Madrid boasts some of the art world’s greatest treasures. For a city of its size to host three world-class art museums is nothing short of extraordinary. But the art doesn’t stop with these three major galleries, The Prado Museum, The Reina Sofía Art Museum, and The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, no, in Madrid there are dozens of other galleries, museums, art spaces and exhibitions. Testament to the rich Spanish culture, the abundance of museums exhibit artworks by international artists and of course Spain’s favourite artistic personalities. Goya, Picasso, Dali, Velázquez, Miró, and Gaudí are all household names, and Madrid’s major art museums pay homage to Spain’s artistic heroes.
Unlike other major cities such as New York and London, Madrid’s galleries are not free, and can in fact be expensive to visit for those wishing to see all three. That is, unless you know the right times and days to make your visit. The three major galleries mentioned all have discount days, and times for free entry, so visitors to Madrid can use this hacking guide to find the best times to enjoy the great works of art without blowing the budget.
The Prado Museum
The Prado Museum is not only Madrid’s biggest and most visited museum, according to its website, it is one of the most visited tourist sites in the world. Exhibiting in its current form since 1819, the Prado is considered one of the finest art collections in the world, and showcases artworks from the 12th century through to the 19th century. Important collections include works by Goya, Velázquez, Rubens, and Bosch. Entrance price is €12, or €22 with a guided tour. But, there is free entrance between 6-8pm Monday-Saturday, and between 5-7pm on Sundays. The problem is, queues for these free entrance times can be enormous, especially during summer months. We suggest heading to the “Puerta de Goya Alta” entrance about an hour before the free opening time, to ensure you’ll get in. (Paseo del Prado, s/n, 28014, Madrid)
The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum is the world’s second largest art collection, although only a small portion of the collection are on exhibit at any one time. The Thyssen exhibits collections of the Dutch and English masters, as well as its most popular collection: the impressionists. Amongst the impressionists and post-impressionists are the works of Monet, Renoir, Degas, Pissarro, Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin, Cézanne and of course, van Gough. General admission is €9, but between 12-4pm each Monday, you can get in for free. Again, to avoid disappointment, arrive at about 11am to queue, especially during the tourist season. If you were born in 1992, entrance is always free, to commemorate the Museum’s 20th anniversary! (Paseo del Prado, 8, 28014 Madrid)
The Reina Sofía Art Museum
The Reina Sofía Art Museum is a haven for contemporary art lovers, and in fact claims to be the largest contemporary art museum in the world. Dedicated primarily to the works Spanish artists of the 20th century and beyond, the museum’s most prominent exhibitions are extensive collections of Picasso and Dalí works. Home to Picasso’s masterpiece Guernica, the Reina Sofia also has limited artworks by non-Spanish artists such as Paul Klee and Francis Bacon. With a €6 entrance fee, this is not the most expensive of museums. But, those budget-conscious travellers planning on seeing all three museums will still want to try to save money where possible. Free entrance is possible 7-9pm on Fridays, 2.30-9pm on Saturdays, and 10am-2pm Sundays. (Calle de Santa Isabel, 52, 28012 Madrid)
Whilst this guide can help you to discover Madrid’s art world for free, if you can afford to make a donation to the museums, go ahead and give what you can. You’ll be helping the museums in their great work, protecting and preserving these treasures for future generations to enjoy.