An alternative to the big city art establishments is La Tabacalera. A community-run gallery/workshop space/music venue/café/bar in the multicultural barrio of Lavapies, this old tobacco factory is the laid back, graffiti-walled hangout for the cool kids, mums and dads of Madrid. If you want to mix with locals and brush up on your Spanish the vibe is friendly, the art is edgy and the drinks are cheap. Any given night of the week there is bound to be a salsa-class, skateboarding practice, art exhibition or workshop in session, open to anyone and all for free.
Calle Embajadores 53, Madrid
Metro stop: Embajadores
The CaixaForum Madrid by architects Herzog and de Meuron, opened in 2008 and is located near the Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza museums.
The converted former power station presents itself like a walk-in sculpture, with several exhibitions and events hosted concurrently. The building looks over the Paseo del Prado with a daringly beautiful planted wall and contrasting Cor-ten steel and brick facade.
My family and I went there after a visit to the botanical garden for a 'quick look' - we stayed three hours and hadn't even exhausted the impressive Richard Rogers architects exhibition (until 18 Oct 2009) with dozens of models. Even the younger kids were happy!
A cool cafe and bookshop rounds of this 'must visit' gem.
Paseo del Prado, 36
Tel.: 91 330 73 00
Atocha, línea 1
Madrid's second most famous art museum. It doesn't have Las Meninas or cute art students doing copies of the Old Masters. But nor does it have the Prado's crowds and the endless succession of suffering Jesuses and portraits of Spanish royalty and their mates.
Paseo del Prado, 8
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