The central art hub of Madrid, also known as the Golden Triangle is home to the Prado, the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen. These three museums contain a considerable amount of Madrid’s culture and, displaying works by the likes of Picasso, Goya, Miro, and Van Gogh, is it any wonder? But, like any other destination, these aren’t the only places to get your arty fix. They may be the most well known, but they certainly do not monopolise the museum industry in Madrid. In fact, there are a number of hidden away museums in Madrid that are just as likely to get your creative juices flowing.
Outside the Golden Triangle – Lesser Known Museums in Madrid
I often find that smaller, lesser known museums offer a more intimate, emotional experience which allows you to enter the creative depths of its subject – not least because they’re usually a little emptier than mainstream museums! Sometimes it might be the old house of a famous painter (Rembrandt’s House anyone?) complete with sticky oil paints glooping across a now unused palette, and littered with unfinished sketches that the artist ran out of time to conclude. It is in these places that you instantly feel a close bond with the subject which serves to encourage an overwhelming urge to learn more about them. It is in these places, perhaps, that the true culture of a city is embalmed; something which the white, fertile landscape of a top art museum simply cannot convey.
So, whilst the Golden Triangle museums exhibit a breathtaking range of world-renowned artwork, remember not to overlook the lesser known museums in Madrid as you never know what you might discover.
Whilst this is not quite on the same level as an artist’s former residence, the Caixa Forum displays some intricate and interesting examples of post-modern art. In fact, you might even find yourself truly mesmerised before having even entered the building; the exterior itself is a work of art in its own right, featuring a lush green panel of shrubbery working its way up one of the walls. The interior is also something to behold. Its futuristically modern design complete with angular staircases and bold lighting greatly complements the exhibits, whilst the regular installations and cultural events fine tune the ultra-modern vibe. What’s more, entry is free, which provides the perfect antidote to a day at the Golden Triangle.
You can find the Caixa Forum on the Paseo del Prado. The nearest metro station is Atocha.
La Casa Encendida
Unlike the Caixa Forum which is still slightly commercial, La Casa Encendida proves to be a lot more local. It’s main aim is to support local, unknown artists, offering a great insight into the culture of Madrid as well as current, relevant themes. You’ll find the contemporary exhibitions on the ground floor but you can also catch cultural events, artistic film screenings, debates, and local radio shows which take place in throughout the building. In some ways, this is the perfect example of an interactive museum! And, as a bonus, there is a library decked out with good WiFi as well as an abundance of interesting classes available to everyone (workshops on solidarity anyone?) Again, like the Caixa Forum, entry is free, so it’s ideal if your budget is running low, which tends to happen in Madrid – trust me!
You can find La Casa Encendida on Ronda Valencia. The nearest metro stations are Atocha and Lavapiés.
Museo del Romanticismo
Visiting the Museo del Romanticismo, which can be found in the Marquis of Marallana’s former palace, is certainly a grand experience. Inside, you can wander amongst elaborate paintings from the nineteenth century, ornate furniture, and decorative art, all of which portray a sense of the political and cultural atmosphere during the reign of Isabella II. My particular highlight of this museum was gleaning a little peak into how the regal and rich used to live which, for 3 Euros, really is a good deal! If, however, your budget is a little tight, head over on a Saturday after 2pm when entry is free.
You can find the Museo del Romanticismo on San Mateo. The nearest metro station is Tribunal.
Now this is a place where you can immerse yourself in Madrid’s past. Even if you haven’t heard of Joaquin Sorolla, the twentieth century Spanish Impressionist it encompasses, the quaint, picturesque building is enough to peak your interest. From the outside, the museum looks like any other Spanish house (albeit slightly grander), complete with water fountain and abundance of lush greenery. As you enter through the front door, you are greeted with the unfinished canvasses, sketches and, of course, the compulsory sticky oil paints glooping across a now unused palette! The rest of the house has been preserved since Sorolla died in 1923, offering a fantastic look into Madrid life in the 20’s. The art is pretty good too! Sorolla was once called the ‘master of light’, an aspect of his work that will almost certainly enchant you. Like the Museo del Romanticismo, entry here is 3 Euros. Visit on Sunday for free entry.
You can find the Museo Sorolla on General Martínez Campos. The nearest metro stations are Iglesia and Rubén Dario.
Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando
The Real Academia was once Madrid’s Academy of Art where many of the city’s famous artists learnt some of the skills they are so well-known for. Previous students include Picasso, Dali, and Goya, who was once the director. Today, the academy has been transformed into a museum which exhibits the work of hundreds of Spanish artists spanning the last couple of centuries. Although there are many of the artists on display here that are also in the Golden Triangle museums, the Bellas Artes offers a more personal approach as you can explore the building in which some of these masters were educated – and maybe even get educated yourself along the way! Again, entrance is 3 Euros unless you have a Madrid card, in which case it is free.
You can find the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando on Alcalá. The nearest metro stations are Sol and Sevilla.
Read more about things to do in Madrid.
[…] the Golden Triangle. If these three haven’t satisfied your arty appetite, head out to some of Madrid’s lesser-known museums like the Caixa Forum and La Casa […]
@ Rob – Yes, the big museums in Madrid are amazing too, I could (and did!) spend all day in them. The Thyssen was my favourite as it held such a huge collection of my favourite artists! It was also brilliant seeing Picasso’s Guernica in real life. I must admit though, I was a bit disappointed with the security measures surrounding it. I know it’s an extremely important piece of work so it certainly requires it, but I felt it took something away from the viewing experience.
@ Henry – If you get the chance to, I would highly recommend these museums! I hope you have a great time there – I wish I was going back 🙂
Have a great time in Madrid! 🙂
I’m planning to go back to Madrid this fall, and thanks to Beth’s post, I’m going to keep these additional museums in mind! Thanks for hosting, Keith!
Nice article Beth, wish I had read it before going to Madrid, although the big museums were nice too.
Yes, the Caixa Forum is great – particularly the air conditioning 😀
Big fan myself of Caixa Forum – especially when it’s close the big ones and always with the AC on!