Madrid’s must-see museums

by Ellen Curham

Madrid Gran ViaIf you find yourself in the Spanish capital of Madrid and are told to check out the Golden Triangle, don’t expect to come across a pyramid. This tourist attraction actually refers to the city’s top three art museums; whose locations form the shape on the map.

These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to great museums in Madrid. The capital’s attractions are known for excellent-value admission fees and extensive opening hours as well as super-interesting exhibits. Read on to find HostelBookers top picks!

The Golden Triangle of Art

Prado Museum

Goya’s Maya at the Prado ©PromoMadrid, author Max AlexanderMany folks make this the first stop of the Golden Triangle of Art. The Museo del Prado boasts works from the 12th to 20th centuries. It has the best and most expansive selection of Spanish works from the period in the country, with very famous pieces by Francisco de Goya and Diego Velazquez leading the way. It is also home to paintings and sculptures from other famous European artists like Dürer, Raphael and Angelico.

This is not a museum to be missed if you are in Madrid as those in the art world consider it one of the best museums worldwide. Current exhibitions include an in-depth look at Hieronymus Bosch featuring special video installations. It is open from 10am-8pm Monday – Saturday and 10am – 7pm on Sundays and holidays. A general ticket that includes entry to the temporary exhibition is €16 but you can also get in for free to the permanent collection in the evenings so you really have no excuse for not checking this place out!

The Reina Sofia

Picasso at the Reina Sofia ©PromoMadrid, author Max AlexanderPick up where you left off at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia which houses 20th century artworks. This is a timeframe when Spanish artists really excelled and it has numerous pieces by the country’s two most famous sons during this period: Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. Make sure to see Picasso’s enormous Guernica and Dali’s not-for-the-squeamish Un Chien Andalou. You’ll also find iconic works by some internationally renowned artists like Cindy Sherman, Man Ray and Max Ernst, but the real focus is on domestic talent. The building itself is also extremely interesting as it is on the site of the first General Hospital of Madrid.

Right now you’ll find exhibits focusing on Damian Ortega, Spanish Art during the years 1939-1951 and Ulises Carrion. The Sofia is closed on Tuesdays but other than select hours on Sunday, it is usually open from 10am-9pm the rest of the time with entry starting at €8.

Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

Lichtenstein at the Thyssen-Bornemisza MadridThe Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza offers a more international perspective during the periods covered by both of the other museums that make up the triangle. There are Italian works by Doccio, Antonello da Messina and Tital, along with North American paintings by Winslow Homer and John Singer Sargent and an extensive selection of German Expressionism pieces. You can see Caravaggio alongside Roy Lichtenstein, Rothko and Degas.

Starting 18th October until 22nd January, those lucky enough to visit this museum will get to explore a Renoir exhibition. Tickets are €12, or else go on a Monday afternoon and see the permanent collection for free! The Main Building is open every day from 10am-7pm, except on Mondays when it opens from 12pm-4pm.

A look back in time…

Royal Palace of Madrid

Madrid Royal PalaceAlthough it is the official residence of the Royal Family of Spain, the Royal Palace in fact only used for state ceremonies. This spectacular building boasts hundreds of rooms but only a select few are open to the public. However, even these are infinitely impressive. See lavish halls, expensive artworks, interesting artefacts and a stunning courtyard. You can go at your own pace or get an excellent value guided tour to learn about the rich history of the decadent building. It is open to the public from 10am-6pm right now with admission starting at €5. Pro-tip: Locals like to spend relaxing evenings sitting in the manicured gardens with friends and a bottle of wine.

National Archaeological Museum of Spain

Medusa, the National Archaeological MuseumThe Museo Arqueológico Nacional tells the entire history of Spain with artefacts dating back to the 4th century BCE. Find sculptures, pottery, weapons, jewellery and other interesting pieces not only from the Iberian Peninsula but also Egyptian, Greek and Roman empires. The impressive building was founded in 1867 and has since served as a favourite tourist attraction amongst visitors who love the layout of the museum. It is open daily and general admission is only €3, free on Saturday after 4pm and on Sunday mornings.


Something different

Museo Geominero

Inside the Museo GeomineroA bit of an offbeat museum to visit but this one gets great reviews. The Museo Geominero features tons of cool fossils and rocks that gets pretty much everyone geeking out—you can even check out some meteorites! Encased in a surprisingly elegant building, this is a museum that you’ll walk out of feeling like you’ve really learnt something. The Mining Museum is open every day from 9am-2pm and entrance is free.

Ratón Pérez Museum

Ratón PérezGet an insight into the life of Spanish children and the county’s folklore and tradition at the Casa Museo Ratón Pérez. This cute little museum is dedicated to the small rodent that is essentially a tooth fairy with a tale. Closed on Sundays with varying opening hours on weekdays, although it shuts its doors for lunch daily. For €3 this is ideal for kids and a fun way for grown-ups to kill an hour.


Where to stay?

Ok Hostel Madrid Las Musas is a friendly, cosy and clean hostel in Tirso de Molina, 10 minutes’ walk from the Museum Triangle in one direction and five minutes from the nightlife of La Latina in the other. It’s definitely in the heart of things! Also nearby is Ok Hostel Madrid, a highly rated hostel offering free Wi-Fi, pod-style dorm beds and private rooms with a modern art style.


Thanks to Carole Raddato, Eric Titcombe, Antonio Tajuelo,, PromoMadrid, Marta Nimeva Nimeviene and Manel for use of their great images under the Creative Commons license.

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