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Some paintings at the Museo del Prado | ©  Museo del Prado
Some paintings at the Museo del Prado | © Museo del Prado
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An Art Lover’s Guide to Madrid in 24 Hours

Picture of Lori Zaino
Updated: 29 March 2017
There’s no doubt that Madrid is a city dedicated to art. Home to some of the most famous art museums in the world as well as a number of galleries and cultural centers, Madrid is never lacking in this realm. If you’ve only got 24 hours in the city to explore the art scene, you’d better hustle because there’s plenty to see. Here’s a guide on how to spend a day on the art scene in Madrid.

Must-visit museums

The Prado

Madrid’s most famous art museum is the Museo del Prado, known for its ample collection of religious and Renaissance art. Check out the famous Francisco Goya collection at the Prado, as well as “Las Meninas” painted by Diego Velázquez, depicting the royal family during the reign of King Philip IV of Spain. Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights” is also one you should aim to catch, showing all lines of pleasures and sins in one giant painting.

Insider tip: Visit from 6-8PM Monday-Saturday (or 5-7PM on Sunday) if you want to enter for free and escape hordes of tourists.

Museo del Prado, Paseo del Prado, Madrid, Spain, +34 913 30 28 00

The famous Third of May painting by Francisco Goya | © Museo Nacional del Prado
The famous “Third of May” painting by Francisco Goya | © Museo Nacional del Prado

Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

With many of its masterpieces part of a private collection owned by the Baroness Thyssen, the Thyssen Museum has a fancy permanent collection, featuring works by Caravaggio, Rubens and Rembrandt. The gift shop is a fun place to buy quirky and artistic gifts for both children and adults.

Insider tip: This spot is known for having some incredible temporary exhibits. Right now, you can check out 90 works from the permanent collection of the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts and the Hungarian National Gallery until the end of May 2017.

Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Paseo del Prado, 8, Madrid, Spain, +34 902 76 05 11

Reina Sofía

The Reina Sofía is all about modern art. You can’t miss “Guernica” by Pablo Picasso, depicting the horrors of the Spanish Civil War, as well as the extensive Salvador Dalí collection, featuring his most famous paintings like those dripping clocks. Ride up and down in the glass elevator to check out some panoramic views of Madrid as you approach the higher floors.

Insider tip: Start with a snack or drink at the trendy Nubel restaurant, which is connected to the museum and has a very cool vibe.

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Calle de Santa Isabel, 52, Madrid, Spain, +34 917 74 10 00

La Guernica |© Joaquin Cortes / Roman Lores for the Reina Sofia
La Guernica | © Joaquin Cortes / Roman Lores for the Reina Sofia
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An artsy coffee break

Prioritè Art Coffee Shop thinks of itself as “an oasis of art in central Madrid,” and that’s exactly what it is. You can warm up with a coffee and a snack as you check out whatever temporary exhibition the café is hosting that season. If you’re lucky, you might end up at the café during an event, like a poetry reading, a cocktail creation workshop or concert.

Prioritè, Calle de la Montera, 42, Madrid, Spain, +34 915 31 40 37

Must-visit galleries

Madrid is full of galleries and cultural centers which change exhibits each season.

Caixa Forum

The Caixa Forum is a special space for art lovers with new and exciting things going on each month. Not only do they have plenty of temporary art exhibitions, but also events and exhibits related to fashion, archaeology and artifacts, photography and more for the public to enjoy.

Insider tip: Take photos outside next to the giant wall of grass. They’ll look super cool on your Instagram page.

La Caixa Forum, Paseo del Prado, 36, Madrid, Spain, +34 913 30 73 00

The Philippe Halsman Sorprendeme exhibition | © La Caixa Forum
The Philippe Halsman Sorprendeme exhibition | © La Caixa Forum

Max Estrella Gallery

The Max Estrella Gallery, located in the trendy Justicia neighborhood, is dedicated to promoting young artists in its 350 square-meter (3,767 square-foot) space. From April 1 to May 20, a solo exhibition from Ryan Brown will be on display. His featured work – which has also been shown at ARCOMadrid, a world-famous art fair – is a series of geometric, ragged paintings which he often deliberately mislabels.

Max Estrella Gallery, Patio, Calle Santo Tome, 6, Madrid, Spain, +34 913 19 55 17

Blanca Soto Gallery

If you’re hoping to check out art from more emerging or newer artists, visiting a gallery in Madrid is a great place to start. A favorite is the Blanca Soto gallery, and from April 4 to June 3, Renata Cruz’s quaint watercolor and graphite creations of everyday things like birds, teacups, flowers and books will be featured there.

Blanca Soto Arte, Calle de Almadén, 13, Madrid, Spain, +34 914 02 33 98

Birds by Renata Cruz | © Blanca Soto Arte
Birds by Renata Cruz | © Blanca Soto Arte

Stroll the streets

Walking through Madrid is basically like wandering through a giant outdoor art gallery. Impressive fountains like Neptuno and Cibeles feature imposing statues of Greek Gods and Goddess underneath bursts of spraying water. Many statues can be spotted simply by walking around the city: kings on horses, ancient royalty, and even some by Colombian sculptor Fernando Botero.

The famous Cibeles fountain and monument | © Madrid Destino Cultura Turismo y Negocio
The famous Cibeles fountain and monument | © Madrid Destino Cultura Turismo y Negocio

Take a street art tour

For 15 euros, Cooltourspain will give you a guided tour of Madrid’s best street art so that you aren’t glued to Google Maps trying to find each particular spot. The tour includes a visit to contemporary arts center La Neomudejar, and walks through neighborhoods like Malasaña and La Latina. Tours run Wednesday to Sunday at 11AM and 5PM, and meet near the giant baby head statues at outside of the Atocha Railway station. Each tour lasts about two-and-a-half to three hours. Madrid Street Art Project offers street art tours in both Spanish and English that last for about one-and-a-half hours and are five euros per person. The tours go through neighborhoods like Lavapiés and Malasaña and you can sign up ahead of time here.

Stop into a smaller museum

Smaller museums are often more focused, allowing you to really delve into a particular artist or style. For example, the Museo de Sorolla is housed in the former mansion belonging to Joaquín Sorolla, dedicated to his life and works. The Museo de Romanticismo is all about romantic art, furniture, décor and more.

Museo Sorolla, Paseo del General Martínez Campos, 37, Madrid, Spain, +34 913 10 15 84

Museo de Romanticismo, Calle de San Mateo, 13, Madrid, Spain, +34 914 48 10 45

The facade of the Museo de Romanticismo | © Javier Rodríguez
The façade of the Museo de Romanticismo | © Javier Rodríguez
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Close out your day with art, dinner and drinks

Enjoy a cocktail and dinner at the downstairs cave bar Amargo. The restaurant, which also features live music later in the evening, displays art from Madrid locals on the walls. You can buy it or simply have a look, and the exhibits are typically changed out monthly.

Amargo, Calle del Pez, 2, Madrid, Spain, +34 910 84 79 90