Before I went to Madrid, I expected what I had experienced in Barcelona, which was lots of sangria drinking and paella eating. When I decided to travel to Spain again, I knew that I should add Madrid to my itinerary but had no idea what to expect.
I took the train in from Barcelona (it was only 2 hours and had gorgeous views of countryside villages, I highly recommend it!) and immediately recognized that I was in a completely different place. Where I had previously experienced a seaside city, I found Madrid to be a landlocked and bustling city with great food, people, and shops.
But above all, my favorite part was the endless variety of museums – there are over 50 to explore, and they span so many different types of specialties. Whatever you’re interested in, you’ll be sure to find it in Madrid!
The most widely known is the Museo del Prado, which opened its doors over 200 years ago and is claimed to be the biggest tourist spot in Spain. It has art dating from the 12th century all the way to the early 20th century, so everyone can find something that they enjoy. One of the most famous pieces is Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez, so definitely check that out. If you’re traveling on a budget, the museum is open for free from Monday to Saturday 6pm-8pm and Sundays 5pm-7pm.
The museum is centrally located with a park and a large shopping area on either side, so it’s an easy addition when touring Madrid.
Another art museum which offers a completely different experience is the Museo Reina Sofia, a modern art museum. The claim to fame for this museum is that it has many Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso pieces, but above all, it has the Guernica. Walking through the museum, there is a very apparent juxtaposition between the modern art and its surroundings, the building itself was a hospital in the 1900s. This museum is free on Sundays 10am-2:30pm and on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 7pm to 9pm.
If you’re interested in something completely different, the Naval Museum is always free, and it has naval artefacts from the 15th century until the modern day. They even have remains from the Battle of Trafalgar. So, if you’re having an art overload, this will be a nice break to experience something you don’t get to see in most cities.
Lastly, a museum that is special to Madrid is its Royal Palace. I have visited many palaces throughout my travels and this one is exceedingly gorgeous. There is so much detail put into every room, it is actually breathtaking. Before you enter the palace, if you walk to the furthest left side of the courtyard, you can get gorgeous views of Madrid. It’s free every Wednesday.
If you’re doing a study abroad or just spending a while in Madrid, a Paseo del Arte card is a great investment. You can enter the Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo Reina Sofia and Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza museums for a whole year for just €29.60! There will be new things to see with new exhibitions always revolving.
So much of Madrid’s beauty can be found in its museums and rich appreciation for history – it is something which can be seen throughout the whole city. During my time there I wasn’t able to visit every single museum, so if you’ve gone to any that aren’t mentioned above, please leave your thoughts on them in the comments below!