We love Madrid’s Golden Triangle of museums – the Prado Museum, the Reina Sofia Museum and the Thyssen Bornemizsa Museum – which are among the top museums in the world. But we also highly recommend some of the smaller, more unusual niche or special interest museums in the capital for their content, their architecture, their slower pace and charm.
If you have a few days in Madrid we recommend you visit one or two of the mainstream museums and at least one of the smaller ones. Here are some of our favourites. Remember opening times vary hugely from place to place (you could get us to check these for you and put together a programme) and bring ID with you for the state-run museums…
The Sorolla Museum – Most Charming Museum
Valencian-born Sorolla (1863-1923) was a highly acclaimed portrait and landscape painter in his lifetime. His wife Clotilde donated many paintings to the state that in turn established the museum in what had been his home and studio, in 1932. We cannot recommend this museum highly enough. You can take a virtual tour right now and get a taste of the wonderful house and gardens. When you go in person, you’ll find the painters love for his country’s diversity and his family is very moving.
The Cerralbo Museum – Best for Grandeur & Excess
With a title that dates back to the 13th century, you know to expect a treasure trove of artefacts. The 17th Marquis Enrique de Aguilera y Gamboa (1845-1922) built this house in 1893 and used it as a home and personal museum where he could display his family’s inheritance and his own commissions or items he picked up from his travels. He willed the museum to the state and much of the building has been preserved from that period. Inside you get a real sense of the person, his aristocratic background, his Carlist beliefs, and his love for archaeology, writing, travel and art. Go and enjoy the opulence of the ballroom and the gala dining room, examine the armoury and imagine what was discussed in the Arabian room. See whether you can spot the Marquis himself in one of the painted ceilings as you walk about the museum. Have a read of the brochure for this incredible home and you can read the more detailed room-by-room pamphlet also before you visit.
The Geology Museum – Madrid’s Best Kept Secret
A gem of a building which is in stark contrast to the Cerralbo Museum in terms of content and style. This museum is a wonderful space for anybody interested in architecture or geology. It’s located within the Institute of Geology and Mining and was opened in 1927; although it was actually completed in 1940. It’s a very traditional museum experience with display after display of minerals, rocks and fossils. Despite the old-school approach – you won’t find any cutting-edge interactivity here – children will really enjoy the space (especially climbing the stairwells), and will have fun comparing the minerals and rocks and fossils. The building’s stained glass ceiling, marble entrance and wooden displays are truly beautiful and are very calming and comforting. They offer a wonderful contrast to the larger busier museums. Read the brochure about the exhibits and the building before you travel. And bring your passport along – as this is a government building so you must show ID to gain entry.
Railway Museum – Best for Bringing out the Kid in You
As with the other museums, the building is a treasure. This old ‘Delicias’ train station which was built in 1880 was converted into a museum in 1984. Children and adults will enjoy the museum’s collection of rail carriages, clocks, model railways and signals. It’s very kid friendly as the children can hop on and off the carriages and explore the space without fear of breaking anything. If you’re keen to pick up a model railway, there is a model railway flea market on the first Sunday of each month. Also check the website for once-offs such as this cool LEGO event (click into blogger Luis Rodríguez‘ post to see how much fun it was.) During the summer months you can take a train trip from here to Aranjuez on the Strawberry Train which is a great way to combine a day trip with a museum visit.
Want to see the best museums in Madrid – big and small? Let us prepare the perfect Madrid package for you. We can provide specialist museum guides to take you around the museums.We can advise you of workshops that may be of interest to you within the museum or nearby. We can suggest nearby amenities such as cafes, parks and shops where you or a member of your group can take a break. We can recommend transportation connections or provide a driver to get you and yours around the city. And we can get you the best hotel rooms where you can rest your feet and head after an exciting day at the museums!