between 1883 and 1893, was conceived as a museum to house and host the works of art collected by the Marquis of Cerralbo and his sons, the Marquis of Villa Huerta, during the many trips made by Spain and Europe.
The Cerralbo Museum has the distinction of being one of the few examples in our city that retains the original atmosphere which was the residence of the Marquis of Cerralbo and his family. Palace museum, historic house and museum environments, is an essential reference to know the lifestyle of the Madrid aristocracy of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
In addition, as a collector’s museum, with pieces arranged as the founder, reflects the artistic taste of his time. This is a group considered at the time as one of the most important private collections in the country and certainly the most complete of its time.
20. ROYAL THEATRE (OPERA HOUSE). Plaza de Oriente.
From its inauguration in 1850 through to the present day, the Royal Theatre has been the subject of constant alterations, political changes, construction problems and a succession of renovations.
After thirty-two years of planning and construction, on 7 May 1850 it was decided the immediate completion of the so called Teatro de Oriente. It was located just in front of the Palacio Real, the official residence of the Queen of Spain, Isabella II, who ordered the construction of the theatre. On 19 November 1850 it was opened with Donizetti’s La Favorite. In 1863, Verdi visited the theatre for the Spanish premiere of his La Forza del Destino. In 1925, the Ballets Russes of Diaghilev performed in the theatre with the presence of Nijinsky and Stravinsky).
It closed in the 1990s for major renovation. When it reopened in 1997, it once again became, as Queen Isabella II originally intended it, the home of opera in Madrid. Throughout its long and varied life, the Teatro Real has not just been the venue for artistic stage performances. It has been the scene of lyric productions but has also hosted parliamentary sessions, it has been a gunpowder store and was used as improvised barracks during the Spanish Civil War. It has even been used as a dance hall.
It is open on Mondays, Wedenesdays to Fridays from 10:30 am to 1:00 pm.
21. ROYAL PALACE. Plaza de Oriente.
Home to the Kings of Spain from Carlos III to Alfonso XIII, Madrid’s Royal Palace is no longer the royal family’s home, though it continues to be their official residence. Now it is basically used for oficial State ceremonies, specific musical events and as a very popular museum.
Long before Madrid became the capital of Spain, Emir Mohamed I chose Magerit (the city’s Arabic name) as the site for a fortress to protect Toledo from the advancing Christians. The building was eventually used by the Kings of Castille until finally becoming what would be known as the Old Fortress (Antiguo Alcazar) in the 14th century. Carlos I, Holy Roman Emperor, and his son Felipe II turned the building into a permanent residence for the Spanish royal family. However, in 1734 a fire burnt the Palace of the Austrias to the ground, and Felipe V ordered the construction of the palace that stands today.
The new Royal Palace was built 1764. Sabatini made the southeast wing and the grand staircase. The Sabatini Gardens and the Campo del Moro are other attractions of the palace. There is some debate whether to frame the style of the Royal Palace as Baroque or Neoclassical, depending on the authors. It opens every day from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm. The general tickets costs 10 euros.
22. THE CATHEDRAL OF MADRID. Calle de Bailen.
Madrid’s La Almudena Cathedral was consecrated by Pope John Paul II in 1993. It houses works of great artistic value, and the dome which crowns the building offers a spectacular view over the city.
In 1883 the Marquis of Cubas, the first architect assigned to the cathedral, began work on the building. His idea was to erect a grand neo-Gothic style structure, adorned with pinnacles, spires and gargoyles, in tune with the fashion of late 19th century Europe. But when work on the building began once again in 1950 following the Spanish Civil War, the new architect Fernando Chueca Goitia decided to endow it with a more austere appearance, similar to that of its neighbour, the Royal Palace.
Many are surprised to hear that Madrid, home to the Spanish court since the 16th century, did not have a cathedral until 1993 when La Almudena was consecrated by Pope John Paul II. This is because, until 1885, Madrid formed part of the Archdiocese of Toledo, whose archbishop is also designated the Cardinal Primate of Spain. Today this is merely an honorific title, but in the past it made the holder the head of the Church of Spain. Although Philip II moved the court to Madrid in 1561, this did not place any obligation on the Church to set up its own archdiocese here.
23. CÍRCULO DE BELLAS ARTES. Calle de Alcala.
The CBA (Círculo de Bellas Artes, which stands for Circle of Fine Arts) is one of the most important private cultural centres in Europe and is characterised by its open attitude towards outstanding innovative artistic trends. It is a multidisciplinary centre with activities ranging from visual art to literature, from science and philosophy to film and the performing arts.
The CBA was founded in 1880 thanks to the efforts of a small group of artists. It is a private, non-profit cultural institution, officially declared a ‘Centre for the Protection of the Fine Arts and of Public Interest’. Literature Noble Prize winner Jacinto Benavente worked as one of the Managers in the beginning of the 20th century, having Picasso as a student of fine arts.
It is worth noting that the building seems to be divided into two different bodies. That is because its construction was financed with revenues from gambling, but gambling became illegal in the 30’s so the project had to be revised in the middle of the construction. On the roof, an Art Deco Roman godess Minerva observes the whole city. She was the virgin goddess of music, poetry, medicine, wisdom, commerce, weaving, crafts and magic.
24. MUSEUM OF ROMANTICISM.
The Museum of Romanticism is located in the former palace of the Marquis of Matallana, built in 1776, and accommodates an interesting collection of 19th century painting, furniture and decorative arts, providing insight into the cultural, political and everyday life of Romantic Madrid.
Works by Spanish painters (Goya, Madrazo, Alenza and the Bécquer Brothers), ceramics from Sargadelos and Sèvres, jewels made of ebonite, lava or natural hair, a collection of china dolls, 15 pianos, Imperial and Elizabethan furniture and the pistol Larra used to commit suicide recreate the atmosphere of Romanticism, a cultural movement which, during the first half of the 19th century, shook up the heart of young artists, intellectuals and politicians. Part exaltation, part ridicule, between the sublime and the grotesque, this generation were pioneers of many things, as they were the first bohemians, the first damned poets….
The Museum of Romanticism opens from Tuesdays to Sundays, from 10:00 am to 18:30 pm. Some galleries reproduce different quarters of a 19th century palace and others set out a thematic itinerary around the country’s cultural and political history.
All the above information intends simply to inform about the center of Madrid. Please let me know if any of this information is inappropriate or outdated.
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