Although Madrid may not be the first thought that comes to your mind when considering art museums, it is a city worth visiting for art.
According to The Art Newspaper, the Reina Sofia Museum made the list of the world’s top ten most visited art museums in 2016 with 3.4 million visitors. The Prado was close behind with over 3 million visitors. (See this link for details).
On our recent trip to Madrid, my daughter and I decided to check them out, and planned a full day to include these two large museums and the slightly less popular, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum.
Retiro Park with Crystal Palace
We originally had four museums on the agenda for the day, but we realized that one of the venues would not be available. The Crystal Palace in Retiro Park is home to occasional special events, however, nothing was showing there at the time we visited.
When we visited the first museum in the morning, the Reina Sofia, we did not have tickets. We knew it was possible to buy tickets to one, two, or even all three of the museums in Madrid – we intended to buy the three museum combo ticket.
We arrived about five minutes before the museum opened and saw that a line was already forming. There were actually two lines, one for ticket-holders and one to buy tickets. We waited in line to buy tickets for several minutes when it stopped moving. The security personnel were admitting those who had tickets, but only selling more tickets when the ticket-holder line was short.
We noticed the young man in front of us busily using his phone – then he left the line to get in the ticket-holder line. We realized that tickets could be purchased online, and since we had a phone with data, we quickly went online to purchase our tickets. It worked, so we also left to join the ticket-holder line, which saved us several minutes of wait time.
When we left the museum, the line to buy tickets was 5-10 times longer than it was when we were in it. We were glad we had come so early. We also learned that purchasing tickets online can save time, so we tried the same trick several other times during the trip.
Reina Sofia Museum
We started at the Reina Sofia, a modern art museum.
The most important work of art in the Reina Sofia museum is Picasso’s Guernica. There was a temporary display that told about Picasso’s commission to paint the famous work; it showed his preparation sketches and some related works. It took us at least 45 minutes to go through this exhibit. (No pics allowed in the Picasso exhibit).
We browsed through the permanent exhibits which included works by Spanish artists, Joan Miro and Salvador Dali, before leaving for our next stop.
Our second stop was the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, which turned out to be our favorite of the day. The Thyssen Museum has nearly 1000 works in its collection. It began with a private collection which was bought by the state in 1992.
We spent most of our time in the areas of Impressionism and Modern Art, but also explored the rest of the museum. We were disappointed that two of the three Monet paintings were out on loan, but we did see paintings by Van Gogh, Pissarro, Matisse, Picasso, Chagall, and many others.
Finally, we went to the famous Prado Museum. The museum’s holdings include over 7000 paintings, but only about a quarter of them are displayed at one time. Many others are on loan throughout the world, while the rest are in storage.
On our visit, we saw several works by El Greco, Francisco de Goya, and Diego Velazquez, (all Spanish), plus some Dutch, French, and Italian artists. Most of the paintings were from the 17th and 18th centuries, and although this is not a favorite period for my daughter or me, we did find the works by the Spanish artists very interesting. (Again, no pics allowed in the museum).
Do a little research before you go, so you can determine which museum interests you the most. We knew ahead of time that we would enjoy the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, so we scheduled our visit to it during the middle of the day – right after lunch. We could also have visited it first in the morning.
The popularity of the museum is another thing to consider when scheduling your visit. Since the Reina Sofia Museum is the most popular of the three, it would be busiest in the middle of the day. By visiting it first, we avoided some of the crowds. The Prado is huge, so crowds are not as much of a problem.
Visiting three art museums in one day is ambitious. This was what our schedule allowed, but you might want to break them up by doing something different for part of the day. My daughter and I enjoy art museums, and since these three are located near each other, we worked it out. Even so, we may have enjoyed the Prado a little more if it wasn’t our third museum for the day.
The next time you are in Madrid, I encourage you to visit at least one from this trio of museums. If there is an exhibit at the Crystal Palace, that should also be on your list. This was our first time in Madrid, but we will definitely go back!