This museum is probably one of the smallest you will see as it has only one room containing 17th century paintings of Madrid and two large wooden models showing how Madrid would have looked in the 17th century (you will have to use your imagination and geographical knowledge to recognise buildings such as the royal palace and the cathedral as they are not indicated on the models). A video screen taking you on imaginary walks through 17th century Madrid is interesting as it shows you which buildings of 17th century Madrid still exist today and which ones have disappeared over the centuries as Madrid has got ever bigger. Entry is free .
calle Fuencarral, 78
Nearest metro station: Tribunal
Google map: bit.ly/UCsTlX
This atmospheric town house is the former home of Spain's foremost "Golden Age" playwright - Lope de Vega who lived here for 25 years. A 17th-century gem with delightful gardens at the back, it's well worth the visit. Entry is free.
Calle de Cervantes 11, 28014, Madrid
+34 914 29 92 16
Nearest metro station: Antón Martín
Google map: bit.ly/SjC5bB
It is these small little known museums which really make Madrid a great city to visit. It is off the tourist trail but is still really worth seeing especially as it is one of the musuems in Madrid which has free entry all of the time. The friendly and enthusiastic staff will happily give a guided tour (in Spanish) of this museum which is set in the abandoned station of Chamberí which is in exactly the same state as it was left in when the station closed forever in 1966. A video explains
(in Spanish only) the entire history of Madrid's metro network. The only thing which reminds you that this time capsule is set in modern Madrid are the modern metro trains which thunder through the abandoned station (a safety barrier along one of the platforms prevents you falling from onto the tracks as you admire the untouched 1920s posters adorning the walls).
This abandoned station is so worth seeing so visit it!
Nearest metro station - Bilbao
Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday only
Google map: bit.ly/Rf7Sfg
This museum lies witihn the golden triangle of must see museums in Madrid - Prado, Thyssen & Reina Sofia so it is easily missed out because it isn't as prominent as the others. However this museum is worth a visit even if you are not that interested in ships and all things naval as it contains some fabulous paintings of famous explorers such as Christopher Columbus and Hernan Cortés, Spanish kings and queens, dictators and important politicians thus providing a focused and contextualised view of Spanish history. But do not ignore the other naval exhibits such as the first known European map to show North America, armour, compasses and plenty of early navigational instruments. The entry fee is four euros.
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
Amazing vegetarian food. It's buffet style and you pay by weight. Not the cheapest place but the best, most delicious, and filling food that we have eaten on our whole trip. Right near the big three art museums. Highly recommended. 100grams of deliciousness for 2euros.
Viva la Vida
c/ Huertas 57
Don't join the long line of people waiting to get in the Prado. If you are with your kids go to the Reina Sofia instead and see some marvellous contemporary and modern art paintings like Picasso's 'Guernica'.
After, go to the café/restaurant for some great food and of course a bottle of wine from the Ribera Del Duero region, superb.
A museum with fascinating artefacts from every era of Spain's history - starting with prehistory.
Amazing Moorish and Visigoth exhibits. There are reproductions of the famous Altamira cave paintings in a specially constructed grotto outside.
The museum is also right by the Jardines de Descubrimiento with impressive modern fountains and sculptures celebrating Colombus' discovery of the new world. More famously this is where the Giant Flag flies - a Spanish national flag the size of a tennis court.
Just behind Jardines de Descubramiento, to the right.
After a morning spent immersed in the European art of the Museo del Prado, the Royal Botanical Gardens next door provide a rejuvenating (and cheap - 2 Euros) variation.
Surprisingly peaceful, when considering that it's situated in the centre of Madrid. Sit in the shade under one of the many trees, or learn a little about the many plant species.
Real Jardín Botánico
2, Plaza de Murillo
Underground station: Atocha, Atocha-Renfe
It is the city's museum of modern art, heavily featuring Spanish modern artists - Dali, Miro and Picasso, and houses Picasso's Guernika. It's much more manageable than the Prado; the building itself is gorgeous, all white and airy, with a lovely garden in the central quadrangle. It used to be a mental hospital.
The top floor also houses contemporary installations which make the mind boggle. Enough for an hour or two of culture, without feeling obliged to see the rest, or be overwhelmed at the amount of work to see.
My favourite is a preparatory sketch of a bull with mad eyes Picasso made, for Guernika. My first stop whenever I am in town.
Free Saturday afternoons from 2pm.
On the Ronda de Atocha, opposite the Atoha railway station. 15 minute walk south of Plaza Major. Metro - Atocha
You HAVE to visit the Museo del Prado, the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. Goya, Picasso, El Greco, Dali etc etc, but there are superb works from many other artists who are less well-known. The Prado is mainly 16th/17th century, the Thyssen gives an excellent history of art (the 12th/13th century 'religious' art is amazing, as is the Van Gogh, Mondrian and Degas)and the Reine Sofia has splendid modern art, including 'Guernica'. Cheap entry without special cards.
Prado, Passeo de Prado; Thyssen, Passeo de Prado 8; Reine Sofia, Calle Santa Isabel 52.
Centro Cultural Conde Duque, on Calle Conde Duque, is a very little known permanent museum, temporary exhibition and concert venue. The 18th-century building is impressive in scale, and the area around is quiet and relaxed. Full of bars, restaurants and some beautiful shops, it is difficult to believe that you are in the centre of town, surrounded by Calle Princesa, San Bernardo etc.
Take a stroll to Plaza Comendadoras for a drink in one of the many "terrazas" while you look at children playing in the playground. On the same plaza there's a "Sauna" (a brothel); opposite you'll see the also impressive building of the Convento de las Comendadoras. The area has the air of a small village about it; it's a mix of bizarre, genuine and unique Madrid.
Zona Conde Duque, nearest tube is San Bernardo or Noviciado
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
The museum not to miss while in Madrid is the Thyssen-Bornemisza. This private art collection housed right accross from the infinitely more famous Museo del Prado, features paintings from the 16th through the 20th centuries by some of the world's most prominent artists, including Caravaggio, Monet, Degas, Gaugin, Van Gogh, Picasso, O'Keefe and Hopper, among others. The quality an diversity of the collection is uncomparable, yet it is a size that is manageable and won't cause 'museum-fatigue'. So you'll have enough time and energy after your visit to get out and see the rest of what Madrid has to offer!
Paseo del Prado, 8
It allows you unlimited access to museums and other attractions for a set number of days. Includes the fun fair - v good for all ages just off the metro - zoo, cable car, all the museums, palace, Imax etc. Go in August it's hot but there's nobody there - so no queues.
www.madridcard.com/en/Inicio.aspx We got ours in our hotel.
Fantastic museum full of modern art - if nothing else, it contains Picasso's incredible (and enormous) Guernica. Like a lot of the museums in Madrid, admission is free on Sundays.
Metro: Atocha; www.museoreinasofia.es/
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