Let’s get real here; few have the stamina to stroll through rooms upon rooms of art and Madrid has more museums than you feasibly can visit. But if you want a taste of the culture without committing to the whole hog, this is the one to see.
Okay, I lied. It is possible to visit all of Madrid’s museums over a couple of days but is it recommended? Well, certainly not by me.
A quick Google search will inform you of Madrid’s Golden Triangle of Art, the supposed three most important museums in the Spanish capital, and a little more digging will reveal their Museo Sorolla, Museo Arqueologico Nacional, plus a tonne of specialty spots.
But unless you want to be run off your feet, over-budget (assuming you go on the non-free days) and quite honestly, a little bored, you can safely skip the majority of Madrid’s museums.
The one you must work into your itinerary, however, is Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. It’s the perfect overview of art throughout history, showcasing almost a thousand pieces from the last seven centuries.
You’ll walk through rooms dedicated to the rich religious art of Europe throughout the 13th and 14th Centuries and wander past painted portraits of the long-forgotten people of the 16th Century through to the 18th.
You’ll find plenty of names you know, from Caravaggio and Monet through to Picasso, Dali and Lichtenstein, and many more you don’t, representing all walks of European life.
Fans of the traditional Renaissance and Baroque styles will find much to love at Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza as will those who favour more modern techniques.
Even better, the once-private collection can be comfortably seen in a couple hours at most. It’s truly enough to experience the varied artistic history of Europe and will allow you to walk away feeling satisfied with your cultural immersion.
As for museums you can happily skip? The Museo Arqueologico Nacional is definitely up there. As the name implies, it’s essentially the same archeological history collection that every city seems to have, albeit with a slight Spanish skew.
More controversially, however, is leaving the Prado out of your itinerary. Granted, it’s also much more oriented towards Spanish art history, however, unless you like long queues and quite frankly, unmemorable art (at least for the average tourist), it’s certainly not a must-see.
Completing the Golden Triangle of Art is the Reina-Sofia and it, too, is one of those museums I’d only see in its final, free hour of the day. That hour will allow you to see at least half the quirky collection. It’s enough if, like me, you tire of blank white canvas being lauded as “art”.
Naturally, if you have the time and inclination, go for it! These museums rank high on TripAdvisor for a reason, after all, but for a whirlwind Madrid visit the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza is the way to go.
Agree? Disagree? Are museums even necessary to visit when travelling? Let me know what you think in the comments below!