If there’s one thing European capitals have in common, it’s their variety of excellent museums. Still, Madrid is at the head of the pack when it comes to the quality and quantity of cultural offerings.
First off, three of the city’s most beloved museums are neighbours, while lots more establishments are just a stone’s throw away. Visitors can enjoy easy access to many of Madrid’s best museums, home to masterpieces of art and unique historical collections.
Heavy hitters include the Museo Nacional del Prado, or National Museum, the Reina Sofía, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza. In this guide, we’ll look at these and some more of the best, so you can plan out your time with confidence.
Discovering the Best Museums in Madrid
Let’s take a look at some of the top museums in Madrid. We’ll explore their main attractions, history, and opening times, to make planning your trip straightforward.
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
What: Modern art
When: Open Monday, Wednesday to Saturday 10:00 to 21:00. Sunday 10:00 to 19:00
Also called the Reina Sofía, this breathtaking museum specialises in 20th-century Spanish art. Notable collections centre around feminism and the Spanish Civil War, while the museum is also the home of Picasso’s Guernica.
Tip: entry is free for the last two hours of the day. But be warned, this is the busiest time.
National Archaeological Museum
When: Open Tuesday to Saturday 09:30 to 20:00. Sunday 09:30 to 15:00
The Museo Arqueológico Nacional houses collections of decorative art and archaeological pieces from the Spanish royal families. Explore prehistoric collections of Roman and Greek works, as well as the inner courtyard filled with impressive stone animals.
What: Maritime objects
When: Open Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 to 19:00
The Naval Museum of Madrid is set in the Spanish Army Headquarters, which is enough to entice some visitors by itself. Museo Naval features a variety of items and artefacts from Spain’s maritime history.
See the maps, coins, jewellery, and weapons discovered and used at sea. Not to mention the beautiful collection of model boats. This one’s a great choice if you’re visiting Madrid with children.
Museum of The Americas
What: American evolution
When: Open Tuesday to Saturday 09:00 to 15:00. Until 19:00 on Thursday. Sunday 10:00 to 15:00
Museo de America is a unique museum and well worth a visit if you have time. Collections span prehistoric times to the present day, bringing together the many cultures of the Americas.
Art, objects, and artefacts explore the evolution of the Americas during and following interactions with Spain. Visitors can explore more than 25,000 archaeological, anthropological, and colonial pieces.
What: House-museum of Joaquin Sorolla
When: Open Tuesday to Saturday 09:30 to 20:00. Sunday 10:00 to 15:00
Spanish artist Joaquin Sorolla lived in this Chamberi neighbourhood home until his death. Today, the building has been converted into one of the city’s best-loved small museums. Discover Sorolla’s work as you explore his former home.
There are tens of colourful landscape paintings to enjoy; a style which the artist was known for. Because it’s such a small museum, you can cover it comfortably in around an hour. It’s a perfect place for a quick visit, whether you’re into art or not.
What: House-museum of the 17th Marquis of Cerralbo
When: Open Tuesday to Saturday 09:30 to 15:00. Sunday 10:00 to 15:00
Another breathtaking house museum, the Museo Cerralbo occupies the old stately home of the 17th Marquis of Cerralbo. Step back in time when you visit this classical Spanish palace. There’s no better way to experience what life was like for an aristocratic family in the 19th century.
The museum houses over 50,000 objects from around Europe, collected by the Marquis and his children during many trips. Discover paintings, sculptures, ceramics, glass, tapestry, and much more as you wander around this beautiful museum.
Museu Lázaro Galdiano
What: Lázaro Galdiano’s private collection
When: Open Tuesday to Sunday 09:30 to 15:00
The Lázaro Galdiano Museum displays a significant portion of the Spanish art enthusiast’s collection. At the time of his death, Galdiano owned one of the most important art collections in the country. This museum is well worth a visit if you’re interested in Spanish and European art and artefacts.
There are lots of sculptures, items of art, paintings, and textiles to discover. These span from the 6th century AD to the early 20th century.
House-Museum of Lope de Vega
What: House-museum of Lope de Vega
When: Open Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 to 18:00
Here we have another excellent house-museum, this time dedicated to Golden Age writer, Lope de Vega. Enjoy a free tour around this former house, where de Vega wrote some of his best-known works. The museum features art and literary objects which tell the story of the Spanish Golden Age.
Visiting the Museo Nacional del Prado
The Museo Nacional del Prado, or The Prado Museum, is Spain’s primary art museum. It makes sense for this cultural gem to be located in the capital city, which means you can enjoy a memorable visit whenever you travel to Madrid.
This national treasure preserves, exhibits, and enriches works of art that are closely linked with the history of Spain. As such, it’s one of the most celebrated art museums in the world, welcoming around three million visitors a year.
A little history
When you visit, prepare to be as impressed by the buildings as you are the collections. The Prado Museum is set across a kind of campus, with several beautiful buildings housing different works. The main structure was designed by architect Juan de Villanueva in 1785 and was the first home of this unique Museo.
Sometimes considered a museum of painters, rather than of paintings, the Prado collection originates in the 16th and 17th centuries. Monarchs of the time were interested in collecting artworks by their favourite artists, rather than specific pieces. And we’re grateful they did. The Prado Museum boasts the largest collections of El Bosco, El Greco, Rubens, Velázquez, and more, in some cases owning more than 100 works.
Some of the most famous works at The Prado Museum include:
- The Annunciation by Fra Angelico
- The Descent by Rogier Van Der Weyden
- Self Portrait by Alberto Dürer
- Triptych of the Garden of Earthly Delights by Bosch
- The Crucifixion by Juan de Flanders
- The Cardinal by Rafael
As well as many more! You’re sure to discover your own favourites when you spend a day exploring.
Visiting the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum
Madrid’s Thyssen-Bornemiszea Museum is home to one of the most impressive private European art collections in the world. It’s a must-visit if you’re an enthusiast in the Spanish capital or a traveller looking for a memorable day out.
The Thyssen is a perfect place to immerse yourself in a wide variety of styles, with work from lots of famous artists under one roof. Collections are spread over three floors. Let’s take a look at what you can find.
Start at the top for a chronological visit. The second floor is home to lots of Medieval art. Discover gems from the 13th and 14th centuries. Examples include Portrait of King Henry VIII by Holbein the Younger and Massacre of the Innocents by Lucas Van Valckenborch.
Descend to the first floor for some of the most impressive pieces in the museum. Think Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Cezanne, to name just a few. This is the level for most of the Tyssen’s masterpieces.
Welcome to the 20th century! Explore a collection including fine examples of pop art, cubism, and other contemporary forms. Favourite featured artists include Picasso, Dalí, Miró, and Pollock.
Getting Around Madrid
With so many exciting museums in Madrid, you might find yourself spoilt for choice. We recommend choosing a few which appeal to your personal taste, rather than trying to hit them all in a short trip.
Whether you’re enjoying a leisurely break in Madrid or cramming in lots of cultural highlights, you’ll probably need to use public transport.
Luckily, there’s nothing to worry about when it comes to using public transport in Madrid. Bus, train, tram, and metro services are safe and reliable, getting you from A to B in no time.
Madrid’s most convenient mode of transport is the metro. Metro services run from 06:00 to 01:30 every day. And with trains departing every two minutes during peak times, you’ll never need to wait around.
Choosing a metro ticket
If you’re concerned about buying a metro ticket each time you travel, we have the solution! By purchasing a Tarjeta Multi contactless card with a multi-day fare, you can travel for the entire period of your stay without worrying about a thing. These cards are available from metro station machines and some tobacco shops.
You can add a single fare each time you travel, top up with a ten-ride ticket, or choose a multi-day option that lets you swipe on and off at leisure. What’s more, your card will be free if you buy a multi-day ticket! Otherwise, it will cost €2.50.
Taking the train to Madrid
Thanks to the efficient service run by Renfe – Spain’s national train company – it’s easy to reach Madrid by train. High-speed AVE trains can get you from Barcelona to Madrid in 2h 30m on the fastest services, Valencia to Madrid in 1h 40m and Seville to Madrid in 2h 30m. Trains to Madrid arrive into one of the city’s two main stations – Madrid Atocha or Madrid Chamartín; look out for the botanical garden if you arrive into the former!
Want to learn more about travelling by rail in Spain? Read our guide to trains in Spain, your one-stop-shop for all things rail. Our Renfe page also gives you the lowdown on Spain’s national train operator, including how to find the cheapest tickets.